A Family Burial in a Przeworsk Culture Cemetery at Czersk in Urzecze
More details
Hide details
Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52 «Arsenał», 00-241 Warszawa
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2014;LXV(65):263–276
In 2008 the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw started excavating a cemetery of the Przeworsk Culture people at Czersk, on the left bank of the Vistula, 40 km south of Warsaw (Fig. 1), in an ethnographic region of Urzecze (cf. Ł. M. Stanaszek 2012, p. 19–21). The site lies on a small elevation, the remnant of an alluvial soil deposit at the foot of a high river escarpment. To date, 2200 m2 have been excavated, uncovering 223 features – 170 pit and urned graves of the Przeworsk Culture – and 53 settlement features of Lusatian Culture. The earliest graves of the Przeworsk Culture have been dated to phase A2, the latest unearthed so far – to phase C1a. One of more remarkable features is grave 66 (Fig. 3), with two urns containing cremated human bones and pyre debris. In its N area was an urn (burial 66A) covered with a large rusticated vessel, so-called coarse ware (Fig. 5:10.11), holding the cremated bones of a woman, aged adultus-maturus. The cremation found in an urn standing in S area of the grave (burial 66B) were identified as belonging to a male, aged adultus-maturus. No boundary between the pits containing the two burials was recovered – suggesting that this was a double, possibly, even a family grave. Next to urn 66A were fragments of a fire-distorted pottery basin and of a jug with an angular tunnel handle (Fig. 5:12.13), between the urn and the vessel covering it were fragments of a copper alloy eye brooch, Prussian series, an iron rectangular knife, iron awl, iron ring, a fragment of an undetermined iron object, a stone polisher and a clay cube with openings in every wall (Fig. 4:1–7). In the pit of burial 66B was a small clay basin (Fig. 7:19) containing e.g., iron blacksmith’s tools: tongs, a file and a chisel/punch (Fig. 6:14–16); the seriously fragmented urn (Fig. 7:20) held an iron chain link with a loop having hooked endings (Fig. 6:18). Also found in the small basin was a lump of corroded and fused iron objects – identified in an X-ray image as a fragment of a knife (Fig. 7:17b), a fragment of a buckle (Fig. 7:17b) type AD1 acc. to R. Madyda-Legutko (1987, p. 24), a spur (Fig. 7:17a) type E2 acc. to J. Ginalski (1991, p. 59) and an iron ring (Fig. 7:17d), possibly from a chisel handle terminal. The eye brooch type A.61 dates the burial 66A to the mature stadium of phase B2 (J. Andrzejowski 2001, p. 61). Consistent with this chronology is the form of the urn – a profiled three-handled vase. Vessels of this form, similarly as eye brooches of the Prussian series, are recorded in quantity in the eastern zone of the Przeworsk Culture (T. Dąbrowska 1996; J. Andrzejowski 2001, p. 79–82). A particularly interesting find is the clay cube with openings in each wall (Fig. 4:7). Several objects of this description are recorded in Central Europe (see: List of finds). They come in two forms. One group are cube-shaped objects like the grave find from Czersk (Fig. 8), the second group are specimens that are spherical or shaped like a cube with rounded or truncated corners (Fig. 9). Their dating spans the Roman Period and the Migration Period. These objects of an as yet obscure function in literature are usually interpreted as idiosyncratic form of spindlewhorl. Possibly, they were used in twisting strands of yarn, but this technique does not find confirmation in ethnographic analogies. The set of blacksmith’s tools found with the burial 66B (Fig. 6:14–16) is one of only 17 similar sets recorded so far on the territory of the Przeworsk Culture (Sz. Orzechowski 2013, p. 263, fig. 130, table 26). The earliest, dated to the Younger Pre-Roman Period, comes from grave 36 in the cemetery at Wesółki, Kalisz County (I. & K. Dąbrowscy 1967, p. 44–46, fig. 43:, others dated from the Roman Period (A. Kokowski 1990, p. 193–195). The small basin holding the tools found in burial 66B, corresponds to type VI/2 and is dated to phase B2 (T. Liana 1970, p. 440). This would also be the dating of the spur, type E2. Grave 66 from Czersk is very likely to be a so-called family grave. This is supported by the placement of the two urns, separated by just a dozen-odd centimetres, and the lack of evidence to suggest that this arrangement was not deliberate. Anthropological analysis of the bone remain (male and female, both aged adultus-maturus) and the identical dating of the two burials imply a close relationship between the two dead individuals. Naturally, it cannot be established whether the dead were blood relations or a married couple, and whether they were buried during the same funeral ceremony.