Archaeologists in Germany have turned to badgers, who are particularly great at digging, to help unearth potential locations of burial sites, and, it worked.
A badger in the countryside near the town of Stolpe recently uncovered a remarkable site: the 12th-century burial ground of eight people, two of whom were apparently Slavic warlords.
Two people had been watching a badger digging a large den, and upon closer examination, they noticed a pelvic bone inside of it.
“We pushed a camera into the badger’s [den] and took photos by remote control,” Hendrikje Ring, one of the badger-watchers, said, ”we found pieces of jewelry, retrieved them and contacted the authorities.”
One warlord was buried with a two-edged sword and a large bronze bowl at his feet. At the time, such bowls were used to wash the hands before eating,” archaeologist Felix Biermann of Georg-August University in Gttingen said. ”The bowls would be a sign that a man belonged to the upper classes.”
The same warrior also wore an elegant bronze belt buckle in the shape of an omega, with the head of a stylized snake at each end.
“He was a well-equipped warrior,” said Biermann, who is leading the team excavating the site. “Scars and bone breaks show that he had been hit by lances and swords, and had also fallen from a horse.”
Another grave held the skeleton of a woman with a coin in her mouth. According to ancient religious beliefs, people were often buried with coins to pay a ferryman to transport them across the river that separated the living world from the realm of the dead.
The archaeological finding in Germany is significant because it occurred at a place and time of conflict between heathen Slavic tribes and Christians, said Thomas Kersting, an archaeologist at the Brandenburg Department for Monument Protection.
One of the warriors’ graves appears to have been robbed of its sword, Kersting explained. “If someone went to this grave and opened it in full view of the local castle and took out the sword, that’s a sign that something’s not working anymore,” Kersting told Der Spiegel. “It highlights the time of upheaval when the rule of the Slavic tribes was coming to an end.”