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7 th International Colloquium of Funerary Archaeology

Al 7-lea Colocviu internaţional de arheologie funerară

Topic : “The society of the living – the community of the dead” (from Neolithic to the Christian era)

Tema: „Societatea celor vii”- „comunitatea celor care dorm” (din neolitic la epoca creştină)

Sibiu 6-9 october / octombrie 2005

Some Isolated Graves within Bronze Age Settlements in
South-Eastern Transylvania

Valeriu Cavruc (Sfântu Gheorghe - Romania)

The present study intends to introduce in the scientific circulation the available data concerning the isolated graves within Bronze Age settlements from south-eastern Transylvania.
Till now the isolated graves were found within the following Bronze Age settlements in south-eastern Transylvania: Păuleni-Ciomortan, Poian, Zăbala, Zoltan.
Păuleni-Ciomortan. Within this well-known prehistoric settlement some human graves belonging to the Costişa-Ciomortan culture and to the Wietenberg culture were found. The Costişa-Ciomortan culture grave was found within the narrow corridor (gate?) crossing the defence rampart. This corridor was arranged during the erecting of the rampart. At the bottom of the corridor three calcinated human skeletons (one adult and two children) were laid, and next to them several Păuleni-Ciomortan ceramic broken vessels. The skeletons were laid in crouched position with their heads oriented northwards (outside wards the settlement). As far as the reconstruction of this complex was possible it was assumed that at the beginning, within the corridor the wooden construction was built, and the human bodies were put on a shelf making part of this construction. The roof composed of timbers and slabs was covering this “funeral room”. All this construction, together with the human bodies, was set on fire. Within the Costişa-Ciomortan culture and the related cultural groups, this complex is unique. That is why its interpretation is rather difficult. Nevertheless, it seems quite possible for this “grave” to represent a specific ritual practiced shortly before the abandoning of the settlement, perhaps under the pressure of the Wietenberg culture people.
Within the same settlement several human remnants belonging to the Wietenberg culture were also found. The first of them comes from the small rectangular-shaped construction built next to one of the houses. In the corner of this construction inside the circular-shaped pit the child skeleton in contracted position was found. Next to it several Wietenberg culture potsherds were found. Taking into account that within this culture the special funeral places, i.e. cemeteries, were wide spread it should be assumed that this complex represents a specific and less usual funeral ritual.
Within one of the houses belonging to the Wietenberg culture the human mandible was found. It is quite improbable for this mandible to have accidentally been situated there. Anyway, such findings are sometimes found within Bronze Age settlements. For example, the human mandible was found within the Cobâlnea (Republic of Moldavia) settlement belonging to the Noua culture. It should be mentioned that several written and ethnographical examples highly suggest that within traditional societies the human and animal mandibles are often believed as having supernatural properties.
Within the Păuleni-Ciomortan settlement there was also found the double prehistoric human grave, which hypothetically was attributed to the Wietenberg culture. This complex was uncovered next to one of the Wietenberg culture houses. It included an oval pit (1,3 x 1,7 m), and in its upper part two human skulls were found (no. 1 and no.2). Next, one fragment of quern and an entire clay pot were situated. Below, the human skeleton was situated. The skull no. 1 was laid with its face downwards. The skull no. 2 was situated at 0,4 m west from the skull no. 1. It was laid on the right side, with his face southwards. South to it, the human flexed hand bones were laid, so as the humerus was situated in front of the mouth, but the forearm was put on the skull. Over the hand, there was an entire clay bowl, made of sandy fabric. As far as the bowl does not show any specific features, its cultural and chronological attribution is quite doubtful.
The human skeleton was found at 0,25 m north from the skull no. 1 and 0,5 m north-east from the skull no. 2, at 1,05 m depth, inside the other pit specially dug for it. This pit is an oval-shaped one (0,8 x 0,9 m). The pit’s infill contained black solid soil, mixed with the remnants of burnt wood and clay, as well as with raw clay. The skeleton overlapped an Eneolithic complex. In the pit’s infill, a good amount of Eneolithic and Transition period potsherds were found.
The well-preserved skeleton was laid in crouched position on its left side and oriented with its head eastwards. Its skull was laid somewhat upper than the rest of the skeleton. It should be mentioned that the vertebras from the cervical part were not in their anatomical connection, but laid at about 20 cm from the skull.
Poian. During the archaeological excavations led by Szekely Zoltan in 60’s, within the Bronze Age settlement the isolated grave attributed to the Ciomortan (Costişa-Ciomortan) culture was uncovered. Unfortunately, it was superficially published, without many necessary details. It was found close to the modern surface without being grasped the funeral pit. It was laid in crouched position. It should be observed that it is the second time when the Costişa-Ciomortan grave (alike the Păuleni-Ciomortan settlement) is found within this settlement. In this respect it should be mentioned that so far no cemeteries belonging to this culture are known yet.
Zăbala. Near the Zăbala village, within a settlement from the early period of the Bronze Age, there was found a tomb belonging to the Zăbala group (Early Bronze Age). The skeleton was laid in crouched position and oriented east-westwards, with the face eastwards. The inventory of the tomb includes one vessel – an amphora. The skeleton belonged to a woman, of 31-37 years age, unusually tall. For now, it is the only tomb known within the mentioned group.
Zoltan. Within this well-known prehistoric settlement there were uncovered more than 50 storage pits. One of them (no. 22) contained the remnants of the child’s skeleton. The pit was circular-shaped (1,21 m in diameter, 1,22 m in depth). The pit’s infill had many vegetal burnt rests: ash and small fragments of burnt wood. Inside this pit many Noua culture potsherds were found as well as two fragments of bone pieces. On the bottom of the pit, at 1,05 –1,22 m in its north-western part, under the ash, in the soil mixed with burnt clay. Above the fireplace, the remnants of human skeleton were found. The skeleton’s bones were not in exact anatomic connection, but it seems that initially it was laid on its left side and oriented with his head south-eastwards. Within the Noua culture human skeletons uncovered in the settlements are also known at Gândeşti (Republic of Moldova), while the isolated human bones within the settlements were found in western Ukraine (Loeva, Stetzeva and Republic of Moldova - Cobâlnea).


International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences


The 30th comission

"Lucian Blaga" University Sibiu

Research Centre:

„BRUKENTHAL” National Museum


History Museum (MNBS)

Directia judeţeană pentru Cultură, Culte şi Patrimoniul Cultural Naţional Sibiu



For further information, please contact:

Prof.univ.dr. Sabin Adrian Luca: E - mail: sabinadrianluca@hotmail.com

Dr. Valeriu SIRBU: E - mail: valeriu_sirbu@yahoo.co.uk