Riding Gear Items from the Jurgionys Cemetery of the Late Fourteenth–Early Sixteenth Centuries

  • Manvydas Vitkūnas
Keywords: medieval burials, spurs, stirrups, horse teeth, Jurgionys cemetery


The paper publishes information on the riding gear items (namely, spurs and their fragments, a miniature stirrup, as well as horse teeth) discovered during the archaeological excavations of 2010–2011 and 2013–2014 at the Jurgionys cemetery located in the Aukštadvaris eldership of the Trakai district and dating to the late fourteenth– early fifteenth centuries. The paper aims to introduce the artefacts to the scientific archaeological array establishing their typology and chronology and their place in the context of other finds discovered at Lithuanian medieval inhumation burials. The Jurgionys cemetery of the late fourteenth–early fifteenth century (Aukštadvaris eldership, Trakai district) contained numerous items of riding gear. Burials 2 (Fig. 1) and 16 had one spur in each, whereas burial 11 (Fig. 2) had two spurs. Random finds from disturbed burials picked from the ploughed layer added two more fragments of spurs and a piece of a miniature stirrup. The level of preservation of the spurs varied, some of the finds were highly corroded and surviving only partially. Yet the spurs were typical of Western and Central Europe (although spurs with star-shaped spikes are also found in the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Moscow, there are no close analogues to the ones discovered at the Jurgionys cemetery). Two of the three spur finds came from the burials containing weapons (burial 11 contained an axe and a spearhead and burial 16 contained a sword). The rich array of burial goods found in burial 16 (Fig. 3) implies that the person buried therein enjoyed a high social status. The spur found in burial 16 (Fig. 4) is typologically very similar to the ones discovered at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of the Lower Castle of Vilnius and in London. It goes without saying that typologically similar spurs can also be found elsewhere. One of the randomly found spurs has survived only partially (Fig. 5). The other randomly found spur bears strap holders decorated with a scallop shell ornament (Fig. 6). Such an ornament could be related to the cult of St James the Great which used to be rather widespread in medieval Europe. A miniature stirrup (Fig. 7) is similar to the stirrups of the eastern type found in the territory of modern Ukraine and southern Russia; they are related to the nomadic peoples of the steppe. Materials of the Jurgionys cemetery considerably broaden our knowledge about the riding gear used by medieval Lithuanian horsemen, and horse teeth found in burials 35 and 37 should be perceived as horsemen’s symbols. They are unique finds for the cemetery of the Jurgionys community, which was only barely influenced by Christianity at the time.