Characteristics of Balkan-Danubian Treasures from the End of the 1st to the Middle of the 3rd Century

Ivana Popović
Archaeological Institute, Belgrade, Serbia

On the territory of Middle Danube and its wider hinterland are registered few hoards which contain silver and, more rarely, golden jewelry, coins and, sometimes, silver vessels and emblemata made of silver tin. Monetary parts of these hoards enable relatively precise determination of the time of their deposition, while the analysis of their composition can point to the possible directions of curtural streamings in the smaller chronological and geographical entities. Therfore, we think that it is useful to register the composition of these hoards with the notes on characteristics of each group of objects.The monetary part of these hoards consists of the Roman silver coins, whose last minting in each hoard enables us to determine the time of their deposition. In this way are determined the horizons of the origin of the hoards, which correspond with certain historical events - the cause of hiding the valuable objects. According to the structure of the hoards, these horizons can be observed as two entities. The first of them is connected with the conflicts between the Romans and Dacians in the last decades of the 1st century, and the second one with the incursions of the barbarian tribes into the territory of the Empire at the end of the 2nd and in the first half of the 3rd century.

I The hoards deposited in 81/82 are on the right bank of Danube, next to the military camps Transdierna (the Tekija hoard) and Viminacium (the Bare hoard). The latest coins in both hoards are denarii of Domitianus from the end of 81. This fact points to the incursions of the Dacians across the Danube in winter of 81/82, which is not explicitly mentioned in the sources. The characteristic of these hoards is the presence of massive silver jewelry, analogous to the specimens from the southern group of Dacian finds, located between Danube, Tirnava and Moris. While in the Tekija hoard are registended only the bracelets with thrown over and coiled ends, with or without pendants in the form of miniature axes, in Bare, beside these forms, appear the twisted torqueses, shieled-form pendants, spiral ring and other forms of Dacian ornaments. Beside the jewelry of Dacian style, in both hoards appear the specimens inspired by Hellenistic motifs (the Hercules` knot on the rings from Bare) and techniques (pseudo-filigree and granulation on the golden ring from Tekija, on which, between the spiral coils on the shoulder, there is a miniature axe), the objects of Roman provenance and silver emblemata of cultic contents.

II The hoards deposited in 182, 242, 254 and 258 have as common chracteristic very similar forms of jewelry, above all the anchor-like fibulae and chains entwined in the technique «loop in loop». The use of filigree and granulation on some segments of decoration bear witness to steadiness of older traditions, emering from the influences from the Greek soil. But, some specific qualities in the conception of these decoration enable us to group the hoards not only chronologically, but also geographically.

  • 1. The hoard from Bela Reka on the right bank of Sava, in the ager of the colony Sirmium, contains silver and golden jewelry, silver vessels and golden ring of Roman provenance, and Roman denarii, from which the latest one, that of Commodus from 182, shows the time of its deposition, which can be brought in connection with the end of the war with Marcomani. The silver anchor-like fibula and a chain connect this find with the hoards deposited during the middle of the 3rd century, while the massive silver necklace with the garlic-shaped pearls and a composite buckle, decorated with filigree and granulation, testify about the reproduction of the models which were in more waves comming from the Greek cultural circle.
  • 2. Hoards from the site Atel in Transilvania and Vâtrop in Oltenia contain silver anchor-like fibulae, twisted silver chains, the jewelry of Roman provenace and Roman denarii, from which the latest one is that of Gordianus III, from 242. Their deposition is in connection with the incursion of Carpi in the same year.
  • 3. Hoards from Janja and Dvorska in the upper part of Drina Valley contain silver anchor-like fibulae, twisted chains with small rosettes and tubuli, decorated with filigree and granulation, pendants in the form of ivy-leaf and Roman denarii, of which latest one is that of Galienus, from 254. Deposition of these hoards can be brought in connection with the incursions of Quadi, Jazigi and Marcomani into Pannonia in the same years.
  • 4. Hoards Szalacska I and III in Pannonia, south from the Balaton Lake, contain a silver anchor-like fibula, more silver twisted chains with tubuli decorated with filgree and granulation, or, in the form of miniature vases, the jewelry of Roman provenance and Roman denarrii, of which the latest one is that of Galienus, from 258. Deposition of these hoards is the result of tumultuous events in Pannonia during the usurpations in 258/59, when first Ingenuus, and then Regalianus, in Sirmium proclaimeed themselves emperors.

Brief recapitulation of these hoards shows the connection between the two hoards of the 1st horizon and seven hoards of the 2nd horizon. But, beacause, up to now, the chemical analysis of coins and jewelry have not been done, at this moment no conclusions about the possible use of coins for making the jewelry can be drawn, especially among the finds from the 1st horizon. It is charcteristical that the hoards of the 2nd horizon are grpouped in the regions where the exploatation of silver in Roman period is confirmed (Domavia in the Drina Valley, the region Alburnus Maior in Dacia). The connections of the upper part of Drina Valley with Pannonia can explain why these finds appear in that region. The representations on the great number of tombstones which appear in the Drina Valley show the specific way of wearing these silver decorations, which is archaeologically most early confirmed by the find of the set of silver jewelry of this type from Brigetio. Beside the hoards which contain coins, in the Balkan-Danubian region appear the closed finds of silver jevelry of these forms, deposited, probably, arround the middle of 3rd century. Interesting is the find of silver and bronze jewlry from Juhor in the Morava Valley, which contains the forms similar to the specimens from the Balacita hoard in Oltenia, and also with the find from Gornji Vakuf in central Bosnia. But, the existence of Hellenistic forms and motifs on the jewelry from this find , on one side, and the imitation of filigree and granulation by embossing, on the other side, opens the questions about the possible directions of the cultural influences under which the local production of jewelry on the Balkan Peninsula was formed.