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Un posibil inventar funerar Latene târziu
din zona Porţile de Fier

Daniel Spânu



The author has identified, in the store room of the Bucharest Institute of Archaeology an uninventoried set of six items discovered in the Portile de Fier region several years ago (sometimes in the early 60s probably); they became aware during the rescue excavations that preceded the erection of the Romanian-Yugoslavian hydro-power plant. The lot consisted of a shield umbo, a spear-head, a curved dagger (of the Sica type), a knife, a spur and a bridle bit, all made of iron, alongside a silver bracelet (Fig. 1-7), The lot does not seem to be a random assemblage of objects, but it appears rather like the assortment of an individual's panoply with the accessories needed for bridling a single horse, to which a hand jewel, the silver piece, was added. There are a number of other examples evoked that support the association of the Portile de Fier items as perfectly plausible, in view of the findings in the same region, where frequent discoveries have been signalled of the Padea Panagjurski Kolonii groupe type characteristic for south-western Romania and north-western Bulgaria and consisting, as a cultural group, in cremation graves, isolated or grouped in small flat cemeteries or covered by little tumuli; these contained military equipment (often delibertely damaged) and harness pieces alongside with occasional jewelry and other decorations dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC.

     Further analogical military equipment and bridling pieces have been excavated in areas other than the Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii groupe areas and also more extensive areas, namely in certain tombs of the Skordisc cemeteries in Serbia, or in south-eastern Romania, in the inventories of the barrow graves at Popesti, Radovanu or Laceni, as well as in Transylvania, in the exceptional but unfortunately unknown (in fact not yet available) inventory of the magnificent grave with a wagon at Cugir.

     If the analogies noted in weapon and harnessing-pieces are concentrated in the lower Danube area, forms similar to the silver bracelet at the Portile de Fier occur only in the inventories of certain Dacian hoards (composed of garment adornments) traceable to the 1st c. BC ( Bistrita, Cerbal, Dragesti, Oradea-Sere, Sarasau and Tilisca) which are often associated with the knotted fibulae. The possible link of the silver bracelet with a funerary inventory might function as one out of several examples of cases in which a category of prestige pieces specific to the deposits in Transylvanian hoards was first adopted to the south of the Carpathians and then integrated in a funerary inventory: Gorni-Dabnik, Borovan-Blasnata Mogil, Durentski a.s.o.

     The author feel entitled to assume that the integration of some types of silver prestige pieces specific for Transylvania in the funerary inventories of the Padea-Panagjurski kind was not restricted to a matter of individual option but were rather integral to norms of the ritual system observed at the community level. It is worth noting that whereas, by comparison to the Padea-Panagjurski groupe in the lower Danube basin where the funerary practices are extremely frequent and clearly outlined, the beginnings of the Late Latène period in the intra-Carpathian region evince very scarce funerary manifestations, while they evince, however, an unparalleled intensification of the depositing practices. Consequently, the significations derived from the practices of integrating prestige objects into funerary inventories or hoards both add up and support each other to form a complete picture, for all their differences: either the dominant war-related funerary representation becomes correlated with a depositional investment of a very restricted range, or the sublimation of the funerary expression is counteracted by an intensification of the votive manifestations.

     The discoveries evoked illustrate the multiple relationships among the cultural groupes of Transylvania and the Lower Danube which are characterised by funerary or depositing rituals following different manifestation patterns, but always clearly individualised, over the period preceding the affirmation on the political scene of the power structure headed by the person whom the literary sources indicate as king Burebista.

(Translated by Ioana Zirra)