Early medieval barrow cemetery, Racibórz
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Early medieval barrow cemetery

Racibórz

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The early medieval barrow cemetery in Racibórz Obora is the only archaeological site of this kind which has been inscribed into the register of monuments of the Silesian province, and one of only three similar sites found in Upper Silesia today. Despite their relatively low silhouettes, the burial mounds retain their original shape and remain visible among the surrounding terrain. This unique historical monument also forms a valuable source of information on early history of western Slavic tribes.

Location and description

The site is situated on the right bank of the Oder river, at the edge of a local upland, forming part of the “Obora” park. The distance between the burial ground and the Racibórz market square is less than 4 kilometres in a straight line. The burial ground consists of three groups of barrows, with the distance between them (i.e. distance from the middle ensemble of tumuli) being approximately 300-500 metres. A total of 25 tumuli have been identified (group I - 13, group II - 3, group III - 9), with the diameter of the earthen structures being between 5 and 10 metres (about 6 metres on average), while their average height was up to about 1 metre (about 0.8 metres on average). A number of horizontal burials of cremated remains made directly in the ground, without either an urn or a burial mound being present, have also been discovered. Archaeological surveys of the site were being performed in the years 1961 and 1964-1969 by Elżbieta Dąbrowska. The excavation surveys have proved that all burials involved cremated remains which were placed inside an urn positioned on top of a burial mound or scattered across the earthen structure or beneath its surface. It is likely that multiple burials would be made inside a single mound. Charred animal bones were also present among the human remains, which proves that animal sacrifice would form part of the funeral rite, with the animals being considered as the property of the deceased that would accompany him in the afterlife. The carcasses of the creatures would most likely be burned at the stake along with the human bodies. It should also be mentioned at this stage that only two similar archaeological sites have been discovered so far in the Upper Silesia region - one in Izbicko (Strzelce Opolskie district) and one in Rozumice (Głubczyce district).

History

The early medieval burial ground from the tribal period is believed to originate from the period between the 6th and the 9th century, which places it in the earliest phase of the early medieval period, when the first Slavic tribes began to take up residence in the Upper Silesia region. It should also be added at this stage that the Slavic settlers have only appeared in what is now Polish territory in the 6th century, with the 8th century bringing about more concentrated settlement efforts. The question of the tribal origins of the burial ground in Racibórz Obora remains open to debate. Based on the information provided by the medieval monk known as the Bavarian Geographer, Jerzy Szydłowski has concluded that this site is linked to the Golęszyce tribe (known as Golensizi in Latin), whereas Jan Tyszkiewicz believes that this cemetery forms a trace of a settlement formed by the tribe known in Latin as Lupiglaa (“Stupid Heads”), although both the existence and the scope of settlement activity of this particular people remains a controversial topic among researchers. It should also be added at this stage that fragments of pottery from both the Neolithic and the Early Bronze periods have also been unearthed on the site.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The site is accessible all year round. The burial mounds are relatively hard to discern among the surrounding terrain, although two out of three groups thereof are marked with information plaques. It should also be added that the community forest in Obora is also home to the Moravian Gate Arboretum (a botanical garden) as well as a mini zoo.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 12-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • Dąbrowska E., Wczesnośredniowieczne cmentarzysko kurhanowe w Raciborzu-Oborze w świetle badań z lat 1961, 1963-1964, Sprawozdania Archeologiczne 1968, vol. 19, pp. 295-304.
  • Dąbrowska E., Badania wykopaliskowe na wczesnośredniowiecznym cmentarzysku kurhanowym (grupa II) w Raciborzu-Oborze, Sprawozdania Archeologiczne 1969, vol. 21, pp. 241-247.
  • Dąbrowska E., Wczesnośredniowieczne cmentarzysko kurhanowe w Raciborzu-Oborze (grupa I). Badania z lat 1967-1969, Sprawozdania Archeologiczne 1972, vol. 24, pp. 229-242.
  • Foltyn E.M., Foltyn E., Ziemie Górnego Śląska od epoki kamienia do wczesnego średniowiecza, Katowice 2012.
  • Jaworski K., Wczesne średniowiecze, [in:] E. Tomczak (ed.), Archeologia. Górny Śląsk, Katowice 2013, pp. 173-175.

General information

  • Type: Barrow
  • Chronology: VI-IX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Racibórz
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district raciborski, commune Racibórz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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