Wealthy man's medieval grave unearthed

  • 2001-07-19
  • Rita Bubina
RIGA - Archaeological excavations in the county of Puze near the Latvian city of Ventspils have unearthed the wealthiest graves dating from the medieval period ever found in Latvia.

"Though there have been also other similar excavations of medieval graves in Latvia, such a wealthy grave is very unusual," said Armands Vijups, one of the leaders of the archeological site.

Seventy graves have been unearthed, containing around 600 medieval artifacts dating from the 14th to the 17th century.

"By the end of the digging the number of graves found could grow to 100," added Vijups.

According to Vijups, "One of the most interesting graves is that of a male, aged around 50, who was buried with one of the most unique medieval findings in Latvia - a large silver horseshoe-shaped brooch with flower-like ends."

Alongside this was a massive club made of bronze - for self-defense - a belt with silver buttons and a bracelet encrusted with silver. These belongings indicate the high status of the male, Vijups said.

A number of wealthy female graves have also been found. One woman's grave contained 10 brooches, which is considered a "fantastically large number." Other women had up to seven brooches with them.

Most valuables found at the site are brooches, amulets, rings, bracelets, knives and coins, some dating back to the 14th century.

"The brooches found at this site represent all the kinds of medieval brooches known to Latvian scientists," Vijups said.

"The excavations have uncovered pages of history that written materials can't. Written materials tell us about political and economic history, archeological digs on the other hand reveal the everyday life of those times," said Vijups.

Anthropologist Anita Zarina concluded that the unearthed human bones show that the society of those times was healthy and strong, living a peaceful life. Men lived to be 50 to 55 years old, a respectable age for those times, said Vijups.

Women had a shorter life span - up to 50 years. This was due to complications in childbirth.

There were not very many graves dating from the same time. This means that there were no epidemics. No wars were going on either as only a few young or injured men were found.

"There were digs at this place at the end of 19th century, but no one expected that the graves would be so full of fascinating objects," Vijups said.

"It will take a year to renovate and preserve the valuables; then they will be displayed in an exhibition at Ventspils Museum," he added.

The investigations were supported by Ventspils Museum and led by academics Vijups, Andrejs Vasks and students of the history and philosophy faculty of the University of Latvia.