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Three chamber graves at Gniozdovo
By D. A. Avdusin and T. A. Puskina
Avdusin, D.A. & Puskina, TA., 1988, Three Chamber Graves at Gniozdovo. (Tre
kammergraver fra Gniozdovo). Fornvännen 83. Stockholm.
Cremation has been regarded as the prevailing burial rite at Gniozdovo, but since
1960 an increasing number of inhumations in pits under mounds have been
found (due to modern exeavation methods), Some of the pits are large and contained graves in wooden chambers. Three chamber graves are discussed in this
artide. All three are Scandinavian graves from the 970's (acc. to linds and dendrodates). Two contained each a woman in a sitting position, and one contained
a rich male grave with a horse. Costumes and burial riles show that the dead were
Scandinavian. The main bulk of the Scandinavian finds at Gniozdovo point to
Middle Sweden, but the materials discussed here point to Denmark and
Southern Norway.
D.A. Avdusin and T.A. Puskina, Kafedra archeologii, Istoriceskij fakul'tet, Moskovskij Gosudarstvennyj Universitet, Moscow, 119899 GSP, USSR.

In archaeological literature one can still see the
opinion that cremation was absolutdy prevailing at Gniozdovo. (This spelling is doser to the
Russian pronounciation than the variant Gnézdovo. T h e same applies to Timeriova. — The
scholarly transliteration is Gnézdovo, Timerévo, Puskina Kirpicnikov, Nedosivina, Sestovica, Cernigov [ISO/R9 norm]. Editor's comm.)
Indeed, for a long time only remains of cremations were found during the excavations of the
mounds. Exceptions were rare and surprised
archaeologists, many of whom considered them
to be outside the general chronological limits of
Gniozdovo.
However, from 1960 the number of inhumations began to increase noticeably, and it
became possible to interpret some formerly
unidentilied pits under the mounds as burial
pits. In recent years the number of burial pits
has grown and they now number around 85.
Even if more than 1100 mounds were excavated
by 1986, the number of studied inhumations is
considcrable and adds a new element to the
general picture of Gniozdovo.
The inhumations at Gniozdovo were found
thanks to modern exeavation methods where
the whole mound was thoroughly investigated.
Fmnvanmn 83(1988)

The narrow trenches of the old excavations
could not include the complete burial pits,
which therefore were not discovered. Modern
re-excavations of mounds with traces of old excavations, revealed pits unnoticed before. As a
survival of the cremation ritual, a light bonfire
imitating a funeral pyre was burnt on the
ground prepared for the mound, and only
afterwards was the burial pit dug. This circumstance is probably the reason for the
mistakes in the research: as the archaeologists
reached the level of the pyre without finding
any objects in it, they stopped digging and
regarded the mound as a cenotaph. Exeavation
trenches dug only down to the level of the pyre,
and occasionally a bit into the filling of the
burial pit were sometimes traced in the profiles
of the mounds during modern excavations.
O n many of the Gniozdovo mounds there are
cavities that for a long time were interpreted as
traces of cardessly filled pits from old excavations. Examinations from the last decade
have shown that in many cases it is not so: the
cavities are a result of the mound fälling in after
the rotting of the roof on the burial pit. Small
mounds often not more than half a meter high
and " r u i n e d " by sunken pits, were usually not

Chamber graves at Gniozdovo
excavated since they were regarded as not very
promising. But the burial pits were often found
exactly under those unpretentious mounds.
Some pits stånd out because of their size:
2.5x3.75 m and even 4.5x4.5 m. Along the
walls of these big pits traces of wooden facing
were occasionally found, and sometimes remains of the floor and the roof. There is no
doubt that these are burial chambers, a
previously totally unknown burial ritual at
Gniozdovo, a ritual which one by the way might
have supposed because of some objects which
have not been on the pyre: a leather bridle with
mounts, oval brooches with traces of gilding,
objects of thin bronze or silver threads not
damaged by the fire, etc. But it became possible
to talk with certainly about chambers at Gniozdovo only after they were discovered by excavations (Avdusin 1976 pp. 122-123).
T h e bad preservation of organic material at
Gniozdovo hindered the discovery of inhumations induding those in chambers. In most
of the burial pits no skeletons were found: they
were not preserved. Also wood and bone are
preserved only in exceptional cases, and
therefore there are praetically speaking no
traces of coffins. It was impossible to discover
coffins by the help of the distribution of the
rivets as did A. S. Gräslund (1981) in Birka: the
rivets in the Gniozdovo inhumations were
poorly preserved as also, by the way, objects of
non-ferrous metals. The preserved metal objects are very corroded. The sandy soil of
Gniozdovo accounts for this. It is well ventilated, fine sand, and the air which came into
the grave caused the decay of organic objects
and corrosion of metal ones.
According to the literature, the inhumations
found during earlier excavations at Gniozdovo,
were situated on the outskirts of the cemetery. It
is now proven that some mounds with burial
pits, among them with chambers, were situated
in the middle of the Central and the Dnepr
mound groups (Avdusin 1977; Avdusin &
Puskina 1982 pp. 68—80). T h e mounds around
them have also been excavated and they contained the usual Gniozdovo graves: cremations
with grave goods, without grave goods, and
cenotaphs. Already this fact lets us suppose that
the mounds with burial pits induding those

21

with chambers and mounds with cremations
are contemporary, This supports the view
which we have suggested earlier, that the
Gniozdovo cemetry was used for a short period
of time and that there are no indications of any
evolution of the burial rituals.
The chambers in our opinion, have the
following characteristics:
T h e first is the traces of wooden facing along
the walls, sometimes together with a wooden
roof and in some cases with a wooden floor.
T h e second characteristic is the size. If the
usual inhumations are found in pits measuring
190x90 cm, 230x85 cm or even 280x120 cm,
then the chambers are usually considerably
larger: 225 x 275 cm, 320 x 150 cm etc.
That is why some pits under mounds can be
dassified as chambers, even if the facing of the
walls, the bones, and the grave goods are not
preserved. Such are for example pits measuring
275 x 175 cm, 345 x 210 cm. Some pits with sizes
dose to these constitute an intermediate variant
which characterize them more as chambers,
although there is no certainly about it. Thus, a
pit 240 cm long, and 170 cm wide contained
only the skeleton of a horse, while the master
probably was buried in the neighbouring
mound which is analogous in structure and
size. The other pit measuring 280 x 120 cm contained only a human skeleton. Similar mounds
seemingly have to be regarded as an intermediate group.
Mounds covering two contemporary burial
pits, either side by side or in a row are not
dassified as chamber mounds. No couples'
burials have been found in chambers.
The third characteristic of the chambers is
not external, constructional, but internal,
ritual. The chambers contain only inhumations, and the bodies can be extended, twisted
on the back or on the side, or sitting. Aside from
the human skeleton, there is sometimes also a
horse skeleton in the chambers. Between them
is a pile of horse furniture and sometimes even
a saddle. The chamber ritual for male graves
contain weapons either by the skeleton orthrust
into the wall.
According to these criteria 13 burials can be
regarded as chambers. In the Central group
there are 10 mounds: Nos. 66, 72, 76, 191, 196,
Förmannen 83 (1988)

22

D A . Avdusin & T. A. Puskina

203, 212, 255, 301, 306. In the Dnepr group
there are 2 mounds: Nos. 4, 13 and in the
Ol'sanskaja group — 1 mound: No. 28.
As mentioned, the chambers were nearly
always dug after the burning of the ritual fire.
This characteristic is clearly seen in the Dnepr
group, where the soil makes it easier to see the
stratigraphy than in the Lesnaja (Forest) or
Central groups. Remains of construetions inside the buried pits were found in 7 out of 85 inhumations. Usually the remains of wood are
very insignificant, as areas of rotten wood or
piéces of charred planks, which does not make
it possible to form an idea about the construction of the building. T h e mounds described
below are rare exceptions.
In 1982 several mounds were excavated on
the southern part of the Central group. In two
ol them were found the remains of wooden construetions which were well enough preserved to
allow details of their construction to be seen.
Neither of the mounds stood out among the
other ones because of their sizes: 0.5 m high,
9—9.5 m wide. On the top of them were cavities
which were regarded as traces of earlier excavations or plundering. U n d e r the mounds, on the
original surface, were seen slight traces of fires,
cut through by rectangular burial pits, oriented
along the cardinal points.
T h e pit in mound C—301 measured 3 x 3 m,
0.8 m deep from the original subsoil surface
(Fig. 1). In the pit were found remains of a
notch-built log framework measuring 2.1x2.1
m. T h e framework was placed on the bottom of
the pit and was centered to the north eastern
corner so that there was an empty space of
about 0.15—0.75 m between the walls of the pit
and the framework. Besides, the framework was
askew in relation to the axes of the pit. A solid
layer of decayed wood, 0.08—0.1 m wide, could
be traced about 0.25—0.3 m high where the
walls were. O n e can suppose that originally the
framework had been higher, because there were
traces of single spöts of decayed wood in the filling of the pit. The framework was covered by a
roof, obviously made of planks 0.1—0.2 m wide
and 0.02—0.03 m thick lying north-south, i.e.
along the axis of the chamber. The remains of
this layer fell into the framework and were seen
as distinct stripes of decayed wood. In the
Förmännen 83 (1988)

north-western corner the roof seemed to protrude a little över the framework. The floor was
better preserved and was uncovered över the
whole area. It consisted of planks 0.05 m thick
and 0.15—0.25 m wide and was oriented in the
same direction.
O n the floor there were well preserved piéces
of birch bark, especially in the northern part.
Almost in the middle there were spread in
disorder 50 beads of golden and silver-glass,
yellow and ribbed glass beads, a cross-shaped
pendant with punched ornamentation (Fig.
4 : 1, 2), and a fragment of an equal-armed
bronze brooch. To the south-west of these, by
the wall of the framework, were iron hoops and
a handle of wooden bucket shaped like a truncated cone, lying on its side, and a small thrown
clay vessel with line ornamentations (Fig. 4 : 3).
In the south-east corner there were remnants of
a round birch bark box with a bundle of different textiles, in which lay small fragments of
an oval bronze brooch (Fig. 4 : 4), weak traces of
a little wooden cup. By the side of it stood two
wax candles (Fig. 4 : 5), protruding 5 cm above
the roof. Nine more thin candles and fragments
of them were found in different places in the
eastern part of the framework. Most of the
candles have slightly melted edges. In the southwest corner and along the southern wall were
some unidentified small bones.
T h e pit in mound C-306 measured 2.3 x 2.85
m and was 0.78—0.8 m deep from the surface of
the subsoil (Fig. 2). In the pit there were the remains of a wooden chamber in post construction, measuring 2 x 2 . 6 m between the corner
posts. Along the walls of the pit, a height of up
to 0.4 m, was a layer of rotten wood, 0.05—0.1
m thick. To judge from the fact that the rotten
wood was evenly distributed along the walls of
the pit, and bent around the posts, the walls of
the burial construction consisted of a row of
horizontal planks or logs sqeezed between the
posts and the subsoil walls of the pit. T h e imprints of the wooden facing were clearly visible
on the surface of the subsoil. The corner post
was preserved 0.15—0.2 m above the floor, had
a diameter of ca. 0.25 m, and the post holes were
0.3—0.4 m deep. T h e ends of the posts turned
out to have different shapes: three of them were
blunt and one was axed into a cone.

Chamber graves at Gniozdovo
As in the first case one can suppose that the
burial chamber was higher than the height of
the preserved wooden planks. The roof and the
floor were traced. The upper layer which probably was the remains of the roof, was badly
preserved and consisted mainly of a thin layer
of rotten wood found as spöts and belts of the
cross-bearing beams. T h e lower cover, probably the floor, consisted of tightly laid planks
0.03 m thick and 0.15-0.3 m wide. T h e flooring covered the whole bottom chamber on the
subsoil of the pit. It was covered with a thin
layer of light-grey clay and birch bark.

Fig. 1. The pit under mound
C-301 with remains of a
notch-built log framework
with roof and floor of planks.
— Gropen under gravhaug
C-301 med rester av en laftet tommer-ramme med tak
og gulv av planken

.
1

O n e more detail of the construction of the
chamber must be mentioned, wich is fairly well
seen: 0.9 m from and paralld with the western
wall there was a plank set on its edge, as if
separating the remains of the burial from the
rest of the construction.
In the western part of the chamber, on the
floor, were found fragments of two doubleshelled brooches of gilt bronze of type J P 51 b (?).
Under them were preserved small fragments of
silk and piéces of the shoulder-straps of the skirt
(Fig. 4 : 9 ) . A little further to the south there
were a thrown clay vessel with wave ornamenta-

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Formännen 83(1988)

24

D. A. Avdusin & T. A. Puskina
Fig. 2. The pit under lhe
grave mound C-306 with remains ol a wooden chamber
in post construction with
roof and floor of planks. —
Gropen under gravhaug C306 med rester av et trekammer i stolpekonstruksjon
med tak og gulv av planken

20

_ i CM

tion and a lathed-turned wooden cup with traces
of silver mounts along the brim (Fig. 4 : 10, 11).
O n the northern half ot the floor was found a
transparent glass bead (Fig. 4 : 12). Besides,
mainly in the eastern part ot the chamber there
were 3 large and 9 thin wax candles and fragments of them. O n e of the candles had melted
completely into a wax lump with the imprint of
the wick (Fig. 4 : 6—8). Elsewhere dröps of wax
were found on the floor.
T h e third mound was situated on the outskirts of the Dnepr group, 1.8—1.5 km from the
Formännen 83 (1938)

Central group. It was excavated in 1984. T h e
mound which was disfigured, was 11 — 11.5 m
wide, 0.9 m high. There was no clearly visible
cavity in the top of it.
Under the mound, on the subsoil, there was
an intensive oval fire with traces of criss-cross
laying of the fire, oriented towards the parts of
the world. The center of the fire was cut through
by a rectangular burial pit measuring 3.5x3.7
m, 0.95—1 m deep from the surface of the subsoil. In the pit were found remnants of a burial
chamber in post construction. The size

Chamber graves at Gniozdovo

25

Fig. 3. The male grave in a
pit under mound Dn-4, in a
chamber in postconstruction. — Mannsgraven i en
grop under haug Dn-4, i et
kammer i stolpekonstruksjon.

measured between the corner posts was
2.5x2.5 m, which is the same as the bottom of
the pit. 30—40 cm long untrimmed pine posts
were preserved, projecting a little above the top
of the post holes (Fig. 3).
Only some areas of rotten wood and some
nearly fully rotten planks of the roof and the
floor were preserved. T h e planks of the roof obviously lay east-west. Judging by the sizes and
shape of the area of rotten wood on the bottom
of the pit, the floor was made of planks, 0.1 —
0.15 m wide, in the same direction and on two
perpendicular crossbeams. In the western end
of the pit were found remnants of birch bark on
the floor level. The bottom of the pit was daubed with a greyblue clay. O n the floor of the
burial chamber was found a large number of
items from a male burial. Along the western

wall lay — in the south-western corner — a long
grey slate whetstone (Fig. 6 : 12), two barrelshaped iron weights covered with bronze (Fig.
6 : 4, 5), a crampon with two spikes (Fig. 6 : 16),
a fragment of a thin silver disc. Almost in the
middle and not lär from the wall — a crushed,
small thrown clay vessel with linear-wavy ornamentation (Fig. 6 : 18) and the handle of a
bucket which obviously was hollowed out of one
piece of wood, and not made of staves, because
there were no hoops with the handle, as usually
fastened it to the bucket. Closer to the wall lay:
an iron bit with two links (Fig. 5 : 4), an iron
clasp from the bridle (Fig. 6 : 13), fragments of
a second clasp, fragments of one bronze and
one iron mount. Further to the north and
north-west from these objects were found 5
arrow-heads (Fig. 6 : 1), an iron clasp, 8 east
Forn annen 83 (1983)

26

D A . Avdusin & T A. Puskina

m

C3ö©O0
^ * ^

1,2,4,8,9,12 ,
3,5.6,7,10,11

:

,_

. • •

Fig. 4. The finds from grave C-301: nos. 1—5, and from grave C-306; nos. 6—12. — Funnene fra grav C-301:
nr. 1—5, og fra grav C-306: nr. 6—12.

bronze buttons (Fig. 6 : 2) and a fragment of
textile. In the north-west cornera lancet-shaped
spear-head stood with the point upwards (Fig.
5 : 1; type J P E, or A. N. Kirpicnikov type I).
Almost in the middle of the chamber were two
stirrups with rounded step (A. N. Kirpicnikov
type I; Fig. 5 : 6), and a sword with a semicircular pommel (type J P V; Fig. 5 : 2). O n the
lower part of the blade lay a horseshoe-shaped
bronze brooch with faceted heads and remains
of textile. To the left of the sword was a east
silver pendant cross with punched ornamentation (Fig. 6 : 3), remains of the upper chest part
of a caftan which consisted of two close lines of
narrow silk ribbon and 24 bronze buttons (Fig.
6 : 2). The caftan was tightly buttoned. A little
to the east of the low rim of the fästening of the
caftan, evidently at the belt, there was a little
ydlow-grey slate whetstone (Fig. 6 : 11), a strikea-light (Fig. 6 : 15) with a piece of flint and two
iron rings. These objects lay in a dark-brown,
Förmännen 83 (1938)

fine, spöt of rotten material measuring 18x19
cm. Inside the area there were 7 fragmented
bronze badges from a belt purse (Fig. 6 : 6—9), a
piece of cloth, and some hazel nuts. In the southeastern corner of the pit were found the remains
of a horse's skull with two iron rings with small
rods (Fig. 5 : 8) and one more iron ring.
The analysis of the burial equipment give
reason to suppose that in the first two cases
women were buried in a sitting position. As in
most cases of this type of burial the vessels were
placed to the right of the deceased, and the
burial was probably oriented towards the west.
The ethnic identity can fairly easily be defmed
by the set of brooches and details of the dress —
a skirt with hinges, a goffered linen shirt and a
dress of the tunica type. This costume is characteristic for Seandinavia from the IX to the beginning of the XI centuries (Hägg 1981). — T h e
third mound contained a man, evidently buried
with a horse or part of a horse.

Chamber graves at Gnbzdovo

27

Fig. 5. Finds from the male grave Dn-4. — Funn fra mannsgraven Dn-4.

Fotmannen 83 (1933)

28

D.A. Avdusin & T. A. Puskina

O n the whole the goods and ritual in all three
burials are fairly well known at Gniozdovo and
other burial sites (Sestovitsa, Timeriovo, Kiev),
except for some details which we will discuss
more closdy. The grave goods which enable us
to date the graves have to be studied in detail.
Both oval brooches in mound C-306 belong
to the type J P 51b, which is datable to the second quarter-middle of the X century. (Petersen 1928 pp. 59—67). The necklace from mound
C-301 consisted of golden and silver glass beads,
yellow beads and large ribbed beads, a combination which is characteristic for the second
half of the X century. The silver pendant crosses
from our mounds add to the material recently
described in an artide by N. G. Nedosivina.
T h e one from mound C-301 is cut out of a thin
silver disc, the other, from mound Dn-4, is east.
Bolh crosses are decorated with punched ornaments, but it looks unfmished on the pendant
from the male burial. N. G. Nedosivina dates
analogUOUS finds mainly to the second half of
the X century, partly to the beginning of the XI
century. (Nedosivina 1983 pp. 222-225).
T h e spearhead and the sword are especially
interesting in the male burial. Based on the Old
Russian material A. N. Kirpicnikov (1966a p.
32) dates the lancetshaped spearheads without
ornamentation on the socket to the X century.
According to J a n Petersen (1919 pp. 154—156)
this type was in existence in the end of the
VIII—first half of the IX century, but survived
to the end of the IX century.
Swords with semidrcular pommel and hilts
decorated with a complicated pattern of alternativt' silver and bronze threads, belong to type
J P V. Finds of such swords in Rus' are dated to
the X century (Kirpicnikov 1966 b pp. 9-12)
while in Seandinavia they existed in the first
half of that century. (Petersen 1919 pp. 2 6 - 2 8 ) .
Battle axes of type II are dated to the X—
beginning of the XI century by A. N. Kirpicnikov (1966 a p. 35). The strong corrosion and
fragmentary state of preservation make it impossible lo identify the construction and type of
the bits. Stirrups with rounded step of type I
existed in Eastern Europé from 900 to 1000 A.D.
(Kirpicnikov 1973 p. 47).
Two rhombic arrowheads were singled out
among the rusty arrows. It should be noted that
Förmannen 83 (1938)

all types of ornaments, every-day items and
weapons from the three burials under discussion, are represented among the finds from earlier excavations at Gniozdovo.
All three pottery vessels belong to types of
vessels which constitutete a series of finds in
mounds with cremations. It was unexpected to
lind a wooden cup, a birch bark box, textiles,
and candles. Some special conditions in the soil
which filled the pit, preserved the organic material in these mounds.
T h e wooden cup in mound C-306 was lathet u m e d and had rounded shape. The rim was
decorated with thin silver staples. Such bronze
bindings are known in cremations at Gniozdovo, but in these cases the form of the vessels remains unknown. Several lathe-turned wooden
vessels of a similar shape with bronze staples
have been found i Birka burials (Arbman 1943
Taf. 214:1, 215:la-c; Lindeberg 1984 pp. 2 4 2 244).
The remains of the birch-bark boxes consisted of two discs 27 cm in diameter. Along the
rim were small holes. This shows that the walls
of the box — probably of cloth — were sewn
to it. In the bundle of cloth found between the
birch bark discs, were the remains of a red goldworked silk garment, embroidered with tapes of
smooth and denser silk and of a goffered linen
shirt. An oval bronze brooch was wrapped in
the garment. Aside from this, fragments of
brown, coarse, woolen cloth and a piece sewn of
two ribbons of untinctured blue linen — a fragment of a skirt, and some fragments of silk ribbons of different width were found. The fragments of silk are of Spanish and Byzantine origin. (We would like to thank M. V. Fehner for
identifying the textiles and valuable consultations.)
The remains of the caftan from mound Dn-4
consists of two lines rows of narrow silk ribbon
forming a kind of breast-plate 36 cm long.
Clothes of similar cut are known from pictures
and are reflected in archaeological materials.
Finds of candles are very rare. At present
there are only three analogies in Old Rus' material. A conic candle has been found on the level of the roof of a rich couple's grave 100 at Timeriovo. Among the finds were Arabic coins
from 9 6 0 - 9 7 0 AD., which dated the burial

Chamber graves at Gniozdovo

29

Fig. 6. Finds from tbt- male
grave Dn-4. — Funn fra
mannsgraven Dn-4.

i - i ? -

I

16 — I

1
l__l

I

1

•

I

i CM

•

(Nedosivina & Fehner 1985 pp. 111-112).
A piece of wax found on the edge of the pit of
a couple's burial with a horse from Sestovitsa.
(BlifeFdt 1977 pp. 138-142). Among the finds
was a sword of type J P W and a lancet-shaped
spearhead, some stirrups, arrows, a belt purse,
a bone facing from the bow of a saddle in Jelling
style etc. O n the whole these two complexes are
contemporary with those from Gniozdovo and
belong to the middle and second half of the X

CM

century. A crudely made candle found in one of
the mounds at the river OFsa near the river Berezina belongs to a låter period. The candle
stood in a clay vessel which stood at the feet of
the deceased on the subsoil in the mortuary
house (Zavitnevic 1892 p. 140). Outside Eastern Europé there are a few finds of candles and
piéces of wax in contemporary burials in Jutland and Southern Norway. There are no such
linds in Sweden.
Forrwänmn 8 i ( l 9 8 8 )

30

D A . Avdusin & T. A. Puskina

A 58 cm long candle was found on the roof of
the post construction burial chamber in Bjeringhoj in Mammen. Another small piece of
wax was found inside it. The burial is dated to
the end of the X century (Bröndsted 1936 pp.
106-107).
A fragment of wax candle was found on the
top of the roof of the chamber in the northern
mound at Jelling. T h e grave in it is dated to the
middle of the X century (Brendsted 1936 pp.
119-120, Roesdahl 1974 pp. 208-223). Rich
silk textiles were also found in these graves.
Wax and candles have been found in some
Norwegians burials, amongst which there are
also boat burials. All authors of publications of
Scandinavian finds remark that they are rare
and belong to burials from the upper social level
and point out that the burials are rich (Shetelig
1912 pp. 222-223). — It is interesting that the
size and the method of production of the Gniozdovo candles are the same as of the find in
M a m m e n — 2.5—3 cm wide, rolled up of uneven wax tapes. (Worsae 1869 Pl. 7:6).
Where it has been possible to determine
clearly enough the sizes and construction of the
Gniozdovo chambers, they fit completely into
the picture based on the material from other
cemeteries from the X and the beginning of the
XI century. The sizes of the chambers in the
Sestovitsa mounds vary from 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.4 m to
2.5 x 1 x 0.8 m; two chambers at Timeriovo measured 5.2x3.75x0.3 m and 2.9x1.9x0.6 m; in
Cernigov: 5—4.6x3.8—3.1x1.7 m. Wooden
construetions in the form of coffins in notch
construction are found in Kiev and Cernigov, of
post construction in Sestovitsa and Kiev.
T h e closest analogies to the chamber burial
from the Dnepr group is to be found in the Sestovitsa material: here, as a rule, the remains
of the horse were placed across the pit near the
feet of the deceased. In two such cases (mound
X X V I I I 1925 and X I I 1925) there were swords
and riding horse harness, and at the head of the
deceased lay a spearhead, quivers with arrows,
and not far away a bucket or a thrown pottery
vessel (BlifeFdt 1977 pp. 175-177, 188-189).
However, unlike Gniozdovo, the horse in the
Sestovitsa mounds were usually placed on a
subsoil bench. Apart from mound Dn-4 at
Gniozdovo two chambers with male burials in
Förmännen 33 (1988)

the Central group contained remains of a horse, — in these cases the horse was placed at the
side of the master, but also on the bottom of
the pit (Avdusin & Puskina 1976; Avdusin, Kamenckaja & Puskina 1978).
From Sestovitsa comes also a find of a birchbark box with sides and with a bundle of
woman's clothes, evidently laid as a "gift" in
the couple's burial (BlifeFdt 1977 — mound 26
[1946] and mound 98).
T h e custom of burying the dead in a sitting
position has already been observed at Gniozdovo, — in mound C-196 excavated in 1976 and
containing a rich female grave which on the basis of the equipment and ritual is Scandinavian
(Avdusin & Puskina 1976 — mound C-196,
where by the way, is found one pendant cross
not mentioned in N G . Nedosivina's artide).
Analoguous and contemporary burials are
known in mounds at Timeriovo and Sestovitsa
(female Scandinavian graves with characteristic equipment), from the Kiev necropolis (a
woman in a couple's burial) — all these are
burials in chambers. A. S. Gräslund notes that
burials in a sitting position are characteristic for
the Birka chambers, and shows similarity in the
burials in Middle Sweden and Middle Dnepr
(Gräslund 1981 pp. 3 7 - 3 9 ) .
The dividing of the chamber wich a barrier
as found in mound C-306, has a certain interest.
This constructional detail is known in Jelling
and some chambers in Hedeby, but is unknown
in other Scandinavian monuments (Worsae
1869).
T h e examined material allows us to state that
the female burials are Scandinavian and that
the male burial is connected with the Varangian
armed forces ("druzina"). The ritual and the
mentioned analogies to the burial equipment
give reason to date all three complexes to the second half of the X century. T h e unique preservation of wood in the mounds makes it possible
to specify the date. Test samples of two corner
posts from the chamber in mound C-306 and
four from chamber Dn-4 were sent to the laboratory of the Institute of Archaeology at the
Soviet Academy of Sciences. The dendrodate of
the first mound was 979 A.D, and for the second 975 A.D. (We wish to express our gratitude
to N.B.Cernyh and A.E Urjeva, who supplied

Chamber graves al Gniozdovo
us with the results of their research.) Because of
the similarities in the ritual and equipment the
third mound, C-301, can also be dated to the
970-ies.
These dates coincide well with the date of the
M a m m e n burial — the end of the X century
and mound 100 from Timeriovo — the 970-ies
based on the date of the youngest coin. T h e
Gniozdovo complex is similar to them particulary the composition of the equipment and details in the ritual — candles, wooden constructons in pits.
Two more questions have to be discussed.
They are indirectly connected with the material
under discussion. T h e first is the question of
date of some north European objects and types
in Rus'. According to Scandinavian analogies
the sword and the spear from mound Dn-4
should be dated not låter than the first half of
the X century, as also the burial itself. Mound
C-306 could on the basis of type J P 51b be dated
to the middle of the X century, and the dendrodates give the last quarter of the century,
which means that these objects outlive their
Scandinavian paralds by more than 25 years.
In this connection one can draw attention to a
find of an equalarmed brooch of an early type
from the second quarter of the IX—end of the
IX century in a mound together with a thrown
vessel with a stamp (mound 85 from S.I. Sergeev's excavations), the famous " h y b r i d "
sword of type J P D from mound C-2 excavated
in 1949, is in Seandinavia dated not låter than
the IX century. It becomes obvious that it is risky to directly transfer the dating of the Scandinavian materia] to east European finds.
T h e second question concerns the character
of the burial. N. G. Nedosivina's assumption
that " t h e cross in the burials not only is a decoration, but also a ritual object, connected with
the spread of Christianity", is in our opinion
supported by the fact that the cross was found
together with candle and wax. Some authors
have considered the candles as not being connected with Christian ritual, but were lit during
the funeral as a protection against the malevolent activity of the deceased. In Christianity,
however, the candle also is a protection — against an " u n d e a n power". Evidently, those buried in the chambers with pendant crosses and

31

wax candles may be considered as some of the
earliest Christians in the Smolensk region on
the Dnepr.
We call to attention that a reliquary cross
probably from the second half of the X century
has been found on the open settlement at Gniozdovo (Astasova 1974 pp. 249—252). O n e can
suppose that bearers of the new religion at Gniozdovo as well as Timeriovo and Kiev, are
among those buried in the 970-ies, with a mixed
ritual which combined the new eultie symbols
and old heathen burial construetions and set of
activities performed on that occasion — the
placing in the grave of a horse, everyday objects,
gifts for the repose of the soul.
As a condusion we put forward yet another
supposition. Usually all the Scandinavian parallels to some of the elements in the ritual and
grave equipment at Gniozdovo have been connected with Middle Sweden. T h e material
which we have discussed here enables us to note
another contact line — going to Denmark and
southern Norway.
Translated by Anne Stalsberg and lan Reed. Secretary work by Mai Bye, University of Trondheim.

References
Arbman, H. 1943. Birka. Die Gräber, I. KVHAA.
Stockholm.
Astasova, N.L 1974. Enkolpion izGnézdova. In: Sovetskaja arheologija No. 3.
Avdusin, D.A. 1976. Skandinavskie ingumacii v
Gnézdove. in: VII Vsesojuznaja konferencija po izuceniju istorii, ékonomiki, literatury i jazyka Skandinavskih
strån i Finljandii. Tezisy dokladov. Gast' I. MoskvaLeningrad.
— 1977. Gnézdovo — der Nachbar von Smolensk.
In: Zeitschrift fur Arcbäologie, Berlin No.7.
— 1976. Otcet o raskopkah v Gnézdove v 1976 godu.
Avdusin, D.A. & Puskina. TA. 1982. Gnézdovo v issledovanijah Smolenskoj ekspedicii. In: Veslnik
Moskovskogo Universiteta, Serija 8, istorija. No. 1.
Avdusin, DA., Kameneckaja, E.V & Puskina, TA.
1978. Otcek o raskopkah v Gnézdove v 1978godu.
BlifeFdt, D.L 1977. Davn'orus'ki pamjatky Sestovici. No. 42. Kyiv.
Brendsted, J. 1936. Danish Inhumation Graves of
the Viking Age. In: Acta Archaeologica, Vol, 7, no. 2.
Köbenhavn.
Formännen 83 (1988)

32

D . A . Avdusin & T. A. Puskina

Gräslund, A.-S. 1981. Birka IV. The Burial Customs.
KVHAA. Stockholm.
Hägg, I. 1981. Kvinnodräkten i Birka. Aun 2. Uppsala.
Kirpicnikov, A.N. 1966 a. Drevnerusskoe oruzie, vyp. 1.
Moskva—Leningrad.
— 1966. b. Drevnerusskoe oruzie, vyp. 2. Moskva—Leningrad.
— 1973. Snarjazenie vsadnika i verhomgo konja na Rusi
IX—XIII vv. Leningrad.
Lindeberg, I. 1984. Holzsehalen und Beschläge zu
dt-rartigen Holzobjekten. In: Birka, I I I Syslematische Analysen der Gräberfunde. K V H A A . Stockholm.
Nedoäivina, N.G. 1983. Srednevekoye krestovidnye
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Nedosivina, N.G. & Fehner, M.V. 1985. Progrebafnyj
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arheologija, 1985 No. 2.
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— 1928. Vikingetidens smykker. Stavanger.
Roesdahl, E. 1974. T h e Northern Mound: burial
chamber and grave goods. In: Medieval Seandinavia. No. 7. Odense.
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Zavitnevic, V G 1894. Excavations by V.F. Zavitnevic. In: Otcet arheologiceskoj komissii za 1892 god.
Sankt Petersburg.

Tre kammergraver fra Gniozdovo
( G n i o z d o v o ligger 10 k m vest for byen S m o lensk, på D n e p r s h o y r e b r e d d . D e t e r et stort
l ö r n m i n n e k o m p l e k s m e d flere gravfelter s o m
o p p r i n n d i g i n n e h o l d 3000—5000 h a u g e r , forut e n to befestede b o p l a s s e r / b o r g e r , o g to å p n e ,
" b y m e s s i g " b e b y g d e boplasser. G n i o z d o v o
f u n k s j o n e r t e fra sent 9. til ferste halvdel av 11.
Ã¥ r h . BÃ¥de gravfeltene o g b o p l a s s e n e h a r gitt et
stort a n t a l l s k a n d i n a v i s k e funn. G n i o z d o v o h a r
s å l e d e s spilt, o g spiller, e n viktig rolle i diskusjon e n o m k r i n g s k a n d i n a v e n e s rolle i det g a m m e l russiske riket — Drevnjaja eller Kievskaja R u s ) .
K r e m a s j o n e r blitt b e t r a k t e t s o m d e n a b s o lutt d o m i n e r e n d e gravskikk på G n i o z d o v o ,
m e n fra 1960 e r d e t s t a d i g blitt funnet i n h u m a sjoner i g r ö p e r u n d e r h a u g e r (takket vaere m ö d e r n e u t g r ä v n i n g s m e t o d e r ) . På g r u n n av sterrelsen o g t r e r e s t e r e r 13 d e f m e r t s o m k a m m e r g r a v e r — en tidligere ukjent g r a v s k i k k på
G n i o z d o v o . Alle e r enkeltgraver. T r e k a m m e r g r a v e r e r d i s k u t e r t i a r t i k k d e n . Alla tre ligger
u n d e r h a u g e r av n o r m a l storrelse (h. 0,5 m ,
d i a m . 9—9,5 m ) , m e d g r ö p e r e t t e r d e t s a m menstyrtede kammeret.
G r a v C-301 (fig. 1) v a r en k v i n n e g r a v i laftet
k a m m e r ( 2 , 1 x 2 , 1 m ) m e d tak og gulv av p l a n ken K v i n n e n var g r a v l a g t s i t t e n d e . F u n n : fig.
4:1—3, foruten: 50 glassperler, f r a g m e n t av e n
l i k e a r m e brosje, e n t r e b o t t e m e d h e m p e r o g
Faima

i 81(1983)

h a n k av j e r n , foruten en n e v e r t i n e m e d e n b u n t
tekstiler o g f r a g m e n t e r av en oval brosje (fig.
4:4). S p o r av e n liten t r e k o p p . Ved siden av tin e n stod to vokslys (fig. 4:5). Ni t y n n e lys o g
f r a g m e n t e r av d e m ble f u n n e t på ulike steder.
G r a v C - 3 0 6 (fig. 2) v a r en k v i n n e g r a v i k a m m e r i s t o l p e k o n s t r u k s j o n (2,3 x 2 , 8 5 m ) m e d tak
o g gulv av p l a n k e n F u n n : f r a g m e n t e r av to ovale b r o s j e r t y p e J P 51b (?) m e d s p o r av silke o g
s k u l d e r s t r o p p e r . H a n d l a g e t leirkar, d r e i d t r e k o p p m e d s p o r av s o l v b e s l a g l ä n g s r a n d e n , e n
g l a s s p e r l e , 3 store o g 9 t y n n e vokslys o g b i t e r av
d e m (fig. 4 : 6 - 1 2 ) .
G r a v D n - 4 (fig. 3) v a r e n m a n n s g r a v i et
k a m m e r i s t o l e p e k o n s t r u k s j o n (2,5 x 2,5 m ) o g
tak o g gulv av p l a n k e r ( s o m var d å r l i g b e v a r t ) .
F u n n : Fig. 5 o g 6, f o r u t e n s t y k k e r av e n t y n n
s o l v p l a t e , h a n k fra et u t h u l e t s p a n n , en a n d r e
b d t e s p e n n e , f r a g m e n t e r av ett b e s l a g av b r o n s e
o g ett av j e r n , 8 s t ö p t e b r o n s e k n a p p e r s o m fig.
6:2, et f r a g m e n t av tekstil, e n h e s t e s k o f o r m e t
brosje. S p o r av ö v r e del av e n kaftan i form a to
s m a l e s i l k e b å n d o g 24 k n ä p p e r s o m fig. 6:2. I
S 0 - h j o r n e lå r e s t e n e av et h e s t e k r a n i u m m e d
t r e j e r n r i n g e r ( h v o r a v 2 s o m fig. 5:8).
P å g r u n n av d r ä k t e n e r k v i n n e n e s k a n d i n a viske, o g m a n n e n h a r på g r u n n av g r a v s k i k k e n
förbindelse
m e d d e varjagiske
troppene
( " d r u z h i n a " ) . F u n n e n e o g a n a l o g i e n e til grav-

Chamber graves at Gniozdovo
skikken daterer gravene til annen halvdel av det
10. årh. Dendrodateringene av C-306 og Dn-4
er hhv. 979 og 975 e. Kr. PÃ¥ grunn av de naere
likhetene tilhorer også C-301 970-årene.
Funn av vokslys er sjddene, men er kjent fra
Timerjovo (övre Volga) og Sestovitsa (Cjernigov). Analogier er kjent fra Bjeringhoj (Mammen), Nordhaugen på Jelling, og i norske graver — alle rike gräver.
Dateringene viser at det er risikabdt å överr

,

,

,

-

,

,

•

i

,.

33

Funn av lys og kors sammen med den hedenske gravskikken indikerer at der er kristne blant
dem som i 970-åren ble gravlagt på denne måten i Gniozdovo, Timerjovo og Kiev.
Til slutt fremsettes en antagdse: dette materialet viser kontakter med Danmark og Sornorge, i motsetning til de fleste änder skandinaviske d e m e n t e r på Gniozdovo som peker mot
Mellansverige.
.
_ ,.
Anne stalsberg

lore de skandinaviske dateringene av skandinaviske funn til funn i Osteuropa.

Förmännen 83 (1983)



Parole chiave correlate