Czech archaeologists say 5th century tomb near Hradec Králové truly an ‘extraordinary’ find
Initial analysis of a burial ground in the Hradec Králové region from the late 5th century – a time of great migration of peoples – has confirmed the uniqueness of site, first discovered in 2019. Archaeologists say the tomb of one woman in particular has yielded a treasure trove of finds of great historical and artistic value.
A team of experts across many disciplines have been working at the site outside the village of Sendražice for more than a year now. In total, they found the remains of six people, aged 16 to 55, all members of a German tribe. The team clearly were not to the first to discover the burial mound – as most of the graves were looted in centuries past.
It was Pavel Horník, an archaeologist with the Museum of Eastern Bohemia in Hradec Králové, who discovered the undisturbed grave of the woman, thought to be a Langobard, a group of Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774.
In the grave were dozens of pieces of gold and silver jewelry, inlaid with semi-precious stones, such as almandines and garnets, headdress with gold flourishes, he told the ČTK.
“The first such site was explored in the region in Plotiště nad Labem, back in the 1960s. That was the grave site of an older man buried with a child. That site is about five kilometres away. Most of graves were looted in the spirit of the time. An exception is this Sendražice grave belonging to a woman aged 35 to 50. It can be described as extraordinary for the whole of the Czech Republic.”
The Sendražice site is one of only two chamber tombs uncovered in Eastern Bohemia dating back to the Migration Period (or the Barbarian Invasions) – a subject that, paradoxically, Dr Horník failed at school and had re-sit an exam for.
The jewellery discovered there also had traces of at least two different textiles, one likely to fine clothing and the other part of a coat or ceremonial cloth used to cover her body, and some leather and fur.
According to Pavel Horník, the other graves were likely looted soon after the funerals. Some were damaged to the point where anthropological research is difficult to conduct, and in most cases, the sex of the deceased could not be determined.
Still, some items, including short swords and knives, glass and amber beads, metal belt components, and decorative shoe fittings and bone combs were recovered. Samples taken from a ceramic vessel, as well as DNA samples, also revealed clues about the German tribe’s diet – and various illnesses and diseases they suffered, from arthritis to bone cancer.