Archaeologists in western Germany have discovered the remains of a medieval warrior. He was buried over 1300 years ago with at least four weapons and a shield.
The discovery was made this June in Ingelheim, a town in the Rhineland-Palatinate state, during a dig at a burial ground dating back to the Early Middle Ages. The archaeologists were examining a spot between two other graves that had previously been looted in centuries past. “When the edge of a shield hump came to light, it was initially not clear whether it belonged to one of the disturbed graves or to one that had not yet been discovered,” says Christoph Bassler, head of the excavation. “So we carefully continued digging until it was clear: between two robbed burials we actually discovered a completely untouched grave, which the grave robbers must have overlooked for some reason.”
Once the excavation of grave 447 was completed, the archaeologists found a man who was well-prepared for battle. His most prized possession is undoubtedly a spatha, a double-edged sword that was placed by the dead man’s right arm. “The length of the spatha blade is about 75 cm, the whole sword including the hilt and pommel is about 93 cm long,” reports Bassler. “The blade is even slightly flexible, which speaks for an exceptionally good state of preservation.”
Other weapons were also discovered as well: a massive broad seax (a type of short and heavy slashing sword), a heavy knife, and a lance (which only has its tip preserved). Also found were parts of a shield, bronze metal belonging to the sword’s scabbard, and other metal pieces that were part of the seax’s scabbard and a belt.
The close-fitting and slightly raised shoulders of the skeleton – the so-called coffin posture – show that the deceased was buried in a wooden coffin, although no remains of it have been preserved.
All the grave goods have now been handed over to a restorer. Further investigations should, among other things, narrow down the provisional dating of the grave. So far, stylistic features such as the flat shield boss with a wide rim and the massive seax point to the 7th century, which would be during the Merovingian period. However, many details of the ornamentation, such as the silver inlays, so-called inlays, will only become apparent once the thick layers of rust have been removed.
So far, the only determination made about the body was that he was approximately 30 to 40 years old. It is not known if his bones will reveal any injuries or illness, but the archaeologists would not be surprised if they discover the remains of battle wounds.
“This extraordinary find is another piece of the puzzle for our image of the city in the early Middle Ages,” says Eveline Breyer, Mayor of Ingelheim. “Like the many other discoveries along the Red Wine Route, it will help us to better understand and also illustrate this oldest society in Ingelheim.”
Top Image: Photo by Christoph Bassler / City of Ingelheim