Socketed Axes with Facetted Sides from the Middle Vistula Basin
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52 «Arsenał», PL 00-241 Warszawa
Submission date: 2020-06-02
Final revision date: 2020-06-28
Acceptance date: 2020-07-17
Publication date: 2020-12-31
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2020;LXXI(71):189–216
The article discusses six characteristic bronze axes whose sides are covered with six symmetrically-arranged arcuate planes. Two axes – from Gole, Grodzisk Maz. County (Fig. 2:b, 3:b), and Rogowo, Toruń County (Fig. 16), come from hoards, the others – from Drohiczyn, Siemia­tycze County (Fig. 11, 12:a), Masłomęcz, Hrubieszów County (Fig. 12:b), Pobyłkowo, Pułtusk County (Fig. 13–15), and Wilamowice, Płońsk County (Fig. 8, 9), were stray finds. In Gole, in addition to the facetted axe, a second socketed axe of a different type was also found (Fig. 2:a, 3:a). The axes in question, except for the assemblage from Gole, have already been published, with divergent views presented on their provenance. The axes from Gole and Wilamowice were cast from tin bronzes of varying composition (Table 1). They were cast utilising reusable cores, almost cylindrical in shape in the case of Gole, axe no. 1 (Fig. 5:a), and conical in the case of facetted axes from Gole, Wilamowice and Masłomęcz (Fig. 5:b.c). The axes are usually carefully finished (Fig. 4:c–f, 7, 10:a.e); only the specimen from Pobyłkowo presented an unremoved fragment of a sprue on the edge of the socket. Certain use-wear was observed on two specimens only – from Wilamowice and Masłomęcz (Fig. 8, 9, 10:g–i, 12:b). J. Kostrzewski (1964, 20, 32, 54, map VII) associated the axes from Drohiczyn and Pobyłkowo with the Eastern Balt circle and dated them to the Early Iron Age. J. Kuśnierz (1998, 84–85) considered them (as well as the specimens from Wilamowice and Rogowo) to be similar to Balt forms of the Littausdorf type and attributed them to Bronze Age V. J. Dąbrowski (1997, 500) deemed that they are related to Lusatian Culture axes (without specifying their chronology). According to him (J. Dabrowski 197, 48), the specimen from Wilamowice, representing the first variant of the so-called Lusatian axes from Bronze Age IV and V, is an import from the south. Due to its general formal similarity, the axe from Masłomęcz is linked with the ‘Lusatian’ types of Kowalewko and Wielichowo, and due to its facetted sides, with the Balt metallurgical centre (M.E. Kłosińska 2006, 310). Facetted axes do not form a uniform group. The four larger specimens, measuring from 13.4 to 13.9 cm in length (Fig. 2:b, 3:b, 8, 9, 14–16), differ in shape and convexity of the cutting edge. All four axes have a vertical midrib, thickened, elevated side edges, longitudinal recesses located on both sides of the midrib, and a prominent, biconical moulding around the edge of the socket, which can be round (Fig. 14) or almost quadrilateral (Fig. 3:b, 9, 10:f). The smaller axes, about 11.0 cm long and with spade-like blades (Fig. 12), differ from each other in a number of details. The specimen from Drohiczyn (Fig. 12:a), with a cylindrical ridge around the mouth of the socket round in cross-section, topped with a vertical collar, has a vertical rib and prominent side edges (Fig. 11, 12:a) like the large facetted axes. On the faces of the Masłomęcz axe, there are wide, curved recesses, separated by a Y-shaped ridge; the ridge of the quadrilateral socket is strongly thickened (Fig. 12:b). In terms of formal features, facetted axes correspond to the oldest socketed axes of the Lusatian Culture. Such specimens, classified as the Kowalewko (length of 12–15 cm) and Wielichowo (length of 9.0 cm on average) types according to J. Kuśnierz (1998, 28, 31), were manufactured at the end of Bronze Age IV at the so-called Oder metallurgical centre. Facetted axes form a peculiar group of objects, characterised by strongly defined midribs and edges, and sometimes also by decorations on the faces (Fig. 2:b, 3:b, 8, 9, 16). According to information provided by the finder, the place where the axes from Gole were discovered is located within the former riverbed of the Pisia Tuczna River, currently not visible in the terrain (Fig. 1). Axe 1 from this assemblage represents forms of Middle Danube origin, with a straight socket mouth of variant B in J. Kuśnierz’s classification, dating north of the Carpathians from HaA1 to the late Bronze Age (J. Kuśnierz 1998, 15–16; J. Orlicka-Jasnoch 2019, 29–30). Most of the formal features of axe 2 (Fig. 2:a, 3:a) are consistent with the Kowalewko type of variant B (J. Kuśnierz 1998, 28), according to the definition – ‘with one rib’ in the middle and bent, thickened edges (axes ‘with several ribs’ are characterised by the presence of short, vertical ridges). It differs thanks to its slenderness, strongly expanded and convex blade and multi-layered ornamentation consisting of incisions, grooves and stamped points (Fig. 6). In proportions, it resembles the forms of the Nordic Culture: flanged axes or palstaves with a socket at the top (Rand- und »Absatzbeile« mit oberständiger Tülle in the classification of E. Aner [1962, 173–178, fig. 4:2.3]) from Bronze Age II, and similarly dated battle/ceremonial palstaves (nordische Streitbeile/Prachtbeile of type B after A. Oldeberg [1974, e.g. no. 194, 255, 406; 1976, 3]), especially the socketed forms (nach Art »nordischer Streitbeile« by E. Aner [1962, 180–186, fig. 6:1.2, 7:2b, 8:2b]) from the younger stage of Bronze Age II, which were often additionally decorated. The motif of three engraved, nested angles, located on the upper part of the Gole axe, occurs quite often at the base of the blade of nordischer Streitbeile, which were sometimes also ornamented with incisions and stamped points (e.g. K. Kersten 1958, pl. 21:270.272, 29:332). The assemblage from Gole, as well as the treasures from Pławowice, Proszowice County and Podłęże, Wieliczka County, also consisting of axes of Middle Danube origin with a straight socket mouth of variant B and local specimens of the Kowalewko type, falls within HaB1, i.e. the final stage of Bronze Age IV (cf. W. Blajer 2013, 31–32). The hoard from Rogowo is dated to HaB1 – apart from the facetted specimen with features of the Kowalewko type of variant B, adorned with three nested V-shaped ribs on the midrib and a knob below the socket mouth (Fig. 16) – consists of a hexagonal axe (Wesseling form) of Nordic provenance and a spearhead with a ribbed blade that has analogies in the Carpathian Basin (W. Blajer 2013, 36–37, 48, 152–153, pl. 76:4–6). Analogies to the Rogowo axe, apart from the almost identical specimen from Wilamowice (Fig. 8, 9, 10:b.c), can be found in five specimens decorated with V-shaped ribs, but with smooth lateral sides, from the hoard from Nowa Górna, Warszawa West County (unpubl., collections of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw and the City Museum of Zgierz). Significant similarity between specimens from Rogowo and Wila­mowice (Fig. 8, 9, 16) indicates that they were made at a similar time. The repetitiveness of axes decorated with V-shaped ribs and their concentration in a relatively small area near the Vistula River (Fig. 17) allows considering them as objects of local provenance, which may have come from workshops operating outside the Oder metallurgical centre; so far, no axes decorated with arcuate facets and V-shaped ribs are known from the western part of the area covered by the Lusatian Culture settlement. The axe from Pobyłkowo (Fig. 15) resembles the smaller specimen from Drohiczyn in proportions and placement of the loop (Fig. 12:a). Similar, slightly lowered loop placement is rarely encountered in the examples of the Kowalewko type; it is more common in the Wielichowo type forms (cf. J. Kuśnierz 1998, pl. 8:117.127, 9:132.137.141, 10:149.151–154.156). The axes from Drohiczyn and Masłomęcz (Fig. 12) correspond in length (11.0 cm) to some of the largest specimens of the Wielichowo type. The axe from Drohiczyn (Fig. 12:a), similar to the large facetted specimens, represents a form with one rib and prominent lateral edges. Socket mouths as the one in the Drohiczyn example – cylindrical with a low vertical collar – can be found in the Czarków and Kotowo type axes, occurring mainly in Bronze Age V (cf. W. Blajer 2013, 35–36). The Masłomęcz specimen differs from other facetted axes in deep, curved recesses separated with a Y-shaped ridge, and non-thickened edges (Fig. 12:b). Such recesses were commonly placed on the blades of norddeutcher Arbeitsbeile of the Oldeberg A group, i.e. palstaves of the Kappeln type, occurring in the Nordic zone, especially from the second half of Bronze Age II to the beginning of Bronze Age III (e.g. K. Kibbert 1980, 212, pl. 32:483–485, 33, 34). They were to play a significant role in the development, already in the second half of Bronze Age II, of socketed looped axes nach Art »norddeutscher Arbeitsbeile«, which possessed analogous indentations (E. Aner 1962, 187–200, e.g. fig. 9, 10:1–3a, 12). The arrangement of recesses and the vertical ridge that separates them, found on the above mentioned Nordic axes, corresponds to the arrangement of indentations and the single vertical rib on early Lusatian axes, including facetted examples (Fig. 2:b, 3:b, 8, 9, 11, 12:a, 13–16). Thus, if the vertical rib is considered to be what remains of a stop-ridge formed on flanged axes and palstaves (cf. E. Sprockhoff 1956a, 87), then the recesses may serve as a model for the concavities on specimens of the Kowalewko and Wielichowo types. The edges, although not thickened in palstaves (and the Masłomęcz axe), were in fact emphasised by the adjoining recesses; in the literature they are described as pseudo-flanges or strongly defined edges (E. Sprockhoff 1950, 95; M. Kaczmarek 2012, 198). On axes of the Lusatian Culture, where the recesses were shallower than on the earlier forms, the edges were emphasised by thickening them. Therefore, it seems likely that the idea of placing one rib on the Lusatian Culture axes may originate in the tradition of the Nordic cultural circle. As local bronze manufacturing developed, axes with one rib were supplanted as early as Bronze Age V by the most numerous local types of Czarków and Przedmieście with several vertical ribs, which were easier to make and reproduce. This theory seems to explain the diversity of the early Lusatian Culture axes, which has already been highlighted many times in the literature (e.g. E. Sprockhoff 1950, 93; E. Baudou 1960, 25). The practice of covering the sides of axes with arcuate facets also originates from the Nordic cultural circle. Flanged axes and axes of Kappeln type were already adorned in this manner (see e.g. A. Olde­berg 1974, no. 93, 624a, 738, 939), as well as socketed axes nach Art »norddeutscher Arbeitsbeile« (e.g. E. Aner 1962, fig. 9, 10:2.3a, 13:2a), to which the Masłomęcz specimen bears a resemblance in the shape of its faces. The demonstrated connections to the Nordic cultural circle seem to confirm the distribution of finds of facetted axes along the final section of a route which, from the Early Bronze Age to the Hallstatt Period, ran from north-western Europe along the Lower and Middle Oder, further along the Warta River through the Gniezno Lakeland to Kuyavia, then along the Vistula and Bug River to the south (Fig. 17; cf. J. Żychlińska 2008, 156; J. Affelski 2011, 165). Before the assemblages from Gole and Nowa Górna (the locations of both hoards, provided by the finders and fully corresponding to the distribution of facetted axes, are considered reliable) were discovered, there had been no known hoards from the end of Bronze Age IV from the area of Mazovia, Kuyavia and central and south-eastern Poland. New finds from the area of western Mazovia shed new light on the distribution of hoards in Poland at the end of the 11th and beginning of the 10th century BCE.