The early medieval cemetery of Oosterbeintum (Friesland)


  • E. Knol
  • W. Prummel
  • H.T. Uytterschautt
  • M.L.P. Hoogland
  • W.A. Casparie
  • G.J. de Langen
  • E. Kramer
  • J. Schelvis


Part of an early medieval cemetery was excavated on the SE edge of the terp of Oosterbeintum, which held remains of both cremations and inhumations. The cremation features, urned burials, a bustum grave, Brandgruben, ash stains and disturbed traces of the cremation ritual, produced evidence of 10 to 21 children's cremations and 23 to 27 of adults. The wood types alder and oak were most often used as fuel for the cremations; ash and birch were also regularly used, Eight inhumated skeletons were of children, three were af adolescents and 35 of adults. The average age at death of the inhumated humans was 29.5 years. Women and men were equally represented among the inhumated adolescents and adults. In one individual, the osteological sex determination (male) contradicts the archaeological sex determination (female). The average stature of men measured 1.74 m, that of women 1.58 m, One of the inhumated individuals was an achondroplastic dwarf of unknown gender with an estimated stature between 1.25 and 1.30 m.

Tree-trunk coffins of oak were used in eight inhumations. The number of grave goods was modest, both with cremations and inhumations. There was one weapon grave, and a possibie second one. Three inhumation graves of women and one cremation grave of a child had a rich content of grave goods. The cremations are dated between AD 400 and 750, the inhumations between AD 450 and 750.

The cemetery contained eight animal graves: an inhumation grave of a c. 6 year old stallion, six inhumation graves of male dogs and a Brandgrube with the bumt remains of a lamb or kit, and a teal. Four Carolingian ditches, a 10th, 11th and a 15th century well disturbed the cemetery to a slight degree.

The remains of northern vole, natterjack toad and several mite species allowed the reconstruction of an unendiked landscape.