Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Kirikumagi at Siksala: Evidence of a New Grave Form in South-Eastern Estonia?/Siksala Kirikumagi: UUS Kalmevorm Kagu-EESTIS

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Kirikumagi at Siksala: Evidence of a New Grave Form in South-Eastern Estonia?/Siksala Kirikumagi: UUS Kalmevorm Kagu-EESTIS

Article excerpt

Finding place and context

The archaeological complex of Siksala (Laul & Valk 2007) is located in the south-easternmost corner of Estonia, 2-3 km south of Misso village, ca. 7 km west of the present-day Estonian-Russian border and 3-4 km north of the Estonian-Latvian border. The complex consists of several monuments, including two cemeteries called Kalmetemagi (Graves' Hill) and Kirikumagi (Church Hill) which are located at the ends of the same oblong ridge.

The cemetery on Kalmetemagi, mainly from the 11th-15th centuries, was investigated in the extent of ca. 80% in 1980-1993, whereby 242 inhumation graves with 253 burials, and 27 cremation burials were studied (Heapost 2007, table 1; Laul & Valk 2007, 29-80). In the further analysis of the scattered material from cremation graves, regarded formerly as stray finds, 11 additional cremations have been distinguished.

The first excavations on Kirikumagi, a hill with the height of ca. 6 m between Lake Hino and Lake Mustjarv (Fig. 1) took place in 2003 (Valk 2004), in order to verify or disprove the former presence of the chapel, reflected in oral tradition, and of the suggested medieval cemetery. In the course of these works a 100 m long and 40 cm wide trench was dug along the hilltop (Fig. 2). The trench was divided into 1-metre long units, the numeration of which started from the west. The investigations were continued in 2004 (Valk 2005) with the aim to study and date the discovered chapel site and cemetery. During these excavations a ca. 35 m2 area, cut by the trial trenches, was opened in the southern part of the hill. In both years, especially in 2003, also some fragments of cremated bones were found from three areas, designated as A, B and C--two in the central and one in the southwestern part of the hill (Fig. 2). Between these areas, likewise in the north-eastern part of Kirikumagi, almost no cremation remains were discovered.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

In 2007 additional excavations were made in area A, in order to study the whole bone assemblage which was cut by the trench in 2003 and which was first interpreted as a pit-grave cremation (Valk 2004, 125). For that purpose, the formerly studied 2 m long part of the trench with cremated bones was extended in both directions for 0.5 m (to get more space for digging, also the filled trench was emptied again). Thus, in all, 2.8 [m.sup.2] was studied at the spot. The earth was dug by 10 cm thick layers. In 2003, the area where bones were found in the trench was regarded as one stratigraphic unit which was dug by horizontal layers. In 2007, the bones were collected by squares of 0.25 [m.sup.2] (the system was based on the general squares' system used in 2003) and by 10 cm layers. To find all the bone fragments, the ground was sieved.

In total 69 different bone assemblages, based mainly on 1 m long parts of the trench or 1 m2 squares of the excavation plot of 2004, all of 10 cm thickness, were collected for analysis from Kirikumagi. In reality there existed, however, no distinct borders between the separately analysed assemblages: borders are only conventional, conditioned by the methodology of picking up bones.

Distribution of cremated bones

The first area of cremated bones (Fig. 2, A) where altogether 1184.9 g bone fragments were found (862.9 g in 2003 and 322 g in 2007) formed a 1.7 m long section of the trench. Some dispersed bone fragments which probably belonged together with them were gained also from the neighbouring square in the northeast (C/50; 5.4 g), and from squares located 0.5-1.5 m (G/ 47; 1.5 g) and 3.5-4.5 m (G/44; 0.9 g) to the south-west from the edge of the main concentration area (Fig. 2, A: 3).

The second concentration area (Fig. 2, B) was ca. 5-6 m south-east of area A, in the excavation plot added to the main trench in 2003 (squares H/51 and H/52). Here 70.9 g of bones were found. The finds were from the area with the diameter of 1. …

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