In today’s Iron Age cemetery in Sweden, two warriors who died in the 7th century are buried on the ship luxuriously, with an unexpected sense of luxury: the soft bedding is covered with feathers, gently stepping the dead into the cradle . dead.
The cemetery of Valsgärde, a Swedish farm in Uppsala, is located on the southeast coast of the country. There are 15 ship burials nearby, dating back to the third century BC-or even earlier-the 12th century AD.
Researchers recently investigated unusually rare feathers in two graves, Valsgärde 7 and Valsgärde 8. Both tombs are equipped with “well-equipped boats”
related: In the photo: the backbone of the Iron Age warrior
Delicate feathers degrade rapidly, so they are rarely recorded in the archaeological record. However, the special preservation of Valsgärde’s bedding allowed researchers to extract and inspect feathers from multiple locations inside the ship. The researchers reported in the April 2021 issue of National Science that the team’s analysis allowed them to determine the feathered bird population and even the species. Archaeological Science Journal: Report.
Helmets, swords and knives were worn next to the corpses, and the remains on each ship were covered with several shields. The tomb also provides cooking and hunting tools for the afterlife. The main author of the funeral, Birgitta Berglund, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at the University Museum of Norwegian University of Science and Technology, was the funeral officer who put the warrior on the pillow so that he could take care of him even when he died. Beautiful sleep.Trondheim, Norway says In a statement.
The horses and birds in the tomb further hint at the senior status of the warrior, although one of the animals is the Eurasian eagle (Inguinal lymphadenitis)-Headless. Scientists say that beheading may have ritual significance for funerals, and the feathers that fill cushions may also have symbolic significance.
To identify feathers, the researchers collected 8 feather samples from Valsgärde 7 and 3 samples from Valsgärde 8, and then carefully separated the fragile, tangled pieces, looking for feathers that retained their original structure as much as possible. They divided the samples into two categories: contour feathers used for flight and “real down”, which are closest to the skin of birds and provide heat insulation.
After finishing all sorting and finishing work, the scientists made glass slides of the feather samples and stared them through a microscope, which magnified the sample 400 times. The research team then compared the feathers with reference samples of Northern European bird feathers in scientific literature and the NTNU Museum Library.
The author of the study reported: “As far as we know, this is the oldest bird feather in a human tomb that has been examined in this way.”
Among the seven samples of four bedding locations in Valsgärde, duck and goose feathers are the most common. In a single location sampled from Valsgärde 8, all feathers are similar to those of a goose. But other types of bird feathers also appeared in Valsgärde 7. There are feathers of poultry, such as chickens, as well as songbirds, wading birds and even eagles.
Berglund said that according to Nordic folklore, feathers have special significance for rituals surrounding death and funerals. She added that most records of these traditions date back to the 18th century or later, but this ritual may have originated in an earlier period. For example, the feathers of owls and other predatory birds are involved in prolonging the fight against death. Berglund said that in certain areas of Scandinavia, “goose feathers are considered the best option to free the soul from the body.”
In her statement, she said: “The quilt from Valsgärde is likely to have a deeper meaning than just being used as a filler.”
Scientists’ findings indicate that it is possible to identify some birds from very small fragments of ancient feathers (less than 0.04 inches (1 mm) in length). The authors of the study wrote that scientists usually ignore feather fragments from archaeological sites, and finding them can provide important clues about life in the Iron Age and the interaction between people and nature, “especially the relationship between people and birds.”
Originally published in “Life Science”