Some Remarks about the Decoration, Provenance and Chronology of a Vessel with Figural Representations from Kosin, Kraśnik County
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2016;LXVII:111–129
Archaeological finds from studies made in 1925 by M. Drewko of three Lusatian Culture cemeteries at Kosin, Kraśnik County in the Lublin Province, at present in the collections of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw, were published in 1974 (M. Drewko 1929, p. 283; J. Miśkiewicz, T. Węgrzynowicz 1974). A remarkable group of pottery vessels from cemetery II has a decoration of motifs arranged into geometric patterns, figural representations and narrative scenes with an evident symbolic significance (G. Dmochowska 1985, p. 74–77). Of special interest is an urn from grave 380 (373), survived incomplete, with an anthropomorphic representation impressed on its black, well-polished surface. The human figure forms part of an elaborate composition of dendromorphic designs and geometric motifs unfamiliar in the Lusatian Culture. After its primary publication (J. Miśkiewicz, T. Węgrzynowicz 1974, fig. 19), the vessel has now been reconstructed anew (with the missing elements of the figural scene filled in) using its fragments identified at a later date (Fig. 1–3). Recent studies of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age exchange between the south-eastern region of Poland and the Eastern European forest steppe zone suggest that most of the symbols and decorative patterns known from Kosin, also from the vase found in grave 380, have their prototypes and direct analogies in the decoration of pottery wares belonging to the pottery traditions of a broad range of cultures with stamped and incrusted pottery (A. Vulpe 1965; 1986; B. Hänsel 1976; L. Krušel'nic'ka 1998; M. Kašuba 2000). Next to distinctively decorated pottery finds recorded in this region include a remarkable series of specialist tools used in applying designs, including a rich set of fired clay stamps. Insight into the pottery craft of cultures with stamp-decorated pottery furnished by these finds was used in a new analysis of decorations on the urn from Kosin – their execution method and stylistic provenance of individual details. A detailed macro- and microscopic examination was made of ornaments on vase from grave 380 and on a similarly decorated urn from grave 86 (Fig. 3, 4) allied with experiments made using modern replicas of tools (Fig. 5) made using input from published archaeological materials and an analysis of impressions visible on the studied vessel. It was established that vase from grave 380 was well-proportioned, built using fine quality clay and expertly fired. The decorations were impressed on an evenly smoothed, uniformly black surface. It is probably that the recesses of the stamped impressions were originally inlaid with a white substance. Designs of circles with pellets (Fig. 6) and broken lines (Fig. 7) were executed using clay stamps: round, with a diameter of ca. 0.95 cm, and a flat, with a lightly arched and denticulated working edge, presumably with 10 teeth. Tools of this description used presumably by this vessel’s maker find close counterparts in inventories of Hallstatt cultures of the Danube region and forest-steppe zone with stamped and incrusted pottery (B. Hänsel 1976, pl. 25:5, 43:8.9, 52:6, VII:18–30, VIII:3–; M. T. Kašuba, 2000, fig. X:28, XXII:II, XXVI:1.2; L. Krušel'nic'ka, 1998, p. 181, fig. 51:2, 95:48, 96:32). Designs reminiscent of cord impressions (Fig. 8, 9) were created by pressing into the clay rectangular- or square-sectioned wire twisted around its axis (cable). Presumably this was not done – as previously thought – with a reused ornament (neckring), but with a specially made curvilinear implement. A metal tool for making ‘cord’ impressions is a convenient and effective ‘substitute’ of a clay stamp with a diagonally incised edge, particularly popular in the Balkan region (A. László 1969, p. 224, fig. 2; 1972, p. 212, note 7, fig. 9–11; B. Hänsel 1976, pl. 17, 51, 52). The urn from Kosin is undoubtedly the work of an experienced potter, highly proficient in the potterymaking technologies, tools and decorative traditions of south-eastern Europe. Dendromorphic and geometric motifs of the rich decoration have prototypes in the decorative styles of the early and middle Hallstatt ‘stamped pottery cultures’ – particularly, Pšeničevo, Insula Banului (vel Ostrov) and Babadag Groups and Cozia-Saharna Culture – mainly, variant Cozia (B. Hänsel 1976, pl. 25:5, VII:18–30, VIII:3–; M. Kašuba, 2000, fig. X:28, XXII:II). Analogies to the way of rendering the human figure – its plastic form and workmanship have been found in the cemetery at Schirndorf in northern Bavaria dated to Ha C (A. Stroh 1979, p. 194, pl. 134:6; 1988, p. 60–61, 145–146, pl. 87:5, 89:1.2, 110:3, 111:5; 2000, p. 155, pl. 44:1; R. Hughes 1999, table 4) and the locality Ernstbrunn in Lower Austria (Fig. 10) (C. Dobiat 1982, p. 320, fig. 26; A. Reichenberger 1985, fig. 1:3, 2). Images of ‘lyre players’ or ‘cither players’ known from that area (cf. B. A. Pomberger 2016, p. 64–65) are a fusion of inspiration from Greek art with its Aegean roots (motif of a lyre/cither player) with symbols and decorative techniques characteristic for the Balkans and the western Black Sea region going back to the early Hallstatt Period (10th–9th c. BC) (cf. E. Bugaj 2010, p. 105). Formal, plastic and technological attributes of the vase from grave 380 from Kosin II justify the dating proposed for this exceptional vessel, and a series of similar specimens from that cemetery, of early Ha C, which would correspond to the 8th c. BC (M. Trachsel 2004, p. 151). Their presence documents the influx to our region not only of finished wares or new decorative styles, but also of people who had at their disposal the tools and skills needed to make and decorate vessels according to the style design deriving from the pottery workshops of southern Europe.