In the context of moderate external variations of East Lithuanian Barrow culture barrows, ones of exceptional diameters and shapes stand out. These are low trapezoid-shaped cross-section mounds, and some are even more complex structures consisting of banks and ditches. Eleven large barrows are known in six cemeteries, all located in extensive cemetery concentrations, along the right bank of the River Neris, and on the left bank of the River Žeimena and in the lakes region to the north of it. This location suggests their significance on a level above a single community. None have yet been excavated, but the stone kerbs, the setting of the barrows in the cemeteries, and the typological and AMS radiocarbon dates from the excavated nearby mounds point to the Migration period, the 5th century being their most probable dating. The amount of labour invested in building large barrows is evidence of mourners’ exclusive mortuary behaviour. In agreement with the concept of energy expenditure in burial, this signals the idiosyncratic status of the deceased. Excavation data from other cemeteries does, however, disprove the idea that we should implicitly restrict great energy expenditure to the highest military elite. The dual model of social hierarchy in social psychology argues that status may be attained through either dominance or prestige. Dominance-based status is expected to force high involvement in burial by power and superiority, which is possible in societies with developed status inheritance, while a prestige-based one is decided by specific social roles, personal achievement, and respect. In a barbarian society, which balanced between chiefdom and big-man type social systems, both were interrelated.
Michał Eustachy Brensztejn compiled the ‘Archaeological Inventory of the Kovno Gubernia’ in 1907. The manuscript was not published, and only in 2010 was it discovered in the archives of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw. The Lithuanian Institute of History and the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw initiated a project to publish the ‘Inventory’ as the third part of the Ostbalticum project. This paper gives some preliminary insights and a short description of the manuscript as a source for Lithuanian archaeology. It analyses the sources used by Brensztejn, describes the process of identification of place-names, discusses the reliability of the records and the novelty of these data, and shows some characteristic mistakes that the author of the ‘Inventory’ made. A puzzle of artefact collection from Jagminai is presented as a brief case study. Thanks to the oral tradition recorded by Brensztejn, the identification of the site was possible.
Volume 11 (2009): The Horse and Man in European Antiquity (Worldview, Burial Rites, and Military and Everyday Life), pp. 242–253
This article analyses symbolic horse burial rites in the East Lithuanian Barrow Culture of the tenth–eleventh centuries. Single imitative inhumations and cremations are the dominant forms of horse cenotaphs. A variety of group imitative burial forms also was practiced. Funerary rites for symbolic and actual horses were coexistent, and no chronological or spatial differences between them are observed. Grave goods in burials of symbolic horses indicate lower status. Imitative burials of horses were carried out by those who had no resources for the sacrifice of the animal itself as a grave good. The social implications of horse burials or symbolic burials gained substantiality along with growing military activity and social stratification.
Volume 8 (2007): Weapons, Weaponry and Man (In memoriam Vytautas Kazakevičius), pp. 292–301
The paper analyses symbolic warrior burials found in East Lithuanian barrows dated to the Iron Age. The discussed graves contain mainly weapons, without any human remains. Judging from the grave assemblages and the shapes of the weapons, it is supposed that higher-status individuals used to be buried symbolically more frequently. Stressing the male gender and the warrior status was the primary task when performing a symbolic burial.