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Palaguta I.V. “Group Portrait” of the Early Agricultural Era: A Set of Figurines of Vinča Culture from Stubline (Serbia) in the Context of the European Neolithic and Copper Age Societies // Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4. С. 626–645

  • Saint-Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design


One of the most fruitful trends in contemporary Art History is the social history of art. Interpretation of artworks of preliterate cultures is possible by revealing the interrelationships between a particular society, the peculiarities of its ecology, and the fgurative system presented in its art. European Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies (7th–3rd millennia BC) are different by its’ structure: from hierarchical to relatively homogeneous. But just during this epoque war became one of the modes of production, giving birth to the corresponding social institutions. Pictorial representations that clearly show the characters related to the sphere of war are extremely rare. Tat is why a fnd of the set of fgurines in Vinča D site Stubline, Serbia is of great importance. Tis set includes 43 clay fgurines, 7 miniature clay axe and 2 maceheads models. Statuettes formed several groups (Crnobrnja 2011). Tus, we have an image of a troop of armed men, united around the leader. Figurines were made in the form of cones, which allowed them to be placed on a flat surface. A squad of almost 50 warriors that was depicted in the composition of fgurines described above could portray a group of fghters led by a military leader. Based on the known ethnographic parallels, similar groups could be formed on the principle an age-class system. It is possible that Stubline set could have been used in initiation rituals or may have been intended as a visual representation of the roles of men’s society members as in a “tactical game” (which does not exclude the possibility that this set could have been made during cult practice)
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
© Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, 2018
UDC 7.031.903
“Group Portrait” of the Early Agricultural Era:
A Set of Figurines of Vinča Culture from Stubline (Serbia) in
the Context of the European Neolithic and
Copper Age Societies
I. V. Palaguta
St. Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design,
13, Solyanoy lane, St.Petersburg, 191028, Russian Federation
For citation: Palaguta, Ilia. “‘Group Portrait’ of the Early Agricultural Era: A Set of Figurines of Vinča
Culture from Stubline (Serbia) in the Context of the European Neolithic and Copper Age Soci-
eties”. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Arts 8, no.4 (2018): 626–45.
One of the most fruitful trends in contemporary Art History is the social history of art. Inter-
pretation of artworks of preliterate cultures is possible by revealing the interrelationships be-
tween a particular society, the peculiarities of its ecology, and the gurative system presented
in its art. European Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies (7th–3rd millennia BC) are dierent
by its’ structure: from hierarchical to relatively homogeneous. But just during this epoque
war became one of the modes of production, giving birth to the corresponding social insti-
tutions. Pictorial representations that clearly show the characters related to the sphere of war
are extremely rare. at is why a nd of the set of gurines in Vinča D site Stubline, Serbia
is of great importance. is set includes 43clay gurines, 7miniature clay axe and 2mace-
heads models. Statuettes formed several groups (Crnobrnja 2011). us, we have an image of
a troop of armed men, united around the leader. Figurines were made in the form of cones,
which allowed them to be placed on a at surface. A squad of almost 50 warriors that was
depicted in the composition of gurines described above could portray a group of ghters
led by a military leader. Based on the known ethnographic parallels, similar groups could be
formed on the principle an age-class system. It is possible that Stubline set could have been
used in initiation rituals or may have been intended as a visual representation of the roles of
mens society members as in a “tactical game” (which does not exclude the possibility that this
set could have been made during cult practice).
Keywords: interpretation, Copper Age, Vinča culture, gurines, age-class system.
European art of the early agricultural era that covers several thousands of years, from
the 7th to the 3rd millennia B. C., is usually perceived through the prism of the ‘sacral
world’ of fertility cults and worshiping fertility goddesses. is concept became estab-
lished in the second half of the 20th century thanks to the authority of works by Marija
Gimbutas— in the West, and like-minded works by Academician B. A. Rybakov— in the
USSR. And only in the last decade it has been getting obvious, that images of the European
Balkan-Carpathian ‘Civilization of the Great Goddess’— ‘e Golden Copper Age’ are
more likely a gment of imagination rather than a result of detailed analysis. Consequent-
ly, interpretation of the early agricultural gurines changes signicantly: attention is paid
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 627
to its multifunctionality, the context of the nds, new analogies are designed both in the
area of ancient history and ethnography [1, p. 180–3].
One of the fruitful trends was study of sets of gurines— unique groups of pieces
found as part of ‘closed’ sets: either in a vessel, or in a dwelling model. Analysis of such
sets, their archaeological context and the gurines iconography enabled researchers to
distinguish the gurines gender characteristics more clearly, unravel the sets structure and
conduct a comparative analysis of the material. Most of those were found in the eastern
part of the Balkan-Carpathian early-agricultural area— in the district of Cucuteni–Tryp-
illia covering Romanian Moldavia, Moldova and Right-bank Ukraine. is is down to
it being explored rather well. Among those sets, several varieties are clearly distinctive:
sets including male and female statuettes, consisting of 13or 21gurines; as well as sets
related to dwelling models. e author of the article has made an assumption, that anthro-
pomorphic gurines did not depict fertility goddesses of the conceptual early-agricultural
pantheon, but rather ancestral characters [1, p. 187–92].
One of the most important challenges in studying ancient gurines is conclusiveness
of interpretations. It arises when moving from formal and iconographic analysis to inter-
pretation itself which is not possible without reconstructing the social and cultural context
and conducting a comparative analysis based on external material. It is important to avoid
primitive logic of observations bases on a priori statements like ‘in farmer societies, by
virtue of their household establishment, fertility cults have to be the predominant ones, so
all the gurines are related to those, with subsequent provision of separate precedents in
ethnographic studies. is method is not comparative, but virtually a comparative and il-
lustrative one, relying only on the objects’ external likeness. Almost a hundred years ago it
was criticised and discarded by most researchers. Comprehensive comparison is possible
only at the level of matching structures, historical and ethnographic contexts [1, p. 192–4].
e use of the comparative method can prove productive if conducted based on
comparing the following: 1)ecology and related types of households, as well as resulting
settlement systems, demographic processes dynamics, etc.; 2)social structures and con-
texts; 3)cultural traditions within certain regions, where common historical and cultural
experiences develop based on interconnection of dierent cultures, as well as within sin-
gle cultural, language and ethnic traditions developing in time. In this case, on the basis
of wide structural parallels one can make conclusions stemming from a broad eviden-
tial foundation rather than arbitrary assumptions. Accordingly, broad extrapolations are
possible, enabling to match events standing apart in time and space. us comparative
researches, along with context reconstruction, archaeological typology and iconography
analysis, play a key role in determining the importance of the preliterate cultures artefacts.
One of the less researched aspects of life of Europes early farmers societies is re-
vealed through a set of gurines found during the excavation of a settlement dating back
to the 5th–4th millennia B. C. in Stubline, Serbia, classied as Vinča archaeological culture
(g.1, 2). When looking at them, one immediately is reminded of a group portrait of
Dutch militia of the 16th–17th centuries, with an outstanding central gure and a certain
positioning order showing the internal subordination of characters united in a common
theatrical spectacle. But while the Dutch portrait is in a well-known social context and has
been analysed multiple times (starting with A. Riegl’s 1902work [2]), the group of char-
acters in a prehistoric era ‘portrait’ requires not only a detailed iconographic analysis, but
also adjusting our view of the societies in which it was depicted.
628 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
Fig. 1. Set of gurines from Subline, general view (by Спасић 2013)
Fig. 2. Figurines during the process of excavation (by Crnobrnja 2011)
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 629
Stubline Set— a Military Squad Depiction
is unique set was found in 2008when researching a VinčaD settlement in Crkvine
district near Stubline village in Serbia, about 40km to the south-west of Belgrade [3–5].
Aer a geomagnetic survey that enabled to determine the general dimensions and
layout of the ancient settlement, one of the smallest (9.1×4.8m) and relatively poorly
preserved dwelling (1/2008) was chosen, that is located on the western outskirts (g.3).
e interior of the dug out building, whose cob work was burnt in a re, corresponds to
the standards of house architecture of the late period of the culture, VinčaD2. It included
two ovens, a clay platform— an ‘altar’, a clay platform for grain milling with a quern stone
(g.4). Besides ceramic vessels and their fragments, weaver loom weights, two typical for
the Vinča culture anthropomorphic gurines were found in the dwelling, as well as a clay
bucranium (a schematic depiction of a bull’s head) that apparently adorned one of the
walls [3, g.5].
However, the main nd was a set of 43schematic gurines and 11clay weapon mod-
els— axes, pickaxes and mace-heads (g.1). It is clear that the gurines depicted people
armed with crush weapons: each of them has a hole in the right shoulder where perished
wooden handles would be xed. e largest gurine is 67mm. It is head and shoulders
above the rest of the gurines, their height being between 33and 63mm [5, tab.1]. is
gave enough grounds for the archaeologist to assume that the set depicted a group of peo-
ple united into a single social group with explicit stratication [5, p. 142].
e gurines are rather unkempt, unlike most Vinča statuettes many of which are
made very thoroughly and covered in diverse depressed and colourful decorations. e
exception is the biggest gurine that was positioned in the central group. Its surface was
thoroughly smoothed.
e gurines were located near the oven on a clay platform, the most part of which
was preserved between two 18th century graves. A larger part of the set survived intact:
34gurines lay in situ under a layer of burnt daub that fell in a re that destroyed the
building. us incidental events contributed to the gurines being secured in the position
in which they were at the moment of the re, and they were not moved in this layer. e
statuettes made up several groups of 10— 6— 6— 6— 3— 3— 3characters (g.5) [5,
g.8]. e number of groups had been bigger, as the complex was partially destroyed in
later excavations: 9gurines were found out of the general context, and it is possible that
a number of gurines from peripheral groups was lost.
e biggest statuette was in the central group. In contrast to the other gurines, not
only was it made more thoroughly, but its head is also modelled in more detail. So, the de-
picted character can be considered the ‘leader’ surrounded by a group of ‘regular’ warriors
consisting of 9people— also divisible by 3like the smaller groups. Consequently, this is a
depiction of an organized squad of warriors, in a certain way grouped around the ‘leader’.
e order of forming the group is indicated trough combining statuettes of dierent
sizes. So, the central group of 10gurines and the three adjacent groups of 6gurines each
has the most smaller statuettes, and these also have axes and mace-heads, while the three
groups of three gurines each consist of bigger statuettes. is is especially well seen in the
two marginal groups positioned on the anks (g.5).
e statuettes are cone-shaped with a at base which enables to arrange them on a at
surface. Based on this, we can assume that repositioning of the gurines was important
630 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
and was performed repeatedly. e shape of the gurines also draws attention, with the
face clearly indicated with a prominent nose: it is the nose that determines the direction of
the gaze and the motion of characters when they are positioned.
e uniqueness of the Stubline set is in the gurines having been xed in situ at the -
nal stage of the building existence (g.2). us, even if partially, the author’s arrangement
of the gurines was preserved that poses a composition— a true group portrait initially
uniting up to 50characters. is composition is arranged both based on their hierarchy
Fig. 3. Plan of Stubline settlement (by Crnobrnja 2014) Fig. 4. Plan for the building 1/2008
(by Спасић 2013)
Fig. 5. Grouping of gures (by Crnobrnja 2011)
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 631
shown through the statuettes size, and on their spacial links— the gurines are combine
into squads of 3, 6, 10‘warriors.
In favour of this being a group portrait of specic characters speaks the fact that the
author chose the most optimal way of indicating the status and place of the characters in
a group— through a volumetric and spatial composition. First, in such a way this task
is solved easier and more demonstrative than when depicting an organized group on a
plane. Second, the positioning of the miniature gurines may be changed, depicting a
sequence of actions or changes in the characters’ combinations.
e gurines size could show their statuses hierarchy (the so-called ‘social perspec-
tive’). To additionally mark the gurines, colour and details made of organic materials
(fabric, thread, cork, leather, etc.) may have been used, but, unfortunately, these usually
do not survive.
Both the shape and the lack of decorations, together with slipshod making, enable
researchers to single out the Stubline statuettes into a special category of small clay plastics
of the Vinča culture. And also to assume that similar sets, if such existed, may have been
created for certain events out of raw clay or other undurable materials, and mostly have
not survive till our days.
e nd of this sculptural composition in Stubline gives rise to a number of ques-
tions, solving which will enable to better discover its plot and see a society behind it that
created this set of gurines:
How typical is a depiction of such squad for what seemed a peaceful era of the
Copper Age?
How were the warriors armed, and how typical were those weapons?
Which category of people could such sets depict? What place did military par-
ties hold in European early-agricultural societies? And how could these societies
have been organized themselves?
And, nally, for what purpose and how could the Stubline set gurines have been
Copper Age Wars— Inevitable Reality
In the context of popular views of a peaceful early-agricultural ‘Civilization of the
Great Goddess’, with its fertility cults and worshiping female goddesses, a depiction of an
armed squad looks unusual. But this contrast disappears if we turn to a number of sources
related to military activity of early farmers— both results of archaeological research and
their ethnographic parallels. In the last two decades, a rather extensive bibliography was
written in this sphere that includes not only publication of existing materials, but their
comprehensive analysis clearly showing the opposite [6–8].
e author does not set a task to include all the numerous materials on this top-
ic, existing on the whole territory of Europe settled by early farmers. Suce it to pay
attention to the Balkan-Carpathian cultures of the Late Neolithic and Early Eneolithic,
close in terms of time to the settlement in Stubline related to the late Vinča culture, the
second half of the 5th— the early 4th millennia B. C. ose are the widely known cultures
of Gumelniţa–KaranovoVI, which area covers the lower reaches of the Danube and the
neighbouring districts of the Balkans and the Carpathians in the limits of modern South-
ern Romania and Northern Bulgaria, and Cucuteni–Tripolye, covering the area from the
632 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
Eastern Carpathians to the Dnieper— on the territory of modern Romania, the Republic
of Moldova and Right-bank Ukraine1.
e evidence of the military conicts has a diverse character. Primarily, there are
actual traces of settlements being assaulted and mass nds of human remains in their
cultural layers. Several settlements of the Gumelniţa–KaranovoVI culture present such
picture. In Pietrele in Romania, in one of the burnt down dwellings of the Gumelniţa layer,
remains of 8–9people were found, apparently belonging to one family. One of the per-
sons ‘carries evidence of ante-mortem violence with a blunt instrument. Besides, disparate
human bones (with animal bite marks on some of those) were found in the cultural layer
as well [15, p. 76–8]. Similarly, in Yunatsite in Bulgaria, numerous remains of inhabitants
were found in burnt houses (47skeletons in total preserved in various states), including
ones with evidence of ‘specic cranial trauma made with picks’ [16; 17].
Over a hundred arrowheads found in Druţa I settlement in Northern Moldova of the
Cucuteni–Tripolye culture (CucuteniA— TripolyeBI period), by all appearances testify
to military actions related to an assault on the settlement. e heads were mostly concen-
trated on the periphery of the dwellings, at the eld side of the headland, which enabled
researchers to assume that the settlement was attacked from this side. e arrowheads are
typical for the Tripolye culture [18]. Osteologic materials of this monument have not been
In addition to whole skeletons with evidence of violent death, fragments of human
bones in settlements cultural layers also are important. is is a usual occurrence in the
Gumelniţa culture [19; 20]. It is not entirely obvious how exactly those are linked to mil-
itary actions: part of such nds could come from destroyed intramural burials (in the
buildings or on the territory of the settlement). In a number of cases we, apparently, could
be facing a skull cult: e.g. in Căscioarele in the Lower Danube, under the oor of a build-
ing, next to the oven, two human skulls were found. It is possible that the dwellers of
that settlement also practices cannibalism: on a number of long bones there were traces
of removing the so tissues using a tool with a sharp cutting edge [19, p. 122–3]. Special
importance attributed to skulls in the Gumelniţa culture is also evidenced by the traces
of beheading and boiling out, found on a fragment of an occipital bone in Bolhrad [21].
ere is also a set of articles shaped as disks with a hole in the centre (adornments? ele-
ments of composite cult objects or peculiar visual representations of military trophies?)
carved out of human cranial bones [22].
e Cucuteni–Tripolye culture is a dierent story. ere is no reliable data about the
funeral rites of the bearers of this culture, except for several burials on the territory of
the settlements. Possibly, they practiced one of the funeral rites that eventually does not
leave any archaeological traces (burial in trees, burning and scattering the ashes, etc.).
However in the cultural layers of several settlements there are isolated human bones. is
was noted during the rst excavations of the Tripolye culture monuments near Kiev by its
discoverer Vikentiy Khvojka back at the end of the 19th century [23, c. 780, 794]. Later it
1 e traces of military conicts in the form of mass graves of those who died violently are found not
only in the densely populated area of the Balkans, but also during the excavations of settlements belonging
to various cultures of Central and Western Europe [9–12]. And while for neolithic pioneers— the bearers
of the Linear Pottery culture that is linked to the expansion of farming in Europe to the north of the Bal-
kans and the Carpathians in the 6th millennium B. C.— this may be explained through conicts with local
aboriginals— hunters and gatherers [13, p. 339–40],— when the Copper Age comes these clashes occur
already between the members of early agricultural societies themselves [14].
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 633
was conrmed numerous times in further researches of the culture both in Ukraine and
in Romania [24, p. 195–6; 19].
In that context, a nd in the Liveni (Romania) draws attention— a thighbone with
marks of human teeth, which may be considered a sign of cannibalism [25]. In a settle-
ment in Poduri (Romanian Moldova), human bones were discovered with signs of so
tissue removal, as well as bones with dog bite marks [19, p. 149]2. Fragments of human
bones were also found in the cultural layer in Petreny [27, p. 33].
Special attitude toward heads is conrmed with a burial of human skulls together
with a dog skeleton discovered by T. M. Tkachuk in Bilshivtsi settlement of the TripolyeCI
stage in the upper Dniester [28]. Some inhumations on the territory of Tripolye settle-
ments, because of unnatural poses and separate body parts alongside whole skeletons,
may be considered a result of human sacrices [29, p. 191–212].
Similar data also derives from excavations of the Vinča culture settlements, though
those are not as indicative because of fewer eld archaeological work, the results of which
have recently been summed up in an article by R. Balaban [30].
Of course, fragments of human bones may have ended up in the cultural layer if the
bones of the deceased had been put in some light ground structures that did not survive.
Many peoples of the world had such practice. Suce is to recall a ‘tambuna’ — ances-
tral skull shrines in Melanesia, where relatives also quite oen kept separate bones of the
deceased at home. Travellers and ethnographers regularly mention those, in particular,
Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay[31].
However one can also imagine a situation similar to the one witnessed in Indian
settlements digs in the area of the Great Lakes in the USA, that date back to the period of
military conicts in the late 15th— early 16th centuries, before the Iroquois League was
established that united a group of tribes speaking the Iroquoian languages3. During those
times settlements were growing, complex fortication systems were developing. Simul-
taneously numerous fragmented bones appear in the cultural layers. A signicant part
of human remains (50–70 %) is skull parts. is brings us to the assumption that human
heads were taken as trophies: the military chief house of the Iroquois enemy, the Huron
people, was called ‘the house of the cut-o heads’. e Iroquois tribes had a widespread
practice of making adornments, pins, daggers and rattles out of dierent human bones
[32, p. 283]. So torture and killing of the prisoners mentioned by Lewis Henry Morgan,
a renown researcher of the American Indians [33, p. 180–2], are proved by archaeolog-
ical nds (L. Morgan preferred not to touch upon the topic of cannibalism, because his
informers were rather respected people, such as Ely Samuel Parker (1828–1895), son of a
Seneca tribe chief and a U. S. Army general).
In the agricultural societies of the Southwestern United States, the most vivid evi-
dence of violent conicts dates back mostly to the period of climate change in the 12th
13th centuries, though they happened both in earlier and later periods. ey also occurred
in other areas in North America [34].
2 Evidence of cannibalism is present in the Linear Pottery culture of the Central and Western Europe
as well[26].
3 It is supposed that those conicts were caused by climate changes. Aer their escalation by the
mid-16th century, a period of relative peacefulness started, which, apparently, is linked to the establishment
of the Iroquois League [32]. From the 17th century, Iroquois wars were directed against other tribes: one of
their incentives was the development of fur trade with the Europeans, which led to ghts for hunting lands.
634 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
Violent intergroup conicts are also characteristic of agricultural societies in other
parts of the world, which is proven both by ethnographic observations (especially indica-
tive are observations in contemporary Melanesia), and by artefacts [35; 36]. As we can see,
this rule was also true on the territory of early-agricultural Europe.
It would seem that it was during this period that wars became one of the means of
production. Military enterprises could be not only spontaneous, but also were arranged
regularly, on a cyclic, seasonal basis. So, judging by works by Titus Livius and other Ro-
man historians that were based on the chronicles, the military cycle in Ancient Rome
started with the election of consuls in March, the review of troops followed by agricultural
works, and when harvest came, one army that included young warriors, iuniores viri, le
to ravage the neighbours, and the other one stayed to protect the town territories.
Weapons and Warriors in Iconography of
Early-agricultural European Societies
In the Stubline set the gurines are made unkempt, and it is the weapons that the
author drew attention to: each gurine has a hole for attaching a wooden bar. It seems that
those were crush weapons: 11clay models were found among the gurines— 8perforated
axes and 3mace-heads attached to wooden handles that were inserted into the corre-
sponding holes in the gurines. e remaining weapons, apparently, included wooden
clubs or spears.
Stone mace-heads were known already during the early Neolithic in Greece [37,
p. 222; 38, p. 181–2, g. 10]. A signicant number of stone mace-heads come from the
Neolithic Linear Pottery culture area in Central and Western Europe [39]. In the Copper
Age they were widely spread also in the Balkan-Carpathian region. Alongside those, stone
perforated axes, pickaxes made out of drilled deer prongs as well as copper axes were used
[40; 41]4.
On the turn of the 5th and 4th millennia B. C., some types of crush weapons expand-
ed beyond the Balkan-Carpathian early-agricultural area: cross-shaped mace-heads and
‘scepters shaped as horse heads’ were found in the plains all the way to Fore-Caucasus and
the Volga region [43; 44]. In respect of the ‘scepters’ we could suppose that they not only
served as power attributes [45], but, in the rst place, were a part of asymmetrical clubs.
Both rough treatment of the ‘scepters’ back part, and a cusp in their upper part indicate
this: this is how a ‘scepter’ could be put into a hole in the wooden handle and additionally
xed with a cord or a leather band.
In the same way metal, bone or inty elements could be inserted into the wooden
handle. Chalcolithic bone and copper ‘daggers’5 could also have served as such inserts.
Some ethnographic varieties of assault cudgels, such as Iroquois deer-horn war-clubs had
similar inserted blades [48, p. 21, PlateV, 57, 58]. In the Bronze Age— in the 2nd millen-
nium B. C.— similarly constructed ‘battle axes’ became widely spread in the whole of
Europe [49].
4 It is remarkable that many copper axes do not have any traces of hammering the blade and visible
signs of usage, however there is no need to consider such weapons as ‘ceremonial symbols’ [42]— they can
still be used as eective and prestige assault weapons.
5 is does not exclude their use as daggers. Daggers made of int blades were widely spread in the
European Eneolithic, they were identied traceologically [46; 47].
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 635
However the majority of characters from Stubline were, apparently, armed with
wooden clubs, the most spread type of weapons of archaic societies. ose were widely
used in prehistorical Europe: a whole collection of wooden clubs has been recently discov-
ered during the excavation of a battle eld dating back to the Bronze Age in the Tollense
river valley in Northern Germany that occurred circa 1200B. C. [50]. A wooden club was
an attribute of one of the leading heroes of Greek mythology, Heracles.
Wide expansion of crush weapons poses a question whether in the Copper Age and
the Neolithic age there were helmets, armour and shields made of organic materials, and
so not surviving till our time. Such wooden, woven and leather armour is well-known
through ethnographic collections from dierent parts of the world. Were the described
gurines supplemented with additional details made of organic materials? is could ex-
plain their slipshod making.
Against the background of numerous traces of military conicts and nds of weap-
ons, evidence in the form of the Neolithic and Copper Age artworks that would clearly
demonstrate characters related to this sphere is comparatively scarce.
e most expressive collection— big gurines (20–30cm tall, sometimes hollow)
depicting sitting men— comes from the digs of the settlements of the late Neolithic Tisza
culture, that developed based on Balkan traditions in the Tisza river basin in Eastern Hun-
gary in the rst half of the 5th millennium B. C. Among those, the most famous is ‘God with
a Sickle’ from Szegvár-Tűzköves (g.6) [51]. Besides a bracelet and a belt, emphasising the
character’s status, a bended cudgel or a metal sickle-shaped weapon clutched in his right
hand serves as the main attribute (a similar metal object over 0,5m long was accidentally
found near Lake Balaton) [52, p. 354, g.215]. In the same settlement, similar sculptures
were found, one of them together with an axe model (g.7) [53, p. 56, g.15, 16; 54].
Fragments of lookalike gurines were also found in other Tisza settlements. e height
of the sculpture or a shaped vessel from Vesto Magor, according to one reconstruction,
could reach 80cm [55, p. 97–9, g.7, 8, 9]. Tisza sculptures, most probably, did not depict
abstract gods (Cronos, as János Makkay believed) [51], but rather more specic charac-
ters: ancestors of lineage groups, lineage chiefs, leaders who oen turn into folklore and
mythology characters with time. Alongside male ones, female characters also exist. But
these sculptures and anthropomorphic vessels are, likely, a local thing, because there are
no direct analogies in the late Neolithic and early Eneolithic Balkan-Carpathian cultures.
Separate male gurines are present also in the Balkan-Lower Danube region cul-
tures— Vinča and Gumelniţa— however their attribution and iconography require fur-
ther elaboration. By contrast, a rather expressive collection of male gurines comes from
the Cucuteni–Trypillia area. ose are distinctly attributed by a belt and a shoulder belt
(g.8) [56]. Sitting or standing male gurines with a belt and a baldric constitute sets
together with female ones [57; 1, p. 190–1].
ere are no armed gurines among those. However the fact draws attention that in
the whole area of early-agricultural Balkan-Carpathian cultures there are numerous small
clay models of copper or stone axes [58; 59]6. One could consider them childrens toys
(following Polish researcher T. Chmielewski) [59, p. 50–5], but these could also have been
part of installations with gurines from perished organic materials, similar to the Tisza
culture sculpture— the abovementioned statuette from Szegvár-Tűzköves (g.7) where,
6 e tradition of making terracotta axe models remained in the Balkans in the Early Bronze Age too.
N. Ya. Merpert even assumed a special ‘axe cult’ existed [60].
636 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
Fig. 6. “God with a sickle” from Szegvár Tűz-
köves, Tisza culture (by Makkay 1964)
Fig. 7. Figurine with an ax model from Szegvár
Tűzköves, Tisza culture (photo by A. Behr-Glinka)
Fig. 8. Male and female gures from the set. Dumeşti,
Romania, Cucuteni-Tripolye culture (by Monah 1997)
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 637
according to the reconstruction, the axe was attached with a wooden handle, same as with
Stubline gurines.
us, a Copper Age warrior ‘portrait’ does not look expressive enough. Among nds
of anthropomorphic gurines, female statuettes prevail, and gurine sets are mostly di-
rectly related to meaning elds not associated with war. is could be explained with
various reasons: small plastics association with home and home production— the area
of female labour, matrilineal structure, etc. is question has not been resolved yet. How-
ever we cannot expect mass nds of any decorative art objects reecting military activity
of Europe’s early farmers. Here we can cite an example of Minoan art, where, judging by
palace frescoes and small gurines, female images are also the central ones. As Judith We-
ingarten, a researcher of Minoan culture, noted, its art somewhat resembles 17th century
Dutch art— the ‘Golden Age’ of Dutch painting when violent wars frequent during that
age were almost not represented in art work [61].
Military Unions in the Structure of Neolithic and
Eneolithic European Societies
One of the fruitful trends in contemporary art studies is the social history of art [62].
rough discovering the dialectics of interconnections between the society, its structure,
its ecology and development characteristics, and the imagery in its art, one can more com-
prehensively expose the aspects of artworks interpretation and present the society itself.
Based on archaeological materials, European Neolithic and Eneolithic societies form
a rather non-homogeneous picture. On the one hand, there are societies with clearly dis-
tinctive dierences in groups statuses. So, social hierarchy can be expressed in various
burial ground materials like in the famous Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria, where only
several burials out of almost 300 (< 0.5 %) had sets of gold adornments. e structure
of settlements and the patterns of material distribution in their dierent parts can also
indicate social hierarchy. Like, for example, in Polgár-Csőszhalom in Hungary, where a
fortied hillfort dominates the surrounding settlement or, possibly, in Parța in Romania,
where a similar structure was found (a fortied part and surrounding buildings) [63,
p. 237–9].
On the other hand, alongside those dierent societies exist, where status hierarchy
cannot be traced clearly enough, like, for example, in Cucuteni–Trypillia. Here there are
no distinctive clusters in the settlement structure that would indicate connection with the
elite. Settlements either had a radial layout formed by dwellings that were built in circles,
or consisted of several groups of buildings. And if any defense structures were built, e.g.
ditches and ramparts, they surrounded the entire settlement rather than its part. ere is
also no signicant dierence in the buildings inventory [63, p. 240–1].
So, what was the structure of the society that had a settlement in Stubline?
Stubline settlement was part of a settlement cluster [64; 65], but at this stage it is hard
to tell whether it was a system existing at the same time or a number of successive villages.
Judging by lack of dense cultural layer deposits, this was not a longterm tell settlement
with its higher status relative to other settlements in the area, but rather a site that existed
a limited number of years within a fairly mobile system of territory development.
e settlement numbers about 200–250buildings surrounded with a defensive ditch.
In the course of its existence, the area of the settlement was expanded through enclosing
638 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
another area with a ditch that was later built-up7. It was in this part, close to the external
ditch, where the building stood in which the statuettes were found [64, g.2].
Stubline layout reconstructions based on magnetometric survey are vary: it could be
either formed by parallel rows of dwellings or their groups [66, p. 181, g.6; 65, p. 19–22,
g.5, 6]. It is not possible to determine this without further excavations. However there
is obviously no centre that could be linked to a dominant group in the social hierarchy
system. Consequently, we can assume that the settlement population formed a relatively
egalitarian society.
e researcher supposes that between 1,250and 1,750people could have lived in this
settlement together [66, p. 180]8. Based on the assumed population count, the number of
adult men accounts for 25–30 %, or about 300–550men. A squad of almost 50warriors
depicted in the composition amounts to a signicant part of the possible military force of
the settlement. Based on ethnographic and historical parallels, similar groups could have
been formed under various principles.
One of them provides for a system of age classes, most extensively described in terms
of East African cattle-breeding and farmer societies— Galla, Konso, Nuer, Maasai, etc.
[69; 70]. e number of age classes may vary from 3to 5–6. ey include the entire pop-
ulation from children to the elderly. Among them, groups of young men and unmarried
men of around 18–25years old stand out that performed military duties. Inside those
groups, there is an own hierarchy in the form of military chiefs and division into the se-
nior and the junior. Transition from one age class into another one involves going through
a coming-of-age ceremony [71].
We would like to draw an attention to another fact favouring this comparison. e
mentioned for the purposes of comparison East African societies are characterised with
a relatively high level of mobility. It is typical not only for the cattle-breeders, but also for
early-agricultural groups that practice extensive farming with forced, due to resource ex-
haustion, periodic moving of settlements to a new place. Such settlement options, along-
side more persistent ones (based on forming multi-layered long-term settlements), were
widely practiced outside the vast area of early-agricultural societies of the Balkan-Car-
pathian circle during the Neolithic and Copper Age [63, p. 164–8].
Evidence of age classes and male societies is also traceable in European Antiquity.
e role of male societies in Sparta was described by Yu. V. Andreev [72]. e issue of
distinguishing age classes in Athens, Sparta and on Crete was studied by N. Kennell [73].
e Roman army structure with its division into principes, hastati and triarii possibly also
reects an archaic system of age classes [74]. Such organisation principles based on hori-
zontal connections could have been widely spread in European prehistorical societies of
the Neolithic era and the Bronze Age.
7 e mobile settlement system, as well as the layout of settlements, one-layered and relatively short-
term, and in a number of cases with expansion by means of an additional ditch, resembles a picture charac-
teristic for the Cucuteni–Tripolye culture.
8 Such settlement population is indeed acceptable for ethnographic farmer societies. For example,
by L. Morgan’s estimates based on testimony of European travellers, Iroquois 17th century settlements
could number up to 3,000people [33, p. 167–8]. Contemporary reconstructions do not contradict this da-
ta: the population of 15th–16th century fortied settlements rather densely built-up with ‘long houses’ is
estimated at 1,500–2,000people [67, p. 36–7]. Judging by Morgan’s data, settlements with population of
800–1,500people were also common among the Mississippi River basin and the British Columbia Indians,
and the population of the largest pueblos reached 5,000people [68, p. 46–7, 94].
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 639
Another type of alliances are ‘male secret societies’ and ‘secret unions’ known
through ethnographic observations in Melanesia, tropical Africa and North America.
ose also oen were militarised or united warriors, serving both as protection against
external threats and as means of regulating relations in societies [75, p. 136and the next;
76, p. 158and the next].
Both types of unions are similar in the way that they were relatively closed, and joining
them usually required performing certain rituals— initiations. Besides, they are typical of
societies where stable hierarchical structures have not been formed (apart from, maybe,
‘secret unions’ in West Africa that developed simultaneously with the existing states).
In Lieu of a Conclusion: Stubline Set in Scientic Discourse
As we have already mentioned, ‘warrior’ gurines from Stubline, that form a
volumetric and spatial composition, are unique.
In whole, one could note several features of this composition at once:
a) Characters’ individualisation shown through the gurines’ size and shape (clearly
distinct in the largest statuette), typical weapons. Such features could indicate a
certain status of the depicted characters— their belonging to an age stratum or
position in the social hierarchy.
b) Grouping of gurines into proportional groups that compose a single military
What function could such set have performed, being placed on a platform at the
back of the house? e author has already raised this question in relation to Cucuteni—
Tripolye statuette sets [57]. We can make several assumptions.
First, that could have been a set used in initiations, when in the course of the ritual
the initiated was shown a model of the group he was entering.
Second, that could have been a tactical game based on modeling a warrior squad
forming-up— with disposition that would clearly demonstrate the roles of the certain
characters and their groups in a specic operation. Such interpretation option does not
exclude the rst one.
ird, those could have been votive oerings— dedication images used in various
cult activities, including planned or held military and other events.
Mobility of the gurines, apparently, excludes their commemorative function— one
of the main ones in monumental sculpture and painting, easel painting. is is the key
dierence from Dutch and other variations of a group portrait: as distinct from a static
image depicted on canvas, in fresco or a sculptural group, the Stubline ‘mise-en-scene’
is closer to a Role-play where the position of each character can be changed at any time.
D. Bailey, American researcher, believes that the interpretation of the Stubline
composition as an ‘unambiguously symbolic representation of individuals (gurine)
within a given community (composition)’, initially suggested by the excavation author
Adam Crnobrnja [5, p. 140], is no more than one of the ways of ‘anecdotical explanation
of ancient clay gurines. is opinion is based on polysemy of the possible functions of
the gurines [78, p. 826–7]. However here D. Bailey cites as an example the criticism of
popular ‘paleomythological’ interpretations of early-agricultural clay gurines in the sense
of fertility cults, matriarchate and goddess cults that are based solely on an a priori thesis
640 Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4
that those were the main ones in agricultural societies [78, p. 829–33]. Insuciency of
such ‘proof’ is obvious and has been mentioned above. It is due to this reason that studies
in the area of interpreting prehistoric art would oen turn into ‘retrospective guessing’
based on arbitrary choice of basic premises [79, p. 210]. But then, by challenging even the
obvious fact, D. Bailey shis the study of prehistoric clay art from looking for its meaning
to studies on perception of artworks in contemporary arts and cras [78, p. 839–44]. Is
such approach truly justied?
To my mind, it is not an adequate one: instead of travelling to the ‘described past’
[80] presented in speculative at heart ‘paleomythological’ reconstructions, in cases similar
to Stubline where the nds context reconstruction is possible, iconographic method is
applicable that is the basis for contemporary study of art [81]. Together with archaeological
reconstructions and adequate use of ethnographic analogies, it makes it possible to
discover those actually existing facts and events that belong to the culture of the remote
past which ‘has already happened, and each fact relating to it has happened’ [79, p. 210].
Each new nd becomes another step to its further understanding.
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Received: March 18, 2018
Accepted: August 30, 2018
Author’s information:
Ilia V. Palaguta— Dr. Habil.;
«Групповой портрет» раннеземледельческой эпохи:
набор статуэток культуры Винча изСтублине (Сербия)
вконтексте обществ неолита— медного века Европы
И. В. Палагута
Санкт-Петербургская государственная художественно-промышленная академия
им.А. Л. Штиглица, Российская Федерация, 191028, Санкт-Петербург, Соляной пер., 13
Для цитирования: Palaguta, Ilia. “‘Group Portrait’ of the Early Agricultural Era: A Set of Figurines of
Vinča Culture from Stubline (Serbia) in the Context of the European Neolithic and Copper Age Soci-
eties”. Вестник Санкт-Петербургского университета. Искусствоведение 8, no.4(2018): 626–45.
Одно изплодотворных направлений всовременном искусствознании — социальная
история искусства. Интерпретировать памятники искусства дописьменных культур
возможно через раскрытие взаимосвязей между социумом, особенностями его эко-
логии иотражающими его образами. Европейские общества эпох неолита иэнеолита
(VII–IIIтыс. до н. э.) разнообразны по структуре: от иерархических до относительно
однородных. Именно вэту эпоху войны становятся одним изспособов производства,
порождая соответствующие социальные институты. Изобразительные памятники,
которые бы наглядно демонстрировали персонажей, относящихся ксфере войны, ис-
ключительно редки. Важное значение имеет находка набора статуэток на поселении
культуры ВинчаD вСтублине (Сербия). Набор включает 43глиняные фигурки, вместе
скоторыми найдены 7 моделей топоров и2 миниатюрные булавы. Статуэтки обра-
зовывали группы из10— 6— 6— 6— 3— 3— 3персонажей. Вцентральной группе
находилась одна статуэтка крупнее остальных (Crnobrnja 2011). Таким образом, перед
нами изображение отряда вооруженных мужчин-воинов, объединенного вокруг лиде-
ра. Статуэтки изготовлены ввиде конусов, что позволяет их расставлять на плоской
поверхности. Этот набор уникален. Грубость изготовления фигурок указывает на то,
что аналогичные наборы могли делаться для конкретного действия из необожжен-
ной глины или других нестойких материалов и вбольшинстве своем не сохранились.
Отряд, состоящий из почти полусотни воинов, который изображала композиция
из Стуб лине, мог представлять собой отдельную группу бойцов, возглавляемую во-
енным вождем. Исходя изэтнографических параллелей, аналогичные группы могли
образовываться на основе системы возрастных классов. Вполне вероятно, что набор
фигурок изСтублине играл какую-то роль винициациях или служил для наглядной
Вестник СПбГУ. Искусствоведение. 2018. Т. 8. Вып. 4 645
демонстрации места членов объединения в «тактической игре» (параллельно с рас-
пределением ролей, что не исключает того, что такая расстановка могла быть сделана
впроцессе культовой практики).
Ключевые слова: интерпретация искусства, энеолит, культура Винча, антропоморфные
статуэтки, система возрастных классов.
Контактная информация:
Палагута Илья Владимирович— д-р ист. наук;
... Este último aspecto se ha desarrollado más profundamente en las estatuaria de mayor tamaño (Harris y Hoffman, 2014;Harrison , Heyd, 2007;Sorensen, 2013;Turek, 2015) , admitiéndose que las armas fueron portadas por representaciones femeninas y masculinas. Un aspecto que debería hacerse extensible a la representación de otras edades, pues algunos casos de exposiciones de figuritas de distintos tamaños, reflejan situaciones semejantes en estelas, que estarían reproduciendo conjuntos "familiares" (Bueno-Ramírez et al.2017, 2018Rutter, 2003;Palaguta, 2018 y en este volumen; Vella Gregory en este volumen), como también se ha señalado para algunos conjuntos pintados en abrigos ibéricos (Barciela, en este volumen). ...
... Este último aspecto se ha desarrollado más profundamente en las estatuaria de mayor tamaño (Harris y Hoffman, 2014;Harrison , Heyd, 2007;Sorensen, 2013;Turek, 2015) , admitiéndose que las armas fueron portadas por representaciones femeninas y masculinas. Un aspecto que debería hacerse extensible a la representación de otras edades, pues algunos casos de exposiciones de figuritas de distintos tamaños, reflejan situaciones semejantes en estelas, que estarían reproduciendo conjuntos "familiares" (Bueno-Ramírez et al.2017, 2018Rutter, 2003;Palaguta, 2018 y en este volumen; Vella Gregory en este volumen), como también se ha señalado para algunos conjuntos pintados en abrigos ibéricos (Barciela, en este volumen). ...
... Las llamadas caras en T añaden soluciones técnicas en relieve que marcan arcos supraciliares y nariz, del modo en que sucede en algunas máscaras o cascos sencillos. (Bueno-Ramírez et al. 2016a, 2018 Pocos ejemplares antropomorfos peninsulares muestran ojos con cuencas vacías que debieron estar rellenos de otros materiales. Los más evidentes, los recientemente documentados en el recinto de foso de PerdigÕes (Valera en este volumen). ...
... Este último aspecto se ha desarrollado más profundamente en las estatuaria de mayor tamaño (Harris y Hoffman, 2014;Harrison , Heyd, 2007;Sorensen, 2013;Turek, 2015) , admitiéndose que las armas fueron portadas por representaciones femeninas y masculinas. Un aspecto que debería hacerse extensible a la representación de otras edades, pues algunos casos de exposiciones de figuritas de distintos tamaños, reflejan situaciones semejantes en estelas, que estarían reproduciendo conjuntos "familiares" (Bueno-Ramírez et al.2017, 2018Rutter, 2003;Palaguta, 2018 y en este volumen; Vella Gregory en este volumen), como también se ha señalado para algunos conjuntos pintados en abrigos ibéricos (Barciela, en este volumen). ...
... Este último aspecto se ha desarrollado más profundamente en las estatuaria de mayor tamaño (Harris y Hoffman, 2014;Harrison , Heyd, 2007;Sorensen, 2013;Turek, 2015) , admitiéndose que las armas fueron portadas por representaciones femeninas y masculinas. Un aspecto que debería hacerse extensible a la representación de otras edades, pues algunos casos de exposiciones de figuritas de distintos tamaños, reflejan situaciones semejantes en estelas, que estarían reproduciendo conjuntos "familiares" (Bueno-Ramírez et al.2017, 2018Rutter, 2003;Palaguta, 2018 y en este volumen; Vella Gregory en este volumen), como también se ha señalado para algunos conjuntos pintados en abrigos ibéricos (Barciela, en este volumen). ...
... Las llamadas caras en T añaden soluciones técnicas en relieve que marcan arcos supraciliares y nariz, del modo en que sucede en algunas máscaras o cascos sencillos. (Bueno-Ramírez et al. 2016a, 2018 Pocos ejemplares antropomorfos peninsulares muestran ojos con cuencas vacías que debieron estar rellenos de otros materiales. Los más evidentes, los recientemente documentados en el recinto de foso de PerdigÕes (Valera en este volumen). ...
... 1: 4). несмотря на крайне схематическую форму фигурок, их расстановка не оставляет сомнения, что здесь изображен реальный воинский отряд, возможно образованный в рамках «тайного общества» или возрастного класса [Palaguta 2018]. таким образом, целям более точной передачи конкретного образа может служить метафоричность языка искусства, где намеренно искажаются формы, акцентируются детали, делая таким образом характеристики персонажа более выпуклыми. ...
The problem of the development of abstract forms in art and their coexistence with naturalistic forms is one of the key ones in Art History. In Prehistoric art, as in the art of other eras, these forms often coexist even within the same cultural space. Their occurrence is due to a number of factors, the disclosure of which allows us to reconstruct the characteristics of a particular culture more correctly. An important role among these factors is played by social factors that form the need of society for naturalistic forms of art. If in the visual arts shaping develops from giving the object a similarity, then this principle does not work in the ornament. Ornament is a separate art form, where rhythm, meter and symmetry play the main role. In addition, here abstract forms are often due to “technical ornamentation”.
... Однако, почему это должна быть именно иерархия? Для интерпретации фигурок и их атрибутов могут быть предложены и другие объяснения, которые можно было бы обсудить в работе [Palaguta, Mitina 2014;Palaguta 2018], но, к сожалению, они не были рассмотрены. ...
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Abstract: The article analyzes the principal approaches to the studies of the terracotta figurines from the Balkan-Carpathian cultures of the Neolithic and the Copper Age (VII-III millennia BC): anthropomorphic and zoomorphic statuettes and various miniatures representing houses, furnishings, utensils, weapons and tools. As previously suggested by R. Lesure (2011), these approaches can be defined as universalism and contextualism. The first proposes the interpretation of the figurines within the framework of the external anthropological concepts and religious studies, the other one is based on the empirical studies and the analysis of the specific archeological and cultural contexts. While the first one seems beneath serious criticism, the second one implies that research algorithms and strategies should be established, based on the analysis of the material at various levels: its location in the cultural layer of the site, the place of the phenomenon within the context of the paleo-demographic and paleo-social reconstructions, the framework of workable analogies. The feasibility of such reconstructions is informed by the definition of culture as a form of the humans’ adaptation to the natural and social environment, and of art as a media technology that perpetuates the existence of the community.
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The function of the plan-schematic settlements of the so called Cucuteni-Tripolye-Complex in the north-western pontic region remains enigmatic and yet, these structures haven´t been approached holistically. The article aims to address basic aspects as the construction plan and the chronology at one of these sites, the settlement Petreni in the Republic of Moldova. Beyond that, it shall be outlined, in how far the settlements served as mnemonic places. Deliberately burnt houses in these settlements represent a characteristic feature, which do not only resemble the end of a settling stage - they rather mark performative acts and may be associated with the death of a household or a community member. As the burnt house debris has not been removed or levelled, it reflects a visible marker for preceding generations among the living - such structures constitute distinctive mechanisms of commemoration and mirror communities which share a common set of experiences and knowledge.
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In this article, I review recent work on figurines from Neolithic southeastern Europe and suggest an alternative approach. I argue that we should abandon searches for explanation and for meanings of figurines as pieces of the past. The alternative is to work with figurine material in the present, disarticulated from prehistory, and to make new work that recognizes figurines’ position in the present.
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Human skull artifacts are found relatively rarely and in various cultural environments. They have been discussed in anthropological literature since the nineteenth century during which the discovery of the majority of the known finds from Western Europe, mostly related to the Neolithic, occurred. Unfortunately, the discovery context is known for only a few of them. It is assumed that they were made and used as objects with supernatural properties. They are usually considered together with human skull trepanations. According to one of their interpretations, roundels were made from skulls of people who survived trepanations or other skull traumas, and had a magic and protective function. This paper presents five new finds of skull roundels, as well as a bowl made from a human skull, that were discovered in Late Eneolithic layers of the Kozareva Mogila settlement. Two of the roundels bear marks of survived skull traumas. The roundels were found in two adjacent buildings in a burned layer of the settlement mound. Potter's kilns and other finds in this layer give grounds for the assumption that this part of the settlement had been turned into a potter's workshop at the time. In the necropolis, in a burial dating from approximately the same time, a skeleton was found with a significant part of the skull removed and buried in a separate little pit next to the grave. The fragments are perforated in ways analogous to the roundels while skulls from other burials show marks of cutting, incomplete trepanation, and complete survived trepanation. The possible connections between the finds from the necropolis and the settlement are discussed. Additionally skull rattles and little drums (damaru) known from North America and Tibet, which are analogous to skull roundels from Europe, are presented.
In the past 20 years, there has been a resurgence of archaeological interest in prehistoric and ancient warfare. Whether warfare is seen as a cause or an effect of features of and changes in the archaeological, ethnohistorical, or ancient historical record, it is back “in play.” This change was the result archaeologists working in Europe and the New World who were confronted by the warfare obvious in records in their areas of research. They then argued in the most widely read and stringently refereed publication venues, citing unequivocal evidence and using clear logic, that prehistoric and ethnohistoric warfare did occur and needs attention. One area that is still neglected by most archaeologists are the rare periods of relative peace—periods during which evidences of both war and homicide are rare. If recent archaeologists have shown limited interest in peace, they have at least now recognized that prehistoric war is not an oxymoron. While we vehemently disagree about the causes of war and when it began, archaeologists now recognize that ancient and prehistoric warfare did exist and that it is a topic that we can and should investigate, and most are gratified by the attention given to this subject by a new generation of scholars.
Truly deviant grave features exist with the known Linearbandkeramik (LBK) mass graves from Germany, which share the absence of grave goods, erratic commingling of bodies, a location within a settlement context and suppressed individuality of the dead. They differ markedly from LBK multiple burials found in cemeteries and seem to have been deposited as a consequence of mass fatality events, whether violence was involved or not. Once thought to be unique, the authors suggest that mass graves should be regarded as a standard way of disposing of a large number of dead occurring within a short period of time. The known LBK mass grave sites from Germany are summarised here and a working typology of mass graves and related features within the LBK cultural context is presented. Osteological and bioarchaeometric analyses, currently in progress, will enable more detailed comparisons between these sites and others already known or to be discovered.
This article assesses the validity of claims that Greek city states were 'age-class societies', a type of social ordering found in acephalous societies, in which males grouped into age sets attain different degrees of power and status as they progress collectively though a system of age grades. After a survey of the anthropological terminology, drawn mostly from studies of age-class societies in northeastern Africa, three Greek case studies are presented: Athens, Sparta, and Crete. Examination of literary and epigraphical evidence reveals that while Athens manifested an abundance of age designations they did not cohere into the official, universally applicable age scale necessary in an age-class society. The ephebate proves to be neither compulsory nor all-inclusive, qualities typical of age-class systems. In contrast, the Spartan citizen training system was compulsory for all young Spartiates, but no evidence exists for the further collective movement of Spartan males through an official set of graded age designations, despite a recent detailed argument in favor of Sparta being organized along generation-set lines. The mixture of different ages was moreover integral to the functioning of important Spartan institutions such as the army and common messes. Crete offers the only evidence for universally-applied official age designations, nonetheless without any indications that citizens belonged to age sets or age-grade scales were systematically arranged. This negative finding leads to the conclusion that no single theory can explain how ancient Greek societies were organized and that more profitable insights may be gained from comparisons with evidence from places such as early modern Europe.