The potential of phytolith analysis to reveal grave goods: the case study of the Viking‑age equestrian burial of Fregerslev II

Welmoed A. Out, Mario Hasler, Marta Portillo, Merethe Schifter Bagge

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Non-woody plant remains are known from burial contexts in North–western Europe, but get overlooked when preservation is
suboptimal. While phytolith analysis has demonstrated its value regarding the detection of vegetative grave goods, systematic
application of this method to graves in European archaeology is, however, scarce. This paper concerns the examination of
the elite Viking-Age equestrian burial at Fregerslev II, where phytolith analysis, combined with pollen analysis, revealed
the presence of two types of plant material in the grave. The phytolith analysis of Fregerslev II included the investigation of
chaff located close to a horse bridle, the chaff being both detected in the field and during investigation of a block sample by
means of stereomicroscopy, and systematic examination of other parts of the grave to interpret this find. Elongate dendritic
chaff phytoliths were subjected to systematic morphological and morphometric analysis and subsequent statistical analysis.
The application of both methods simultaneously to large numbers of phytoliths is unique. Comparison of the various samples
showed that the chaff represents a concentration of oat, which is most likely common oat, with minor admixture of barley,
interpreted as horse fodder, while bedding consisting of hay or straw was presented elsewhere on the bottom of the grave.
The finds are placed in a wider context and methodological implications of the two identification methods applied to the
chaff concentration are discussed.
TidsskriftVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 1 aug. 2022


  • vegetative grave goods
  • viking
  • viking-age
  • equestrian
  • grave bedding
  • horse fodder
  • Phytolith morphology and morphometry
  • gravgaver
  • ryttergrav
  • fytolitter