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Excavation at Haithabu under the direction of the ZBSA

Dr. Sven Kalmring conducts the excavation in Haithabu.

Excavation at Haithabu under the direction of the ZBSA

The Finnish archaeologist Helmer Salmo at the leveling instrument.

Excavations in Hedeby – Golden necklace of Grave 318 completed after almost 80 years

Since April this year excavations in the inhumation burial ground of Hedeby are taking place in a cooperation between Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), Archäologisches Landesmuseum and Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein under direction of excavation leader Dr. Sven Kalmring (ZBSA).

Point of origin of the excavation was an unfinished excavation in late August 1939, which was aborted due to the start of WW2 on the 1st of September 1939. While further burials were recognised only two were examined fully: One male burial (grave 319) with an Anglo-Saxon sword and a female interment with one golden pendant of which the gemstone was missing.

golden necklace

So far the latter burial was judged remarkable, but not outstanding. Due to the re-excavation now two more golden pendants with semi-precious stones – amethyst and rock crystal – plus four gold beads with filigree can be allotted to this grave turning it into one of the richest female interments in Hedeby as such.

The excavations will continue until the end of September this year and are open to the public. Until then a larger section of the inhumation burial ground will be surveyed. A facebook-page “Ausgrabung Haithabu 2017” informs about the proceedings of the campaign.


Dr. Sven Kalmring conducts the excavation in Haithabu.

The point of origin for the excavations on Hedeby’s ”Flachgräberfeld” (inhumation burial ground) is an old trench by Helmer Salmo from 1939. Because of the start of WW2 the excavations had to be aborted after two weeks only. On the day of the Invasion of Poland on September 1st the remaining features were covered by roofing paper and the investigations hastily stopped.

The inhumation burial ground mainly had been studied in between the years 1908 to 1912 by Friedrich Knorr on a coherent area of 400 m2. With its 319 burials, its dense occupation and absent grave goods it comes close to our modern understanding of a Christian cemetery. “Proper” Christian burials generally do not contain grave goods, and are east-west orientated in order to witness the return of the redeemer on doomsday. In the transition period we can grasp in Hedeby there are burials with heathen and Christian symbology.

With a subsequent enhancement of the excavation trench towards the south-west it is expected the meet burials from the later phase of the settlement in the 10th and 11th century. The human bones will be studies with contemporary methods of anthropology and used for aDNA- and isotope analysis. In doing so new insights on the composition of the late population of Hedeby, their origins and lineage, state of health and nutrition can be expected.

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