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2017 | 10, Antropologia - folklor - historia | 177–201

Article title

Antropologia pierwotnej kultury Gotów. Zwyczaje pogrzebowe

Title variants

The Anthropology of the Aboriginal Gothic Culture. The Funerary Customs

Languages of publication



The article deals with the oldest Goth images of death and funerary rituals. Apart from the archaeological sources connected with the Wielbark culture of the Roman period, their important documentation is also made by some relics of the Gothic language. Using a comparative approach, some discussions and ethnologic commentaries were provided for the following Gothic terms: death and dead people (maurþrjan: to kill, to murder; ga-swiltan: to die; diwan: to die; dauþs: dead; naus: a body, a corpse); ritual accessories and actions (ƕilftrjom: a bed of the dead; gaunoþus, hiufan, flokan: mourning over the dead; starua: funerary feast; ga-nawistron: to bury the dead); sepulchral objects (hlaiw; hlaiwasnōs: a tomb in a form of a cavity in the ground, a sepulchral cave; aurahjōn/s; aurahi: an embankment, a clay layer forming a barrow, a tomb); witches - necromancers, probably responsible for disassembling remains of the dead (halirunna: a witch practicing witchcraft over tombs). Moreover, the reasons for the Wielbark culture taboo that forbade to put weapons and working tools into the tombs were discussed. What makes the equipment of the Wielbark culture toms is mainly jewellery made of noble metals. The names of Gothic finery refer to the image of a snake, an underground reptile, that is associated with tombs and death in the mythology and poetic phasing. Shapes of the finery discovered by archaeologists (bracelets, finger rings, some hairgrips) resemble the snake. Gothic funerary customs relate to old Indo-European rites, e.g.: the image of paradise as a pasture for the dead; however, they also include Germanic and Celtic topics, e.g.: a journey of the dead to ‘the other world’ on a boat or a cart. In the Bible translated by Ulfilas, there are no images of hell, punishment for the guilt, nor the idea of resurrection, which proves that the Goths did not have their analogies to the eschatological ideas of Christianity.


  • Uniwersytet Gdański


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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