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Grave of Gothic warrior buried with his weapons unearthed in downtown Thessaloniki

The three-aisled basilica, which was unearthed in 2010 in the context of the Metro works at Thessaloniki's Syntrivani station, "hid" among many important finds, a Gothic warrior buried with his weaponry, a find that is the first of its kind in Thessaloniki and the wider region of Macedonia and which until now was only known from other regions.

Grave of Gothic warrior buried with his weapons unearthed in downtown Thessaloniki
Cluster of graves [Credit: Errico Maniotis]

The Early Christian basilica, almost all of its southern nave, is occupied by a cluster of tombs, most of which are arched. In one of them - which, according to the pottery and surrounding finds, must date to the beginning of the 5th century AD - a male skeleton was found, next to which there were remains of weaponry. The best preserved of his weapons was a sword which was found folded. The remains of a dagger and a shield boss were also found in the grave. 

What seems to "unlock" the warrior's identity is that "the sword was deliberately folded, not broken", explains archaeologist Melina Paisidou, who, together with the PhD candidate Erricos Maniotis, will present the study "Soldier's armament from a tomb of the basilica of Sidrivanios" at the 33rd Scientific Meeting on the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace (AEMTH).

Grave of Gothic warrior buried with his weapons unearthed in downtown Thessaloniki
Burial of Gothic warrior with weapons [Credit: Errico Maniotis]

In 2010 archaeological research revealed a large part of the eastern cemetery of the city. In particular, it brought to light about three thousand burial monuments which came to enrich our knowledge about the organization and continuous use of the site from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. The tombs belong to different types, pit-shaped, cist-shaped, carved, altar-shaped, altar-like constructions, chambered single or twin tombs.

The key element and the rarity of the find, to which Ms. Paisidou and Mr. Maniotis will refer at the conference, is that there is this series of chambered tombs in the church, that is, that this basilica was built in such a way as to incorporate them, and therefore suggesting these were important persons of the Christian faith. The fact that the warrior in question was buried with his weaponry was also a distinctive honour.

Grave of Gothic warrior buried with his weapons unearthed in downtown Thessaloniki
The soldier's sword [Credit: Errico Maniotis]

"It is rare to find weaponry of this period in excavation contexts, even in the Greek area. Most of the corresponding findings we have are from Balkan and Western European countries", explains Ms. Paisidou. It is likely that it is a Gothic soldier, as Byzantium employed Goth mercenaries especially in the last decades of the 4th century onwards. They were experienced warriors and had a reputation as skilled fighters. This conclusion is suggested by the type of weaponry found next to the soldier, as well as the folded sword, two items that, according to the archaeologist, were previously known only from Western Europe. "In Thessaloniki and in Greater Macedonia this folded sword is found for the first time," Paisidou stresses.

Source: Naftemporiki [trsl. TANN; April 22, 2021]

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