Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Grave 2 of Maidla-The Burial Site of a Single Family/ Maidla II Kalme-Uhe Pere Matmispaik

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Grave 2 of Maidla-The Burial Site of a Single Family/ Maidla II Kalme-Uhe Pere Matmispaik

Article excerpt


The Maidla graves of the 5th-7th and 10th-13th centuries have been archaeologically investigated by Mati Mandel, who published the results in a monograph (Mandel 2003). The same volume contains the results of an analysis of the osteological finds from the graves (Allmae 2003; Maldre 2003). The osteological material is stored in the collections of the Estonian History Museum.

The aim of the present study was to determine the age and sex of the buried people, to estimate the size of the community using the 10th-13th-centuries stone grave of Maidla and to describe the life-cycle of the population. Anthropological data of Poanse stone graves 1 and 2 as well as of Maidla 1 were used for comparison.


First, the general state of the bones recovered from the grave was assessed, sorting them into cremated and unburned bones. Second, the skull fragments in bone assemblages were counted to discover the possible locations of skulls and, thus, to identify the presumable burial spots inside the grave. Third, the minimum number of individuals buried in the grave was determined, using the method of recurrent bone fragments. In cremation burials as well as in very fragmentary inhumation burials the counting of pars petrosa of temporal bone fragments is used. Fourth, the presumable or plausible number of buried individuals was determined on the basis of combined criteria. To determine a presumable burial the larger assemblages of bone fragments of skull and post-cranial skeleton were used, either separately or combined with the find of pars petrosa of temporal bone. Note that such assessment of the presumable number of burials is not objective.

Fifth, the gender and age of the buried individuals were determined, if possible, using the generally accepted methods (Gejvall 1948; Miles 1963; Rdsing 1977; Recommendations 1980). To determine the age of children the method of development stages of teeth (Ubelaker 1978) and the scale of the length of long bones (Allmae 1998) were used. Sixth, the possible size of the permanent living population that used the burial ground (Ubelaker 1978), the life-cycle of the population (Acsadi & Nemeskeri 1970), and fertility figures (Bocquet-Appel & Masset 1982; Coale & Demeny 1983) were estimated.

Outline of the material

Grave 2 of Maidla was used in the 10th-13th centuries. During the archaeological excavations of 1984-1990, 674 bone finds were recovered from the area of the grave. This burial ground is the largest of the archaeologically and osteologically investigated ones of Uidnemaa, and probably also the largest osteologically investigated Iron Age burial site in Estonia. The stone grave contained both cremations and inhumations; among the latter several complete skeletons were found.

Cremation burials in grave 2 of Maidla

Mati Mandel (2003) has described 24 sooty patches of soil in the area of the grave, identifying these as cremation places. Presumably the bodies of the deceased people were cremated right on the burial site. Thirty-one find assemblages were also discovered in the grave. The finds of larger bone assemblages from the sooty patches were rare and determinable bone fragments even more sparse. The larger bone assemblages are not definitely connected with find complexes either, bones are usually buried at some distance from them. Thus we were not able to reliably connect burials and bone assemblages neither with cremation patches nor with find complexes (Allmae 2003). Still, the fact should be mentioned that 42 spearheads were recovered from the grave (Mandel 2003). The minimum number of estimated cremations is 32, a plausible number is 42.


Inhumation burials were most numerous in the north-western part of the stone grave; apparently this part was especially intensively used in the 12th-13th centuries (Mandel 2003). Only five inhumation burials were discovered in other parts of the grave. …

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