A Cemetery of the Wielbark Culture at Litwinki, Nidzica County
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Muzeum Starożytnego Hutnictwa Mazowieckiego im. S. Woydy, Plac Jana Pawła II 2, 05-800 Pruszków
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2016;LXVII(67):195–226
The village Litwinki (former Littfinken, Kreis Neidenburg) lies about 4 km to the north-west of the centre of Nidzica. Two cremation graves were unearthed here in 1910 when a clamp was being dug for the storage of potatoes. In 25–27 August of that year Felix Ernst Peiser excavated the site, uncovering 26 features. The archaeological finds passed to the Prussia-Museum in Königsberg where they continued until the evacuation of the museum in mid-1940s; their fate today is unknown. Preliminary study results were published by F. E. Peiser (1911), references to particular artefacts have been found in the works of archaeologists who made a study of the collections of the Prussia-Museum (cf. N. Åberg 1919, p. 155; W Gaerte 1929, fig. 141:a.e; R. Schindler 1940, passim). The main source of information about this find is at present a transcript of Peiser’s field diary, now in the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Berlin (SMB-PK/MVF, PM-IXd 1, PM-A 1460/1), with additional data found in private files completed before World War II (N. Åberg, Archiwum; H. Jankuhn, Archiwum; F. Jakobson, Archiwum; M. Schmiedehelm, Archiwum). The surviving archival record has made it possible to locate the site with some confidence about 130 m to the north of the pre-war Nidzica--Olsztynek road (Neidenburg-Hohenstein), immediately behind the buildings of the former Litwinki farm (Fig. 1:A). The size of the excavated area is unknown. The distance between the outlying features measured W-E and N-S was ca. 55 m and ca. 15 m respectively. However it is unclear whether the whole area lying between them was studied; moreover, a part of site had been damaged earlier. Out of 26 archaeological features uncovered in the cemetery 21 were graves,the other five were features with an obscure function. All features which could be determined as to their cultural attribution are associated with the Wielbark Culture. The largest group of graves (12) are cremations, deposited in a pit together with pyre debris, a smaller group (5) are cremations, deposited in a pit without the remains of the cremation pyre. There was also a single urned burial with pyre debris. The only burial identifiable with some confidence as an inhumation had a W-E orientation, uncharacteristic for the burial rite of the Wielbark Culture people (cf. R. Wołągiewicz 1981, p. 151). Two other features (nos. 14 and 15) are possible inhumation burial (or burials) but this interpretation is tentative (Fig. 9). Grave goods occurred in 21 features. Next to a modest quantity of pottery grave inventories included a few objects (mostly 2–4), mostly surviving fragmented. Fibulae, complete or fragmented, were found in nine graves. In seven graves they occurred singly (1, 3, 10, 12, 20, 21, 25), in two there was a pair (7, 22). According to the data in H. Jankuhn and M. Schmiedehelm’s files brooches were present in grave 27 as well but this disagrees with the data in F. E. Peiser’s field diary. Eight brooches were determined typologically. Stylistically the earliest form is represented by two brooches found in grave 7, from phase B2/C1–C1a (Fig. 2:3). They correspond in their construction to a spring-cover brooch variant with the spring covered by a cylinder, similar to type Almgren 42 dating to the younger segment of phase B2. The shape of the brooch bow is similar to that of late spring-cover brooch variants classified to type Almgren 41. Brooches similar to type Almgren 41 provided with a cylinder covering the spring are rare finds. They are noted across a broad territory occupied by the Przeworsk Culture (Fig. 5:5–7), Wielbark Culture (Fig. 5:1–4) and the region settled by Balt tribes (Fig. 6), first of all, by the Dollkeim/Kovrovo Culture, where they represent the youngest stage in the developmental of Almgren 42 brooches. Other brooches determined typologically are tendril brooches characteristic for the Late Roman Period. A specimen found in grave 1, corresponding to early type Almgren 161–162 brooches, dates to stadium C1a. A younger form of this type are brooches decorated with coils of notched wire, type Almgren 167. A brooch of this description was found in grave 3, two more (cf. N. Åberg 1919, p. 155) were mentioned in the context of grave 27 but are likely to have been included in this inventory only after the excavations. In the Wielbark Culture Almgren 167 brooches are dated to phases C1 and C2, their largest number is noted in phase C1b and the older segment of phase C2 (J. Andrzejowski, T. Rakowski, K. Watemborska 2010, p. 145–146). Brooches found in graves 21 and 22 were form with returned foot and so-called dead spring, type Almgren 168. The specimen from grave 21 was made of silver, the specimen from feature 22 of bronze. In the so-called Gothic cultures brooches of this type are recognized as a key marker of phase C2 (K. Godłowski 1974, p. 39; R. Wołągiewicz 1993, p. 25; A. Kokowski 1995a, p. 33, 45). The other elements of the grave goods were much less numerous and in most cases little is known about them. Buckles were discovered in at least five graves. Four were made of bronze (graves 4, 7, 22, 25), one of iron (24). Their shape and dimensions are not known. A bronze bipartite buckle was mentioned by M. Schmiedehelm (Archiwum) in the context of grave 27 but this is not confirmed by other sources related to this feature. A bronze strap end of an unknown form was found as a stray find on the surface of the cemetery (so-called feature 5), near grave 6. Personal ornaments are represented by bronze shield-headed bracelets typical for the Wielbark Culture people (graves 1 and 7). From grave 1 came a silver S-shaped clasp (Fig. 2:2) and a gold pyriform pendant, type von Müller III (Fig. 2:1). Blass beads, most of them burnt, were recorded in five features (1, 21, 23, 25, 27). Grave 27 held a dress pin made of antler or bone with a head of triangular cross-section decorated with concentric rings, so-called ‘eyes’ (Fig. 4:1). Antler/bone pins are much more common in Wielbark Culture sites than previously thought (Fig. 7, 8; List 1). Everyday objects include clay spindle-whorls (1, 2, 7, 20, 21, 22, 23?, 27), antler/bone combs, some of them composite, one unipartite (Fig. 2:4), and a bronze needle (7). At least 23 pottery vessels (complete or fragments) were recovered from 15 features, one to three in in individual assemblages. Most of them are forms characteristic for the Late Roman Period, i.e., jars, group XIVA (2, 3, 19, 21, 22), bowls, types VIA (26), VIB (1) and VIB/C (16), also, their miniature forms, types XVIIIB (22) and XVIIIC (2). Additionally, there were individual specimens of bowls, type Xb (2, 7, 15), a beaker, type XIIIA (25) and tripartite vase-shaped forms, group IVA or XVIA (14, 21). The earliest burials discorede in the cemetery at Litwinki date to phase B2/C1–C1a (graves 1 and 7). The onset of the Late Roman Period (B2/C1–C1) is presumably the dating of grave 25 with a type XIIIA beaker, and more tentatively, grave 27 with an antler/bone pin, also, grave 26 with a type VIA urn, and graves 4, 6, 11, 13 and 24 containing burials in the form of clusters of bone deposited in a pit without the pyre debris. A younger group are graves from stadium C1b–C2, with brooches, types Almgren 167 (3) and 168 (21, 22). The rest of the features with no recorded furnishings can be dated only broadly to the Late Roman Period. Most of the features were located in part W of the excavated area (Fig. 9). Graves with a dissimilar dating and burial rite were found next to each other, but all of them were cremation burials. Inhumation graves (16 and possibly, burial/burials 14 and 15) were discovered at the centre of the investigated area. The situation in the E part of the cemetery was quite different, here there was a several metres’ wide strip of empty ground. Just three features were found here – a cremation grave (19) and two not easily interpreted pits (17, 18). The presence of this broad, archaeologically barren space is hard to explain. Possibly, this area had been damaged, not covered by the excavations, alternately, it could represent the periphery of what originally used to be a much larger site. Despite the discovery of only 26 features at Litwinki the material record from this cemetery helps improve our understanding of the burial rite practiced by the Wielbark Culture people living in Mazowsze and Podlasie. It is important to note the uncharacteristic orientation of the inhumation grave, and also, the presence of different forms of cremation burial. Furthermore, the materials from the cemetery confirm the fact that this diversity of cremation graves is characteristic for the earliest phases of the Wielbark Culture in the region. Also worth noting is the presence of uncharacteristic brooches in grave 7 and the gold pyriform pendant, unique in the Mazowsze-Podlasie province of the Wielbark Culture.