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New Work at the Late Bronze Age Tumulus Cemetery of Lapus in Romania

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New Work at the Late Bronze Age Tumulus Cemetery of Lapus in Romania
  NEW WORK AT THE LATE BRONZE AGE TUMULUS CEMETERYOF L Ă PU Ş IN ROMANIA Carol K ACSÓ * , Carola M ETZNER -N EBELSICK ** , Louis D. N EBELSICK   *** A BSTRACT The tumulus necropolis of L ă pu ş in Northwest Romania has a long history of research. Pastexcavations revealed a rich record of Late Bronze Age inventories of cremation graves of the 13th to 12thc. B.C., which are so far unique within the contemporary Carpathian basin. Embedded into a river valleyat the foot of a mining mountain area, it seems a convincing explanation that the L ă pu ş Late Bronze Agecommunity placed their ancestors in a guardian position close to the source of its presumed wealth. Theburial rituals in L ă pu ş are diverse; not all mounds can be classi fi ed as proper graves but rather barrow shapedritual monuments, one of which, tumulus 26, is presently been excavated by the authors and the preliminaryresults are being published here. The monument so far has revealed a complex multi-layered occupationwith traces of burning, multi-phased pits with various shapes and fi llings, hearths and a wooden thresholdconstruction. The pottery assemblage indicates ritual feasting as well as depositions of ritual rubbish. Aseries of  14 C-dates marks an early beginning of the channelled pottery style as early as the 13th or evenearly 14th c. B.C. The series also indicates the use of the monument over roughly 100 years. After the burialactivities within the necropolis ceased, a shift of ritual activities to metal depositions can be observed andseen in the context of ancestral worship. The impressive tumulus necropolis of L ă pu ş in northwest Romania is one of the best known LateBronze Age sites in the eastern Carpathian Basin. This is not only due to the rich and proli fi c fi nds and thedetailed information about funerary ritual from the excavated tumuli but also because of the fact that thechronological sequence of the cemetery’s use is a keystone in de fi ning the initiation of the Late Bronze Agein the Carpathian basin.  Ancestral Landscapes. TMO 61, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon, 2011 * * Baia Mare, ** München *** Warszawa.  342 CAROL   KACSÓ , CAROLA   METZNER - NEBELSICK , LOUIS   D . NEBELSICK GEOGRAPHY AND SETTINGThe tumulus cemetery of L ă pu ş lies in the eastern part of the L ă pu ş river depression or L ă pu ş Land( Ţ ara L ă pu ş ului) (  fi g. 1 ), a widening of the narrow river valley in the piedmont of the Carpathian mountainsin the present county of Maramure ş in Northern Transylvania. 1 This isolated 30 kilometre long pocket of fertile land lies ca . 400m above sea level and is isolated from the neighbouring river valleys by steep ridgesseverely restricting easy access. Stray fi nds of stone axes, which date from the Neolithic and Chalcolitic arethe earliest evidence for human presence in the L ă pu ş river depression. The fi rst traces of settlement activitydate to the Middle Bronze Age Wietenberg Culture. There is massive evidence for an all but contiguoussettlement of the L ă pu ş river terraces, which is accompanied by bronze deposition sets of the Late BronzeAge (Bz D) and continues until the end of this Period (Ha B). There is as yet no evidence for an Iron Ageoccupation of the valley and sporadic fi nds indicate a resumption of settlement in the Roman ImperialPeriod. It is only in the Middle Ages that there is historical and material evidence for a renewed intensivesettlement of this isolated region. 2 Of course, it is tempting to relate the occupation of this isolated mountain valley to the mineral wealthof the surrounding Carpathian foothills, which has been the motor of the historic development of the region.In B ă iu ţ , a mining centre, which lies in the narrowing L ă pu ş Valley some 15 kilometres north-east of thecemetery site, Medieval and post Medieval mines extracted, among other minerals, copper, gold, silver,lead, nickel and zinc. 3 This wide range of minerals is typical for the ore bearing periphery of the L ă pu ş   1. Posea 1962; Posea et al . 1980.2. Kacsó 2009; for Wietenberg settlement Kacsó 2003.3. Borco ş   et al. 1984. Fig. 1 − Position of the L ă   pu ş cemetery in the Carpathian basin and map of the Bronze Age sites in the L ă   pu ş Depression(after Kacsó 2001).  NEW   WORK   AT   THE   LATE   BRONZE   AGE   TUMULUS   CEMETERY   OF   L Ă PU Ş   IN   ROMANIA 343 valley and the western fl anks of the Ţ ible ş mountain massif. It is even possible that small deposits of cassiterite/tin may have been available for early miners. While conclusive proof of prehistoric miningactivity in the region still awaits discovery, the vast L ă pu ş tumulus cemetery, which is both the wealthiestand largest necropolis of 13th century Transylvania must surely be linked to the exploitation of the mineralbounty of its surroundings. 4 It is the goal of our ongoing palynology project initiated by Michael Peters of the LMU Munich to clarify the sequences of human impact in both the immediate and wider surroundingsof the site. 5 STRUCTURE OF THE CEMETERYThe cemetery, as it is visible today (  fi g. 2 ), covers a gentle slope rising from the edge of a raisedriver terrace to the attendant hills south of the L ă pu ş valley and south west of the present village. A longhistory of intensive agricultural use of the cemetery but also of undocumented treasure hunting excavationshas, however, signi fi cantly degraded the site. The present situation of the necropolis, according to presentobservations and historical evidence, encompasses some 70 barrows. This can be seen as a remnant of whatmust have been a larger and much more monumental funerary complex. Nonetheless it is possible to givea general account of the structure of the cemetery due to a survey carried out in 1967, 6 which has beenenhanced through the ongoing detailed geo-referenced topographical surveys of the site. 7 Although the survey is not completely fi nished, we would like to present the following preliminaryresults. Firstly, we have managed to discover a series of new tumuli, which had previously been unknown.This is due to ploughing, which has reduced most of the smaller barrows to a height of just 40-70cm abovethe surrounding area, making them dif  fi cult to see in the rolling landscape, in which they are imbedded.In order to understand the topography of the site, it is necessary to know that the excavated tumuli arenumbered in the sequence of their excavation.The slope rising gently from the steep river terrace to the adjacent southern ridge has been indented bya series of deeply eroded streambeds dividing the area into a series of segregated gently inclined plateaus,on which the different groups of tumuli cluster. The best understood group of the necropolis lies in the fi eld named “Podanc”, a thick cluster ( ca . 170m x 50m) of 15 small and one large tumulus, lying on thelower plateau with three outliers on the edge of the terrace. Approximately 100m southeast of this funerarycomplex a further clutch of 15 tumuli (group 3), which includes the newly excavated barrow 26, is focusedon a massive yet unexcavated tumulus (100m in diameter and ca . 5m in height). Group 2, lies across a steepravine cut by the Lazar stream on the fi eld “ Podancul Mare” with ten small barrows clustering aroundtwo large tumuli. Peripheral tumulus groups lie ca . 200m west on the edge of the river terrace in the fi eld Podul Hotarului (group 6). Four tumuli are visible there today but reports from the late 19th century mayindicate that more tumuli in this area (termed group 4) were excavated and destroyed on this site. A secondperipheral focus of the cemetery lies on the edge of the steep slopes of the southern ridge Gura Tinoasei (group 5 with ten tumuli) and on the adjacent hill top  Mlaca (group 7 with three barrows), which afforda spectacular view across the valley below. Conversely, anyone entering or leaving the widening L ă pu ş   4. Kacsó 2008.5. Kacsó, Metzner-Nebelsick 2009. A detailed report of the results of a botanical survey carried out in summer 2008 is inpreparation, including the extraction of pollen pro fi les from ombrogenic peat bogs by M. Peters, LMU Münich.6. Kacsó 2001, fi g. 3.7. The map represents the combination of a modern cadastral plan, on which the barrows of a topographical survey, which wascarried out in 1967 (Kacsó 2001, fi g. 3), are marked and a modern survey by Michael Kralisch and Ulrich Schultz (Berlin andUniversity Bamberg). Kralisch and Schultz could only execute a preliminary survey in restricted areas, which revealed additionalbarrows. On fi g. 2 they are outlined in different colours but not in the srcinal shape. A survey of the whole cemetery areacarried out after the Udine conference in summer 2008 by Mateusz Jaeger and Ł ukasz Pospieszny from the Adam MickiewiczUniversity Pozna ń , Poland, will be published elsewhere.  344 CAROL   KACSÓ , CAROLA   METZNER - NEBELSICK , LOUIS   D . NEBELSICK valley from or to the proli fi c mineral regions to the east, will have been confronted with an imposing viewof barrow groups clustered around what may have been a 10m high colossal tumulus made of glisteningwhite clay. 8 This monumental mortuary landscape stretched over a kilometre of terraced slope sweeping upfrom the edge of the river valley to the summit of the adjacent ridge. If we accept the thesis that the BronzeAge inhabitants of the valley were involved in mining, then it is likely that this awe inspiring demonstrationof power and prestige must have been calculated by the leading lineages of the L ă pu ş valley to manifest andsymbolise their control of the mineral bounty they were exploiting. 8. The creamy white clay subsoil in L ă pu ş is surprisingly infertile as well as being resistant to erosion. The site of Tumulus 21, forinstance, which has stood open for the last 5 years is still barren and can clearly be seen as a white circle on satellite picturesavailable on Google Earth. Fig. 2 − Survey plan, made in 1967, of the central section of the L ă   pu ş necropolis (after Kacsó 2001)supplemented in 2007 by M. Kralisch and U. Schultz.  NEW   WORK   AT   THE   LATE   BRONZE   AGE   TUMULUS   CEMETERY   OF   L Ă PU Ş   IN   ROMANIA 345 HISTORY OF RESEARCH IN THE CEMETERY OF L Ă PU Ş The fi rst excavator of the barrow necropolis at L ă pu ş was János Szendrei from the National Museumin Budapest. He investigated a series of small tumuli, which lay on a segment of the river terrace knownas Podul Hotarului. The fate of the fi nds Szendrei made in L ă pu ş is unclear save for one sherd, which hedonated to the National Museum in Budapest and still survives in the museum’s store. It is a fragmentof a high vessel with a globular body, black on the outside and red within with channelled décor and isinventoried under the number (Inv.-Nr. 102. 1890. 7).It is not precisely clear at which time during the last decades of the 19th century Domokos Telekiexcavated in L ă pu ş . The little we know about his activities was recorded by Roska, who wrote that hehad recovered cremation graves with Suciu de Sus pottery and a bronze axe. 9 Unfortunately the potteryTeleki recovered from L ă pu ş was later mixed up with pottery he had excavated in Suciu de Sus so that it isimpossible to identify it precisely. 10 It was not until 1961 that archaeological activities were resumed in L ă pu ş under the direction of Mircea Rusu. On the basis of his excavations of three barrows (Tumuli A-C), which contained channelledbichrome pottery (red inside and black outside) as well as pottery with incised Kerbschnitt  spiral décor,Rusu assigned the barrow cemetery to the “early Hallstatt period”. In Romanian terms this is equivalentto the early Urn fi eld Period (Hallstatt A – 12th century B.C.) in Central Europe. Furthermore he created a“Sântana-L ă pu ş -Pecica” culture. 11 This lengthy name was coined as a Romanian alternative to the “Gáva-Culture”, which had then recently been introduced for Hungarian material by Amália Moszolics. 12 Rusu’sclassi fi cation was accepted by a series of Romanian and foreign scholars and a vessel from tumulus Aillustrated a number of articles about the Gáva Culture. 13 Excavations resumed at L ă pu ş between 1967 and 1974 under the direction of Carol Kacsó resulting inthe excavation of 20 further tumuli (nos. 1-20) lying in the fi elds Podanc and Podancu Mare (groups 1-3).Ivan Ordentlich was also involved in these excavations during the 1961, 1967 and 1968 campaigns. Theseexcavations resulted in the discovery of a wealth of  fi nds including an enormous amount of pottery but alsometal objects made of bronze gold and iron as well as bone, stone and terra cotta artefacts. Furthermore,many details pertaining to burial practices and attendant ritual were recorded. Lastly, these new excavationsrevealed information, which made it possible to reach conclusions about the chronological and culturalclassi fi cation of the cemetery, which were clearly different from those reached by previous scholars. 14 Acomprehensive preliminary report about this campaign was published 1975. 15 Furthermore investigationswere carried out on a nearby site, which is related to the use of the cemetery 16 and in 1967 a topographicalplan was made of all the visible tumuli in the necropolis. 17  A new campaign in L ă pu ş , which commenced in 1995 was also directed by Kacsó. This involved thecomplete excavation of monumental tumulus 21 between 1995 and 2004. This mound, which is one of thelargest in the necropolis, had an impressive mound like structure in its centre, made up of boulders, stonesand stone slabs, which were surrounded by a stone ring and contained remains of at least two pyres. 18  Between 2004 and 2006 three small tumuli (nos. 22-24) were excavated in a newly discovered tumulusgroup (group 5) lying about 400 m south of the main barrow cemetery. In one of these tumuli (no. 22) 9. Roska 1940, p. 11; Roska 1942, p. 209, no. 23.10. Bader 1976, p. 45 sq. 11. Rusu 1963, p. 189; Rusu 1969, p. 677 sq. 12. Mozsolics 1957, p. 120 sq. 13. Zaharia 1965, p. 103; Zaharia, Morintz 1965, p. 454; Horedt 1966, p. 18; Horedt 1967a, p. 151; Horedt 1967b, p. 151; Foltiny1968, p. 340, fi g. 3, 6; Paulík 1968, fi g. 1 (distribution map of the culture); László 1973, p. 586, fi g. 2, 4.14. Kacsó 1981a; Kacsó 2001, p. 231 sq. .15. Kacsó 1975.16. Kacsó 1994.17. Kacsó 2001, fi g. 3.18. Kacsó 2000, p. 37; Kacsó 2001, p. 236 sq.
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