Sabiles Pre-Christian Cemetery

 Sabiles Pre-Christian Cemetery lies on the eastern outskirts of the town of Sabile, on the left bank of the River Abava. The cemetery consists of about 100 sand barrows, now overgrown with pines. The barrows are up to 2 m high and 4–12 m in diameter. Research began here already in 1868, when a single barrow was excavated under the direction of August Bielenstein, producing a comparatively rich array of artefacts: two bronze penannular brooches, an iron spearhead, the remains of an iron spur, fragments of dress and 16 bronze spirals. In 1895, more extensive excavation was undertaken by Russian archaeologist S.Bogojavlenski, who excavated 17 barrows. In the 1920s and 30s, another 10 barrows were excavated.

The excavations showed that a single person had been buried in each barrow, either inhumed or cremated. A proportion of the inhumations had the remains of log coffins. In one case, a separate compartment was noted at the head of the coffin, holding a pottery vessel. A thin layer of sand was sprinkled over the inhumation, followed by a ritual layer of ash and overlain by the earth of the barrow.

Unfortunately, the inhumations and cremations have produced comparatively few artefacts. However, the barrows can be dated fairly securely to the 10th and early 11th century. As regards the ethnic affiliation of the people buried here, the generally accepted view now is that they are Finnic: ancestors of the Livs of northern Kurzeme, although various other ideas have been suggested.


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57°2'24.95"N 22°34'47.363"E / 57.040264 22.579823