Archaeologists uncover extensive mound burial system around mythical Mount Říp

Mount Říp

Mount Říp, the hill which is closely tied to the Czech founding myth, may have actually been an important burial site for prehistoric peoples, as archaeological excavations in recent years have uncovered several burial mounds.

For several years now, archaeologists have been surveying and digging in the landscape around mount Říp, the mythical hill upon which Father Čech is supposed to have climbed.

Jan Turek from the Archaeological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences told Czech Radio that the area seems to have served as a burial site for many generations of prehistoric peoples.

Jan Turek | Photo: Adam Kebrt,  Czech Radio

“The mythical mountain is not only a feature of the stories about Father Čech, it was a component in the mythology of our ancestors since prehistory. We can even suppose that they considered the hill as some sort of a god or divine being and that it was a sacred place.

“There was a whole array of ancestral fathers that were buried here under these sorts of mounds and who became the genetic forebears of today’s Central Europeans or Czechs, if you like.”

Working on the site is also Petr Krištuf from the University of West Bohemia, who was part of the team that, last year, found a 6,000 year old, 90 metre long and 25 metre wide burial mound in what was perhaps the best preserved burial monument of its type ever found on Czech territory.

Last year was found a 6, 000 year old burial mound in the area of the mount Říp | Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz

This year his team is working on a considerably smaller 3x2 metre mound. However, he says that they are still proud of the work they have conducted this summer.

This year the team is working on a smaller 3x2 metre mound | Photo: Petr Krištuf,  Západočeská univerzita Plzeň

“We managed to prove that the mound was indeed here and that there were even hollow spaces inside which you could enter. The mound was also clearly identifiable in the landscape hundreds, if not thousands of years later, because the people that inhabited this area would still bury their dead inside even a thousand years after it was built. That’s why it must have been identifiable, even though today we cannot see it anymore.”

Nearby lies a much larger mound with a length of around 120 metres. It housed the grave of a crouching man, says Krištuf, whose team also found something unusual during their excavation

“Along the burial pit there were around 11 stone arrowheads. We are now documenting their orientation and placement in order to find out whether they had been placed there intentionally or if they were, for example, shot into the pit as part of some sort of ritual.”

Petr Krištuf | Photo: Martin Mykiska,  Západočeská univerzita Plzeň

While the area surrounding Rip has become a rich site for archaeologists, the hill itself remains yet to be excavated. The reason why, says Krištuf, is because todays surface of the hill was added artificially only very recently.

“When the local Lobkowitz family decided to afforest the hill, they brought earth that was not from this area. So, while a few discoveries of stone artefacts have been made there, we have no way of knowing whether they are actually from Říp.”

Photo: Petr Krištuf,  Západočeská univerzita Plzeň
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Authors: Thomas McEnchroe , Lucie Heyzlová
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