An Atypical Burial at the Gothic Cemetery in Maslomecz, Lublin Province (Poland)

Article excerpt

The history of Gothic migrations is presented, as the movements of a tribe who alone among the Germanic peoples wandered through Europe along numerous roules. Grave mounds with surrounding stones and stone circles built of irregular shaped boulders are the first traces of Goths' presence in Polish Pomerania. They are analogous to the cemetery circles of Scandinavia. Goths, who reached the Hrubieszowska basin (Fig. 1), marked circles with graves (Fig. 2) because of the lack of material (stones) in new areas for the construction of the characteristic stone circles.

Skeletal burials, sometimes containing also burnt bones, partial graves, atypical circles and the lack of military grave accessories are the characteristics of Gothic burial rituals of Maslome cz in the Hrubieszowska Basin.

An atypical burial was discovered in the cemetery in Maslome cz - a great hole (No 427) (Fig. 2) of 400 x 180 cm dimensions, which contained two graves. The grave placed at a higher level revealed a well preserved skeleton of a 25-35 year-old man, while the lower grave, with traces of purposeful secondary disturbance, in a coffin, revealed an incomplete, destroyed and richly equipped skeleton of a young woman. The man, whose skeleton was atypically positioned (Fig. 4) was, according to Kokowski (1997), bound before death. He was of a medium height (about 168 cm), and rather massive body build (his body mass oscillated within 65.2 - 73.0 kg). The pathological lesions caused by an open sacral bone injury or by a neoplastic process, found within the pelvic girdle, prove that he was disabled and had locomotion disorders. Also, small carietic defects, paradontosis and hypoplasia were found.

Kokowski (1998a) suggests that the man was an "offering" made to the woman, who - judging by the character of her grave, its equipment and skeleton condition - must have been an exceptional person. "Sacrificial" graves are known from Gothic cemeteries of Pomerania region and from Grodek on the river Bug; however, healthy soldiers were usually the "offerings" and not cripples as in the described case. It seems that this atypical burial proves a special, but today hard to determine, relationship between the deceased woman and the man.

Key Words: Goths cemetery, atypical burial, pathology, Lublin Province, Poland, Hrubieszowska Basin, stone circles, sacrifice.

Introduction

The migrations of Goths still present one of the most interesting problems for historians, archaeologists and anthropologists. The oldest sources locate Goths between the tribes of Marcomans, to Poland's South of modern Polish borders and the land of Burgunds, in Poland's North-West. The archcological research, on the other hand, indicated the provinces of Oster- and Vastergotland on Gotland as their probable homeland (Ma czynska 1996). The Goths wandered along various routes throughout Europe. The first migrations from Scandinavia to the Black Sea and then through the Balkans to Italy, left numerous traces of settlements and cemeteries in Poland, located in areas between the estuaries of the rivers Vistula and Odra, through Kaszuby Lake District, Masovia and Lublin Upland as far as the Hruhieszowska Basin (Fig. 1). The oldest certain traces of Gothic presence in northern Poland are grave mounds surrounded by stones and stone circles built of irregular shaped boulders found in Odry and Lesno. The lack of traditional material for the stone circle construction in the region of the Hrubieszowska Basin caused the Goths to form circles of graves (Fig. 2) (Kokowski 1998a). Subsequent groups of Goths forced established Goths from the area of the River Vistula southwards and eastwards. The migration route of individual Gothic groups along the big rivers of Masovia, Podlasie, Wolyn and the Ukraine in the direction of Roman settlements in Tracia, was marked with bi-ritual burials (cremation and inhumation) without arms. Further South, the assimilation with Sarmatian and Greek culture increased gradually (Strzelczyk 1984). …