Verigi de păr cu un capăt îndoit în forma literei S, descoperite pe teritoriul Banatului

Cercetări Arheologice 14-15, 2008, 269-303

Verigi de păr cu un capăt îndoit în forma literei S, descoperite pe teritoriul Banatului

Authors: Silviu Oța

Keywords: hair shackles; necropolis; burials


The article explores present-day researches regarding Central and South-Eastern Europe S-shaped bent-end hair shackles, including those from Banat area, as well as those within funeral assemblages. The available data provided information about funeral practices – rites, necropolis’ location and setting, positioning of the graves, funeral assemblages’ background, position and post-mortem alteration of the bodies, funeral offerings – and also the anthropological study of the skeletons. Alongside raw material and technology of S-shaped bent-end hair shackles from Banat, the presentation deals with their typology, including: 1) shackles without decoration; 2) S-shaped grooved end shackles; 3) shackles with granules glued on the S-shaped end; 4) S-shaped end twisted wire shackles. Except the types mentioned above, there are some items insufficiently described, for which a specific shackle type could not be identified. Absolute and relative chronologies are also discussed. In the Banat area there is a small number of necropolis containing such items — 24 locations, 35 sites, dating, more or less continuously, from the end of the 10th century to the beginning of the 13th. The hair shackles do not belong exclusively to Bielo Brdo necropolises (Gornea-Căuniţa de Sus — inventory number 11; Şopotu Vechi-Mârvilă — inventory number 22, Vojlovica-Humka Azotara — inventory number 24, Cuptoare-Sfogea — inventory number 3). The above mentioned four necropolises testify for funeral practices unlikely to be found in the Bielo Brdo funeral complex, with funeral offerings issued from a southern Danube tradition1 . When both the settlement and the contemporary necropolis have been the subject of researches, there are clues of mixed populations (for example, the site of Ilidia-Funii, inventory number 13.2)2 . There is also some hair shackles discovered in the 10th–11th steppe cultural horizon necropolises (see the repertory, points 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, 9.1, 12.1, 15.1, 16.1, 16.2 and 21.2), alongside those discovered in Bielo Brdo necropolises. According to the absolute chronology, type 1 hair shackles can be dated from Ştefan I (1000-1038) to Ladislau I (1077-1095) reign. The raw material includes gold, silver and bronze; their dimensions vary between 1, 2-3 cm diameters, and 1-3 mm thickness of the wire. Neither the raw material, nor the dimensions succeed in differentiating one or several the necropolises3 . The relative chronology indicates the circulation of these items, with variable wire thickness and diameter, during the 11th century in the plain area, but also in the hill and mountain Banat areas, during the 12th century. The items show up in different necropolises belonging to the Bielo Brdo or southern Danube 2 type and also to the Magyars, in which case there are also specific items like weapons, horse parts offerings, clothing, and harness items. Some hair shackles were discovered in steppe cultural horizon 1, dating to the end of the 10th century in the western part of Banat area, but the most numerous items appear in the 11th century.

Type 2 hair shackles with grooved end appear only in north-western Banat area, to the end of 10th century, and in the 12th century as well, having 2-3 cm diameter. No other adornment objects or inventory items were discovered alongside the hair shackles. Type 3 hair shackles are rare, confined to the mountain area and dated to the 12th century. The silver granules glued to the S-shaped end mark an influence of the southern Danube orfevrery. Besides, one such hair shackle was discovered in a southern Danube assemblage 2 necropolis. Type 4 hair shackles are also an exception, confined to the plain area, during the 11th century. As far as funeral practices are concerned, the S-shaped bent-end hair shackles’ bearers shared common beliefs, regardless of the geographical area and of the chronology. The common grounds are evident in funeral rituals illustrating fear of the deceased’s return (two isolated examples) and also in the manner of arranging the hair. When such funeral practices are observed, they affect also graves without hair shackles in their inventory, which might indicate widespread funeral rites, under different forms, adopted both before as well as after the burial. Few of the graves with inventory items showed sporadically the practice of bending the arms and putting one or both hands over the clavicles, which was thought as a bogomilic practice, spread in the hill/mountain areas close to the Danube shores. Even if the S-shaped bent-end hair shackles rarely appear in graves with posture E of the arms, their apparition in is rather important, when considering graves with E, EA, EB, EC, and ED postures of the arms from the southern Danube 2 funeral assemblages. The chronological differences between Bielo Brdo necropolises and the somehow later southern Danube 2 necropolises situate the beginning of the bogomilism north of the Danube around the 12th century. Overall, most of the graves from the 11th and few graves of the 12th century show A and B postures of the arms. C and D postures were also used during the 11th century, but more often during the 12th century, in south-eastern Banat area. Items coming from different cultural tradition rarely appear together in the same necropolis; when it happens, it’s mostly in the hill/mountain areas. Few S-shaped bent-end hair shackles discovered together with Byzantine items in southern Danube necropolises indicate the existence, probably during the 12th century, of a contact area between the two cultures. Most of the individuals in a necropolis from the hill or mountain area keep their individuality as far as the adornment items are concerned. There are few elements to be discussed about the planimeter organization of the hill and mountain area Bielo Brdo family-organized necropolises. According to the material culture, mixed population communities might be involved in their making; otherwise, they might belong to relatively homogenous communities which embraced different cultural elements. Similar funeral practices could indicate common religious beliefs (except for the bogomilic heresy) which do not rule out different material cultures. Unfortunately, archeological researches offer only partial insights into rituals preceding or following the burial itself. The highly used hair shackles do not indicate the social status of their bearers, but simply an option for hair display, even when they are made of different raw materials, including gold. Raw material acquisition could have been achieved through buying, exploiting, robbery, or recycling of old coins and unused objects. Overall, the hair shackles appeared in Banat area coming from west to south and east, as shown by the absolute and the relative chronology, and also by their spread, which indicates their late appearance in the hill and mountain areas. There is no way of establishing the ethnic appurtenance of their bearers, especially for the mountain area, in the end of the 11th century and during the 12 century. The chronology of funeral assemblages contemporary to Bielo Brdo indicates a successive rapport between the steppe cultural horizon 1 and the southern Danube cultural horizon 2, even though there are significant differences in stylistic and typological aspects. S-shaped bent-head hair shackles were used throughout the Banat area in the final part of the 10th century, as shown by the fact that they do not appear in graves with harness items, weaponry or horse parts offerings, but they were used by communities where graves with Magyar items appear, sometimes associated with these. The inventory of such funeral assemblages is rather poor. The fact that hair shackles appear in both poor and rich graves indicates their high popularity and utility. Their use in funeral practices is somewhat common, indicating the fact that the hair shackles did not have a particular meaning or importance, and most of the personal adornment items were buried with the deceased.. The easy technology involved in making hair shackles made them highly popular among women and children, being both practical and adornment objects.

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How to cite: Silviu Oța, Verigi de păr cu un capăt îndoit în forma literei S, descoperite pe teritoriul Banatului, Cercetări Arheologice, Vol. 14-15, pag. 269-303, 2008, doi:

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