Sārāji Pre-Christian Cemetery

Sārāji Pre-Christian Cemetery is in Lībagi Parish, on the left hand side of the Riga–Ventspils highway, about 200 m north-west of Sārāji Farm. The cemetery was established on the corner of a gently-sloping hill measuring about 40×60 m, on the bank of the Lībagupīte stream.

The burial site was discovered in the mid-1980s, when in the course of land improvement work this corner of the field was levelled, and subsequently, when cultivation of this area began, several Late Iron Age Couronian artefacts were discovered. In 1989–1990, a rescue excavation was conducted here under the direction of archaeologist Jānis Asaris, revealing 46 burials and uncovering more than 1300 artefacts. All the burials were cremations, more than half of them males, with a rich array of grave-goods, particularly weapons: socketed and tanged spearheads (as many as four in a single grave), broad-axes and double-bladed swords, as well as a large number of horse-trappings, tools (including a particularly large number of scythes) and everyday utensils, together with bronze ornaments (finger-rings, penannular brooches, armbands and fragmentary neck-rings) and items relating to trade (bronze weights, fragments of the mechanism of collapsible scales and bronze scale pans). Burials of women and children predominantly had ornaments (ribbon-like armbands, penannular brooches and finger-rings). One very rare find is a helmet made of iron sheet with attached strips of bronze, from male burial 36.

On the basis of these finds, the cemetery of Sārāji is dated to the period from the late 11th to the mid-13th century, and can be regarded as a typical Couronian Late Iron Age burial site. The considerable numbers of weapons found with certain burials may indicate that among the burials are also some of those Couronian warriors who fell in the initial battles with the crusaders, in the first half of the 13th century.

It is interesting to note that in the autumn of 1930, about 30 paces from Sārāji Farm, 57 Arabic silver coins – dirhams – came to light, the youngest of which was minted in 863/864. Thus, the coin hoard would have been concealed no earlier than the second half of the 9th century, at least 150 years before the oldest artefacts so far found at the burial site.

Attached images

Lībagu pagasts, Talsu novads
57°9'53.37"N 22°39'36.886"E / 57.164825 22.660246

Related points