2011 | 62 | 3-48
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Uwagi o chronologii i rozwoju przestrzennym cmentarzyska kultury przeworskiej w Opatowie, stan. 1, woj. śląskie

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On the turn of the Early and Younger Roman Period, i.e. during the latter half of the 2nd c. AD, a settlement micro-region took form in the basin of the Liswarta R. The area was investigated by Professor Kazimierz Godłowski from the Chair of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University (now, Institute of Archaeology) in 1956–1983 in a project of wide-scale excavation focusing mainly on the extensive cemetery at Opatów, site 1, comm. loco, distr. Kłobuck, Silesian voiv. (former Częstochowa voiv.). The site had been excavated for the first time in 1938 by two archaeologists from Cracow: Tadeusz Reyman and Stefan Nosek. For the time being the cemetery at Opatów is the largest fully investigated burial site of the Przeworsk Culture people. It owes its exceptional character to its intelligible horizontal stratigraphy, evidence on several different forms of cremation burial and also its grave inventories many of which contain Roman imports and a series of artefacts of great value in refining the chronology of the Roman Period. The cemetery continued in use over the entire period of development of the people of Przeworsk Culture in the basin of the Liswarta, i.e., some 300 years, approximately from mid-2nd century until the first decades of the 5th c. AD. To this period, corresponding to 10 generations, we can attribute some 1000 features. Horizontal stratigraphy observed at Opatów provided K. Godłowski with basic input for the study of the chronology of the Przeworsk Culture during the Younger and the Late Roman Period and the early stages of the Migration Period; the results of this research have a interregional significance. After analysing grave inventories containing relatively numerous chronologically sensitive metal objects Godłowski distinguished five phases of the cemetery. A more recent analysis of all the materials from Opatów has revealed that the majority of burials belong in the category of poorly furnished graves. More than once this has made it difficult to determine the their chronological position. Nevertheless, using input from detailed examination of selected categories e.g., Samian ware, supported with the most recent insights from analysis of the greatly increased source base, it has been possible to refine the dating of some of the burials. A new analysis made of the planigraphy of the cemetery at Opatów which took into account all the categories of finds, including pottery, as well as all the different grave forms, helped modify to some extent our understanding of the spatial development of the site and identify zones corresponding to the cemetery’s four phases. Phase I corresponds to phase C1a, including the horizon B2/C1, phase II – to phase C1b, phase III – to phase C2, and phase IV – to phases C3–D, in the system of relative chronology in Central European Barbaricum. It was observed that there is some overlapping of zone defined by the occurrence of artefact types distinctive for individual chronological phases and that, on occasion, these zones could not be separated precisely. This makes the attribution of some forms to a specific phase quite difficult. Ultimately it was established that the area of the cemetery was close in its shape to a crescent. Its oldest part is at the centre, from which area the cemetery subsequently spread out east- and southward. Archaeological material from this central area is understood to belong in phase I of the cemetery, datable to the early stage of the Younger Roman Period, i.e., phase C1a, including its distinctive horizon B2/C1. In the new system, phase I corresponds to phases I and II of K. Godłowski. Forms associated with this phase include numerous fibulae represented by a wide selection of types, both forms documenting continuity of earlier stylistic traditions of the Early Roman Period (fibulae Almgren group II, IV and V) and forms typical for the Younger Roman Period (fibulae AVI and AVII). Weapons are relatively numerous and include metal elements of shields and metal points from pole weapons. Other notable forms include a shield boss – late variant of shield bosses with a blunt spike and a relatively low collar, a shield boss with what is known as a pseudo-spike, a late conical shield boss with a high collar, and also, a U-shaped shield grip with an not clearly defined fan-shaped rivet plate. Roman imports are represented by fragments of bronze and glass vessels and fragments of Samian ware. Phase B2/C1 is apparent at Opatów in inventories of female graves. On just two occasions the lingering of forms characteristic for the Early Roman Period was observed, in graves with ‘male’ furnishings, which chronologically belong to the beginning of the Younger Roman Period. The presence of these early forms may be explained by the advanced age at death of the buried individuals. To the east and west of the central area of the cemetery it is possible to identify a zone with grave inventories containing forms characteristic for the later segment of the Younger Roman Period, attributed to phase II of the cemetery, which corresponds to most of the phase III of K. Godłowski, and to phase C1b. Small finds include numerous fibulae, Almgren group VI, weapons, e.g., swords type Folkeslunda-Zaspy of M. Biborski, and Samian ware, mainly from Westerndorf and from Pfaffenhofen, forming a visible concentration to the east of the central area of the cemetery. It is especially noteworthy that immediately to the north of the graves with Samian ware there is an observable concentration of finds with an evidently later chronological position, presumably, attributable to the final phase of the Roman Period. Moving even more to the east and south-west we come to an area which may be defined as zone III of the cemetery, synchronized with the late phase of the Late Roman Period, i.e., phase C2. This corresponds partly to phases III and IV of K. Godłowski. This part of the cemetery yielded items of weaponry such as a sword type Nydam-Kragehul, shield bosses with a hemispherical-domed top and a low waisted collar (graves 289 and 1187), shield grips with short rivet plates, points from pole weapons type XV, and in particular, type XX and XXII of P. Kaczanowski. There were no finds of spurs but a few finds of shears. There were good many finds of melted glass vessels and some glass counters. The area on the south-western and eastern margin of the cemetery represents its final phase IV – synchronized with phases C3–D in relative chronology. It corresponds to phase V of K. Godłowski. Distinctive forms include buckles with a thickened oval frame, group H of R. Madyda-Legutko, turning knives and elements of a lathe (grave 945), a bipartite ring horse-bit (above grave 459), a drinking horn terminal, group F type 2 of J. Andrzejowski, and also, an awl, type Dresden-Dobritz/Żerniki Wielkie. Weapons are represented by a handful of spear/lance points, type XVI, XXII of P. Kaczanowski, arrowheads (graves 957 and 987) and a shield grip with short and narrow rivet plates and a spur with rivets at heel band terminals (grave 322), type H of J. Ginalski, i.e., type Leuna variant D of U. Geisler. Also found in this zone are numerous fragments of partly melted glass vessels. Although the cemetery at Opatów continued in use into the early phase of the Migration Period this chronological segment is represented by only a small number of forms associated with stadium D. Some of them are not represented at all, e.g. metalwork decorated with stamp-impressed concentric rings and rosettes, characteristic for Untersiebenbrunn style, or fibulae type Prag. Nevertheless, settlement in the micro-region on the Liswarta R. apparently continued for some time, as documented by material from the nearby cemetery at Mokra. Significant results came from an analysis of the sizable pottery series secured at Opatów, both hand-built and wheel-made. It was found, e.g., that hand-built vessels with a black smoothed surface continued in use without interruption until the early phase of the Migration Period; this agrees with the results from the study of the pottery series from the Przeworsk Culture settlement at Jakuszowice. Moreover, many forms of hand-built vessels have to be recognised as long-lived: vessels with a biconical profile (group II), S-profiled jars (group V) and small basins with a rounded or a recessed base (group VI). Moreover, analysis of pottery styles revealed that the community using the cemetery could have arrived to the basin of the Liswarta from Silesia or Greater Poland, as the hand-built vessels and some features of their decoration, documented in the necropolis at Opatów find the greatest number of analogies in grave-fields discovered in the two regions. The first wheel-made vessels are recorded at Opatów during its oldest phase, in grave assemblages dated by fibulae A.II and A.V to phase B2/C1 (graves 745 and 808). This confirms the validity of the view on the relatively early appearance of wheel-made vessels in inventories of Przeworsk Culture. Vessels made using this method are present in all zones of the cemetery at Opatów, but their number visibly increases with each chronological stadium. In the cemetery at Opatów it is possible to grasp the changes taking place in the funerary rite over the entire period of its use. During phase I, i.e., on the turn of the Early and the Late Roman Period, urned burial was the dominant form. During phase II, which corresponds broadly to phase C1b, the number of urned graves becomes smaller and, with time, they are noted only sporadically. Analogical changes in the frequency of occurrence of urned graves are observed at this time on most of the territory of Przeworsk Culture. In the cemetery at Opatów the dominant form throughout is urned burial described as ‘pure’, as opposed to urned burial with the remains of the cremation pyre. In one notable case an urned burial dated to phase C1b was found under a presumed barrow mound (grave 1229). This grave was discovered at a considerable distance of c. 15 m from other features dated to the early segment of the Younger Roman Period, forming a concentration in this part of the cemetery. Another form of burial documented for the whole duration of the cemetery at Opatów was deposition of cremations in an organic container. Similar burials continued to be deposited without interruption until the time the cemetery went out of use. In this group, similarly as in case of urned graves, the dominant form is ‘pure’ burial. A new form noted during phase C1a are burials established on the site of cremation. One of its variants is burial known in literature as bustum – where the pyre is constructed over the grave pit – widespread in the Roman provinces. The cremation is deposited in an urn placed inside a relatively large pit (e.g. feature 601, 603-606-608, 631). The fill of such pits includes layers of burning and abundant charcoal fragments. Another distinctive form of feature associated with cremation in situ recorded at Opatów are ditch features, known mostly from other sites in the Liswarta basin, e.g., Żabieniec, Rybno and Mokra, and described in literature as ditch features, type Żabieniec. The cemetery at Opatów yielded both ‘classic’ rectangular ditch features as well as features with a more irregular outline and linear ditches. All the ditch features discovered at Opatów belong in phase C2 and phase C3–D. Still another characteristic feature at Opatów, noted for the first time in phase C1a, are cremation patches (‘layered features’), with an irregular outline, of a substantial depth, which usually cover an area of several sqq. metres and represent the remains of a single cremation in situ (e.g. feature 1216). The presence of cremation patches is confirmed in all the phases of the cemetery. Also found at Opatów are cremation patches, 10–20 cm in thickness, which contain a great amount of charcoal, burnt earth, burnt ceramics and fragments of metal, bone and glass objects, as well as burnt human bones, spread out over an area of several to a dozen-odd square metres. The lower levels in the cremation patches included earth which had been burnt in situ. The layered features have yielded bones belonging to several individuals. Large cremation patches are assigned to its phase IV, synchronized with phases C3–D. They were recorded at the opposite, south-western and eastern ends of the cemetery (e.g. feature 439-441, 449-454). The cremation patches are interpreted as the site of repeated cremation, made on the surface of the ground, from which – presumably – only a portion of the bone remains and grave goods was removed to be buried at some distance from the site of the cremation. This is confirmed by the presence in the graves attributed to the final stages of the cemetery at Opatów of a very small quantity of cremated bones. One more form identified at Opatów are large sunken features which presumably represent the fire-spots (Germ. Ustrine) and traces of hearths, of small size, presumably associated with poorly understood ritual practices undertaken within the cemetery. The distribution of these features suggests that each one was associated with its individual group of graves. The results of observations made in the cemetery at Opatów indicate that changes in the funerary cremation rite observed in Przeworsk Culture during the Early and Late Roman Period did not have the nature of an evolution, i.e., there was no simple temporal sequence: urned burial – pit burial – cremation patch. Changes started still at the onset of the Younger Roman Period, possibly even during late phase B2. At Opatów even during phase I there is evidence, next to urned and pit graves, of graves of type bustum and small-sized cremation patches associated with single cremations in situ. With time these processes intensify and, apparently, features associated with repeated cremation in situ, come into use. The grave inventories investigated at Opatów vary widely as to the wealth of their furnishings. In the light of the criteria accepted in literature most of these burials have modest or poor furnishings. All the same, graves which may be considered as richly furnished are present in all the phases that the cemetery at Opatów was in use. Their largest number is noted during phase I and this is consistent with the general tendency as regards the tradition of grave furnishing observed in Przeworsk Culture on the turn of the Early and Younger Roman Period. The recent extensive study of the archaeological material from the Przeworsk Culture cemetery at Opatów furnished new data on various aspects of culture of the community using this site. The dating of many categories of finds could be refined our understanding of the spatial development of the cemetery was improved. New insight was gained on the character of changes in the funerary tradition taking place within the Przeworsk Culture environment during the Younger and Late Roman Period and early phase of the Migration. Moreover, we obtained evidence on the biological condition of the community using the cemetery at Opatów and identified the main areas with which these people were in some form of contact. This data represents valuable source for continued research, both on a micro-regional scale as well as focused on issues pertinent for Central European Barbaricum at large.
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  • Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, ul. Gołębia 11, PL 31-007 Kraków, POLAND,
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