Farmers found buried with their animals in Macedonia

An excavation in north Macedonia has brought to light a group of graves where the farmers were buried with their livestock.  The burials, near the town of Mavropigi, and 21km from Kozani, date from the late 6th or early 5th century.

Individuals have been found buried with horses before, but these types of burials are usually associated with prominent citizens or warriors. In the case of Mavropigi it seems that “these were simple people, farmers, who were buried with their horse, their buffalo, deer, dogs and pigs," according to the Head of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi.

 At least 11 burials associated with 16 animals have been found at the side of the cemetery, and it is the extent of the occurrence of the animals, and the range of them, that marks it from other similar burials. There have been examples of people buried with their horses in Doxipara Evros which seems to be linked to the high esteem in which the individuals were held, and Rhodes has yielded examples of children buried with their dogs. What makes Mavropigi different is that these are ordinary people buried with the animals they worked and lived with.

The cemetery has been excavated over the past season and extends over 100 metres. It consists of nine pit burials with eight animals (five horses and three dogs) and the other two burials have eight animals (two horses, three dogs, two cattle and one pig). The animals were placed around the burials and within walking distance, from about 0.5 to 1.3 metres.

Some of the burials were at a shallow depth and were initially disturbed by tillage and later from the roots of trees planted in more recent years.  The pits include pottery vessels, copper earrings, bracelets, anklets and pins. Iron blades and spearheads were found in the male burials.

The area of Kozani has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, and a number of sites have been identified in recent years. In
2005/6 the Neolithic settlement of Fyllotsairi was excavated, which is among the most ancient in the Balkans. The area was important for early agriculture, and also as a crossroads between the North-South and East -West.

Nowadays the area is extensively mined for lignite by the Public Power Corporation, and this has led to the identification of a number of sites, like the one at Mavropigi.