Category Archives: SLOVAKIA

Headless Skeletons Uncovered at Neolithic Site in Slovakia

Headless Skeletons Uncovered at Neolithic Site in Slovakia

During last year’s excavation in Vráble, Slovakia, archaeologists from the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1266 of Kiel University (CAU) and the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (Nitra) came across a spectacular find: The remains of 38 individuals were found in a ditch surrounding the settlement. Their well-preserved skeletons were jumbled together and all of them were missing their heads, with the exception of a young child. How, when, and why these people’s heads were removed are central questions for future investigations. Already last year, the team had uncovered headless skeletons there.

Headless Skeletons Uncovered at Neolithic Site in Slovakia
37 skeletons without heads; here are two of them lying on their fronts. How, when, and why the heads were removed is still unclear to the scientists.
The skeletons lay jumbled and in different positions on an area of 15 square metres.
The site of Vráble-Ve`lke Lehemby comprised three neighbouring villages in the Neolithic period. The skeletons were found in the ditches surrounding the south-western settlement.

“We assumed to find more human skeletons, but this exceeded all imaginations,” reports project leader Prof. Dr Martin Furholt.

An important Neolithic settlement site

The site of Vráble-Ve`lke Lehemby (5,250-4,950 BCE) was one of the largest settlement sites of the Early Neolithic in Central Europe and has been a research focus of the CRC 1266 for several years.

The archaeological artefacts are associated with the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK). 313 houses in three neighbouring villages were identified by geomagnetic measurements. Up to 80 houses were inhabited at the same time – an exceptional population density for this period.

The south-western of the three settlements was surrounded by a 1.3 km-long double ditch and thus separated from the others. Some areas were reinforced with palisades, which should not be interpreted as a defensive structure, but rather as a boundary marking of the village area.

During the excavations in the summer of 2022, the Slovak-German team uncovered the remains of at least 38 individuals, spread over an area of about 15 square metres.

One on top of the other, side by side, stretched out on their stomachs, crouched on their sides, on their backs with their limbs splayed out – the position of the skeletons does not suggest that the dead were carefully buried. Rather, the positions suggest that most of them were thrown or rolled into the ditch.

All of them, with the exception of one infant, are missing their heads, including their lower jaws. “In mass graves with an unclear positioning, the identification of an individual is usually based on the skull, so for us this year’s find represents a particularly challenging excavation situation,” says Martin Furholt.

Massacre, head-hunters, or peaceful skull cult: Many unanswered questions

While the skeletons were being recovered, the first questions began to arise: Were these people killed violently, perhaps even decapitated? How and when were the heads removed? Or did the removal of the heads take place only after the corpses had decomposed? Are there any indications of the causes of death, such as disease? In what order were they placed into the ditch, could they have died at the same time? Or is it not a single mass burial at all, but the result of several events, perhaps even over many generations? A few clues to answering these questions already exist.

“Several individual bones out of anatomical position suggest that the temporal sequence might have been more complex. It is possible that already-skeletonised bodies were pushed into the middle of the trench to make room for new ones,” elaborates Dr Katharina Fuchs, an anthropologist at Kiel University. “In some skeletons, the first cervical vertebra is preserved, indicating careful removal of the head rather than beheading in the violent, ruthless sense – but these are all very preliminary observations that remain to be confirmed with further investigation.”

Interdisciplinary examinations of the skeletons should provide answers

An important part of the further research is to find out more about the dead. Were they of a similar age or do they represent a cross-section of society? Were they related to each other or to other dead from Vráble? Were they locals, or did they come from far away? Did they share a similar diet? Can any social significance be inferred from the treatment of the dead?

Answers can only be found in the interaction of detailed archaeological and osteological investigations, aDNA analyses, radiocarbon dating, and stable isotope analyses. The Kiel interdisciplinary research network of the Johanna Mestorf Academy, the CRC 1266, and the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, in collaboration with the Slowakian Academy of Sciences in Nitra, offers excellent conditions for this further research.

Further considerations on meaning and interpretation are only meaningful based on such interdisciplinary research results.

 “It may seem obvious to assume a massacre with human sacrifices, perhaps even in connection with magical or religious ideas. Warlike conflicts may also play a role, for example, conflicts between village communities, or even within this large settlement. Did these people fall victim to head-hunters, or did their fellow villagers practise a special death cult that had nothing to do with interpersonal violence? There are many possibilities and it is important to remain open to new insights and ideas. But it is indisputable that this find is absolutely unique for the European Neolithic so far,” says project leader Dr Maria Wunderlich.

Archaeologists unearth the remains of three dozen headless people at a stone age settlement in Vráble, Slovakia

Archaeologists unearth the remains of three dozen headless people at a stone age settlement in Vráble, Slovakia

Archaeologists unearth the remains of three dozen headless people at a stone age settlement in Vráble, Slovakia

Archaeologists have unearthed a mass grave containing the remains of about three dozen headless bodies of people at a settlement dated 5250-4950 BC in Vráble, western Slovakia.

The team of Slovak-German archaeologists investigating one of the largest Central European Stone Age settlements at Vráble thinks these people may have been killed in cult ceremonies.

The skeletons were found inside a defensive ditch of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Central Europe.

Three settlement areas cover more than 120 acres in the Neolithic settlement. Over the last seven years, excavations and geophysical surveys have revealed more than 300 long houses in the settlement, albeit built at different stages of occupation.

Archaeologists estimate that 50-70 houses were in use at any given time.

One of the three settlement areas was fortified with at least one defensive ditch and a palisade during the final phase of occupation.

The settlement has six entrances through the defensive perimeters. Individual graves have been discovered in and around the ditch during previous excavations.

This year, skeletal remains of at least 35 people were discovered in a lengthy ditch close to one of the settlement’s entrances. The bodies seem to have been thrown in randomly. They were discovered with their arms and legs extended, lying on their sides, backs, and stomachs.

The grave contained the remains of men, women, and children, many of whom were adolescents and young adults when they passed away. Peri-mortem fractures do exist. The skull of one child and one mandible were the only bones from heads found in the grave.

Experts will also look for any genetic links between them, and whether the heads were forcibly removed or separation occurred only after the decomposition of the body.

“Only then will we be able to answer several questions about the social categorization of the [site’s] inhabitants, probably also about the emerging social inequality in the conditions of early agricultural societies, and perhaps even reconstruct the functioning or the causes of the demise of this vast settlement,” the director of the archaeological institute Matej Ruttkay said.

The researchers said some of their other findings about the settlement have been exceptional.

“In the final stage of operation, one of the areas was fortified with a moat with six entrances to the settlement, which was doubled by a palisade. This was absolutely exceptional in Central Europe at that time,” explains Ivan Cheben, head of archaeological research at SAV.

“We also confirmed the presence of more than 300 longhouses through a detailed geophysical survey. It is possible that 50 to 70 houses could have been used at the same time in the individual stages of the settlement’s functioning.”

Palaeolithic Artifacts Discovered in a Cave in Slovakia

Palaeolithic Artifacts Discovered in a Cave in Slovakia

Traces of Alpine ibex hunters from several thousand years ago have been discovered in the Belianske Tatras in Slovakia.

Based on isotope analyses, the joint Slovak-Polish research expedition in Hučivá Cave (Hučivá diera), say the traces were found in what was a Palaeolithic settlement left by the Magdalenian people, best known from France and Spain in the 13th millennium BC. 

Professor Paweł Valde-Nowak from the Institute of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków said: “It was a group of hunters specialising in hunting ibex, a species no longer found in the Tatras today. 

“We found several hundred blades of thrown weapons, bone needles, a fragment of a stone lamp and many bones of hunted animals. 

“They were resting in the remains of a large fire.”

Palaeolithic Artifacts Discovered in a Cave in Slovakia

During previous research seasons in Hučivá Cave, above the artefacts from the end of the Ice Age, the Slovak-Polish team also found fragments of 15th and 16th-century clay pots as well as coins from World War II.

Professor Valde-Nowak previously told PAP that scientists had been looking for traces of the prehistoric man’s presence in the Tatra caves since the 19th century; unsuccessfully until now.

Magura Cave in the Polish Tatras was one of the selected sites, but excavations carried out in that cave before World War II did not bring the expected results.

Palaeontologists, geologists, sedimentologists, archaeobotanists and palaeogeneticists as well as members of the Science Club of Students of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University participated in the fieldwork in Hučivá Cave.

Later this season, the research will move to the Polish side of the Tatra Mountains, the researchers announced.

The project is carried out by the Institute of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

The work is financed by the Polish National Science Centre.

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

A coin minted at the end of the 17th century is just one of the finds archaeologists have made during research work at the Sivý Kameň castle ruins in the Prievidza district.

The coin, which was among other items including ceramics and a knife found in the area around the former castle gates, dates back to when the castle served as a prison.

The castle, which was built in the 14th century, is now largely ruins, but using old photographs, experts identified where the castle gate and a forecourt once stood and began to unearth what was left of the structure belowground.

Archaeologist Dominika Andreánska told the TASR newswire: “Structures that are still preserved under the ground are important to us, but, of course, finds in castles inevitably include tiles from kilns, ceramic remnants, be they kitchen or painted tableware, small metal objects, nails, and we were also pleased with the first coin.”

According to Andreánska, the coin is a denarius dating back to the time of Leopold I. Habsburg with a minting date of 1679, and produced at the Kremnica mint.

“It is interesting in that it dates from the end of the 17th century, when Sivý Kameň castle functioned only as an occasional prison, or was a ruin, because it was burnt down during the anti-Habsburg uprisings,” she explained.

Research work at the castle is likely to continue for the next few years and once fieldwork has been completed it is expected that some of the finds will be exhibited at the Hornonitrianske Museum in Prievidza which is also involved in the dig.

Sivý Kameň was built around the middle of the 14th century for use in governing properties on the left bank of the Nitra River.

It was owned by the Majthényi family throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times but suffered a similar fate to many other castles in Slovakia as the Majthényis gradually moved to mansions in Nováky.

However, they always considered Sivý Kameň to be their ancestral seat and used it as an ancestral archive.

Jug With 870 Silver Coins From The 17th And 18th Centuries Found In Slovakia

Jug With 870 Silver Coins From The 17th And 18th Centuries Found In Slovakia

Archaeologists in Lučivná, a village under the Tatras, dug out a small earthenware jug with 870 pieces of silver coins.

Jug With 870 Silver Coins From The 17th And 18th Centuries Found In Slovakia

“We cleaned two-thirds of the coins, so far the oldest one is from 1665 and the youngest from 1733. Hungarian mintage dominates but there are also Silesian, Tyrolean, Moravian, Lower-Austrian and mintage from the Olomouc archbishopric,” said archaeologists from the Archaeological Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences in Spišská Nová Ves, Marián Soják, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Archaeologists have researched systematically in Lučivná; in the past, they found unique discoveries from modern times, according to Soják.

“Some modern coin, spur or badge appeared here and there, however, this was a big surprise for us,” stated Soják for SITA.

The treasure was found in the western part of the cadastre.

“It was buried on a ridge above caves located about 15 metres from a group of rocks. The person knew where to bury it to be able to find it, even though he or she apparently did not come back,” the archaeologist noted for SITA. He added that it is hard to say what the circumstances were that led to burying the treasure.

“Maybe the person hid it because of disturbances, maybe he was attacked on a well-known postal road that leads through the village,” Soják continued for SITA.

The owner of the coins was a medium wealthy person, probably from the lower middle class.

“The nominal value is rather low; the highest value is 15 Kreutzer of Leopold I. Among all the silver coins is also a copper one, a mining emblem from Špania Dolina, that one is really precious,” the archaeologist summed up for SITA.

Ancient grave found right under kindergarten

Ancient grave found right under kindergarten

Builders found human bones when doing reconstruction on a kindergarten in Brestovany, a village near Trnava. They called archaeologists from the Monuments Board of Trnava and the Western Slovakia Museum in Trnava who found that the builders had discovered a grave.

More detailed research showed that it is a 4,000-year-old grave from the Early Bronze Age containing women’s jewels, such as bone beads, a copper bracelet and two willow-shaped earrings, the Monuments Board Trnava informed.

The skeleton belonged to a woman buried in a curled position on her left side.

Ancient grave found right under kindergarten

Based on the found objects and the character of the grave, archaeologists were able to classify the discovery as from the Early Bronze Age, specifically to the bearers of the so-called Nitra culture.

It belongs to the oldest culture of the Bronze Age in Slovakia and its representatives are characterised by the gradual introduction of bronze production, an alloy of already used copper with tin, which resulted in the metal of better strength and hardness. 

“Uncovering the grave was a bit different than usual because all the classes of the local primary school and kindergarten arrived to watch our research and discoveries,” archaeologist Peter Grznár said.

Uncovering the grave thus changed to a live exhibition of archaeologists’ work and lessons about the life and tradition of our ancestors.

The kindergarten is located in the area of the national cultural monument manor house and park in the cadastral area of Malé Brestovany.

The manor house dates to the period of classicism from the first half of the 19th century. However, its location on a slight ridge is interesting, which could have also been attractive as a prehistoric settlement.

Axe from Early Bronze Age found in Skalica

Axe from Early Bronze Age found in Skalica

The Skalica district in Slovakia is a well-known archaeological site where scientists have previously unearthed many interesting ancient objects.

“According to archaeological discoveries Skalica, as part of the region Záhorie, was populated 3,500 years ago. The area’s development was conditioned by the flow of the River Moravia.

The territory on the left bank of the river became known as the Amber Road.

The Amber Road was an ancient route used for transferring amber from the costs of the North and Baltic Seas. This could be seen as a sign of the importance of this area since prehistoric times.

As regards its Slavic population, it presumably settled in this territory between the sixth and eighth century.” 1

The Skalica archaeological site needs an increase in its protection, and while conducting work at the site, scientists unearthed a rare axe from the Early Bronze Age.

Axe from Early Bronze Age found in Skalica

“So far, it is the oldest metal object from this researched site, Monuments Board Trnava informed. The research was carried out by archaeologists of the Monuments Board Trnava and enthusiasts of archaeology from civic associations.

The smaller axe is 9.5 cm long and has an enlarged fan-shaped cutting part, shallowly-grooved flat sides with hints of the side rails and a pointed tulle. It belongs to the so-called Saxon-type axe, the oldest specimens of which were still made of copper.


Similar axes were found in several locations in Slovakia, especially in Central Germany and Saxony. They are often part of a larger collection but also as individual objects as well,” the Slovak Spectator reports.

Recently, two other unique but accidental finds from older sections of the Bronze Age have been found in the Trnava region, both in the territory of Hlohovec. In 2017, a bronze blade from a so-called dagger on a club and in 2021 a short sword (long dagger).

Bronze Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

Bronze Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

During their time off, relaxing by the River Váh, near Hlohovec, a local came across an object that they found interesting. Only when they returned home, did they discover that it was an archaeological find and paid a visit to the nearest museum?

Similar finds should be handed over to the regional offices of the Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic.

The local had discovered a short sword, or a long dagger, with a length of almost 26 cm and a weight of almost 150 g, the Trnava Office of the Monuments Board said. Its handle from organic material has not been preserved. Only traces of the rivets remained.

The recently discovered sword is the fourth reported and handed over find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002.
The recently discovered sword is the fourth reported and handed over find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002.

Similar short swords have been found in the Danube basin, stretching from southern Germany to the Vojvodina province in Serbia.

“They are typical for the emerging Tumulus culture, which began to dominate the central European region in the 16th century BC, that is during the Middle Bronze Age,” said Matúš Sládok from the Trnava Office.

In the past, a similar sword was discovered in Včelince, near Rimavská Sobota, where it was part of discovered bronze objects.

Long daggers from the Early and Middle Bronze Ages are often found in richly filled tombs, as part of mass discoveries, and often in rivers.

The sword found in the River Váh may have fallen into the water as part of the cult, but it may also be a lost object, Sládok said. The dagger’s owner could have lost it, for example, when wading the river, he added.

At the end of the Early Bronze Age, the first metal swords began to appear in Central Europe, as a separate invention that most likely evolved from long bronze daggers.

The sword from the Váh could serve as a very interesting developmental link between these two types of weapons, Sládok argued.

More Váh finds

The sword is the fourth find from the River Váh in the Trnava Region since 2002, which has been reported and handed over, the year the Monuments Office of the Slovak Republic was established.

In the Váh, people have found a bronze blade from a dagger on a stick from the early Bronze Age, iron semi-finished products dating to the 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD, and a fragment of a millstone.