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SCEPTRE WITH WATER BIRDS

 

Group C (according to M. Novotna)
Uriu-Kisapáti stage, BZ C - BZ D, 14th/13th century BC.

 

Characteristic for the Middle Bronze Age sceptres (bâtons de commandement), also called double arm knobs, is a high, profiled shaft tube, on which two long arms with a circular cross section, slightly inclined downwards, sit approximately in the middle. The ends of the arms are rounded or flat. On the rather compact shaft tube there is a double-sided, recessed, plastic, circular decoration, instead of the usual mandrel. The upper shaft end is closed by a round disc, which is predominantly flat. There are two plastic ribs at the lower end of the shaft tube. Because of the ornamentation, Novotna divides the batons into four groups. According to this classification, the present specimen corresponds to group C, the group with plastic bird ornamentation. This group is the smallest of the double arm knobs and according to Novotna only known from two other specimens of different sites.

The shape of the batons in general, and that of the batons with plastic bird ornaments in particular, precludes their use as working tools. This type is also not suitable as weapons. Novotna sees in the sceptres rather a dignity or sovereignty sign, which plausibly supports the plastic water birds. Such bird jewellery and the symbolism associated with it was only reserved for the highest quality cult objects of the elites of the time. The occurrence of the double arm knobs in the southeast Slovak core area of the Piliny culture makes it possible, with certain reservations, to consider a local production of these highly unusual objects, as well as a local origin of the ideas and customs associated with them. The three specimens of group C known to this day can also be associated with the idea of the bird-sun-barque.

Antithetic water birds transport the sun disk over the firmament. In this respect Kossack refers to Rinyaszentirály’s simultaneously driven leg splint, the situles with dot-bump decorations or the axle caps with bird and bird-cow protomes. The bird-sun-barque appears in the Carpathian region and becomes the most important pictorial symbol in Europe in the Urnfield period. The symbol seems to stand for a cult practiced early in Europe together and over long distances. From Hungary to France, from Norway to the area of Villanova culture.

The axe to be described here can therefore be regarded as the rarest axe of the early bird-sun-barque cult. In spite of its highest quality, it still stands at the beginning of these cult ideas and is to be dated early. Compare the cult cart from Dupljaja.

Double arm knobs are known from graves, hoards and individual finds. In most cases, dating can only be achieved by socialising with material that is easy to date. According to the current state of research, the first occurrence of sceptres in the Carpathian Basin occurred in the late Middle Bronze Age, in the horizon of Forró. However, they are only typical for the following two periods (Uriu and Kisapáti). Decorated and undecorated double arm knobs appear at the same time. The isolated, in form and decoration modified sceptres found in the north, such as the specimen from Berlin-Spandau, are also linked with influences from the Carpathian Basin. Double arm knobs therefore play an important role in the assessment of the relations of the Bronze Age Tumulus culture between the Danubian region and northern Europe.

PRICE
on demand

PUBLISHED
Civilisations, Harmakhis, Brussels

PROVENANCE
Private collection Germany, acquired 1980
    Art trade Brussels
    Private collection F. Belgium
    Galerie Kunst der Antike
    Private Collection A. Austria

LITERATURE
Gaben an die Götter
Die Äxte und Beile in der Slowakei
Deutschland in der Bronzezeit

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