A recently unearthed cemetery in Ukraine, dating back 1,000 years, has yielded an array of fascinating finds, including weapons, jewelry, and, unusually, buckets positioned around the feet of some of the interred. The men were found buried with weapons such as axes, spearheads, and swords, and several of the women were buried with thick twisted bronze neck rings in an 11th-century cemetery near the village of Ostriv, south of Kyiv, Ukraine.
The site, located roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Kyiv, encompasses 107 graves. According to archaeologists Vsevolod Ivakin and Vyacheslav Baranov from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, most burials were contained in wooden coffins.
This discovery was detailed in a paper presented at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting in Chicago, held from January 4-7.
The skeleton of a woman who was buried with elaborate neck rings as well as rings around her arms. (Courtesy of Vyacheslav Baranov/ National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)
Among the notable discoveries were skeletons adorned with elaborate neck rings and arm rings, a burial style seen predominantly in female graves. These neck rings, Baranov explained in an email to Live Science, were likely a social marker in that region during that era.
Additionally, several men were buried with weapons like axes, spearheads, and swords. Perhaps most bizarrely, some of the deceased were found with wooden buckets at their feet, a feature that might have held significance in funerary rituals, as similar instances have been observed at other regional burial sites.
The site also revealed a stone altar, alongside various personal items like bracelets and beads, and remnants of food offerings including chicken bones and eggshells. This altar’s purpose remains ambiguous, potentially serving in Christian or pagan rituals, or perhaps both.
Some artifacts found at the cemetery bear resemblance to those from the Baltic region, suggesting that some individuals buried there might have been part of the military forces under the rulers of Kyiv, such as Volodymyr the Great (980-1015) and Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054). Volodymyr the Great’s territories extended to the Baltic area.
The time period of the cemetery coincides with Ukraine’s transition to Christianity. This change was notably embraced by Volodymyr the Great, who renounced his pagan beliefs and was baptized around 987, preceding his marriage to Anna, the sister of Byzantine Emperor Basil II.
Excavations at the cemetery occurred between 2017 and 2022. However, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has halted many archaeological projects in the country, including this one, as noted by the researchers.