German archaeologists are crediting a badger with the unexpected discovery of a grave holding two medieval Slavic lords.
According to the German Spiegel Online, the omnivorous creature, long renowned for its digging skills, elicited the curiosity of two amateur archaeologists in Stolpe, Germany, last fall when it dug up a human pelvic bone from its underground den. Hendrikje Ring and Lars Wilhelm, who live on the farm where the bone turned up, said the badger was long gone by the time they found the bone, but that they deduced where it had come from based on the proximity of the archaeological discovery to the badger’s den.
“We spotted a pelvic bone that had been dug up, it was clearly human,” Ring told the publication. “This doesn’t make him an archaeologist, but he’s the one who discovered it.”
To get a closer peek at what else might be inside the tunnels underlying the badger’s den, Ring and Wilhelm decided to leave a camera in the hole. “It wasn’t exactly surprising to us because a whole field of ancient graves had been found on the other side of the road in the 1960s,” Ring said. “So we pushed a camera into the badger’s sett and took photos by remote control. We found pieces of jewelry, retrieved them and contacted the authorities.”
When archaeologists came by to inspect the grounds, they found the pelvic bone was far from the only piece of treasure. In total, they excavated eight graves from the early 12th century. Two of the graves belonged to fallen Slavic lords, a distinction the archaeologists attributed to bronze bowls that were placed at the feet of the bodies.
“That identified them as belonging to the social elite: They had the bowls to wash their hands before dining because they knew that was the refined thing to do,” Thomas Kersting, an archaeologist at the Brandenburg Department for Monument Protection, told Spiegel Online.
Kersting added that at least one of the skeletons, especially well-preserved, had likely been a warrior due to several sword and lance wounds and a fracture that suggested he had fallen off his horse some time before his death. Kersting estimated the man had been around 40 when he died, but he couldn’t elaborate on what the cause of death had been. “There were healed marks from sword strikes on his skull: It’s really impressive, especially as he was relatively small. He was a tough guy,” Kersting said.
Among the unearthed artifacts were an arrowhead, as well as an elaborate belt inlaid with bronze and featuring an omega-shaped buckle.
“We hadn’t found graves like that in Brandenburg before, so it’s an important discovery,” Kersting said.