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A new world order: the spread of channelled ware in Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Transylvania

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In the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age the new ceramic style known as ‘channelled ware’ spread into large areas of Southeast Europe. This article analyses the modes and ways of this large-scale dispersion, which have until the present been explained only in general terms like ‘cultural syncretism’, ‘new fashion’ or as mass migration. Starting with a short but detailed look at the Middle Bronze Age, this paper demonstrates that channelled ware not only represented a new pottery style, but also carried with it a completely new social meaning. A highly standardized eating and drinking vessel set slowly appeared in the Middle Bronze Age milieu, replacing local pottery varieties. Special types of finds (like pottery hoards or cult buildings with pottery plasters) indicate the way this pottery spread, namely through large-scale feasting events held in special places and settlements. This ‘feasting package’ is entangled with other Late Bronze Age phenomena like the construction of lage, fortified hilltop settlements.
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Introduction1
From its Beginning in the Late Bronze Age and intensi-
fying in the Early Iron Age2 a new ceramic style spread
throughout large areas of Southeast Europe, roughly from
the Hungarian Plain and Slavonia to the Dniester and the
Danube. Said style is characterized by channelled orna-
mentations which were mainly realized on hard-baked
black (outside) and red/orange (inside) pottery with pol-
ished surfaces. Scattered elements of this complex appear
between Poland, the Ukraine and Troy. Pare (1998, 406-
407) has called this horizon aptly a ‘koiné’, which he sees
as the local expression of the eastern Urnfield complex
integrated into a large communication network. To put it
succinctly, not only this particular means of decorating
pottery, but also its combination with a special fine ware
and its distribution over a vast area characterize the Car-
pathian region at this time. However, Vulpe (1995, 393-
394) recognized the emergence of channeled ware as part
of a large-scale homogenization process; a cultural syncre-
tism at the threshold of the first millennium BC which was
also perceivable via other material investigations, includ-
ing large metal hoards and the occurrence of enormous
fortifications.
Just as vast as the area it encompasses (Figure 1) is the
complex and multilingual scholarly literature which treats
1 Some of the ideas regarding the Late Bronze Age phenomena
discussed here derive from Alexandru Vulpe’s research and thinking;
he also undertook the first excavations in the settlement of Rotbav,
southeastern Transylvania, which have been continued by the author and
added considerably to the understanding of the channelled ware.
2 This means roughly the periods BzD-HaB.
the subject. Due to space limitations, this paper will con-
fine itself to a very short account of only the key issues
concerned therewith. Symptomatic of the problems related
to the channelled ware complex is Gumă’s (1993, annex)
chronology, which measures exactly 157.5cm and should
be consulted by courageous readers only. The archaeo-
logical debate has taken two distinct approaches to the
channelled pottery. On one hand, there are the synthetic,
supra-regional works which try to understand the whole
distribution area as one complex. Other studies attempt to
break down the cultural block into smaller local groups.
The present paper tries to combine these two approaches
by analyzing the impact of the emergence and distribution
of channelled ware within a larger and well-studied area:
Transylvania.
Important supra-regional studies on the topic include those
completed by Hänsel (1976), Vulpe (1995), Pare (1998),
Pankau (2004) and Metzner-Nebelsick (2013), who dis-
cuss channeled ware core areas in northwestern Romania
and northeastern Hungary (Vulpe 1995), give an outline
of the characteristic forms and ornaments and the related
horizon(s) of metalwork (Pare 1998; with a focus on the
extra-Carpathian areas Hänsel 1976, 88-117), of the histo-
ry of research and the problems which derive from it (Pan-
kau 2004) and try to sketch the general distribution of the
phenomenon (Hänsel 1976, 88-117, 237-251; Pare 1998,
406-413). Metzner-Nebelsick (2013), by contrast, puts the
regional appearance of channelled ware in Transylvania
into a much wider context.
a new world order: The sPread of Channelled ware In laTe
bronze age and early Iron age TransylvanIa
Laura Dietrich
This article is dedicated to Professor Alexandru Vulpe on the occasion of his 80th birthday1.
Abstract: In the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age the new ceramic style known as ‘channelled ware’ spread into large
areas of Southeast Europe. This article analyses the modes and ways of this large-scale dispersion, which have until the
present been explained only in general terms like ‘cultural syncretism’, ‘new fashion’ or as mass migration. Starting with
a short but detailed look at the Middle Bronze Age, this paper demonstrates that channelled ware not only represented
a new pottery style, but also carried with it a completely new social meaning. A highly standardized eating and drinking
vessel set slowly appeared in the Middle Bronze Age milieu, replacing local pottery varieties. Special types of nds (like
pottery hoards or cult buildings with pottery plasters) indicate the way this pottery spread, namely through large-scale
feasting events held in special places and settlements. This ‘feasting package’ is entangled with other Late Bronze Age
phenomena like the construction of lage, fortied hilltop settlements.
Keywords: channelled ware, Gáva Culture, Late Bronze Age, Carpathian Basin, feasting package, settlements or large
hoard nds
Chapter published in BAR S2772 Forging Identities. The Mobility of Culture in Bronze Age Europe: Volume 2,
Edited by Paulina Suchowska-Ducke, Samantha Scott Reiter, Helle Vandkilde.
British Archaeological Reports Ltd; 9781407314402; £43; 2015. Order Online: www.barpublishing.com
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Part 4: Geo-Political confiGurations, Boundaries and transformations
Detailed regional studies were undertaken inter alia by
László (1973), Kemenczei (1984), Furmánek et al. (1999),
Szabó (1996; 2004) and Paulík (1968) for the western dis-
tribution areas, while the eastern regions (eastern Roma-
nia, Moldavia and Ukraine) were the focus of studies by
Smirnova (1974), Hänsel (1976), László (1994) and Leviţki
(1994). The southern extra-Carpathian zone was attended
to by Hänsel (1976), Motzoi-Chicideanu (2001), Renţa
(2008) and Lazăr (2005), while Przybyła (2005; 2010) of-
fers information about the northernmost areas and Gumă
(1993), Forenbaher (1988) and Tasi (1984; 1988) refer to
the lower Danubian area. Accordingly the Late Bronze Age
and Early Iron Age channelled pottery of these regions is
known by several different names and labels.
In Transylvania the term ‘Gáva Culture’ (introduced by
Moszolics) originally referred to a distinct type of am-
phorae with a polished black surface on the outside and
a shiny orange interior (Moszolics 1957, 121, footnote
11). Later, Laszló (1973, esp. fig. 1) summarized all find
material between the Upper Tisza and the Someş Basin
(i.e. eastern Hungary and the trans-Carpathian areas of
the Ukraine and Transylvania to the north of the Mureş)
under the ‘Gáva Culture’ name, thus proposing an area
which is still seen today as the core of the ‘actual’ Gáva
Culture, while the term is also used much more generally
to describe the whole distribution area of channelled ware
throughout Transylvania, Hungary and Slovakia (Pankau
2004 with details on research history). Yet another level
of meaning is added to this term by some researchers who
understand the ‘Gáva Culture’ as the western branch of the
‘Gáva-Holihrady-Complex’ (Smirnova 1974). The latter
is actually a label for the whole northern distribution of
channelled ware throughout Hungary, Transylvania, Mol-
davia and the Ukraine. The southern distribution area in
Slavonia and the Banat is called the ‘Cruceni-Belegi-II-
Complex’ (Szentmiklosi 2010 with details on research his-
tory). Less frequently, the term ‘Mediaş-Reci’ was used to
refer to channelled ware in Transylvania (Zaharia 1965;
Zaharia and Morintz 1965; Z. Székely 1966), while more
recent studies tend to once again use ‘Gáva’ (e.g. Ciu-
gudean 2010; 2011).
Generally an autochthonous origin of channelled ware
is presumed (specifically within the area of northeastern
Hungary, northwestern Romania and the trans-Carpathian
regions of the Ukraine and eastern Slovakia). A chronol-
ogy based on independent absolute dates is still absent,
nevertheless dispersion from these areas into Transylvania
and Moldavia is assumed.
The exact mode of this dispersion is less intensely discussed.
However, diverging lines of interpretation are nonetheless
visible. While some researchers equal the spread of the
pottery style with the movement of people (Leviţki 1994;
Rusu 1963; Smirnova 1974), others prefer explanations
which can be summarized under key words like cultural
syncretism, acculturation, communication or the spread of
Figure 1: Distribution map of channelled pottery groups with the most important sites mentioned in the text: 1. Rotbav, 2. Lăpuş, 3.
Susani, 4. Igriţa 5, Cugir, 6. Vişinelu, 7. Band.
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Laura Dietrich: a New worLD orDer: the SpreaD of chaNNeLLeD ware iN Late BroNze age aND earLy iroN age traNSyLvaNia
a new ‘fashion’ (Hänsel 1976; Pare 1998; Vulpe 1995;). As
the first theory cannot account for the great number and the
dimensions of the settlements which contained channelled
pottery (one would have to imagine mass migration for this
to have been the case), the second line of thought gains
ground, although the details of the presumed culturally-
induced changes have not yet been made clear. Change can
only be understood if one is already familiar with the back-
ground against which it happened. For channelled ware,
this backdrop is formed by the Middle and Late Bronze
Age cultures of the Carpathian Basin.
Before channelled ware: the Middle and Late Bronze
Age
Middle and Late Bronze Age societies of the Carpathian
Basin are defined by certain pottery styles (i.e. pottery fine
wares) attributed to particular distribution areas. In the
area later ‘taken over’ by channelled ware, the so-called
‘Otomani Culture3 (found in northeastern Transylvania,
eastern Hungary and southern Slovakia), the ‘Suciu de Sus
Culture’ (found in northeastern Hungary, northwestern
Transylvania and the adjacent parts of Ukraine), the ‘Wi-
etenberg Culture’ (located in Transylvania) and the ‘Noua
Culture’ (found in Moldavia, and some parts of Transylva-
nia) are particularly relevant.
Although the chronological sequencing of these pottery
styles has been subject to abundant debate, their order is
far from clear as secure stratigraphic evidence and radio-
carbon data are sparse. It can be confidently assumed that
these pottery styles existed roughly from the Early Bronze
Age4 (Reinecke A) until some moment immediately before
the appearance of channelled ware. Not only is chronolog-
ical data missing, but information regarding the settlement
structures and social organization of the users is also rather
scarce (despite ongoing research and the start of new and
interesting insights).
Exactly in what would later become the core area of the
‘Gáva Culture’, Otomani pottery styles initially held
sway, where they were subdivided into four phases by
Bader (1978, 42-57). Characteristic for phases I-III is a
multitude of ceramic forms ranging from smaller or larg-
er bowls and plates to jars, askoi and the so-called ‘fish
pans’. Most characteristic for all phases were the cups; in
the fourth phase fineware was limited to them (as well as
larger bowls and amphorae). Generally, all pottery forms
were richly decorated with arrangements of incisions rang-
ing from geometrical motifs (like chevrons, rhombi and
triangles) to spirals. Known in all phases (but especially
common in the last) was channelled ornamentation (Bader
1978, 42-57, pl. 15-36).
3 The term‘culture‘in the Middle Bronze Age of the Carpathian Basin
traditionally defines an ensemble of archaeological finds spread over
a certain area in which a certain pottery-style (of the fine variety) pre-
vailed.
4 According to the Central European terminology.
The settlements in which the Otomani-style appears have
been the subject of several studies. A complex and varied
image arises which is dominated by large, tell-like forti-
fied settlements with regular inner divisions, although it
also includes simple open settlements as well as others lo-
cated on islands in bogs (Bader 1978: 32-36). The function
of the tell settlements as economic and social centers has
been repeatedly stressed (Furmánek et al. 1999, 115-120;
in detail F. Gogâltan 2010; 2011; Hänsel and Medović
1998; Kovács 1998, 489;). Due to a concentrated effort to-
wards regional landscape surveys, spatial clustering of one
tell and one or more open settlements has been observed,
and seems to have been the norm (Molnár and Imecs 2006,
31, 52-53, pl. 18). In the Otomani pottery style distribution
area bronze hoards made up of weapons and ornaments
were a regular phenomenon, some of which have even
been found in central tell settlements (in detail with exam-
ples Gogâltan 2011, 19). While the picture which emerges
is still fairly nebulous (and will surely benefit greatly from
the work recently undertaken by Molnár in Transylvania),
nevertheless a certain degree of hierarchical society orga-
nized in small regional groupings seems to be discernible.
The evaluation of MBA society gained another dimension
by the analysis of the societies which used the Wietenberg
pottery style. Recent studies have been able to delimitate
spatial clusters similar to those known from the Otomani
area (Dietrich 2010), although the former did not center
around tells but were rather concentrated on fortified or
unfortified settlements placed in dominant positions in
the landscape. In southeastern Transylvania, for example,
settlement clusters formed of two or three open lowland
settlements and one sometimes fortified hilltop settlement
were dispersed regularly over the landscape. Associated
with these clusters were contemporaneous hoards of axes
and single depositions of the much-debated Mycenaean
swords. Taking into account the characteristics of the set-
tlements, the general image is one of a somewhat lower
hierarchical social system with local elites identifiable
through prestige goods (Dietrich 2010).
Of special interest is the Wietenberg style pottery, whose
complex spiral decoration was sometimes thought to show
connections with Mycenae, but is more likely to have been
of local origin (in detail Dietrich and Dietrich 2011). The
spectrum of forms and decorations was extensively treated
by Boroffka (1994). It is characterized by a wide range
of forms from small and large pots and bowls to beakers,
jars, amphorae and cups (Boroffka 1994, Typentafeln 1-4).
As stratigraphies are largely missing, the multi-stratified
settlement of Rotbav5 in southeastern Transylvania is par-
ticularly important. At the site, three distinct phases could
be distinguished: an early horizon with channelled and
5 Vulpe excavated at Rotbav in southeastern Transylvania in col-
laboration with Marcu between 1970 and 1973. Vulpe, Dietrich and the
author of this text continued this work between 2005 and 2010. Six set-
tlement phases are discernible at Rotbav of which the first three belong
to the Wietenberg Culture, phases 4 and 5 to the Noua Culture and the
last to the Gáva Culture.
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Part 4: Geo-Political confiGurations, Boundaries and transformations
incised static geometrical motifs, followed by incised dy-
namical motifs based on the lying S-hook realized in white
incrustation and a later phase with dynamic motifs based
on Z-hooks.
An in-depth study of these ornamentations clearly showed
that they were an inherent cultural expression of the soci-
ety which created them; they were abstracted depictions
of zoomorphic and celestial character which were deeply
entangled with the world of the people who created them
(Dietrich and Dietrich 2011). Pottery decorated in this
meaningful way at Rotbav appeared in every ‘household’
with quantities measuring up to 5% of the whole pottery
collection recovered from the site; it seems to have been a
special dinnerware which was also used in grave contexts.
The third pre-Gáva pottery style is the ‘Suciu de Sus Cul-
ture’, which is less well-known than the previous two, but
surely reached into the LBA (Kacsó 2001, 231). There is
some evidence for settlement types similar to those with
Otomani pottery (Bader 1978, 68-70); whether the spatial
relationships of the settlements were similar to those de-
scribed above must remain the subject of future studies.
In the especially rich pottery inventory, cups, bowls and
amphorae prevail; ornaments were made by low or deep
incisions and chip carving (Kacsó 1975, 2001). Different
meanings have been attributed to the metope-like motifs,
ranging from floral and sun ornaments (Vulpe 1975) to
vegetation goddesses (Teržan 2005). In any case, it can be
assumed that they were also closely and deeply related to
the world view of their producers. Due to its decoration,
the Suciu de Sus pottery has often been linked to the Wi-
etenberg pottery (Vulpe 1975). It is followed by the Lăpuş
Group (which in its second phase already made use of
channelled ware).
The last pre-Gáva phenomenon of interest here is the Noua
Culture whose main distribution area lay in Moldavia
(Florescu 1964) and whose appearance in parts of Tran-
sylvania has often been understood as a migration which
ended or displaced the Wietenberg Culture (e.g. Boroffka
1994, 287-288). A development out of local milieus has
also been presumed by some (Vulpe 1995).
The main characteristic of the sites in which Noua pot-
tery appears are that they are settlements accompanied by
so-called ‘ash mounds’, round heaps (diameters ranging
from 25-30m) formed of grayish sediments. They are be-
lieved to have been burnt houses, barns, waste dumps or
ritual burning places (Sava 2005). Chemical analysis of
the ‘ash’ has shown that it was, in actuality, composed of
earth and burnt lime (Kaiser und Sava 2006). Based on
this chemical analysis and those of the ‘ash mound’ at Rot-
bav, I was able to show that the ash mound was a special,
collectively used place constructed at the boundary of the
settlement in round or oval basins at which place the ex-
tensive working of leather took place. The sediment rich
in lime derives from a mixture of burnt lime and water,
known historically and ethnographically to have been used
to de-hair hides intended for leather production. Further-
more, crenelated scapulae (objects known from ethno-
graphic contexts as tools for the scraping of leather) were
found in large quantities in the ash mound, while they were
entirely lacking from the settlement (Dietrich 2011a). The
settlement and cemetery were spatially divided from the
ash mound (which was also marked through depositions of
bronzes as a special area; Dietrich 2009). Large amounts
of animal bones and special pottery open up the possibility
that the ancient inhabitants would have engaged in feast-
ing activities in this area (Dietrich 2011a). At Rotbav, the
main source of special fineware double-handled drinking
vessels (‘kantharoi’) and cups was from the ash mound;
the same kinds of objects did appear in the settlement, but
only in very small numbers (1-2). Interestingly, they were
fairly common grave finds. Due to these special find con-
texts as well their zoomorphic handles, a certain symbolic
meaning can be attributed to them (Dietrich 2011b).
The general image of the sites with Noua pottery is that
of small, somehow uniform and regionally important
settlements inhabited by small groups who constructed
special, communally-used places. A hierarchy is hardly
archaeologically discernable; society seems to have been
largely based on lineage. Nevertheless, some differentia-
tion should be assumed, as prestige objects seem to have
existed (Vulpe and Lazăr 1997).
This forms a very sketch of the picture of the Middle and
early Late Bronze Age in Transylvania, which seems to
have been formed of small-scale, mostly low-hierarchi-
cal groups within well-delimited areas who created and
used different pottery styles. In many cases, those groups
seem to have put a lot of effort into the decoration of their
fineware, depicting and expressing certain aspects of their
worldview. When viewed in that sense, the appearance
of channelled ware means a radical re-structuring of the
Bronze Age world and a washing away of parts of ear-
lier belief systems. The question how this process began
should be addressed in detail.
How the world began to change
In the time immediately before the appearance of Gáva
pottery, the Late Bronze Age scenery of Transylvania
seems to have been populated by a large number of pot-
tery styles which are supposed to have both chronological
significance and distinct distribution areas. In the center
and southwest of Transylvania, for example, the Uioara de
Jos and Band-Cugir groups (Ciugudean 1994; 2004; 2010;
2011) should be mentioned, in northeastern Hungary and
northwestern Transylvania, one must speak of the Cehăluţ
or Hajdúbagos/Pişcolt-Cehăluţ Group (Kacsó 1990; Né-
meti 2009), for the west the Igrița (Chidioşan and Emödi
1982) and then, lastly, do the same for the northwest of
Transylvania and the Lăpuş Group (Kacsó 1975), to name
just a few. All of the previously mentioned groups have
a micro-regional character in common as well as a small
amount of find spots and finds by which they can be de-
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Laura Dietrich: a New worLD orDer: the SpreaD of chaNNeLLeD ware iN Late BroNze age aND earLy iroN age traNSyLvaNia
fined. Nevertheless, it is important to have a closer look at
them here.
The Igriţa Group, for example, is mostly known from
cave finds (Chidioşan and Emödi 1982), frequently in the
form of hoards of secondarily burned and broken pottery
vessels. Some vessel types (like round-bodied bowls) are
reminiscent of the Otomani, Wietenberg, Piliny and Suciu
pottery styles, while others (like amphorae and cups) show
characteristics of the channelled ware of the Banat or of
the Gáva pottery (analogies, Chidioşan and Emödi 1982).
The ornamentation consists mainly of fluting and shows
similar regional affinities. This phenomenon (which may
be defined as a special class of finds more than as a pottery
style in and of itself) appears in the contact zone between
the Wietenberg, Otomani and Suciu de Sus distribution ar-
eas (cf. Chidioşan and Emödi 1982, fig. 10).
The Lăpuş Group (Kacsó 1975) can also be defined by a
class of special finds; the settlements ascribed to it are rare
(Marta 2010). The eponymous site is a cluster of mounds
which yielded hundreds of pottery vessels and animal
bones. Originally, these were interpreted as burial mounds
(Kacsó 1975). Recent studies have shown that monumen-
tal buildings with central hearths and intentionally de-
stroyed pottery were hidden in some of the mounds. These
buildings were interpreted as places for feasting which
were connected with burial rites and were used as focal
points for the highly hierarchized societies that built them
(Metzner-Nebelsick et al. 2010). As was stated above, in
the first phase at Lăpuş saw pottery decorated via the chip
carving technique, while the second phase represented ac-
tual channelled ware.
Thus, immediately before the appearance of Gáva pot-
tery, there are find complexes in which channelled ware
was used in special contexts. In large ’buried’ buildings
or caves, large quantities of amphorae, small and large
bowls, cups and pyraunoi were intentionally destroyed;
sometimes they even bear the marks of secondary burning
and were deposited in the form of densely-packed plasters.
Such find complexes are not only known from Transylva-
nia but also appear in the Banat (Stratan and Vulpe 1977),
along the lower Danube (Lazăr 2005; Motzoi-Chicideanu
2001) and maybe also in Moldavia (Laszló 1994, 58-61).
For example, in the mound of Susani in the Banat, 66 cups
and 13 bowls were laid on the ground around a big bowl
alongside a large quantity of charred wheat; another 150
cups and bowls were discovered in a later pit within the
same tumulus (Stratan and Vulpe 1977).
Apart from these phenomena, even in the ’usual‘ settlements
and the rest of the cultural landscape, remarkable things
were also occurring. Vulpe (1996, 524-529) has pointed out
the importance of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age
horizon of pottery hoards which was further discussed by
Hansen (1994, 318-323, with emphasis on southern Mora-
via and Lower Austria), Szabó (2004) and Marta (2007).
These hoards were formed of varying numbers of vessels
or vessel parts which were deposited in settlement pits or
inside houses (in detail: Vulpe 1996, 526).
Hansen (1994, 320-322) suggested that a multitude of phe-
nomena may lie behind the act of hoarding vessels, and the
act of hoarding may not only have included whole, but also
broken vessels analogous to bronze hoarding, which is an
important observation. With regards to the regional cluster
of vessel hoards from the Upper Tisza region, Szabó (2004,
100-101) has suggested feasting and offering rituals, either
by families or male societies. Marta (2007) specified that
the intentionally destroyed and deposited pottery should
be interpreted in terms of specialized ceramic sets used
for brewing and consuming beer. The evidence he presents
is fairly convincing, even without chemical analyses. One
should nonetheless keep in mind the fact that the massive
pottery depositions in Susani mound, Banat, also included
a great quantity of charred wheat (Stratan and Vulpe 1977).
It is possible the Late Bronze Age custom of depositing
vessels was practiced all over Transylvania, as some finds
of the ‘Band-Cugir Group’ (Ciugudean 1994; 2011) could
be interpreted in a similar fashion. At Band, several cups
were found together in a pit (Ciugudean 1994, 62). In the
settlement of Vişinelu, four cups made up the inventory of
what was presumed to have been a grave (Lazăr 1997). The
famous bronze and gold objects from the hoard from Cugir
were found in several pottery vessels, one of which was
made of channelled ware (Ciugudean 1994, 62, Fig. 6).
To sum up, the dispersal of channelled ware was preceded
by several groups which have deposition of ceramic sets
related to eating and drinking at special places but also
inside settlements in common. The pottery involved bore
channelled decoration and the forms anticipated those of
later Gáva finewares: the trio of amphora, cup and bowl.
In spite of extensive research into the chronology of these
phenomena (Ciugudean 2010; 2011), archaeologists are
still unsure as to whether they represent a unitary chrono-
logical horizon, as stratigraphic evidence and radiocarbon
data are missing. It may be presumed that those new aspects
emerged from Middle Bronze Age societies slowly and at
different points in time (and were perhaps only later gen-
eralized). Initially, a slow transformation of the fineware
seems discernable (which does not imply any popula-
tion changes). Evidence for this slow process of change
comes from several Middle Bronze Age settlements with
intact stratigraphies, in which channelled ware replaced
Otomani and Wietenberg type pottery step by step: e.g. at
Crasna (northwestern Transylvania; Bejinariu and Lakó
2000; Bejinariu 2010) and at Ţichindeal (southern Tran-
sylvania; Popa and Boroffka 1996). In the settlement at
Rotbav, the first channelled ware elements appeared in the
earlier strata with Noua pottery (settlement phase 4) and
were observed alongside the typical kantharoi in the later
Noua settlement phase 5 and replaced the latter in phase 6.
Coarse ware, by contrast, seems to have stayed the same
regarding both vessel forms and ornamentation. Similar
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Part 4: Geo-Political confiGurations, Boundaries and transformations
processes have been described for the Lower Danube and
in Moldavia (Hänsel 1976, 88-118).
It has been shown that channelled ware first appeared in
special contexts like cult buildings, caves and hoards and
then took over settlements, before emerging as the ‘guid-
ing fossil’ of a new era at the end of drastic transformation
processes. The question which remains is why and how
these transformations first started.
A new world order
To appreciate the intensity of this slow transformation of
the Bronze Age world, the social roles of Middle Bronze
Age fine wares should to be taken into account once again.
It is not vessel shapes or capacities that matter, but rather
ornamentation. As argued above, the depictions were pre-
sumably part of symbolic expressions of their makers’
perceptions of the world. This pottery appeared in small
quantities in houses, but was also used in burials and at
cult places. Otherwise, the Middle Bronze Age world is
rather aniconic (with the exception of the decoration on
prestige items, which would presumably have had other
denotations than pottery ornamentation; Dietrich and Di-
etrich 2011). Complex meaning can be assumed to lie be-
hind the Wietenberg style just as would have been the case
for the Suciu de Sus and Lăpuş pottery decorations (Vulpe
1975). Less obvious is the change which occurred within
Otomani pottery, which in its fourth phase was already
predominantly decorated with fluting.
With the arrival of channelled ware, a unitarily decorated
pottery (which was perhaps polished to imitate metal ves-
sels; Vulpe 1995, 395), replaced this multitude of expres-
sions. It showed no complicated motifs. In most cases, the
fluting was executed vertically, horizontally or in the form
of festoons or stars. Thus, the emergence of channelled
ware was not only a technical change; it was a complete
change of the social role of Bronze Age fine ware, which
lost its role as a carrier of images. The functional role
of the pottery as container and the contents of the ves-
sels seem to have gained in importance. A special set of
standardized eating and drinking vessels (amphorae, cups
and bowls) appeared over a vast area. A similar process of
equalization was proposed by Vulpe (1996, 520-522) re-
garding the change from depositions of elaborately-craft-
ed and -decorated high prestige metalwork in the Middle
Bronze Age to the large scrap metal hoards of the Late
Bronze Age. He called this a ‘process of laicism’; it was
not the decorated and elaborate single object that was the
carrier of sacral meaning, but rather the mass of bronze
being offered.
Conclusion: modes and ways of dispersal for a new
ideology
The mode of the spread of this phenomenon can be de-
duced to some degree from the contexts in which the ear-
lier examples of the unitary Late Bronze Age eating and
drinking sets appeared. They often seem to have been in-
tentionally destroyed and deposited as offerings at the end
of their use-lives (sometimes in special places). However,
they were also identified as the remains of feasting and
have been linked to the production and consumption of
alcoholic beverages which may have taken place at special
sites like Lăpuş (Metzner-Nebelsick et al. 2010; Metzner-
Nebelsick 2013). Taken together, large-scale feasting
seems to have been an important aspect of Late Bronze
Age society, while another is represented by large fortified
central places as nodal points in supra-regional networks
of communication and exchange. Large hoard finds (like
Uioara de Sus, Şpălnaca or Guşterița) may hint at central
sanctuaries as other focal points in this network which
would be comparable to the Greek supra-regional sanctu-
aries where votives were deposited in bothroi after a peri-
od of display (Hansen 1994, 386-387). Feasting including
the use of special channelled vessels and their subsquent
deposition could have been a part of a much more complex
belief system which also included the deposition of bronze
items, as some structural similarities in depositional man-
ner are evident (Hansen 1994, 320-322; 2007, 7; Nebel-
sick 1997). C. Metzner-Nebelsick has shown that certain
forms of channeled ware (like amphorae with horn shaped
knobs) spread over a wide area and were not only a marker
for regional identities inside the area of the Gáva Culture;
she defines the knobs as special elements with a ritually
and possibly religiously-charged meaning (Metzner-Neb-
elsick 2013, 72).
Small- and middle-scale regionally well-delimited Middle
Bronze Age pottery styles, thus, gave way to a supra-re-
gionalization produced by large agglomerations of people
at new social centers and regular communication over
large distances. The construction of Late Bronze Age for-
tifications like at Corneşti (Szentmiklosi et al. 2011) in
the Romanian Banat (more than 6km in diameter) would
need a considerable work force, as would the depositions
of hoard finds of over 1100kg, like that at Uioara de Sus.
Feasting as an act of social display and ritual consump-
tion (Vandkilde 2007, 160) would have been a motor and
a corollary of these processes. Pottery hoards would, thus,
have been the archaeologically visible traces of the last
step in feasting: the offering and/or deposition of the left-
overs. The appearance of a pottery “feasting package”
was accompanied by the contemporaneous inclusion of
bronze drinking vessels in hoards (Soroceanu 2008, 265-
270). Metzner-Nebelsick (2003) has shown how golden
vessels worked as signs and symbols of power; it could
be presumed that with its metallic shine, channelled ware
substituted for metal vessels in feasting and certain rituals
or was attached to other segments of society.
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... In summary, it can be supposed that the finds from Transylvania and Moldavia indicate a slow appearance of channelled ware in the Late Bronze Age. This slow change speaks for a change in the way the world was seen, the spread of a fashion, and of a pottery style (Dietrich 2016). ...
... In summary, it can be supposed that the finds from Transylvania and Moldavia indicate a slow appearance of channelled ware in the Late Bronze Age. This slow change speaks for a change in the way the world was seen, the spread of a fashion, and of a pottery style (Dietrich 2016). ...
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