Identity of 1000-Year-Old Warrior Corrupted by Nazi and Soviet Spin Doctors
Facts are finally dislodging almost 100 years of lies and misinterpretations pertaining to a mysterious 1000-year-old warrior’s skeleton unearthed at Prague Castle in Czechoslovakia. The remains of the man were discovered in the 1920s with ‘unusual weapons and tools’ and he was then used as a political tool by both the Nazis and Russians to assert their mythical ancestral lineages, but a new paper has now established his actual origins.
The new study was published this week in the journal Antiquity and lead author, Professor Nicholas Saunders, from the University of Bristol in the UK tells the almost incredible story of the warrior’s skeleton that was unearthed in July 1928 by Ivan Borkovský, a Ukrainian archaeologist who is regarded as one of the founding figures of Czech medieval archaeology.
A) Ivan Borkovský, the discoverer and excavator of the Viking/ warrior skeleton burial at Prague Castle in 1928; B) Karel Guth, Head of the Historical Archaeology Department of the National Museum, Prague, and in charge of the Prague Castle excavations. (Cambridge Core / Fair Use)
Having fought for both the Austro-Hungarians and Russians, Borkovský arrived in Czechoslovakia in 1920 but in an interview with IFL Science Dr. Saunders said questions over Borkovský’s Czech citizenship meant he “never published a study of his discovery of the warrior.” But today's archaeologists are much clearer about the warrior skeleton’s identity and origins.
Photograph of the warrior skeleton in his grave shortly after excavation in 1928. Source: Cambridge Core / Fair Use.
The sword tells archaeologists that the man lived between 800 and 1000 AD, but this weapon was different from almost 1,500 other early medieval graves found in Prague Castle. He was also found buried with “diverse objects, not necessarily from the local area,” according to the paper.
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The warrior skeleton grave included a sword, a bucket, fire-steel, flint, a razor, knives, and an axe. (Cambridge Core / Fair Use)
The warrior’s identity was claimed as Nordic by the Nazis to support their delusion that the entirety of central Europe was of Norse origin. It was also picked up by both the Soviets and the Czechs to align with their political agendas.
In an interview with IFL Science Dr. Saunders said, “He [the warrior] was caught up in the maelstrom of the 20th-century wars and the shifting political ideologies that went with them” and he states that the dead warrior was “weaponized politically”.
How To Weaponize A Dead Warrior’s Skeleton
Step 1. Choose a racist political agenda, any one, it doesn’t matter. Step 2. Commit to murdering anyone miss-aligned with one’s chosen racist political agenda. Step 3. Take over neighboring countries and select pieces of their archaeology to blatantly misinterpret and vow to shoot anyone who contradicts your bizarre claims and rewriting of mainstream history.
By 1939, the German army had occupied Czechoslovakia and Nazi intellectuals were rewriting history to suit their own needs, and in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's 1993 book Occult Roots of Nazis Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology we learn how the “influential occult and millenarian sects in the Habsburg Empire combined notions of popular nationalism with an advocacy of Aryan racism and a proclaimed need for German world-rule”.
Arno Breker's sculpture Die Partei / The Party, demonstrating the ideal characteristics of a Nordic Aryan. (DIREKTOR / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Professor Saunders’ paper discusses Nazi ideology, that he maintains is built on a “pseudo-scientific occult/archaeological Nordic supremacy argument” aimed at supporting their ideas that the greater part of Central Europe was German, Nordic-Viking in origin.
When the Nazis came across the warrior’s skeletal remains in 1939 it quickly became an ancient Nordic-Viking and having found ‘one of their own’ it was used in “justifying their occupation of the country [Czechoslovakia],” according to the paper. What’s more, the Nazis also applied the skeleton in their claim that Prague Castle was not of Slavic origins, but that it had been built by “ancient Aryan Germanic people”.
Is Anyone Looking? Let’s Have A Quick Origins Change!
Knowing what we know about the Nazis and their ruthless tactics in dealing with anyone deemed to be against their cause, you would think that the last thing anyone in their right mind would do would be to write a book about the “oldest Slavic pottery in central Europe,” but this is precisely what Borkovský did.
Having successfully infuriated the Nazis, whose agenda aimed at proving a Nordic based history, an article on Cambridge.org titled Zeitgeist archaeology: conflict, identity and ideology at Prague Castle, 1918–2018 explains that to avoid being consigned to a concentration camp Borkovský’s book was published with heavily slanted pro-Nazi sub-plots.
Moving the burial block of the grave of the warrior skeleton to the Prague Castle storerooms in 1928. (Cambridge Core / Fair Use)
After the 1945 collapse of the Nazis, Czechoslovakia was then occupied by the Soviets and according to the new paper, “Borkovský’s action as an anti-Communist before the war led to the threat of imprisonment in a Gulag unless the mysterious skeleton was portrayed in line with the Soviet idea of history”. Without much of a choice Borkovský presented the warrior as a western Slavic nobleman of the Przemyslid dynasty.
Warrior Arrives In The Nick Of Time
After retelling the highs and lows of Borkovský’s archaeological works the paper asks whether “the old debate of whether this man was Germanic or Slavonic is simply a symptom of 20th-century ideologies?” In reality, argue the authors, the identity of people in the Middle Ages did not adhere to the nationalistic categories that we applied when the debate was raging in the 1940s.
It is suggested that the man may have thought of himself as red-blooded Viking warrior, which is indicated by some of the grave goods, but he might have actually been a Slavonic warrior and maybe a leader who lived “a widely traveled, adventurous, and belligerent existence, before being laid to rest beneath what was to become Prague Castle,” the study concludes.
The skeleton of this early ‘European’ leader is a potent example of identity politics where ideologies forced multiple mis-interpretations to match whichever political upheaval was unfolding. What is somewhat ironic is that the sleeping warrior resurfaced after 900 years just in time to be embroiled in the Russian Civil War, Czechoslovakia’s independence, WWII, and the German occupation of Europe - not to mention the Cold War and Soviet occupation, and the Velvet Revolution.
Top image: Photograph of the warrior skeleton in the exhibition ‘The Story of Prague Castle’ at Prague Castle. Source: Jan Gloc / Heritage Route
By Ashley Cowie