Over 20 abnormal or “deviant” burials discovered in north-western Poland

Excavations at a 17th century burial ground in Drawsko, northern Poland, revealed over 20 burials that are considered “deviant”, meaning departing from the contemporary norm. What makes them abnormal is that the individuals were equipped with sickles or knives around the neck or by the pelvis.

A deviant burial with a scythe placed on the deceased neck (by Elżbieta Gajda)
A deviant burial with a scythe placed on the deceased neck (by Elżbieta Gajda)

The former cemetery or burial ground was known to the local  Heritage Office since the inter-war period. It was believed that this ground was a choleric cemetery. But after 9 seasons of excavations the archaeologists unearthed over 700 individuals and did not find remains typical for choleric burials, including covering the graves with lime. Moreover, the individuals do not show any signs of malnutrition, neither anaemia, which were typical for rural communities feeding of the fruits of the forests and fields. The skeletons bear signs of hard physical labour. Among the individuals are remains of both men and women. But none carry signs that might indicate the cause of death. The reasons of why some of these people were buried in a peculiar way, involving placing the sickles and knives at the bodies are elusive.

Excavations at the Drawsko site (by Elżbieta Gajda)
Excavations at the Drawsko site (by Elżbieta Gajda)

The site was a burial ground for communities living in the area 4000 years ago, as well as 2000 years ago. In 17th century the people of Drawsko also decided to create a cemetery that functioned only during that century. The number of individuals is relatively high for a community of Drawsko’s inhabitants, so the archaeologists suspect that some of the people might have lived in some forgotten nearby settlements that is currently lost and forgotten.

(after Nauka w Polsce & Elżbieta Gajda)

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