Warszawa-Grochów, Site "ul. Górników" - a Grave-Field from the Early Iron Age
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne, ul. Długa 52, 00-241 Warszawa
Publication date: 2012-12-31
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2012;LXIII(63):33–114
Known alternately as Witolin, site 2, and Warszawa-Grochów, Ostro¬bramska Street, the site “ul. Gór¬ników” is situated in the Praga district of Warsaw on the southern slope of one of the dunes bordering the right-hand bank of the Vistula. At present this area is fully under urban development (Fig. 1, 2, 4) and the Górników Street itself, recorded on early maps of Warsaw, is no more. The site was discovered by chance in 1946. A fragment – 20 m2 – was excavated in 1947 by Maria Gądzikiewicz from the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw. More finds surfaced in 1965 and 1968. Archaeological excavation was resumed in 1973 and continued until 1975, run by Jan Michalski and Hanna Młynarczyk from the state monuments conservation atelier Pracownia Konserwacji Zabytków who investigated a total 2343 m2. Previous to this research the site had suffered much depredation resulting in a loss or partial destruction of many archaeological features. Next to graves associated with a grave-field of the Cloche Grave Culture – the largest group –exploration was made of features attributed to the Pomeranian Culture and the Lusatian Culture, and several features associated with an early medieval cemetery which included some finely preserved inhumation graves. Archaeological material and documentation from this research passed to the State Archaeological Museum, recorded under inventory numbers III/1465, III/6049 and V/7227. The present study gives a presentation and a discussion of Bronze and Early Iron Age finds deriving from 82 features – primary or secondary, the latter formed of redeposited remains of destroyed graves. Included in the present analysis are funerary ceramics from the chance finds made in 1956 and 1968. The features associated with the early medieval cemetery will be the subject of a separate study. Eleven pits identified during the excavation were interpreted as archaeological features. Most of them were in the southern fragment of the investigated site. Their shallow, basin-like fill, generally contained very small and uncharacteristic fragments of pottery, charcoal, as well as a number of flints. Features 77 and 95 yielded pottery fragments with small perforations under the rim; feature 77 additionally held several flints: a fragment of a core (scraper?), some flakes (one retouched) and spalls. Three features (45, 54, 69) contained inserts of dark black earth rich in charcoal fragments, small fragments of pottery, in feature 54, such an insert also contained some burnt stones. These may be identified as the remains of fires/hearths and linked with a settlement of the Lusatian Culture from its final phase, earlier than the grave-field. The other pits may be interpreted as relics of funerary practices and some other forms of using the burial ground but there is no evidence to support this interpretation. The graves spread over a fairly large area occurring on their own or in irregular clusters divided by distinct empty spaces, in a way which is characteristic for many grave-fields from the Early Bronze Age recorded in Mazowsze. Of 41 features classified in the category of cloche graves only 27 actually were found to contain a legible ceramic structure, complete with a well preserved cloche. The cloche graves, discovered mainly in the central strip and in the eastern fragment of the investigated area, occurred with a varying intensity without forming distinct concentrations. At the same time, there was a number of “paired” features found close to each other, at least one of them a cloche grave. A more outstanding tandem (features 2.1 and 2.2) had the form of two communicating pits containing three actually child burials. In cloche graves the inventories predominantly consisted of a “classic” set of ceramics – a cinerary urn with the bowl placed over its opening and the cloche. In feature 16 the urn rested under two cloche vessels placed one over the other. In a few poorly preserved features no urns or their bowl lids were identified. In features 14, 16, 28 and 96 the urn rested on a ceramic stand (inserted into the bottom of another, incomplete pottery vessel) or on a “pavement” of pottery sherds. In addition, the bottom of the pit of grave 16 had a lining of daub and small stones. There is no evidence that the urns and the cloches were set about with rocks or sherds. The cloches are a mixed group of egg-shaped jars with a high-set shoulder and a roughened surface. A smaller group are large, broad-bodied necked vessels, the neck having a smoothed surface. Among the urns the dominant form ware profiled, necked vessels with a body either smoothed or roughened. And there is evidence that a handled cup was used for an urn at least once (feature 3/47). More than 40% cloche graves contained non-ceramic grave goods, mostly, very small, usually very poorly preserved bronzes. The largest assemblage is from a destroyed feature 55 and consists of fragments of iron ornaments and remains of earrings (bronze rings) retaining small fragments of chains and glass beads. Feature 28 yielded an antler haft and a sheet iron clasp with a rivet. Ten features were interpreted as the remains of single urn graves without stone constructions. Like the cloche graves, the urn graves although they tended to occur in the eastern zone of the investigated area formed no apparent clusters. On three occasions burials had been deposited in a handled cup (children), on five occasions (two children, three adults) in a small egg-shaped jar. Some graves had been provided with a fragment of a pottery vessel, a flat cake of clay (feature 2.2) or a flat stone (33) placed under the urn or used as a lid. In two graves (features 17, 30) next to the urn there were accessory vessels – small handled cups. In feature 17 inside the urn was a bronze dress pin, its head hammered flat folded into a loop. The pit of feature 30 yielded two small iron rivets and three small fragments of iron sheet. A unique burial rested inside a stone cist (feature 5) deposited in a pyriform urn with a hat-like lid and accompanied by an accessory vessel. Mixed with the remains of the cremation was a small fragment of a bronze object. Close to the cist grave there were the remains of some fully destroyed graves, at least two, containing multiple vessels, without evidence of a stone setting or cist (features 4, 11). They were recorded as clusters of pottery on the margin of a large refuse pit. The total number of the destroyed urns may be reconstructed from the fragments of at least 14 hat-like lids or bowl-lids. Presumably in these graves the function of urn was served by vase-like vessels of various sizes and some of the handled cups/jugs, used also as accessory vessels. Fragments of similar pottery (including a fragment of a hat-like lid) surfaced also in the fill of feature 12 found nearby, fully destroyed. The bottom of the backfilled pit of this grave had a lining of a few small stones. Features 4, 5, 11 and 12 were interpreted as relics of the Pomeranian Culture graves. The bone remains recovered from the cloche graves and urn graves of assorted types were found to belong to 56 individuals, more than a half of them adults (33). This differs from the situation observed in other grave-fields from the Early Iron Age where child burials prevail. Similarly as at Warszawa-Henryków, Warszawa-Zerzeń or Dziecinów, in the grave-field under analysis there was an observable tendency to give special treatment to the youngest burials. More outstanding in this respect were the urn graves which mostly, although not exclusively, were used for child burials, which, moreover, were deposited in handled cups and small egg-shaped jars. Twelve pit graves were discovered in the central and eastern area of the site. A few of them were almost fully eroded. It appears from observation of the better preserved graves that the cremated bones, found inside them in the form of a caked mass, had been placed in the pit in a container (urn) made of organic material, no traces of which survive at present. One burial which definitely belongs in the category of unurned pit graves is documented by the remains of a small child that were identified around the cloche in the pit of feature 2.1. The other burials (eleven of them subjected to osteological analysis) contained only, or for the most part, burnt animal bones, almost invariably, of horses, on occasion, of cattle. Only feature 13 was found to contain the bone remains of a small child. Five pit graves yielded small bronze and iron objects, including small buttons, rivets, an iron loop (“eye”) and an awl. They make up around 24% of the total number of features in the grave-field containing non-ceramic grave goods. Animal graves occurred on their own (10/47, 32, 41, 43) or in pairs (all the others), in the neighbourhood of the cloche graves and of a non-typical urn grave (feature 34) holding the human cremation and some cremated bones of horse or cattle. A small quantity of animal remains was recorded in a total of 14 human graves of diverse types, except for features 2.1, 79, all of them adult burials. Mostly the bones were those of a large mammal, and on one occasion of sheep/goat (feature 1/47) and roe deer (feature 5). Using the classification of T. Węgrzynowicz analysis was made of a total of close to 115 vessels a half of which were included in the sub-group of jars (A1). Over 40 vessels were bowls (B1), the remainder – jugs and handled cups (A2, B2). Typological analysis confirmed differences in the form and manner of surface finish, noted in earlier studies, of vessels used to furnish graves recognized as relics of the Pomeranian Culture as compared to the pottery from features attributed to the Cloche Grave Culture. The majority of vessels recovered from features 5, 4, 11 are forms classified as type A1I, variant a or b. These are vase-like, gently profiled pots, smoothed all over, with a relatively low-set belly. The most distinctive specimen in this group has a high funnel neck and is engraved with a pectoral – a vessel of similar shape (with the image of a face and a pectoral) surfaced in a cist grave at Sochaczew-Trojanów, another outstanding specimen is a pyriform vessel with a very high neck and a body roughened between the shoulder and the base which finds the closest analogy in a face urn from Rzadkowo, distr. Piła. The vessels discovered in these features were provided with lids, some of them hat-shaped, typical for the Pomeranian Culture. One of the graves contained a fragment of a face urn – a ceramic ear with three perforations. The pottery discovered in the Pomeranian Culture features is relatively thin-walled, its surface almost invariably well smoothed, frequently glossy. Except for the urn from feature 4, decorated with a representation of a pectoral, ornamentation of other vessels, including their lids, is limited to rows of minute punctures or diagonal grooves, common in the Cloche Grave Culture ceramics. Attributes of the ceramic furnishings in graves 4 and 11 correspond to the description of inventories of similar features of mixed character recorded in a number of other grave-fields in Mazowsze. Among the ceramic finds from graves associated with the Cloche grave-field the most frequent types are IV and V, variant c. These are vessels with a high-set body, roughened all over, no neck, and also, forms with a roughened belly, which typically is separated from a smoothed neck by a plastic cordon. Vessels displaying similar attributes, often encountered in “classic” grave inventories in the role of cloches and burial urns, are recognized as a ceramic marker of “classic” Cloche Grave Culture assemblages. A vessel type more in evidence than in most Cloche grave-fields are wares (mostly cloches) classified as type IIIc but close in their outlook to types Vc and VIc. This is because there is a relatively high frequency of egg-shaped jars with a roughened surface, the neck poorly marked, in some specimens indicated only by leaving a randomly levelled or smoothed band below the rim. Type V is also represented by a number of vessels without a cordon in which the roughening ends below the base of the neck. Cordons separating the neck from the vessel body, smooth or corrugated by impressing or incision, at times, provided with small knobs or lugs, appear only on six urns and six cloches, types A1I and A1V. Individual, flat bosses were noted twice. Absolutely unique is the placement of a group of three knobs on the body of an uncharacteristically profiled bowl discovered in feature 2.2. Also uncharacteristic are short, corrugated cordons applied diagonally onto the wall of the cloche from feature 55 which diverge from the arrangement typical for vessels used as cloches – of a festoon or tassels of a tied cord. The surface of several vessels, including a bowl (from features 37, 42, 44, 57 96), was covered by a dense network of intersecting grooves made with a comb. Decorative designs seen on other vessels include opposed groups of diagonal grooves pendant from the base of the vessel neck and circumferential arrangements of oval or sub-circular stamped impressions. The urn from grave 55 and the handled cup from feature 30 feature a rare design of circular indentations with a marked centre impressed using a fine tube-like object. A few jars and bowls have handles, in three cases with, at its base, applied cord “tendrils”. Finally, non-functional lugs, more likely to play the role of a decorative element, appear on several profiled cloches and urns, at the transition from the neck to the body, and in some bowls, below the rim. Non-ceramic grave furnishings were recorded in 21 features, i.e., in approximately a third of all the features (not only burials) subjected to analysis. The largest group are bronzes but there is also a significant number of identifiable iron objects (ca. 15). The best preserved bronze objects are the following: tweezers, discovered in feature 24 next to the remains of a horse, and possibly a fragment of a similar object – “arms and a slide”, from a cloche grave (?) recorded as feature 46, and a straight dressing pin with the top hammered and folded into an eye – from feature 17. Features 3, 40 and 90 yielded fragments of small bronzes which may be described as “buttons” or “tags”, possibly, dress accessories, alternately, as elements of horse harness or other accessories associated with keeping animals. From feature 55 come fragments of personal ornaments without analogy in the Cloche Grave Culture assemblages recorded in Mazo¬wsze, namely, fragments of an iron neckring fashioned from a twisted square-sectioned wire, and a bracelet (of multiple coils?) from a strip of metal sheet. They were accompanied by small fragments of iron and bronze rings (earrings?) and melted glass. Feature 37 yielded the shaft of an iron swan-neck pin. Its head did not survive but we have reason to believe its shape had been similar to that of the bronze pin discovered in feature 17. Animal grave (feature 19) held two objects made of iron: a length of square-sectioned rod folded into a loop (an “eye”) and a short awl, partly square and partly round of section. Fragments of an object made of elk antler with a design of concentric rings with a dot at centre discovered in feature 28 were interpreted as the remains of a haft-handle of some implement. The seriously devastated condition of the grave-field and the partial or full destruction of many features make it difficult to establish the correlation between the position, structure and inventory of the graves. Nevertheless we can say that the construction of some of the graves belonging to the Cloche cemetery, particularly the nature of their inventories, displays a similarity to the model known from the Lusatian Culture grave-fields. Similarly arranged and furnished features recorded in Warszawa-Grochów, site “Brylowszczyzna”, have been attributed to the Lusatian Culture and, in case of graves covered with a cloche, recognized as early burials of the Cloche Grave cemetery. Stylistic and ornamental features of some other vessels from Warszawa, “ul. Górników”, recorded in the Lusatian Culture grave-fields in Warsaw, i.e., site “Brylow¬szczyzna”, and at Miedzeszyn, recall the pottery known from sub-units of the Lusatian Culture – the Upper Silesian-Lesser Poland Group (grupa górnośląsko-małopolska) and the Tarnobrzeg Group. This would confirm our assumption that in its emergence the Cloche Grave Culture in Mazowsze drew on local Lusatian traditions but with a significant contribution made by culture elements deriving from the south and the south-west. The onset of this process which, apparently, is legible also in the grave-field under discussion, presumably took place around the middle of period Ha D. This chronology finds support also in the dating of the majority of analogies to the non-ceramic finds from our grave-field. Their distribution range suggests that some of these objects, particularly iron, were brought to central and eastern Mazowsze and Podlasie from the territory of the Tarnobrzeg Group or, possibly, from the European forest-steppe zone within the area of influence of Scythian cultures. Direct contacts with the region to the east are suggested by the appearance in the Cloche Grave Culture assemblages of pottery with a stroked surface and the spread of corrugated cordons applied to the vessel wall and rim. Also eloquent is the increase, observed in the Cloche grave-fields, of the importance of animals, particularly horses, evidenced by a special funerary rite and the presence in human and animal grave inventories of objects associated with the breeding and utilization of animals. Analysis shows that the grave-sites “Brylowszczyzna” and “ul. Gór¬ników” were in use during an approximately the same period, possibly until the appearance at the close of the Hallstatt Period of graves displaying “Pomeranian” features. The grave-field Warszawa-Grochów “ul. Górni¬ków” could have been continued (or used in parallel) by the same community established nearby, at the convergence of Zamieniecka and Zagójska Streets, where during the 1920s a dozen-odd graves were excavated and associated with the Cloche Grave Culture cemetery.