Digging into the millennia-old cemetery in Germany, archaeologists didn’t expect to find much. Grave robbers had come through centuries ago, carrying off who-knows-what and taking it who-knows-where.
Except the looters missed something — and archaeologists weren’t going to repeat that mistake.
It was a round, metal chunk sticking out of the dirt that first caught the attention of archaeologists in Ingelheim, excavation leader Christoph Bassler said in an Aug. 4 news release from the City of Ingelheim.
The metal chunk was part of a shield, Bassler said. The artifact was unearthed between two looted graves, making it hard to link it to a specific burial.
So archaeologists kept digging — and stumbled on an untouched grave.
The 1,300-year-old grave belonged to a warrior, the release said. The 30- to 40-year-old man was buried in the seventh century with almost every type of weapon used at the time.
A double-edged spatha sword measuring about 3 feet long was placed under his right arm, archaeologists said. This sword was likely his most prized possession. By his left arm, he had a broad seax, a short, heavy sword used for slashing. The grave also had a knife, lance, bronze scabbard and belt, the release said.
Photos shared by Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim, or the Ingelheim Imperial Palace, on Facebook Aug. 9 show the warrior’s grave.
Based on the style of his shield and weapons, the warrior was likely a Frankish man, archaeologists said. His skeletal posture indicated he was buried in a now-disintegrated coffin.
The Franks “forcibly settled” what is now southern Germany beginning in the sixth century, according to Britannica. They maintained control of Franconia – a territory that included Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich – until the eighth century when another royal dynasty took control.
The 1,300-year-old warrior was not a professional soldier, archaeologists said. Modern-day standing armies did not exist during his lifetime. Instead, he likely cared for his own equipment and followed his leader into battle.
His cause of death is unknown, but he might have died from illness or a battle-inflicted injury, the release said. Archaeologists noted the violence-themed burial goods would make the latter cause of death unsurprising.
The artifacts were removed from the grave for cleaning and further study, city officials said.
Ingelheim, also known as Ingelheim am Rhein, is about 330 miles southwest of Berlin.
Google Translate was used to translate the news release from the City of Ingelheim. Facebook Translate was used to translate the post from Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim.