Edited by



Table of contents

::- - - rial

Erzsebet Jerem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 7


Harald Meller. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 8

L lIntroduction

Francois Bertemes - Peter F Biehl

The Archaeology of Cult and Religion. An Introduction 11

yrnbols of the Other World: Representation and Imagery

Robert H Layton

• tersubjectivity and Understanding Rock Art 27

S "end Hansen

" "eolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem 37

~ er Banffy

" "otes on the Connection between Human

d Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic 53

Dragos Gheorghiu

The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalco lithic. A Holographic Approach 73

John Chapman

o ject Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe 89

"f!JIad Petrovic

The 'Smiting God' and Religious Syncretism in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. . . . . . . . . . . .. 107

III. Sacred or Profane: Conceptions of Cult Places

Katarzyna Marciniak

Ideology and Material Culture. The Creation of a Religious Cult Place of Worship 123

Vassil Nikolov

Neolithic Cult Assemblages from the Early Neolithic Settlement at Slatina, Sofia 133

Christina Marangou

Sacred or Secular Places and the Ambiguous Evidence of Prehistoric Rituals 139

Ruth D. Whitehouse A Tale of Two Caves.

The Archaeology of Religious Experience in Mediterranean Europe


Felipe Criado Boado - Manuel Santos Estevez - Victoria Villoch Vazquez

Forms of Ceremonial Landscapes in Iberia from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

An Essay on an Archaeology of Perception 169

Elena Antonacci Sanpaolo

Cults and Transhumance in the Ancient Daunia. The Example ofTiati 179

IV. Life and Death: Interpreting Mortuary Practices

Michel Notelid

The Ritual Issue in a Science. 'Presupposing a Corpse' 193

Evien Neustupny

The Origin of Megalithic Architecture in Bohemia and Moravia 203

Marina Milicevic Bradac

Treatment of the Dead at the Eneolithic Site of Vucedol, Croatia 209

Jan Turek

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance 219

Christian Schuster - Alexandra Comsa

Burial Rites and Rituals of the Bronze Age in Southeastern Romania 235

Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Warriors and Priestesses of the Eurasian Nomads 243

Martin Bartelheim - Volker Heyd

Cult after Burial: Patterns of Post-funeral Treatment

in the Bronze and Iron Ages of Central Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 261

V. Commentary

Jean-Paul Demoule

Archaeology of Cult and Religion:

A Comment, or How to Study Irrationality Rationally 279

List of Contributors 285

The Archaeology of Cult and Religion: An Introduction FRANCOIS BERTEMES - PETER F. BIEHL

Studying cult and religion in pre- and protohistoric times is as ambitious as it is ambiguous. It means mixing archaeology, ethnology, socio-cultura1 anthropology, religious studies and psychology in an attempt to reconstruct belief systems surrounding artifacts, sites and what are often only traces of material culture. As many before us have pointed out, this is a delicate field. It is also one that pushes us to ask questions fundamental to our discipline: How close can we come to understanding the workings of the "ancient mind"? 1 Is it possible to reconstruct the pre- or protohistoric past objectively or are our re-constructions always a reflection of ourselves?' And finally, how far is it reasonable to talk of cult' and religion in the prehistoric past? The answers, we believe, can only be found in studies of material culture, and thus archaeology.

Because of their arbitrary and culturally-constructed nature, cult and religion often get relegated to the category of the archaeologically "unapproachable." We see this as both unfortunate and unnecessary and offer this volume as a first step in altering this disquieting belief. The truth is, most of us regularly deal with "symbolic, cu1tic, religious" material culture or features in our excavations. We just don't like to theorize about our finds. And, since our material is usually speculative, we often shy from incorporating it into our analysis. But what is not "speculative" in archaeological research?

The Volume and the Diverse Archaeologies of Cult and Religion it Embraces

The purpose ofthis book is to reassess what we have been doing in the field of cult and religion, to discover why we have ended up where we are, and to formulate an analytical direction that will enable us to move ahead and better reconstruct the ritual and cult practices and belief systems in preliterate societies.

The papers offer a variety of perspectives on the archaeology of religion, cult, ritual, representation, imagery, structured space, mortuary practices and material culture studies and were selected from two symposia organized by the editors.' Clearly, the training each contributor -·and we ourselves - had and the socio-po1itica1 context of academia and universities in our countries has shaped our thoughts and perceptions. Given that limitation, we have attempted to be aware of our place in contemporary debate in archaeological thought, and to focus in detail on specific areas of study. In selecting the areas, time

I Colin Renfrew defines his approach, which he has labeled "cognitive archaeology," in his book, "The Ancient Mind." The approach studies "past ways of thought as inferred from material culture" (RENFREW 1994: 3). In the book he also makes clear that "any attempt to encompass the archaeology of mind must inevitably consider the archaeological approach towards religion" (RENFREW 1994: 47).

2 For a detailed discussion of this issue and Renfrew's 'reply' to the post-processual criticism, see RENFREW (1994: 9). 3 According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (ONIONS 1973: 470, cited after RENFREW 1985: 15) cult is "a particular form of religious worship; especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies". Religion may be defined as "action or conduct indicating a belief in, or reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power ... : recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence and worship" (ONIONS 1973, 1978, cited after RENFREW 1985: 11-12).

4 Such a view is related to the Binfordian notion that "ideational and religious aspects are akin to 'palaeopsychology'" (BINFORD 1987; cited after RENFREW 1994: 50).

5 Peter F. Biehl and Francois Bertemes organized two consecutive symposia on the "Archaeology of Cult and Religion" at the annual meetings of the European Association of Archaeologists in Ravenna (1997) and Goteborg (1998). We would like to thank the local organizers of those meeting, and also the European Association of Archaeologists for their logistic support for the sessions. As in any project, we, as editors, owe great thanks to the people who helped make this book possible. We gratefully acknowledge and deeply appreciate the dedicated efforts of each of the authors who undertook to write up their conference papers and who willingly agreed to guide their writings through


Franr;ois Bertemes - Peter F Biehl

periods and topics covered in the book, we chose places and periods in European pre- and protohistory where research has been most intensive. The evidence presented is primarily archaeological, but we included some anthropological papers that we felt were complementary. The contributors are all actively involved in scholarly study of the areas their chapters cover, and some are at the forefront of excavation and have included a large amount of new material. Most contributors have looked afresh at their material, presented it accessibly and have offered coherent, yet non-dogmatic interpretations. In discussing their methods and theories used for these interpretations, they stimulate new debate on myth and ritual theory by presenting arguments from culture-historical, processual and post-processual perspectives. This enables us to link archaeology to the growing interdisciplinary fields of cultureanthropological and religious studies.

The result is a picture of staggering diversity. Most of the contributors found strong evidence for religious or cult practices and indications of symbolic-spiritual belief systems, but not necessarily of ancient and lost "religion". The first of the themes that emerge refers us back to the methodological problem: How can cult or religious phenomena be identified? The volume approaches this problem according to three categories, each of which is represented by a chapter in the book. The sections are:

Symbols of the Other World: Representations and Imagery; Sacred or Profane: Conceptions of Cult Places; Life and Death: Interpreting Mortuary Practices. The volume ends with a commentary by JeanPaul Demoule, in which he discusses the merits of individual papers and synthesizes the diverse topics. Clearly, all aspects of the archaeology of cult and religion have not been covered. Notably, we have left aside the issue of hoards. This is mainly because so many recent books have been dedicated to this topic, but also because its complexity justifies classifying in its own domain. We also have covered aspects of Palaeolithic rock carving only in one paper, as it, too, has been thoroughly studied. Instead, we have focused on the broader field of cult objects, places and practices. For us, this book is a kaleidoscope, a multi-faceted lens through which the various overlapping segments of cult and religion can be viewed, discussed and used to shape new ideas and patterns.

The Archaeology of Cult and Religion: A Review

In order to better understand our timidity regarding cult and religion, let us look to its origins.

Close to 50 years ago, Christopher Hawkes elaborated his famous ladder of reliability in archaeological inference in which he insists:

"1. To infer from the archaeological phenomena to the techniques producing them I take to be relatively

easy ....

2. To infer to the subsistence-economies of the human groups concerned is fairly easy ...

3. To infer to the socio/political institutions of the groups, however, is considerably harder.

4. To infer to the religious institutions and spiritual life is the hardest inference of all" (HAWKES 1954: 161-162; after RENFREW 1985: 1).

Thus, Hawkes set up a hierarchy in which studies of past religious and spiritual practices are out of reach for anyone but the most experienced archaeologist. This notion - and implicitly the ladder -

several stages of editing. We also owe a deep debt of thanks to our editor at Archaeolingua Press, Erzsebet Jerem, who agreed to take on this project, remained dedicated to it despite financial delays, and then encouraged and guided it to completion. We would also like to thank Dr. Harald Meller, director of the heritage management of SachsenAnhalt, Germany, for financing this book. Thanks are also due to the staff at Archaeolingua and the students of the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, including Marco Kultus, Susan Muller and Jorg Wicke, who proof read and provided technical editing. Deep gratitude also is owed to lody Kleinberg Biehl, whose diligent copyediting and thorough English language editing contributed in an essential and significant way to this volume. Finally, we dedicate this volume to the renowned specialist of the Linear-PotteryCulture, Honza Rulf, a friend we dearly miss.


Neolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem!





One of the characteristic features of the Neolithic in the Near East, Anatolia and South-East Europe is the manufacture and use of anthropomorphous figural sculpture. The South-East European sculpture of the Neolithic period offers the most extensive and diverse group of human images in European prehistory. With the exception of the Mediterranean, we do not have many human representations from the later prehistoric periods.

Art history books often depict outstanding Neolithic sculptures, (e.g. MELLINK - FILIP 1985) but generally the relatively small number of Palaeolithic statuettes receives the most attention (e.g. DELPORTE 1993; VIALOU 1991). Thus, a comprehensive study of Neolithic figural sculpture has not been done; the only supra-regional studies were written in the sixties (UCKO 1968; HOcKMANN 1968).

The function ofthe mainly small clay figurines is still largely unknown although it is the subject of numerous studies in archaeology and other fields.

According to some interpretations, the figurines were dolls, while others claim they were idols. A full description of these interpretations defies the confines of this paper (see for example MDLLER-KARPE 1968; HOCKMANN 1968; UCKO 1968; T ALALAY 1993). In the present essay, I will outline the characteristic features of Neolithic figural sculpture on a macroscopic level. In order to grasp the phenomenon as an entity for a detailed discussion, I refer to a more extensive study (HANSEN in prep.).

Before I begin, I would like to mention Marija Gimbutas' 1989 book, "The Language of the Goddess" (1989). It is the most popular one written about the figurines and has enjoyed popular appeal outside of archaeology. In the book, Gimbutas treats the statuettes under the central aspect of a "Great Goddess" and considers them as an expression of a past matriarchal culture of "Ancient Europe" (GIMBUTAS 1982). Gimbutas' work had a strong impact on different fields of science and different groups of society. It was highly influential on segments of the feminist movement, while at the same time was critcized by several feminist archaeologists (HUTTON 1997; HAALAND - HAALAND 1995; TALALAY 1994; RODER - HUMMEL - KUNZ 1996).

The interpretation of the figurines as "Great Goddesses" doesn't include the "small differences" in Neolithic sculpture. Its suggestive character is already obvious in the statement that female statuettes prevail and male representations form only a very small group. This impression requires a correction, since the sex of a large number of statuettes isn't defined by the representation of sex characteristics. The search for a "Great Goddess" remains pointless because it isn't even a back-projection of a historical reality but the projection of a mythological concept. In the preface to the Eranos-conference in 1938, Olga FrobeKapteyn wrote: "Die Magna Mater ist undefinierbar. Wir konnen nur in Bildern von ihr reden, oder in Gleichnissen. Wir nennen sie ein Urbild oder einen Archetypus oder auch eine Platonische Idee (..) In jedem Kult heij3t die Gottin anders, aber sie selbst ist in ihrer Vielfdltigkeit immer die Gleiche. Die GroJ3e Mutter als Urkraft oder Prinzip enthdlt und um/aJ3t alle weiblichen Gottheiten, ob sie Mutter Erde oder Mutter Natur, Ischtar, Isis, Astarte, Artemis, Hekate, Demeter, Maria oder Sophia heijien (..) Die GroJ3e Mutter ist heute ebenso lebendig wie sie vonjeher war." (FROBE-KAPTEYN 1938, unpaged preface). The papers given at the Eranos-conference in 1938 already contain the essential conceptions and historical constructs which are fundamental for the work ofMarija Gimbutas. Even the view that "Indo-European" conquerors, characterised by stock breading, iron working and patriarchal institutions, were responsible for the destruction of the mother-religion is expressed (PRZYLUSKI 1938).

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I This article is an extended version of a paper given at the EAA-Conference in Ravenna and I thank Peter Biehl and Francois Bertemes for the invitation to Ravenna. I thank Andrea Streily for the translation of the text. I thank A. Kuczminsky for the drawings in figure 1, 7.10; 2-3.


Svend Hansen

Although today only few scholars share Gimbutas' pointed interpretation, the majority agrees that the figurines are objects with a broadly-based, magic-religious meaning that were used to ensure a healthy birth, as part of initiation rites or other "rites de passage". Most of these interpretations focus on fertility, which was a necessity for agrarian societies, and was allegedly symbolised by these mainly female figurines. The round belly of many statuettes is often interpreted as a sign of pregnancy and thereby of fertility (MATEEscu - VOINESCU 1982).

Since the statuettes are called an integral part of the "Revolution des Symboles au Neolithique" (CAUVIN 1994) many archaeologists obviously attach great importance to these small figurines for the description and reconstruction of prehistoric religion.

Other archaeologists carefully avoid a religious interpretation. Ethnological studies of figurines show that they were used for a broad variety of purposes. Therefore, they propose a multifunctional use of Neolithic figurines, some as idols, others as toys for children (e.g. UCKO 1968; BROMAN MORALES 1990; TALALAY 1993).

Recent investigations in a spatially and temporally broad perspective, i.e. conceptualising the stylistically varied material under a formal, typological or functional aspect, are lacking. This leads to a reductive assessment of single-find complexes accompanied by impoverished and arbitrary interpretations. Referring to Victor Turner, Lauren Talalay rightly considers the many dimensions of symbolic expression (multivocal, multivalent, polysemous) and the multifunctional character of the statuettes, but resignedly states, "the prospect of designing a comprehensive framework would be akin to a Herculean labor" (TALALAY 1993, XV).

The widespread opinion, that the remarkable formal variety of the statuettes includes different functions, e.g. idols and toys, only pretends to be differentiated. This opinion is based on a general ethnographic catalogue of the functions of small human figurines without any well foundedcorrelation to the Neolithic material (see UCKO 1968). Such problems of interpretation correspond to an overwhelming number of publications of figurines from excavation sites.

Because the figural sculpture is unquestionably an eminent source for cultural history and belongs to the most interesting elements of Neolithic culture, increasing efforts for its interpretation are necessary. Before working on the figurines, it is useful to make clear the framework of any interpretation, which is mainly determined by the lack of written sources ..

The basic requirement is an analysis of the finds. Indications for the use may be gained through an analysis of the archaeological contexts (BANFFY 1990-91). It is relevant if the statuettes were, for example, found in or outside of houses, as single-finds or together with other objects, in a deposit or dump, if they served as grave goods etc.

But the analysis of find contexts of figurines is also limited. The criteria for a ritual context are not always clear (e.g. FOWLER 1985). A two-room building of the late Starcevo period in Madzari (Macedonia) has been interpreted as a temple for a fertility cult or the cult ofthe "Mother Goddess" (SANEV 1988, 29). The architecture, the "cult objects" and the great number of vessels have been used as proof of this argument. The problem is that the architecture of the so-called temple doesn't differ from the other three houses in Tumba Madzari either in shape or size (see plan in MOSKALEVSKA - SANEV 1989, 57 with fig.). The hearths interpreted as altars also fit easily into a domestic context. With the possible exception of askoi - which were used to determine a building in Nea Nikomedeia as a cult building - the pottery finds don't show sacral evidence (RODDEN 1964a, 114: Taf. 2B, 3A; 4A-B; RODDEN 1990,58; RODDEN 1964b, 604ff.). Finds from Cerje indicate that askoi were a regional vessel shape characteristic for Macedonia, rather than a specific cult vessel (see BILBlJA 1985, 36.) In the case of Madzari, the interpretation as sanctuary seems to derive from the excellent preservation of the archaeological remains and of course from the statuettes find inside.

Here we have a classic example for a vicious circle: the houses are interpreted as cult-buildings because of the figurines and the statuettes are identified as sacral objects because they were found in what has been determined a "cult-building". The situation for statuettes from the so-called bothroi is similar. At present, no methodology exists to distinguish between sacrificial pits and storage pits. Ritual and profane rubbish seems to be similar.

Neolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem



A different approach is to study the spatial and temporal distribution of the statuettes in a broad perspective (Hansen, in prep.). The emergence of Neolithic figural sculpture is closely linked with the rise of agricultural economies in the Fertile Crescent and its diffusion to Europe. Therefore, the statuettes are suitable artefacts to study cultural connections in extent areas. Here, the material suggests the approach. The abundance of figurines excavated and published in the last 30 years facilitates a comprehensive study, even though a complete catalogue including all finds is not feasible. Subsequently, I attempt to develop different criteria for the interpretation of statuettes without taking into consideration ethnographic or historical analogies.

Palaeolithic Beginnings


Until a few years ago "Venus-statuettes" of the Gravettian and the earliest Neolithic statuettes in the Near East could not be linked. On a chronological level, continuity in the manufacture of small human figurines was impossible to trace. Nevertheless, the mainly female figurines were seen as symbols of "fertility" despite of their different economic and social backgrounds. Based on recent finds and on calibrated radiocarbon dates, today a picture that differs greatly from earlier research can be drawn.

Anthropomorphous figurines were made since the Gravettien in a considerable number also of clay (VANDIVER ET AL. 1989). One of the numerous prejudices about the so-called Venus-statuettes is that all these figurines are depictions of voluptuous women with big breasts, a distinct belly and pronounced representation of the pudenda. Actually, only a small number of statuettes correspond to this cliche, The famous "Venus" ofWillendorfand the "Venus" of Moravany (ZOTZ 1968; Fig. 1.5) belong to this first group.

The majority of statuettes do not show pronounced genitals. They do, however, have female sex characteristics and, therefore, they clearly depict women. The sculptures of Kostenki, Avdeevo, Khotylevo and Gagarino belong to this second group (see ABRAMOVA 1962; GVOZDOVER 1995).

I call the third group of statuettes ambiguous representations (ambivalente Darstellungen). According to our visual habits, we read the statuette of Mauern (ZOTZ 1955; Fig. 1.4) as a condensed female statuette. At a closer look, we can equally detect a phallus with testicles. Pendants from Dolni Vestonice are just as ambiguous (Fig. 1.2). Denis Vialou (1991) interprets their shape as male genitals. At the same time, the artist engraved some lines below the penis on the front side to show the female triangle and vulva. Thus, the testicles can be read as well as the opened legs of a woman. This throws a new light on the famous statuette from Lespugue (Fig. 1.1). Looking at its back-side, one can detect two figurines which correspond to the so called "playing card" from Laussel (VIALOU 1991, 101 Abb.97). Turning the front side by 180 degrees (Fig. 1.1), the shape of a phallic pendant like those from Dolni Vestonice appears.

A through study of Palaeolithic statuettes shows that at least three groups of representations can be distinguished. Hence, fertility symbolised by female forms doesn't exist.

Concerning the question of continuity, it is remarkable that the ambiguous group of Palaeolithic figurines is comparable to the earliest Near Eastern statuettes in the Natufian. First, the outstanding figurine from Ain Sakhri (BOYD - COOK 1993; Fig. 1.6) must be mentioned. It depicts a squatted couple presumably during sexual intercourse. A closer look at this figurine reveals the ambiguous character of the representation; the same figurine can equally be read as a phallus. There are also pendants in the tradition of those from Dolni Vestonice. And the stone-figurines of the slightly later Khiamian (Fig. 1.7) can both be read as a female statuette and as a phallus.

Since the Gravettian, continuity in the production of human figurines existed (also of clay).

Therefore, there is no break between Palaeolithic and Neolithic figural sculpture. The earliest statuettes in the Near East are roughly contemporary with the latest statuettes of the European Palaeolithic. From this, a genetic relationship between European and Near Eastern figural art cannot be deduced, although it cannot be excluded. At this point emphasis must put on the fact that the production of anthropomorphous sculpture shows a historical continuum. The distribution map of Palaeolithic figural sculpture makes

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obvious that the spatial distance between the West-European and Ukrainian sculpture is roughly the same as the distance between the Ukrainian and Israeli sculpture. Thus, there is no reason to avoid comparisons because of distances.

Neolithic Inventions

Palaeolithic and Neolithic statuettes have only few formal similarities in common, including the frequent representation of women. Indeed, there is an evident break between Palaeolithic and Neolithic sculpture. In the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (PPNA; 9th millennium) new types of representation and formal means of expression were invented. While Palaeolithic statuettes can't stand on their bent-in legs and hold their head bowed down, Neolithic figurines constitute something basically new. Now we find standing (e.g. from Mureybet, Fig. 1.8) and seated figurines (e.g. from Netiv Hagdud; Fig. 1.9). The upper part of the body leans slightly back, the head is embedded in the neck and the glance turns toward the sky.

This significant formal change in figural art took place in a period when the gathering of wild plants was replaced by the cultivation of cereals but before the domestication of animals. In the Early PrePottery Neolithic, ambiguous representations disappear and female statuettes prevail in quantity. In this early phase of the "Neolithic Revolution" (10th-8th millennium), all formal details of the statuettes relevant for the later development of the Neolithic in the Balkan have been developed. Details can be found in the seemingly formless and primitive clay figurines from Early Neolithic Cayonii (BROMAN MORALES 1990) and in elaborate statuettes e.g. the Chalcolithic female figurine from Pazardjik (ANGELI 1976: Taf. 1). The dissimilarities between Balcanic and Near Eastern sculpture should also be noticed. Perhaps one of the most striking one is the lack of large stone and clay figures in South-East Europe, where only the outstanding sculpture of Lepenski Vir could be mentioned. Large stone sculpture and clay statues were excavated in the Pre-Pottery-Neolithic B (PPNB) settlement of Ain Ghazal (WALKER TUBB - GRISSOM 1995), Nevali Cori (HAUPTMANN 1993) and recently Gobekli Tepe (SCHMIDT 1997).

In addition to the significant change of posture, other important innovations can be recognised. Clay became the prevailing, almost exclusive material for the manufacture of statuettes, while stone was rarely used. Bone as material for the production of statuettes was not used during the entire Neolithic period (also in South-East Europe). Statuettes were only manufactured from bone in the Romanian and Bulgarian Chalco lithic period. The formal innovations of the Early Neolithic period include the Kauri-shaped eyes erroneously called coffee bean-eyes. They occur in the Fertile Crescent and in South East Europe. A new type of representation includes female statuettes whose hands rest below or on their breasts. In addition to the statuettes, "prototypes" for other Neolithic symbols in the Balkan were invented, including house-models and theriomorphous vessels in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (PPNB) and anthropomorphous vessels in the Hassuna-period,

The Social Background

While sculpture emerged in Epipalaeolithic times in the Levant and continued to exist without break into historical times, the manufacture of figurines ceased in Europe at the end of the Palaeolithic period in Mesolithic times. Even if the production of anthropomorphous figurines or more generally of art is sometimes understood as part of a philosophically and theologically reflected conditio humana, the archaeological and historical evidence suggests another interpretation. In regard to economics, sculpture-producing societies show remarkable similarities.

Since the Gravettian in Eurasia complex, we have found hunter-societies with specialised hunting, partial sedentism and food storage (TESTART 1982, 523ff.; TESTART 1988, lff.; HAYDEN 1990, 3lff.). These societies obviously had a social and religious demand for figurines. Climate change in Mesolithic Europe caused these economic and social bases to decay and thus the demand for anthropomorphous



, .



Neolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem


sculpture didn't longer exist. In the Levant for the first time, complex hunter societies rose in the Natufian in connection with specialised gazelle hunting, sedentism and storage techniques (BELFERCOHEN 1991; BAR YOSEF - MEADOW 1995). It cannot be by chance that anthropomorphous sculpture just developed in the Natufian. European and Levantine sculpture can be understood in the context of social organisation of complex hunter societies.

Regarding the variety of types in Palaeolithic sculpture, it can be assumed that the statuettes fulfilled different, yet complementary functions. Presumably they were used to express different precarious social relations, like the relationship between men and women or social ranks, which are of increasing importance in complex hunter societies. Representations, for example, of adornment on statuettes indicate differentiated social ranks in the late Palaeolithic period. G.-Chr. WENIGER (1991, 101) pointed out thai beads as adornment played an important role in the material equipment of Palaeolithic hunters and gatherers because the style of adornment and garments supported solidarity among groups and helped segregate groups from each other. From this consideration it can be concluded that the social position of individuals in a group is symbolised by body adornment. The use of adornment reflects not only a human basic need, but is an integral part ofthe social organisation.

The demand for this kind of sculpture continues to exist in the Near East wherever we find early traces for the development of a Neolithic economy. A new formal distinct sculpture occurs in the permanent settlements in the Early Neolithic of the Near East. The ambiguous statuettes only playa role at the periphery where they possibly form an integral part of an anti-model to th;tevantine Neolithic, like on Cyprus (RONEN 1993; Fig. 1.10-12).

The formal innovations in figural art at the beginning of the Neolithic period, the beginning of an agrarian way of life and the rejection of traditional representations connected with hunters and their tradition in the periphery shows that the meaning of the sculpture has successively changed. But, the demand for symbols as a means of differentiation, marking, counting etc. of property (of human beings, cattle or food) seems to be much greater in the Early Neolithic settlements like Ain Ghazal or Nevah Cori as in the settlements of the Natufian. For this, the large number of geometric clay objects interpreted as calculi may be indicative. Long before the creation of pottery, calculi were made of clay, as were figurines (SCHMANDT-BESSERAT 1992; 1997). A later find from the Halaf level 6 in Sabi Abyad supports this suggested link because statuettes, clay objects and a large number of seals were found in the same three rooms (AKKERMANS - VERHOEVEN 1995, 5ff.).

Arrival, Rising and Disappearing in the Balkan

Finally, it seems clear that Neolithic sculpture in South-East Europe derived from Near-Easteml Anatolian sculpture of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. This results not only from the fact that so far no autotechthonous Mesolithic precursors are known, but also from the stunning uniformity of representational types and design principles of Neolithic "idols" in the Balkans. The adoption of anthropomorphous sculpture and enigmatic objects like house-models or theriomorphous or anthropomorphous clay vessels in South-East Europe occurs directly through colonisation or as a part of the diffusion of the Neolithic package. The present research does not allow a clear decision between these possibilities, since both colonisation and diffusion of artefacts occurred, as shown by M. GZDOGAN (1995, 1997) in Thrace. Concrete analogies between the sculpture in the Balkans and in the Near East do not exist, partly due to the state of research.

From the Early Neolithic settlement in Slatina at the Eastern border of Sofia comes a fragment of a bottle-shaped vessel with a painted human face (NIKOLOV - GRIGOROVA - SIRAKOVA 1992). The closest parallels for this vessel can be found in Anatolia and in the Near East (IPPOLITONI STRlKA 1992, 71 ff.). In Hacilarllevel I, several face-vessels were excavated showing different details, e.g. in the representation of the eyes (MELLAART 1970 fig. 525, fig. 235). It can also be compared with a face-vessel from Tell Hassuna/level V (LLOYD - SAFAR 1945, 255ff; Fig. 1.2) linking the Tigris to the East Balkans. The existing radiocarbon dates do not contradict this link, but since there are so few of them, they should


Svend Hansen

not be overestimated.? The formal uniformity of the three face-vessels can hardly be interpreted as an accidental phenomenon. They indicate that the area between the Danube and Tigris was linked by a communication network (Fig. 2). L. FRANZ (1926, 399) called the entire area from Bohemia to SouthEast Europe and Greece, from Anatolia to the Iran the ''Near Eastern Group" of the Neolithic period, which is also caracterised by clay sculptures. The three face vessels exemplify that South-East European figural sculpture directly depends on N ear Eastern and Anatolian sculpture. The stylistic development underwent several changes over time. This is not surprising considering the different regional styles in the Near East during the seventh and sixth millennia.

The end of figural sculpture in South-East Europe can only briefly be outlined. The sculpture ceased abruptly, but not simultaneously in South-East Europe. For example, in the Carpathian basin, it took place earlier than in the East Balkans. But, everywhere the end of the production of figurines was enduring: In the following period anthropomorphous sculpture was only sporadically produced.

In the Bronze Age a significant difference between geographic areas is evident. In the Near East and in the Aegean, figural sculpture shows continuity to earlier sculpture and clearly has a sacral function. In Bronze Age Europe sculpture is completely absent besides very few local exceptions (e.g. Cima). There is a profound change of symbols, the background of which is still unknown. It is conceivable that the decline of the production of figurines and the emergence of copper and bronze-hoards (RUTTKAY 1982, lff.; HANSEN 1994, 266ff. 371ff.) are connected. Hence, it is necessary to describe the symptoms of this change.

This abrupt change considerably confines the interpretation of figural sculpture. Both aspects, the sudden end of figural art in South-East Europe and the continuation ofthe production in the Near East and in the Aegean, point to the question, why did the production not only of idols, but also of dolls ceased in Bronze Age Europe?

Some Clues Towards an Explanation

The study of formal features of figural sculpture in a broad temporal and spatial perspective shows that during the Early Neolithic period in the Near East a new type of human representation was developed which differs from Palaeolithic sculpture. This new type of representation remained oscigatory during the Neolithic and Chalco lithic period in South-East Europe. This is a compelling argument against an interpretation of the figurines as dolls. The resounding formal uniformity of the statuettes can rather be seen as an indication that the figurines transferred distinct ideas. In this sense, they seem to be a religious phenomenon. Since this is a relatively vague definition, a more detailed explanation is required. Subsequently, case studies should be used to elucidate three complementary hypotheses concerning the function of figural art.

1. Neolithic figural sculpture is an integral part and expression ofreligious belief-systems by playing a role in differentiated rituals.

Under this point of view, the regionally varied occurrence of sculpture can be explained. It is known that the reception of figural sculpture in South-East Europe and in West and Central Europe did not take place to the same extent. Some Neolithic groups did not use sculpture at all, or only in a limited way. Three brief examples will illustrate this point.

First, I would like to draw the attention to the sculpture ofN eolithic Cyprus. Despite its location near the Levant and the South Anatolian coast, small clay figurines are absent on Cyprus. The only exception is an outstanding head from Khirokitia. Instead, we find a number of stone figurines of ambiguous or clear phallic character (Fig. 1.10-12). These ambiguous and phallic sculptures were produced in the

2 There is one date from Hassuna V (W-660) 7040±200 B.P. - 6041-5681 cal. BC and one date from Hacilar Ia (P-315) 6990±121 B.P. - 5893-5718 cal. BC. The dates from Slatina I fall in the first quarter of the sixth millennium.

Neolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem


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Pre-Pottery-Neolithic period (Khirokitia, Fig. 1.11) and in the Pottery-Neolithic period (Sotira-culture, e.g. Sotira Fig. 1.12). It is very difficult to find contemporary parallels for this sculpture. The Khiamianfigurines mentioned above are earlier than the Cypriote figurines. It seems clear that the sculpture of Cyprus ties into this pre-agricultural tradition of figurine-types. Roughly contemporary is a stonephallus from Tepe Guran in the Zagros-mountains (Fig. 1.13). In addition to the figurines, there are other fundamental differences between Cyprus and the mainland: round houses on Cyprus, rectangular houses on the mainland, fallow deer on Cyprus and cattle, sheep and goats on the mainland as domestic animals. A. RONEN (1995) suggested in a seminal essay that the reason for this specific development on Cyprus might be religious self-isolation or in a positive formulation: the search for a better way oflife.

As a second example I refer to the Linear-Pottery culture. The figural sculpture of the LinearPottery culture (with exception of the Alfold-Linear-Pottery culture) is extremely limited in quantity and of mediocre quality, but its stylistic variety is striking. On the one hand, the sculpture is contrary to the stylistic uniformity of the pottery. On the other hand, it differs from the uniform style of figurine-types in the different Early and Middle Neolithic cultures in South-East Europe. The often fragmentary "figurines" of the Linear-Pottery culture were in most cases actually used as vesselappliques. Presumably the sculpture didn't belong to the cultural equipment of Linear-Pottery culture. In this context the spatial distribution of sculpture is noticeable. It is concentrated in certain regions, like South-Hessen, Central Germany and Moravia/Lower Austria, but there are singular finds in other regions, too. It seems remarkable to me that the sculpture remained essentially restricted to the settlement area of the Earliest Linear-Pottery culture. Paradoxically, this is also true for the sculpture of the Earlier and Later Linear-Pottery culture, which is confined to its primary area of distribution. Statuettes have only rarely been found in the area of the Later Linear-Pottery culture (Fig. 3). This means that the second colonisation got along without statuettes.

A third example shows the extensive contrast of the use of sculpture between groups with Impresso and Cardial pottery on the one hand, and groups with painted pottery on the other hand. We still don't know of a single statuette in the entire area of the Cardial/Impresso Pottery in North-Africa, on the Iberian Peninsula, in France and the Adriatic. It is difficult to decide whether there was a ban on pictures of human beings or whether there was no demand for small figurines. But, in the Early Neolithic period the manufacture and use of statuettes was restricted to the geographic area from Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Greece to the Balkans and sporadically to Central Europe. This significant difference, observable in an extended area and over a long period, seems to reflect differing cultural and religious orientations.

Assuming that the statuettes represent a part of a "religious belief-system," the above mentioned examples - Cyprus, the Linear Pottery - and the Impresso-Pottery-culture - can be interpreted as Neolithic groups, which reject the Levantine-Anatolian-Balkan system of beliefs (for presumably different and unknown reasons).

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2. Among the agrarian societies which produced human images since the 10th millennium, the statuettes expressed social differences between individuals and groups.

Under the collective term "differentiation" I summarise different aspects for the use of statuettes.

This term relates to the function of statuettes as a mean to categorize social relations. All historic societies developed classification systems to order the social and natural world. The different natural and social phenomena were classified in such a way that "necessary relations" between the objects were constructed (LEVI-STRA.USS 1981a, 22; 1981b, 49ff.). Here, there is no need to explain the background and the mechanisms of classification in detail. But it should be stressed that the different systems of classification vary among societies and that there is no regular correlation, e.g. between the modes of production and the logic of classification. The statuettes can be studied under the aspect if they are suitable as "models" ofthinking.

To begin with, arguments can be given to support the assumption that figurines were used as calculi.

In the Near East, statuettes belong to the earliest clay objects aside from geometric tokens. I already referred to Sabi Abyad, where statuettes, tokens and seals were found in the same context. The need

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Svend Hansen

to count people consists, for example, in the organisation of kinship-relations and marriages between several family lineages. Talalay gave a similar interpretation for figurine legs from Southern Greece (TALALAY 1987; TALALAY 1993,46). Since the ethnologically observed exchange of women takes place as delayed reciprocity, there is always an imbalance of families which give away women and families which get women. Therefore, it is necessary to register the outstanding debts and future obligations (e.g. Omrz 1988).

Another example of a differentiated model is the above mentioned representation of sex characteristics. As early as in the Palaeolithic period, statuettes with the "right" proportion of sex according to our classification existed. But, statuettes without sex-characteristics or with too many of them also occurred. The same is true in the Neolithic period. Of five enthroned figurines of the TiszaCulture from Szegvar- Tukoves (see KOREK 1990), for example, one has no sex attributes (statuette I), one has only a half, i.e. only breasts (statuette II; statuette III is fragmented) and in two cases, doubled sexattributes, i.e. breasts and penis (statuettes IV and V) are represented. The same phenomenon could be illustrated by several other examples (CHAPMAN 1996, 224s. Tab. 3) but the problem can't be extensively treated in this place. However, it indicates that the social construct of gender, i.e. the basic classification of the society (TYRELL 1989), was demonstrated by certain details of the figurines.

In this context, another detail of the figurines is of importance. In a few, but not all Neolithic and Cha1coIithic cultures in South-East Europe, statuettes are decorated with symbolic elements. In the case of Cha1colithic sculpture in Bulgaria, it has been demonstrated that distinct motives of decoration are found in a specific place on the figurines. Thus, they are not just decoration but an integral part of a complex information system (BIEHL 1996, lS2ff.). Beyond this, E. RUTTKAY (1997) has recently shown that symbols with a religious meaning in the sixth and fifth millenium were widely distributed from the Black Sea to the Middle Danube.

Another form of differentiation which can be expressed by statuettes involves social hierarchies.

The Cha1colithic cemetery of Varna is an example where figurines as grave goods relate to the wealth centre in the middle of the cemetery. In South-East Europe, it is evident that the characteristic decoration of pottery corresponds to the stylistic regionalism of sculpture. The same tendency is observable in the Middle and Late Neolithic Pottery period in Mesopotamia and in the Levant (Sotto, Hassuna, Samarra, Halaf, Yarmuk). Therefore, it can be assumed that sculpture expressed social relations within a settlement community. Differences between settlement-communities can also be expressed in marked stylistic peculiarities and types of representation. These differences in the reception of figural art among the Neolithic cultures in South-East Europe on the one side and on the other side in Central and West Europe can be interpreted as deliberate segregations.

It can be assumed that the use of anthropomorphous figurines in agrarian societies was quite different in South-East Europe, as indicated by archaeological find contexts (BANFFY 1990-91).

On the other hand, several trends in the manufacture of figural sculpture which can be understood as the invention of tradition are recognisable. In this context, the striking continuity of sculpture in East Hungary serves as an example. From the Alfold-Linear-Pottery until the Tisza culture, i.e. for a period of around 1000 years, the heads of the figurines show the same triangular shape and a fiat, upwards-turned face.

Size is another feature. In the Starcevo-settlement in Gladnice near Pristina, Kosovo, (JOVANOVIC 1992) fragments of a sculpture with a reconstructed height of 90 em were excavated. It is the largest coroplastic human representation in Early Neolithic South-East Europe. It should be mentioned that we have discovered a large number of miniatures of the same type. With a height of around 90 cm we cannot label it monumental (GARASANIN 1979, 137), nevertheless the figure of Gladnice possesses an exceptional size for the Neolithic sculpture in South-East Europe. Remarkable is the hitherto neglected fact that we find another example for large statues in the Late Vinca-period, also in the area around Pristina, Kosovo (GALOvIc 1966, 370f. pl. 93). It is therefore possible that, despite the incompleteness of the archaeological record, a regional tradition in sculpture existed. It likely began in the Starcevo II-period and ended during the final stages of the Vinca period. This is, of course, not only a tradition in the manufacture, but also of the specific use of such large human images.

Neolithic Sculpture. Some Remarks on an Old Problem



As a third example, I refer to statuettes as grave goods. Only very few examples exist in the whole distribution area of figural sculpture, from the Fertile Crescent to the Rhine. The occurrence of Neolithic and Chalcolithic statuettes in larger quantities especially around the Black Sea is highly significant. They are found in graves of the Hamangia-culture, in the cemetery of Varna and the Cucuteni- Tripoljeculture.


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3. The emergence of sculpture corresponds to the social complexity of a society.

In this third approach, one would study the social complexity of groups with sculpture in order to consider the situation we have in the Palaeolithic and Early Neolithic periods in the Near East. This does not exclude, but complements the first hypothesis (figurines as objects with sacral function) and the second hypothesis (figurines as vehicles of identity and segregation) .

In the Near East and in South-East Europe, it can be observed that the pronounced and organised use of sculpture grosso modo is connected to permanent settlements. Several case studies clearly show this. Thus in the first half of the sixth millennium sculpture does not occur in areas in which a half nomadic or nomadic way of life prevails after the abandonment of the large Pre-Pottery (PPNB)settlements. In South-East Europe, sculpture in large quantities is linked to cultures with tell-settlements. In cultures without tells, like the Starcevo-Koros-Culture, sculpture is only used in limited numbers. In the Tripolye-Cucuteni-Culture, people did not settle on tells, but their settlements are of considerable size. Therefore, we can assume that settlement size or population density and the resulting social stress are factors leading to the frequent use of anthropomorphous figurines in South-East Europe.

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The comparative study of the spatial and temporal distribution of Neolithic and Chalcolithic anthropomorphous sculpture clearly shows that the emergence of sculpture is linked to a determinable historic situation. Thus, the widespread interpretation of the figurines as symbols offemale "fertility" has no empirical basis. Indeed, it is an unhistorical formula. Already, the small group of Palaeolithic figurines shows several different types, which likely represent different meanings. From the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic period, a continuity of the production of human figurines is evident, but there is an obvious shift in figurine types. These new types, obligatory for the entire Neolithic period, were developed simultaneously with the cultivation of plants during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. The occurrence of new types of representation suggests a shift of ideas. From the formal uniformity of Neolithic sculpture, its restricted distribution and the sudden end of figural sculpture in South East Europe, the conclusion can be drawn that the small female clay figurines were elements of a religious belief-system. Wherever we find figurines in considerable quantities, complex societies with large settlements existed which presumably served as central places. Thus, the figurines played a significant role in the regulation of social relations.

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Svend Hansen






Fig. 1. Palaeolithic and Early Neolithic Sculpture.

1. Lespugue (after DUHARD 1991); 2. Dolni Vestonice (after MOLLER-BECK-ALBRECHT 1994);

3. Kostenki (after ABRAMOVA 1962); 4. Mauern (after Zan 1955); 5. Moravany nad Vahom (after Zan 1968); 6. Ain Sakhri (after BoYD - COOK 1993); 7. Salibiya IX (after BAR-YOSEF 1980; drawing KUCZM1NSKY, A.);

8. Mureybet III (after CAUVIN 1994); 9. Netiv Hagdud (after CAUVIN 1994); 10. Ayios Thomas (after KARAGEORGHIS 1992; drawing KUCZMINSKY, A.); 11. Khirokitia (after LE BRUN ETAL. 1989); 12. Sotira (after DlKAJOS 1961),

13. Tepe Guran (after MELDGAARD - MORTENSEN - THRANE 1963). Different scales.


Neolithic Sculpture, Some Remarks on an Old Problem


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Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic


Problems in Research History


Several rather incoherent facts have caused the research of cult finds to slowly lose credit over the last two decades. Since figural representations, house models, small clay altarpieces and anthropomorphic vessels have belonged to the category of interesting small finds, they often have been studied independently, neglecting all surrounding other finds and archaeological phenomena. Such works deal with cult objects as mere curiosities of art history. Without a standard method of description and interpretation, these works can never help us get closer to understanding how cult objects were used and for what they were prepared. Interpretations of cult objects have both offered a large scope for commonplaces and ill-based, adventurous ideas of prehistoric religion.

As a result, when publishing a cult object, any interpretation can be neglected or restricted to some general remarks (such as "used in the course of some fertility cult", or "agrarian rite"). Or, the opposite can occur, with ritual customs and Neolithic goddesses and gods described in detail. In both cases, there is hardly any connection established between the finds themselves and the main theses of historians of religion.

Meanwhile, prehistoric archaeology itself followed a totally different development. At a time when prehistory is becoming more and more incorporated into different fields of natural sciences, both traditional descriptive typology and unverified obscure ideas have lost much credit. It is thus no wonder that several archaeologists have turned their back on any kind of cult material. For them, there is no perspective to deal with such objects today.

However, this attitude can also be ill-based and almost as harmful as the illegitimate favor cult objects sometimes enjoy. We are not so rich in information about the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods that we can afford to neglect any source of material. In a period when almost everything is decomposited except some stone, bone or baked clay objects, cult objects form a very important source group. Therefore, we must combine the results gained from very different methods. Fortunately, in the last years a new tendency seems to have emerged, giving new air to this otherwise exhausted topic. New analyses have set up cult objects as one part of a whole material assemblage. In doing so, they have gained a much broader view of interpretation. As P. Ucko recently summerized, " ... what we must insist on asking is that archaeologists should (1) avoid the constricting nature of assumed monolithic classificatory categories, and (2) conscientiously continue to attempt to match the details of the uncovered material culture to the implications of any interpretation profferred by them. What is certain is that interpretations can go much 'further' now than in the 1950s and 1960s. After all, we are in the era of multiple meanings ... " (HAMILTON ET AL. 1996: 304).

In the following pages, I would like to add to this problem by combining the traditional typological approach with context analyses in order to interpret a certain cult object type.

In prehistoric research, human and animal representations have always been treated differently.

All forms of zoomorphic figurines have often been put into one category, although they apparently belong to several subtypes. Firstly, we have animal figurines which are formed in a realistic way, so that it is apparent to which species it belongs (e.g. the fox representation from the Gumelnita culture, DUMITRESCU 1968: Fig. 103). However, some other finds are similarly realistically formed animal figures or heads which have been applied to obviously non-realistic bodies. Many kinds of zoomorphic altarpieces can be arranged in this category (e.g. the deer shaped altarpiece from Muldava, Karanovo I culture - TODOROVA - VAJSOV 1993: Fig. 146, or from the Eneolithic period:

Jasa Tepe - TODOROVA 1978: PI. 111; Koshilovtsi - Eneolit SSSR: PI. 87/4) (Figs. 1,2). Secondly, any three dimensional sculpture representing animals that cannot be identified as a certain species



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are normally considered to be coarse representations that reflect the puny talent of the prehistoric potter.

On the other hand, we must face the enormous literature dealing with human, mostly female figurines, which are researched quite separately from animal figurines. Here, the fact is disregarded that many heads are not typically female, and not even human, but rather zoomorphic, not to speak of definitely mixed creatures with a female body and an animal head or mask, often being a typical representation for certain animal species.

M. Gimbutas is one of the few exceptions. In her works, she collected a series of such representations. Unfortunately, these figurines are not processed thoroughly and then interpreted on the basis of the analysis. Instead, they are used to fit into a previously-created concept. As it is known, this concept is based on the omnipotent nature of the "Old European" Great Goddess. This female power had different aspects: including those of animals, symbolized by a feature the represented animal species supposedly had. Such aspects are represented - according to M. Gimbutas - with the help of the mixed creatures like figurines with duck head, owl eyes, snake, frog or ram positions, forms or heads (GIMBUTAS 1989). These aspects of the "Magna Mater" are supposed to influence the life of the whole society and to rule over all beings in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. Meanwhile, they helped these civilizations to keep the peaceful golden era flourishing. Relating to this concept, Gimbutas elaborated her theory of the East European Kurgan invasion of Indoeuropean tribes and she also used this theory to name the causes for the end of "0 ld European civilizations". Namely, the power of tribes honoring almost exclusively male gods were supposed to destroy all the harmonic and peaceful development of the matriarchal South East European Neolithic. Apart from the modern political allusions reflected in this idea (GIMBUTAS 1989: 318-20, but especially 319); this would be a process, partly reflected in the vanishing of figurines and other cult objects at the beginning of the Bronze Age. Thus, the above mentioned representations are used for verifying an ideological preconception. They are not an attempt to interpret the figurines themselves. That said, I note the brilliance of M. Gimbutas on the subject of East European prehistory, and segments of her theories on (pre)historic processes and cultural changes in this area. Still, I must point out that the interpretation of mixed female and animal figurines remains arbitrary when background analyses are absent.

I should like to demonstrate the problem of this interpretation by beginning with an imaginary animal figure with good parallel forms of human heads and transitory beings. By comparing these finds, I would like to note the possible connection and the complicated relations between animal and human representations in the Neolithic and Chalco lithic of South East Europe.

An Example for Connections between an Imaginary Animal Figure Type and Other Zoomorphic Representations on Cult Objects

I will start with a peculiar clay animal figure found in 1993 during an excavation of an extended settlement of the youngest Lengyel culture in Transdanubia (For a summary of typological parallels and the origins ofthis object, found in Zalaszentbalazs, see BANFFY 1998) (Fig. 3). The 5,7 ern high and 9,3 em long figure is flat. It depicts a double-headed animal with one body, the second head being attached to the place where the tail should be, causing the heads to look at each other symmetrically. The fore and hind legs of the animal are made of one piece of clay each, and the animal's genital organs are emphatically depicted in the middle of its belly. On the heads, the eyes and the mouths are not shown, but the ears appear in the form of small round applications on both sides of the heads. Although the tops of the heads are somewhat damaged, the pairs of horns in the form of divided vertical protrusions are clearly visible, indicating that it must be either a ram or a he-goat. The object is not a three dimensional sculpture standing on its own, but was used as a lid handle.

This is not a unique find for the late Neolithic Moravian painted ware-Lengyel cultural circle. In fact, it is typical of the Western distributional area of the culture. In South Western Slovakia, the early classical Lengyel site Santovka is well-known for its rich cultic assemblage (PAVUK 1981,1994).

Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic



Among the animal representations (i.e. zoomorphic small clay altarpieces), two-headed symmetrical types also occur (PAvOK 1981: Fig. 63; PAvUK 1994: Fig. 5a-d) (Fig. 4). Another example of this type was found in Bosovice, Moravia (PODBORSKY 1989: 184, Fig. 5/1) (Fig. 5). From the early Lengyel site of Falkenstein-Schanzboden in lower Austria, a piece almost identical to the Zalaszentbalazs object was found and is also a lid handle (NEUGEBAUER - MARESCH 1995: 71, Fig. 29/4). A good parallel piece comes from Santovka (PAVUK 1994: Fig. 4/4) (Fig. 6).

Zoomorphic lid handles are fairly common in the Eastern Lengyel circle as well. From the vicinity of Zengovarkony and Moragy, private collectors have found numerous fragments of such objects (DOMBAY 1960: PI.3119,11). One ofthe fragments is a simplified form of the double-headed type under discussion. Zoomorphic lid handles also occur in the fortified tell and also in the horizontal settlement of Polgar-Csoszhalom, which seems to have been a kind of interaction and mediation center between the late Lengyel and the Eastern Hungarian Tiszapolgar cultures (RACZKY ET AL. 1994: 234; RACZKYKovAcs - ANDERS 1997). This is because it, too, is typical of the Tiszapolgar culture (KUTZIAN 1963:

PI.841la, 89/2a, 901la; KUTZIAN 1972: 133). From the Eastern Hungarian late Neolithic settlement of Kenezlo, two other zoomorphic lid handles have been found (MAKKAY 1959: 128). It is thus obvious that the unusual type of two-headed zoomorphic representations were widely used, not only in the huge Lengyel-Moravian painted ware circle, but also in its neighbouring cultures, too. This makes it all the more interesting as a means of revealing something about its possible archetype, its origin.

In general, zoomorphic figurines in South Eastern Europe are common from the beginning of the Early Neolithic, i.e. the Koros-Starcevo-Karanovo I circle to the end of the Chalcolithic and sporadically until the time of different cultures of the Early Bronze Age (as, for example, the Somogyvar- Vinkovci, Glina 3-Schneckenberg or the Hatvan cultures). This plastique can appear in the form of small clay animal figures as well as applied parts of animal figures on different clay objects, such as heads on the bellies or handles of vessels.

While some animal representations can be called more-or-less realistic - a dog, bull, deer or bear figure - a certain percentage of the so-called "oil lamps" or rather miniature clay altarpieces are also formed either as a complete animal figure (PAVUK 1994: Fig. 5/2), with two deep depressions in the middle of its back or, even more frequently, as triangular and rectangular altarpieces with three or four animal heads on their edges (Fig. 7). The richness of these animal representations is stunning and only a few concluding works have tried to define them (in Hungary, J. Makkay wrote a synthesis of mostly stray finds, probably coming from several different periods - MAKKAY 1959).

From the character of the above zoomorphic figures, it follows that the people preparing these animals must have set out from observation of real animals. In our case, however, contrasted to the naturalistic features of the heads and the genital organs, the representation contradicts any real experience. The double nature of the Zalaszentbalazs animal provides great reason for speculation. Namely, it must in part be considered a realistic representation, as there are some indications of its species and gender. Yet, it remains a fictional creature.

This sort ofrepresentation seems to be a prototype in the whole Lengyel-Moravian painted world, occurring not only in its original form, but also as a more or less reduced subtype, where the two heads appear in two peaky knobs (cf. a piece from Tolna county, under publication by I. Zalai-Gaal). We must seek the antecedent of this figure type elsewhere, and not among the naturalistic zoomorphic round plastique.

The next parallels for our animal head types can still be found in animal heads applied on the edges of geometric altarpieces. Animal heads turning back to look at each other first appear in a great quantity in the Karas and Starcevo cultures, both in the form of realistic heads and in reduced form. A good example for the first head type is from Kaniska Iva, where a rectangular clay altarpiece with four animal heads was found, belonging to the Linear C/Spiraloid A period of the Starcevo culture (MINICHREITER 1992: PI. 5 - the object is dated by T. Tezak-Gregl somewhat younger: TEZAK - GREGL 1991: Fig. 6/1) or one find from Obessenyo (Dudestii Vechi), a triangular altarpiece with three animal heads (KUTZIAN 1944: PI. 47/19). The famous rectangular altarpiece from Lanycsok with four heads might be a transitional form, as they all have eyes and noses. Still, it is hard to decide whether they are

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human or animal heads (KALICZ 1990: PI. 11) (Fig. 8). This piece has a fairly close parallel in a r~tarded Starcevo millieu of Porodin: a rectangular altarpiece with two heads, although they rather seem to be those of birds (GRBIC 1960: Fig. 249) (Fig. 9). The heads may occur in the form of small peaks on the edges in the Early Neolithic already (MINICHREITER 1992: PI. 2/1).

The immediate Starcevo-inheritor was the Vinca culture, which influenced the middle and late Neolithic development of the region. Without its direct and also indirect cultural effects, the figural plastique of both the Linear Pottery culture and the Lengyel culture would most probably have developed differently. The archaeological background of these processes are more or less clear (DIMITRlJEVIC 1979: 344-5; TEZAK - GREGL 1993).

With full knowledge of these facts, it is not peculiar that the best parallels for Lengyel-Moravian painted ware double-headed animals can be found in Vinca assemblages. The mediation of the discussed animal figure-type through the Vinca culture is clear. Nevertheless, we do not only have to look for possible earlier representations of two-headed imaginary animals, but we must also attempt to declare how it came into contact with the Lengyel lids.

First of all, strikingly similar representations are known among Vinca finds, including two capriovidlike heads that tum back to each other and share a common body. Some of these figures look almost identical to those of the Lengyel and Moravian painted ware cultures. However, these figures are not lid handles or fragments of other objects, but are free-standing.

Some of them are considered amulets. In fact some of these objects - but not all of them - are vertically perforated through a round hole in the middle. This can be regarded as a secondary utilization of the obligatory depression (TASIC 1973: PI. 27/93-97, 99, PI. 28/98,100-103, PI. 291104-109, in a specially elaborate variant: PI. 331127) (Figs. 10, 11). This type also exists in reduced form, in which the animal heads are represented in the form of peaky knobs (TASIC 1973: PI. 12/38--43, PI. 18/61, PI. 2811 00) (Fig. 12). This object-type occurred frequently in the North Eastern, Banatian area of the Vinca culture (e.g. in Tordos, collected by Zs. Torma: ROSKA 1941: PI. 137/1 ,2; LAZAROVICI - DRA~OVEAN 1991: 207-208, Cat. 147, 148 or in Zorlent: LAZAROVICI 1979: PI. 21/A,D,E,F, 22/F; some of these figures appear with clearly represented animal heads and with two knobs resembling female breasts) (Fig. 13). It is important to mention that some miniature clay "horns of consecration" - e.g. in Ruse belonging to the Gumelnita culture, coeval with the late Vinca period - may also relate to the reduced double-headed "amulets" (These finds are called horns of consecration by GIMBUTAS 1982: 93, Fig. 49).

We cannot venture to guess what "amulets" meant in a Neolithic context. However, there is a feature appearing on most of these figures that can help us.

It is a small circular hole appearing on the middle of the animal's back and is clearly observable on most figures. Certainly, this roundish impression makes no sense, even when we take the "amulet" interpretation into account, since the "holes" are not always real perforations through which the figure could have been hung. Numerous pieces which are not perforated still possess the round depression in the middle of their backs (cf. Figs. 10, 12).

Consequently, not only the custom of applying animal heads on the edges of altarpieces, but also the holes in the middle of their upper surfaces are common features of both altarpieces and our animal figures. These altarpieces always had these roundish holes in the middle of their upper surface, which probably - as I argue elsewhere - originally contained some grains or other solid organic material offered in the course of domestic cult activities (BANFFY 1997: Chapters 6.3 and 7). Therefore, the holes on the double-headed figurines must be senseless imitations of altarpieces, and may have been perforated through this depression secondarily, in order to use them for secondary purposes as hanging "amulets". The possible connection between the two-headed animals of the Lengyel-Moravian painted ware culture and the altarpieces can be reconstructed in the following way. As mentioned before, geometric and zoomorphic clay altarpieces were used in settlements from the time agriculture began. Parts of zoomorphic altarpieces were not prepared in the form of a naturalistic animal, with a hole in the back, but rather as a mixture between geometric and zoomorphic pieces. Often this took the form of triangular or rectangular bodies with three or four animal heads on the comers. From the side, the rectangular altarpieces look very similar to a two-headed animal figure, and indeed, another subtype of

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Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic


this appears again in the form of an animal body, with a depression in the middle of its back and with two heads looking in opposite directions. Consequently, the double-headed animal can from this point also be unreal. Thus, we can reconstruct the probable antecedents or prototypes of our imaginary animal figure. In other words, the connection between the altarpieces and the double-headed lid handle type. It might as well be called the two-dimensional variant of the rectangular altarpiece-type with four animal heads on its comer.

On the other hand, the idea of placing animal figures on lids might not have been uncommon late

eolithic and early Chalcolithic customs. Zoomorphic lids are typical and frequent in the whole Vinca distribution area. Conic lids with handles were generally in use in all cultures of the Carpathian Basin and also in the Balkans. The handle is sometimes a whole standing animal (e.g. in Gorni Pasarel, PETKOV 1957: 291-4) (Fig. 14) and sometimes, like in the Asz6d settlement of the Lengyel culture and in the Gumelnita-Karanovo VI cultures, even house models. The two periods of regions where house models as lid handles occur cannot be associated with each other in a direct way (this is also the opinion of

. KAucz - KALIcz 1976), but both of them did in fact have connections to the long-existing Vinca culture, which may have been the missing link that created a bridge between Northern Hungary and the Balkan peninsula from the beginning of the late Neolithic and the early Chalcolithic periods. It is important to note that animal figures as lid handles made for use with vessels of special importance have also been found in much later times. They have been interpreted as young manifestations of an ancient South East European tradition. In an exhibition catalogue on Greek geometric pottery created by the Philosophy Faculty at Prague University, some pyxes were published with four perforations, with fitting lids perforated in the same way. Two of these small vessels had handles in the form of standing animals. Both have been interpreted as watching and protecting the content of the pyxes (Bouzsk - CTVRTNIKovA 1992: 2 and Figs. 3,4, 7).

At this point, it has hopefully become clear that the figure of double headed animals in the Lengyel culture developed slowly from zoomorphic altarpieces. The Vinca culture had a direct influence, while the substantial amount of altarpieces from the South East European Neolithic also had a broad impact. Thus, we can establish a certain connection between the double-headed ram or he-goat figurines of the Lengyel culture and other forms of cult objects, especially zoomorphic altarpieces.

Transitions Between Zoomorphic and Human Representations

The representations discussed above - including lid handles, amulets and altarpieces - do not only occur in zoomorphic form. The same types can also have heads that are hard to be identified as being animal or human. Clear human heads are also known. Our next step should be to make an effort to distinguish the variants occurring in human and animal figurines or heads. To do so, I will examine forms and variants of human, zoomorphic and transitory representations on the same Neolithic and Chalcolithic clay objects.

Zoomorphic altarpieces or animal heads applied on altarpieces. Here, I must mention the deerformed altarpiece from Muldava, Bulgaria, early Neolithic, Karanovo I culture (DETEV 1968: Fig. 26; TODOROVA - VAJSOV 1993: cf. Fig. 1) as well as one of the zoomorphic altarpieces from the Lengyel settlement of Santovka, Slovakia (PAVUK 1994: Fig. 5/2a-c, cf. Fig. 7). Another example of a clear representation of a ram head comes from the late Vinca site of Rudna Glava (JOVANOVIC 1985: Fig. 8) (Fig. 15). In these cases, the animal figure or head is formed realistically enough that the species of the animal can be ascertained.

Zoomorphic but not realistic. Almost all Vinca amulets and most animal figures of the abovementioned Lengyel-Moravian painted animal heads belong to this category. A parallel piece came from Rudna Glava. This time, the piece has two ram heads applied on the two sides of the altarpiece (JOVANOVIC 1985: Fig. 27) (Fig. 16). Another example for this is the house model with two animal heads from the late Neolithic Vadastra II (MATEEscu 1962: Fig. 2) (Fig. 17). Two others appear on a


Eszter Banffy

similar object from the middle Neolithic, retarded Starcevo settlement of Porod in (GRBIc 1960: PI. 34/f, cf. Fig. 9) and a triangular altarpiece (with three heads) from another late Vinca site, Predionica (GALOvIc 1959: Fig. 76/4) (Fig. 18).

Human heads in the place of animal heads. A good example among the discussed Vinca "amulets" comes from the eponymous site (STANKOVIC 1986: Fig. 8112) (Fig. 19). Another form of a head protruding from a house model comes from Porodin, but this head is clearly human (GRBIc 1960:

Fig. 3411). The house model from Gradesnitsa has three human heads applied over the entrance, instead of the usual bucrania or other types of animal heads (NIKoLOv 1974: Fig. 65) (Fig. 20). Apart from the above discussed zoomorphic lid handles, there are also several examples of a human head used as lid handle. A find from Balbunar, Bulgaria must also be mentioned (MIKov 1926/27: 267, Fig. 971b), as must one from the Tisza culture settlement of Veszto (HEGEDUS - MAKKAY 1987:

Fig. 16).

- Mixtures or transitory representations build a fairly large group.

Dubious mixtures. The rectangular altarpiece from the already-mentioned Lanycsok has four heads on its corners (KAucz 1990: Fig. 3a-c, cf. fig 8). It is impossible to determine whether they are human or zoomorphic representations. The only sign that they might be human is a vertical line incised in the front side of the altarpiece, which can possibly be interpreted as a female genital organ. This would turn the scale in favour of a human interpretation of the heads. Similarly, on the early Vinca house models from Tordos, the head looks as human as zoomorphic (RoSKA 1941: Fig. 10417, 104110) (Fig. 21). The two heads of the Trusesti altar, both having human and animal characteristics, also belong to this category (PETRESCu-DIMBOVITA 1963: 172-86; DUMITRESCU 1968: Fig. 82) (Fig. 22). I must also mention the enormously large group of "stick-heads" here, mostly from the earlier phases of Neolithic. On these heads it is impossible to observe any human or characteristically zoomorphic features. These figurines are restricted to represent living creatures. The peculiar mixed figure of a bird-like creature standing on human legs comes from the Lengyel settlement of Asz6d, Northern Hungary (KAucz 1985:

Fig. 75) (Fig. 23). "Monster heads" with no sign of human or animal faces, but represented through fearful features, are also worthy of note. The best examples of such figurines come from Zengovarkony, Western Hungary. Several pieces come from Tiszafured-Majoros, the Middle Tisza region and one comes from Sipintzi, Ukraine (DOMBAY 1960: Fig. 8711, 6, 8; KAucz 1979-80: 611 and 7/la-c; GIMBUTAS 1982: 46, Fig. 13, 14).

Zoomorphic figurine with human head. In terms of lid handles, the zoomorphic figurine with a human face from Gorni Pasarel is important to mention (PETKOV 1957: Fig. l a-b, cf. Fig. 17). Such representations occur in a large number in the Vinca culture: one from the eponymous site of Vinca, and two examples from Valac must be noted (VASIC 1932-36: 24; GIMBUTAS 1982: Fig. 237, 238). Vinca "amulets" can also have a human face: such an example is known from Crnokalacka Bara (T ASIC - TOMIC 1969: Fig.14/5, 14/8) (Fig. 24).

Human figurine with animal head. A female figurine from the Sesklo culture, from Meg. Vrysi appears with a bird's head (GIMBUTAS 1982: Fig. 83-84) (Fig. 25). Another middle Neolithic example comes from Parta. The large altar forming two flat figurines is a close parallel to that of Trusesti, (cf. Fig. 22), but here, the human bodies - a pregnant woman and a man - have bull heads (LAZARovIcI 1989: Fig. 191,2). A standing human figurine from Porodinhas an animal head, possibly that ofa dog or a bear (GIMBUTAS 1982: Fig. 188). Late Vinca figurines often appear with animal heads, mostly with those of birds, like some figurines from Divostin (BOGDANOVICH 1990: Fig. 8). The already-mentioned female busts on Banatian two-headed animal figurines can also be ranged here - LAZAROVICI 1979 (PI. 21/D/5, E/5-7,l0,l1, cf. Fig. 13).

The double-headedform, discussed in the first part of this paper, is not exclusively typical for animal representations. Again, the Vinca amulet from the eponymous site, and a double-headed human figurine with animal heads from Rast can be seen as transitory forms within this culture (VASIC 1932-36: Fig. 323; GIMBUTAS 1982: Fig. 86) (Fig. 26). They also occur in clear human forms, as the "twin" figurines from Gomo1ava indicate (BRUKNER - JOVANOVIC - TASIC 1974: PI. 8/20; PETROVIC 1986: Fig. 1) (Fig. 27).


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Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic


~e reduced representations from late Vinca assemblages also belong to this category (TASIC 1973:

J .... 12). Somewhat later, some two-headed human representations, e.g. the headless figurines from the halcolithic Rachmani culture (WEISSHAAR 1989: PI. 123/3) and those in the late Chalco lithic Baden _ rure (KAucz 1981; TASIC 1995) may also have roots in Vinca traditions.

Masked representations. Figurines carrying different masks not only spread in the Vinca culture, but '-':0 in Middle Europe in areas where the Linear Pottery culture proliferated. This tradition was followed . -0 by the Linear Pottery-inheritor, the Tisza culture, a northern neighbour of the Vinca culture. In ther southeast European cultures, like the early Chalco lithic Gumelnita, many figurines have heads

nh perforations on the sides, perhaps used to attach masks. Most probably, it was essential that the real face of the figurine remained hidden. The stylised outer form had an abstract meaning which cannot be understood from the representation itself (LEVI-STRAUSS 1977: 131-2). It is possible that this - caning changed from time to time and that this change was expressed through masks or other facial _~ lications. The applications were likely fastened with the help of the perforations on the edges of rae faces. Animal masks are extremely common on human Vinca figurines (e.g. TASIC - TOMIC 1969: -=»1 10, 11); and human masks are also sometimes attached to animal bodies (like the find from Fafos II, illc IDUTAS 1982: Fig. 237) (Fig. 28). The variability of the face character- and through this the variability

f the meaning - can be observed on the headless figurine from Liubcova-Ornita, who holds her mask cnder her ami (LuCA - DRAGOMIR 1987: 36, Fig. 4) (Fig. 29). All Vinca masked figurines are mute, as zhey are represented without any mouths.

From the examples enumerated here, it becomes evident that Neolithic and Chalco lithic cult material can equally occur with clear human traits as well as with atypical, transitional and zoomorphic forms. ~ etting out from the representation itself, therefore, we cannot draw a sharp line between human and zoomorphic figurines.

The Archaeological Context

Now let us see whether this sharp line exist in the use of human and zoomorphic representations.

This can be discussed with the help of different examples where the objects were found among well observed and described archaeological contexts. It is obivous that the enormous amount of human and animal figurines, small clay altarpieces, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vessels and house models occur entirely mixed up in Neolithic and Chalco lithic southeast European excavations. In other words, no definite provenances are described as typical places or contexts for only house models or those fur female figurines etc. In the following, some examples are mentioned for human, zoomorphic or transitional representations occurring in well observed and described archaeological assemblages

See in a detailed analysis: BANFFY 1990-91: Chapters l.1, 3 and 4).

In the case that cult objects were lying in a large number inside a building, excavators are often busy interpreting the building as a "sanctuary". Neolithic buildings with one or two rooms used for domestic purposes and with a third one containing cult objects can, with difficulty, be called "sanctuaries". The terms used in the literature are alternately "shrine" and "sanctuary". I opt for the former, admitting that this point is arguable. The expression "temple", however, suggested by M. Gimbutas, cannot be used to identify these buildings. The word "temple" is rooted in the Greek word "temenos" and refers to the antique, non-Christian sacred buildings and places that served for worshipping and other religious activities. They therefore, contrast with domestic houses, which served daily purposes. In my opinion, non-domestic buildings in Neolithic settlements should best be identified as communal buildings than "sanctuaries" (BANFFY 1994: 42-3).

Such a "sanctuary" from Parta (Romanian Banat), belongs to the Szakalhat period, somewhat preceding the late Neolithic Tisza culture (LAZAROVICI 1989). The building in its renewed phase had three rooms and its dimensions resembled most those of an average building of the Szakalhat period. A clay bull's head was applied above the entrance, while the already mentioned, almost life-sized combined sculpture of a man and a woman were standing behind it. The man's head depicts a bull, and


Eszter Banffy

although the woman's head is missing, a pregnant belly clearly indicates she is female: The sculpture can be regarded a close parallel to the late Neolithic "altar" of Trusesti (PETREscu-DIMBOVITA 1963: 172-186, cf. Fig. 22). According to the first description of the excavator, A. Radunceva, the "sacral" buildings at the Chalcolithic site Dolnoslav (Bulgaria), contained more than seven hundred human and zoomorphic figurines (GENov - RADUNCEVA 1985; RADUNCEVA 1991). The common occurrence of snakes and human figurines with heads similar to snakes in the "sanctuary" model of Sabatinovka 11, Cucuteni culture, is a further example for zoomorphic and human representations standing in close connection (GIMBUTAS 1982: 73, Fig. 25-26).

In other cases, cult assemblages were found inside houses that were identified as domestic buildings.

The number ofthese is fairly high. Earlier, I was able to collect 426 figurines, 74 anthropomorphic vessels and 272 small clay altarpieces from such assemblages. Although this may seem like a large number, it represents no more than 5 % of the entire published material (BANFFY 1990--91: 209). In cases where the circumstances of the discovery were accurately recorded, it is clear that the finds were most frequently lying either at a certain part, mostly in a remote comer within the house, or right next to the fireplace. Many of them contained both human and animal figurines, or applications of these. For example, in the early Neolithic house at the site Szolnok-Szanda (Hungary, Karas culture), fragments of a clay altarpiece forming a bull's head were found near a human figurine in a cult assemblage (KALICZ - RACZKY 1981: 5-6, PI. 1). In the middle Neolithic site at Tsangli, another figurine with a human body and a zoomorphic head was found with several human figurines (WACE- THOMPSON 1912: 120, Fig. 69). Also in the famous cult assemblage from Platia Magula Zarkou, clay figurines probably representing the members of a family and also a mixed, four-legged creature with a bird's nose were found inside a house model buried under a fireplace (GALLIs 1985: 20-4; GALLIS 1996: 542, Fig. 6). In the late Vinca culture at Jakovo, a closed cult assemblage was found in a cult comer. In it, a figurine together with another double-headed figurine was placed close to a life-size bucranium (JOVANOVIC - GLISIC 1960: Fig. 18). The assemblage found at Valac belongs to the late Vinca culture. At this site, it became possible to reconstruct a whole cult inventory from the numerous human and zoomorphic figurines (HOCKMANN 1968: 73-4, PI. 25). The double-headed figurine from Rachmani - found in the northern comer of a house - belongs to the dubious mixed-beings category (W ACE - THOMPSON 1912: 52, Fig. 28/t; WEISSHAAR 1989: Fig. 169/7).

I do not wish to choose among the enormous amount of pits belonging to dwelling houses in the settlement and which contained both human and animal representations. Still, I will offer one example that fits: the double headed zoomorphic lid handle from the Lengyel settlement of Zalaszentbalazs, It also comes from a refuse pit, as does a head of a female figurine.

The distinction can also be challenged on the basis of the quality of the human and animal representations, but no difference can be observed between finely elaborated and coarsely made pieces (BANFFY 1990-91: 203). Both types can equally have primarily cultic associations and they can occur in refuse pits, and be mixed up with the household garbage.


In each case mentioned, we find Neolithic and Chalcolithic cult objects occurring with human heads, animal heads, and in mixtures of both consciously formed duos (containing clear human and animal parts) and more unidentifiable mixtures. Sometimes, the dubiousness appears intentional, making it appear that exactly the double nature of these figurines was important.

Returning to the lid handles, the altarpieces and - in a broader sense - to all so-called Neolithic cult finds, we find that many carry the traces of use on their surface. On the piece from Zalaszentbalazs, e.g., one ear is broken on both of the heads, the horns are damaged and the roughly smoothed body surface is worn. This shows that these objects were not passive ornaments, but objects of real use, even if this consumption stood out of food producing and other aspects of every-day-life.

Judging from the considerable amount of objects found, they must have been produced, utilized and thrown away regularly. Without willing to force any traditional symbolic meanings concerning the ram

Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic


and ram

and he-goat, we must mention that both of these animal figures stand for "the initial impulse through which the potential becomes actual. They are also related to dawn and spring, and generally to the beginning of any cycle, process or creation" (CrRLOT 1971: 18-9). M. Gimbutas also regards the he-goat as "symbol of cyclic time", although she does not give her sources (GIMBUTAS 1989: 323).

This imaginary animal cannot be compared to unicorns, griffins, basilisks, minotaurs or other fabulous participants of the "magic zoo", although some ways of representations suggest that mixed creatures may have existed before the Bronze Age (COSTELLO 1979: 27-9). The double-headed animals may not be related to these imaginary beasts. Considering the nature of coeval anthropomorphic, female Vinca figurines, it is apparent that they often both looked realistic (pregnancy, jewels, hair etc.) and unreal (exaggerated eyes, nose, no mouth, mask, bird's head etc.) concurrently. This also suggests that the dividing lines between realism and imagination cannot be drawn sharply, placing the latter wholly out of everyday experience. Stylized outer forms may have had a recondite meaning which cannot be interpreted from the representation itself. The idea of a representation might be much more important. For us, who do not know much about the abstract meaning and the religious system it belonged to, the imaginary animal figure appears much more expressive. In other words, it seems to be a more intensive representation than a realistic animal. Perhaps having two heads attached to a he-goat or ram figure made it a stronger male animal figure. Similarly, an ambiguous figurine that was half human and half animal was probably thought to have more effective power in mediating between the real and the imaginary spheres.

This is exactly the aspect which is common with transitory or mixed representations. Namely, the mediating role between human and zoomorphic spheres of life may have appeared in the representation of figurines with both human and zoomorphic, both realistic and imaginary characters. This may have also meant the connection between two worlds, the physical sphere, and the hidden principle, which was apparently an equally important reality in the Neolithic.

In contrast to the negative result in searching a distinct borderline between human and animal representations, however, it is of essential importance to record that all these finds were almost hundred percently used within settlements. Some ofthem were found inside dwelling houses together with other types of cult objects. Most came from pits - some from bothroi, but the overwhelming majority from refuse pits, like the Zalaszentbalazs lid handle.

To sum up, we cannot sharply distinguish the interpretation of human and zoomorphic figurines.

However, the fact that almost the entire amount of Neolithic cult objects comes from settlements and specifically from inside domestic houses and pits surrounding these houses, is a point that can aid us greatly. The real scene of Neolithic cult activities must have taken place inside domestic houses, and not in "sanctuaries". Recently, a settlement was unearthed in Macedonia, which seems to reinforce the assumption of cult comers in dwelling houses and communal buildings instead of "sanctuaries". The domestic houses of the site Madjari consisted of finds of every day activities, and also cult objects grouped in one corner of the houses. In the middle, a larger building was erected that may have served other purposes, and did not contain the typical cult objects of the settlement (SANEV 1988; LASOTA - MOSKALEVSKA. - SANEV 1989). This means that most of these rituals must have been a family affair, rather than a communal activity.

At this point, I must confess that current knowledge of Neolithic cult activities is still rather scant.

It is possible to try to reconstruct some elements of the Neolithic ritual. Firstly, the objects were undoubtedly used. We do not know where they were used, how or exactly which objects were used when or what the essence of the activities were. We can try to reconstruct some elements ofthese activities, but we must always remain technical and avoiding to make guesses about their exact religious content.

This seems to be more constructive than fitting the sporadically-known elements into a previouslymade system. First of all, this lower, technical level employs archaeological methods in a coherent way. Secondly, the reconstruction of the activity allows for certain changes in the religious background, which in fact may have altered through the long centuries of the Neolithic and Chalco lithic. And finally, this more rigorous approach may offer a larger scope for further research, in the hope of a better understanding of these objects in the future.

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Sources of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Muldava (Bulgaria) (TODOROVA - VAJSOV 1993)
Fig. 2. Jasa Tepe (Bulgaria) (TODOROVA 1978)
Fig. 3. Zalaszentbalazs (Hungary) (BANFFY 1998)
Fig. 4. Santovka (Slovakia) (PAvUK 1994)
Fig. 5. Bosovice (Czech Republic) (PODBORSKY 1989)
Fig. 6. Santovka (Slovakia) (PAvUK 1994)
Fig. 7. Santovka (Slovakia) (PAvUK 1994)
Fig. 8. Lanycsok (Hungary) (KALICZ 1990)
Fig. 9. Porodin (Yugoslavia) (GRBIc 1960) Fig. 10. JakovolKormadin (Yugoslavia) (TASIC 1973) Fig. 11. Crkvine (Yugoslavia) (T ASIC 1973)

Fig. 12. JakovolKormadin (Yugoslavia) (TASIC 1973) Fig. 13. Zorlent (Romania) (LAZAROVICI 1979)

Fig. 14. Gorni Pasarel (Bulgaria) (GIMBUTAS 1982) Fig. 15. Rudna Glava (Yugoslavia) (JOVANOVIC 1985) Fig. 16. Rudna Glava (Yugoslavia) (JOVANOVIC 1985) Fig. 17. Vadastra II (Romania) (MATEESCU 1962) Fig. 18. Predionica (Yugoslavia) (GALOVIc 1959) Fig. 19. Vinca (Yugoslavia) (STANKOVIC 1986)

Fig. 20. Gradesnica (Bulgaria) (NIKOLOV 1974)

Fig. 21. Tordos (Romania) (RoSKA 1941)

Fig. 22. Trusesti (Romania) (DUMITRESCU 1968) Fig. 23. Asz6d (Hungary) (KALICZ 1985)

Fig. 24. Crnokalacka Bara (Yugoslavia) (TASIC - TOMIC 1969) Fig. 25. Megali Vrysi (Greece) (GIMBUTAS 1982)

Fig. 26. Vinca (Yugoslavia) (GIMBUTAS 1982)

Fig. 27. Gomolava (Yugoslavia) (PETROVIC 1986)

Fig. 28. Fafos II1Kosovska Mitrovica (Yugoslavia) (GIMBUTAS 1982) Fig. 29. Liubcova-Ornita (Romania) (LUCA - DRAGOMIR 1987)

Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic







64 Eszter Banffy

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Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic









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Notes on the Connection between Human and Zoomorphic Representations in the Neolithic






The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalcolithic.

A Holographic Approach 1



Since they consist mainly of actions, rituals and cults are generally invisible to the prehistorian (BARRETT 1988: 31). Therefore, identifying cult and rituals requires complex iconographic evidence (RENFREW 1997: 51) or, at least, an index of a repetitive action (GEDIGA 1989: 51; see also WELLS 1994: 143) in archaeological assemblages. What happens when such direct evidence is lacking? How for example, can a funerary cult be explained in a prehistoric culture without iconographic representations of cult scenes and without necropoles?

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the invisible funerary and other rituals that may form the ancestors' cult by interpreting ceramics at different levels of "holography" in an Eastern European Chalcolithic society known as Cucuteni-Tripolye (5th millennium BC). As discussed more fully below, holography is a conceptualization in which the image of a part may be used for the representation ofthe whole. In this paper, the concept of holography is used not only for the analogies of material culture in the representation of rituals, but also in the conceptualization of the relationship ofthose rituals to cult.

Method and Theory

In order to fill the void in the knowledge of prehistoric cults and rituals, one could look for indirect evidence of linkage that can be identified among the objects and fragments of objects forming the archaeological record. The use of this sort of complementary relationship among different data within the culture studied is an approach based on a cognitive system existing in modem prehistoric and peasant societies, labeled by early anthropologists as "magic thinking" (MAUSS - HUBERT 1902-1903; LEvy-BRUHL 1938: 178 ff.). This cognitive system consists of the representation of a part to symbolize the whole, called totum ex parte, including specific cases of similarity (relationship of analogy) and contiguity (relationship of contact) (see LEACH 1976: 29).

Recently, some advanced studies in archaeology, recognizing rhetoric as a source (HODDER 1995: 165-167; TILLEY L993: 16-17; CHAPMAN 1996) and possibly sensitized by hermeneutics (see GADAMER 1975: 258) and Postmodern cultural studies (NOCHLIN 1994: 53 ff), seem to approach the totum ex parte technique of "magic thinking" by using the synecdoche.'

Another analogous concept utilized by modem science is the hologram (TALBOT 1991: 20), an organization of the matter which is to be found in the structure of the brain (BOHM 1980) or universe (PRIBRAM 1977). A brief definition of the hologram describes it as the property ofthe matter to organize itself in a holistic manner, namely the potential of the part to retain all the data of the whole, as in "magic thinking" cognition or synecdoche. A hologram is an encoded image created on a bidimensional support

I lowe a great debt to John Chapman, whose stimulating discussions on Chalcolithic figurines and fragmentation helped me to improve the holographic approach. Also, I want to thank Peter F. Biehl and Francois Bertemes for their encouragement as this article took shape. Many thanks to Silvia Marinescu-Bilcu, who kindly helped me with the materials from the Draguseni site. Last, but not least, my gratitude goes to Linda Miller for her invaluable help in improving the logic and English of this paper.

2 According to The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, the synecdoche is "a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa", which is an equivalent statement to totum ex parte.


Dragos Gheorghiu

which can reproduce in a tridimensional manner a copied image from reality (TALBOT 1992: 16-17). The fragment of a hologram preserves the image of the whole until its complete consumption by successive fragmentation. In this way, the hologram (in fact an infinite synecdoche), is particularly appropriate in interpreting material culture (see GHEORGHIU 1996a: 89).

The holographic examination of archaeological material could make use of two other conceptual relationships first identified by the-proponents of "magic thinking", such as similarity and contiguity, in order to realize a wider holographic "whole", that of the society being studied.

Of all materials, ceramics seem to be one of the best substances to materialize holographic conceptualization. This is because of distinctive holographic properties including: an easy replication of cultural traits through the medium of skeouomorphisms and miniatures and an easy fragmentation of the objects.

As funerary deposits confirm, an important number of prehistoric artifacts and skeletons were deliberately fragmented. Such practices suggest a holographic use of this material in the past. Because the only cultural data preserved from prehistoric societies are those of material culture, notably including ceramics, one should examine the two holographic stages, discussed fully below, of this material (the whole and the part) for information about rituals and cults.

An approach to a Neolithic or Chalcolithic culture would distinguish three stages of a holography: a first one of similarity at the level of anthropomorphous vases; the second one of similarity and contiguity at the level of miniature ceramic anthropomorphous figurines and objects and a third one of contiguity at the level of ceramic and bone fragments. At the second stage, one can perceive the human bodies and the assemblages of vases and daily objects belonging to the real world through the shape of figurines, miniature vases and miniature objects. At the third stage, every ceramic or bone fragment of these assemblages contains data about the whole, and, subsequently, about society.

Such parallel images to the real world could carry data which actually are missing in the archaeological record, such as those referring to rituals or cult, providing a reflection of the activities they represent.

Due to the difficulty of reconstructing a funerary cult and the framework concept of the hologram, I employed three complementary approaches: a comparison of the different types of ceramic figurines existing within the same culture; a comparative study of the figurines, vases and funerary customs from neighbouring Neolithic and Chalco lithic cultures; and experimental archaeology and ethnographic models. In order to demonstrate the relations of similarity, contiguity and fragmentation existing among different ceramic assemblages, and because a large part of the material discussed' is unknown to the Western public, I present below a brief description of some ofthe objects analyzed.

The Cucuteni- Tripolye Culture

The choice of the Chalcolithic Cucuteni-Tripolye culture" for the identification of the funerary rituals and cults was determined by two factors: 1) because there is poor physical evidence in this culture about such matters, and 2) because in comparison with other Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures, the

J In describing the microworld holographied by ceramics, the present study restricts itself to the anthropomorphic images, ignoring the zoomorphic representations.

4 Cucuteni-Tripolye culture's area extends fom central Transylvania in the West (the so-called Ariusd culture) to the Dnieper river to the East, and reflects the influences exerted by the cultural complex Lumea-Noua - Petresti from Transylvania and Gumelnita culture from South-East Romania on the Pre- or Proto-Cucuteni culture (DUMITRESCU 1985: 42-43). The cultural area between the Carpathians and the Prut river is generally referred to as the "Cucuteni culture" and that between the Prut and Dniester rivers as "Tripolye culture". Three cultural phases have been identified: two flourishing, called Cucuteni A (4518-3827 BC cal.) and A-B (4214-3989 BC cal., MANTU 1995: 228) - Tripolye Bl and B2 (c.4500-4000 BC cal., MANZURA 1994: 269) phases and one demonstrating a decline resulting from a change in the subsistence strategy - late Cucuteni B (3999-3646 BC cal., MANTU 1995: 229) - Tripolye Cl (4000-3500 BC cal., MANZURA 1994: 269).

'). The cessrve nate in

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The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalcolithic. A Holographic Approach


~Rter realism exhibited in ceramic skeuomorphic representations is an advantage in visual analysis of =-.rerial culture.

As in the Neolithic (see CHAPMAN 1989: 156) and Chalcolithic cultures from this area - such as ~ etresti (PAUL 1992: 115), Precucuteni (MARINEscu-BILCU 1974: 107) or Stoicani-Aldeni (DRAGOMIR

3: 109) cultures - and also specific to Cucuteni (A and A-B) - Tripolye (B 1 and B2) culture, there .s a lack of necropoles (MARlNEscu-BILCU 1993: 204). Only in the late Cucuteni- Tripolye do we find zecropoles. In Pre-Cucuteni - Tripolye (A) and Cucuteni (A and A-B)-Tripolye (BI-B2) cultures, ~e funerary evidence is limited to the few, poorly described discoveries' of skeletons and headless - zeletons with vases and shards (DUMITRESCU 1957: 99), or to the limited number of bone fragments

see MARINEScu-BILCU ET AL. 1984: fig. 9) found in settlement areas.'

The Ceramic Anthropomorphic Figurines

The anthropomorphous ceramic figurines? are in a constant relationship of similarity and contiguity only in the final phase of the culture) with the mostly-fragmented osteological evidence. Thus, the few sreologic remains as well as the fragmented ceramic anthropomorphous figurines and fragmented vases :ound in this culture had a relationship of contiguity and fragmentation as follows: skeleton with vases znd shards; skull with vases (NECRASOV ET AL. 1957: 3); skeleton with figurines (PASSEK 1961: 148; cited ~ YIONAH 1997: 50); and bone fragments and shards (MANTU 1993a: 51-52).

From a holographic perspective, the two singular funerary pits discovered in this culture containing

complete skeletons and vases (DUMITRESCU 1957: 99ff.) can be interpreted as a whole (the vase) plus :::-agrnents (the vase and the headless skeleton). In this respect, the most typical combinations between ceramics and bones in Cucuteni- Tripolye culture are: whole (vase) plus fragment (shards) for foundation _ its; whole (vase) plus fragment (headless skeleton) or whole (vase) plus fragment (skull), for funerary oits, and fragment (shard) plus fragment (figurine) for "refuse pits".' In the final phase of the culture (see POGOSEVA 1983: 88), the relationship becomes: whole (skeleton) plus whole (figurine) or plus fragment


Classifying Features

The Cucuteni anthropomorphic figurines found in households, in settlements (MANTU 1993: 51-52) or in pits (DUMITRESCU 1954: 403; FLORESCU ET. AL., 1996: 349; MANTU 1993a: 51-52), are of two types: undecorated, with and without anatomical details such as arms or feet or sex, and decorated figurines incised or painted, the latter being, in most cases, faceless and sometimes headless, armless and with

According to Sanda BOLOMEY (1983, 1992, unpub!. ms.), from this scarce evidence, in addition to the scattered bones, four types of burial can be identified: with folded skeletons; with dislocated skeletons; with headless skeletons and with skulls alone. Skulls could be found in households, on platforms, or outside the household.

6 Bones and fragments of bones were found in the soil of settlements and in "refuse pits", sometimes together with anthropomorphous figurines (BOLOMEY 1983: 159-172).

About two decades ago, Marija GIMBUTAS (1974, 1982, 1989, 1991) included the Cucuteni figurines in the category of the "goddess" or "mother-goddess," a concept which was discussed by Peter 1. UCKO (1968) and recently contested by Douglas BAILEY (1994), Lynn MESKELL (1995) or Alasdair WHITTLE (1996). There is no general agreement in contemporary interpretations about the function of anthropomorphous figurines from prehistoric cultures; while Douglas BAILEY (1994) perceives the figurines of the Gumelnita culture (5th millennium BC) as the images of persons or as illusion producers (BAILEY 1996), WHITTLE (1996: 94) favours the interpretation of figurines from all Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures as ancestor figures. In the general debate in recent archaeological literature on anthropomorphous figurines, Cucutenian figurines were not extensively presented (GHEORGHIU 1996a, 1996b; MANTU ET AL. 1997).

8 Given the recurrence of fragmented figurines in these "refuse pits", I believe such pits represent a depository for discarded cult objects (see GARFIELD 1994: 178-180).


Dragos Gheorghiu

stretched feet (Fig. 1). The ratio between the two types varies in every cultural phase and settlement (DUMITRESCU 1954: 406; FLORESCU ET AL. 1996: 350). Except for a few ithyphallic figurines, phalli and those in the shape of a head with neck, the body proportions of the rest of the ceramic anthropomorphous figurines display feminine features. It can, therefore, be assumed they represent women.

A second method of classifying these figurines is based on breakage. For example, the phalli and head-figurines, two accurate examples of the holography of the human body, are not always broken, possibly because they already represent parts of the body. Only a very small number of the decorated figurines are not broken (DUMITRESCU 1954: 403; MANTU 1993a: 61, figs. 6/7, 8,9, 10). Generally, they have been headless or broken to pieces? "since ancient times" (MANTU 1993a: 51) (Figs. 2 and 3). This second classification of the figurines is determined by the mode of breakage, which reflects technology of manufacture (see DUMITRESCU 1927-29: 81-82, 1954: 406; BIBIKOV 1953: 205, cited in MONAH 1997: 58, 1997: 58-9; cf. MARANGOU 1992: 139); thus the figurines modeled from a single piece of clay are not broken, those modeled from two pieces are broken at the middle and those modeled from three pieces are broken at the level of the chest and feet. In both latter cases of breakage, the head is an attached piece which breaks easily.

Decoration as Representation of Funerary Rituals

On all the "decorated" anthropomorphous figurines, the "decoration" shows design regularities utilizing the shape of chevrons. The chevrons cover the entire body, with the exception of the head and the pelvic zone and buttocks, where they are in the shape of spirals. These chevron-like diagrams, which can be produced in the process of plaiting two threads or bandages over the figurine's body and are common in twill plaiting in basketry (ADOVASIO 1977: 105, 113), could then be regarded as belonging to a universal semantics (GARDIN 1986: 1). This pattern, apparently difficult to produce, can be easily mentally reconstructed due to its regularities in line orientation and arrangement (cf. FERNALD ET AL. 1985: 154), a property which confers upon it a holographic character.

I have tried elsewhere through experimental modelling (GHEORGHIU 1996a, 1996b, 1997a) to demonstrate that the "decorative" drawing covering some of the figurines' bodies could be a possible representation of a funerary wrapping of the body, and, subsequently, that the statuettes represent deceased persons, i.e., "ancestors" (Figs. 5 and 6). A complete wrapping of the human body would explain the special aspect of the decorated figurines which are armless and with cone-like legs'? (Fig. 6). Theorizing that Cucuteni-Tripolye decorated ceramic figurines represented deceased people or "ancestors", one can infer that the assemblage of the anthropomorphous figurines would have been an image of "the world of the living" (cf. CHAPMAN 1989: 165) and "the world of the dead", the binary symbolic structure of every traditional society (see KLIGMAN 1988: 162-165).

Specific in Cucuteni-Tripolye culture is the absence of any drawing on the head (see NITU 1971: 89-90) of the ancestor figurines. This makes it possible to infer that the heads of the deceased were

9 The archaeological evidence from some settlements in the Cucuteni area is the following: at Habasesti (DUMITRESCU 1954: 403) (Cucuteni A site, totally excavated), from 175 found figurines, only 2 were unbroken; at Tiganesti (FLORESCU ET AL. 1996: 345) (Cucuteni A site, 2/3 excavated), from 394 found figurines, only 2 were unbroken; at Scanteia (MANTu 1993: 51) (Cucuteni A site, partially excavated), from 263 found figurines, only one was unbroken. From all sites in Tripolye area, out of 2000 found figurines, only 103 were not broken (POGOSEVA 1983: 345). The "excessive fragmentary state" (MoNAH 1997: 62) of Cucutenian figurines (usually broken at the neck, trunk or feet) noticed by several authors (BIBIKOV 1953; POGOSEVA 1983; MANTu 1993) was believed to be the result of breakage following a certain utilization (BIBIKOV 1953: 261; FLORESCU ET AL. 1997: 347). The breakage of certain figurines was practiced since Precucuteni, as the archaeological evidence confirms it; for example, in a house from Trusesti, 20 figurines, "complete and broken" (MARINEscu-BILCU 1974: 107) were found together with clay miniatural furniture and shards.

10 Osteological data in favour of this hypothesis come from the Cemica (CANTACUZINO 1965: 46) cemetery of the Boian culture (5060-4520 BC) (MANTu 1995: 227) and they refer to the non-anatomical position of the skeletons, with crossed feet and uprising shoulders resulted from a tight wrapping of the deceased bodies.

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The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalcolithic. A Holographic Approach

• '::fg. 1. Headless figurine from Draguseni, Cucuteni A.


Fig. 2. Fragmentedfigurine from Draguseni, Cucuteni A.

Fig. '3. Fragmented figurine from Draguseni, Cucuteni A .


Dragos Gheorghiu

Fig. 4. Reconstruction by experiment of the pattern of figurine from fig. 2.

Fig. 5. Reconstruction by experiment of the pattern offigurine fromfig. 3.

Fig. 6. Headlessfigurinefrom Cucuteni (eponymous site), Cucuteni A.

The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalco lithic. A Holographic Approach


- : "wrapped" like the bodies. Faceless statuettes with undecorated heads (phases A and A-B) or with cai ted black hoods (phase B) could be explained from the perspective of the traditional society funerary :::'Jal which consists of covering the head of the deceased with a veil (MARIAN 1995: 50). In phase B, ~e parallel painted lines or painted chevrons, usually positioned at the wrist and at the ankles, could .. -0 be associated with temporary or permanent ritual bindings performed in the funerary ritual (MARIAN 395: 50).

A total wrapping of the body would symbolize on the one hand the symbol of "ancestors", and _:: the other hand the symbol of "protection". When correlated with the few osteological remains and -" e lack of necropoles in the Cucuteni culture, the wrapped figurines and wrapped vases could bring :omplementary data to reconstruct a preliminary phase of the funerary ritual. This would consist ofthe -:rapping of the deceased body and of the covering of the head with a veil, followed by a possible offp-ound exposure of the body, which was later dismembered.

Perceived from the perspective of similarity, the incomplete skeletons (the pieces of bone and ::: rulls discovered in "sacrificial" pits (DUMITRESCU 1957: 99 ff.), in households or in "refuse" areas

_1.ARINEscu-BILCU ET AL. 1984: 45-46) could then have a correspondence in meaning with the broken ::'ecorated figurines. The first similarity would be that both could represent "ancestors", and the second ~t both are dismembered or decapitated. As mentioned above, a very small number of ceramic anrhropomorphous decorated figurines of "ancestors" are complete, many of them being fractured at the zeck, pelvis and feet. One should presume that such a result is the consequence of a natural process, but -",..,ere are data from other prehistoric cultures which indicate the contrary. II

The Head, a Holographic Image of the Body

Among the few human osteological finds in Cucuteni- Tripolye culture," skulls play an important role." If a funerary off-ground main ritual did exist, it may have been completed by a second ritual - the detachment of the skulls and a selective inhumation, followed probably by a fragmentation of :he rest of the skeleton. The importance of the head can be deduced from its relationship with other objects in funerary contexts: in Tripolye C culture, in the Vykhvatinti (PASSEK 1961: 148; cited in _ fONAH 1997: 50), Capaevka and Maiaki (POGOSEVA 1983: 88,96-99, 102; cited in MANTU 1993a: 52)

ecropoles, anthropomorphous figurines were positioned at the head of the deceased. In the first two cultural phases, the figurines' dimensions of the head are insignificant, compared to the proportion of the body," differing markedly from the last cultural phase. I believe this represents decapitation, emphasizing the special significance of the head. In the last cultural phase, two distinct styles in the

11 John CHAPMAN (1997a) demonstrated with rich evidence from the Hamangia Neolithic culture (c. 4890 BC; MANTU 1995: 227) that the feminine figurines present in tombs were for the most part fragmented. He regards the fragmentation and deposition processes as an alienability of goods having an internal value of enchainment: the transfer of the "magic and power of ancestors" by means of fragments to the next generations (CHAPMAN 1997b). Such a process of enchainment could have, in addition to its holographic value of recreating the missing whole, an extra value of contiguity between the fragment and the deceased.

11 There is evidence of complete skeletons in necropoles of late Cucuteni-Tripolye, as at Vykvatinti, although some archaeologists do not classify it as belonging to a typical Cucuteni population (Velikanova [n.d.]: 211 ff. cited in MONAH 1997: 50).

13 For example, the skull of an old woman put into a ceramic vase from Traian Dealul-Fantanilor pits (NECRASOV ET AL. 1957: 3), the skulls of two young people (PLOPSOR ET AL. 1975: 134), the skull fragment from Tirpesti (MarinescuBILCU ET AL. 1984: 5, 6; fig. 9), the group of 17 pieces from Bilce-Zlote (NECRASOV ET AL. 1957: 4), the skull from Lipicani (NECRASOY ET AL. 1957: 4), and the skull of a child, positioned on a mass of calcinated grains (MONAH ET AL. 1997: 52-3), recently found at Poduri - "Dealul-Ghindaru".

14 According to Vladimir DUMITRESCU (1967: 37), the Habasesti settlement (Cucuteni phase A3) produced only anthropomorphic figurines with a "very small head, sometimes barely profiled on top of the neck, the latter sometimes being short and sometimes only as a pointed end of the neck".


Dragos Gheorghiu

representation of the human body, and especially the head, occur: a geometrical one in both Cucuteni and Tripolye and a naturalistic one in the Tripolye area.

When comparing the geometrical figurines from the same last cultural phase with those from previous cultural phases, the size of the head is more substantial, permitting one to discern without doubt when a statuette is headless or not. In the later phase, the beheading of figurines seems to be associated with clusters such as the vases with figurines from Ghelaiesti or Buznea (MIHAl ET AL. 1985: 429). One can infer that the beheaded figurines from phase B also represented deceased people due to the diagrams of wrapping painted on parts of their body.

In the figurines modeled in the naturalistic style, decapitation" also occurs. For instance, a head with a broken neck and closed eyes (see MONAH 1997: 108) was found at Caracusanii Vechi (Tripolye B2) (POGOSEVA 1983: fig. 75; cited in MONAH 1997: 108).

In Gumelnita Chalco lithic culture (4780-4045 BC) (MANTU 1995: 227-228), synchronous with Cucuteni-Tripolye culture, ceramic figurines provide strong data in favor of the ritual of the detachment of the head. The large number of figurines with cut heads "still from prehistory" (COM$A 199: 12) (Fig. 7), together with the detachable heads made of ceramic (see ANDREESCU 1997: 312, fig. 4) or bone (NEAGU 1986: 95) possessing conical necks, the heads with neck as pedestal (Fig. 8) (see also BERTEMES ET AL. 1988: 252, 254, 256), similar to the Cucuteni figurines or with triangular face which copies the figurines made of phalanx (see BERTEMES ET AL. 1988: 257), the acrolithic-like headless figurines and the ceramic heads or "masks" from cenotaphs could be an index of the existence in this culture of a ritual of detachment of the head from the body. Several findings of skulls are complementary arguments 16 for the ceramic evidence (DUMITRESCU 1965: 232; COM$A 1960: 11,25; DUMITRESCU ET AL. 1988: 44).

The Holographic Similarity between Figurines and Vases

As well as the obvious anthropomorphous vases, "always copying a headless human body" (MANTU 1993b: 132), in Cucuteni-Tripolye culture, some figurines and some vases have an identical pattern of decoration and proportion with the pelvis of anthropomorphous ceramic figurines. This similarity in decoration could imply a similarity between the process of wrapping the human body and vases. Also, fragments of vases and/or complete vases without lids have been found with human skeletons, headless skeletons or skulls. This funerary symbolism is similar to the ritual of protecting the fragmented body'? of the dead with shards (COM$A 1960: 86; PAPUSOI 1992: 28 ff.), such as was done in the funerary pits from Traian Dealul Fantanilor. In this case, two incomplete skeletons were partially covered by vase fragments (DUMITRESCU 1957: 101, 103).

An obvious case of similarity between human body and its holographic image (the ceramic anthropomorphous figurine), is to be found at the "support-vases?" with anthropomorphic features.

15 The impression of "decapitation", similar to that found in the Cucuteni (A and A-B)- Tripolye (BI-B2) figurines, is given by the long-necked female statuettes found in Hamangia tombs from the Cemavoda cemetery, where there is osteologic evidence of secondary burial of the skull (BERCIU 1966; 12, fig. 4/2). Only a couple of ceramic sitting figurines discovered there possess a long neck, terminated with a very well-defined round head. Recently, five round heads and broken necks were discovered (HASOTTI 1997: 45), proof of a funerary ritual involving the beheading of figurines in this culture.

16 Osteologic evidence (DUMITRESCU ET AL. 1988: 44) of the existence of a holographic ritual of dismembering the human body as in the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture can also be found in the Gumelnita culture.

17 Analogous finds come from the tombs in Bordusani, Gumelnita culture, where shards were positioned under the skull of childem's skeletons, confirming a relation of similarity between the human body and vases which can be extended to other examples, as the carinated bowl, a "grave good in every gender/age category", believed by John CHAPMAN (1996, unpb. ms.) to be a symbol of "humanness" in this culture.

18 Since Precucuteni (MARINEscu-BILCU 1974: 94) a specific category of these vases called "vases-support" appeared, under the form of a group of headless characters, positioned in a circle, in an analogous way with the anthropomorphous figurines positioned into the vases from Ghelaiesti or Buznea.

The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalco lithic. A Holographic Approach


~ from doubt iciated ). One @"ams

.d with .e B2)

s with :hment 19: 12) Ir bone RTEMES ies the mdthe tualof for the

Fig. 7. Fragmented head from Gumelnita (eponymous site), Gumelnita culture.


Fig. 8. Figurine-head with neck as pedestal from Gumelnita (eponymous site), Gumelnita culture.

Certain vases, like the amphorae from Draguseni (CRISMARU 1977: fig. 30, 1-5), display the same proportions and the same decoration as that of the pelvis and torso of female figurines. Some of them, like an amphora from Radulenii Vechi II (MONAH 1997: 502, fig. 250), have a lid with facial features. The detachment of the lid from a vase could, in this context, have had a similar ritual role - the detachment of the skull from the skeleton."

MANTU tern of irity in ;. Also, eadless body'? iry pits ly vase

The Ancestor Cult as the Result of a Holographic Construction and Deconstruction of the Whole

The funerary and ancestor rituals may be viewed as two phases of a hologram. They move from parts to whole, and then from whole to parts. I believe that syncretism still existed between the two rituals (cf. BARRETT 1988: 31) and that this is demonstrated by the existence of cenotaphs (cf. WHITTLE 1996: 100) and secondary burial of the skull. Therefore, a parallel presentation, as a diagram composed of sequences of the activity of the creation of figurines and vases together with the funerary practices, would visualize the rituals and reveal the analogies existing between the rituals' sequences. Thus, a close reading of the ritual activity would demonstrate that every main ritual acts as a hologram, in which the

reation of the whole from parts is followed by breakage or dismembering into smaller and smaller parts. The smaller parts then retain the original information possessed by the whole.

Three main rituals forming the cult of ancestors in a relation of similarity:

.erarmc satures.

igurines, ere there lC sitting re round ading of

rring the

me skull extended :::H.APMAN

19 This hypothesis seems to be supported by the presence of ceramic cups in form of human heads as, for example, the decapitated head-vase from Trusesti found near an oven (MONAH 1997: 261, figs. 1,3,5), the one from MargineniCetatuia (MONAH 1997: 257, fig. 5), Cucuteni A2, or the ceramic model from Trusesti (MARINEscu-BILCU 1993: pI. 22), from the same phase. One can suppose that the mentioned pieces are parts or models of ovens or kilns, by comparing them with models of ovens from Berezovka (OVCHINNIKOV 1996: 115), Tripolye C culture or from Stara Zag ora (GEORGIEV 1988: 45, fig. 17), Gumelnita culture.

tlpeared, with the


Dragos Gheorghiu

Figurines Vases Humans
0 1. Clay and flour mix 1. Clay and chaff mix 1.?
.... Clay and shards mix
= 2. Modeling ofthe human 2. Modeling of the vase body 2. ?
S~ body from parts from parts
~-= 3. Decoration by incision 3. Decoration by incision 3. ?
..:: ::
s and with grains
0 4. Painting 4. Painting 4. Painting of the body?
~ 5. Baking 5. Baking 5. Rite of transition?
6. Ritual use: 6. Vases containing figurines 6. Sacrificial pits?
'" inside vases,
= inside households
S 7. Wrapping with textile 7. Fixing the lid on the body 7. Wrapping of the deceased?
~ threads (following the of the vase
0 incised patterns) Wrapping of the vase
~ 8. Unwrapping and 8. Unbinding and breaking 8. Dismembering and fragmentation
-= fragmentation: to pieces of the skeleton
S beheading
0 breaking of the torso
~ breaking of the feet
splitting the feet
9. Ritual use of the 9. Ritual use of the lids and 9. Selective inhumation: reburying
beheaded body and of fragments the skull in pits in households
'" the head? Selective inhumation
~ in pits
0Sl in households
... 10. Spreading of 10. Spreading offragments 10. Spreading of fragments
fragments Recycling of fragments/
shards The above listed sequences of the main rituals require additional comments. For instance, for the human body, one can infer the existence of two groups of rituals: lifetime and post-mortem, the latter consisting of an off-ground phase followed by a burial phase. Every phase, in turn, can be divided, as every rite of transition (see LEACH 1976: fig. 7), into three sequences; for instance, the ceramic pieces would have an initial sequence which corresponds to nos. 1-3, followed by a separation between nos. 3,4 and 5 then by a marginal state in no. 5 and an aggregation in nos. 6 and 7. After the aggregation to the community of the human body, figurines or vases, in their new state of "conservation", or control as wrapped bodies, wrapped figurines or bound vases, it is likely that, due to their storage, an interval of "normality" (cf. HUNTINGTON ET AL. 1979: 13) followed. A new state of "crisis" comes next in no. 8, after the end of the interdiction state, when the above mentioned objects are dismembered or broken, in order to be reintegrated to society, in funerary pits or "refuse" pits (nos. 9 and 10), by spreading the fragments in settlements or by incorporating them into objects. The early sequences of all rituals could represent the mythical genesis of humans, in a similar way with that of figurines and vases, hence it is conceivable to regard the baking process as a rite of passage, as one can infer from ethnological examples (see DAVID ET AL. 1988: 366). There is evidence that the rituals did not always follow the diachronism presented above: the cases of the beheaded figurines found together with complete figurines in the vases from Ghelaiesti and Buznea demonstrate the synchronism of stages 6, 7 and 8.

The synoptic presentation of rituals enables the interpreter to have a new perspective of the similarity of dismembering objects and bodies. Figurines can be fragmented and then "consumed"

The Cult of Ancestors in the East European Chalcolithic. A Holographic Approach

symbolically and perhaps physically. This interpretation can also be applied to osteologic remains. All ritual sequences of objects can be condensed in the following chaine operatoire: forming from many parts, incision, baking, wrapping or binding, unwrapping or unbinding, breakage and deposit. The forming of figurines from parts is a symbolic action. Putting together the head, the torso and the feet r., analogous to the forming of large amphoras, which were generally made of separate pieces soldered :ogether.

Incision made with the help of threads or vegetal stems (GHEORGHIU 1997b) was a common operation for both figurines and vases from Precucuteni until the Cucuteni A-B phase, when it was replaced on

uses by painting. It disappears completely from rituals starting with Cucuteni B phase. In CucuteniTripolye culture, the thread was used as a template to draw the complex pattern on incised or painted vases and also, beginning with Cucuteni A-B phase (DODD-OPRITESCU 1981: 513 ff.), to produce the cord impressed ceramic labeled "type C". The relationship between thread, plants, figurines and human bodies is to be found on some anthropomorphous amphorae' and figurine patterns in the shape of meanders or zigzags. Diagrams resulting from the plaiting of plants or mats (cf. ADOVASIO 1977) were z ommon symbol of protection (see BRAITHWAITE 1982; cited in HODDER 1982: 80-88) for vases and ancestors."

Funerary Rituals as Holographic Utilization of Ancestors' Presence

The "partial" evidence resulting from funerary pits, foundation pits and scattered human skeleton - gments, which holographically becomes an interplay between parts and the whole, should be regarded as a nonverbal communication (see RENFREW 1994: 266) referring to the ancestors' cult. The =- ssibility of a complex visual language exists in the Cucuteni- Tripolye culture and is derived from the

;:.entification of visual messages encoded in figurines and vases. This includes crisis sequences related - burning, binding, wrapping or breaking, and from the combination of the fragment with the whole.

As John Chapman (1997) suggests, fragments may be symbols of a transfer between generations by =<!ans of the process of enchainment. Another scholar has theorized that fragmentation always seems to -:='-e been a symbol ofthe past (NOCHLIN 1994: 8-10).

In creating a model to elucidate the mental reconstruction of the whole in prehistoric populations, _ good historical model for inspiration is saints' relics. The mental mechanism of tatum ex parte which recreates the whole from the fragment is designated by religious literature under the name of praesentia see BROWN 1981) or physical presence. This paradoxical invisible physical" presence of the saint znong a community or to individuals could not be produced without the possession of a small fragment :.. m his/her body. If a similar model is used to explain the fragmentation in prehistoric funerary rituals, -c!S the piece of bone or the part of a figurine, or even a shard, generates by tatum ex parte mechanism

ce invisible praesentia of the ancestor.

Ethnocentrically speaking, it seems that the process of breaking the ancestors' statuettes denotes a _ ense of recycling the past, or, a consumerist attitude towards the energy ofthe past. The "consumption" ~ figurines, similar to the "consumption" of skeletons or vases, infers the existence of praesentia as _ mana or "magical power" (see CLIFTON 1968: 236) principle existing in the substance of ancestors ::.i h is transferred by contiguity. This sort of "power" hidden in the ancestors' substance would plain the special protection of the bodies of the deceased by wrapping them in an initial phase of

fYlng Cis

for the ae latter ided, as c pieces een nos. ~ation to mtrol as ervalof

8, after in order gments present eivable

There is a general consensus that the meander and zigzag patterns visible on a large number of Neolithic and Chalcolithic figurines from East Europe represent an index oftextile cloth or tattoos (ANDRIESESCU 1912: 105; COMSA :995: 107; DUMlTRESCU 1954: 422). Although I don't completely reject these hypotheses, I believe that both of them refer to skeoumorphisms originating from the basic design of plaiting vegetals for mats, which, casted on the human ":::ody, would have a funerary symbolism.

Cf Sufis' imaginal world. The term was coined by Henry CORBIN (1976: 4; cited in TALBOT 1976: 260), in order "to :Yscribe a world created by imagination but is ontologically no less real than physical reality".

of the hsumed"

-,;0," ,."...,~ ~ "r"1l'!

li!jfllic .. ' I '" j"'ioIII!!

liM' • I , .. ", .. II



Dragos Gheorghiu

the funerary ritual. A certain "power" seems to have existed in the heads or skulls 01 the deceased and, subsequently, in the figurines' heads, as suggested by the dismembering of skeletons and by the second burial of the heads. If the osteological stocks of the ancestors of a community are limited to some special individuals, the cultural ones, under the shape of clay figurines or vases, could be renewed and charged with ancestors' "power" in a contiguous or contagious way. This hypothesis could provide an explanation for the lack of necropolis, the fragmented skeletons and the large number of fragmented statuettes in Cucuteni - Tripolye culture."


ADOVASIO, 1. M. 1977

Technology. A guide to identification and analysis. Aldine Publishing Company.


Plastica gumelniteana din colectiile Muzeului National de Istorie al Romaniei. Cercetari arheologice 10,309-317.


Contributie la Dacia inainte de Romani. Iassy.

BAILEY, D. 1994

Reading prehistoric figurines as individuals. World Archaeology 25/3, 321-331.

BAILEY, D. 1996

The interpretation of figurines: the emergence of illusion and new ways of seeing. Cambridge Archeological Journal 6/2, 291-295.

BARRETT, C. 1. 1988

The Living, the Dead and the Ancestors: Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Mortuary Practices. In:

Barett, 1. c., Kinnes, 1. A. (eds.), The Archaeology of Context in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Recent trends. Sheffield, University of Sheffield, 30-41.

BERCIU, D. 1966

Cultura Hamangia. Academia, Bucharest.


Die bulgarisch-deutsche Ausgrabung in Drama, Bez. Burgas-Katalog, Macht, Herrschaft und Gold. Das Graeberfeld von Varna (Bulgarien) und die Anfaenge einer neuen europaeischen Zivilisation (cat). Saarbriicken, Modeme Galerie des Saarland-Museums, 241-266.

BIBIKOV, S. N. 1953

Poselenie Luka-Vrubleveskaja na Dnestre. Materialy i issledovanija po arkheologii 38.

BOHM, D. 1980

Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

BOLOMEY, S. 1983

Noi descoperiri de oase umane intr-o asezare cucuteniana. Cercetari arheologice 6, 159-172.

BOLOMEY S. 1992 unpublished manuscript.

22 The consumerist attitude would explain in the neighbouring culture Gumelnita the existence of cenotaphs in the Varna cemetery, empty tombs or containing "some human bones" (WHITTLE 1996: 98). The cenotaph' could be regarded as the place of the invisible praesentia of ancestors after the "consuming" of the body, sometimes holographically visualized under the shape of an anthropomorphous clay head. Also the cenotaph seems to be a place of contagion, where other skeletons could be buried (WHITTLE 1996: 98) in order to acquire "power". By comparing the two funerary pits from Traian Dealul-Fantanilor containing skeletons, complete vases and shards with the foundation pits appearing since Precucuteni (MARINEscu-BILCU 1974: 32), containing only complete vases and shards, one can confer to the latter a similar role with the cenotaphs.


Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe




peinte 1-20.


In this chapter, I wish to discuss a social practice which has left strongly patterned material remains on sites of all kinds in the Neolithic and Copper Age of South East Europe. I shall outline the general patterning in the material remains, propose a set of explanations for this patterning and provide two more detailed examples of this based upon specific artifact types often associated in Balkan prehistory with the archaeology of cult.

The social practice in question is fragmentation (CHAPMAN 2000). One of the key characteristics of Balkan Neolithic and Chalcolithic artifacts is that, when we discover them, they are not only broken but incomplete. There are, of course, instances when the excavator finds a complete, undamaged object. And on far more occasions, a complete object is fragmented owing to later human activity, soil pressure and/or other post-depositional processes and activities. In the case of a complete pot in a grave which is found in many fragments, restoration produces a complete vessel. While damage to a complete object during excavation can occur, this type of damage can be identified and discounted. There are also many post-depositional processes of attrition, especially in biologically active soil conditions, which damage or destroy complete objects and render them partial. The signs of such attrition and erosion are usually recognisable on such artifacts.

I am referring to another phenomenon - the case of a broken object which cannot be restored to completeness because it was never deposited as a complete item. Many such broken objects possess old breaks, which can be relatively unworn or abraded to a greater or lesser extent, depending upon pre-depositional use. How to account for the presence of broken, incomplete items in archaeological contexts?

Five explanations have been offered for this surprisingly widespread phenomenon: (1) objects are broken accidentally or through use; (2) objects are buried because they are broken; (3) objects are ritually 'killed' and deposited, either complete or in pieces; (4) objects are broken to disperse fertility throughout the settlement and beyond; and (5) objects are broken deliberately, used in relations of enchainment and then buried.

One obvious reason for the incorporation of broken artifacts into contexts of preservation is that they are broken during use or accidentally. There is a distinction between fired clay objects which may break if they fall to the ground and those of stone and bone which are not so easily broken by accident. However, there are relatively few surfaces in a Neolithic and Copper Age settlement which would be hard enough to break anything but a ceramic container. The majority of everyday tools such as polished stone axes and bone awls which are worn or incomplete have suffered breakage or wear through use. A good example is the deposition of polished stone tools, which generally take two forms: (1) a broken or heavily used complete form, either as stray finds in presumably arable land or as deliberate discard of old household objects in settlement contexts; and (2) a complete object in mint condition, found in either the relatively small number of known hoards or the mortuary domain. The first depositional category is well illustrated by the large sample of ground stone tools excavated from the Starcevo (Phase I) and Late Vinca (Phase II) occupations at Divostin, where the majority of the tools are either badly damaged through use or broken during use (PRINZ 1988).

The breakage or damage leading to the decision to discard objects is, however, but the first stage of the discard chain. The next decision is where to discard the damaged or broken object. If a particularly ornate trichrome painted ware vessel accidentally falls to the ground and shatters, the breakage may be accidental but the deposition of the sherds is usually anything but accidental. This is the link between


e de la



ents of

iaterial ondon,



John Chapman

breakage and the form of deposition, whether structured or haphazard. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that many thousands of objects have been damaged and/or broken in use.

The second explanation of object breakage has been advanced by Meillassoux for a wide variety of special-purpose objects (MEILLASSOUX 1968) and refined by GARFINKEL (1994) in the context of so-called 'ritual burial' of cult objects in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Near East. Meillassoux argues that the very existence of special-purpose artifacts, whose distribution must lie outside the 'normal' sphere(s) of circulation, would be threatened if they were introduced into general economic transactions. Hence, "once the particular relations they express are at an end", they must be removed from circulation and "the destruction of these artifacts dissolves the basic problem" (MEILLASSOUX 1968). Garfinkel limits this idea to ritual objects and asks the question 'Are items broken for burial or buried because they are broken 7' Garfinkel chooses the latter (1994: 178-9): "the formal burial of cultic objects is a solution to a theological problem: what should be done with ritual and sacred objects after they grow old, wear out and become unsuitable for ritual practices 7"

This approach is buttressed by the Talmudic principle (1994: 179) that, once something becomes holy, it can no longer be turned into an object of daily use. In brief, broken ritual objects constitute "a ritual institution for the disposal of cultic items" (1994: 180). There are several problems with Garfinkel's explanation, beginning with the sharp distinction he makes between ritual and profane objects. Much recent archaeological theorising about ritual objects recognises that the boundary between these two categories is not so clear-cut and that there are indeed many cases where the same object can serve profane purposes in one context and ritual purposes in another (BARRETT 1991, among many chapters in the 'Sacred and Profane' volume: GARWOOD ET AL. 1991). This objection also applies to Meillassoux' distinction between special-purpose and generalised exchange spheres, which is clearly not applicable to Neolithic and Copper Age figurines, whose contexts of deposition range across all types of site context. Secondly, many special finds in the Balkans are not discarded as worn-out or damaged objects but are deposited soon after they were broken. Thirdly, many figurines have been manufactured in ways which enable fragmentation to occur simply and without difficulties, suggesting that the expectation is that they will be broken during their use-life, not at its end. Finally, there are instances where figurines are broken in ways so difficult to achieve that it seems unlikely that they would be 'killed off' in this way but broken in a simpler way. While it is unwise to exclude Garfinkel's explanation in principle, there are clearly many instances in which it is not the simplest explanation.

The third explanation is that there are times and places when it is necessary to 'kill' artifacts deliberately and one of the most obvious ways is to break the objects prior to deposition. A wide range of examples of 'killing' artifacts as part of mortuary ritual practices is discussed by HAMILAKIS (1998) in the context of Minoan Crete. However, one characteristic of 'killed' artifacts is that all the parts are found together in the same deposit. When the parts are found together and can make a total object, it would be possible to interpret the practice as the killing of the object. This is clearly not the case with large numbers of deposited fragments.

The fourth explanation derives from research on Japanese Jomon figurines which began in the last century and continues to thrive today (for a recent summary in English, see BAUSCH 1994). Figurine research in Japan made great strides in the Meiji-period (1868-1912), especially in the writings ofTsuboi Shogoro, who was the first to recognise intentional breakage of figurines in the 1890s. Tsuboi Shogoro proposed that figurines were central to community rituals, at the end of which they lost their magic power and were discarded, often on rubbish heaps. This explanation was refined in the 1970s through the integration of the discard notion with Gimbutas' concepts of the great goddess and female fertility. Thus, Mizuno MASAYOSHl (1974) argued that the community rituals were summaries of the female life-cycle and the figurines, with their symbolic load of fertility, were broken and dispersed around the village, where discard in different places brought renewed life to the earth. Although supported by the very high percentage of female figurines and their deposition with places with strong female associations, this idea was criticised by Ono

~ that

ide the

at an DIves is the s the ilem: come

thing ~j ects rveral ween rmses many ses III WOOD rpose rAge many osited which jon is where killed nation

tifacts ; range (1998)

.rts are [ect, it Ie with

l in the 1994). in the

I in the end of Illation fPts .of mumty IQad of rrought

?Unnes )y Ono

Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe


Miyoko as over-specific speculation but with no attempt to replace it with another explanation (in YONEDA 1987).

The idea of the incorporation of deliberately broken objects into ritual contexts was also advanced for the Balkan Neolithic by HaCKMANN (1965, 1968) and by MAKKAY (1975, 1983). Hackmann noted that the consistency of the clay and the firing temperature of Linearbandkeramik figurines, the vast majority of which were deposited as fragments, made it extremely improbable that such breakage was accidental (1965: 4). Later, the notion of "Scherbenmachen" was introduced to explain the incorporation of sherds of varying sizes into structured deposits. Makkay described this as "a ritual breaking of vessels", which was but one type of bloodless sacrifice found in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age (1983: 160). However, neither author attempted to explain the meaning of such fragmentation of pottery and figurines.

Support for the pattern of deliberate breakage of figurines and their dispersal within as well as between settlements is found in Bausch's (1994) contextual analysis of the Middle Jomon figurines from the almost totally excavated Shakado complex. In the largest known sample of Middle Jomon figurines yet excavated, only one complete figurine was discovered and only 15 re-fittings could be made. An important observation is that two leg fragments could be re-fitted from separate settlement areas (termed separate 'villages') located 230 m apart (BAUSCH 1994: 92). Since the Shakado complex was intensively excavated, Bausch argues against the remainder of the figurines being deposited in unexcavated parts of the site and posits instead the transfer of figurine fragments to other villages (1994: 108). Bausch also points to other categories of ritual finds which are always or usually deposited as broken, e.g., ceramic pedestals, ceramic rim heads, pots with pierced rims and the miniature vessels (1994: 37--41).

This explanation has the merit of explaining not only intentional breakage of objects but also their dispersal in many contexts. However, the specific linkage between goddesses, fertility and figurine fragmentation does weaken the overall hypothesis, which fails to account for the breakage of other objects not so evidently or closely connected with females. But the notion of the dispersal of symbolic meaning though deposition after use is an important point contributing to an overall explanation of broken objects.

A fifth explanation is that many Neolithic and Copper Age objects have been deliberately broken some way through their use-life, as well as near the end of their use-life, because of the essential contribution which object fragmentation makes to social practices more widespread and less specific than the Jomon case. Before scrutinising the evidence for deliberate object fragmentation, we shall turn to an exploration of the relationships between people and objects and the potential this brings for an understanding of object fragmentation. This exploration will lead us into the key concepts of 'enchainment' and 'accumulation'.

Enchainment and Accumulation

A key starting-point is M. STRATHERN'S (1988) outline of "personhood" among the Mount Hagen people of New Guinea, in which the identity of 'persons' is intimately connected to the material world in which they live - a world dominated by inalienable objects rather than possessions. In the Hagen case (1988: 14-15), social life is acted out as a gendered move between different types of sociality - a unitary individual or that unity split or paired to someone else. Hence, 'persons' become an artifact of the way in which relationships are handled through the possession and manipulation of things, especially things conceptualised as wealth or exchange (STRATHERN 1987: 298). Insofar as objects become attached to and constitutive of persons, the main mechanism for this attachment is gender symbolisation (1987: 299). The 'gender of the gift' is Strathern's major re-articulation of Mauss' notion of gift exchange, in which gift exchange is related to personal domination in gift societies. Here the notions of inalienability and enchainment are important. For the Hagen, 'inalienability' denotes the absence of a property relationship, so they do not have alienable things at their disposal. They can only dispose of items by


John Chapman

enchaining themselves in relations with others. Hence, enchainment is 'a condition of all relations based on the gift' (1988: 161) and is thus the means by which persons are multiply constituted. A. WEINER puts it (1992: 11), inalienable things are the representations of how social identities are reconstituted through time. Such a notion of the multiple, ever-changing constitution of persons offers a challenge to the unity of the person by focussing on the relationships between people and objects.

R. WAGNER (1991) has captured the essence of this alternative view in his term 'fractal person'.

Wagner defines fractality in opposition to singularity and plurality - as an entity with a relationship integrally implied, a person aspiring to being individual and corporate at once (1991: 162-3). If any system of relational field identities is fractal, then kinship relations are inherently fractal; indeed, Wagner describes genealogy as an enchainment of people (1991: 162). Like STRATHERN (1991), Wagner extends the human-ness of persons to their exchange items, which, because they carry with them a sense of their essential unity with the body and the life-process, are 'implicated in the congruence that underlies the remaking of human form, feeling and relationship' (1991: 165).

It is arguable that the notion of the integral 'individual' is a recent concept due to capitalism, and we should be prepared to consider in prehistory the alternative ofthe 'fractal self' or 'dividual self' - a self at the same time individual and collective, connected to other people through the extension of artifacts. How does the concept of fractality apply to artifacts? Before we can discuss this question, we need to outline a framework for the relationships between objects and persons.

Wagner sees humans as mediators of things, as a kind of 'universal catalyst' (1975: 138); permeable to things, humans have the capability to 'become' the things around them, to make them a part of their knowing, acting being. If things are so important, it is logical to expect humans to confer value on them. Wagner argues that all things with cultural value are 'invested' with life: they partake of the self and also create it (1975: 77). This, then, is the link between objectification and personification: valuable items take on part of the qualities of their makers, just as their makers embody qualities of skill and resourcefulness in the manufacturing process. This blurring of the human - object boundary has important consequences for our conceptualisation of production, for, just as the value pertaining to the object is validated communally, so the life qualities invested in the object are regarded as part of the creativity of the maker in relation to a wider value-ladden world. Hence, producers cannot be regarded simply as agents in a technological process but rather - to use ROWLANDS' (1993: 148) phrase - 'facilitators' in larger processes of natural reproduction. STRATHERN (1988) has proposed that, far from personifications in wealth objects being set up against objectifications, rather personification is one way of producing objectification, for 'objects are not created in contradistinction to persons but out of persons' (1988: 171-2, 176).

The institution of the social in things is directly related to the question of the alienability or inalienability of goods, re-phrased by WEINER (1985; cf. also 1992) as 'keeping-while-giving'. WEINER (1992) perceives the dynamic of exchange to reside in the challenge to exchange partners to capture someone else's inalienable possessions, thus embracing their ancestors, magic and power and transfering part of them to their own next generation. This reinforces Bourdieu's point that each exchange act is pregnant with the whole history of these persons and their relationship (BOURDIEU - W ACQUANT 1992: 124). In this reading of exchange, which is fundamentally opposed to acts of reciprocity, cultural reproduction is achieved through the ability to reproduce more of one's self and one's group through time by asserting difference while defining an unchanging past. It is the success of institutionalising difference through exchanges that demonstrates an individual's ability to keep-while-giving and thereby expand one's social identity into forms of rank and hierarchy (1992: 48). Far from disguising difference, acts of reciprocity actually proclaim it (1992: 64)! This means that the processes of keeping-whilegiving project political potential onto every essential exchange.

Inalienable goods of the kind which typifies enchained social relations - keeping-while-giving (WEINER 1992) - may be contrasted with alienable goods or commodities, which lose any personal values or symbolism (GREGORY 1982). WAGNER (1991) elaborates Gregory's distinction into the difference between fractal and representational objects. Ifthose exchange items are separated from the life-process which created them out of persons, they lose their fractal integrity and become "merely wealth objects",

Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe


- ased :::::puts :.=ough : unity

.::. ommodification of human values through utility (WAGNER 1991: 165). It is proposed here that an ::: rernative kind of social relationship was predicated upon those complete objects which are bartered zeross exchange networks beyond the local or regional context. Here, the social and physical distance ::.etween producers and consumers led to a loss of inalienability. HUMPHREY (1992) defines barter as a .ong-term strategy for the transformation of the 'meaning' of objects as they pass from one culture to znother within a single barter system. In this transformation, the objects are themselves alienated from their owners but they remain recognisable as coming from a particular community. N. THOMAS (1992) usefully discusses the way that barter can help solve the conceptual problem of the assimilation of an exotic innovation into a local culture by the incorporation of novel artifacts into persistently autonomous local strategies and domains. However, once the exotic is locally 'tamed', it can begin a new phase of its biography, which can incorporate a further set of more local inalienable knowledge.

In summary, an important and common way for people to develop and maintain social relations is enchainment, a practice by which parts of people move with objects to others in exchange in extended fashion. The inalienability of objects is central to enchainment and, until a loss of inalienability occurs, it is difficult to envisage the development of strategies of accumulation of objects freshly categorised as 'wealth'.

ersori' .

onship If any ndeed, Vagner hem a ce that

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From Enchained People to Fragmented Objects

.ility or WEINER capture isfering e act is T 1992: cultural through nalising thereby ference, r-while-

The two notions outlined above - the use and deposition of deliberately fragmented objects and the enchained social relationships between persons - are not necessarily a logical consequence of each other. If an interpretative linkage between these two ideas can be demonstrated, it would help to provide an explanation of the deposition of such large quantities of incomplete Neolithic and Copper Age objects of notable social significance - an as yet unsolved, not to say scarcely recognised, problem in Neolithic and Copper Age archaeology.

It is not hard to see that social practices of enchainment using complete objects could be extended to enchainment using parts of objects. Indeed, the symbolism of 'pars pro toto', claimed to lie at the heart of prehistoric ideology (NITu 1969: 42), is a very physical extension of enchainment, in which each part of a fragmented object stands for not only the rest of the artifact but both persons concerned with the exchange. Is there any evidence from later periods for this social practice?

The notion of tokens given for hospitality is enshrined in the Greek custom of 'symbolon', as well as the Roman custom of 'tessera hospitalis'; in which the two halves of a single object were kept by two parties to an agreement or a commitment. A possible Etruscan antecedent of this custom is illustrated by the surviving left half of an ivory lion, sawn in half longitudinally and deposited in a votive deposit in S. Omobono in Rome, together with over 300 prestige goods dating to the 7th - 6th centuries BC (CRISTOFANO 1990: 21, 129-130, Fig. 6). The inner face of the half lion bears the inscription of a personal name in Etruscan, linking the object to the 'spurianas' gens. TALALAY

1987: 164-5) mentions that initiates in early mystery religions recognised each other by fitting two fragrnents from the same pot. An even earlier instance of deliberate fragmentation is attested in the neopalatial period on Minoan Crete by the smashing of stone vessels, especially bull's head rhyta REHAK 1994).

CLANCHY provides a later perspective on fragmentation and enchainment with his discussion of changes in legal practices in Medieval Britain (1993). In the Early Medieval period, it was common to exchange two parts of an object - often a knife - between two parties to a legal agreement. As written records oflegal transactions grew more widespread in the mid-late Saxon period, the broken parts of :he knife were attached to the two copies of the document. It was only later, when charters became more common, that objects were no longer attached to the documents. Another, more versatile kind of document was the 'chirograph', in which two copies of the same agreement were cut in half, usually in a unique, zigzag manner so as to eliminate suspicion ofthe legality ofthe document. The zigzag, or ~dented line gave the term 'indenture' to such fragmented documents, which became very common

e-grving _ values

=erence -orocess ibjects' ,


John Chapman

in the later Middle Ages. Interestingly, Clanchy notes that it is unusual for more than one of the original parts to survive to the present day (CLANCHY 1993: 87-88)!

The breaking of an agreement in the Medieval period was also subject to material demonstration, as in the case of the breaking of straws or staffs to symbolise the rending of the feudal bond - fragmentation whose force relied upon a public ceremony (CHERRY 1992: 25). An even more drastic cancellation of obj ects through breakage was at the death of an individual, whether a King of England or a commoner. CHERRY (1992) discusses numerous examples of the cancelling of metal seals and the re-use or deposition of their fragments.

The issue of fragmentation was also a major theological debate in the Medieval period, when the significance of parts of Christ's body, fragmentary bones from saints' bodies and indeed parts of ordinary humans' bodies was discussed in terms of the Last Judgment when all partial bodies would be made whole (BYNUM 1991, esp. Ch. VII). The version of the Byzantine Last Judgment in which human bodies are re-assembled at the end of time to form whole entities is interpreted by BYNUM (1991: 26) as 'the human determination to assert wholeness in the face of inevitable decay and fragmentation' .

Laurie Talalay, the first archaeologist to attempt an ethno-archaeological explanation of figurine fragmentation, has documented a wide variety of ethnographic practices in which figurines are used and then deposited (TALALAY 1987, 1994). Figurines are used by the Bantu and the Bemba during lengthy initiation rites and then destroyed, buried or kept by an initiate. Figurines are buried with the owners after use in fertility rites among the Senufo, while zoomorphic figurines are thrown out with household refuse after increase ceremonies for Zuni herds. However, Talalay cites no ethnographic example of fragmentation and enchainment using figurines. The only example known to the author is the New Hebridean practice of the division of large wooden sculptures, or malangan, into two parts for safe keeping by two parties to a land transaction (KOCHLER 1988, 1994, 1997). This is the closest ethnographic evidence for the use of broken figurines as tokens of economic or social transactions.

There is a body of historical and a modicum of ethnographic evidence for object fragmentation as a social practice guaranteeing the validity of an agreement or a transaction. However, there is no evidence for enchainment using parts of artifacts, possibly because enchained relations were no longer dominant in the historical period. Nonetheless, the notion that fragments of objects transmit not only the symbolism of their complete, once-intact form but also the enchained, or fractal, connotations of past makers and owners would account for a wide variety of fragmentation behaviour. The inalienability of valued objects (WEINER 1992) would then be extended to that of fragments of objects. There is, then, a direct analogy between the way that persons' relationships are extended through the inalienability of their valued objects and the fragmentation of material objects and the transmission of fragments to different individuals in different contexts.

The most clear-cut evidence for this practice is the frequency with which fragmentary vessels are deliberately deposited in graves in some Copper Age cemeteries, such as Tiszapolgar-Basatanya (BOGNAR-KuTZIAN 1963) and Budakalasz (SOPRONI 1956). In the early-middle Copper Age inhumation cemetery of Basatanya, deliberate deposition of large sherds or small vessel fragments occurred in over 50 % ofthe graves, whether in the fill of the grave or placed next to the body. Such a practice occurred in 12% percent of inhumation graves at the Baden cemetery of Budakalasz (CHAPMAN 2000). The most straightforward interpretation is that one part of a vessel was placed with the newly-dead, while another fragment (or several other parts) was taken into the domain of the living as an indication of the kinship links of the living to the newly-dead, to be carried around, or kept in the house or exchanged with others as a form of enchainment.

There are many instances of artifact classes in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age in which such patterning occurs, indicating with high probability that the social practice of fragmentation was fundamental to social relations in these regions. In the remainder of this chapter, I wish to discuss two special artifact classes which themselves embody signs - pottery with incised signs and fired clay stamp seals (also known as 'pintaderas').

Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe


rf the

Incised Signs and Pintaderas/stamp Seals

ntation e is no longer Inly the of past [ility of s, then, !lability Lents to

The manufacture of objects with notational designs, so characteristic of the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age, has long been associated with ritual or socio-economic complexity rather than oriental diffusionism (RENFREW 1973; CHAPMAN 1981; WINN 1981). Two categories of notation are found: motifs made by incision into clay while at the leatherhard stage or after firing and motifs deeply incised or moulded into a larger lower surface. The former are known as 'incised signs' (WINN 1981) while the latter are referred to as 'pintaderas' or 'stamp seals' (MAKKAY 1984). While signs are often incised upon a much larger object which can then be broken to leave the sign intact on a fragment, pintaderas generally lake the form of a lower surface which is completely covered by the motif and a plain, upper handle. There is an inverse relation between groups making objects with incised signs and groups who make pintaderas/stamp seals. The absence of artifacts with the negative impression of a stamp seal leads [0 the conclusion that the items stamped were organic objects, such as bread; there are good recent historical parallels for stamping bread in the displays of the Europdische Brotmuseum, near Gottingen, in Germany. By the same token, objects bearing incised signs are generally interpreted to indicate socio-ritual complexity rather than economic transactions (RENFREW 1973: 176-182; for discussion, see CHAPMAN 1981: 75-77; WINN 1981: 79-80, 242). Pottery vessels, spindle-whorls, figurines and 'unusual' objects comprise the main artifact categories bearing incised signs.

There have been several analyses of complete seals with complex decoration, such as the Sitagroi and the Karanovo examples (THEOCHARIS 1973; MAKKAY 1971), or complete incised plaques, as from Tartaria or Gradeshnitsa (VLASSA 1963; NIKOLOV 1970). The neglected aspect of these items is the differential potential for fragmentation in the two notational categories. Since the main aim of the stamp seal is the impression of its motif on a number of different objects, there would appear to be little point in breaking the seal itself into many parts. It would be a more effective mechanism for enchainment to break the object receiving the negative motif rather than the stamp itself. The very act of breaking ritual oread incorporated a division of sanctified matter that passed to two or more hands before consumption. But the incised signs present a very different principle of enchainment, in which it is not only the complete item on which the sign is incised which can be broken but also the sign itself. What we may have here, therefore, is a general Neolithic and Copper Age analogy for the Medieval indenture discussed above, in which the ability to rejoin two fragments to remake a single sign confers proof of some kind of significant transaction. Hence, a good test of the enchainment through fragmentation hypothesis is whether or not we find that objects incised with signs are frequently deposited as fragments and stamp seals are mostly deposited as complete or largely undamaged artifacts.

ation, Dod - lrastic 19land ad the

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Incised Signs

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iI. which ton was ss two . stamp

The doctoral thesis of Shan WINN (1981) was the first internal analysis of the corpus of incised signs found on Vinca settlements. Rejecting the Near Eastern analogies for the Vinca sign system, Winn concludes that it is a locally-developed semiotic system composed of varying elements of differing complexity. Winn identifies a dichotomy between simpler signs on pottery (Fig. 1) and more complex signs on figurines and spindle-whorls (Fig. 1), which he interprets as two different levels of usage - the simpler signs used in individual actions such as making pots or spinning yam, the more complex signs indicating a formal, ritualised request at a health or life crisis and probably involving the mediation of a shaman (WINN 1981: 242-245). In short, Winn remains convinced that the Vinca religious system was the principal source of motivation for the use of signs (1981: 255).

While the thoroughness ofWinn's scholarship cannot be faulted, he mentions the fragmentation of incised signs only once, drawing one conclusion: "Many of the signs are preserved only fragmentarily, due to the condition of the artifacts, which are nearly always broken" (1981: 13). The notion that the signs are broken because the objects are broken may be correct but it overlooks the alternative possibility that the objects were broken in particular places because the signs were present at those places. Turning the

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John Chapman


Fig. 1. Simple and complex incised signs, Vinca culture (Source: Winn 1981).

question round, there is a strong relationship between the frequency of broken signs and the completeness of 'unusual' items and spindle whorls: these objects have been deposited as complete much more frequently than have figurines with signs (17%), than have vessels (hardly any). Hence, fragmentation of signs on pots is related to the signs more than to the pots, but the converse appears to be true of spindle whorls and 'unusual' objects, with figurines occupying an intermediate position.

The question of incised sign fragmentation can be explored by a close examination of the five largest incised sign samples from Vinca settlements, as collated in WINN'S catalogue (1981: 267-407).

Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe


- se sites are Tordos, Vinca-Belo Brdo, Beograd-Banjica, Smed, Palanka-Medvednjak and Sabac-Jela.

- _CW ofWinn's proposal of a two-level hierarchy of sign use, the incised signs from all spindle whorls,

=_mes and 'unusual' objects have been considered together as a sixth sample.

Both the Tordos and the Vinca tell samples derive from sites where stratigraphic information is - optimal. Tordos is the richest site for incised signs in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age, with _=: individual objects bearing isolated signs or groups of signs - whorls, figurines, 'unusual'objects .; pottery. Most of these objects were collected by Zs6fia von Torma and have no clear provenance UC<AY 1969). Similarly, it is difficult to place the vast majority of the varied artifacts bearing incised ~ from the Vinca tell. The third largest site sample of incised signs derives from the early-late Vinca

- ri-level open settlement of Beograd- Banjica (TODOROVIC - CERMANOVIC 1961). A total of90 incised ~ was incised upon 89 sherds (i.e., one sherd had two signs), deriving mostly from cultural levels but :- ionally from house floors (TODOROVIC 1969; TODOROVIC - CERMANOVIC 1961: 41---43, Tabla XXXII_-2{lV; CHAPMAN 1981: 75-76). It should be emphasised that all the Banjica signs were incised onto essels. The two other samples derive from more recent, but unpublished, excavations in which good

crovenances have been established for the objects incised with signs (Medvednjak: LAZIC - KATUNAR

~ ~8; Sabac-Jela: TRBUHOVIC - VASILJEVIC 1983). The objects from the five samples were included in the :_llowing analysis only if the outline of the object as well as the sign itselfhas been drawn. This rigorous __ +eat can lead to problems of under-estimating the frequency of complete signs: the most notable zxample is the Vinca tell sample, where 79 complete signs are published without any information on the --crds on which they are incised. Inclusion of these signs in the Vinca tell analysis would have produced

- - % more complete signs on the upper part of the vessel than is recorded. In this respect, only the Vinca

zample is problematic, with fewer than 10% of other sherds lacking this information. This point apart, - should be underlined that a very high proportion of signs have been deposited on sherds rather than = complete vessels.

The results of the fragmentation analysis of the incised signs is presented below (Table 1).

Table 1. Fragmentation analysis of artifacts with incised signs from five Vinca sites.

five 07).

Complete 33 29 93 155
Fragmentary 23 5 63 91
Total 56 34 156 246
Complete 13 4 4 21
Fragmentary 24 6 9 39
Total 37 10 13 60
Complete 9 12 1 22
Fragmentary 36 20 12 68
Total 45 32 13 90
Complete 3 6 9 18
Fragmentary 5 7 5 17
Total 8 13 14 35
Complete 21 2 12 35
Fragmentary 41 10 27 78
Total 62 12 39 113 mess ore nn of indle


John Chapman

These results indicate that anywhere between one-third (Tordos) and three-quarters (Banjica) of all incised signs were deposited with the sherds broken through the incised signs. Less than total site excavations prevent any indications of whether the broken parts were taken off-site or deposited elsewhere in the same settlement. There was considerable variation over the extent of fragmentation vis-a-vis the location of the signs; at Vinca and Banjica, the highest fragmentation rate occurred on basal signs, while the lower part of the vessel was most highly fragmented at lela and the upper part at Medvednjak. At Tordos, the upper part and the basal signs were equally broken. These results confirm a pattern of multiple ceramic fragmentation; in the first stage, the inscribed vessel is broken, while, in the second stage, the part of the vessel with the sign is itself broken, presumably into two. As with Medieval indentures, the sherd fracture pattern is unique but is made readily identifiable by the matching parts of the broken sign.

The final analysis concerns the special finds on which signs are incised. These artifacts maintain a far higher ratio of complete: fragmentary objects than was the case with vessels bearing incised signs. Although signs on 'unusual' items are least fragmented, signs on one such object in five have been broken, fewer than the signs on figurines (almost 30%) and fewer still than the spindle whorls (almost 40%). The signs on unusual objects and spindle whorls tend to be grouped, with many objects broken in half, each part bearing half of a complex group design. There are more isolated signs on figurines than on the other two categories but, here too, 60% of the total bears sign groups, often of considerable complexity, two-thirds of which, in turn, are fragmented. Hence, the distinction proposed by Winn between lower-level, simple signs on pottery and higher-level, more complex signs on figurines and whorls is supported by two different patterns of fragmentation, emphasising the practice of depositing complete special finds often bearing complex sign groups.

How do the fragmentation patterns of the incised Vinca items relate to the wider interpretation of ritual structure? The basic distinction between isolated signs and sign groups is another variation on the theme of individuals and sets. The practice of keeping sets intact has been interpreted as an attempt to integrate a variety of different individuals or groups by means of material culture and this practice would apply to the complex sign groups on figurines and whorls. Conversely, the simple, more readily fragmented signs on pottery may indicate the enchainment of individuals or households through the keeping of two parts of the same sign. If Winn is correct about the ritual nature of the sign system, this would suggest ritual enchainment through fragmentation of incised signs was an important innovation of the Vinca network.


The most complete study of stamp seals was made by MAKKAY (1984), who included finds from as far South as Greece and as far North-West as Germany. The items included in this limited analysis comprised only those stamp seals which: (1) are well dated; (2) are illustrated in Makkay's corpus; and (3) originate from Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia and Albania. This leaves a total of 186 seals, the great majority of which date from either the First Temperate Neolithic (n = 61) or the climax Neolithic - Copper Age (n = 82) (Figs. 2-3).

In the analysis, damage and breakage was coded for different parts of the seal - in particular the handle and the decorative surface. Damage/breakage to each item was divided into minor damage and breaks. The former consisted of a broken tip of the handle and minor damage or wear to the surface which did not reduce the surface area by more than 10%. The latter included broken handles and breaks that reduced the surface area by more than 10%. Only major breaks would have impaired the potential for reproduction of the motif on another medium. The results of the analysis are as follows (Table 2):

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Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Southeast Europe


Table 2. Fragmentation analysis of stamp seals from the Neolithic and Copper Age of South East Europe.

Damage No. % No. % No. % No. No. %
COMPLETE 40 66 29 82 64 78 5 138 74
Handle 7 11 3 6 4 5 1 15 8
Surface 5 8 2 6 4 5 - 11 6
Handle 8 13 - - 4 5 - 12 6
Surface 1 2 2 6 6 7 2 11 6
TOTAL 61 36 82 8 187 Key to Chronological Phases: A - First Temperate Neolithic; B - mature farmers; C - climax Late Neolithic / Copper Age; D - post-climax Copper Age

The results indicate a very different fragmentation pattern from that defined for the Banjica incised signs. Here, the majority of stamp seals is either complete ( 73 %) or has suffered minor damage not affecting the motif (19 %). There are only two pintaderas of which less than half the original surfaces are represented - a cylinder from Copper Age Maliq (MAKKAY 1984: Fig. XXVI: 142, Fig. 3/3) and an oval seal from the Balaton-Lasinja site of Kanzianberg (MAKKAY 1984: Fig. XXVIII: 113, Fig. 3/5). A further nine seals were deposited with up to 50% of their surfaces missing - mostly in Phase C contexts. There is a weak trend towards increasing fragmentation in the Copper Age away from a peak in complete seals in Phase B. A high proportion of seals (91 %) was deposited in the cultural levels of settlements, with several examples placed in Koros pits, Cucuteni or Karanovo VI house floors, in the Coka I hoard and, in one case, in a Boleraz grave (at Pilismarot-Basaharc: MAKKAY 1984: Fig. XXVIII: 186, Fig. 3/4). A number of seals shows signs of long and/or heavy use, perhaps indicating a continuity in ritual or economic use for more than an individual human life span. In any case, the fragmentation data indicate that the motif of the seal, rather than the imprint of the motif, was the medium which was kept intact, in direct contrast to the fate of incised signs on sherds at Banjica. One possibility of stamp seal use was the impression of motifs on sacred bread. A great variety of forms of stamped sacred bread can be seen in the Europdisches Brotmuseum, near Gottingen, in Germany. Here, the obvious form of fragmentation is the breaking of the bread rather than the pintadera! Another possible use of stamp seals is in the tattooing of motifs on human skin. An ethnographic example of such a use is the Jivaro practice of bodily decoration before warfare, using a stamp seal with a motif frequently paralleled in Makkay's corpus (REDMOND 1994:

Fig. 24). The head-hunting practised by the Jivaro is another, if more extreme, form of corporeal fragmentation, also paralleled in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age in the case of partial burial and the structured deposition of small bones or fragments of bones (CHAPMAN 2000).

Discussion and Conclusions

What does the evidence from these two artifact classes signify? I suggest that there are two points that form the basis for further interpretation of the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age. First, there is sufficient evidence from both the domestic and the mortuary domains to support the notion of deliberate fragmentation of not only a series of distinctive artifact classes but also more everyday ceramics. Secondly, the form of many of the artifact classes selected for fragmentation is so distinctive that the (present) parts clearly signify the (absent) whole.


John Chapman



I "

Fig 2. Early Neolithic stamp seals:

1. Tecic (Starcevo); 2. Kunszentmarton-Nagyerpart (Karas); 3. Besenova Veche (Cris);

4. Hodmezovasarhely-Zsoldos tanya (Karas); 5. Kunszentmarton-Jaksorerpart (Karas) (Source: Makkay 1984).

Object Fragmentation in the Neolithic and Copper Age a/Southeast Europe



\l~.lbl ~jJ


i -,

Fig. 3. Late Neolithic and Copper Age stamp seals:

1. Sofia-Slatina (Karanovo lII); 2-3. Maliq (Late Neolithic);

4. Pilismarot (Lasinja); 5. Kanzianberg (Boleraz) (Source: Makkay 1984).

None of the five explanations for object fragmentation is capable of providing an overall, allencompassing explanation for the movement within and between sites and eventual deposition of object fragments. While accidental breakage (Explanation 1) can never be ruled out, the context of deposition of accidentally broken objects is rarely fortuitous. Breakage as a solution to the theological problem of how to deal with worn-out ritual objects (Explanation 2) is also possible but does not account for the discovery of partial objects in different parts of the same site nor the deposition of relatively fresh fragments. The killing of ritual objects (Explanation 3) is rarely supported since the vast majority of deposited objects are fragmentary and lack conjoint parts. The use of fragments to disperse fertility beyond the settlement (Explanation 4) cannot yet be falsified but is, equally, not yet supported by a solid body of data. The enchainment of social relations using fragmentary objects (Explanation 5) is the only hypothesis that attempts to explain the widespread deposition of fragments of objects.

Just as enchainment is fundamental to on-site social relationships, not least between households, and therefore entails much on-site fragmentation, we should not exclude the possibility that, because of


John Chapman

the missing fragments of many artifact classes from sites that have been completely excavated, object fragments have been moved off site, perhaps over long distances (CHAPMAN 1996). This notion raises the idea of the long-distance exchange of fragments as well as complete objects.

In this chapter, I have examined the possible explanations for fragmentation of artifacts and concluded that there is strong empirical evidence for deliberate fragmentation as a major means of affecting the social practice of enchainment. I have focussed on but two artifact classes - those classes in which the embodiment of a sign, whether incised or modelled, is central to the form and function of the object. Two opposite results were discovered - the very high fragmentation rate of sherds bearing incised signs, with the majority of breaks across the sign, and the very low rate of breakage of stamp seals - the only case in all the artifact classes yet studied! This exception would appear to prove the rule of object fragmentation, insofar as it makes much more sense to fragment the motif stamped on another medium (e.g., sacred bread) rather than the object giving the imprint.

One of the remarkable aspects of other fragmentation data is the variety of artifact categories that produce a similar pattern of the deposition of incomplete objects (see CHAPMAN 2000). A wide range of data sets comprising figurines has revealed the basic pattern but this is echoed in selected ceramic types, altar-tables, prosopomorphic lids, Adriatic salt pots, incised signs, grinding stones, Spondylus ornaments and copper axes. I submit that it is hard to reject the hypothesis of enchainment through artifact fragmentation when so many different categories of data support the predicted pattern. However, a defining trait of the Balkan Copper Age is the spread of copper metallurgy and the emergence of gold metallurgy, which together creates new conditions for the fragmentation of objects and hence enchainment. While the advent of metallurgy is not the trigger for the new patterns of sets and their constituent whole objects, there is no doubt that metal objects provide new material forms for the accumulation implied in sets. The introduction of metals in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age provides the starting-point for another, quite different suite of social practices, based less on fragmentation than in the "Age of Clay".

Acknow ledgemen ts

I should like to thank Peter Biehl and Francois Bertemes for inviting me to take part in the EAA-97 symposium on "The archaeology of cult" and for their forbearance in awaiting the completion of this text. I am happy to acknowledge the University of Durham who granted me one year's research leave during which this research was carried out, UCL-Department of Anthropology and, in particular, Mike Rowlands, for their hospitality during that year, and the British Academy for financial support for my visits to Hungary and Romania. I am especially grateful to Janos Makkay, who gave me a copy of his book on Stamp Seals and has discussed many issues of Central and East European prehistory with me for over 25 years. I acknowledge the friendly co-operation of Suzanne Kuchler in discussions of ethnographic examples of fragmentation. I am grateful to Pam Graves for discussing Medieval instances of fragmentation with me and also to Yannis Hamilakis for sending me his recent papers and discussions on Minoan fragmentation. Finally, thanks to Ilona Bausch for her help with Japanese Jomon figurine fragmentation - she opened up a new world of figurine practices to me.


BARRETT, J. 1991

Towards an archaeology of ritual. In: Garwood, P., Jennings, P., Skeates, R., Toms, J. (eds.), Sacred and Profane. Oxford Committee for Archaeology Monograph No. 32, Oxford, Oxbow, 1-9.

BAUSCH, I. 1994

Clay figurines and ritual in the Middle Jomon priod. A case study of the Shakado site in the Kofu Basin. Unpublished M.A. dissertation, University of Leiden.

Neolithic Cult Assemblages

from the Early Neolithic Settlement at Slatina, Sofia


An assemblage in a Neolithic settlement is usually described as ritualistic when it has proven impossible to label utilitarian.

Contemporary knowledge of utilitarian activities of the earliest agriculturalists in the Balkans is virtually incomplete. Hence, the interpretation as rituals of many elements of the prehistoric material culture should also be considered insufficiently certain. On the other hand, utilitarian and ritual activities in that early era were indivisibly linked together, so that an assemblage of provable utilitarian functions

ould have also been included - permanently or periodically - in a ritual cycle. So, the possibility of offering-a convincing definition for particular assemblages in Neolithic settlements in Bulgaria as of strictly ritual character, are relatively confined.

The recent excavations of the multi-layered Early Neolithic settlement at Slatina in Sofia have provided data that could be of interest. The 4 m thick cultural deposit includes the remains of at least six successive habitation phases belonging to the first and the second half of the sixth millennium BC (cali bra ted dates).

The remains of a building, very large for its time (117 m-), exceptionally well preserved and made from the traditional Neolithic wattle-and-daub construction, were found in the lowermost (VI) habitational horizon. The horizon belonged to the Slatina group of the Karanovo I culture (the first half of the Early Neolithic) (NIKOLOV 1989, 1992). The large number of assemblages and objects found in it - a vaulted furnace, a grindstone, a loom, plank-beds, a platform of rammed clay for food preparation, eighteen grain depots made of semi-baked clay, clay vessels, tools etc - attest to the use of the building as a dwelling. Another group of assemblages and objects of obviously no utilitarian function have also been found there.

In a close juxtaposition to one of the three central wooden collar-columns, a pit of some 35 em in diameter, and some 45 cm in depth, was made. It was dug out in the bedrock during the construction of the house, and its regular round rim has been formed in the thick clay floor. The walls of the pit, at least in the upper part, were also plastered with clay. Because of multiple plastering of the floor, the pit reached a depth of about 70 cm during the last phase of use of the house. It was found empty; during the fire that destroyed the building, its opening was covered with pieces of plaster. It was ascertained that the lower part of the walls and the bottom of the pit were blackened, and that coloring penetrated a few centimeters down the yellow bedrock. The observations of this assemblage has allowed its ritual function to be supposed, i.e. its use as a sacrificial pit where offerings used to be put, or poured down. Most probably, the pit used to be cleaned up, though rotting organic wastes changed the color and appearance of the clay on the walls. The ritual connected with this pit presents a complex problem. Its location in close proximity to one of the central collar-columns of the house can hardly be accidental. It is logical to assume that ritual activities related to the cult of the column occurred here. The three central collar-columns might be thought as isomorphous with the universal tree, and rituals performed before them may have been intended to keep the cosmic order as well as to preserve the house from destruction.

In the northwestern comer of the building, a large model ofa square dwelling was found. It has four cylindrical legs and a flat roof with an opening in the middle. It is made of clay and collar-beams but it was not baked, and so it has not been well-preserved. There is no direct data available about the use of the model, but the analogy with functions of dwelling models recorded in traditional cultures of some present-day populations has allowed an interpretation to surface. Most likely, the model from Slatina was made and worshipped as the place for the domestic guardian spirit. The guardian spirit was likely kept benevolent by the regular deposit of food. I have, therefore, assumed that food was regularly put inside the model. The location of the object is probably related to the construction offering also


Vassil Nikolov

performed under the northwestern corner of the house: a white-painted bowl full of food was put beneath the floor, and then broken. According later sources, the construction offering is either a sacrifice to the spirits inhabiting the site of construction, or an attempt to ingratiate the living with the guardian spirit of the building.

In the southeastern corner of the house, at a height of normal human size, there used to be a small beehive-like niche (about 20 em high) with two small clay figurines standing inside. They were a stylized sitting human figurine and a representation of a bull. The latter was coated with white paint before being baked. Despite all difficulties for a plain definition, I have assumed that these figurines represent the first "divine" couple worshipped in the early agricultural religious and mythological system: the Mother Goddess and the Bull-tod whose marriage yearly ensured new life for the household and the farm land. Probably this way of thinking was not alien to the people who inhabited the house at Slatina. The shape of the niche where the two figurines were standing suggests the same idea; it is similar to the stylized vulva representations, characteristic of the painted decoration on Early Neolithic pottery from the Central Balkans zone, as well as from Slatina. On the other hand, the niche looks like a beehive, and in the prehistoric East Mediterranean tradition, the bee was isomorphic with the Mother Goddess - and was sometimes used as a symbol for her - and was directly linked to the bull. Obviously, studied from this point of view, too, the complex mentioned above, is liable to interpretation in the context ofthe main early-farming myth.

I have separately studied and presented the three assemblages, but they were probably linked together in an integrated ritual system. Their specific topography inside the house is also indicative of it; they are (including the location of the building offering) situated almost along one and the same line, oriented along a north-south axis. This line is almost parallel to one of the house's diagonals, but the assemblages remain west of it. On the northern end of this axis are the model (the dwelling of the spirit), and the bowl (a construction offering). Both finds are supposedly related to the lower stage of the religious and mythological system, to the guardian spirits. On the other southern end of the axis, the niche with the two figurines is situated. The complex is supposedly related to the upper level ofthe religious and mythological system, to the cosmic creative powers. In the middle of the axis as it is to be drawn stands the column. The pit was also dug up. The complex is supposedly related to the idea of the universal free and, therefore, to the sustenance of the cosmic order as an indispensable condition for the existence of society. Hence, I suppose that the three ritual places in the large house at Slatina represent the structure of the early farming religious and mythological system as a whole.

In the later fourth horizon of the settlement, which refers to the beginning of the Kremikovci group (second half ofthe Early Neolithic), a large building of two rooms has been studied (total area of about 110m2). The house that was made of wattle-and-daub construction burnt down in a fire. Parts of the interior were destroyed by later pits, including present-day ones. In both rooms there was a vaulted oven with an opening to the west, a grindstone, grain depots and clay vessels. In one ofthe rooms, there was a vertical loom, and in the other one, a platform of rammed clay for food preparation (probably used occasionally in rituals, too).

The oven in the northern room is of considerable interest for the topic concerned. In front of it, there was a relatively narrow, slightly baked platform of rammed clay as an extension of the base. On its front side, 1,90 m long and 22-30 em high, there is richly incised ornamentation (Fig. 1). It consists of 5 zigzag horizontal lines that go along the wall from one end to the other. The upper three lines were lain close to one another and in parallel zigzags. The lower two lines lie at a larger distance from each other and their zigzag is made in a manner that forms rhombi in between. The structure and iconography of the entire composition are reminiscent of the painted ornamentation on the Early Neolithic pottery from the Central and East Balkans and allow a similar interpretation to be made (NIKOLOv 1981a, 1987). That means the upper belt of the zigzag composition - which could be compared to the decoration beneath the rims of the vessels mentioned - probably represents the upper sky with its fruitful moisture. The lower belt (of rhomb-like shapes) - which corresponds to the main composition of the pottery ornamentation - is probably a symbol for the fertile earth. From the viewpoint of early farming, religious and mythological system, the oven that ended the cycle of wheat by baking it into bread presents a logically-chosen place for performing the composition as it was described. The analysis has attested the

Neolithic Cult Assemblages from the Early Neolithic Settlement at Slatina, Sofia


indivisible connection of a household assemblage of utilitarian functions with the cyclic character of cosmic phenomena as it used to be regarded in prehistoric attitude. The transformation of raw material into a baked product inside the oven undoubtedly converted this assemblage into an isomorphic image of a womb (of the Mother Goddess) in prehistoric thinking, and that way the oven gained a higher meaning. It becomes something of a ritual assemblage (NIKOLOv 1990). This is absolutely valid for the oven from Slatina concerned here.

In the second horizon of the settlement, which refers to a more developed phase of the Kremikovci group, a building (42 m-), large for the time period and of a trapezium shape, has been studied. The long side of the trapezium looks to the east, where the door stands. The building is made of wattle-anddaub construction and has a thick clay floor. Near its northern wall, remains of grain depots have been found. There is no certain data pointing to an oven, but it might have been situated in the badly destroyed northwestern part of the house, close to the door.

In the southwestern comer of the building, to the south of the supposed location of the oven, there was a clay assemblage consisting of a rectangular platform and a column. The platform is east-oriented and the front side of the column was probably oriented likewise.

Three distinct phases of construction could be observed in the platform that increased its range and height (range: from 65 x 90 to 90 x 90-100 ern; and height: from 25 to 32 ern), but its width (the front side) remained almost stable at about 90-100 cm. In the second phase, the front side got at least eleven triangles hanging in relief and during the third phase they were repeated on the new plaster of a finer surface. During the last two phases, the entire surface of the front side was painted white. The platform was filled in with pebbles, and in each of the three phases it had a thick, well-leveled plaster cover (as would an oven or a fireplace).

The column has a reversed trapezium-shaped body with a rectangular cross-section (Fig. 2). Its height has been preserved at 80 ern (probably almost the whole), the upper width is 27 cm, the lower width 16 em, and it is 9 em thick. It was built up in three stages; during the first one it was of almost parallel sides and was modeled on a split trunk with an upper diameter of 9 ern. By the ensuing plastering, the upper part became larger. The front side of the column is decorated with triangles in paint and relief. The relief triangles (at least 16 in number) use the upper rim (3) and both lateral facial rims (5+8) as a base. The latter two groups of relief ornaments are lain in a manner (with certain missing at the height of the column) that produces a broad, snake-like curved line between them. The space between the triangles was successively painted white and red. By the second painting (or after it) three parallel white (or cream) bands slanting (from right to left) were drawn. The left lower part of the column is incomplete and uneven on its side. There was no decoration of relief triangles like the one on its facial side. That means that the column was once linked with another vertical element on its left side or with the right side of the platform. The column is broken at the bottom, but that was probably at its mere base.

As it is impossible to reconstruct the full appearance of the ritual assemblage to which the column belonged, it is difficult to interpret it in the context of the early farming religious and mythological system. Most probably, the column was considered a hypostasis for the universal tree, and ritual activities around it were devoted to the sustenance or restoration of the cosmic order of the prehistoric inhabitants of Slatina. This is reminiscent of the three central columns and the sacrificial pit near them, in the large house from the sixth horizon that I have already studied. If the zigzag-shaped space between the relief triangles is to be interpreted as a snake as well, then the column could be regarded as related to the cyclic rituals repeated about the time of vernal and autumnal equinox. This is when snakes either come out of the soil for an active life or go back for winter hibernation. In the mythological concepts of early agriculturalists, the snake - and mostly the grass-snake - was a symbol for fertility. This may be because of its ability to "be reborn" in the cycle of nature and in the cycle of Mother-Earth (NIKOLOV 1981 b). The snake sweeps out of the Mother-Earth and then disappears again inside, only to reappear the following spring. That is why the snake was once considered a symbol for the cyclic changes of Earth. One may also consider the orientation (including that of the column) to the east on days of vernal or autumnal equinox as evidence of ritual assemblages. The orientation is in the direction where the sun, which represents the power for cyclic processes in nature at temperate latitudes, rises.


Vassil Nikolov

Fig. 1. Early Neolithic settlement Slatina-Sofia, fourth settlement horizon.

Front side of a vaulted oven with incised ornamentation.

Fig. 2. Early Neolithic settlement Slatina-Sofia, second settlement horizon.

Front side of a clay column with relief ornamentation.

o ~cm



Neolithic Cult Assemblages from the Early Neolithic Settlement at Slatina, Sofia


Data provided by the recent excavations at Slatina-Sofia should be cautiously interpreted, but nevertheless, they do give clear evidence of the presence of assemblages that once served the early farming cults. Most probably, some of these assemblages had only sacral functions, and others utilitarian and sacral together. There is no data for a separate ritual use ofbuildings/sanctuaries.


NIKOLOV, V. 1981a

Aspekti na religiozno-mitologicnata sistema prez rannija neolit. Izkustvo 9-10, 67-70.

NIKOLOV, V. 1981 b

Rannoeneolitna keramicna statuetka na boginjata Majka-Zemja. Izkustvo 9-10, 64-66.

NIKOLOV, V. 1987

Kartinata na sveta v rannoneolitnata omamentacija ot Rakitovo. Izvestija na Bdlgarskoto istoricesko druzestvo 39, 5-29.

NIKOLOV, V. 1989

Das friihneolithische Haus von Sofia-Slatina. Eine Untersuchung zur vorgeschichtlichen Bautechnik. Germania 67, 1--49.

NIKOLOV, V. 1990

Modelat na pest ot Slatino: opit za interpretacija. Arheologija 2, 32-37.

NIKOLOV, V. 1992

Rannoneolitno ziliste ot Slatina (Sofia). Sofia.


Jan Turek




e i


I :~





Fig. 1. The Late Eneolithic funerary practices and gendered grave goods.

1: Bell Beaker female burial, 2: Bell Beaker male burial, 3: Corded Ware female burial, 4: Corded Ware male burial.

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance

we have evidence for the burials of very young boys (six months to six years old), accompanied by hammer axes or mace heads. Because other male child burials of this age do not include any of these symbolic artifacts, it can be assumed that this group of sub-adult male burials may represent socially favored individuals of some sort. They could, for example, be first-born sons, potential heirs of social status within a family or tribe. Such social differentiation is probably a result of change in the system of agriculture and food production,

namely introduction of ploughing implements and teams (cf. NEUSTUPNY 1967).

The inhumation method of burial was exclusively used in the Bohemian Corded Ware group. There was no evidence of cremations in the Bohemian group until the 1995 excavations at Slany. Only a few sites with evidence of cremation burial were recorded within the neighboring Moravian group of Corded Ware. They are, however, prevalent in the contemporary KosihyCaka-Mako group in Southwest Slovakia and northwest Hungary. Similar observations were made for the subsequent Bell Beaker period. The frequency with

which the cremation method was used decreases in a northwest direction. It moves from the area of the Carpathian Basin through Central Bohemia (about eight percent cf. HAVEL 1978: 100) and Northwest Bohemia (less than four percent, cf. TUREK 1995: 125,1998: 111) to Central Germany, where there is no evidence of this type of burial.

Some of the Corded Ware grave pits were found in the middle of circular ditches (i.e., the cemetery at Cachovice, NEUSTUPNY - SMRZ 1989). It is possible to presume these ditches were marking the circumference of a barrow; most of the Corded Ware graves were probably originally covered with a burial mound. However, these barrows were subsequently destroyed by ploughing that took place from the Middle Ages to the modem era in most of the agricultural areas of the Czech republic. These circular ditches alone do not seem to provide evidence of any special social position given to the buried person. A question often discussed is whether the Corded Ware burials were placed within some sort of burial chamber or placed in the grave pit and covered with soil. Taphonomic studies of skeletons and pottery goods in the Corded Ware period suggests both methods were used.

0 0
,-11 VII
1/ 1




o IXl








Fig. 2. The scheme of the arm positions of the Corded Ware burials.

Communal Burial at Slany

The excavations (J. Turek and Y. Moucha) on the Slany motorway bypass in 1995 produced some amazing results. Five graves were excavated as part of what was probably a much larger cemetery. The excavated graves were distributed along the edge of a terrace, above the southern slope, following a shallow valley with a dry stream bed. This stream was marked on the first military maps at the end of 18th century as a running waterway. Following this terrace for about 900 m in an easterly direction, another Corded Ware burial was previously found in the urban area of Slany (Y. Moucha pers. comm).


Jan Turek

This corresponds with earlier observations that Corded Ware cemeteries were in lines on terraces along waterways (KOUTECKY - MUSKA 1979, TUREK 1996).

The most important burial context was grave number 1195 (see Table 1). The bottom of the pit had been sunk up to 25 em into the clay subsoil and covered by 30-40 em of plough zone. The burial chamber was of a rectangular shape, 3,4 m long and 1,6 m wide. The space inside the grave was divided into two halves, the western half with two inhumation burials and the eastern one containing the collective cremation burial (see Fig. 3 and Table 1). In between, a child's inhumation burial was placed next to the wall of the grave pit. Twenty-four pots were found within the grave, most of them accumulated along the eastern part of the

Fig. 3. Slany, Corded Ware grave No. 1/95, an overall view from east.

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance


southern wall, adjacent to the pile of cremated human remains. The majority of the pottery finds, as well as the human remains, appeared to be found in-situ, and were remarkably intact. The only parts of the grave pit that were disturbed were those on the northwest and southeast comers; the latter comer was slightly damaged by a water-pipe trench, but the human remains and grave were not disturbed. The area of the northwest comer was probably disturbed by earlier ploughing, which destroyed the skull and left arm of one of the skeletons. Another possible disturbance might have been rodent activity, suggested by dislocated fragments of pottery scattered along the western part of the southern wall.

According to anthropological examination, the person buried next to the southern wall of the grave pit was probably a man aged about 30-40 (V Cerny, anthropological report No. 1010, Institute of Archaeology in Prague archive No. 5294/95). The position of the skeleton (see Fig. 4), lain on the right side of the body with the head orientated to the west, may support this interpretation. He was buried without any pottery and the only artifacts belonging to him were a faceted battle-axe placed in front of his chest (cf. Table 1:23), a flint knife found under his right shin just below the knee (Table 1:24) and a small flint scraper behind his feet (Table 1:25). This burial thus belongs to the "aceramic" group of male burials mainly accompanied by a battle-axe, axe or a flint implement. The body was buried in a contracted position, on the right side with arms almost in position A (right arm stretched along the body, left arm bent at the elbow and crossing the body).

In the case of the second inhumation, it was only possible to infer the sex of the individual from the burial position and assemblage of artifacts; burial on the right side with the head orientated to the west, as well as the massive flint knife (Table 1: 27) found next to the knees suggests the skeleton was a second male. This body also seems to have been buried in a contracted position, but because of plough damage to the skull and the left arm, it is difficult to reconstruct the original position of the arms; the position A, Band C are all possible. Fragments of a damaged pottery bowl were also found in this area, next to the western wall of the grave.

Fig. 4. Slany, Corded Ware grave No. 1/95, male inhumation.


Jan Turek

Next to the legs of the northern inhumation, two miniature cups were found (Table 1: 14, 15). It is difficult to determine whether these two cups belong to this adult inhumation, or if they were connected with the neighbouring context of the child burial. It is also debatable whether or not the massive flint knife (Table 1 :27) and another tiny flint flake (Table 1 :26) belonged to the inhumation of the adult person, or to the sub-adult burial (the confusion may arise from the secondary reopening of the grave). From the child inhumation, only fragments of one long bone found next to a cluster of three pots were found (see Table 1: 1, 2, 3 and 2: 1, 2, 3); a beaker with the decoration of cord impression on the neck, a jug, and a small amphora vessel with two handles and corded decoration were also found. This burial may provide evidence of the reopening and secondary use of this burial chamber; the missing feet of the neighbouring inhumation may also have resulted from such a reopening.

In the northeast comer of the grave, there were four vessels: two pots with handles (see Table 1: 11, 13 and 6: 11), a large amphora storage vessel (Table 1 :8) and fragment of another amphora (Table 1: 7). It is probable that these vessels were an assemblage for the cremation burial in the southeast quadrant of the grave. The cremation burial was spread over an area about 1,0 x 0,9 m (see Fig 5). The layer of cremated human remains was up to 15 ern thick. The remains were not placed in any vessel and the pottery vessels located in a line along the southern wall of the grave were probably placed in the grave just before the deposition ofthe cremated human remains. These vessels did not contain any human remains and they were not used as urns. The appearance of some typically "female" artifacts, such as two ovoid pots (Table 1:6, 21 and 6:6) or shell bead (Table 1:31) suggests the presence of a woman in the cremation burial. According to anthropological analysis by S. LEACH and J. BEKVALAC (1995), it is possible to establish a minimum number of people buried within this multiple cremation. A minimum number of four individuals were evident in the bone assemblage. The presence of both adult and sub-adult bones was noted, as were cremated bones of sheep or goats.

Fig. 5. Slany, Corded Ware grave No. 1/95, detail of the cremation burial, with accumulation of pottery along the southern wall.

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance


The total8,245g weight of bone fragments recovered above 1 mm in size could suggest an even higher number of individuals were cremated. The morphology of the fragments suggests that the bodies were not defleshed before cremation. Within the area of the deposit, some spatial clustering, according to skeletal parts, is indicated, together with the suggestion of a deliberate bias towards the collection and burial of cranial bones. It is presumed that all the human bodies were cremated together on the same funerary pyre. Within the cremation deposit, a non-diagnostic flint flake (see Table 1:29) and possibly also a fragment of a small cup (Table 1: 22) were found. The cup's coloration and changed material structure suggests that they might have been inside the funeral pyre during the cremation, as part of the "rite of passage".

Another amazing discovery was made during the reconstruction of the westernmost vessel (see Tab Ie 1: 4 and 3 : 4) associated with the cremation de\:l0sit at the west face of the \:lit. Inside this decorated jug were more than thirty perforated shell beads, originally part of a necklace, and at the bottom, six flint implements. This is the first record of deposition of funeral offerings inside a vessel in the Bohemian Corded Ware group.

Grave Goods

Most of the reconstructed pottery finds seems to be of Late Corded Ware origin (find-group III within the conventional typological system BucHvALDEK 1966, 1967: 87-93, 1986: 105-107). The decoration on the jug (see Table 1:17 and 6:17) found next to the deposit of cremated human remains by the southern wall was unusual. The main motif of engraved "herring-bone" decoration has only been recorded on amphorae vessels up to the present day in Bohemia. The shape of this jug seems to be similar to the jugs of the Letonice type (Moravian group of Corded Ware) or to the N agyrev jugs of the Balkan type (BucHvALDEK 1978: Fig. 8: 1,4). Another jug (see Table 1:4 and 3:4), the shape of which suggests southeast connotations, was found in between the cremation burial and the skeleton placed next to the southern wall. This jug also seems to have a relation to the N agyrev jugs of the Balkan type. However, its decoration of vertical moulded slashed-cordons is similar to that of the smooth moulded cordons on the Moravian jugs of the Drevohostice type (BucHvALDEK 1978: Fig. 8: 6, 7). This method of decoration is very rare within the Bohemian group of Corded Ware (e.g., jugs from Prague Bubenec, BUCHVALDEK ET AL. 1991: 179, III, A: 2 or 180, III, H:1). The moulded slashed-cordon was used as a pottery decoration in the preceding Rivnac period.

This jug contained shell beads from a necklace and a collection of six flaked implements. These implements were produced for various purposes, and were made of four different kinds of raw material. In addition to one flake of indefinite shape, there was a sickle blade, two knives, a scraper-like blade and a drill. The sickle blade appears to bear the traces of residue from crop-cutting activities and also has evidence of secondary reworking and usage as a pointed tool. Only one artifact was made from the locally-derived material quartzite, which came from the Ceske Stredohofi highlands, about 50 km north from the site. There are no natural sources of flint in Bohemia and most of the material used for the production of the prehistoric flake industry was imported, mainly from the northern neighbourhood of the Czech Lands. Three artifacts were made of so-called Baltic flint of probably Polish origin and another from Bavarian flint (so called "Plattensilex"). This raw material was common in Bohemia in the earlier Stroke pottery and Lengyel periods. However, in the Corded Ware period it was very rare. There has only been one artifact made from Bavarian flint recorded within Corded Ware contexts in Bohemia. The other flaked artifacts found within this burial context were also made of Baltic flint. These were two flint knives found with both adult inhumations and a fragment of another sickle blade found on top of the cremated remains (see Table 1:28). The scraper (Table 1:25) found with the skeleton located in the southern area of the grave pit was made of the local quartzite. In summary, it seems that production ofthe flint tools within the Corded Ware period in Bohemia was more dependent on imports from the northern region than the Earlier Eneolithic TRB Culture, which appears to have been more dependent on Bavarian resources.


Jan Turek

The Social Significance of the Slany Communal Burial

An explanation of the significance of the communal burial at Slany is possible only within the context of the more common funerary practices of the Corded Ware period in the region under study.

Evidence for social differentiation of some kind may be found in the small number of "rich" Corded Ware burials. These burials can be divided into two categories. The first is single burials with exceptionally rich funerary assemblages. This category is represented in Bohemia by female burials with large collections of perforated animal teeth and necklaces made of shell beads - Praha 8 Cimice (HAVEL 1981: 67-71), or Konobrze (District of Most, DOBES - BUCHVALDEK 1993: 206, obr. 10). A similarfemale burial with rich necklaces and 5 vessels and copper ornaments was found in Moravia at Marefy in the district of Vyskov (CHLEBORAD 1934: 8-12). Rich male burials were recorded in Moravia, at HosticeHeroltice in the district ofVyskov (ONDRAcEK 1966), assembled with 8 vessels and several stone artifacts or at Drazovice-Letonice in the district of Vyskov (CHLEBORAD 1934: 23-27), where in grave VI a male burial was located with 21 vessels, a battle-axe and several copper and flint tools. The second category of rich burials is communal burials, as in the case of Slany, This category is also represented by the grave at Ttebusice in the district of Kladno (STOCKY 1926: 175). It contained 5 inhumations in the "female" position and one in the "male" position. Another communal burial was discovered at Bylany in the district of Kolin (PIC 1899: obr. 5). It included three or four inhumations, two of which were in the "male" position. Another grave with one inhumation in the "male" position and two inhumations ( one adult and one sub-adult person) in "female" positions was excavated at Chrast'any in the district of Praha-zapad (VAVRA 1981: 73-79). A grave with three male inhumations was found at Obrnice in the district of Most (KOUTECKY - MUSKA 1979: 12-18). A similar communal burial with four inhumations has recently been discovered in Moravia, at Urcice in the district of Prostejov (CIZMAR - SMID 1996, grave No. 12).

Within most of the Corded Ware communal burials, it is possible to consider one person the main individual on whom the funerary ritual was focused. These individuals were probably socially favored. Their social superiority above some other members of society seems to be demonstrated by the funerary ritual. It seems that these communal burials represent a particular variety of funerary practices (ritual) rather than evidence of some specific event (clash, disease etc.).

The Corded Ware funerary practices seem to be more likely a symbolic reflection of the division of labor within the family and a reflection of the different social statuses of men, women and children. The individuality expressed within the context of a single burial is indicative of an individual's association with a particular social category rather than a celebration of someone's special skills or status achieved during a lifetime. The composition of the Corded Ware funeral assemblages seems to be quite uniform and the number of items within the assemblage rarely exceeds a certain amount (average number of artifacts in graves of adult males is 3,7, in graves of adult females, it is 3,4 and in children's graves, it is 2,7). These observations challenge any assumption that a greater social stratification and complexity existed in the Corded Ware period.

The Significance of Cremation in Prehistory

In some periods, cremation burial was used as a less common alternative to inhumation. There are differences in the way cremated human remains are deposited. Ashes may have been placed in urns, simply piled within graves, or deposited on ground or scattered, leaving no archaeologically recognizable evidence. This may explain the gaps in evidence ofburial rites in certain periods (e.g., Late Eneolithic Rivnac period or La- Tene D period).

Social differentiation may be one explanation for the choice of cremation/inhumation methods in some periods of later prehistory. For example, the Hallstatt C, a complex Iron Age society, had chambered tombs containing rich inhumation burials (sometimes containing chariot and harnesses) surrounded by several plain cremation urn-burials.

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance


In the 6th century AD Carpathian Basin, a sharp contrast in burial practices appears between farmers with traditions of settled existence (cremations, traditionally interpreted as "Slavonic ethnicum") and people with nomadic traditions (inhumations with horses, traditionally interpreted as "A varian ethnicum").

I believe that neither of these interpretations can be applied to the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age periods. The communal burial discussed earlier in this paper contained the first cremation recorded among the evidence of Corded Ware burials in Bohemia. However, seemingly more important, within the area ofthe cremation deposit, the spatial clustering indicated a deliberate bias toward the collection and burial of cranial bones. This aspect is very interesting in the context of funerary practices used within the inhumation Corded Ware cemeteries because two inhumations at the opposite part of the grave pit were buried in the "male" position, with their heads orientated to the west. The cremated remains of what were probably women must have been symbolically placed opposite, with their heads to the east. We can't explain why this cremation method, so unique in this period, was used particularly in this grave, but it is interesting to note that even when using this different method of burial, the essential symbolic rule of the Corded Ware burial rite was respected.

This unique use of a cremation burial method within the funerary ritual at Slany probably had a symbolic reason and an ideological background different than those in later prehistory. Examining the significance of the cremation ceremony, we should bear in mind that cremation as a method of disposing of the dead is similar in form in all periods. Its social and symbolic meaning, however, varies over time and prehistoric periods.



An Osteological Investigation of the cremated human remains from Slany. Unpublished Anthropological report in the Archive of the Institute of Archaeology in Prague.


Die Schnurkeramik in Mitteleuropa. Pamatky archeologicke 57, 126-l7l.


Die Schnurkeramik in Bohmen, Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Philosophica et Historica Monographia 19. Praha.


Otazka kontinuity v Ceskomoravskem mladsim eneolitu. Praehistorica VII - Varia Archaeologica l. Praha, 35-64.


Kultura se snurovou keramikou ve stfedni Evrope. I. Skupiny mezi Harzem a Bilymi Karpaty. Die Schnurkeramische Kultur in Mitteleuropa I. Die Gruppen zwischen dem Harz und den Weissen Karpaten. Praehistorica 12, Praha.


Katalog snurove keramiky v Cechach VI. Praha. Praehistorica 17, 151-205.


Praveke hroby durinskych skrcki: na Bucovsku a v okoli. Bucovice.

CI.ZMAR, Z. - SMID, M. 1996

Hrob kultury se snurovou keramikou z Urcic, okr. Prostejov - Die schnurkeramischen Graber aus Urcice bei Prostejov, Archeologicke rozhledy 48,289-299.


Katalog snurove keramiky v Cechach VIII. Mostecko. Die Kataloge der Schnurkeramik in Bohmen VIII. Der Raum von Most. Praehistorica 20. 197-258.

HAVEL, J. 1978

Pohfebni ritus kultury zvoncovitych poharu v Cechach a na Morave. Praehistorica 7, Varia Archaeologica 1,91-117.

Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance









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------Table 1. Slany, Corded Ware grave No. 1/95.

The numbers 1-22 represent pottery finds, No. 23: battle-axe, No. 24-30 flint artifacts, No 31: shell ornament.


Jan Turek


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Late Eneolithic Mortuary Practices and their Social Significance


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