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Chronologia i rozwój przestrzenny nekropoli / Chronology and spatial development of the cemetery

DOI: 10.33547/Swibie2022.2.4

Chronologia i rozwój przestrzenny nekropoli / Chronology and spatial development of the cemetery

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. 114-126. Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach, Wydawnictwo Profil-Archeo.


By applying the seriation method to a group of 129 assemblages distinguished by a ‘non-male’ model of grave furnishing and containing at least two distinctive metal objects, it was possible to divide the lifespan of the cemetery into three chronological stages. These were characterised by stylistically different (but interlocking) sets of ornaments and dress items. An attempt to relate these phases to the periodisation systems developed for the areas to the north, west, and south confirmed contacts with the Oder zone as early as during the early phase, which we synchronise with Ha C1b. What has also emerged in the course of the present study is another factor characteristic of this early phase, one that has not been taken into account in previous studies, namely the evidence of contacts with the northern lowland zone. These are legible mainly in the distinctive style of neck and hand ornaments: necklaces of the Wendelringe or unidirectionally twisted type, with loops or fastened with a hook, usually occurring no further south than Greater Poland, and bracelets with distant Pomeranian references. The presence of this style seems to have contributed in subsequent phases to the production of local types of ring ornaments (e.g., pointed necklaces of the Mąkolice type). The presence of northern bronzes of possibly such an early chronology (Ha C1) in the Polish Plain, especially at its southern edge, has so far been only sporadically reported, especially in the range of the Upper Silesian-Lesser Poland group. Nevertheless, contacts with the north at the turn of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age have already been suggested in the context of the northwards ‘diffusion’ of the idea of inhumation. early phase reveal strong influences coming evidently from the south, from the Moravian Gate region. This is indicated by the appearance of bracelets with thickened ends (e.g., Kietrz type) or richly decorated necklaces fastened with a hook (Domasław type) in many graves of this phase. The exact temporal relationship between the two groups of finds is difficult to determine – they appear inseparable on the seriation diagram (Figs. 4.1–2), with the Silesian Hallstatt style continuing much longer, into the middle phase.

In addition, the early phase provides evidence that the Świbie community had access to very valuable goods from southern Europe, such as beads made of vitreous materials (glass and glassy faience, still scarce at the time) or flat iron axes with broad heads (Ärmchenbeile of type III3). It is with this phase that the most impressive burial in Świbie, grave 102, is connected. It belonged to a woman furnished with a local button diadem and the largest set of imports in the cemetery, comprising of a glass bead necklace with a unique ‘star’ shaped bead, a bronze harp fibula decorated with chains, a bronze necklace, and perhaps also bracelets (Garbacz-Klempka et al., Chapter 15). Another noteworthy burial from the early phase is grave 125, in which a dyed fabric of dense yarn, undoubtedly imported from eastern Alpine region, was found (Słomska-Bolonek, Antosik, Chapter 12). A phenomenon typical of the early phase is emphasising the status of some women (but from many families) by furnishing their burials not only with prestigious imports but also with sumptuous local ornaments. Among the latter, the most important markers of status and local identity (of traditional dress?) were headbands with sewn-on bronze (less often lead) buttons. In the burial ritual, the primacy of inhumation is evident. This means that an exclusively local population substrate, cultivating traditions derived from previous eras, continued to play significant role, while the role of exogamy was perhaps still limited.

Most likely before the end of the early phase, and certainly in the middle phase (Ha C2), we observe a gradual disappearance of northern stylistic inspiration in ornament making. Meanwhile, permanent contacts with the strongly Hallstattized communities from the right-bank Upper Silesia and Central Silesia continued, noticeable mainly in the spectrum of ornaments. Some references to the necropolis at Domasław are evident (decorated necklaces, painted pottery), but there are also clear differences, including the lack of adoption of costume fastened with a brooch or brooches (Fibeltracht) and the absence of aristocratic burials furnished with swords. There are also no direct parallels in Świbie for sumptuous tomb constructions (chambered graves), although this may be due to the well- established local traditions of lining the bottoms of graves with wood, building grave boxes, or using coffins. The increasing occurrence of cremation, sometimes as burials added to earlier inhumation graves (resulting in ‘biritual graves’), may be seen as an expression of the increasing openness of the local population to external influences or as a move away from endogamy.
All these phenomena become more pronounced in the late phase, which we synchronise with the developed Ha C2 and Ha D1. From this stage come most of the glass beads found in Świbie. This applies to both complete necklaces and beads placed to graves in smaller numbers, and the number of burials furnished with such beads is higher than in the early phase. Silesian painted vessels, essentially absent in the early phase, now appear in more than a dozen graves, both with and without indicators of high status (Chapter 5). Most of the graves with amber come from this phase. The growing frequency of these middle-class imports is indicative of increasing egalitarianism, which is also reflected by the insignificant proportion of late phase assemblages among the richest grave furnishings in the ranking developed for the cemetery as a whole (Fig. 5.2). This was not due to the disappearance of local ways of prestige signalling – traditional headbands (diadems), for example, are still present, and are even richer (up to 140 buttons). At the same time, from the late phase onwards, all locally manufactured types of ornaments (necklaces, pins, bracelets, ankle-rings) are basically made of iron. Morphologically, these are familiar types, but the raw material from which they are made gradually changes during the middle phase. The change in raw material is often accompanied by a simplification of the original patterns.

Given all the evidence for long-distance networks becoming increasingly accessible for a growing proportion of the local community, the rise in popularity of cremation, evident in the late phase and especially towards the end of cemetery’s lifespan, should come as no surprise (Fig. 6.1), as this phenomenon remains, in our view, linked to the growing role of exogamy in marital exchange. The natural and increasingly important partners in this exchange were the Silesian populations, who were also the providers of the above-mentioned goods, and who had for centuries been traditionally following cremation as their burial rite.

The most recent burials deposited at Świbie are cremation burials in large pots as urns, such as grave 486 with an iron belt clasp, dated to the turn of the Ha D1/D2 period, deposited on the northern edge of the necropolis.