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Altars and Idols of the Starčevo Settlement on Galovo in Slavonski Brod

Kornelija Minichreiter

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 689 Kb

str. 11-30

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Puni tekst: engleski pdf 689 Kb

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The southern parts of the Pannonian valley, particularly its peripheries – the valley of the Sava River and the lower course of the Danube River – were areas particularly favorable for the establishment and development of centers of the oldest farming cultures in this part of Europe. The extraordinarily favorable agricultural conditions provided for the sudden development of Neolithic cultures and a rapid break with the older Mesolithic forms
of life and opinion. Thus in Posavina, which belongs to the southernmost part of the Pannonian Valley, the two oldest settlements of northern Croatia were discovered in the past 13 years, belonging to the early phase of the Starčevo culture – Linear A (around 5700-5300 BC): the “crafts settlement” in Zadubravlje and the settlement with a fenced ritual-burial site in Slavonski Brod (Minichreiter, 1992a, 29; ibid 1997, 40-43). Not only within the Starčevo culture, but also within the entire Neolithic Starčevo culture complex, the most significant and famous cult artifacts were altars and figural plastic. Up until lately it was believed that these artifacts
were characteristic of the late Neolithic – the Vinča culture – but extensive investigations of Starčevo settlements in the past two decades have radically changed this picture of their forms, development and role in the early Neolithic period.
The function of the altars has not been entirely clarified
so far. Yet it is safe to say that in the pit-dwellings they served as house altars, and with the deceased as their personal objects. Worth mentioning is the assumption made by S. Stanković that the main sacrificial rite was conducted collectively on a certain spot in the settlement, where sacrifices were offered on large altars. After the
rite, each family or home would get a part of the sacrifice, which they used to put on their small house altars and took into the field or in their pit-dwellings (Stanković, 1986, 12-13; ibid 1992a, 244-245). The altars found in Slavonski Brod may be classified in two basic groups: ordinary and zoomorphic altars.
The group of ordinary altars has the basic form in common
– a rectangular recipient on four feet. The recipient appears in different shapes, so that five varieties can be sorted out: the sacrificial table – type 1 (Fig. 3; T. 1, 1); altars with a vessel in the middle of the recipient – type 2 (Fig. 3; T. 1, 2-7; T. 2, 1-2); altars with a horizontal recipient with animal protomes in its corners – type 3 (Fig. 3; T. 2., 3-5, T. 3., 1-4); an altar with a rectangular outer and
circular inner recipient with protomes in the corners – type 4 (Fig. 3; T. 4, 1-4); and an altar resembling a church altar – type 5 (T. 4., 5-6). Altars of types 1, 2 and 5 have numerous analogies in the early Neolithic settlements of the Starčevo and Körös culture in Vojvodina and southern Hungary, whereas altars of types 3 and 4 have up to
the present been discovered only in Slavonski Brod (further
analogies to Lánycsók in Hungary and the somewhat younger Kaniška Iva in western Slavonia). According to the latest research we can stress that altar types 3 and 4 bear a special form and were discovered only in Brodska Posavina (Slavonski Brod), and can – just as the remaining altars from Slavonski Brod – be dated in the group of the oldest altars in Croatia – phase Linear A. Zoomorphic altars (T. 5.) bear the shapes of certain animals with a realistically presented anatomy. On the back they have a deep, flat or erect conical recipient (vessel). This type of altar is particularly rare in Starčevo
settlements, whereas its number significantly increases in the later late Neolithic cultures (Stanković, 1992a, 223). The bull-shaped altar from Slavonski Brod with a flat recipient on its back is, so far, a unique sample of an altar in the Starčevo cultural complex, even though bull-figurines appearing as zoomorphic terracotta are a common inventory of Starčevo pit-dwellings. It is well known that cattle horns were buried as a sacrifice in the center of large and
most significant pit-dwellings in the Starčevo settlements on Obre (Benac, 1973, 16), in Zadubravlje (Minichreiter, 2001c, 205, Fig. 8) and Slavonski Brod (Minichreiter, 2001c, 209, Fig. 13). Already in the Neolithic the bull was a symbol of fertility and as such closely connected to the great goddess-mother, the symbol of fertile land
(Milićević, 1988, 30). In the large early Neolithic settlement
Çatal Hüyüku in Anatolia already in the X and oldest layer (around 6300 BC) clay altars were unearthed with implanted real bullhorns (Mellart, 1967, 52, 104, Fig. 27, 28, Fig. 17). Apart from that bulls are often represented on frescos and reliefs of the altars from the X-VI layer.
Another important group of cult artifacts is also anthropomorphic
plastic – idols (T. 6.) that used to play a substantial role in the life of the early Neolithic populations. The finds of an ever larger number of variously shaped idols in Starčevo settlements of all development
phases account for their significance in cult rites throughout
the Neolithic. Idols discovered in Slavonski Brod show that already in the earliest stages of the Starčevo culture their form was pillared/bell-shaped, their eyes indicated by engravings, their nose and hands slightly emphasized and their hair or cap represented as a relief. Stylized human figures were an abstract artifact and did not represent
any particular deities. Probably in the beginning they were made of wood with engraved eyes and hair. This shape remained throughout all the development phases of the Starčevo culture, and at the beginning of the Vinča culture the idols became more and more human-shaped. The pillared idols probably have their origin in Pannonia, whereas the Asia Minor idols are more realistically modeled
with a hypertrophied body (Brukner, 1968, 47-48). Intensive investigations of early Neolithic settlements in the last 20 years bring us to the conclusion that already in the initial phases of the Starčevo culture all groups of cult artifacts were represented, even though they were smaller in number, to become larger in the later phases.
Thus S. Stanković shows the percentage of cult artifacts in relation to the complete archaeological material according to the chronological classification by D. Srejović: Protostarčevo I (Monochrome after S. Dimitrijević) – 10.9%; Protostarčevo II (Linear A) – 38%; Starčevo I
(Linear B and Girlandoid) – 32%; and Starčevo II (Spiraloid A/B) – 18.9% (Stanković, 1992a, 273). Throughout the development of the Starčevo culture, certain groups of cult artifacts disappear and no new groups appear. This points to the fact that the Starčevo population continued the religion and cults from the Paleolithic and
Mesolithic traditions. Different rites caused the diversity of forms within the groups of cult artifacts. Most probably a particular form of altars served exclusively for particular rites or sacrifices devoted to particular forces. Therefore the appearance of new altar forms throughout the development of the Starčevo culture stands for the advancement of the religion and magic of the Neolithic man.
A continuation of archaeological investigations of the early Neolithic settlement in Slavonski Brod shall enable a better and more comprehensive understanding of cult rites, religion and beliefs of the oldest populations of the south Pannonian territory.

Ključne riječi

Neolithic; Croatia; Starčevo culture; altars; idols

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