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Chamber Graves in Poland

A new academic publication sheds a detailed light on life, economics and politics in early medieval Ciepłe, in Poland.1 It is a comprehensive study of the excavations in a necropolis between 2004 and 2015.

Ciepłe is part of the ancient province of Pomerania. On the map below, it is located just before the split in the river above (or below, so you will) Grudziądz. The cemetry dates back to the late 10th-early 11th century, a period during which the first rulers of the Piast dynasty make their mark in the area. Researchers believe they chose this spot on the river Vistula to found new settlements as a way to gain control of the trade routes. The area would indeed grow to include several strongholds, settlements, and cemeteries.

Vistula Estuary, Poland (Source: Wikipedia / Kmusser).

In total, around sixty burials have been studied, including 6 chamber graves, but the cemetery may have been twice as large. In the centre are four chamber tombs with rich warrior and horse gear, enclosed by a wooden palisade. This is believed to be the oldest part of the cemetery. All analyses about the tombs arrive at the same conclusion, these belong to the local elite who clearly lived longer, ate a more varied diet, and went to the afterlife with rich grave goods. Whilst in the rest of the cemetery most deceased are local people, the four males in the centre tombs, however, are Scandinavian.

The English summary pays most attention to these four graves. Yet, the female and the older couple in the other two chamber graves seem just as interesting. But as summaries go, there is not enough room to fit everything in. Unless you read Polish, for then the book will reveal all!


  1. Sławomir Wadyl, Ciepłe: An Elite Early Medieval Cemetery in Eastern Pomerania. (Gdansk: Archaeological Museum Gdansk, 2019), pp. 547, 549–551, 572–574, [pp. 547–574].
    Szymon Zdziebłowski, ‘Four Warriors Buried in 11th Century Tombs in Pomerania Came From Scandinavia, say Scientists.’ Science in Poland Published 20 January 2020. Last Accessed 21 January 2020.  ↩

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