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1,400-year-old remains of headless horse and rider discovered in Germany

The skeletal remains of a man buried near a headless horse 1,400 years ago have been discovered in an ancient cemetery in the town of Knittlingen, southern Germany. He was probably the horse’s owner/rider when he was alive.

The man was buried at a time when the Merovingian dynasty (AD 476-750) was thriving in the area, dominating a vast swath of land in modern-day France and central Europe.

During his lifetime, the man probably served the kings of the dynasty. “He was at the top of a ‘chain of command’ with the Merovingian kings, which meant he was obliged to take part in the king’s campaigns,” Folke Damminger, an archaeologist in charge of research at the site, told Live Science in an email.

Related: Photos: A man, horse and dog found at a Viking boat burial

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Part of the old cemetery that is currently being excavated can be seen in this aerial photo. (Photo credits: State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in the Stuttgart Regional Council/ Photo: ArchaeoBW)

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This gold brooch was found next to a woman buried not far from the headless horseman. The relationship between this woman and the rider is not clear. (Photo credits: State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in the Stuttgart Regional Council/ A. Furan)

“As a member of the local elite, he was most likely the head of a farming household consisting of his family and servants,” Damminger said. However, the man wasn’t a farmer per se, as other laborers may have done much of the actual farming, Damminger said.

Why exactly was he buried near a headless one horse is not clear, but “most likely the decapitation [of the horse] was part of the funeral ceremony,” Damminger told Live Science. The horse may have been placed near its owner as a “graveyard” for the afterlife rather than a sacrifice, Damminger said. The horse’s head has not yet been found.

His family members would have wanted to portray him as a wealthy and important person to capitalize on his status. “A function of this ceremony was the ‘enactment’ of the deceased in their former status and wealth as a claim by their successors to maintain that status,” Damminger said.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of several other people who lived at about the same time as this horseman in the same cemetery. Some of them were buried with wealthy grave goods, such as a woman buried with one gold Brooch. Some of the men were buried with weapons such as swords, spears, shields and arrowheads.

Researchers will continue to study the headless horse burial and unearth other burials in the cemetery. Damminger said the team is in the process of excavating and restoring the mystery man’s grave goods and that future anthropological work will be conducted on the man’s bones and teeth to learn more about his health, why he died and how old he was , when he died.

Damminger works at the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments of the Stuttgart Regional Council. A large part of the excavation work is carried out by archaeologists from the cultural resource management ArchaeoBW.

Originally published on Live Science.

1,400-year-old remains of headless horse and rider discovered in Germany Source link 1,400-year-old remains of headless horse and rider discovered in Germany