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V, 1  

Special number

(Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis, XVII)

ISSN 1583-1817


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The Society of the Living – the Community of the Dead

(from Neolithic to the Christian Era)

 Proceedings of the

7 th International Colloquium of Funerary Archaeology

Editorial board:

Editor: Sabin Adrian LUCA (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Members: Paul NIEDERMAIER (membru corespondent al Academiei Române), (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Dumitru PROTASE (membru de onoare al Academiei Române) (Universitatea „Babeş-Bolyai” Cluj-Napoca); Paolo BIAGI (Ca’Foscary University Venice, Italy); Martin WHITE (Sussex University, Brighton, United Kingdom); Michela SPATARO (University College London, United Kingdom); Zeno-Karl PINTER (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Marin CÂRCIUMARU (Universitatea „Valahia” Târgovişte, România); Nicolae URSULESCU (Universitatea „Al. I. Cuza” Iaşi, România); Gheorghe LAZAROVICI (Universitatea „Eftimie Murgu” Reşiţa, România); Thomas NÄGLER (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Secretaries:Ioan Marian ŢIPLIC (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Silviu Istrate PURECE (Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, România); Special number Editors: Sabin Adrian LUCA, Valeriu SÎRBU; Web editor: Cosmin Suciu

See 7 th International Colloquium of Funerary Archaeology

with pictures and abstracts

Dacian settlements and necropolises in Southwestern Romania (2nd c. B.C.-1st c. A.D.)

Valeriu Sîrbu,

Muzeul Brăilei, Brăila, România,


Margareta Arsenescu

Universitatea Bucureşti, Bucureşti, România,


The analysis of the relations between the “world of the living” and the “afterworld” in this region and period is extremely interesting, as it shows a series of original features: a) there are funerary vestiges only between 170/150 – 50 BC; after that period, they are lacking until the Roman conquest (106 AD), b) taking into consideration the funerary inventory, we could assign these vestiges to warriors, especially horsemen, as long as we have only a few pieces of information about the after-death treatment of the rest of population; c) the settlements and the fortresses continue their existence all along this period, which is after the graves become “invisible”. d) although funerary vestiges and settlements are known in the entire region, only in exceptional cases could the two be linked to one another.

That’s why we are going to speak first about the funerary discoveries and the settlements and, in the end, we’ll try to give an explanation. Our analyses will take into account only those elements of the vestiges useful to the topic of this colloquium.

The geographical area we are referring to includes the regions of Banat, Oltenia, West Walachia and southeastern Transylvania (Fig. 1); however, we’ll take into account the discoveries of other areas as well, namely southern and northern Danube, in order to make some analogies and comparisons.

The period under analyses is about three centuries (200 BC – 106 AD) long, when deep changes took place in the beliefs and the funerary practices of the Geto-Dacians (Sîrbu 1985, p. 89-126; 1993; 2002, p. 374-393; Babeş 1988, p. 3-32)

The analysis of the funerary vestiges from this time and place has generated different, sometimes even contradictory opinions, on their cultural or ethnic origin. They were attributed to the Celts ( Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p.17-33, Popescu 1963), Thracians (Nikolov 1990, p. 14-26) or to mixed communities of Dacians and Celts (Zirra 1971, p.234;1976, p. 181; Sîrbu 1993, p. 25) . The documentary background available at one point in time or the meddling of political and ideological factors in the interpretation of history for half a century account for some of this confusion.

The items found in Gruia allowed V. Pârvan (1924, p. 35-50) to analyze the pieces of information available from ancient historians on the developments in the Lower and Middle Danube area over the last three centuries before the pre-Christian area. V. Pârvan said in the published work on the vestiges identified at Gruia that the Celts were already present in the Middle Danube region, namely the area between Belgrade and Vidin, around the middle of the fourth century BC, which pushed the Thracians and Illyrians farther east ( Pârvan 1924, p. 43-46). V. Pârvan dated the tombs in Gruia to the middle of the 3rd century BC and believed he was dealing with Celts that Brennus left behind in Moesia to fight the Gets and Triballi, on the occasion of the Balkan expedition (278-277 BC). One should note that urn cremation tombs from the 4 th-5 th centuries BC were found in Gruia (Crăciunescu 1999, p.46).

The study by C.S. Nicolăescu-Plopşor, the one that brought to the archaeologists’ attention the vestiges from Oltenia, marked a fresh beginning in the investigations on the correct identification of items belonging to the collections of local museums (Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p.17-33) . He emphasized how the warrior tombs represented north-Danubian group that included Celtic-type items but also noted the presence of Thracian artifacts (curved daggers, bridle bits and hand-made vessels) (Fig. 2-4).

Vlad Zirra made an essential contribution to the research on Celtic vestiges, as his study continues to be a basis for the typological-chronological analysis of La Tène items found in the Carpathian-Danubian space ( Zirra 1971, p. 171-238) .

Given the presence of many well-structured and dated settlements and necropolises present inside the Carpathian arc ( Zirra 1971, p. 171-238) , an increasingly interesting issue is the emergence of Celtic archaeological vestiges, but at a later date and south of the Carpathians, visibly concentrated in southwestern Romania.

The two categories of vestiges are not only in different areas and date back to different time periods, but also have different histories.

The presence of bracelets with Steckverschluss closing systems (Fântânele, Murgeni) or simple with bolded ends (Copşa Mică, Şeica, Archiud, Fântânele), of early Dux fibulae (Fântânele, Murgeni) stand proof of the presence of Celts here from as early as Lt. B1 – Lt. B2, namely from the last third of the 4 th century – beginning of 3 rd century BC (Zirra 1991, p. 177-184; Rustoiu 2005, p. 45-64).

The Celtic vestiges are concentrated in the Transylvanian plateau and plain, plus the upper Someş basin, whereas the surrounding valleys (Haţeg, Hunedoara, Făgăraş, Bârsa, Sf. Gheorghe and Ciuc) do not have any necropolises or settlements but only tombs or isolated items (Sîrbu 2006, fig. 1-2); on the other hand, these valleys, and then Banat and Maramureş, have included Dacian findings – true, just a few so far (Sîrbu 2006).

This suggest that the Celts occupied the territory between Mureş and Someş, west of the Apuseni Mountains, and the plains and plateau in the intra-Carpathian space, plus the valley in the upper basin of Someş (Zirra 1974, p. 138-164; Vaida 2004, p. 375-392; Voinescu 2001).

There are no findings of Celtic vestiges of this type in Transylvania after the 2 nd century BC (the lack of oppida centers is revealing to that end), but the causes of their disappearance are not yet clear. On the other hand, the Dacian findings in this area increase in number starting with the middle of the 2 nd century BC.

It is difficult to admit that the Dacians assimilated the Celts, since the Celtic vestiges preserve their characteristics until the end, and the inventory of the Dacian settlements and fortresses from the 2 nd – 1 st centuries BC shows decreasing Celtic influences. Perhaps, the Celts’ migration to the west followed both internal causes and the growing power of the Dacians. The advancement of the Dacian warrior from the southwestern Carpathians may have played a part here (Rustoiu 2002, p. 25-40), an issue that will be dealt with towards the end. It may also be that the Bastarns’ settling in north-central Moldova around 200 BC (Babeş 2001, p. 522-529) pushed the Dacians there towards Transylvania.

The documentation available at present allows one to date the Celtic findings to 330/220 – 170/160 BC, but the Celts may have stayed west of the Apuseni Mountains until the second half of the 2 nd century BC.

The specialized literature, from Zenon Woźniak’s work, still uses the concept of the “Padea –Panagjurski Kolonii group” to designate, from a cultural-archaeological point of view, the vestiges in Bulgaria (in particular the northwestern region), northwestern Serbia and southwestern Romania (Woźniak 1974). Some of the first discoveries of this type, found in the two eponymous localities - Panagjurište and Padea (V. Zirra 1971, p. 234, reference 303 and fig. 23/16, 18, 20, 22, 26, 29), point here to a cultural aspect of the second iron age in the region in question. Still, these are not among the most spectacular findings, such as the one in Panagjurište (Najdenova 1967, p. 70-74); Dimitrova, Gizdova 1974, p. 321-331; 1975, p. 39-87).

Funerary discoveries

Flat tombs. We are dealing with 40 discoveries with more than 90 confirmed tombs, most of them fortuitous, including a necropolis – Spahii, small groups of graves, such as Cetate (Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947 p. 19-20) or Cepari, Corlate (Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p. 22-23), Gruia (Pârvan 1924, p. 35-50; Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p. 26), Padea (Zirra 1971, p. 234, footnote 303), Chirnogi (Şerbănescu 2000, p. 34-35) isolated tombs or only isolated objects, mainly weapons (Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p. 17-33; Zirra 1971, p.222-228, Abb. 23; Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 77-91).

Sometimes, even systematic excavations (Rast) did not find any cremated bones but only inventory items (Tudor 1968, p. 517-526), meaning we could be dealing here with either cenotaphs or votive deposits.

A real necropolis was identified at Turburea-Spahii and Remetea Mare.

Salvage excavations in Turburea-Spahii (Gorj county) revealed some 30 flat cremation tombs, almost all of them in-pit cremation. Only one tomb is a case of urn cremation (M10) but there may have been others among those destroyed. Several item and glass items were published, which might be the inventory of 9 tombs: weaponry and harness gear (at least one LtD1 iron sword, spearheads, the blade of a curved knife, a LtD1 spur, a bridle bit, the fragments of a shield umbo (?), all of them iron, then some clothing accessories and jewelry (the extremities of a torques made of silver sheet, the fragment of a bronze fibulae, a white-yellowish glass pearl, a fragment from blue glass bracelet with a white zig-zag decoration and a fragment from a situla vessel. The area of the necropolis yielded several ceramic vessel fragments, most of them hand made (including the mug-urn), but also fragments of wheel-made pottery. The vestiges of the settlement were observed nearby, one contemporaneous with the necropolis, also destroyed by farming works. Some of the items from the inventory of the complexes were saved (Gherghe 1978, p. 15-31)

Salvage excavations in Chirnogi (Călăraşi county) found 6 flat in-pit cremation tombs, which stand proof of the existence of such vestiges significantly farther down the Danube. Two of the tombs, probably warrior tombs, were the sites of harness gear, pieces of a bronze helmet and an iron bracelet with three oves, while the other four tombs had only a wheel-made Dacian little mug, all of the same type, deposited on top of the bones (Şerbănescu 2000, p. 34-35)

In Remetea Mare (Timiş county), Florin Medeleţ researched a necropolis with 17 tombs (16 cremation, one inhumation) plus 3-4 destroyed tombs. Three or four were tombs of cremation in urns with lids, which were hand-made vessels that can be attributed to the Dacians, plus an inhumation tomb with an assortment of Illyric female items. We might be dealing with a community having a majority of Scordiscians, arrived here after the Balkan expedition but that did not last here long, because the inventory is from a narrow timeframe (about 270 – 240 BC) (as noted by the late colleague Florin Medeleţ and by Aurel Rustoiu).

Although this necropolis is from the same period as the Celtic vestiges from Transylvania and the western Apuseni Mountains, namely before the discoveries from the “Padea-Panaghiurski Kolonii” group in southwestern Romania, its presence in Banat and apparently belonging to the Scordiscians led us to believe it should be taken into account. Obviously, it is only after the findings here are published that we can compare them thoroughly with the vestiges in Transylvania and Oltenia.

Another representative item is the flat cremation tomb in Corcova (Mehedinţi county), the site of a gray wheel-made mug-urn and of a funerary inventory consisting of folded and burnt weapons (a long sword in its scabbard, a curved dagger in a decorated scabbard, a spearhead – all of them iron), a porringer and two La Tène C iron fibulae, highly deformed (Stîngă 1992, p. 154; Sîrbu, Rustoiu, Crăciunescu 1999, p. 217-229) (Fig. 6).

We will shortly introduce some of the characteristics of these findings.

Exterior shape – only flat graves.

Funerary rite - cremation exclusively.

Rituals. 80% of the discoveries revealed the in-pit cremation, while in a small number of cases they used urns (Padea, Corcova, Gruia, Spahii, Slatina); usually, a few cremated bones were deposited. The cremation of the dead took place elsewhere; only at Spahii we might have identified the pyre (Gherghe 1978, p.16-17), but it might also be the cremation of the offering since no human bones were found in the area .

Sometimes the pits, usually circular, were burnt, and the objects were passed through fire and folded, especially the weapons.

The recuperated funerary inventory consists mainly of weaponry, harness gear, then clothing accessories and jewelry, very seldom, pottery vessels (Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p. 17-33; Zirra 1971, p. 134-137; Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 77-91; Sîrbu, Rustoiu, Crăciunescu 1999, p. 217-229)(Fig. 2-4).

One often finds that the weapons, the large ones in particular (the sword, spearhead and shield), have been folded and placed on the pyre together with the dead. It remains to be seen the extent to which this part of the ritual can differentiate the Thracians from the Celts, given that this practice is also documented in late Halstatt necropolises (Vulpe 1967 pl. 20/4, 22/11, 16, 20/9).

The offensive weapons are the long swords (about 27 items in 21 localities), knives, spears (about 50 items in 27 localities) and curved daggers (about 22 items in 18 localities), while the shields make up the defensive ones (Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 80-81) (Fig. 2/1-12; 3/1-3, 5-8; 4/1, 3, 5).

As a rule, the harness gear consists of Thracian-type bridles, but there are other types too (Zirra 1981, p. 124-128; Werner 1988, p. 81-101) (Fig. 2/13; 3/4).

The jewelry and the clothing accessories, especially the fibulae, which are not that numerous or varied, are, for a change, important chronological guides because they date from the Lt. C2 – Lt. D (Popović 1991, p. 319-324; Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 82-84) (Fig. 4/4, 6-7).

The belts found at Corlatele (Fig. 4/11), the bronze and iron buckles (Babeş1983, p. 196-221), the beads and the glass bracelets form another category of objects.

There are not that many pottery vessels and they are all of Dacian origin, which could be explained either by their not being recuperated during the fortuitous discoveries, although their presence has been mentioned, or their looking less spectacular than the weapon gear. While one found in Oltenia either hand-made jars and typical Dacian jugs, or jugs and plates found also in Scordiscian territory (Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 84), all the Transylvanian vessels are hand-made and are characteristic of the Dacians, be they jars and jugs (Ciugudean 1980, p. 425-432; Moga 1982 p. 87-91).

Chronology. The analysis of the funerary inventory of all these discoveries shows their dating in the Lt. C2-D1, namely between 170/160 – 50 BC.

As in more than 70% of the discoveries, weaponry, military equipment and harness gear were found, we might assume they were warriors, mainly horsemen ( Nicolăescu-Plopşor 1945-1947, p.17-33 ; Sîrbu, Rustoiu 1999, p. 88); unfortunately, a small number of cremated bones were recuperated and we have so far only three anthropological analyses, made by Alexandra Comşa, two from Blandiana and one from Tărtăria, consequently all we could do is to issue general considerations.

Tumular tombs. In the same region as the flat tombs, tumular graves have been unveiled - all of them cremation and belonging to adult males - in Oltenia, Poiana (Berciu 1934, p. 25; Vulpe 1976, p. 208), western Wallachia - Lăceni and Orbeasca de Sus (Moscalu 1977, p. 329-340) and southwestern Transylvania as well, Cugir (Crişan 1980, p. 81-87) (Fig. 6) and Călan (Rustoiu, Sîrbu, Ferencz 2001-2002, p. 111-127). The objects found inside the tumular tombs, similar to those of the flat ones, plus, sometimes, helmets and mail shirts, allow us to assume that they belonged to aristocrat horsemen (Vulpe 1976, p. 193-215; Babeş 1988, p.5-8; Sîrbu 1994, p. 83-121; Rustoiu 1994, p. 33-37). The pottery vessels are Dacian, but sometimes we found Hellenistic imports. Such tombs have also been unveiled in the rest of Wallachia and Moldavia and they date from the 1 st century BC in the south of the Carpathians and southwestern Transylvania and from the 1 st century AD in Moldavia (Vulpe 1976, p. 193-215; Babeş 1988, p.7; Sîrbu 1994, p.135). After assessing the situation of these tombs near the residential Dacian centers, the Dacian or Hellenistic origin of the pottery vessels and the majority of the metallic objects, we may conclude they buried there Dacian warrior aristocrats.

A large number of tumular tombs are concentrated south of the Danube in the same period. Often, they make up actual necropolises, such as in Altimir, Gorna Malina, Tărnava (Theodossiev, Torbov 1995, p. 11-58) or the ones around the city of Vraca (Theodossiev 2000)

The tradition of building tumuli is already recorded in the late bronze age and early iron age in the Thracian and Autariat inhabitation area (Theodossiev 2000, p. 26), but this type of funerary monument is no longer present in the Oriental Celtic world of the 3 rd-1 st centuries BC (Todorović 1968, p. 16-18), which suggests either that the tumuli may belong to the local populations – Thracian and Dacian, or that they adopted the practice from them.

“Non cremated human bones in non funerary contexts”. Another interesting thing is the presence of “non cremated human bones in non funerary contexts” all over the excavated area. We are talking here about entire skeletons, parts of skeletons and isolated bones - of the skull or any other part of the body (Fig. 7). They have been unveiled in the settlements of Divici, Ostrovul Şimian, Celei, Ocnitsa; and we’ll add to all these the Orlea “field of pits” containing 23 individuals (Comşa 1972, p. 65-78). Similar findings are known all over the Geto-Dacians’ inhabitation area, being a characteristic of the “graveless period”, a situation that can be met in other cultural regions too.

They don’t belong to the category of common graves, as long as their features are obviously different: they are not found in necropolises, but inside the settlements, in isolated pits or cult places; there are no rules in the deposing and orientation, skeleton parts or isolated bones make up a large percentage of it, several entire skeletons are in abnormal positions or bearing traces of violence, there are a lot of children but no old people, and there are no traditional inventories (Sîrbu 1986, p. 91-108; 1993, p. 31-36, 86-100; 1997, p. 193-221; Babeş 1988, p. 13-16).

The recent discoveries in Hunedoara – Castle’s Garden show some unusual characteristics. We are dealing with only 24 inhumed deceased, comprising almost 36 individuals, with a number of unusual features: no graves were dug for the dead, instead the cavities present in stone were used, the dead are all children, there is no consistent manner of depositing or orienting the dead, most of them were deposed in one piece, but there are also skeletons that are missing parts or some are just skull or postcranial bones, the inventory consists mostly of clothing items and weapons and there is no pottery. Only three cremated deceased were found, all of them young, between 16 and 22 years old, one of them being a warrior; the findings date back to 40/50 – 106 BC. (Sîrbu, Luca, Roman, Purece 2005, p.18-19; more on this in the present volume).

The settlements and the fortresses

Countless settlements, fortified or not, and fortresses, dating from the 4 th –3 rd centuries BC and the 2 nd century BC – 1 st century AD are present south of the Carpathians and north of the Iron Gates. As we are referring now only to the 2 nd century BC – 1 st century AD, allow us to recall some of them: Socol (excavations Caius Săcărin), Stenca Liubcovei, Divici (Gumă, Rustoiu, Săcărin 1997, p. 401-427)(Fig. 8), and Schela Cladovei (Boroneanţ, Davidescu 1968, p. 253-259), on the left bank of the Danube, north of the Iron Gates, Celei, Gropşani (Popilian, Nica 1998, p. 43-95), Sprâncenata (Preda 1986), Bâzdâna (Tătulea 1984, p. 92-110), Spahii (Gherghe 1978, p. 15-31) and Ocniţa (Berciu 1981) in Oltenia, Cugir (Crişan 1980, p. 8), Costeşti, Piatra Roşie (Daicoviciu 1954), Şeuşa (Ferencz, Ciută 2000, p. 22-29) and Lancrăm (Popa, Simina 2004)(Fig. 11), in southeastern Transylvania.

The inventory of these settlements is almost entirely Dacian, and the Celtic objects represent less than 0.5% (graphite vessels, jewelry, clothing accessories, especially fibulae). Certainly, Hellenistic and Roman imports have also been found in the sites, but they are not representative for our analysis, their importance is only chronological. Two exceptional objects, maybe of Celtic or Gallo-Roman origin are the mask of Ocniţa (Berciu 1981, p. 100-101) and the bust of Piatra Roşie (Daicoviciu 1954, p. 117-118, fig. 37-38).

Among these sites, we intend to introduce Ocniţa, with two cultural complexes: the underground chamber no. 2, which contains a rich and varied inventory - weaponry, harness gear, jewelry and clothing accessories, anthropomorphic figurines and pottery vessels, many of them painted (Berciu 1981, p. 80-96)(Fig. 10) and pit nr. 125, with 28 entire objects (rushlight cups, jars, shield umbo, dagger scabbard, fibula etc.) (Berciu, Iosifaru, Diaconescu 1993, p. 149-156)(Fig. 9). As one can see, only certain objects are similar to those discovered in graves (spear and arrow heads, bridle, shield umbo, fibula).

Special attention should be paid to the fortified settlements around the Scordiscian inhabitation area, such as the sites in Židovar and Mihailovac, fortified with a ditch and defense vallum. The archaeological inventory here, dating back to the 2 nd-1 st centuries BC (and, perhaps, 1 st century AD) is made up mostly of pottery, clothing accessories and jewelry (in particular fibulae), knives and harness gear, which have their counterparts in the region of the La Tène civilization. However, some of the items could be classified as being made in the La Tène fashion, but not characteristic to the Celtic civilization. Namely, the curved knives or LtD spurs are part of the items that the Celts borrowed from the inhabitation areas in the northern and northwestern Balkan Peninsula (Božič 1984, fig. 3)

It also worth noticing that the fortified settlements in Židovar and Mihailovac include quite a few Dacian vessels (about 10% of all the items in Židovar), probably because of the tight trade relations between the two peoples, as well as of a Dacian ethnic presence in the Scordiscian environment. The kinds of vessels characteristic of the Dacians and Scordiscians (Popović 2000, p.83-111) are different enough to be able to tell them apart in the sites in this region, meaning one could compile rather reliable statistics of their presence in the various types of discoveries. Southern Banat, right next to the Danube (Popović 1989-1990, p. 165-176), is an area rather consistent in cultural-archaeological terms, meaning Danube, around the Iron Gates, does not seem to have constituted a political border.

It is obvious that the fortified settlements in southern Romania are Dacian. Based on the documentation available, no positive cultural, archaeological or ethnic classification is possible for the fortified centers in northwestern Bulgaria. For the time being, no fortresses with the stone wall characteristic of the northern Dacian world have been called attention to, such as those in the Carpathian mountains (Glodariu 1983, p. 75-130; Antonescu 1984, p. 99-174), although some scholars do mention the presence of fortifications on mountaintops in northwestern Bulgaria (Theodossiev 2000). What the occurrence of objects also present in the Scordiscian La Tène area in this region points to is the existence of an active trading life in the Balkans, beyond the sometimes unstable borders of a number of political entities of late antiquity.

Final considerations

The studies made so far call for a analysis of the vestiges in two distinct parts: a) 170/160 – 50 BC, a period that includes many fortresses and settlements, as well as necropolises; b) 50 BC – 106 AD, with countless fortresses and necropolises, but none of the common funerary vestiges.

For the first period, the archaeological excavations attest one remarkable reality: the graves from a large area - northwestern Bulgaria, northeastern Serbia and southeastern Romania - show rather similar funerary inventories: long swords, battle knives, Celtic type belt chains, Dacian type daggers and bridles, plus spearheads and shields, in the so-called Padea – Panaghiurski Kolonii group.

Nevertheless, certain differences of zone exist. South of Danube, namely in northeastern Serbia, jewels and Scordiscian-type vessels are dominant, and in northwestern Bulgaria, the findings are either Thracian, Illyrian or Dacian. However, when it comes north of the river, most of the objects, pottery vessels in particular, are of Dacian origin.

However, the rites and the rituals are different. While in the south of Danube there are not that many tumular and flat inhumation graves altogether, there are only cremation flat graves associated with inventories of this type north of the river.

These findings show standardization of weapons (spear-sword-shield and, pretty often, knives, then bridles), in particular for the cavalry, which might indicate a collaboration between the Dacian, Scordiscian and Illyrian aristocracies of the region during their plundering expeditions to the South or fight against the Roman offensive in northern Balkans.

The archaeologists considered these graves belonged to mercenaries because such objects have also been found in areas farther away (the northern and western coasts of the Black Sea).

In order to establish the ethnical and cultural origins of the funerary vestiges, we have to take into consideration the settlements, fortresses and cult places of the region. On the northern bank of the Danube, mainly near the Iron gates, a series of cities and fortified settlements have been discovered (Socol, Divici, Stenca Liubcovei), which “fortified” the big river, and this means the masters of the place lived here.

A number of Dacian vessels have been found in Scordiscian fortified settlements (Mihailovic and Zidovar), sometimes in significant amounts (10% at Zidovar) (Gavela 1952). How can we explain their presence? Either through the commercial relations between the two peoples, or an effective Dacian presence in Scordiscian territory, in southern Banat, nears the Danube. In the Iron Gates zone, both banks of the Danube are similar as far as the archaeological remains are concerned, which might suggest the Danube was neither ethnically, nor politically, a frontier. It is obvious that the fortified settlements of the northwestern Bulgaria or southern Romania are not linked to the Scordiscian population. The presence of Scordiscian-type objects found also in La Tène area indicates nothing else but intense commercial exchanges in the Balkans, beyond the frontiers, unstable often, of certain political entities of the late Antiquity.

We must recall that the Scordiscian materials, Celtic, in general, are very rare in the northern Danube settlements, less than 0.5%

The presence of some tumular tombs, with a similar inventory as in the whole northern-Danube area, near the Dacian residential centers, demonstrates the existence of a local military aristocracy.

If we take into consideration the archaeological realities of the northern Danube, we could conclude that the remains should be attributed to the Dacians. There is no archaeological evidence to attest the existence of Scordiscian settlements and necropolises at north of Danube but, certainly, there might be some isolated Scordiscian tombs.

Illuminating to that end is the discovery in Veliki Vetren, on the Juhor Mountain in Serbia, were one found a chest containing some 14 sets of weapons, harness gear, jewelry and clothing accessories characteristic of knights, items of types usually found in the tombs of that period (Stojić 1999, p. 105-107). This discovery stands proof of the fact that such classes of items circulated wide areas and various peoples, and they cannot be used as final arguments in attributing vestiges from this area to certain ethnic or cultural groups.

Still, other historical realities are important in this respect: the Scordiscian power was destroyed by the Roman expansion by the end of the 2 nd – beginning of the 1 st century BC, while Dacian power increases significantly starting from the beginning of the 1 st century BC. Thus, it is difficult to accept the Scordiscian domination north of Danube, which is proved neither by written sources, nor by the archaeological vestiges. Moreover, there is archaeological evidence for the existence of powerful Dacian communities south of Danube, one of them in the region between Lom and Iskăr.

For example, an important cult place was revealed at Bagačina, consisting of several pits (the so-called “field of pits”), with abundant and varied votive deposits. The countless vases (jars, jugs, cups, kantharoi, in relief decorated bowls) are typical to the Dacian pottery of the 2 nd – 1 st century BC (Bonev, Alexandrov 1996, p. 39-41, fig. 8) (Fig.12). The findings, some of them from earlier periods, attest the existence of powerful Dacian communities nearby. Unfortunately, very few settlements from the region have been excavated, which is why most of the vestiges are the result of fortuitous funerary discoveries.

The “fields of pits” containing deposits such as the one at Bagacina are attested in almost all the Geto-Dacians’ inhabitation area for this period (Sîrbu 1993, p. 96-100; 1997, p. 193-221).

Also important are the discoveries consisting of typical Dacian silverwork items, sometimes even in treasures, such as those in Galice (Fettich 1953, fig. 5-12) or Jakimovo (Milčev 1973, p. 1-14). We are dealing with stemmed cups, mastos vessels, figurative phalerae, fibulae with bulges or multi-spiral bracelets made of plates with zoomorphic extremities, all of them made of silver, sometimes gilded. Such items are characteristic of the north-Danubian Dacian elite, in particular the Transylvanian one.

All these types of sites (settlements, cult sites, some tombs, possible mountaintop fortifications) and artifacts (pottery, clothing accessories, several categories of weapons and harness gear, silverwork items) suggest that the 2 nd-1 st centuries northern Bulgaria could be classified as part of the “classic Geto-Dacian culture”.

The findings in the Iron Gates region stand proof of the existence, by 200 BC, of a warrior aristocracy, cavalry in particular, with standardized weaponry and equipment. By the middle of the 2 nd century BC, such findings appear in Oltenia and western Wallachia, and by the end of the same century, in southwestern Transylvania.

The tumular tombs in southwestern Romania, as well as in the rest of Wallachia date from the end of the 2 nd – beginning of the 1 st century BC. The inventory of the settlements and the funerary objects, in all these categories of graves, the pottery vessels in particular, indicate we are dealing with Dacians. Perhaps it is not fortuitous at all that most of the tombs with weapons are dated in the first half of the 1 st century BC, a period of Dacian expansion, mainly under Burebista’s reign (Crişan 1975).

The migration of these “southern warriors” to southeastern Transylvania could have caused the departure of the Celts. It is not by chance that the Geto-Dacians established in the region their political, military and religious center – at Grădiştea de Munte (Sarmizegetusa Regia) and built the most impressive fortification system in the autochthonous society (Glodariu et al. 1996).

The vestiges found in the settlements and the necropolises of this place and period are not relevant when we have to assess the relations between the “world of the living” and the “afterworld” or the “world of the dead”.

We have also have settlements and necropolises for the first period, 170/160 – 50 BC, but a number of other issues arise. Based on their content, we could say the warriors, horsemen in particular, were buried in these tombs, but what we don’t know is how they treated the other kinds of dead (common people, women, children, old people). Certain findings, such as those including buckles, are part of typically feminine objects. Only at Spahii could we state the association of the settlement with its own necropolis; as for the rest, we should be glad to note the existence, for the same place and time, of funerary vestiges together with settlements and fortresses. Due to the fact that warriors were buried in those graves, it is difficult to compare their inventory with the settlements’ because the outcome would be irrelevant: in the first case, it is an inventory that belonged to a single category (warriors), while in the second, it is an inventory necessary to all the community members.

Thus, we have the following evidence and reasons for assigning the flat funerary remains to the Dacians and not to the Scordiscians: all the cities, settlements and tumular graves in the northern Danube are Dacian, some of their objects, especially the vessels, are typically Dacian, while a series of offensive and defensive weaponry represent standardized battle sets, common on a geographical area much larger and including different populations.

b) The situation becomes more serious in the last century and a half previous to the Roman conquest, a period with lots of fortresses and settlements, but no funerary vestiges. The lack of tombs is a common phenomenon all over the Geto-Dacian inhabitation area (as in certain zones of the Celts), and it could not be explained either by the lack of researches or by Herodotus’ (IV, 94) statement about Thracians knowing how to become immortal!







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ActaArchHung = Acta Archaeologica Hungarica, Budapest

ActaMN = Acta Musei Napocensis, Muzeul Naţional de Istorie al Transilvaniei, Cluj-Napoca.

Apulum = Apulum. Acta Musei Apulensis, Alba-Iulia.

ArheologijaSofia = Arheologija na muzeite i institut arheologij, Sofia

Arhiva Someşană = Arhiva Someşană, Muzeul Grăniceresc Năsăudean, Năsăud.

BAR = British Archaeological Reports, Oxford

CAANT = Cercetări arheologice în aria nord-tracă, Bucureşti

Dacia, (N.S). = Dacia. (Nouvelle Série). Revue d'archéologie et d'histoire ancienne, Bucarest.

File de istorie = File de istorie, Muzeul judeţean Bistriţa, Bistriţa-Năsăud

Istros = Istros. Muzeul Brăilei, Brăila.

Litua = Litua, Muzeul Judeţean Gorj, Târgu-Jiu

PBF = Prähistorische Bronzefunde, München

Sargetia = Sargetia. Acta Musei Devensis, Deva.

SCIV(A) = Studii şi Cercetări de Istorie Veche (şi Arheologie). Institutul de Arheologie "V. Pârvan", Bucureşti.

Starinar = Starinar. Institut Archéologique. Beograd

SympThrac = Symposia Thracologica. Institutul Român de Tracologie, Bucureşti

Thracia = Thracia, Institute of Thracology, Sofia

Thraco-Dacica = Thraco-Dacica. Institutul Român de Tracologie, Bucureşti

Ziridava = Ziridava. Muzeul judeţean Arad












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