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Early Medieval Objects of Bone and Horn in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb

Željko Demo orcid id ; Arheološki muzej u Zagrebu

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str. 123-149

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objects of bone and horn. All of them, without exception, are grave finds discovered at four more or less archaeologically excavated sites in the northern part of Croatia: a small number of artifacts was found and gathered at the Avaro-Slavic cemetery of Bijelo Brdo-Bajer (2), and the early Slavic cemeteries of Zagreb-Kruge (2) and Brodski Drenovac-Plana (1), while objects of bone and horn were discovered in somewhat greater amounts (7) in the graves of the famous early Bijelo Brdo cemetery of Vukovar-Lijeva Bara (Fig. 1). With the exception of the finds from Zagreb-Kruge, acquired in 1911 by a great strake of luck, although the records state that the AMZ in fact excavated four graves there, I the remaining cemeteries were the subject of systematic archaeological excavations performed immediately after the Second World War and somewhat later: in Bijelo Brdo at the site of Bajer in 1947 and 1948 godine,2 in Vukovar at the site of Lijeva Bara in 1951-1953,3 and in Brodsld Drenovac at the site of Plana in 1952-1953.4 At the cemetery of Vukovar-Lijeva Bara objects of bone and horn were found in 7 graves, mostly male with only individual female and child graves (gr. 22/m, 29/ch, 37/m, 92/m, 232/m, 253/f?, 306/m), while at the Bijelo Brdo-Bajer cemetery they were discovered in two male graves (gr. 16,49), and at the cemeteries of Zagreb-Kruge and Brodski Drenovac-Plana in one male (gr. 4), and one female grave (gr. 16), respectively. Two mostly common groups of artifacts of bone and horn are represented: the group with objects of everyday use includes tools and implements and one musical instrument (8), while the group of weapons and military equipment contains parts and remains of the weaponry and equipment of an archer(4). The tools consist of awls and instruments to tighten!loosen (4), with one thatching needle and awl press each (2), and one needle case, with an exceptionally interesting and important fiute, or actually pipe, representing musical instruments. The scarce example s of weaponry consisted of the covering platelets for the ends and handIe (upper and grip laths) of a short, nomad, or reftex bow (3), while the only objects of decorative character among the military equipment were remnants of the plating for the upper part of a quiver (or arrow container). All of the other II early medieval objects of bone and horn were of a purely utilitarian character. The earliest bone and horn objects in the chronological sense come from the cemetery of Bijelo Brdo-Bajer: these are fragments of the covering plates (or laths) of the upper right end and grip of a composite refiex bow [7.1.1-3] and a pipe broken into two parts [6.1], which like the cemetery itself should be dated to the period before the middle and in the middle of the 7tb century (gr. 49/m), and to a lesser extent in the second half of the 7th century (gr. 16/m).5 Younger than these by a definite entire century are the excellently preserved tightener/loosener [4.1] and left exterior lath of the end of a bow [7.2.1], both objects from the same grave rich in finds of an older horseman (gr. 4/m),6 discovered at the early Slavic cemetery of Zagreb-Kruge.? Somewhat later than these is the cylindrical ribbed needle case [5.1] from the partially excavated but nonetheless very important early Slavic cemetery of Brodski Drenovac-Plana (gr. 16/f), dated to the late 81h and early 91h centuries.8 A later and somewhat larger group of bone and horn objects consists of finds from the early Bijelo Brdo cemetery of Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, which can be dated, like the cemetery they come from, in a span from the second half of the lOth century to the first decades of the 11 Ih century (Fig. 2).9 Among these, the earliest bone and horn objects should be considered the carved decorative platelets of a qui ver [8.1.1-4] and a pair of the upper laths of a refiex bow [7.3.1-2], from warrior graves dated to the second half or the last third of the lOth century, respectively (gr. 232, gr. 92). Graves with finds of a thatching needle [1.1], awls [2.1-2], and an awl press [3.1] belong to the end of the lOth and beginning of the 11 th centuries (gr. 29/ch, 22/m, 253/f?, 306/m), and a grave with the find of a simple but darnaged implement to tighten!loosen [4.2] is dated to the beginning of the II th century (gr. 37/m). DESCRIPTION OF THE OBJECTS (*For full descriptions and measurements, please refer to the Croatian text) 1. Thatching needle (PI. 1:1.1) Early medieval, the end of the 10th to the beginning of the II th centuries 1.1 Thatching needle -AMZ S-2455.1O Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 29/ch; by the right side of the head; Bijelo Brdo Culture; end of the lOlh to the beginning of the IIIh centuries. Thatching needles are pointed bone objects with a cut tip on one of the ends. They are usually made from the tibia of a small animal (sheep, goat, dog, rabbit), and they served for interweaving vegetative fibers, such as bast, switches, rushes, straw, etc. II They are frequent finds at early medieval Slavic settlements, but they are very rare in early medieval graves, and the graves of the Bijelo Brdo cultural circle are no exception to this. What is more, the Vukovar thatching needle comes from a grave located in the northern edge section of the southwestern zone of burial (gr. 29), where by the head of a child skeleton it was discovered in an nonfunctional position together with an iron file and jewellery for the head and neck (a bronze S-circlet, a necklace of glass beads).1 2 2. Awls (Pl. 1:2.1-2) Early medieval, the end of the 10th to the beginning of the II th centuries 2.1 Awl-AMZ S-2445 (Pl. 1:2.1). Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 22/m; by the left shin; Bijelo Brdo Culture; end of the 10th to the beginning of the II th centuries. 2.2 Awl, fragment -AMZ S-2660 (PI. l :2.2).13 Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 253/f?; on the outside of the left shin; Bijelo Brdo Culture; end of the 10th to the beginning of the II th centuries. Awls are not rare finds in the cemeteries of the Bijelo Brdo cultural circle, and they were discovered in graves at Lijeva Bara in Vukovar. Although there, as elsewhere, finds of iron awls predominate, bone awls were found by the shin s of skeletons buried in one male and one female or probably female grave: one thin and slender aw! was made from a bone from a fish head (gr. 253/f?), and the other somewhat more massive and larger awl with a very short point was made from a tubular animal bone (gr. 22/m). The graves with fi.nds of bone awls were discovered in the edge sections of the southwestern zone of burial (gr. 22/m) and in the southeastern zone (gr. 253/f?). 3. Awl press (PI. 1:3.1) Early medieval, the end of the lOth to the beginning of the II th centuries 3.1 Press (jor an awl) -AMZ S-2704. Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 306/m on the right side of the chest (at right elbow height); Bijelo Brdo Culture; end of the 10th to the beginning of the II th centuries. Presses are implements intended to aid in greater efficiency and easier use of awls when puncturing hard materials. At the early Bijelo Brdo cemetery of Lijeva Bara in Vukovar awl presses were found in one probably female grave and in one male, in both cases in different places oo or by the skeleton of the deceased individual, but always and exclusively in the immediate vicinity of the awl, together representing the only grave goods. They are made of stone or bone, of irregular shape, and are polished on one side (gr. 253/f?) or both sides (gr. 306/m). Material different from that of the awl was used for the press, so that a stone press was found in combination with a bone awl (gr. 253), while a bone press was found in combination with an iron awl (gr. 306). The graves with a press and an awl were located in the eastern part of the cemetery, but very distant from one another: one on the edge of the southern section of the southeastern zone of burial (gr. 253/f?), and the other some 50 m to the north in a section considerably beyond the northeastern zone of burial (gr. 306/m). 4. Tightener I loosener (Pl. 2:4.1-2) Early medieval, middle of the 8th to the beginning of the 11 th centuries 4.1 Tightener 1 loosener -AMZ S-2960 (Pl. 2:4.1). Zagreb-Kruge, gr. 4/m; Early Slavic period; middle of the 8th century. 4.2 Tightener Iloosener, fragment -AMZ S-247 1 (PI. 2:4.2). Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 37/m; Bijelo Brdo Culture; beginning of the II tb century. The finds from the rich Avara-Slavic horse man grave found in Zagreb at Kruge (gr. 4) included riding and horse equipment (a bit, asaddle, stirrups, an iron buckle), quite a few weapons (a long sax, an axe, a knife, a reftex bow), and attire elements (bronze buckles with and without mounts, a strap end mount, an iron buckle), as well as one "bone awl", as it was first defined. 14 This carefully worked bone point, which was also considered and claimed to have belonged to the saddIe or the harness (the position of the find in the grave was not noted),15 in fact is a multi purpose bone tool used to tighten, coil, and loosen, because of which it is cited in the literature as a tightener or loosener. 16 Later than the above and of far simpIer workmanship is the tightener/loosener discovered in one of the Bijelo Brdo graves at Lijeva Bara in Vukovar. It was found in a male grave directly below the nose of the head of the deceased turned toward the right shoulder, one end resting next to the latter (gr. 37). This position means that it probably was in some container hung around the neck of the deceased individual, or it could have been placed in the grave as part of the burial ritual before or during the ceremany. The grave with the tightener/loosener was located in the central part of the excavated area of the cemetery, in an area belonging to the north western edge section of the southeastern zone of burial and it is not earlier than the period around AD 1000. 17 5. Needle case (Pl. 3:5.1) Early medieval, late 8tb century 5.1 Needle case -AMZ S-735 (ex P-9747). Brodski Drenovac-Plana, gr. 16/f; on the left collar bone; Early Slavic period; late 8th century. Cylindrical needle cases, usually made from bird bones, are a characteristic and not too rare grave find at Avaric and Avaro-Slavic cemeteries of the 71ll and 8'h centuries. Among these often undecorated examples, needle cases with perpendicularly ribbed walls stand out as products characteristic for the 8'h century and the female graves of the late Avaric (SPA) or Avaro-Slavic or early Slavic period,J8 where they were usually found in the area of the belt or waist. 19 In contrast to this, the needle case from Brodski Drenovac was found in the neck area in a female grave rich in finds (a pair of circlets, a necklace of glass beads, applique-pendants in secondary use, a pot and a pail), and at one point it was hypothesized that the needle case had been "worn on a ribbon around the neck"20 or, perhaps more likely, it had been kept in some pouch hung around the neck of the deceased womanY 6. Frute or pipe (PI. 3:6.1) Early medieval, second half of the 7'h century 6.1 Flute -AMZ S-85 (ex P-10499). Bijelo Brdo-Bajer, gr. 16/m; between the thigh bones, by the scattered finger bones of the left hand; Early Avaric period; second half of the 71ll century. Musical instruments are rare archaeological finds, and hence this bone fIute or pipe -the only example of an early medieval wind instrument discovered at any archaeological site in Croatia -occupies a special position. The fiute comes from the partially excavated and partially published Avara-Slavic cemetery of Bijelo Brdo-Bajer, where it was found in a male grave located in the central section of the excavated area of the cemetery (gr. 16). In addition to the fiute, other objects of everyday use were discovered in the grave (a knife, au iron circlet and small sheets of bronze, supposedly decoration of a belt?). The fiute was found between the thigh bones of the skeleton, broken into two parts, which arranged next to each other, were placed at the moment of burial in the left fist or by the left hand of the deceased individual. Such circumstances meant that it was considered -not just at first but for many years after the discovery -to be a damaged but nonetheless mostly preserved early medieval double pipe with five reeds,22 which was then and also later most often compared to examples discovered at Ianoshida and Alattyan, Avaric cemeteries in the Hungarian upper Tisza basin.23 In the recent period, the hypothesis about the existence of a Bijelo Brdo double pipe with five holes has been completely rejected, along with the possibility that this could be connected, other than chronologically, with the Avaric double pipes, several others having been found in the meantirne at archaeological sites in Hungary (for a total of at least six examples).24 It proved necessary to rotate the broken sections of the Bijelo Brdo fiute, where they joined at the break. In this simple manner, the arti fact was returned to its original form: a single pipe with six holes -a musical instrument that in the folklore of the Southern Slavic region is well known, widespread, and constantly in use almost up to the present day.2s It. has thus been shown that a non-nomadic origin for the find from Bijelo Brdo is not in question and that its roots are in fact far older and extend to the very beginnings of the medieval period. 7. Reflex bow (PI. 4:7.1-3; 5:7.2.1; 6:7.3.1-2) Early medieval, the middle of the 7lh century to the last third of the IOIll century 7.1 Composite bow (reflex), fragmentary parts -covering platelets, fragments (+ 14):26 1. Upper right outer lath, fragment (1; damaged, incomplete); 2-3. Outer platelets of the grip, fragments (13; damaged, incomplete). AMZ S-162 (Tab. 4:7.1.1-3). Bijelo Brdo-Bajer, gr. 49/m; in the abdomen area; Avaro/Slavic period; middle of the 7'h century. 7.2. Composite bow (reflex), fragmentary parts -covering platelets, fragments (6): 1. Upper left outer lath, fragments (6; damaged, incomplete). -AMZ S-2959 (Tab. 5:7.2.1). Zagreb-Kruge, gr. 4/m; Early Slavic period; middle of the 8'h century. 7.3 Composite bow (reflex), fragmentary parts -covering platelets, fragments (11): 1-2. Upper pair of laths, fragments (9; damaged, incomplete); 3-4. platelets of the grip, fragments (2; incomplete, lost); 5-6. Lower pair of laths (unpreserved). -AMZ S-2537 (Tab. 6: VUkovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 92/m; from the right side of the ches t to the height of the right hip; Bijelo Brdo Culture; last third of the lOlll century. Finds of refiex bows occupy a special position among remains of early medieval weapons, as in the Slavic lands south of the Drava River this type of shooting weapon is rare and unusual. The organic material from which they are made means that more than any other type of weapon they are subject to rapid and almost total decay, and for this reason, among others, remains of early medieval refIex bows have been found to the present at only three sites in northern, Pannonian Croatia. Only the covering bone plates or laths at the ends of the bow are usually preserved from reflex bows -rarely all of them, and more commonly only one or two -and this is also true for the example s from the three Croatian sites. The first of the mentioned refiex bows was discovered in Zagreb at Kruge in 1911 (7.2), quite by chance and in circumstances that even today are not entirely clear, but it is certain that the bow was located in one of the four graves said to have been discovered at this site from the late Avaric period (gr. 4).21 The accompanying archaeological finds and the width of the upper part of the only preserved lath,28 make it easy to confirm that the bow from Kruge was manufactured according to the Avar model, which would further mean that in its original state it was equipped with a total of II bone laths (4+3+4), of which only the left outside lath of the upper end of the bow was preserved, but in a broken and incomplete state. The fragmentary remnants of bone platelets discovered among the finds in a richly equipped horseman grave at the partially excavated Avaro-Slavic cemetery at the site of Bajer in Bijelo Brdo in eastern Slavonia in 1949 (7.1) certainly belonged to the Avaric model of the reftex bow. These fragments were discovered in the area of the abdomen, and even then it was rightfully claimed that these were the remains of the bone laths of the grip,29 while it was not noted that among them had been preserved a small fragment of the left upper platelet of the bow. Thanks to this fragment and its narrow ending, as well as certain accompanying finds (belt mounts of undecorated bronze sheet metal, early Avaric stirrups, etc.), the remains of the bow from Bijelo Brdo would belong to the middle phase of Avaric hegemony (MA), or the second half and later 7th century,30 while the somewhat different remains of a reftex bow from the Zagreb site of Kruge, as well as the cemetery itself, must be dated to the second half of the 8th century3l or even the late 8th century.32 In contrast to the previous two examples, the third Croatian find of an early medieval reflex bow, i.e. its bone covering laths, was discovered at the cemetery of the Bijelo Brdo Culture excavated in Vukovar at the site of Lijeva Bara in 1952 (7.3).33 The bow was found by the skeleton of a young man (20-28 years old) buried in grave 92 together with bronze jewellery (a pair of circlets, a bracelet, a ring), two iron knive's, and an iron arrowhead (not preserved). All that has been preserved from the bow are broken pieces of both.laths of the upper end of the bow, and tiny fragments of one of two covering platelets of the grip.34 Despite the incomplete nature and the generally poor preservation, the excavated platelets both in form and number clearly indicate the construction characteristics of the early Hungarian type of reflex bow, originally with three pairs of laths arranged on the ends and at the grip (2+2+2). The upper pair of laths have an arched curve and narrow uniform1y towards the notch for drawing the bow and the tip of the lath, which is characteristic for the most common typological group with the greatest number of variants of the covering laths among the early Hungarian reflex bows of the lOth and early l 1 ili centuries (group 1).35 8. Quiver panels (PI. 7:8.1.1-4; 8:8.1.5) Early medieval, end of the 10'h to the beginning of the II th centuries 8.1 Panels oja quiver, parts of the rim and neck of a quiver, fragments (16): l. Exterior surface of the right wall; fragments (4); 2. Part of the front surface of the right wall; fragments (2); 3. Exterior surface of the left wall; fragments (3); 4. Exterior surface of the upper wall; fragments (broken); 5. Front surface of the neck of the qui ver, fragments (broken). -AMZ S-264611-5. Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, gr. 232/m; by the right upper arm; Bijelo Brdo Culture; end of the 10th to the beginning of the 11 th centuries. The remains of five quivers were discovered or noted at the Bijelo brdo cemetery of Vukovar-Lijeva Bara.36 All of the discovered examples belong to forms common among the grave finds in the Carpathian basin at the end of the 9th and beginning of the lOth centuries of the newly settled Hungarians. Their quivers -widespread in addition to Hungary in several neighboring countries (Austria, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia) -are characterized by a semicircular form (perhaps also somewhat oval), with the ends made of wood (the top and base of the quiver), and walls made of leather (or a thick fabric), with a wall reinforcement or framework made of perpendicular iron strips and transverse iron bands, fastened mostly by rivets, with thin and long iron nails used only on the upper and lower ends of the quivers. As the construction of the early Hungarian quivers was completely oriented towards functionality, the area available for decorative sections, for example, was limited to the region at the top, rim, and neck of the quiver. These sections were sometimes decorated with bone panels, of which usually only the occasional fragment or a few sections are preserved, and very rarely larger parts or even all of the decorative panels. Of the five quivers discovered at Lijeva Bara only one quiver was decorated with a covering of bone panels (gr. 232/m), and the preserved elements consist only of broken sections of the panels of the upper surface, both side walls, and a fragment of a narrow banded platelet on the frontal surface adjacent to one of the side walls -all decorated with carved floral and geometric patterns (Pl. 7:8.1.1-4).37 One section that is rarely preserved consists of the remains of a bone panel placed at the juncture of the frontal surface of the neck and the upper part of the frontal surface of the quiver itself, which in its upper part covered and with a leather backing joined the transverse iron frame. 38 This element does not merely in and of itself represent a rarity, in fact it is at present unique in terms of form and even more in its decoration, which originally must certainly have covered the entire surface of the panel. Although it is incomplete, damaged, and broken, and hence the image is incomplete, the decorative composition indicates a symbolism that despite being crowd ed upon a small surface clearly depicts the complexity of the shamanic world-view of the owner of this quiver (PI. 8:8.1.5). -The tree of life (evergreen, cypress?), reproduced three times (trinity, triplicity, triad); the tree connects three worlds (the underworld -the roots; the earthly world -the trunk and the lower branches; and the heavenly world -the upper branches and tree top). -The crown of the tree is covered by a ladder-like border that joins the earth to the heaven s (the ladder); the crowns of the trees have three top s (fundamental number), and the crowns of the mutually connected trees together have seven endings (holy shamanic number). -The interior field of each tree is filled with a different (?) decorative composition:39 each lateral group consists of four rhomboid fields with a diamond-shaped (?) decoration in the center (four doors, stages, junctures); the central group consist of four small circ1es with a dot in the center arranged opposite each other along the edges of a large circle with a diamond-shaped (?) decoration in the center. The qui ver was found in the grave next to the right forearm of the skeleton, where it had been placed together with four iron arrow head s of various size, form, and purpose (three battle arrows with rhomboid points and one two-pointed hunting arrow). The grave was located in the central part of the southeastern zone of burial, because of which the quiver must be dated to the second half of the lom century, and the grave in which it was discovered to the last third or last quarter of the la,h century. Translation: Barbara Smith Demo

Ključne riječi

Bijelo Brdo-Bajer; Brodski Drenovac-Plana; Zagreb-Kruge; Vukovar-Lijeva Bara; early medieval; Bijelo Brdo Culture; grave finds; bone and horn objects; thatching needle; awl; awl press; tightenerlloosener; needle case; jlute; complex rejlex bow; quiver panels

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