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DFG project LA 2891/2-1 „The chamber grave of Migration Period at Poprad, Slovakia – an interdisciplinary research project for evaluation of an extraordinary find"

project leader: Dr. Nina Lau

It is one of the most important archaeological finds in Slovakia. A 'princely grave' with wooden burial chambers and furnishings dating to the early Migration Period is at present being investigated and prepared for publication in a joint Slovakian and German research project that will last several years. The grave at Poprad-Matejovce, at the south-eastern foot of the High Tatra Mountains of north-eastern Slovakia, in the historic Spiš region (now Prešovský kraj), was excavated in 2006. As a result of the close academic contacts between the Archaeological Institute of the Slovakian Academy of Sciences in Nitra and the Foundation of the State Museums of Schleswig-Holstein at Gottorf Castle in Schleswig, an international research project was set up with Slovakian and German directors and the participation of scholars also from other European countries. The project is being financed partly by the two institutions, but above all by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) – the German Research Foundation (Project number LA 2891/2-1).


Poprad chamber

The grave during the excavation in 2006.


Since the autumn of 2012, the grave has been the object of a three-year international project, supported by the DFG, at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA) in Schleswig in close cooperation with the Slovakian Academy of Sciences in Nitra. The grave is being analysed and reconstructed with the latest GIS and digital 3D software. Interdisciplinary cooperation using various scientific analytical methods (e.g. dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating, strontium isotope analyses, various textile-analysis procedures, aDNA, pathological and anthropological analyses) together with archaeological investigations of the structure and furnishings of the grave promise an up-to-date and detailed processing of the find and its context.


Freilegung und Dokumentation der Funde

The grave during the excavation in 2006.


The Poprad-Matejovce site is located in the Tatras region, at the south-eastern foot of the High Tatra Mountains of north-eastern Slovakia, in the historic Spiš region (now Prešovský kraj). In the autumn of 2005, the extremely well-preserved wooden structure was discovered during construction work on a new industrial estate, at which time the purpose and age of the find could hardly be assessed. Only when a fragment of the wood was radiocarbon dated to AD 380±27 did the situation become clear: it was an early Migration Period grave with a completely undisturbed chamber, and thus a unique find from this period in the part of Europe outside the Roman Empire.


At the end of the excavation in the summer and autumn of 2006, the timber from the two burial chambers and all the furnishings, including remnants of leather and textile, were taken with the sections removed en bloc to the State Archaeological Museum of the Foundation of the State Museums of Schleswig-Holstein at Gottorf Castle in Schleswig, where the conservation and three-dimensional recording of the objects and the digitization of the excavation records was started.


Poprad 3D Scan

3D-scanned wall panels from the inner grave chamber.


Situation Kammerinneres

Location of the find objects in the grave


Fundlage Südteil

Gravegoods and furniture in the southern part of the outer chamber


The grave was excavated completely in 2006 but the difficult excavation conditions occasioned by the excellent preservation of organic material meant that parts of the grave were removed en bloc and taken, together with the chamber timber and the furnishings (a total of 10–12 tons), to the State Archaeological Museum of the Foundation of the State Museums of Schleswig-Holstein at Gottorf Castle in Schleswig, where they were frozen to minus 20°C. The timber was taken for conservation to the central archaeological workshop at Gottorf Castle. In order to obtain a complete picture of the grave, the blocks taken to the Museum are being investigated and documented in the laboratory one by one.



Excavation of an in-situ block in the laboratory

This laboratory investigation includes various scientific analyses, such as strontium-isotope analyses, analyses of amino acids and traces of textile dyes, material identification under a scanning electron microscope and radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating, together with dendrochronological analyses of the timber (from both chambers) permit the scientific dating of the grave itself. Not only the exact date of the burial has to be determined: further questions arise regarding the construction date of the chamber, the age of the grave goods and when the grave was re-opened. Only when these questions have been answered can an exact chronological picture be established of the grave and all its associated activities.



The project team 2012


Cooperation partners

Cooperation partner of the DFG project Poprad

Please click on the city's names or the triangle to follow a link to the website of the cooperation partner.





T. Belanová/K. Pieta, Discovery of a Unique Chamber Tomb in Poprad-Matejovce (Slovakia). Archaeological Textile Newsletter 44, 2007, 18–20.



K. Pieta, Das germanische Fürstengrab aus Poprad-Matejovce. In: U. von Freeden/H. Friesinger/E. Wamers (Hrsg.), Glaube, Kult und Herrschaft. Phänomene des Religiösen im 1. Jahrtausend n. Chr. in Mittel- und Nordeuropa. Akten des 59. Internat. Sachsensymposions und der Grundprobleme der frühgeschichtlichen Entwicklung im Mitteldonauraum. Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 12 (Bonn 2009) 107–122.


T. Štolcová/G. Zink/K. Pieta, Textiles from the Chieftain Grave in Poprad-Matejovce. Report on the First Stage of Laboratory Examination. Arch. Korrbl. 39/2, 2009, 263–277.


N. Lau, Das Grab von Poprad-Matejovce in der Slowakei – Ein Blockhaus mit Inneneinrichtung aus der frühen Völkerwanderungszeit. Archäologische Nachrichten aus Schleswig-Holstein 19, 2013, 16–19. T. Štolcová/N. Lau, Das spätantike Kammergrab von Poprad-Matejovce – Repräsentation von Status und Luxus im Tode. In: M. Tellenbach/R. Schulz/A. Wieczorek (Hrsg.), Die Macht der Toga. Dresscode im römischen Weltreich [Begleitband zur Ausstellung »Die Macht der Toga – Mode im römischen Weltreich« im Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim vom 20.04. bis zum 08.09.2013](Regensburg 2013).

T. Štolcová/G. Zink, Early Migration Period Textile and Leather Finds from the Chieftain’s Grave in Poprad-Matejovce: Discovery, Retrieval and New Results of the Laboratory Examination. In J. Banck-Burgess/C. Nübold (Hrsg.), The North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles XI (Rahden/Westf. 2013) 85–92.


N. Lau/K. Pieta, Das Grab von Poprad-Matejovce in der Slowakei –Anlage, Konstruktion und Ausstattung eines frühvölkerwanderungszeitlichen Kammergrabes. In: A. Abegg-Wigg/N. Lau (Hrsg.), Kammergräber im Barbaricum – Zu Einflüssen und Übergangsphänomenen von der vorrömischen Eisenzeit bis in die Völkerwanderungszeit. Internationale Tagung, Schleswig, 25.–27. November 2010. Schr. Arch. Landesmus. Ergr. 9 (Neumünster/Hamburg 2014) 343–364.

T. Štolcová/D. Schaarschmidt/S. Mitschke, Preliminary report on textile finds from the chieftain’s grave in Poprad-Matejovce (Poster Nesat-Tagung Hallstatt 2014).


in print: T. Štolcová/D. Schaarchmidt/S. Mitschke, Preliminary report on textile finds from the chieftain’s grave in Poprad-Matejovce. Archaeological Textiles Review 56 (im Druck).

in preparation: K. Göbel/N. Lau/J. Nowotny, A Chamber Grave of the Early Migration Period reconstructed by GIS and 3D-software. DAACH Journal (online) (in preparation). N. Lau/K. Pieta, Die antike Wiederöffnung und Beraubung des Kammergrabes von Poprad-Matejovce. In: Festschrift für J. Tejral (2014) (in preparation).

Dänisches Nationalmuseum Christian-Albrechts-Universität Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Niedersachsen Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim Deutsches Ledermuseum / Schuhmuseum Arbeitsgruppe Paläopathologie der Universitätsmedizin Göttingen Archäologisches Institut der Slowakischen Akademie der Wissenschaften Comenius Universität Podtatranské Múzeum Ungarische Akademie der Wissenschaften Archäologisches Institut der Akademie der Wissenschaften der Tschechischen Republik
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