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Prilozi Instituta za arheologiju u Zagrebu, Vol.19 No.1 Srpanj 2002.

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A Contribution to Understanding Continuous Habitation of Vinkovci and its Surroundings in the Early Iron Age

Hrvoje Potrebica
Marko Dizdar

Puni tekst: pdf (605 KB), Hrvatski, Str. 79 - 100 , preuzimanja: 1.090 *

Sažetak
The Early Iron Age is one of the least investigated and
little known prehistoric periods in the region of Vinkovci,
as well as in eastern Slavonia and western Srijem. On the
territory of the town of Vinkovci and its surroundings, intensive
rescue excavations were conducted in the past
three decades, in which settlements and cemeteries were
uncovered which enable a more clear cultural and chronological
picture of the Early Iron Age in the broader
south-Pannonian area (Fig. 1.). Apart from the results of
the excavations, the understanding of the material heritage
is supported by isolated and chance finds from the
Early Iron Age, preserved in the City Museum in
Vinkovci, as well as in the Archaeological Museum in
Zagreb, on the basis of which it is possible to assume the
continuous habitation of the area of Vinkovci and its surroundings
from the very beginning of the Early Iron Age
in the 8th century BC up until the settlement of the Celts
by the end of the 4th century BC.
The older phase of the Late Bronze Age in the
Vinkovci area is marked by the Belegiš II culture, known
on the basis of the excavations of settlements in Vinkovci
and Privlaka. From the period of the younger phase of the
Late Bronze Age only isolated finds are known, which do
not make possible their clear cultural classification. Thus
the basis for the coming period of the Early Iron Age, to
whose initial phase the chance find of a fragment of a
bronze fibula of the Vače type from Vinkovci is dated, remains
unknown. According to the classification by S.
Gabrovac, the Vinkovci fibula belongs to the type Va of
two-looped arched fibulae with an iron core and a bronze
coating. The dissemination center of those fibulae was in
the areas of Bela Krajina, Dolenjska and Gorenjska. A
fibula of the Vače type (type Vb) was found on the cemetery
Lijeva bara in Vukovar in the skeleton grave 269, in
which a man with a spear and a sharpening iron was buried,
whose handle was fashioned in the Thraco-
Cimmerian style. On the sites of the Martijanec-Kaptol
group, those fibulae appear throughout the first horizon,
belonging to the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 7th
century BC, into which period the Vinkovci fibula should
be dated as well. Two fibulae chance finds from the area
of the village of Orolik testify to the existence of links between
the Vinkovci area in the early phase of the Early
Iron Age and the dissemination area of the Dolenjska and
Martijanec-Kaptol groups. On the site Rajterovo Brdo a
fragment of a bronze fibula with a boat-shaped arch was
found, whose terminals are decorated with engraved lines
(T. 1., 3), whereas on the neighboring site called Zadružno
dvorište (Cooperative Yard) a small bronze boat-shaped
fibula with a transversal rip on its arch was unearthed, which
is also decorated with engravings (T. 1., 1). Boat-shaped
fibulae with transversal rips are characteristic of the eastern
Alpine-Pannonian Region, and they belong to the first
half or the middle of the 7th century BC. The fibula from
Orolik can probably be dated into the same period.
The existence of tumuli, uncovered already by the end
of the 19th century, and systematically recorded in the
Vinkovci area in 1951, testify to the links of the eastern
Slavonian and the Srijem regions with the dissemination
area of the Martijanec-Kaptol group in the West during
the early phase of the Early Iron Age. The largest group,
consisting of five tumuli, was uncovered near Stari
Jankovci, whereas one tumulus was registered between
the villages Ostrovo and Gaboš, northwest from Vinkovci.
In the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb objects from the
destroyed earth tumulus in Ilača are preserved, in which
an iron spear, a bronze knob as part of horse-riding equipment,
a rounded wether-bell and a part of a doublethreaded
wire were found. Considering the excavation results
in Stari Jankovci, where cremation and possibly skeleton
burials were registered, we should look for analogies
in the first place within the framework of the neighboring
Martijanec-Kaptol group. The find of a bronze knob as
part of horse-riding equipment from the destroyed
tumulus in Ilača testifies to the dating of eastern Slavonian
and Srijem tumuli, dating the knob into the 8th century
BC, when on the right Danube bank a concentration of
hoards containing horse-riding equipment is registered.
The Dalj culture finds, uncovered in 1951 during the
leveling of the southern part of the prehistoric multi-layer
settlement on Tržnica (the Market) in the center of
Vinkovci, belong to the earlier phase of the Early Iron
Age. On this occasion, a pot with an S profiled body was
unearthed with a striped grip and a shoulder decorated by
vertically set cannelures divided into metopes. On the basis
of the shape and the ornaments, the pot is classified as
belonging to the Dalj culture and dated in the period from
the year 700 until 600 BC. In trial excavations on the same
site in 1962 in the surface strata new pottery finds of the
Dalj culture were registered, collected also on Borinci
near Jarmina.
The early phase of the Early Iron Age in the Vinkovci
area is represented by a larger number of sites (Fig. 1.),
consisting of settlements as well as grave sites with skeleton
burials, testifying to the complex ethnic and cultural
activities going on in the region of southern Pannonia
from the beginning of the 6th century BC until the Celtic
settlement at the end of the 4th century BC. In the site
Silos on Ervenica in the southeastern part of Vinkovci, in
rescue excavations in 1972 two skeleton graves were unearthed.
Grave 1 contained a woman’s burial with rich
vaults representing Late Hallstatt I southern Pannonian
costume, consisting of a bronze astragalar belt with 73
pieces preserved; a bronze Certosa fibula of the V group,
decorated on its arch with the engraved motif of a firbranch;
and a necklace with 24 beads. In grave 2 there was
a biconical pot, which on the spot where the shoulder enters
into the body is decorated with four knob-shaped protrusions,
between which there are transversal cannelures.
On the basis of vaults, the graves are dated into the devel- oped 5th century BC and classified as belonging to the
Srijem culture of the western Balkan cultural complex. A
richly vaulted female burial, which according to its inventory
completely corresponds to grave 1 from Ervenica, was
found near Novi Jankovci during railway construction
works in 1890. Of the vaults, 11 bronze pieces of the astragalar
belt, a bronze Certosa fibula of the V group and 4
beads made of yellow glass paste were preserved. On the
basis of the find of the astragalar belt, J. Brunšmid ascribes
the burial from Novi Jankovci to a man, but other contemporaneous
burials with astragalar belts in the area of
southern Pannonia suggest that we are dealing with female
burials with characteristically extraordinarily rich
costumes. Graves from Vinkovci and Novi Jankovci are
dated on the basis of Certosa fibulae of the V group, which
was one of the leading forms in the 5th century BC. On an
unknown location in Vinkovci two astragalar belt pieces
were found (T. 1., 8-9), whereas a fragment of another
piece (T. 1., 4) was found during rescue excavations in
Duga Street 23 in the center of Vinkovci. J. Brunšmid
mentions a piece and a buckle of an astragalar belt with
three loops and a fibula with two spirals and a plateshaped
arch. The large number of chance finds of pieces
of astragalar belts and other artifacts of the earlier phase
of the Early Iron Age testify to the existence of a larger
number of graves from this period on a couple of sites in
Vinkovci. Chance finds of beads made of yellow glass
paste with an ornamentation in the shape of a white-andblue
eye-motif, found on Rajterovo brdo in Orolik (T. 1.,
5-6) and in Vinkovački Banovci (T. 1., 7), most probably
belong to the same period to which the graves from
Ervenica and Novi Jankovci are dated. Graves from
Ervenica and Novi Jankovci, as well as other chance finds
from the same period from the Vinkovci area belong to
the Srijem culture of the western Balkan cultural complex.
Of particular significance for the understanding of the
complex cultural and ethnic picture of the southern
Pannonian area at the end of the Early Iron Age was the
uncovering of the cemetery on the site of the department
store Nama in the western, peripheral part of the multilayer
prehistoric settlement on Tržnica in Vinkovci. In the
rescue excavations in 1976 and 1977 eight skeletal burials
and three horse burials were unearthed. In the graves of
men, women and children bronze Certosa fibulae of the
XIII group were found, as well as bronze and iron crossbow
fibulae with a slightly bowed foot and a bronze fibula
with a drum-shaped arch. An iron lance with a narrow web
and a long sheath belongs to weapon finds. In grave 1 a
bronze scepter was found, decorated with incised geometrical
motifs. Among objects intended for every-day use
there are finds of iron knives, whereas bracelets made of
glass paste beads were worn around the neck. Vaults of
pottery vessels were registered in the graves too, including
a cantharus from grave 3 with a smoothed surface covered
by miniature graphite particles. Burials of two horses
contained parts of bronze horse-riding equipment. One
piece of equipment consisted of bronze phalera produced
in three sizes and of radially bowed parts of bronze metal
sheet originating from the dissemination area of phase
Early La Tène culture. The burial of the other horse contained
forged bronze equipment with Thraco-Scythian
characteristics, consisting of appliqués stylized in the
shape of a griffin or a deer and of two polygonal sheets
that served as metal fittings at rein endings. On the basis
of the described vaults, the cemetery is dated into the late
5th and the first half of the 4th century BC, and it testifies
to various influences from the territory of the lower
Danube area and from the northern parts of the
Pannonian Valley. The find of a bronze Certosa fibula of
group XIII (T. 1., 2), found in 1977 on the southern part
of the prehistoric tell Tržnica, is dated to the same period.
The results of the rescue excavations of the prehistoric
multi-layer settlement Damića gradina in Stari Mikanovci,
conducted in 1980, are of particular importance for the
understanding of the typology of pottery shapes of the
younger phase of the Early Iron Age on the territory of
eastern Slavonia and western Srijem. The greatest concentration
of finds was registered in quadrant 20 and those
surrounding it, where the remains of a house with a
burned-down clay floor were found at 1.40 m, in which
there were pottery fragments laid as terrazzo. The house
was destroyed in a vigorous fire, as evident from large
lumps of burned daub, as well as from finds of pottery
fragments which were almost totally misshaped due to exposure
to high temperature. Among the most interesting
finds from Damića gradina is certainly that of the bronze
Dux fibula, for which there are no exact data as to the location
and depth of the find. Since the La Tène culture
settlement is dated into the younger stage of Middle La
Tène phase and the Late La Tène phase, i.e. into the second
half of the 2nd and the 1st century BC, the fibula most
probably belongs to the Early Iron Age layer, which, used
in conjunction with the analysis of pottery finds, plays a
significant role in the final dating of the settlement.
In order to determine a clear cultural and chronological
position of the Early Iron Age settlement on Damića
gradina, a detailed typological-statistical processing of all
pottery finds was carried out, on the basis of which basic
functional forms were isolated with their respective types
and versions. In a descriptive analysis a total of 5,109 fragments
were processed, out of which number it was possible
to define the functional form for 1,361 (26.64%),
whereas this was not possible with 3,748 fragments
(73.36%). When defining the typological table of functional
forms, the basic criterion was sorting the forms
based on the outline of the vessel, followed by the defining
of the versions, which were sorted according to different
rim shape and according to different decorating techniques
(T. 2.-4.). Out of 1,361 distinct forms, 632 were pots
(46.44%), 642 were bowls (47.17%), 22 canthari (1.62%),
in one case a jug was registered (0.07%), and cups are represented
with 34 samples (2.50%), whereas vessels of
small dimensions with one grip were recognized as spoons
and registered in 30 cases (2.20%). On Damića gradina
703 functional forms or fragments were sorted, which
makes 13.76% of the total number of processed frag-ments, which are decorated in seven various decorating
techniques appearing in different combinations on a
single vessel. The largest number of forms and fragments
is ornamented in the combination of the application of a
plastic ribbon, on which fingerprints are applied (T. 2., 2,
5; T. 3., 4). Next come imprinting, engraving (T. 4., 4),
appliqué, gouge (T. 4., 1) and modeling. The smallest
number of forms and fragments is decorated with
canneluring or a smoothed ornament (T. 2., 6). On the
surface of a couple of fragments miniature graphite particles
were registered.
Characteristics similar to Damića gradina in selecting
the position for constructing a settlement are also evident
with Dirov brijeg in Vinkovci, where, during rescue excavations,
pottery finds were unearthed which according to their
forms and ornaments completely correspond with the finds
from Damića gradina. Dirov brijeg is a prehistoric hillfort
on the confluence of the Nevkoš Stream and the Bosut
River. During rescue excavations in 1951 a fragment of a
cup with a grip was found, on whose top there is a plastic
protrusion decorated with a smoothed ornament (T. 1., 8).
In conservation excavations in 1996 in J. Kozarca Street 74,
which runs through the eastern part of Dirov brijeg, a
trench was investigated, in whose filling, apart from plenty
of La Tène pottery, pottery fragments were found which
are dated into the younger phase of the Early Iron Age (T.
5.). A settlement form the Early Iron Age was uncovered in
a survey in 1954 on the site Gradac, situated on the Bosut
River near the village Podgrađe. It is a multi-layer settlement,
from which a find of a cup with a rounded body and a
grip with two plastic protrusions on the top is known (T. 1.,
11). The find of a cup with an identically shaped grip is
known from Gradina on Bosut, which is not surprising considering
the fact that the settlement in Podgrađe is situated
some ten kilometers to the west of the eponymous site of
the Bosut culture. The comparatively closest functional
forms and decorating techniques and motifs to pottery finds
from Damića gradina and Dirov brijeg may be found on
sites of the horizon of cannelured pottery in Srijem, i.e.
phase III of the Bosut culture. This relates particularly to
the rich and various pottery repertoire sorted in layers belonging
to the settlement horizon Bosut IIIc of the eponymous
Gradina on Bosut. In the youngest phases of the horizon
IIIc fragments decorated with net-like or ribbon-like
smoothed ornaments were registered, thus forming a base
for the dating of identical fragments from Damića gradina
and Dirov brijeg. Certain pottery forms may be compared
to finds from other sites form the Early Iron Age in eastern
Slavonia, as well as in a broader southeastern Alpine
Pannonian area. Pottery finds from Damića gradina have
numerous corresponding forms, decoration motifs and
techniques in the finds from settlements in Osijek, as well
as in the phases IIc and IIIa of Donja Dolina according to
the classification by Z. Marić, i.e. with finds of the phases
3a-2 and 3b according to the classification by B. Čović. Correspondences
with certain forms from Damića gradina may
be found on the hillfort Klinac southern from Petrinja, as
well as the hillfort Kiringrad.
Considering numerous described comparisons, the
pottery finds from Damića gradina, Dirov brijeg and
Gradac in Podgrađe can be dated into the younger phase
of the Early Iron Age. The mentioned settlements according
to the typological characteristics of pottery forms as
well as decoration motifs and techniques belong to the
dissemination area of the phase III of the Bosut culture,
i.e. the horizon of cannelured pottery. In order to support
the suggested dating of settlements we can take the finds
of pots with a rounded body and the grips overtopping the
rim (T. 4., 6), which have one or two differently shaped
plastic protrusions on the top, out of which the two from
Dirov brijeg are decorated with a smoothed ornament (T.
1., 8; T. 5., 8). The fragment of a grip from Damića gradina
with a somewhat clearer presentation of two small animal
heads proves that we are dealing with highly stylized presentations
of animal protomes. Significant for the dating
of the settlements Damića gradina and Dirov brijeg are
also fragments of cups with a rounded body whose inner
surface is decorated with a smoothed ornament. Direct
comparisons as to the form of the cup and the decoration
technique and motifs are found on Gradina on Bosut,
where the described form belongs to the horizon of
cannelured pottery. Decorating by smoothing is to become
characteristic of the ceramography of La Tène culture
of the Scordiscs. In determining the chronology of
the Early Iron Age strata from Damića gradina and recognizing
the base of certain cultural influences, the appearance
of a jug and of fragments with rippled decorations
is significant (T. 4., 5). The appearance of the rippled
ornament on Damića gradina points to the existence of
cultural influences from the west, from the dissemination
area of the Dolenjska and the Martijanec-Kaptol groups,
which were already registered in the younger phase of the
Early Iron Age in the description of the finds from the
graves of the Srijem culture. Certain differences between
the pottery finds from Damića gradina and Gradina on
Bosut are visible in the first place in the small number of
forms and fragments, which on Damića gradina are
cannelured, and an entire phase of the Bosut culture was
named after this decorating technique. The described difference,
as well as the fact that only a slightly larger number
of fragments from Damića gradina was decorated in
similar gouge technique, probably corresponds to certain
chronological differences, i.e. it is supposed that the settlements
Damića gradina and Dirov brijeg belong to the
younger part of phase III of the Bosut culture, when decorating
by canneluring, after which the entire phase was
named, was not that common any longer. Pottery became
mostly undecorated, and even if there was an ornament, it
was mostly a combination of a plastic ribbon and a set of
stamps. The assumptions on dating are supported also by
the lack of finds of horizontally facetted everted pot rims,
as well as of bowls with a rounded body and an inverted
rim, transversally or horizontally cannelured and facetted
on Damića gradina, from where a significant quantity of
pottery material originates, as well as on Dirov brijeg. The Early Iron Age sites in Vinkovci and its surroundings
offer a possibility for studying the relationship of the
Bosut and the Dalj culture, two neighboring cultural phenomena
that in the central Danube Region marked the
period of the Early Iron Age. In settlements and grave
sites of the Dalj culture from the early phase of the Early
Iron Age in Dalj and Vukovar the appearance of pottery
fragments of Bessarabian style was registered, which belong
to phase II of the Bosut culture, whereas fragments
of Dalj pottery are known from Gradina on Bosut. The
appearance of skeletal burials on cremation grave sites of
the Dalj culture in Vukovar and Dalj reflects the influence
of the neighboring Bosut culture, as well as the eastern
Alpine and the northern Balkan area, of which the
inhumation rite is characteristic. The southern border of
the Dalj culture dissemination was mainly drawn along the
line Ilok-Vukovar-Županja or Vukovar-Vinkovci, with the
penetration of the Dalj culture up to the western slopes of
Fruška gora near Ilok and Šid. Thus the area between
Vukovar and Šid might have been a transitional zone between
the Bosut and the Dalj cultures, and the basis for
making a distinction was pottery, whereas metal finds such
as horse-riding equipment appear on sites of both cultures.
The supposed differentiation could thus be related
to the early phase of the Early Iron Age, into which pottery
finds of the Dalj culture from Tržnica in Vinkovci are
dated. In the younger phase of the Early Iron Age the
Bosut culture was spread to the west in its phase III or the
horizon of cannelured pottery, to which the settlements
Dirov brijeg in Vinkovci and Damića gradina in Stari
Mikanovci belong. This assumption is supported by the
gravesites of Srijem culture from Vinkovci and Novi
Jankovci.
On the basis of the analysis of pottery finds and comparisons
with Gradina on Bosut, which represents the best
known and shown settlement of the Early Iron Age in
southern Pannonia, the settlements on Dirov brijeg in
Vinkovci and Damića gradina in Stari Mikanovci can be
dated into the period of phase III of the Bosut culture, i.e.
into the 5th-4th century BC, under the assumption that the
settlements lasted also into the beginning of the 3rd century
BC. The presence of the bronze Dux fibula on
Damića gradina, which testifies to the influences from the
north and to the spread of Early La Tène dissemination
area to the Late Hallstatt southern Pannonian cultural
area, which was represented by the late phases of the Dalj
and Bosut cultures, also points to the suggested dating.
The openness of the southern Pannonian area at the end
of the Early Iron Age to various influences is best documented
by gravesites from the end of the 5th and the beginning
of the 4th century BC from the site of the department
store Nama in Vinkovci. Thus it is possible to speak
of one southern Pannonian Late Hallstatt koine, within
which minor ethnic groups differ with their own expression,
and the large similarities in pottery and metal forms
suggest intensive interchange in the 5th and 4th centuries
BC. By the end of the 4th century BC this heterogeneous
population with numerous common traits in material heritage
preceded the Celtic settlement in the central Danube
Region. As a result, at the beginning of the 3rd century BC
the Scordisc community emerged, which marked the coming
period of the Late Iron Age. Thus the appearance of
La Tène culture in the central Danube region can be
linked with the end of the Bosut, Dalj and Srijem cultures,
and at the same time also with the discontinuation of life
in the settlements Damića gradina and Dirov brijeg. Certain
pottery forms and decoration techniques, which originate
exactly from settlements of the type Damića gradina,
Dirov brijeg and Gradina on Bosut, point to the existence
of a certain continuity and the presence of autochthonous
population of the Early Iron Age in the Scordiscs’ settlements,
which in turn shows the complex cultural and ethnic
relations that occurred in the southern Pannonian area
during the transition of the Early into the Late Iron Age.
The proposed chronological sketch of the continuous
habitation of Vinkovci and its surroundings in the Early
Iron Age shows, as often before, the extraordinary significance
of this area in studying the complex prehistoric cultural
phenomena and their interrelationships, this time
between those who marked the beginning and the end of
the Early Iron Age in the interfluve of the Sava, the Drava
and the Danube.

Ključne riječi
Early Iron Age; Vinkovci; Stari Mikanovci; settlements; cemeteries; Dalj Culture; Bosut Culture; Srijem Culture

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