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Ion Motzoi-Chicideanu and Gheorghe Olteanu

Slab-cist graves (list)
Silver and gold lockrings and silver beads  (list)
Table with 14C data
Literature  (list)

   In fall 1999 on a hill southwest from the village Văleni-Dâmboviţa, county Dâmboviţa, in the Subcarpathian region of Valachia, was founded by an accident a grave which was disturbed by a treasure-hunter ( Fig.1- Fig.2- Fig.3). Next year was made a rescue excavation on the spot and a slab-cist grave had been identified. The grave-pit was dug on a natural top hill and after the interment was covered by an artificial mound. The slab-cist was made of four sandstone plates and covered by another one of great dimensions ( Fig. 4- Fig.5- Fig.6- Fig.7- Fig.8- Fig.9). Inside it was founded a skeleton lying in supine position on the right side with the skull toward SSE. Near the skeleton were two cups/chalice like vessels ( Fig. 10) and a small lockring made of silver as funeral inventory. (Fig.11-Fig.12). At about 350 m's east from the grave, another slab-cist was discovered but this time without bones only with rest of a fire and wood coals (Fig. 13).

   In the region of northern Valachia there are slab-cist graves discovered from the end of the 19th century till today. Several such tombs are scattered in the Subcarpathian hilly region between Prahova and Râmnicu Sărat rivers, and were related to the Monteoru culture (M. Florescu 1980). A second group with such graves was founded in the upper valleys of Ialomiţa and Dâmboviţa rivers. Also in a hilly area, this group could be put in relation with the group of burials in slab-cists belonging to the Schneckenberg culture in the so-called Ţara Bârsei, in the inner southeastern corner of Transilvania (Prox 1940). Another group of graves with slab-cists from northeast of Romania belongs to the Globular Amphorae culture (Cucoş 1992). In the same area were discovered two such burials related to Costişa culture. Several tombs in slab-cists were founded under barrows in the cemetery from Usatovo, in south Ukraina (V. A. Dergachhev, I. V. Manzura 1991), one in a Jamnaja barrow in Bugeac Region, another one in a tumulus in the flat region of south Moldavia, not far from the Carpathian corner and some also in barrows in south Dobrogea as in the Hungarian steppe near Tisza River. An important discovery is that from Brânzeni, on the left bank of the Prut River, in a small cemetery belonging to the so called "Edineţ culture" (V. A. Dergachhev 1986). A single cineraria grave in a slab-cist was founded in Govora-Runcuri and was designated as belonging to the Glina culture. An odd discovery is a slab-cist grave mentioned as discovered in the so called "Gumelniţa D" level in the tell-settlement Gumelniţa (List 1 and Fig. 14). The Globular Amphorae burials from northeastern Romania are all flat, only with skeletons, and not so often even with animal-graves. For the Schneckenberg group, are known both cineraria and skeleton graves, and in the most part flat tombs, except the burials from the mounds in Brăduţ, Moacşa and Ocland (Zs. Székely 1997). For the Monteoru group we have some archaeological data only about 16 flat burials in slab-cists on the periphery of the cemetery from Cândeşti, and belonging mostly to the beginning of the Monteoru Ic3 phase and, in one case, with a Mnogovalikovaja bone belt-buckle (M. Florescu, A. C. Florescu 1983; see for Mnogovalikovaja culture E. Sava 1991; 1992). With the exception of the small cemetery from Năeni-Colarea, with skeleton and cineraria graves with pits dug in the bed rock and covered with slabs, it seems that for the former group inhumation was the rule. The custom to put a deceased person in a slab-cist grave, a flat one or under a barrow in the early bronze age became a funerary "fashion," like the use of barrows, so it could be not anymore used to define a specific cultural group or period of time nor the funerary practice concerning the treatment of the body (I. Motzoi-Chicideanu 2000). Therefore, the term "the horizon of the slab-cist graves" used by some scholars (P. Roman 1986; C. Schuster1997) becomes senseless.

   After the two cups already mentioned, the slab-cist grave from Văleni-Dâmboviţa could belong to a group which has some clear connections with the pottery of the so called Monteoru Ic4-1 style as is known today in the settlements from this period in Năeni-Zănoaga (I. Motzoi-Chicideanu, M. Şandor-Chicideanu 2001), Sărata Monteoru (E. Zaharia 1987), Odaia Turcului (E. Tudor 1982), Costeştii din Vale and, not far from Văleni-Dâmboviţa, on a hilly settlement near the little village Ţâţa. Similar pottery was discovered in some slab-cist grave from the area such as in Apa Sărată, Cetăţeni, Malu cu Flori (C. Schuster1997), Voineşti. All these burials belong to a specific group in the northwestern half of Valachia, which could be related to the beginning of the Monteoru culture and for which we suggest, for the moment only in geographical sense, the name Dâmboviţa-Muscel (Fig. 15). Certainly the funeral inventory of these graves is very scarce, but till now there are no typical Glina vessels or sherds nor Schneckenberg potteries in this group. For these reasons the Dâmboviţa-Muscel group is a distinct one, of course în some relations with the inner corner of the mountains and the rest of the plain.

   It's still difficult to discuss about this group in terms of absolute chronology. On the first we can mention some Zimnicea type vessels from several such graves (see the map on Fig. 16 for the Zimnicea type discoveries and A. D. Alexandrescu 1974 for Zimnicea cemetery). In the tombs from Apa Sărată and Malu cu Flori were discovered two daggers (C. Schuster1997). The first one is only mentioned but the second one belongs to a larger category of daggers with hilt-plate and a triangular blade. An analogy for this dagger could be a find in Usatovo burials, where this kind of dagger appears together with painted pottery of the so-called late Tripolje type and some silver lockrings. The dagger from Sfântu Gheorghe (Zs. Székely 1997) could be related to the some of eastern types (I. Vajsov 1993) known from the barrow-burials of so-called Jamnaja and Katakombnaja types (S. Korenevskij 1978). In one of the burials from Cetăţeni it was founded a so-called Ösenhalsring. Such jewelry is typical for the Early Bronze Age (Bz A1-2) in Central Europe and its presence in a slab-cist grave could indicate a latter usage of this kind of tombs.

   Very important for the chronology of slab-cist burials are the silver lockrings (List 2 and Fig. 17). There are two principal groups of such jewelry: the first one is represented by spiral lockrings (simple or with one and half or more spirals) and the second one by crescent-shape pieces, which we call the Zimnicea type. The first type is well documented on a large area from Caucas till Lower Danube, especially in barrow graves of the so-called Jamnaja type or early Katakombnaja type. Some were discovered in burials with wood carts, i.e., in the Novotitorovska area (A. N. Gej 2000) or in a mound from Kurchhi, in south Bugeac Region. The lockrings of Zimnicea type seem to be specific for the Early Bronze Age in the Aegean and Lower Danube, only one piece of this type had been discovered in nord-pontic steppes, in a burial under a barrow in Kovalevka, Ukraina. In the same time it's clear enough today that at the beginning of Early Bronze Age in Valachia as in Ţara Bârsei some typical Zimnicea vessels (askoi like cups) reached the region as a result of the long-distance exchanges.

   The earliest silver lockrings seem to be those from the Usatovo graves and after that follow the pieces from late Jamnaja mounds and Zimnicea burials, so we could place the first slab-cist graves in the very narrow span time between late Tripolje and the horizon Zimnicea-late Jamnaja. The same chronological position for the beginning of this burial custom at the Carpathian corner could be indicated by the indirect relations with late Globular Amphorae slab-cist graves. Upon our opinion such funerary structures came at first from northeast with former communities. If the bronze collar from Cetăţeni belongs indeed to a slab-cist, we can expect that the latest such burials were in use till the BzA1 period such as some Somogyvár-Vinkovci tombs also with bronze collars from western Serbia.

   In terms of absolute chronology we can use some radiocarbon data (List 3), even in not direct links with the area in discussion. Such as are the data from the tell-settlement from Celei, in south Romania, near the Danube, where were founded two silver lockrings, the data from the Usatovo cemetery and Ezerovo and Kiten-Urdoviza, both Ezerovo settlements, the date for a gave under a mound in Placidol I, in north-east Bulgaria, a date from the barrow of Kétégyhaza in the hungarian plain and from a tomb under barrow with a funerary cart in Ostannij. Also we can use in our disscusion the data from a Globular Amphorae discovery in Kuczkowo, Poland or for the Somogyvár-Vinkovci settlements from Nagyárpadád, Szava, Zok-Várhegy in Hungary and Blatna Brezovica-Zornica and Vinkovci-Hotel in Croatia. Very useful is the a 14C date from the tumular grave of Velika Gruda. Very important are also the data from several Periam-Pecica graves from Mokrin, Serbia, in which were discovered bronze collar. (see List 3). A good relation even not a direct one is that with the Glina culture and with its chronological position (R. Băjenaru 1998).

   In this way the slab-cist graves from north Valachia and Ţara Bârsei could be placed in the very narrow span time between 3000-2200 BC, the earliest being those with Zimnicea-type vessels which are still unknown on the upper Dâmboviţa. Due to the lack of research in the forest-hilly areas, the archaeological data are extremely scarce so it's difficult today to say more about the Dâmboviţa-Muscel group. With a very discrete archaeological presence (only some graves) this group cannot be put yet in direct and clear relations with other ceramic groups from the inner corner of the mountains or with the extracarpathian ones. At the beginning, beside the Zimnicea vessels, there are some relations with the pottery from the early Monteoru sites and probably with the beginning of Glina group in the plain's region but for the end things are still unclear, even if we are quite sure that this group is followed in the Dâmboviţa basin by the Tei group, as direct relations between the former and the graves from upper Dâmboviţă being still unknown. In our opinion this period belongs to a time in which the Bronze Age was already fully constituted.


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jud. judeţ (only for Romania)
kom. komitat (only for Hungary)
rn. raion (only for Rep. Moldavia)
M. Grave
MOLD Rep. Moldavia
mun. municipiu (only for Romania)
obl. oblasti (only for Ukraina)
obö. oböchhina (only for Bulgaria)a
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ROM România
SERB Serbia
N. Tumulus/barrow
UKR Ukraina
UNG Hungary