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Situla and Bowl

  • Era/Century: Prehistory
  • Culture: Early Iron Age
  • Site: Karaburma
  • Dating: 3rd century B.C.
  • Material: bronze
  • Technique: casting, forging
  • Dimensions: Situla, height 20 cm; Bowl, height 4 cm
  • ID Number: AP 2857-2858
  • Property: Belgrade City Museum
  • On Display: No

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About fifteen bronze vessels, whole or fragmented, have been found in the late Iron Age graves at Karaburma. They are mostly early Roman forms dating from the turn of the Christian era, and only three or four belong to earlier, Hellenistic types. The most representative are the situla and the bowl shown here.

The situla has two handles fixed to the body of the vessel by heart-shaped attachments. The form of the attachments indicates south Italian origin, and it is supposed that the vessel is a product of one of the workshops in Tarentum, where similar vessels were made from the 4th to the 2nd centuries B.C. The other vessel is a small bowl, a vial, with an omphalos bottom (phialai mesomphaloi). It, too, is probably of south Italian origin, although it is also possible that it was made in a Greek workshop in Asia Minor in the 6th century. Vessels of this type were used exclusively in funerary rites, and they reached Greece, together with the practice of offering libation, from Asia Minor in the 6th century. In the central Balkan area similar vessels appear already in the earliest horizon with princely graves of the 6th-5th centuries.

Their occurrence is associated with the contacts of the local aristocracy with the Greek colonizers on the Adriatic coast. With the disappearance of this early Iron Age aristocracy, vessels of this kind also disappear. In this respect, the vial from Karaburma, which has been dated by the accompanying grave goods into the 3rd century B.C., represents an exception in all respects. Although two full centuries later than the rest, it was discovered in the same context as the early examples – as part of the same ensemble of grave goods – which rises a number of questions, difficult, if not impossible, to answer. It may have been a reminiscence of some old custom. On the other hand, it may have been simply part of the spoils brought from one of the numerous plundering raids in the southern parts of the Balkans. If the latter is true, these objects were probably laid into the grave in accordance with the custom of the Celts to bury their dead with the objects dear to them in their lifetime. They believed that the deceased person would take these objects with him and use them in the other world. They believed that contact between the world of the living and the world of the dead was possible only in the night of the 1st of November (Samhain), which marked the end of the old and the beginning of the new year.

Published in Prehistory

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