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Did Early Medieval Europeans Interact With the Dead?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—According to a Live Science report, Alison Klevnäs of Stockholm University and her colleagues reviewed excavation records of European cemeteries ranging from England to Transylvania, and found that graves were frequently opened and objects removed between the sixth and eighth centuries A.D. Brooches were often taken from women’s graves, and swords were taken from men’s graves, but other valuables were left behind, including items made of gold and silver. The study suggests that items were removed from the graves within a generation after burial, or after soft tissues would be expected to have decayed but before a wooden burial container would have collapsed. The artifacts, however, would have been in poor condition, and held little practical value, the researchers explained. “Swords and brooches are some of the most symbolically laden objects in graves,” Klevnäs said. “These were given as gifts and passed on as heirlooms; they’re objects used to link people, including across generations. They bring stories and memories. So it’s likely that they are retrieved for these reasons,” she added. To read about the early Middle Ages in Britain, go to "A Dark Age Beacon." 

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