THE BALT HEAD CULT (?) BASED ON MATERIAL FROM THE HILLFORT AT SZESTNO 'CZARNY LAS'
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Human cremation burials at the Early Medieval Prussian hillfort were found in a trench dug in the open hillfort interior, within the borders of a stone pavement interpreted as a household foundation. Human and animal bones representing varying degrees of cremation were recorded in 12 concentrations and in the form of a few dozen scattered isolated finds interpreted presently as relics of a custom calling for the relics of ancestors to be kept within the borders of functioning Early Medieval settlements. The assemblages contained, apart from the 'main' burials, partial burials of cremated skulls. The existence of a head cult in the Balt communities was proposed based on a comparative study of this archaeological material and Early Medieval written sources. In human consciousness, the head may be considered as representing the entire individual, the seat of the spirit and of all virtues. Head worship has been observed among many prehistoric communities. Collected data propounds the idea that the head cult was one of the important elements of Balt spiritual culture and has yet to be properly reflected in relevant studies. The archaeological material reflects different aspects of the head cult: (a) heads used according to the 'pars pro toto' principle in the cremation ritual; (b) heads of those disobeying tribal council decision, displayed as a 'warning'; (c) trophy heads bestowing glory on a warrior or dedicated to the Deivas. They could have also served apotropaic function, which developed in time into specific curative properties. 4 Figures.
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