The Headless Horseman is a legend common to folklore around the world. In Ireland, he’s the terrifying dúlachán; in India, the heroic jhinjhār. But in Germany, it seems something got lost in translation – instead of a headless man on a horse, they got it the other way about.
An archaeological excavation of an ancient cemetery near Knittlingen, in southern Germany, has revealed a perplexing discovery: the 1400-year-old grave of a man buried with a decapitated horse.
The human remains belonged to the owner of the horse; the burial was made about 1,400 years ago and belongs to the era of the Merovingian dynasty (A.D. 476–750), whose rule extended from central Europe to modern France.
According to Folke Damminger, an archaeologist in charge of research at the site, “He stood in a ‘chain of command’ with the Merovingian kings on its top, which meant he was obliged to participate in the king’s campaigns.”
Archaeologists do not know why the horse was buried beheaded, but perhaps it was part of the funeral ceremony, and the horse was placed nearby as “grave goods” and not as a sacrifice. It is reported that the head of the animal was not found near the burial site.