Archaeologists excavate more than 100 skeletons in Sillamäe

Archaeologists in Sillamäe
Archaeologists in Sillamäe Source: ERR

Archaeologists have excavated the skeletons of more than a hundred people in the last month in Sillamäe, Ida-Viru County. The remains were found during construction work earlier this year.

The archaeologists working at the site believe they have found a cemetery which historians do not have data about because construction work carried out during the Soviet era prohibited historians from examining the bones.

"Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Wednesday, human remains were found at the beginning of June during the reconstruction of Kesktänav in Sillamäe.

According to Martin Malve, an archaeologist, there was probably a village cemetery in the area based on the large numbers of burials found.  

Malve thinks the oldest bones which have been found date from the end of the 16th century, after the Livonian War, and the newest are from the Great Northern War (1700-1721). 

Malve said: "What is different from the beginning of the excavation work to now is that the burials are in several layers and forms.  When we started, they was on the outskirts of the cemetery, the dead were very sparse and in one layer. Now we have reached the center of the cemetery where bodies have been buried in three-four layers as each body has been buried over." 

Findings from the sandy soils provides new information about early modern times (ca 1500-1800) in Estonia. 

Malve explained: "The cemetery has significant scientific value as the bodies have preserved hair, leather and textiles. Pieces of clothing are usually not found but there have been several skeletons covered with woollen textiles. We have also found trouser straps. One of the interesting finds was that one of the men had a preserved beard and moustache." 

According to Malve, the discovery of a burial site in the center of Sillamäe, which gained city status in 1957, is an example of how houses and communication pipelines were built at the time and how archaeology was not valued.

Malve said: "The bones were excavated during the construction of the culture house. There are gas and central heating pipes build down here which means the bones have been here and the locals have been aware of these skeletons all the time. Based on previous fieldwork experiences, it can often be said that locals know, but project designers, city government, archaeologists and historians are unaware." 

The findings from Sillamäe will be given to the University of Tartu for further research. 


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Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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