Late nomadic equestrian graves from the eastern Danubian plain and Dobrudzha


  • Michal Holeščák Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 2 Akademická str., 94921 Nitra



equestrian graves, Lower Danube, Cumans, Pechenegs, stirrups


Presence of Late Nomads in the territory of the right bank of the Lower Danube is attested by both written and archaeological sources. The following article presents six graves with equestrian attributes from the 11th to 13th c. These graves either hold items of a rider’s equipment alone or these items in combination with horse remains. Based on analysis of artifacts found in the graves and of specific details of the funeral ritual (as they are compared with analogies from the wider region of the Eurasian Steppe and its surrounding areas), the graves were dated according to standard chronological periods.
A whole horse was allegedly buried with a man in the grave from Veliki Preslav, but unfortunately there is no detailed information about this grave’s inventory or find circumstances. Based on the funeral rite presented by the grave and sherds of clay cauldrons alleged to have been found in it, it can be dated to the period of the Cuman domination of the Pontic Steppe. Three graves contain only partial remains of a horse; when this occurs, usually the skull and ends of limbs are present. A skull and a whole set of four limbs were found in a mound by the village Bozhurets. Even with many analogies from regions beyond the Danube, this grave can only be widely dated to the 11th – 13th c. Graves found near Pliska in Mound No. XXV and at Histria can be dated with greater confidence to the second half of the 11th into the 13th c. Datable elements in the mound near Pliska are a coffin made from a hollowed-out tree trunk and the remains of a saber. The same dating of the grave at Histria is made possible by the eastern orientation of the deceased woman it holds.
The first type of equestrian grave characterized by the presence of riding equipment without horse remains is attested at two complexes in the research area. The first, the burial in Baba Cave in Dobrudzha, is very unusual for the area, and its inventory is unfortunately very badly preserved. Nevertheless, some aspects of the saber blade and perhaps the shape of the stirrup found here points to a date in the 12th or 13th c. The final equestrian grave analyzed here was unearthed by Pliska’s southern wall in Grave No. 20 and contained a full set of riding equipment that can with high certainty (based on numerous analogies to artifacts in the Cuman milieu) be dated to the second half of the 11th c. at the earliest but most likely to the following 12th or 13th c. The eastern orientation of the body in this grave suggests this dating as well.


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How to Cite

Holeščák, M. (2023) “Late nomadic equestrian graves from the eastern Danubian plain and Dobrudzha”, Contributions to the Bulgarian Archeology | Приноси към българската археология, 13, pp. 143–160. doi: 10.53250/cba13.143-160.



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