eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)


Full article in PDF format | doi: 10.3176/arch.2013.1.03

Laurynas Kurila


Two east Lithuanian barrow cemeteries, Baliuliai and Peršaukštis Kasčiukai II, which date to the mid-5th century, are distinguished by a specific pattern of burial orientation. The head appears to generally lie to the west and northwest, which is entirely typical of east Lithuanian barrows. But a closer inspection shows an exceptional feature, i.e. the alignment of the deceased towards a single focal point near the cemetery. The present paper seeks to discuss if this spatial organization was intentional, and if so, what significance the focal point possessed and what views of the afterlife and social objectives might lie behind this mortuary treatment. The grave orientation in both cemeteries is examined, with a certain amount of criticism, in the light of the chronological and territorial contexts. The paper proposes a hypothesis that burial direction is a form of symbolic communication between the living and the dead as well as among the dead within a certain internment area. It suggests that an ancestral tradition was established and maintained through this grave orientation. And it also examines the astronomical framework of the burial directions.


Atgāzis, M. 2001. Vidējais dzelzs laikmets. – Latvijas senākā vēsture. 9. g. t. pr. Kr. – 1200. g. Ed. J. Graudonis. Latvijas vēstures institūta apgāds, Rīga, 232–289.

Balakauskas, L. & Kurila, L. 2012. Aplinka ir žmogus holocene Baliulių–Perūno mikroregione (Švenčionių r.): tarpdisciplininis tyrimas. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 38, 121–140.

Baltramiejūnaitė, D. & Vengalis, R. 2010. Tyrinėjimai Semeniškėse. – Archeologiniai tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje 2009 metais. Society of the Lithuanian Archaeology, Vilnius, 99–105.

Bendann, E. 2003 [1930]. Death Customs: An Analytical Study of Burial Rites. Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish.

Binford, L. R. 1971. Mortuary practices: their study and their potential. – Approaches to the Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices. Ed. J. A. Brown. Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, 25, issued as American Antiquity, 36: 3(2), 6–29.

Bliujienė, A. 2006. Watershed between eastern and western Lithuania during the Early and Late Migration Period. – Archaeologia Lituana, 7, 123–143.

Bliujienė, A. & Curta, F. 2011. Exotic lands, quixotic friends: eastern Lithuania and the Carpathian Basin in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (AD c 380 to c 620). – Medieval Archaeology, 55, 29–65.

Bliujienė, A. & Steponaitis, V. 2009. Wealthy horsemen in the remote and tenebrous forests of east Lithuania during the Migration Period. – Archaeologia Baltica, 11, 185–205.

Bliujus, A. 1983. Eitulionių pilkapynas. – Muziejai ir Paminklai, 5, 31–40.

Bloch, M. & Parry, J. (eds). 1982. Death and the Regeneration of Life. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Boddington, A. 1990. Models of burial, settlement and worship: the final phase reviewed. – Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries: A Reappraisal. Ed. E. Southworth. Alan Sutton, Stroud, 177–199.

Butėnas, E. 1998. Maisiejūnų pilkapyno tyrinėjimai. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 15, 163–184.

Carr, C. 1995. Mortuary practices: their social, philosophical-religious, circumstantial, and physical determinants. – Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 2: 2, 105–200.

Clausen, C., Einicke, O. & Kjærgaard, P. 2008. The orientation of Danish passage graves. – Acta Archaeologica, 79, 216–229.

Earle, T. 2000. Archaeology, property, and prehistory. – Annual Review of Anthropology, 29: 1, 39–60.

Evison, V. I. 1987. Dover: The Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. (Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, Archaeological Report, 3.) Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, London.

Fahlander, F. & Oestigaard, T. 2008. The materiality of death: bodies, burials, beliefs. – The Materiality of Death: Bodies, Burials, Beliefs. Eds F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard. (BAR International Series, 1768.) Archaeopress, Oxford, 1–16.

Fichter, G. & Volk, P. 1980. The eastern orientation of Merovingian graves and the seasonal dis­tribution of morbidity and mortality (using the Sasbach-Behans and Bischoffingen-Bigärten cemeteries as examples). – Journal of Human Evolution, 9: 1, 49–59.

Gruber, J. W. 1971. Patterning in death in a late prehistoric village in Pennsylvania. – American Antiquity, 36: 1, 64–76.

Hawkes, S. C. 1976. Orientation at Finglesham: sunrise dating of death and burial in an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. – Archaeologia Cantiana, 92, 33–51.

Hawkes, S. C. 1982. The archaeology of conversion: cemeteries. – The Anglo-Saxons. Ed. J. Campbell. Phaidon, London, 48–49.

Hoskin, M. 2009. Orientations of dolmens of western Europe. – Complutum, 20: 2, 165–175.

Huntington, R. & Metcalf, P. 1979. Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Iwanowska, G. 2006. Cmentarzysko kurhanowe w Żwirblach pod Wilnem. Wprowadzenie
w problematykę. Katalog. Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, Warszawa.

Jovaiša, E. 2002. Dangus baltų gyvenime. – Lietuvos aukštųjų mokyklų mokslo darbai: Istorija, 54, 3–16.

Kaczyński, M. 1963. Materiały cmentarzyska kurhanowego badanego w 1934 r. w miejscowości Mieżany, na Wileńszczyźnie (LSRR). – Wiadomości Archeologiczne, 29: 2, 119–137.

Kendall, G. 1982. A study of grave orientation in several Roman and post-Roman cemeteries from southern Britain. – Archaeological Journal, 139, 101–123.

Kliaugaitė, V. & Kurila, L. 2012. Baliuliai barrow cemetery. – Archaeological Investigations in Independent Lithuania. 1990–2010. Eds G. Zabiela, Z. Baubonis & E. Marcinkevičiūtė. Society of the Lithuanian Archaeology, Vilnius, 95–101.

Kurila, L. 2007. Baliulių pilkapyno (Švenčionių r.) (A1063) aplinkos žvalgomųjų archeologinių tyrinėjimų 2007 metais ataskaita. Manuscript in the Archive of the Lithuanian Institute of History, F. 1, 4824.

Kurila, L. 2008. Baliulių pilkapyno (Švenčionių r.) (A1063P) archeologinių žvalgymų 2008 metais ataskaita. Manuscript in the Archive of the Lithuanian Institute of History, F. 1, 4880.

Kurila, L. V. 2009. Socialinė organizacija Rytų Lietuvoje III–XII a. (laidojimo paminklų duomenimis). (Doctoral dissertation.) Vilnius University. Available from: [Last accessed 7 January 2013].

Kurila, L. 2011. Vladimiro Kaširskio kasinėjimai Vajuonio ir Žeimenio tarpežerio pilkapynuose 1906 ir 1907 m. – Lietuvos archeologijos šaltiniai Sankt Peterburge. Eds A. Luchtanas & L. Tamulynas. Vilniaus universitetas, Vilnius, 101–174.

Kurila, L. & Kliaugaitė, V. 2007. Baliulių pilkapiai (Švenčionių r.). – Lietuvos Archeologija, 30, 121–180.

Kurila, L. & Kliaugaitė, V. 2008. Peršaukščio–Kasčiukų pilkapynas. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 33, 9–40.

Longley, D. 2002. Orientation within early medieval cemeteries: some data from north-west Wales. – Antiquaries Journal, 82, 309–321.

Michelbertas, M. 1986. Senasis geležies amžius Lietuvoje. I–IV amžius. Mokslas, Vilnius.

Nicholson, B. A. 1994. Orientation of burials and patterning in the selection of sites for late prehistoric burial mounds in south-central Manitoba. – The Plains Anthropologist, 39: 148, 161–171.

Parker Pearson, M. 2003. The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Sutton Publishing, Stroud.

Parkin, D. 1992. Ritual as spatial direction and bodily division. – Understanding Rituals. Ed. D. de Coppet. Routledge, London, 11–25.

Pokrovskij, F. V. 1897. = Покровскiй Ф. В. Къ изследованiю кургановъ и городищъ на восточной окраине современной Литвы. – Труды девятаго археологическаго съезда въ Вильне 1893. Москва, 138–196.

Radiņš, A. 1999. 10.–13. gadsimta senkapi latgaļu apdzīvotajā teritorijā un Austrumlatvijas etniskās, sociālās un politiskās vēstures jautājumi. (Latvijas vēstures muzeja raksti, 5.) N.I.M.S., Rīga.

Raths, P. 1978. Grave orientation. – Archaeological Journal, 135, 1–14.

Raven, M. J. 2005. Egyptian concepts on the orientation of the human body. – The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 91, 37–53.

Rose, H. T. 1922. Celestial and terrestrial orientation of the dead. – The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 52, 127–140.

Saxe, A. A. 1970. Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices. (Doctoral dissertation.) University of Michigan.

Silverman, H. & Small, D. B. (eds). 2002. The Place and Space of Death. (Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, 11: 1. Special issue.)

Svetikas, E. 2003. Alytaus kapinynas: christianizacijos šaltiniai. Diemedžio leidykla, Vilnius.

Szücs-Csillik, I., Comşa, A., Maxim, Z. & Szűcs, I. 2010. Case studies of archaeoastronomy in Romania. – Archeologia e Calcolatori, 21, 325–337.

Tautavičius, A. 1970. Riklikų pilkapių kasinėjimai 1969 metais. – Archeologiniai ir etnografiniai tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje 1968 ir 1969 metais. Lietuvos TSR mokslų akademija, Istorijos institutas, Vilnius, 53–60.

Tautavičius, A. 1981. Taurapilio “kunigaikščio” kapas. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 2, 18–43.

Tautavičius, A. 1996. Vidurinis geležies amžius Lietuvoje (V–IX a.). Lietuvos pilys, Vilnius.

Tilley, C. 2004. The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology. Berg, Oxford, New York.

Urbanavičienė, S. 1995. Diktarų kapinynas. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 11, 169–206.

Vaitkevičius, V. 2005. Interpreting the east Lithuanian barrow culture. – Papers from the First Theoretical Seminar of the Baltic Archaeologists (BASE) Held at the University of Tartu, Estonia, October 17th–19th, 2003. Culture and Material Culture. Ed. V. Lang. (Interarchaeologia, 1.) Tartu, Riga, Vilnius, 71–86.

Vaškevičiūtė, I. 2000. Stungių kapinynas. – Lietuvos Archeologija, 20, 225–262.

Vaškevičiūtė, I. 2004. Žiemgaliai V–XII amžiuje. VPU leidykla, Vilnius.

Vaškevičiūtė, I. 2007. Tautų kraustymosi ir baltų genčių sklaidos laikotarpis. – Lietuvos istorija, 2. Geležies amžius. Ed. G. Zabiela. Baltos lankos, Vilnius, 173–297.

Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė, R. 1958. Migonių (Jiezno raj.) archeologiniai paminklai. – Iš Lietuvių Kultūros Istorijos, 1, 44–64.

Wells, C. & Green, C. 1973. Sunrise dating of death and burial. – Norfolk Archaeology, 35,

Werner, J. 1977. Der Grabfund von Taurapilis, Rayon Utna (Litauen) und die Verbindung der Balten zum Reich Theoderichs. – Archäologische Beiträge zur Chronologie der Völkerwanderungszeit. Eds G. Kossack & J. Reichstein. Habelt, Bonn, 87–92.

Williams, H. 1998. Monuments and the past in early Anglo-Saxon England. – World Archaeology, 30: 1, 90–108.

Williams, H. 2006. Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wittmann, A. 1979. The obliquity of the ecliptic. – Astronomy and Astrophysics, 73: 1–2, 129–131.

Zabiela, G. 1998. Kriokšlio pilkapiai. – Kultūros Paminklai, 5, 48–57.

Back to Issue