The king's grave of Mušov

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The grave has been discovered by chance during earthmoving works during the construction of a new road to Pasohlávky in autumn 1988. Later on its research has been undertaken by the Regional Museum in Mikulov under the guidance of J. Peška. Originally the grave was probably located on a small, gentle rise on the left bank of the Thaya River, which has been made lower by gravel mining later on. The burial site itself is located about 1.5 km to the south-southwest from the Roman military fortification at the position of Hradisko (fig. 1). Despite a considerable dislocation the research has succeeded in unearthing of a part of a large sepulchral chamber in the shape of a rectangle with rounded corners and slightly narrowing walls oriented in the northwest-southeast direction (ca 6 x 4 m). According to a great number of both bigger and smaller stones including limestone from the near Pavlovské Hills, some of them weighing 50 to 70 kg, inside of the sepulchral pit it may be assumed that the burial chamber has been covered up with a wooden and stone constructure. Marks of distortions on some of the bronze vessels caused probably by the falling stones suggest that the sepulchre was originally hollow.

While the big bronze vessels lying at the sides of the grave pit were quite well preserved (fig. 2), an approximately squared secondary intervention outlined in the middle was related to robbery in the grave. A number of greatly damaged iron, bronze and glass objects have been found in almost all of the layers of this intervention. The number of the individual finds successfully retrieved from this largely damaged burial chamber has exceeded almost 180 pieces. It was ascertained that apart from numerous artifacts its filling has contained remains of a greater number of sacrificial animals, e.g. a one month's piglet, a goose, a hen, also bones of a sheep, a goat etc. A part of a quartered, about 1.5 to 2 years old calf was found at the south-eastern wall, close to a bronze suspended cauldron. Anthropological analyses provide evidence that probably three persons have been buried in this grave, one of them a female.

From the chronological point of view is not without significance that the collection includes some antiquated pieces which could have been passed on in a princely Germanic family for a rather long time. It contains not only luxurious silver vessels (fig. 3) some of them Augustan dating, but also early bronze and other products such as a four legged table (fig. 4-5), a great decorative lamp (fig. 6), archaistic fittings and handle of a bucket of type E 24 (fig. 7-8), and particularly an iron firedog of a late Celtic manner hitherto not encountered in the Germanic princely graves from the 1st and 2nd centuries (fig. 9).

These are mostly artifacts that may be dated from at least the late Republican and Augustan Periods to the years of Tiberius' and Nero's rule. Although found in a much younger grave complex, they point probably to the existence - sometime in the 1st century - of a Roman luxurious goods consumers circle, perhaps members of the local Germanic nobility. They indicate in thos way that a sort of a barbarian power centre could have been emerging here at this early period. These facts lead naturally to another insistent question of so far indefinable possible connection between this hoard and the local Germanic elites about the mid 1st century. With utmost probability such pieces could have been brought here only direct from Italy as gifts to Germanic rulers or as a loot at the latest likely at the time of Vespasian civil wars after the mid of the 1st century in which, as generally known, German auxiliary troops with their kings Italicus and Sido from the area north to the middle Danube were engaged.

Apart from other objects about the age of which nothing can be said for certain the greater part of the grave equipment inventory is of a younger dating, falling into as late as the 2nd century, possibly even its latter part. This also holds good for the majority of bronze vessels, especially for two cauldrons (fig. 10). The first, a noticeably bulky piece with a rounded bottom part and two circular handles, is a rather advanced variant of the older forms of Eggers type 6 or 8. According to some parallels from the provincial territory this is a shape that may be reckoned with most likely from as late as mid 2nd century. The same may be said about the other bronze cauldron with a deflected neck and a more depressed, slightly cornered bulge. As for its shape it falls within early cauldrons of Westland type which appear in the provinces during the latter half of the 2nd and in the 3rd century (fig. 11). However there were four bronze circular handles fastened to its sides, connected with the vessel by means of rests or attachments carried out in the form of realistic busts of bearded Germans wearing Suebian buns (fig. 12). The attachments were affixed in a very careless manner, and have fallen off the sides of the cauldron in the grave. Therefore the utensils were not intended for a daily use; they were rather a symbolic burial gift, while the attachments were made to order directly for the Germanic ruler. But the cauldron bulb itself could have been manufactured independently with the rests attached to it at a later date. A large bronze bowl with omega-shaped handles and rhombic attachments, a bottom of a bronze bucket, probably Eggers 28 type, and presumably also two low bronze pots with stretched horizontal edge, a narrowed lower part and a tin-coating of the inside also fall within the 2nd century.

The weapons and military equipment which could be seen as insignia of the most prominent war-chief of the tribe consist, however, only of a numerous set of arrow - and spear-heads and lances, one of them inlaid with silver (fig. 13) and a fragment of a short one-cutting sword. A collection of 16 spurs, some of them gold plated or with silver and gold inlays, corresponds with the types which were common in numerous Germanic warrior-graves, dated almost exclusively to the late 2nd century (fig. 14). The exceptional style components of the burial equipment also include numerous belt fittings: the most spectacular of these consisted of buckles, strap ends and a series of other ornaments produced from gilded silver and adorned with filigree and graining (fig. 15-17). They represent the same style of decoration as one of the pairs of spurs; they were parts of one set (fig. 18). This type of belt fittings and spurs apparently became a symbol of prestige confirming the special status of their owner. While together with German shields with silver and gold plated fittings (fig. 19) represented a typical equipment of the warrior, two golden capsule pendants (fig. 17 on the right) produce evidence that one female person must have been buried in the tombe probably at the same time.

The connection with the Roman military milieu is evoked by the tear drop strap end, a typical equipment of Antonine dating, fragments of iron scale armour and probably quadrelup vaned, socketed arrow-head.
A majority of other small objects are also worthy of a late chronological classification and in contrast to the earlier propositions produce evidence, that the definitive date of the committal and the time of deposition of the entire find collection must have been the late 2nd century. It is worth noting that the Germanic pottery occurring in the grave manifests numerous analogies in the local settlement structures which are datable to the same period (fig. 20 in the backround).

An important component of the grave furniture consists of the finds which correspond with the equipment of provincial graves, falling chronologically into the first or second century. So-called surgical instruments (spatula probe) with a sandstone tablet (fig. 21) and thick gold plated fittings of a table or cabinet with relief images of Roman deities may be dated back roughly to the half of the 2nd century (fig. 22). Numerous examples of glassware are also unusual (fig. 23): outstanding among these are the fragments of set of eight quadrangular bottles with handles and two glass pans - trullae. Fragments of painted glass are not missing either; samples of a Roman provincial pottery are relatively well represented, mostly by types which were not very usual in the German milieu (fig. 20).

The above statements has brought a re-appraisal of the Roman-Germanic interrelation during the military affairs of the latter half of the 2nd century, called Marcomannie wars. The burial furniture contains a unique body of material illuminating the lifestyle and status of a Germanic chieftain under the Roman control. Besides the exceptional collection of silver and bronze vessels, a series of extraordinary burial goods, e.g. a bronze lamp, a bronze offering table, a set of spatula probe, a number of Roman pottery and glass vessels and other pieces, which are characteristic of Roman burial customs in the provinces, produce evidence to the transfer of Roman belief in life after death. The splendid silver and bronze vessels, as well as examples of Roman furniture, might have originated as gifts from the Roman authorities to a Germanic ally. It seems very likely that through such a personage, probably a local king, a head of the pro-Roman party, who was probably appointed to this dignity by the Romans at the time of the Marcomannic wars, some kind of Roman political influence has been exerted in order to establish convenient conditions for the further firming of Roman rule over the occupied territory.