A badger has outfoxed archeologists, digging up two “significant” 12th-century tombs of two Slavic lords in Germany, reports Spiegel Online.
The find, in a town called Stolpe in Brandenburg, happened last autumn, but became public only this week.
Two sculptors, Lars Wilhelm and Hendrikje Ring, who also happen to be amateur archeologists, came upon the badger sett, or den, near where they had been planning to exhibit some of their work.
"We spotted a pelvic bone that had been dug up, it was clearly human," Ring told Spiegel Online. "It wasn't exactly surprising to us because a whole field of ancient graves had been found on the other side of the road in the 1960s.
“So we pushed a camera into the badger's sett and took photos by remote control. We found pieces of jewelry, retrieved them and contacted the authorities," Ring said.
Archeologists eventually dug up eight graves from the first half of the 12th century at the site, including two containing skeletons of Slavic chieftains and an array of artifacts: a sword, bronze bowls and a belt buckle.
"We hadn't found graves like that in Brandenburg before, so it's an important discovery," said Thomas Kersting, an archeologist at the Brandenburg Department for Monument Protection.
One warlord was buried with a two-edged sword and a large bronze bowl at his feet, The Local, an English-language news site, reports. "At the time, such bowls were used to wash the hands before eating," archaeologist Felix Biermann of Georg-August University in Göttingen told The Local. "The bowls would be a sign that a man belonged to the upper classes."
The same warrior also wore an elegant bronze belt buckle in the shape of an omega, with the head of a stylized snake at each end. "He was a well-equipped warrior," said Biermann. "Scars and bone breaks show that he had been hit by lances and swords, and had also fallen from a horse."
The skeleton of a woman with a coin in her mouth was also found at the site. At the time of her death people were buried with coins to pay a ferryman to take them to the realm of the dead.
The badger hasn’t returned to the site of the discovery, but does get credit for the find. "This doesn't make him an archeologist, but he's the one who discovered it," said Lars Wilhelm, who received an honorary award for services to archeology in Brandenburg.