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Społeczność ze Świbia na tle regionu. Podsumowanie / The community from Świbie against the background of the region. Summary

DOI: 10.33547/Swibie2022.2.7

Społeczność ze Świbia na tle regionu. Podsumowanie / The community from Świbie against the background of the region. Summary

by Monika Michnik 1,  Karol Dzięgielewski 2

1 –Muzeum w Gliwicach, ul. Dolnych Wałów 8a, 44-100 Gliwice; 2 – Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Instytut Archeologii, ul. Gołębia 11, 31-007 Kraków

In: Michnik, M., Dzięgielewski, K. (2022). Cmentarzysko z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Świbiu na Górnym Śląsku. Tom 2, pp. 137-142. Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach, Wydawnictwo Profil-Archeo.


Świbie is located only about 50–60 km north-east of the Głubczyce Upland in the Moravian Gate area. At the dawn of the Early Iron Age, the latter region appears to have become an important nodal point in a network of interregional contacts created, among other things, by the growing demand for Baltic amber in southern Europe. The cemetery in Świbie lies less then twenty kilometres – a few hours walking distance – from the broad zone in the Oder region, referred to as the ‘Amber Route’ (cf. Chytráček et al. 2017, fig. 12). In this context, the population using the Świbie necropolis has long been considered an important element in explaining the dynamics of cultural contacts across the macroregion. The evidence of contact discussed above, including the influx of luxury goods, raises the natural question of the equivalent provided in return. The inclusion of a new, northern component in our narrative, previously not considered (discernible especially in the material culture of the early phase), allows us to hypothesise a direct involvement of the population from Świbie in chain exchange of Baltic amber. There is no doubting that Early Iron Age communities in Pomerania exploited amber, and that its distribution further south was mediated by a number of groups inhabiting what today is Greater Poland and Silesia. There is no reason to believe that the enclave inhabited by the users of the analysed necropolis was too peripheral in relation to this most important route of contacts and exchange in this part of Europe at that time. Amber, which might have come here through contacts with the north, and which is well confirmed in the early phase, must have been regarded as a valuable equivalent for desirable raw materials (bronze, iron) or southern products, such as glass beads. For this reason, the custom of giving amber beads to graves was not widespread here (several burials). A similar valorisation of this raw material was characteristic of Pomeranian communities: while they collected and gathered amber, they hardly used it for making ornaments themselves. While in Pomerania such a conclusion can be questioned, as amber ornaments offered to the deceased may not have survived the ritual of cremation, it seems justified with respect to the Świbie community, which observed inhumation. This system of exchange was brought to an end by the same phenomena that led to the interruption of the flourishing development of the Hallstatt-affected Silesian enclave during the Ha D period.

Despite their more than 150 years long involvement in a system essentially inaccessible to other regions of the Upper Silesian-Lesser Poland cultural area, the small Upper Silesian population from Świbie, estimated at about 60 people on average, did not lose its local identity. On the contrary, they used the access to networks of contacts, raw materials, and goods to manifest their own identity all the more strongly – for example, through the spread of locally made heavy sets of neck, arm, and leg ornaments (first bronze, then iron). The opening up of contacts by widening the circles of marital exchange did not result in the decline of these local traditions (there are, for example, many inhumation graves with diadems in the late phase), unless the vast prevalence of urned cremations in the very last stage of the cemetery’s development can be interpreted in this way.