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Cristian DIMA, Cătălin BORANGIC


Miniature wagons made of iron or bronze or other material represents a very rare category of small-finds with special significance and symbolism that could be encountered in different periods of time. However, beginning with the 4th century BC, this type of artefact is no longer present in Europe in the space occupied by Celts, Thracians, Illyrian, Scythian or other barbarian population, despite a well attested tradition of the First Iron Age or Bronze Age. In the Greco-Roman cultural space, the metal miniature chariots are also rare, with only few representations. Whilst, small terracotta chariots or wheeled animals are wider-spread and discovered in votive pits, favissae, and funerary contexts. In the pre-Roman territories from Central Europe and, later, in different northern Roman provinces, this phenomenon could be related through a large variety of miniature and model-wheels with symbolic character found in several sanctuaries or temples, votive pits or graves, even though none of these wheels could be related by now with votive or funerary wagons or carts.

In this paper it will be presented a special case, quite uncommon for the Second Iron Age. New discoveries come to prove that this type of artefact is present in Dacian milieu. The wagon models, model wheels belonging to a wagon and miniature wheels were discovered in a small proportion and exclusively in the intra-Carpathian space, mostly south-western Transylvania. Of all these discoveries, two are miniature wheels in form of pendants with plenty of analogies in Central European La Tѐne repertoire; four are fragmentary model wheels that could have belong to a wagon; and one model-wagon, recently discovered, which has almost all its components, with no analogies in the same chronological sequence. The main core of this study is to discuss the archaeological contexts and chronology of the Dacian model-wagons, miniature and model-wheels in relation with the other category of artefacts associated in the context. It will be presented similar practice and deposition from other contemporary cultural spaces, but, also from other timeframes, and finally it will be tried to understand their function, signification and symbolism.


The object from which this research began is a fragmentary miniature model-wheel discovered after illegal metal detection, recovered by National Heritage Police in 2016, being part of an on-going law investigation. The artefact is now in the National Museum of Romanian History (MNIR) collection and was found, according to the first declarations, in the Orăştie Mountains area, most likely from the Luncani – Piatra Roşie Dacian (Hunedoara County, Romania) fortress or Costeşti-Cetăţuie (Hunedoara County, Romania) Dacian fortress. It was discovered with other approximately 200 different objects, mostly tools. The wheel model, most probably part of a wagon-model (fig.1/a), is made of bronze and iron. The hub of the wheel is bronze cast, while the fragmentary iron spokes were made by forging. The middle part of the hub has maximum 2.7cm in diameter, while the preserved spokes are about 3.5cm length. The perforation for the axle in the hub has 1 cm in diameter and probably the diameter of the entire wheel was between 10 and 13 cm.

Another object comes from Luncani – Piatra Roşie Dacian fortress (fig.1/e), discovered in 1949 in the main archaeological research on this site, in the so-called “natural cavity” context, a sinkhole, together with several other artefacts. The object is a fragmentary axle and wheel of a miniature cart or wagon (Daicoviciu 1954, 89, pl.XV/fig.2). The object consists in a rectangular bar, with two perforations to which the body of the wagon was attached. The bar was bended at the ends, forming the axle on which there was preserved a wheel with broken spokes. The wheel had eight spokes made in iron, as all the other preserved parts. The axle is of 16 cm length, the diameter of the preserved wheel is of 4.5 cm, and the width of the axle is 1.5-1.8cm.

At Sighişoara-Wietenberg site (Mureş County, Romania), during old excavations, a small iron wheel (Horedt / Seraphin 1971, 84, fig.67/5) with a diameter of 18cm (fig.1/d) was found. On the wellshaped hub were originally eight spokes. This and the wheel rim had been broken up into individual pieces, and, since they were strongly oxidized, they could only be joined together according to their probable cohesion. Because of its small diameter, the author of the discovery mentions that the wheel could hardly have been used for profane purposes, belonging to a cult cart or wagon. The wheel was found in a pit at 60cm depth, near a silver brooch.

Fig.1. Model-wheels and miniatural wheels in form of: a Piatra Roşie/Costeşti-Cetăţuie (photo C.Borangic); b Sighişoara-Wietenberg (after Horedt/Seraphin 1971); c Măgura Moigradului (after Matei/Pop 2001); d Sighişoara-Wietenberg (photo C.Borangic); e Piatra Roşie (after Daicoviciu 1954)

Fig.2. Model-wagon: Miercurea Sibiului (after Natea 2016).

A fragmentary wheel was also found during old excavations at the Piatra Craivii fortress (Alba County, Romania). The wheel, made of iron, has a diameter with a range of 13 and 15 cm. The object was discovered on the 5th terrace of the settlement (Plantos 2016).

The complete model wagon was discovered during the preventive researches on the Transylvania highway project, on the archaeological site of Miercurea Sibiului IV (Sibiu County, Romania). The wagon has 13.5cm height, a length of 42cm and a width of 25.5cm (fig.2). All components were made by forging and riveting of three layers of iron with a thickness of 5mm, welded by 8 rivets. In the upper part, the wagon has twisted bars on each side, and, on the shorter sides, handles were provided. In the corners, these bars are fixed on the wagon with an iron button. The four hubs of the wheels were bronze casted. The five spokes of the two restored wheels were also made of iron. The diameter of the hub was 3.7cm, whilst the hole for the axle was 0.8cm and the total diameter of wheel 13cm (Luca et al. 2013, 68; Natea 2016, 76-78, pl.16-17).

Miniature wheels are a small frequency discovery. Only two of these types were discovered in Dacian archaeological sites, in form of pendants. The first one comes from the Sighişoara-Wietenberg settlement (Horedt/Seraphin 1971, fig.63/2; Rustoiu 1996, 126, fig.87/6; Andriţoiu/Rustoiu 1997, 114, fig.118/6), probably from a pit similar with the one where the model wheel was discovered. The wheel is made of bronze with four spokes. At the end of the spokes, outside the rim, it had two ornaments (fig.1/b). The dimension of the wheel is 4.4cm in diameter and it was dated between the second half of 2nd century BC and the 1st century BC, according with the analogies from Central Europe (Rustoiu 1996, 126).

The second miniature wheel comes from Măgura Moigradului (Zalău County, Romania) (Matei/Pop 2001, 262, pl.2/2), discovered in a grave-pit, together with a globular pendant, pottery fragments and the upper parts of a woman skeleton. The fragmentary wheel pendant made in silver has three spokes and its diameter has 3.5cm (fig.1/c). Chronologically, this wheel was dated in the same period as the one mentioned above, according to the same analogies and also in relation with another pendant found in the same context.


For the La Tène period, in Central Europe, there is no evidence of complete model-wagons, or even parts of wagons, as there are known for earlier eras like the so-called Kassel Wagen from Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. Also, for the case of the wheel models identified in sanctuaries, civil space or graves, it was assumed that there are no elements to suggest the presence of these ones as part of a miniature wagon (Kiernan 2009, 11-39; Schönfelder 2000, 159-161). Wheel models or miniatures of La Tène, mostly bronze and lead, more rarely silver or gold, are of a few centimeters diameter, with a range of 5 to 120 mm. They have four to twelve spokes and represent more likely stylized wheels and just the more detailed ones could designate a wheel model, some of them with precisely designed hubs (Kiernan 2009, 12; Schönfelder 2000, 159-161). Up to now, no more detailed function assignment was made beyond the general description as an amulet or jewellery (Schönfelder 2000, 159-161) or as votive offerings for the ones discovered in temples, sanctuaries or pits (Kiernan 2009, 11-39).

As jewelry or amulet, an example is the bracelet with wheel pendants which comes from the grave #2 from Canly “Les Trois Noyers” (Oise). The bracelet itself is highly corroded. Three coppers alloy elements were threaded onto its ring: two much damaged wheels of about 2cm diameter perforated at the center, and one small hollow cylinder, with a diameter of 1.1cm and 1cm high (Gaudefroy/Pinard 1997, 9798). Also, four Late Iron Age and one early Roman cremation burials in the cemetery at Wederath (Belgium) contained wheel models that were located on the corpse at the time of cremation and not added later. The grave goods were associated with fibulas and beads and for one grave several miniature wheels were attached to a single necklace (Kiernan 2009, 15). More evidence for using this kind of artefact as dress accessories could be found in the use of wheel models attached to fibulae, as the two form the numerous brooches found at Stradonice (Czech Republic), where one has attached on it with a bronze chain a four spokes wheel, and the other one has a wheel threaded onto the pin through one of the gaps between the spokes (Pic 1906, 61-62, pl.X; Déchelete 1914, fig.2-3; Kiernan 2009, 15, fig.2-3).

In Celtic pre-Roman and Gallo-Roman space, wheels as votive offerings are wide spread, being large scale finds in temples and ritual deposits. The earliest mention as an archaeological phenomenon is at the hilltop oppidum site of Boviolles (La Meuse, France), where thousands of miniature wheels were found (Kiernan 2009, 16). Wheel models were also discovered in other oppida sites as Manching (Bavaria, Germany) (van Enderd 1991, 17), Stradonice (fig.3) (Pic 1906, 61-62, pl.X), Mt. Beuvray-Bibracte (France) (Kiernan 2009, 16), even if not in so large number. Other large scale deposit related with a watery context, most likely a ritual deposit that was uncovered in the river Lorie near Orléans (France), with about 2000 wheels models and numerous coins (Kiernan 2009, 17). More wheels were found in the Nanteuil-surAisne, “Nepellier” site (Ardennes, France), a Romano-Celtic temple build on top of an Iron Age sanctuary that was used till the IVth century AD (Lambot 1989; Kiernan 2009, 17-18). The wheels found here also in numbers of thousands were made of lead, potin, and bronze. Without other information, two separate concentrations of lead and bronze wheels where found inside the cellar walls but could also belong to the Iron Age sanctuary (Kiernan 2009, 18). As well, other depositions of miniature wheels were found in the site of Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (Aisne, France), both bronze and lead, dated between 50 and 20/15 BC (Debrot et al. 1988, 132; Kiernan 2009, 19). One of the highest agglomerations of votive wheels comes from votive depositions inside an Iron Age sanctuary at Villeneuve-au-Châtelot (Aube, France) (Piette 1981; Kiernan 2009, 20). From here there are known 310 bronze wheels, 32 silver, and approx. 25000 lead wheels, all of them, except two silver wheels, were part of a hoard of 1128 coins belonging to Iron Age and Augustan period, found in two ceramic vessels. The proof of the ritual nature of this hoard is given not only by the other votive offerings found in a large central pit that contained intentional destroyed weapons, coins and animal bones, but also because most of the coins belonging to this hoard had been mutilated with two chisel marks giving the ritual nature of it (Kiernan 2009, 20).

Fig.3. a Miniature and model-wheels: Inscription on a wheel from Kamiros (Rhodos) (after Van Straten 1981); b-f Stradonice (Czech Republic) (after PIC 1906).

As jewelry hanger and votive offerings, miniature wheels can be observed even up to the Roman imperial period (Schönfelder 2000, 159-161), mostly in North Gaul, where small metal votive wheels appear in some cult or profane places, related with a pre-Roman tradition (Roymans 1990, 78). Some of the wheels are discovered individual, or in small groups. An interesting example is a wheel found in Augst, Augusta Raurica (Basel, Switzerland) in a temple site, found together with other several wheels, all dating to the first to third centuries AD. The wheel is a large bronze model (80 mm), in two pieces, that bore an inscription along the rim: …]RMA[ ] PER BENEFICARIVS V [S] L [M] (Kiernan 2009, 21). Another wheel that has an inscription along the rim (IOVI OPTIMO MAXIMO) was found in a pit next to the Romano-Celtic sanctuary at Matagne-la-Petite (Belgium). The offering of wheels in temples and sanctuaries is also present in other periods or cultural spaces, and, mostly, the offering was specially realised for the occasions, as the bronze wheel of 7.5 cm length (fig.3), dated 550-525 BC, dedicated by a smith in Kamiros (Rhodos, Greece), with the inscription “Onesos the smith has dedicated me to Apollo: a cartwheel” (van Straten 1981, 94, fig. 33). Wheels were also been found outside the sacred areas, as for example the wheel models found in a Roman vicus at Liberchies (Belgium) (Doyen 1984, 25, fig. 1A,1B; Kiernan 2009, 23) or a wheel model from a Roman villa at Treignes (Belgium) (Doyen 1985, 20-21; Kiernan 2009, 23). Wheel models in small groups or individual are present also in Britain, but not in large deposit, as for example two bronze wheel models from Great Walsingham (United Kingdom), or another one, found in a hoard of bronze items buried in a pit at Felmingham Hall (United Kingdom) (Kiernan 2009, 23). On the German limes, though wheel fibulae are quite common, true wheel models are rare. Two large bronze wheels, both with eight spokes, were found in the north gate (dm. 85 mm) and the vicus bath (dm. 90 mm) of a small fort at Böhming (Germany), dated between 90 and 234 AD. Both wheels wear the remains of the iron axels inside the hub and, most likely, they were parts of miniature wagons or chariots (Kiernan 2009, 22).

Taking this in consideration, there must be noticed that, except of the wheel models from Böhming, and, with certain doubts, the one from Augusta Raurica, there is no evidence of metal wagon models for the Iron Age or Roman period. A distinct case is represented by the wagon discovered in a burial at Rodenkirchen in Cologne (Germany), dated in late 4th century AD (Kiernan 2009, 201-202; Hanemann 2014, 279). The cart was built from five parts: the axels and the pole connecting the wagon to the yoke are in one single piece, the pole attached to the undercarriage by a simple hinge, and four damaged wheels, each with eight spokes, fit on the axels of the undercarriage. The double yoke of the wagon fits on the necks to the back of two model oxen. The cart measures 15 cm, and the axels are 6 cm long. It is without its upper section, which could be made of wood. This wagon was included in a phenomenon of the socalled “Mithrassymbole”, along with other grave discoveries in the area of Cologne (further discussion about “Mithrassymbole” see Kiernan 2009, 195-210). Thus its similarities with other wagons from other periods, even the presence of the oxen, no association could be made with them, the “Mithrassymbole” models being a particular case that has nothing to do with miniature and model votive offerings presented above.

Going back in time, in Greek and Thracian space, there are several discoveries of metal wagons found exclusively in funerary context. The highest number of metal carts is in the Archontiko cemetery (Greece), where were discovered 15 two-wheeled carts and six four-wheeled carts, all dated between 6th and 5th c.BC (del Socorro 2013, 56). In the Sindos necropolis (Greece), dated in late 6th century BC and the beginning of the 5th century BC, in six graves there were found small iron and bronze wagon and chariot models (Vokotopoulou 1996, 102-147; Theodosiev 2000, 188-191; del Socorro 2013, 53-59), similar models in a grave in Peperia at Vergina (Greece), dated to 500–490 BC, in the cemetery of Aiani (Greece) (end of 6th – beginning of 5th c.BC), in the cemetery at Pydna were was found a lead chariot model in a pit grave (5th c.BC), another cart (4th c.BC) in a cist grave of the same necropolis, and a bronze model of chariot was found in the cist grave of a child, #26 of the 5th century BC, excavated in the cemetery at Michalitsi (Greece) (Theodosiev 2000, 188-189). Most of the carts found were made of iron; their average width in Sindos is of 16 cm and their average length is of 30cm, including the yoke. There is no significant difference in size between the two-wheeled and the four-wheeled carts. Every cart is unique in its shape: some are quite plain while others are more elaborated (del Socorro 2013, 56). The wagon models cease being deposited in the 4th century in the Macedonian necropolis, the last surviving example being represented at Pydna, tomb 45, which is larger than the others, but without reaching the dimensions of a life-size one (del Socorro 2017, 110).

Metal model wagon are a much wider appearance for the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. The Bronze Age wagon models belong to the Urne Field culture are known as vessel-carrying wagon models (Kesselwagen) provided as grave goods, in the vessel being carried the cremated remains of the deceased. Some of these wagons also have water-birds protomes and were found in Acholshausen (Germany), Peckatel (Germany), Skallerup (Denmark), Milaveč (Czech Republic) (Pare 1989, 82; Pare 1992, 179). This evolved later in Villanovan and Hallstatt cultures of the Early Iron Age in different parts of Europe, majority in Italy, also related with a funerary practice (Pare 1992, 177186). This kind of wagon were also found in Carpathian Basin, some of them being decorated with water birds protomes, for example, the Kesselwagen from Bujoru (Teleorman County, Romania) belonging to Basarabi culture (Pare 1992, 181, 184, fig. 126; Vulpe 2000, 44, fig. 28) (fig.4/b) or the ones discovered in Orăştie (Hunedoara County, Romania) (Pare 1992, 181, 184, fig.125; Schuster 2007, 33) (fig.4/a) and Glasinac (Bosnia Herzegovina) (Pare 1992, 181) (fig.4/c).


Returning to the miniature wagons belonging to Dacian milieu, in relation with the chronological frame and archaeological contexts identification and interpretation, several difficulties are given due to the small amount of information. For the wheel fragment recovered from illegal detection, along with other several artefacts, it is difficult to establish the specific area where it was discovered and much more difficult to identify the archaeological context. At the same time, the wheel fragment could be chronological framed only in relation with the period of existence of the Dacian fortresses and settlements from Orăştie Mountains.

The wheel model fragment from Piatra Craivii fortress comes from old excavations and the only information related with this artefact is that was found on the 5th terrace of the fortress (cf. Plantos 2016). This terrace is one of the most researched areas of the fortress in the years 1960-1970, being positioned on the East side of the fortified precinct (Berciu et al. 1965; Moga 1981; Plantos 2006, 7-24). Here, a rectangular shaped sanctuary was discovered that had, most likely, four rows (David 1999, 39, 46, fig. 5; Plantos 2006, 14) of wooden pillars placed on round plinth. Full unveiling of the terrace brought to the light several burned layers coming from the burning of the sanctuary, in which except artefacts, few disturbed plinths were discovered. As well, it is mentioned that were excavated five ritual pits that contained rest of cereals, vessel deposits, weapons and animal bones (Berciu et al. 1965, 126). According to the authors of the diggings, the sanctuary contained a rich inventory, without mentioning which one exactly, presenting the archaeological material from the fifth terrace all together, without an evidence of the archaeological contexts or stratigraphic position (Berciu et al. 1965; Moga 1981; Plantos 2006, 7-24). The inventory of artefacts from here is formed from several metal objects as buckles, brooches, pendants, weapons, vessels etc. and it was dated between the first century BC and the beginning of the first century AD.

Fig.4. Early iron age model-wagons with water-birds protomes: a Orăştie (photo C.Dima); b Bujoru (after C.Borş); c Glasinac (photo C.Dima)

The wagon discovered from Miercurea Sibiului was recently published with all the archaeological details of the archaeological context. The author of discovery mentioned that the wagon comes from a pit without any other artefacts, and was interpreted as votive pit (Natea 2016, 76). This site was interpreted as a fortified settlement with two chronological layers, in the first one being framed the context with the model wagon. Also, other pits were discovered in this layer, considered as ritual pits, with one, two or three ceramic vessels as deposition. Contemporary with these pits were three living complexes and two domestic ovens. In the second layer, in pits or living complexes the inventory comprises different metal objects as weaponry or harness fittings, spurs, brooches, but also a silver coin hoard of Greek drachmas and Roman denarii. In this chronological phase were also framed four inhumation graves, inside of the fortified area. The first phase in which the wagon model was framed was dated in between the end of 3rd century and the middle of 2nd century BC, based on two silver coins (Luca et al. 2013, 68; Natea 2016, 76-96).

The iron wheel from Sighişoara-Wietenberg was discovered in a pit at 60cm depth in connection with a silver brooch (Horedt / Seraphin 1971, 84, fig. 67/5) that was framed in the type 15a (Rustoiu) (Rustoiu 1997, 48) and it has the origins in Gaule, more than a half of the brooches being discovered in this area, whilst few of them were discovered in Britain, Italy, Greece, pre-Roman Dacia and at north of the Black Sea. These brooches were dated in the second half of the first century BC, but for Dacian milieu, being considered as import object, the chronological frame could be extended till the first quarter of the first century AD (Rustoiu 1997, 48). The iron wheel was interpreted as part of a miniature wagon, giving as analogy the miniature axis with fragmentary wheel from Piatra-Roşie (Horedt / Seraphin 1971, 84), but was also believed, because of its rarity in the Dacian milieu, to be a modern object (Andriţoiu / Rustoiu 1997, 110). New records shown here prove that this kind of artefact is well enough attested in pre-Roman Dacia. On the Sighişoara-Wietenberg site, a great number of pits were found with different functionality. Many of them were placed inside the settlement and some of them even inside the living buildings, with the function of food storage containers that end up in some waste pits. Other pits were found outside the settlement, most of them being related with funeral, cultic and magic manifestation. In some contexts, there were placed human bones without anatomical connection related with the so-called “pit fields” (Sîrbu 1994b, 48). As well, other ritual pits were discovered, which comprise burned animal bones and ceramic fragments (Horedt / Seraphin 1971; Andriţoiu / Rustoiu 1997). Unfortunately, there is no evidence of all contexts inventory and even if the iron wheel is said that was discovered in a pit with a brooch, there cannot be made any assumption if the pit had other inventory, or not.

Related with the “natural cavity” from Piatra Roşie, there are several discussions upon this context. The inventory of this context it is formed from a La Tène type sword, a “Thracian” bit, spear butts, a wagon model axel with a broken wheel, a fragmentary situla handle, a bronze vessel, an iron vessel, a fragmentary curved blade, a bronze three nozzle lamp, a spindle weight and some other unidentified metal fragments. The sinkhole was interpreted by the C.Daicoviciu, as a disposal pit where unnecessary objects were thrown there (Daicoviciu 1954, 66). In the monograph of the fortress, there are no specifications about the archaeological digging details and, only from a note found in the National Museum of Transylvanian History (MNIT) deposits, together with several objects from this context, it is mentioned that a bronze vessel was found at the West edge of the section of the “basin-pit”, at a deep of 0.50m. From the note, signed by N.Gostar in July 1949, it can be understood that the section was orientated East-West and it is also specified that this context is a “basin-pit”. K. Strobel (1998, 210) argues that this context could not represent a residual pit and nor it can be filled by the debris of a first catastrophic fire and argues that this represents a ritual deposit pit, with a cultic significance, related with the cult of water, phenomenon better known in the Celtic and Germanic world. Other hypothesis is that the known inventory of this context could represent the elements of a funerary context (Popa 2008, 359). Giving the presence nearby of a building related with religious field and of a probably votive pit in the north slope, where several decorated iron disks were deposited (Florea/Ferencz 2007, 47), the “natural cavity’’ can be also interpreted as a deposit (favissa) of votive objects that were offered in the cult space and later “buried” in the sinkhole.

The axle and the wheel from Piatra Roşie, have a series of difficulties related with the dating in relation with the objects discovered in the archaeological context. The three nozzle lamp made of bronze discovered in this context along with other similar lamp that comes from Dacian site Piscu Crăsani (Ialomiţa County, Romania) (Andrieşescu 1926, 85-87, fig.277; Glodariu 1974, 237, pl.34/b12/a) have analogies in Hellenistic world, almost identical one being discovered in Athenian Agora (Perlzweig 1963, fig.69), chronologically framed in Late Hellenistic period. Other similar lamps, produced, most likely, in the Greek workshops, were discovered in Pompei (Franken 1996, 292, fig.8-9) or in the shipwreck of Mahdia (Franken 1996, 295-296, fig.12-15). The lamp from Piatra Roşie was included in the Spargi type and was dated in the last century BC (Egri/Rustoiu 2008, 7980). The Celtic type sword has a period of utility in Dacian milieu according with some authors of the second century BC until the first AD, although the majority of the discoveries belong to the frame comprise between 2nd and 1st century BC. The sword from Piatra Roşie has some particularities that are slightly different having the top of the sword sharpen and not round as other swords of Celtic type. The situla handle was dated between 1st century BC – 1st century AD and considered an import from the italic milieu (Glodariu 1974, 238). However, this kind of bronze cast situlae handles have more parallels in the Hellenistic space, but many of them were also found in Celtic milieu, being difficult to date and identify the situla type only on the basis of the handle. Hence, the archaeological context and as well the axle could be chronological framed between 2nd and 1st century BC.

In conclusion, related with the chronology, the model wagon, and the wheel fragments and, as well for the wheel pendants, could be dated between 2nd–1st century BC, with the possibility to extend to the first decades of the first century AD.


One of the most difficult discussions is related with the interpretation of archaeological context. In the first place, there is a significant lack of information regarding the archaeological reports of the discoveries, but also a difficulty in the interpretation of the context. Thus, it must be noticed that the majority of the model wagons or carts, discovered in different periods of time, are related with some funerary practice. Taking this into account, there was considered by many authors that the presence of the both life-size chariots and wagon models in graves reflects in the first place the funerary rite of ekphora: the ritual procession of caring the dead person to the grave. This practice is well attested in the painted pottery of the Greek Geometric and Archaic period, and even by a miniature clay chariot discovered in Vari, Attica (Theodossiev 2000, 190). This ritual is very similar also in other spaces or cultures. Going further, the chariots have also a cultic role in funerary rites and could symbolize the travel of the dead into the chthonian world (Pare 1989, 80-100; Pare 1992, 177-186; Theodossiev 2000, 190).

In Dacian milieu, due to the reduced number of identified aristocratic necropolises, the presence of chariots related with funerary rituals is highly reduced. From the necropolises that are known, the defunct of tumulus #2 from Cugir necropolis was buried with an entire ceremonial chariot (Crişan 1980, 81-86; Rustoiu 2002, 52; Popa 2011, 326329). Other likely funerary context with chariot fittings was discovered at Costeşti-Cetăţuie (Glodariu et al. 1998, 50; Gheorghiu 2005, 208). For the case of Popeşti (Vulpe 1976, 214, fig. 5/10; 11/2) and Radovanu (Vulpe 1976, 208, fig. 18), the number of presumed chariot fittings does not support the presence of an entire life-size chariot, but it could represent maybe a “pars pro toto” deposition (?). The replacement of life-size ceremonial chariots used for funerary rituals with symbolic elements as yoke, lynch pins or pairs of bits, is a practice well attested in Central Europe for several necropolis (Schönfelder 2000, 336-346). Thus, the presence of the miniature model wagons in some funerary contexts could be related with a symbolic gesture of replacing the life-size chariot, just suggesting the object as a “pars pro toto”. Moreover, in many cases, the grave furniture tries to rebuild the life of the dead person, placing also, as in the case of Sindos necropolis, miniaturised models of chairs, tables or beds, given with a symbolic feature, rebuilding the quotidian life. In the same way, it is important to underline that the use of real-size ceremonial carts in funerary practice of Early Iron Age represents a phenomenon contemporaneous with the use of Cauldrons wagons carrying the cremated remains of the defunct (Pare 1992, 177-186).

However, the interpretation of archaeological discovery context for the model wagons and wheels fragments of the Dacian milieu is not clear and an interpretation of all of them as being in relation with funerary rituals is still difficult to be proved. For the wheel model fragment discovered by treasure hunters there cannot be made any assumption in relation with the archaeological context.

In case of the wheel and the axle discovered inside the “natural cavity” of Piatra Rosie, analyzing all the hypotheses presented above, it is still difficult to interpret the context. In the first place, the presence of an entire body of a sword but also an undamaged bronze lamp, as expensive objects, rules out the waste deposition theory.

Considering a water cult deposition, for the Dacian milieu, there are few archaeological contexts that could be related with such manifestation, placed in Extra-Carpathian area having some particularities. Some of this are placed near a water course and others representing actually wells. The inventory comprises ceramics, habitual drinking vessels, alimentary offerings or rests from banquets, and metal objects, mostly tools, but also some weapons as spears, arrowheads, daggers etc. (Sîrbu 1987, 73-75; Sîrbu 2006, 53-54). For example, the inventory at Conţeşti (Argeş County, Romania), on the shore of the Bârcă Lake, identified 45 arrowheads, 12 knife blades, 5 spurs, 5 brooches, fragments from a horse bit, a ring, a pendant and a fragmentary glass bracelet (Vulpe / Popescu 1976, 217-226). Hence, it is hard to admit that the inventory of the “natural cavity” could be related with a deposition in connection with a cult of water because, in the first place, a sinkhole formed by water erosion and providing a route for surface water to disappear underground does not sustain water for long periods of time. In the same time, the other inventories known both in Dacian milieu but also the analogies from Celtic or Germanic spaces contain an inventory with a big number of artefacts, usually in connection with an area of activity.

As votive hoard, as are known in Dacian milieu, it is again hard to be accepted comparing this context with the richness of the other known offerings for the gods. Related with votive offerings, it was noted that from the approximately 50 cult sanctuaries, until now, neither in sacred precinct, neither close by, were not discovered animal or human offerings or other kind of gifts for the gods, as precious metal, weapons, jewelry, tools, recipients with food offering (Sîrbu 1994b, 39). However, an exception could be made for the deposits of golden spiral bracelets discovered by illegal detection at Sarmizegetusa Regia (Hunedoara County, Romania), although the exact archaeological context it is still unknown. As well as, for the rectangular sanctuary from the 5th terrace of Piatra Craivii fortress, it was assumed by the authors of the diggings that 5 cult-pits where found, that contained remains of cereals, vessel deposits, weapons and animal bones (Berciu et al. 1965, 126). Therefore, as a votive deposit (favissae) in relation with the cultic building could be a more appropriate interpretation at least for the deposition of the three nozzle lamps, the bronze vessel or the iron one, the Celtic type sword and even of the fragmentary wagon parts.

However, there must be noticed that the resemblance between the aristocratic funerary inventory and the objects from this complex, makes more plausible the interpretation of this context as funerary one. As well, the position of the sinkhole is accordingly with the other known aristocratic necropolis. Due to the situation of the lack of funerary context, and also the small quantity of information in relation with the known funerary contexts, mostly coming from fortunate discoveries, or illegal detection, the study of the funerary phenomenon has certain limits. Certain “patterns” regarding the position of the necropolis were followed by several authors (Popa 2008, 362; Rustoiu 2015, 349-367), mostly related with the aristocratic necropolis, as the graves belonging to ordinary people from the inside of Carpathian range and the Lower Danube region are unidentified archeologically, as in large areas of Europe (Sîrbu 2000, 162; Rustoiu 2015, 359; Pupeză 2014, 62).

In relation with the funerary inventories of the warrior elite, it must be noticed that they contain weaponry, which defines the panoply characteristic, phenomenon conventionally designated as Padea-Panagjurski Kolony group on the basis of two cemeteries discovered on the territories of Romania and Bulgaria (Woźniak 1974, 74-138). However, certain elements of the funerary rite and ritual are different from one region to another and doesn`t reflect the entire complexity of the problem related to the ethnicity, history and civilizations. The funerary inventories of these graves contain weapons, as long swords of the La Tène type, spears, curved daggers, shields and occasionally chain-mails and helmets associated with harness fittings, as the “Thracian” bit (Sîrbu 1994a, 123-159; Rustoiu 2002, 11-40; Rustoiu 2015, 349-367; Sîrbu / Borangic 2016, 41-47) and also in some graves a spur (Dima 2005, 182). In the graves, there are also placed ceramic vessels, related with the funerary banquet and funerary sacrifices. In some cases, especially in the necropolises where systematic researches were made, the inventory can contain bronze situlae, chariot fittings or, in the case of Cugir (Alba County, Romania) tumuli necropolis, an entire chariot, or other elements that belonged to the defunct.

Regarding the position of the necropolis, it must be noticed that the tumuli necropolis from the fortress of Cugir are placed on the most abrupt slope, close to the short edge of the fortification. In the case of other Dacian fortifications, which include uncertain burials, the situation is slightly different, both at Piatra-Craivii (Popa 2008, 357; Rustoiu 2015, 361), Costesti-Cetăţuie (Glodariu et al. 1998, 50; Gheorghiu 2005, 208) and Ardeu (Hunedoara County, Romania) (Pescaru et al. 2002; Ferencz/Dima 2009, 20; Ferencz 2013, 216), the burials and the items that can have a funerary role were recovered outside the citadel, on the slopes, or at the base of the hill, on the long side of the fortifications. This likely “pattern” was also followed in the case of the other burials next to Dacian fortresses within the Carpathian basin, but with no warrior burials found (Popa 2008, 362). A. Rustoiu (2015, 361) argues that due to the small number of graves and the similitudes in the funerary rite and funerary practice, the cemetery of Cugir probably belonged to the founding family that controlled the fortress and was also established on a visible location, close to the fortress and to the access road to the precinct. Taking this into consideration, related with funerary space, it must be noticed that the presumed tumulus from the Ardeu Dacian fortress is also near the access road (Pescaru et al. 2002; Ferencz/Dima 2009, 20; Ferencz 2013, 216). Thus, the “natural cavity” from Piatra Roşie fortress has some similarities related with the place of tumulus from the Cugir and Ardeu fortresses, being close, but outside of the fortress and near the access road to the precinct, and it could represent a funerary context as well.

The wagon model from Miercurea Sibiului was presented as votive chariot, but there are no similarities to suggest this kind of votive offering neither in the Dacian milieu or in other cultural spaces or other periods of time. The pit discovered was inside the settlement on the acropolis along with other pits interpreted as cult-pits, but there is still scarce information in order to make any other interpretations. However, this context cannot be interpreted as grave-pit in the lack of cremated remains or other similar contexts in the site. The situation is similar for the case of the wheel discovered in the Sighişoara-Wietenberg site, where the pit can be interpreted either as cult-pit or as grave-pit, considering the other pits from the site.

The wheel that comes from the fifth terrace of Piatra Craivii fortress must be placed in connection with the sanctuary, even if there are certain doubts related with context. The wheel could have been placed in a pit inside or outside the sanctuary or could be found in the layers of the sanctuary. Therefore, even if it was a fragment from a model wagon or just a single model wheel, its signification and context are most likely related with a votive offering.

It must be acknowledged that the presence of wagon model in Dacian milieu represents a phenomenon rather rare, if not unique in the Second Iron Age period, with no analogies in other cultural spaces. The wagon model discovered recently at Miercurea Sibiului represents, by now, the single wagon that has all the elements and could represent an image of some of the life-size Dacian wagons. This model wagon also gives the possibility of rebuilding the image of the other model-wagons that were only presumed on the existence of the wheel fragments. Thus, the wheel fragment discovered by illegal detection has similar features like the wheels of the Miercurea Sibiului wagon and most likely it represents also a wheel from other similar cart. Moreover, this wheel, even if it was found in the fortress of Piatra Roşie, is different from the wheel fragment with axel discovered in the so-called “natural pit” of the same fortress and could not form a pair with it. Hence, the last one comes from a different wagon model. For the iron wheel discovered in the site of Sighişoara-Wietenberg, and also for the one discovered at Piatra Craivii fortress, it is difficult to establish if it belonged to a model wagon or if it represents a miniature wheel offering as in the case of the ones discovered in Central Europe in pre-Roman sanctuaries or later in Gallo-Roman temples. As it was mentioned above, for the votive model wheels it was never proposed that could represent fragments of miniature chariots or wagons. Elements of real chariots have been found in both sanctuaries and graves in the Late Iron Age of Europe, even in the Dacian milieu, which can give the possibility that model wheels were substitutes for real-size chariots or wagons (Kiernan 2009, 29). However, it must be noticed that both for Piatra Craivii and more for the one of Sighişoara-Wietenberg, the dimension of the wheel is significantly bigger from the ones presented in the pre-Roman sanctuaries or graves from Central Europe and probably they belong to a model wagon. As jewelry, in the Dacian milieu there were identified only two-wheel pendants with analogies in Central Europe, related with a solar cult.

Nevertheless, in some cases, the presence of metal or clay chariots in child graves, and also in other contexts, could be also related with the games. Both at Greeks and Romans, there were several celebrations where the chariot played an important role. On several painted vases, the celebration of Anthesteria is represented, where children appear in small chariots pulled by other children or animals, as dogs or goats. For the wheel-models that preserve also fragments of axle as the ones from the fort of Böhming, due the non-cultic archaeological context, it could be assumed that could have belonged to a toy chariot of a young boy. Companion of the boys during the childhood, the chariot accompanies the child often in the grave, too, for example the cist grave of Michalitsi from Macedonia. In this case the chariot represents a toy, but also could be related with the Ekphora, as in the case of many other tombs from northern Greece, where the same type of miniature chariots was placed in adult graves. In the case of the wheeled animals, present in the graves and also in sanctuaries, the interpretation is definitely of a toy (Dasen 2012, 14). In many Roman provinces, clay wheels and depiction of Cucullati riding a wheeled horse were placed in temples, related with the skill field of Telesphorus being easily related to childhood (Antal 2016, 200). However, for Dacian milieu, in the lack of the information regarding the archaeological context inventories, it is difficult to place the model wagon or wheels in connection with games, even if in the Sighişoara-Wietenberg site were discovered also child grave-pits.

The symbolism of the wheel, either as votive offering inside of sanctuary or temples or as funerary good, is associated with the disk of the sun in many cultural spaces or timeframes given by the similarities of wheel and sun, the movement of both and the common motif of a solar chariot moving across the sky are the basic ideas behind this symbol (Kirenan 2009, 34). Also, there must be noticed a strong connection for the chariots belonging to the Late Bronze Age, and First Age of Iron, with a solar cult. The presence of water-birds on many Kesselwagens and also on other types of wagons has an important significance in the travel of the dead to the other world. Moreover, the symbolic association between wagon, vessel and water birds, furnish the evidence for a continued use of this kind of wagons from the Bronze Age to Hallstatt period and furthermore for the long survival of the cult, the concept of Kesselwagens with water-birds surviving at least until the 3rd century BC in the Balkans (Pare 1989, 97; Pare 1992, 181-183). Furthermore, this could be placed in relation with water-birds protomes discovered in the Dacian fortress from Costeşti-Cetăţuie (fig.5/d-e) and Sarmizegetusa Regia (Iaroslavschi 1997, 511-519) but as well with the interpretation of Gh.Bichir (1982, 154) of “solar wagon” for the fragmentary axle and wheel from Luncani - Piatra Roşie. In this idea, even if there is a big chronological gap, these artefacts are very similar in shape and size with the ones from Bujoru chariot especially, and also with the ones from Orăştie. These Dacian protomes were interpreted as metal vase handles, but also as attachments on a wagon (Iaroslavschi 1997, 513; Florea 2015, 18-20; Florea/Cristescu 2016, 146, fig. 12).

The association of chariot/wheel, water birds and vessel could be also considered in the case of the main tomb of Cugir tumulus. In this case the defunct was cremated on a life-size chariot, while the presence of the vessel and the water birds is suggested by a bronze situla with water-birds shaped handle (fig.5/a), placed in relation with the banquet. Similar graves are known as well in the case of the rich inventory of the grave 7 of San Maria di Zevio “Lazisetta” (Verona) (Bolla/Castoldi 2016, 121-155; cf. Božič 2017), where several objects used in the banquet are related with the water-birds handle. Same could be consider in the case of presumed wagon grave from Visagio, Ciringhelli (Verona) (cf. Božič 2017), but also the grave from Verna (Isère) (Perin/Schönfelder 2003).

In the Dacian archaeological sites where miniature wagon wheels were discovered there must be noted as well the presence of vessels with water-birds handles, even though there are not from the same context. This is the case for a situla handle (fig.5/b) discovered at Luncani - Piatra Roşie fortress by treasure hunters (Ferencz/Bodo 2000, 175, pl. II/1). The object does not have a clear context of discovery, but it is worthy to be mention that several chariot elements, a spear head and a bit, were part of the recovered artefacts. These objects could belong to a funerary inventory without any certitude whatsoever. From old diggings at Sighişoara-Wiettenberg site an iron handle with water-birds was discovered, but the archaeological context is unknown (Horedt/Seraphin 1971, 84, Abb. 67/4; Andriţoiu/Rustoiu 1997, 106. fig.114/1). Similar handles were also found at Costeşti-“Cetăţuie” (fig.5/c) (Glodariu 1974, 234, pl.XLV/B10/11; Mateescu-Suciu et al. 2016, 118, fig.10), Căpâlna (Glodariu/Moga 1989, 103, fig.87/4,8), Tilişca (Lupu 1989, 79, pl.22/18). The vessels (mostly situlae) with handles with water-birds originates either from Italic Peninsula, either were produced in Balkans and/ or the eastern Mediterranean, but also could be produced by local or travelling craftsmen (Egri/Berecki 2015, 134). Their utility is related with the wine consumption and their presence in the funerary context is connected with the funerary rituals and banquets. The vessels with water-birds handles discovered in graves together with chariot elements were most likely purchased for funeral ritual, representing a manifestation that originates in earlier periods, even though the meaning of this was not known anymore, or only by some of them. The presence of the water-birds in Dacian milieu show a taste for this kind of representation, fact also proven by several representations on pottery, on some architectural limestone, and also in case of some situla handles, buckles etc (Florea 2015, 18-20; Florea/Cristescu, 2016, 141-143). As well, the motive of the sun is symbolized on several artefacts as, for example, the curved dagger sicae, sometimes in association with birds, or on the curved swords of the type known as falx.

Fig.5. Situlae handles with water-birds: a Cugir (after Moga/Plantos 2017, 20); b Luncani - Piatra Roşie (photo C.Bodo, Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization); c Costeşti-Cetăţuie (after Mateescu-Suciu et al. 2016); d,e water-birds protomes discovered in Dacian fortification of Costeşti-Cetăţuie (modified and resized after Florea 2015)

Finally, the presence of water-birds, sun symbols, wheels and chariots in Dacian religious life, either if is related with funerary practice or votive offerings, proves a strong connection with religious ideas of other cultural spaces. The ceremonial chariot in funerary procession is related with Ekphora in the first place, but also with the belief of traveling to the gods. Placing the wheels or wagons in a votive offering is mostly related with a cult of the sun, and, also it could symbolize some kind of “mobile offering”, as a way in which the offering or the pray gets easier to the gods, the wagon representing the vehicle for transporting the offering.

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Модели на коли от късножелезния период. Пътуване до отвъдния свят или дарове за боговете?
Кристиан ДиМа / Кътълин БоранДжиК
находки на модели на коли и колесници са редки за ранножелезния период. направени са от желязо, бронз или глина. Срещат се в дакийска среда по време, когато липсват в синхронни културни пространства в цяла Европа, където иначе са популярни през предходните бронзова епоха и ранножелезен период. Тогава те принадлежат на погребални контексти. археологическата среда на моделите в предримска Дакия обаче е неясна. и датировката им е точна само за две находки. Като цяло те се датират в ІІ ‒ І век пр. Хр. / първите десетилетия на І век сл. Хр. Поставянето на модели на коли като посветителни или гробни дарове се свързва с култа към слънцето, чиито корени са още в праисторическо време.

The miniature or model wagons and chariots made in iron, bronze or even clay represent a rare category of objects with special significance and symbolism. During the Late Iron Age this artefact was missing from the archaeological contexts in all over Europe, despite a well-attested tradition of First Iron Age or Bronze Age. However, an exception of this rule appears to be in the Dacian milieu, where a wagon model and other four wheel fragments were discovered. Thus, an issue that will be discussed here is related with the unclear archaeological contexts where this objects were found and, further, to understand the signification and symbolism of such deposition. The majority of the miniature or model wagon belonging to earlier periods were discovered in funerary contexts, but, for the ones discovered in pre-Roman Dacia, the understanding of archaeological context seems to be difficult and some of the objects could be placed in connection with miniature or model wheel votive deposition from Celtic sanctuaries.
KEYWORDS: model wagon, chariots, wheels, Iron Age, pre-Roman Dacia.

APĂRUT ÎN: Archaeologia Bulgarica ХХII, 2 (2018), p.15-32