A rare find of 12th century artefacts belonging to two medieval warlords has been discovered by a badger.

The woodland creature unearthed the hoard of bronze bowls, arrow heads, an elaborate belt buckle shaped like a snake and a huge double-edged sword in Germany.

The animal kept the artefacts, which used to belong to a pair of Slavic lords, in its sett which it later abandoned. Skeletal remains of the warlords were discovered alongside the objects near a town in the state of Brandenburg.

Archaeologists were also excited because unusually the burial site was pagan yet dates from a time when Christianity was firmly rooted in the country.

The badger's part in freeing the artefacts from the soil came to light when two sculpture artists spotted a bone while preparing a show near the animal's sett which had been abandoned.

Lars Wilhelm and Hendrikje Ring told German news magazine Der Spiegel: "He's [the badger] the one who discovered it.

"We spotted a pelvic bone that had been dug up. It was clearly human. It wasn't exactly surprising to us because a whole field of ancient graves had been found on the other side of the road in the 1960s.

"So we pushed a camera into the badger's sett and took photos by remote control. We found pieces of jewellery, retrieved them and contacted the authorities."

Expert analysis of the human remains revealed that both men were fighters who possibly died violent deaths.

Brandenburg archaeologist Thomas Kersting found one skeleton had several sword wounds to the skull and a healed fracture consistent with a fall from a horse.

He said: "There were healed marks from sword strikes on his skull. It's really impressive, especially as he was relatively small. He was a tough guy," said Kersting.

A sword measuring more than a metre long was found at the skeleton's side.

The sword of the second man was missing and may have been stolen by grave-robbers.