A Grave from Łazówek near Sokołów Podlaski – Evidence of an Unknown Wielbark Culture Cemetery?
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Publication date: 2020-11-25
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2015;LXVI(66):338–348
The cremation burial dated to the Roman Period was discovered in 2014, during agricultural drainage work, at the village of Łazówek, ca. 100 km NEE of Warsaw, in Sokołów Podlaski County. The find spot lies on the high, left-bank flood terrace of the Bug River ca. 2,5 km to the east of the valley of a minor stream, the Cetynia (Fig. 1). The upper level of the grave pit had been partly ploughed out, and was damaged to small extent by the mechanical digger; the surviving fragment was documented and excavated in full (Fig. 2). Underneath the topsoil, the pit was detected as a circular outline, ca. 95 cm in diameter, its section basin-like, with a depth of ca. 35 cm. Cutting fully into the culture deposit of a Przeworsk Culture settlement layer, the pit had a uniform, dark brown fill, without charcoal. Inside it was a cluster of pottery fragments, most of them not affected by fire with, next to them and below them, a small quantity (ca. 120 g) of cremated bones of a woman (?) age adultus (25–35 years old), resting in a compact concentration suggesting deposition inside an organic container. The grave goods consisted of (Fig. 3): 1. Fragments (approximately a half) of a large, wheel-made pottery bowl, weakly profiled, not affected by fire. Surface light brown, carefully smoothed. H. 9 cm, D. 18 cm. 2. Fragments (approximately ¼) of a large, wheel-made bowl, weakly profiled, not affected by fire. Surface light brown, carefully smoothed with on the shoulder, a burnished triple wavy line. H. 10 cm, D. ca. 21 cm. 3. Small wheel-made vessel (ca. ¾ complete), affected by fire, deformed. Surface originally smooth, brown (?) with on the shoulder, a row of delicately engraved chevrons. H. ca. 7,5 cm, D. 7 cm. 4. Hand-made vessel (ca. ¾ complete) affected by fire. Surface dark brown, smooth, irregular. H. 8 cm, D. ca. 10 cm. 5. Uncharacteristic fragment of coarse, hand-made pottery. Surface rough, brown in colour. 6. Copper alloy wire ring with extremities coiled into a flat spiral bezel and wrapped around the shoulders; affected by fire. D. ca. 30 mm. 7. Globular or round bead in pale green, transparent glass, melted down and deformed. 8. Two polyhedral beads in purple, translucent glass, burnt through. 9. Small fragment of an antler plate from the grip of a composite comb, deformed by fire. 10. Biconical clay spindle-whorl, not affected by fire. D. 30 mm. The grave inventory recovered at Łazówek may be safely dated to the Late Roman Period and attributed to the Wielbark Culture. At the same time, wheel-made vessels are quite rare in this culture, especially as compared to the pottery recorded in the territory of the Przeworsk and the Chernyakhiv cultures. Most of the wheel-made vessels found in Wielbark Culture sites date to phases C1b–D1, and are recognized as imports from the territory of the Chernyakhiv/Sântana de Mureş Culture, transferred via the Masłomęcz Group. Each of the wheel-made bowls from Łazówek finds good analogies in Chernyakhiv Culture pottery, this applies also to the wavy decoration on one of them. In contrast, the miniature vessel has no closer analogies. The engraved chevron decoration is typical for the hand-made pottery of the Wielbark Culture but is very rarely seen in wheel-made pottery, this is true also of the Chernyakhiv and the Przeworsk cultures. The deposit from Łazówek is unique because of the presence inside a single grave inventory of three wheel-made vessels, given that Wielbark Culture burials usually hold one, more rarely, two vessels. Two large cemeteries near Łazówek – at Jartypory and at Cecele – yielded only individual wheel-made vessels or sherds of such pottery (respectively, 11 out of ca. 450 and 6 out of ca. 580 graves). Their larger number is known from graves from cemeteries in the southeasternmost reaches of the Wielbark Culture, graves of the Masłomęcz Group, and in particular, graves of the Chernyakhiv/Sântana de Mureş Culture. Characteristic of the wheel-made vessels from Łazówek, and the chronology of the glass beads attributed to type TM128, and – to some extent – chronology of the metal rings type Beckmann 16, allow us to refine the dating of grave from Łazówek to phase C1b and the older stage of phase C2. The grave must belong to a larger cemetery, given that in the light of our present understanding of the burial customs of the Wielbark Culture people it is unlikely that this was an individual, isolated burial. This supposed cemetery would be associated with the settlement microregion in the valley of the Cetynia River, known only from surface fieldwork and random discoveries (Fig. 4). Nevertheless, some traces of Wielbark Culture occupation have been recorded in several sites in the region, of which a few (Ceranów, Sabnie and Zembrów, also coins from Sabnie and Hołowienki) may be dated reliably, or at least with some confidence, to phases B2/C1–C1 (cf. Fig. 5). In the immediate vicinity, just on the northern side of the valley or the Bug River, we have two larger and partly investigated sites of the Wielbark Culture: the cemetery at Nur, and the settlement at Kamianka Nadbużna.