Antiquity

Research

Buried with sickles: early modern interments from Drawsko, Poland

Marek Polcyna1 and Elżbieta Gajdaa2

a1 Department of Anthropology, Lakehead University, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B5E1, Canada (Email: mpolcyn@lakeheadu.ca)

a2 Muzeum Ziemi Czarnkowskiej, Wroniecka Street 32, 64–700, Czarnków, Poland

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Abstract

In Central Europe, medieval and early modern burials sometimes contain iron sickles placed on the body or in direct contact with the deceased. Previous interpretations have considered them as markers of social status or occupation, or as magical and apotropaic. Detailed analysis of sickle burials from a cemetery at Drawsko in Poland leads to a discussion of demonology beliefs, dual faith and a resurgence in paganism following the Counter-Reformation. The results illustrate how the sickle might have served as an indicator of social identity, the nature of the individual's death and the way the deceased was perceived within their community.

(Received October 08 2014)

(Accepted January 07 2015)

(Revised January 16 2015)

Keywords:

  • Poland;
  • Early Modern period;
  • funerary rites;
  • sickle burials;
  • demonology;
  • folklore