(Natural News) An ancient tomb belonging to a Germanic lord from about 1,500 years ago has been unearthed in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. The tomb was surrounded by six women believed to be the concubines of the lord, and speculation has it that they either sacrificed themselves or were slain for the burial.
Researchers have yet to locate the remains of the lord, but it’s posited to be inside the centerpiece of the mounded tomb, a bronze cauldron.
Experts call the burial site the country’s most important archaeological discovery in the last 40 years. The exact location is kept secret to prevent looters from ransacking the finds, which also include valuable ancient possessions.
Bizarre burial arrangement hints at something symbolic
The discovery was made by workers who were clearing the land for a chicken farm. The tomb was found in an immaculate condition due to its location in a natural hollow, which got covered with around four feet of sediment over time that provided a protective layer and hid it from view.
Initial estimates dated the site between A.D. 480 and A.D. 530, coinciding with the Great Migration, a period in European history during and after the fall of the Roman Empire. It saw many Germanic tribes invade territories that were no longer under Roman protection.
Archaeologists marveled at the burial ground due to its bizarre arrangement, as well as the circumstances by which some of the bodies were laid there. The six women were buried radially around the bronze cauldron in a way that likely held great symbolic meaning. For that reason, many people suspected that they killed themselves or were slain to be with their husbands. There’s even talk of a ritualistic death cult, but archaeologists said that it’s too early to confirm that.
Beyond this central tomb, there were about 60 more graves suspected to belong to high-ranking individuals at the time. They were likely buried there in honor of the lord, whose remains are yet to be located, according to archaeologist Susanne Friederich from the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany.
“But maybe his ashes are in the bronze cauldron,” she added. The massive cauldron, which was 13 feet by 13 feet, was taken out of the earth in a special cast and would be further analyzed in the lab.
Other discoveries in the tomb
There were other finds too, including 11 animal remains and various prized possessions. The animals ranged from dogs to cattle to horses and were likely reburied in the tomb in honor of the lord. Meanwhile, the valuables included a small god statue, a glass decorated bowl, a sword, an iron shield boss, a spindle whorl and a gold coin bearing the head of the Eastern Roman emperor Zeno, who lived around A.D. 480.
The Germanic god statue was likely a sacred object that’s about 1,800 years old, buried there with its owner, according to archeologists. There are also several silver-gilded robe clips and pieces of textile. Upon initial analysis, these sartorial artifacts indicated that the people buried at the site could be Saxons, Thuringians and some members of the Alemanni group of tribes on the Rhine, according to the Times. These tribes played an important role in the decline of the Roman Empire.
Researchers are very much interested in the artifacts as they might reveal crucial insights into life during the Great Migration, which started as early as A.D. 300 but lasted until around A.D. 568. Although it’s known that barbarian invasions contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire, historians have yet to figure out whether the attacks were a cause or a result of the weakening Empire. (Related: Mother Nature may have contributed to the rise of the Roman Empire: Volcanic eruptions, drought found to coincide with political events in ancient Egypt.)
Artifacts.news has more on recent archaeological discoveries.