The British Vessel with an Enamelled Zoomorphic Spout from Łęg Piekarski – New Explications and Hypotheses
More details
Hide details
Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego
Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne
Publication date: 2020-01-28
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2019;LXX:105–127
In March 1933, a collection of items (Fig. 3) typical of rich graves from the Early Roman period in Central and Northern Europe was discovered by accident during field works in the area of the village of Łęg Piekarski (presently Turek County, Central Poland) (A. Kietlińska 1961; I. Jakubczyk 2018, 101–102). The objects were assumed to be furnishings of a burial, later designated as “grave I” and considered a Przeworsk culture assemblage from the horizon of Lubieszewo-type graves. The set of grave-goods described is probably not complete – it lacks the elements of dress and adornments that have always been found in rich graves that were not looted in antiquity and have been examined in accordance with scientific standards. Most bronze vessels from “grave I” from Łęg Piekarski find analogies among Roman imports and represent forms that are not uncommon in the territory of Northern and Central European Barbaricum. On the other hand, the bronze bowl with a perforated wall and enamelled zoomorphic spout (Fig. 1, 2) remains unique. The vessel has been the subject of many publications, and J.V.S. Megaw has demonstrated that it had analogies among Late Celtic material from the British Isles. Although the shape of the vessel and the style and manner of decorating the mounts with a zoomorphic spout (most likely a representation of a boar) have good analogies among British finds (Fig. 10:1.2, 13), the find from Łęg Piekarski is the only example that is so richly decorated, including with red enamel. A re-analysis, which took into account the increase in reference material, enabled a new interpretation of this unusual find. A thorough examination of the vessel and comparison with similar objects from the British Isles, e.g. from Welwyn Garden City and Felmersham-on-Ouse in Bedfordshire or from Stanway, Essex, showed that the bowl from Łęg Piekarski originally had a spill plate. This is evidenced by the shape of the upper part of the spout, formed as a prolonged crest keeping the spill plate in place, and the lack of ornamentation on the part of the rim next to the spout, i.e. in the place where such lids were attached (Fig. 5:1). It is possible that the bowl in question originally had feet, similar to the examples from Stanway and Felmersham-on-Ouse in Great Britain or Blain, dép. Loire-Atlantique in France, as among the stray finds from Łęg Piekarski, there are two massive, semi-circular, pelta-shaped feet (Fig. 15), whose size and shape match the preserved, original part of the bottom. Unlike the specimens from the British Isles, which usually have (or had) an internal strainer in the form of an inserted, perforated plate, the bowl from Łęg Piekarki has circularly arranged holes in the wall (Fig. 7, 8). Both solutions serve the same purpose and allowed the contents of the vessel to be strained. The very idea of a vessel for straining or pouring liquids and equipped with a spout and strainer appears also outside the British Isles, as evidenced by the complete vessel from Praha-Bubeneč in the Czech Republic (Fig. 16) as well as several spouts preserved separately (Fig. 17), and the few type E.73–74 bowls known from cemeteries in Northern Germany, which, despite serving a similar function, are not directly related to the group of vessels from the British Isles. The function of the vessels with a spout and strainer or perforated wall is not clearly defined. They could have been elements of wine drinking sets (D.H. Kennett 1970, 88; J.V.S. Megaw 1970, 162; 1971, 299; J. May 1976, 69). They could have also been used to prepare herbal infusions (P. Steiner 1934, 260–261; P.R. Sealey 1999, 122–124; M. Davis 2015, 185). New information on the subject was provided by the analysis of a spouted vessel from grave CF47 (the so-called doctor’s grave) in Stanway (P. Crummy et al. 2007, 201–253, 437). The contents of the destroyed bowl were preserved inside. Palynological analysis showed mostly the presence of pollen from plants of the Arthemisia L. family and of bee plants. Based on the findings, it can be stated that the vessel was used to prepare medicinal infusions. We believe that vessels with strainers, such as the finds from Stanway, Welwyn Garden City, and Łęg Piekarski, were originally intended for preparing infusions and were then placed in the graves of people with high social status. Unfortunately, we are not able to indicate how the bowl from Łęg Piekarski found its way to the territory of Poland.