Groby podwójne w Polsce wczesnośredniowiecznej. Próba rewaluacji
Selected contents from this journal
Double graves in early medieval Poland. A revaluation
Languages of publication
This article seeks to reassess the notion of double graves in early medieval Poland. Burials of this kind are rarely found at inhumation cemeteries and their total number usually does not exceed 1% of all graves from a particular site. The paper begins by presenting a brief overview of various textual sources, mostly Arabic, which describe funerary rituals of the pagan Slavs. Some of these accounts mention a peculiar practice during which the wives of the deceased committed suicide at the graveside in order to be buried or cremated with their husbands. While it is difficult to assess the authenticity of such descriptions, a number of previous scholars have suggested that double graves of men and women may represent burials of married couples. The authors of the present article seek to expand these interpretations and argue for the necessity to acknowledge the multivalence and diversity of double graves in early medieval Poland. To demonstrate their arguments the different sections of the article focus on several variants of double graves that have been observed within the examined corpus of evidence. The cases discussed in detail include: 1. alleged burials of married couples (where the man and woman lay very close to one another, sometimes holding hands), 2. potential human sacrifices (where one of the individuals seems to have suffered a violent death, as evidenced by traces of wounds, usually to the skull, inflicted with the use of a sharp instrument), 3. double and mass graves perhaps resulting from dramatic events (plagues, war etc.), 4. cases of reopened graves (where the second individual is added to a pre-existing single grave), 5. graves of two men (interpreted as burials of relatives, companions or perhaps homosexuals), and 6. double graves of adults and children. Having reassessed a large body of data the authors argue that the previously proposed interpretations, which perceived practically every double grave of a man and woman as belonging to a married couple, should be seriously reconsidered. The diversity of double graves in early medieval Poland allows for a supposition that they may have resulted from various circumstances – not necessarily as peaceful and innocent as postulated in the works of previous scholars. However, in the context of textual sources, it is quite possible that some funerals may have also been understood as “posthumous weddings”. The ritual murder of one of the individuals could have been intended to wed him or her to the deceased, thereby ensuring they are remembered by their contemporaries not as spinsters or bachelors, but as fully accomplished members of the society.
Publication order reference