Row-Grave Cemeteries

Row-Grave Cemeteries
   A traditional Germanic burial practice, the row-grave cemeteries (Reihengräber) are important archeological finds because of the wealth of material found in them. There are numerous sites in the Rhine River area and northern France from the migration period and in north central Spain dating from the arrival of the Visigoths. The appearance of these cemeteries in Spain is particularly important; they were once thought to provide evidence of settlement patterns for the Spanish Visigoths. Although no longer thought to reveal such patterns, the row-grave cemeteries are important nonetheless, in part because they are not found in Visigothic France or even Ostrogothic Italy.
   Numerous row-grave cemeteries have been found in Spain, and they contain important evidence of Visigothic material culture. Roughly seventy of these cemeteries have been found in Spain, including a very large one of 666 burials with about 1,000 bodies in Duraton. Of particular importance are the burials of women, roughly one fifth of whom were buried in traditional Gothic dress. Another important site, at El Carpio de Tajo, has some 285 graves that stretch over several generations for a village of about 50 or 60 people, and about 90 of the sites contain grave goods. The evidence from these sites presents an uncertain picture about burial practices in the fifth and sixth centuries. It has been suggested that either the graves represent the native Hispano-Roman population emulating the conquerors and including the types of burial goods the Goths would or that the graves containing grave goods are those of the Visigothic lords, who buried their dead with their wealth as a sign of status.
   The graves contain important examples of Visigothic dress in the fifth and sixth centuries. The finds at Duraton contain traditional female clothing, which included a cloak attached at the shoulder with a brooch as well as a belt with a large buckle around the waist. The brooches were of fine quality. An especially important pattern was the eagle brooch found in various graves. The eagle may have become popular as a symbol of power that the Visigoths adopted from the Huns and Romans. Although the source of this style for a brooch is unclear, it became popular, and brooches following it were fashioned out of gold and inlaid with precious stones. Also, combs were frequently included among the grave goods and seem to have been an important manufacture among the Goths.
   See also
 ♦ Collins, Roger. Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000. New York: St. Martin's, 1995.
 ♦ Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 ♦ Thompson, E. A. The Goths in Spain. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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