Selected Grave Assemblages with Roman Imports, Cemetery at Weklice, Site 7, distr. Elbląg
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Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii PAN, al. Solidarności 105, 00-140 Warszawa
Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa
Publication date: 2007-12-31
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2007;LIX(59):45–75
In archaeological literature Elbląg Heights, in the eastern reaches of Vistula River delta, have been considered for some time as an important meeting ground for different peoples settled on the Baltic Sea during the Roman Period. This was suggested by the dense network of settlements and cemeteries dating from that period and grave inventories rich in prestigious local ornaments and Roman imports. Of 20 sites clustered along the margin of the upland (Fig. 1, 2) of special interest is the Wielbark Culture cemetery at Weklice, comm. and distr. Elbląg, site 7 (former Wöklitz vel Woeklitz, Kr. Elbing). In 2006 excavation was made of more than 1900 m2. Jointly with graves identified before 1945 the investigation produced 529 features; among them, 478 cremation and inhumation burials; a large percentage of grave deposits had been destroyed still during antiquity or the modern period. The dominant form of burial was inhumation (308); of 170 cremation graves the majority were urned, with no legible traces of the grave pit; pit burials were much less common. A special feature at Weklice was that graves crowded in a relatively small area, and – except in a small number of cases – there was no legible planigraphy. Many of the inhumation graves cut into other similar deposits and were themselves similarly disturbed; many cremation graves cut into inhumation graves and there were several robber trenches both of the antique and later periods. A preliminary analysis of cemetery chronology helped distinguish six phases (I–VI) early phase B1 to C2 (possibly even C3–D1?). Inhumation burials no. 208 and 495 belong the small number of well-preserved richly furnished graves dated to phase III of the cemetery, synchronized with phase B2/C1–C1a. Grave no. 208 (Fig. 3) discovered on the S slope of an elevation, disturbed in its upper layer by later burials. Rectangular 3.6×12 m outline of the grave pit, aligned NW-SE, detected at the depth of 1.2 m, ca 20 cm above the level of the burial. Traces of an oak box coffin survived at pit bottom; originally a stela had stood in S part of the grave pit. Incomplete skeletal remains of a senilis woman: teeth, fragments of the cranium and fragments of bones of forearms. Dress fittings in their original position within the outline of the skeleton. Above the cranium in N corner of the coffin, three imported vessels. 1.2. Pair of silver brooches type A II 41 (Fig. 4:1.2). 3. Silver brooch, group A VII, series 1, similar to type A VII 201 (Fig. 4:3). 4.5. Pair of silver snake-shaped bracelets, type Blume B, similar to type Wójcik IIIBb (Fig. 4:4.5). 6.7. Pair of silver wave-shaped bracelets (Wellenarmringe) (Fig. 4:6.7). 8. Gold S-clasp, type B (Fig. 4:8). 9.10. Two gold conical beads (Fig. 4:9.10). 11. Bronze needle fragment (Fig. 4:11). 12. Gilded silver disc brooch: round silver sheet disc wrapped in gilded foil, soldered on with tin-lead solder, on gilded foil, impressed image of emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, foil with its own soldered on border of gilded foil impressed with laurel wreath pattern (Fig. 5:12.12a). 13. Bronze belt buckle with buckle plate, type similar to AG29 (Fig. 5:13). 14. Bronze strap end, group JII, possibly type JII3 (Fig. 5:14). 15. Terra sigillata bowl, Dragendorff 37, variant of profile 168,14. Handsome good quality pure dark orange glaze (Fig. 6). 16. Cantharos (discovered inside the terra sigillata bowl); green slipped with light gold glaze; on the body, three horizontal rows of barbotine (Fig. 7). 17. Bronze kettle, type E 48, fractured handle mounts: the original stylised swan’s head mount, probably soldered flush with the handle; the other – quite crude, riveted on (Fig. 8). In Central European Barbaricum finds of imported Roman disc brooches are exceedingly rare. Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus identified on the fibula from grave 208 were co-emperors in AD 161–169. Here they are shown in high detail in an official double portrait expressing the idea of Concordiae augustorum. According to the analysis of this particular composition the image could have been impressed onto the foil from an intaglio while the laurel wreath motif was impressed from a different object, presumably, a medallion. The provenance of the brooch is unknown. A small group of disc brooches ornamented with foil decorated with the image of an emperor have been traced to Roman provinces and areas across the limes. The belt buckle differs from local bronzes discovered at Weklice by its unusual olive green patina, excellent casting and perfect polish of its surface. It finds correspondence in imitations of provincial Roman buckles, type Třebusice. The strap end was cast from similarly high class copper alloy and was equally well polished. Characteristic stylistic features of the entire decorative ensemble seen on the terra sigillata bowl suggest its origin as Central Gaulish workshops centred on Lezoux active in the latter half of the AD 2nd c. as well as association with the potter Cinnamus. Finds of glazed cantharoi north of the Danube are rare. Only six specimens are known from territory of Poland. Similarity of form, ornamentation and glaze suggests that the vessel from Weklice belongs to a group of vessels produced in central Italian workshops, in Latium or northern Campania. Their time of influx to Poland was probably ca AD 150, which corresponds to the wave of influx of Central Gaulish terra sigillata. Bronze kettles type E48, variants with oblique grooves, are the most popular form recorded in Barbaricum. Their two largest concentrations are known from the Danish Islands and the Vistula delta. Provenance of E 44–49 kettles is not fully clear given the almost complete absence of these vessel finds in Roman provinces. Grave no. 495 (Fig. 9) discovered on top of the elevation; the northernmost burial in the cemetery so far. Grave pit, aligned N-S, sub-rectangular, with rounded corners. Two small pits of irregular shape in NW and SE corners of the pit (resp., pits 495b and 495a) contained stones. The central part of the grave destroyed by animal burrow. Upper layer of grave pit contained a small number of tiny burnt human bones, charcoal and 10 heavily burnt sherds. An incomplete burial of a maturus female and grave furnishings found ca 62 cm below ground level; no burnt bones found in this layer. Local ‘Barbarian’ dress elements (brooch and amber bead) discovered on a secondary deposit; in the N part of the pit in situ deposit – set of imported vessels arranged around the remains of wooden casket still retaining metal fittings. 1. Bronze brooch, type A II 41 (Fig. 10:1). 2. Bronze needle or brooch pin, two fragments (Fig. 10:2). 3. Amber disc bead, hand-polished, type TM 389 (Fig. 10:3). 4. Glass bead fragment, transparent yellow glass (Fig. 10:4). 5. 10 sherds of miniature vessel (Fig. 10:5). 6–10. Wooden casket. Traces of two sides and two fragments of lid. On underside of lid, bronze rectangular lock mount fastened to wood by 4 bronze rivets (Fig. 10:6.7a–e); 2 further bronze rivets attached to both edges of lid (Fig. 10:9.10). Under the lock mount, rectangular bronze sheet plaque (Fig. 10:8), presumably part of the lock mount covering one of the key holes. At centre of casket, bronze lock spring with double wing made of two separate rods; in the longer wing at ⅔ of its length an opening, presumably for attaching the spring to casket (Fig. 10:11). 12. Bronze saucepan, type E 142, with stamp of manufacturer TALIO.F. (Talio fecit) on the handle; tinned inside and outside on upper body (Fig. 11, 12). 13.14. Bronze ladle and strainer set, type E 161 (Fig. 13). 15.16. Two glass cups, type E188a, transparent light green glass; ornamented on body with two applied glass threads interlaced in a figure-of-eight pattern (Fig. 14). According to a new system of classification of vesselsstamped with their maker’s name the Roman bronze saucepan, type E 142, from grave 495 is classifiable to type V,4b (grouping types Eggers 139–142), specimens having a deep bowl a ring handle. The find from Weklice has only two known parallels in Poland: variant V,4c, from Łęg Piekarski, distr. Turek (phase B1c) and variant V,4b, from Żegocino, distr. Sławno (phase C1). The bronze saucepan from Weklice is one of only six specimens stamped TALIO.F known from Barbaricum and Roman provinces (Fig. 15). A craftsman by the name of Talius may have been associated with early 2nd c. AD Gaulish metalworking workshops. The bronze ladle and strainer set, type E 161, belongs to the so-called late forms which arrived to Poland by sea from the mouth of the Rhine by way of Danish Isles. Production of such sets in Gaul intensified around AD 150; similar sets may have been manufactured also in Pannonia. Outside the Empire the largest number of complete ladle and strainer sets is recorded in Scandinavia, mostly Zealand and Fyn. Taking into account the Weklice find, type E 161 forms are now represented in Poland by 23 items, complete sets or otherwise. Glass cups, type E 188, are extremely rare in Barbaricum. A pair analogous to the specimens from Weklice occurred at Linówiec, distr. Starogard Gdański, in an assemblage from phase B2/C1–C1a. The deposit of imported Roman vessels from grave 495 represents a typical Roman wine-drinking set which included a bronze bucket, cauldron or a pan, a ladle and wine-strainer set as well as a pair of metal or glass drinking vessels. The set of ornaments discovered in grave 208 – 10 local forms in the so-called ‘Wielbark baroque style’, and three items apparently imported from the Roman Empire – are of great value for refining the chronology of phase III of the cemetery at Weklice, corresponding to phase B2/C1–C1a. Especially significant are the paired silver brooches, type A II 41, and the silver crossbow brooch with a high catchplate, similar to type A VII 201. The gravefield at Weklice yielded 63 brooches which by their attributes correspond to type A II 40–41, all the variants recently distinguished by Jan Schuster (Fig. 16–19). Additionally, site produced 12 brooches less easy to fit into the typology which correspond by their parameters and details of construction both to type A II 38, and type A II 40–41 (Fig. 20). In their majority they are in bronze, but in no less than 15 cases – in silver. Different variants of type A II 40–41 brooches occurred in association with brooches of having an ‘Early Roman’ construction (type A V 126–128 – graves 250, 452, 467; type similar to A V 130 – grave 252; type A V 132 – graves 402, 434) but also others which had a ‘Late Roman’ construction (type A VII 201–202 –graves 208, 256, 342, 455; type A VI 161/162 – graves 192, 353; type similar to A VI 167 – grave 452). This second group evidently define the younger horizon of phase III of the cemetery; other local forms also co-occurred with Early Roman and Late Roman finds. It is notable that all of type A II 40–41 specimens recorded in association with Late Roman fibulae have a relatively high catchplate, a detail characteristic for group VII brooches; this is also true of the brooch type A II 40–41 from grave 495. The large number of cases of co-occurrence at Weklice of ‘Early Roman’ and ‘Late Roman’ brooches lend weight to the proposition made in the past by Ryszard Wołągiewicz that in Wielbark Culture. Early Roman brooches continued in use until phase C1b. It is worth noting that grave assemblages no. 208 and 495 from Weklice define the later chronological sub-phase of phase B2/C1C1a with a greater affinity with the Late Roman Period which at the present stage of research cannot be specified in greater detail.
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