The Early Copper Age Hoard from Ariuşd/Erősd Cover Image

Az erősdi kora rézkori kincslelet
The Early Copper Age Hoard from Ariuşd/Erősd

Author(s): Sándor József Sztáncsuj
Subject(s): Archaeology, Cultural history, Ancient World
Published by: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület
Keywords: Early Copper Age; Ariusd hoard; archaeological excavation

Summary/Abstract: The treasure known in the archaeological secondary literature as the Ariuşd hoard - was discovered in the summer of 1910, during the excavations carried out by Ferenc László on the so-called „Pre-Mycenian" site, Ariuşd - Dealul Tyiszk (Erősd - Tyiszk-hegy), the eponymous settlement of the South-East Transylvanian painted pottery culture. One year later, László had mentioned a summary of these finds in a paper his research results on painted pottery culture settlements. He intended to publish those finds later in a detailed study. Unfortunately, László's premature death prevented him from the the final evaluation of the excavations. A few pieces of the hoard were included in Márton Roska's repertory (1942), but the whole find was not published yet. World War II had an unfortunate end for the collections of the Székely Nemzeti Múzeum: in March 1945 the most valuable part of the collection had been almost completely destroyed in a bombing raid at Zalaegerszeg while it was transported to a safe place. In that transport perished some parts of the Ariuşd hoard as well. The aim of this study is to present a survey of the existing finds, the available data concerning it's complete inventory, the finding circumstances and to summarise our present knowledge about these finds. The first mentioning of the finds appeared in a short time after their discovery, in the annual report of the Szekler National Museum. In his study in 1911, László had summarily described the finds, and published also some photographs. The finding circumstances were presented only succinctly. The finds came to light in the so-called „upper debris" (IVth) layer, on the eastern end of the excavation territory between the - 7 - 9 longitudinal and II-VII latitudinal co-ordinates, in the following order: a vessel with cylindrical neck contained 15 chipped lithic implements and some copper beads below them. „Near the vessel, between burnt clay fragments and pots a complete collection of prehistoric jewels was found, pendants made from perforated deer canine, with greenish colour; prismatic or cylindrical, perforated beads made from stone, bone, shell and antler, the small ones sized between 2-3 mm, the biggest pieces about 25-30 mm; bone plates and boar tusks perforated on their both ends; copper beads made from bended copper plates. Their weight varies between 0,90 and 0,67 g. Spirals with 8,5, 6,5, 5,5 cm diameters were made also of copper, which - besides being raw material - could serve as arm rings/bangles as well. Examining the pottery they appear to be fragments of a vessel and of a cup. The finds were deposited in that vessel and the vessel was covered with the cup. László has noted in his diary the stratigraphical situation of the hoard, and he made also some drawings - or rather sketches - about how these finds were laid at the moment of discovery. It seems, however, that he did not pay more attention to the finding circumstances. This way we probably will never be able to find out exactly how these finds were hidden by their owners. Nevertheless, we still have some evidences: in his diary László mentions that most of the hoard was found in the upper part of the upper debris layer - right on the layer - , in the vicinity of several burnt clay fragments. Although he could bring to light only some remains of dwellings from this habitat period, according to these information it might be possible that the finds were laid on the ground of a house or other kind of dwelling. It might be also possible that the finds were introduced intentionally or by some disturbance from the IIIth in the IVth level. According to the available data, the hoard had the following inventory: 1. 2 vessels, each of them covered with a cup (pi. 1/1, 4); 2. chipped lithic artefacts: knives, blades, awls and borers made probably from flint (15 pieces - pi. 1/2); 3. prismatic stone artefact (amulet) made probably from marble (1 piece); 4. gold spiral (1 piece - pi. 9/1, from the right); 5. disc shaped copper beads (more than 1938 pieces - pi. 2/25-31, 33-34, 38-39; 8/13-15; 9/2); 6. copper tubular bead (1 piece - pi. 8/11; 9/2); 7. copper spiral bracelets (6 pieces - pi. 1/1; 5; 9/2); 8. rectangular bone plates (3 pieces - pi. 22-4; 7/1; 9/2); 9. deer teeth pendants (80 pieces - pi. 2/13-24; 6/6-15; 9/2); 10. boar-tusk plates and sewn on Spondylus plates (together more than 40 pieces - pi. 6/16-18, 20-24; 7/2-21; 8/1-10; 9/2); 11. round shell (Unio) plates (41 pieces - pi. 2/36; 6/1-5; 9/2); 12. disc shaped bone beads (15 pieces - pi. 9/2); 13. tubular beads made from Spondylus, stone and bone or antler (together 40 pieces - pi. 6/19; 9/2); 14. small animal teeth (50 pieces - pi. 2/1, 5-11; 9/2). By the time of its discovery, the Ariuşd hoard was one of the first valuable-deposits from the Neolithic and Copper Age of the Carpathian Basin and its neighbouring territories Its copper and gold artefacts (together with the other metal objects of the settlement) were the earliest metal finds of this region. Now the hoard is not unique in the whole Cucuteni-Tripolje complex. In the past 50 years a few similar finds were discovered in the eastern-European region: the hoards from Hăbăşeşti (more than 55 objects), Brad (more than 480 objects), Cărbuna (853 objects), Chetroşica (196 objects), Horodnica II (13 objects). The closest analogies of the Ariuşd hoard can be found in these findings. Making a brief overview, we can assert that the hoard contains in general small jewels and trinkets, no bigger or heavier objects, especially weapons. Even the chipped lithic implements can be considered as tools, rather than weapons - their value being represented by the high quality raw material. During the Neolithic and Copper Age, lithic raw materials were procured sometimes from far distances. Spondylus gaederopus shell was also from afar, from the Adriatic or Pontic regions. Jewels and trinkets made from this raw material appear in several rich sites of the Middle and South-eastern-European region. The more than 40 Spondylus objects of the Ariuşd hoard must have had a high value; some of them were transmuted several times. Similar perforated plates and tubular beads were found in greater number as components of the Cărbuna hoard. Deer teeth pendants strung on necklaces or bracelets were characteristic components of the Cucuteni-Tripolje hoards, except Horodnica II. These objects appear often as grave goods, together with other prestigious items, in several cultures starting with the Palaeolithic up to the Bronze Age. Their procurement involved animal hunting. Consequently the wearing of such jewels could express higher social status. An eloquent proof for the value of deer teeth pendants are the imitations made from bone, clay and sometimes copper, also known from the Cărbuna hoard. Circular plates (beads) made from Unio shells, strung on necklaces appear often in Copper Age graves. Two similar necklaces were found also in Ariuşd, one by Ferenc László in the VIIth level, the other by E. Zaharia and Z. Székely in the ritual pit complex discovered in 1971, near the skeleton of a child. The metal objects of the Ariuşd hoard - except the gold spiral - are common finds of the Late Neolithic and Copper Age period, their analogies can be found in several archaeological cultures of the Carpathian Basin and its neighbouring territories. The most unique piece of the hoard is the gold spiral. The ornament was probably used as bead in a necklace or as an earring. Trinkets with similar shape but made from copper were discovered in the Cărbuna hoard, at Hăbăşeşti, Traian - Dealul Fântânilor (in Precucuteni material) or Hârşova (in Gumelniţa Al material). Other analogies can be found in the graves of the middle copper age Bodrogkeresztúr culture (Fényeslitke, Konyár, Tiszakeszi, Tiszavalk-Kenderföld). The two surviving vessels of the hoard (especially the Swedish casque lid) - were considered several years ago by VI. Dumitrescu as uncommon elements in the Ariuşd culture, showing analogies mainly with the pottery of the Cucuteni A-B phases. The same vessels were considered imports in the Ariuşd-material by E. Zaharia and Z. Székely. Based on the surviving vessels, scholars like VI. Dumitrescu and D. Monah have suggested a possible provenience of the hoard from upper layers of the settlement. However, since we do not have more detailed information concerning the finding circumstances, this opinion cannot be confirmed or neither disclaimed. The Ariuşd-settlement is dated by the archaeologists to the Cucuteni A2 period, while/and its material is considered uniform, for all that finds with later (Cucuteni A3-4, A-B or even B) dating were found not only at Ariuşd, but at other south-east Transylvanian sites as well (Malnaş, Mugeni, Reci, etc.) (?) The key question in this problem, whether it existed an dwelling layer posterior to the Cucuteni A2 period at Ariuşd, can be resolved only after publishing the results and materials of the later (1968-1985) excavations. In consequence we can state that the hoard in/from Ariuşd can be included to the valuable deposits of the Cucuteni-Tripolje cultural complex (Hăbăşeşti, Cărbuna, Horodnica II and Chetroşica). The simplest explanation for the surrender of these sites might be some hostile actions. Nevertheless, there are some general regularities concerning the components (copper bracelets and beads, deer teeth pendants). The circumstances in which the objects were hidden within the finds, suggest that the possibility of some ritual practices and sacral believes cannot be excluded either. However these problems step across the limits of this paper and will be solved possibly in the future studies.

  • Issue Year: 2007
  • Issue No: II
  • Page Range: 49-66
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: Hungarian