Archaeologists Exhume Child Burials with Obul Coins Placed in Mouths

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Archaeologists excavating a mass grave site from the 16th century have discovered remains of children that were buried with coins in their mouths.

The excavations are being conducted by Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna after construction workers stumbled across human remains during works on a new road in the village of Jeżowe in south-east Poland.

The team has so far discovered 115 bodies, of which around 70-80% are burials of children. Many child burials have been buried with coins in their mouths, which stems from an old pre-Christian tradition of the obols of the dead or Charon’s obol.

Image Credit : Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna

The custom is primarily associated with the ancient Greeks and Romans, where Greek and Latin sources specify the obul as a payment or bribe for Charon, the ferryman who would transport the souls of the dead. The custom was later adopted by Christians across Europe and was practiced well into the 20th century.

Most of the coins date from the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, who was the monarch of Poland between 1587 and 1632. Also discovered were coins from the reign of John II Casimir Vasa (boratynki) who was King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1648, until his abdication in 1668.

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Archaeologist Katarzyna Oleszek told the Polish Press Agency: “We know from sources that during a visit of the bishops of Kraków here in Jeżowe 1604 there was already a large parish church, with a garden, a rectory, a school and a cemetery.”

The team believes that the area they are excavating was part of the cemetery that was designated for children. All the bodies exhumed will be studied by anthropologists, and then reburied at the local parish church.

Header Image Credit : Arkadia Firma Archeologiczna

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