Graves with Stone Cists in a Lusatian Culture Cemetery at Cichowo, Przasnysz County
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Publication date: 2016-12-31
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2016;LXVII(67):131–146
The cremation cemetery at Cichowo, Przasnysz County in NE Poland (Fig. 1) yielded close to 300 features – graves and pits (Fig. 2) – attributed to the Lusatian Culture. Most of them, of a widely different form and inventory, had been provided with settings of a varying complexity built of locally sourced stone. In some areas of the cemetery were found the remains of raised structures, recognized recently as earth mounds, rather than pavements, as previously thought. Found underneath these structures were urned burials, the human remains deposited in a pottery vessel or an organic container, a much smaller number of pit burials, as well as some pits with a dark fill containing a minor quantity of burnt human bones, or none at all. The top of the settings in these deeply buried features was mostly on the level of the base of the earth mound, the location of what were mostly collective graves containing pottery cinerary urns, usually accompanied by small-sized accessory vessels. Three stone cists (features 261, 269 and 349) – lined with stones, and presumably, originally also buried under a layer of stones – were found in the central area of the cemetery, underneath the raised structures (Fig. 3). The building material of the cists was stone, selected with care to be of the same size, or split into slabs, usually placed with the flat side to face inside the chamber; the northern walls were of rough stones. Two smaller cists had a W-E orientation. In feature 261 the construction, surviving to the height of 34 cm, with maximum dimensions of 65×87 cm, was lined lower down with closely packed slabs (Fig. 4–7). Inside was an organic container holding the burial of a man of early maturus age furnished with two scaled flakes of Baltic erratic flint. In feature 349, a roughly square chamber with a maximum length of its side of ca. 55 cm and surviving height of ca. 30 cm, still retained five of its slabs, resting in situ, forming the walls of the chamber, and a sixth slab at bottom (Fig. 14, 15). The cist held a burial of an adultus–maturus individual, deposited in an organic container together with three scaled flakes of Baltic erratic flint. A large feature 269, oriented NW-SE, had maximum dimensions of 87×177 cm and a surviving length of ca. 50 cm. Its bottom, lined with a dozen-odd flat stones, measured 70×155 cm. Found inside the chamber, standing in a row, partly set about with stones, were four pottery urns and some cremated remains originally deposited inside an organic container (Fig. 8–12). The urns were plain vase-shaped vessels with surfaces affected by fire (Fig. 13). Urn 1 held a burial of an infans I child, urn 2 – of a maturus male, urn 3 – of an early adultus male and an infans I (4–5 years old), urn 4 – of a late infans I (ca. 6 years old), the organic container – an adultus female burial. According to earlier analyses of archaeological material, the cemetery at Cichowo was in use mostly in EB IV; this is also the dating of the cist features. Stratigraphic relationships between them and the graves found nearby indicate that the cists were the first to be constructed (Fig. 3) presumably, during the older phase of the cemetery. The pits with the dark fill appear to have an equally early dating. No stone cists are recorded in other cemeteries in northern Mazowsze but a distinct concentration of similar structures is noted in Gdańsk Pomerania, in barrow cemeteries dating mostly to EB IV (J. Kostrzewski 1958, list 32; T. Malinowski 1962, p. 21 ff., map IV). In that region, cists and pits with traces of burning similar to those found at Cichowo had rested under earth mounds and had an earlier dating than other burials. The chambers at Cichowo resemble features known from Pomerania by their size, orientation to the points of the compass and construction details. Similarly as at Cichowo, stone cists recorded in Pomerania mostly held adult burials. The modest body of evidence now available does not confirm the correlation between the cist grave form on the one hand and age or sex of the burials on the other. Vase-shaped vessels analogous to those found in the large cist at Cichowo are observed during EB IV across much of Poland, also in Pomerania, eg, in cist graves. Some of the vessels found in them were biconical – a form widespread in northern Mazowsze. Some of the urns found in Pomerania had cup style lids of a form which is recorded in collective graves in northern Mazowsze and in the Płock Region. Stone constructions have been recorded in central Poland in cemeteries with ‘grooved pottery’ at Tkaczew, Zgierz County. Cists and traces of burning recognized at Cichowo apparently date to the early phase of this cemetery. This would be the period when the culture inventory of the investigated grave-field appears to display more similarity to the materials of north-eastern groups, East Pomeranian (Kashubian) Group in particular, than to the Eastern Group of the Lusatian Culture (M. Gedl 1989, map 30, 31). At Cichowo, the latest dating was established for collective graves deposited under piles of stones. They contained, besides the prevalent biconical vessels, tureen forms, often decorated by fluting, mugs, jugs and beakers. Similar ‘grooved pottery’ occurred in cemeteries of the Central Polish Group which, similarly as those in northern Mazowsze, had stones on their surface. This suggests that during its younger phase the cemetery at Cichowo displays a more marked similarity to southern materials.
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