Tag Archives: Tumulus

Glavica tumulus

Yesterday while I was writing my post about Glavica cemetery, I had this nagging feeling of Déjà vu: calotte shaped isolated hill with many medieval graves dug into its sides. Protected from destruction and looting by a local taboo…
But by the time I have finished my article I still couldn’t put my finger on it. So I published my article, went to have dinner, and then it hit me. Suddenly I knew where I had seen something like that before. 

Gruda Boljevića tumulus is one of the most interesting and most important archaeological sites of the Montenegrin Late Copper – Early Bronze age. It is also probably one of the most important archaeological sites found recently in Europe. 

The reason why I believe that this tumulus is so important, is because it shows that the dolmen building, golden cross disc making culture which developed in Montenegro in the first half of the third millennium BC, has its direct cultural roots in Yamna culture of the Black Sea steppe. Why is this important? Because the gold cross discs found in this tumulus and other Montenegrian tumuluses are later found in Beaker culture sites in Ireland and Britan. And the Irish annals tell us that the Early Irish who brought with them metallurgy and gold migrated to Ireland from Russian steppe, via Balkans and then Iberia. Gruda Boljevića is the last and most important piece of evidence which confirms that the Irish annals contain not pseudo histories, but real histories which talk about events that happened in the 3rd millennium BC…

But Gruda Boljevića is also interesting in another way. 

Tumuluses are well known archaeological features in Montenegro, which is why Gruda Boljevića was also assumed to be a prehistoric grave even before the excavation. The local legend says that two wedding parties met and fought and that the victims of this tragic fight were buried under the Gruda Boljevića tumulus. This type of legends is often linked to ancient burial type archaeological sites in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. I already wrote about this type of sites in my post about wedding party graveyards. So it was assumed that Gruda Boljevića was one of such ancient burial sites. This assumption was confirmed during building of a house south of the tumulus, when one of many medieval stone cist graves,  which were dug into the original bronze age tumulus was discovered. This is the plan of the Gruda Boljevića tumulus with the locations of the medieval graves in and around the tumulus.
The Medieval graves fall into two types: 

Stone boxes with gable roof like tops

Stone boxes with flat tops

The skeletons found in these medieval graves date from the period 12-13th century. 

Graves were full of grave goods which show strong cultural links to both coastal regions of Montenegro and the inland regions of Serbia particularly the Morava valley. Here are some examples of the grave goods found:

The above mentioned legend and knowledge of the existence of the graves, saved the mound from destruction, which was not the case with other mounds which allegedly existed nearby. You can find additional information and detailed description of the tumulus in the article entitled “Podgorica praistorijske humke i srednjovjekovne nekropole Gruda Boljevića“.

Gruda Boljevića tumulus had an irregular shape and had a diameter of 24 m.

Now have a look at this satellite picture. It shows the location of the Glavica hill cemetery. 

You can see an isolated perfectly circular hill covered in oak forest. The bottom left is the fenced off area with the new cemetery and the chapel. 
This is the side view of the hill. You can see that it has flat calotte shape typical of tumulus hills. 
So the big question is: is Glavica hill a tumulus, which was, just like Gruda Boljevića, reused as the burial ground during medieval time?
Here is a picture of the graves near the summit of the hill with the holy oak and the altar:
Is it possible that all these graves are dug into the side of the tumulus?
Now if Glavica hill is a tumulus it is truly gigantic. Judging by the Google maps it is about 70 meters in diameter. Compare that with Gruda Boljevića which is only 24 meters in diameter.
And finally, if Glavica hill is a tumulus, what period does it date from? If it is from the Early Bronze Age, like all the other tumuluses I wrote about in my series about Montenegrian tumuluses, then we should expect a central cist grave with additional secondary Bronze and Iron Age burials dotting the hill hidden among the later Medieval ones. If however this tumulus is from the Late Bronze age, or Iron Age, then it could, potentially, hide a spectacular untouched huge burial chamber of someone very very important. 
But as I already said in my post about Glavica cemetery, there is no money or will or interest to do any additional excavation on the site. 
Maybe this post might spark some new interest. Hopefully by archaeologists and not treasure hunters…
I want to thank my friend Aleksandar Tešić for this picture of the Glavic hill and for the additional pictures of the actual graveyard inside the forest. 

Development of Montenegrian tumuluses

The development of Copper Age tumulus in the territory of Montenegro went through several stages.

The initial phase is represented by the central pit grave within the first mound of the Gruda Boljevića tumulus. This initial burial was dated to the beginning of the third millennium BC. Culturally it belongs to the southwestern branch of the Yamnaya culture, characterized by pit grave burials.

The next phase in the Copper Age tumulus development are represented by Velika Gruda and Mala Gruda tumuluses, which was dated to the period between the 3000 and 2800 BC. Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses also have central pit burial. But this time the body was not placed directly into the pit. First a shallow grave pit was dug into the earth to the depth of half a meter. Then a stone cist was built inside the pit. First the bottom of the grave pit was covered with a stone plate and then the vertical stone plates were placed on top of it to form the dolmen cist. The body was placed inside the stone cist and then the cover stone plate was placed on top of it. The stone dolmen cist which was sticking out of the pit was then covered with a tumulus pile.

The final phase in the Copper Age tumulus development is represented by the Mogila na Rake and Bjelopavlići tumuluses. These two tumuluses were dated to the period between 2700 and 2400 BC. These two tumuluses also have a central burial withing a stone cist. But this time this stone cist is free standing on the surface of the earth. There is no trace of a burial pit any more. I don’t have detailed description of the Bjelopavlići tumulus but I do for the Mogila na Rake tumulus. The stone cist was built on a base which was round in shape, and made of medium and small pieces of limestone (0.5 to 0.20 m) mixed with red-brown earth. The cist was built on this layer using local stones. The sides were  constructed from massive trapezoidal shape stone plates (1.40 × 1.00 m, about 20 cm thick), which were bonded with yellow waterproof clay.  The body was placed inside the cist, and the cist was then covered with two massive rectangle shaped plates (1m x 1.20m and 1.80 × 1 m; 20 cm thick). After the cist was covered the dolmen cist was then covered with a tumulus pile.

The Late Copper age Montenegrian tumuluses have several common elements:

1. a central position of the burial within a large multi layered tumulus with stone curb
2. a cross in circle symbol inscribed either on a golden disc which topped the axe shaft hole or on ceramic vesel, which was interpreted as thurible and which was part of a special funerary ceramic set.
3. placing of food vessels inside the burial

These common elements show clear cultural continuity.

But at the same time the actual burial underwent a significant change:

1. a burial inside a pit with or without a cist dug into the ground
2. a burial inside a cist sticking out of a pit which was dug into the ground
3. a burial inside a free standing cist built on the surface of the ground.

This shows clear cultural development.

So by 2500 BC in Montenegro we find massive stone burial dolmen like cists which were placed on the surface of the ground and then covered by multi layered earth tumuluses with stone curbs.

In my previous posts about Montenegrian tumuluses, I already discussed the possibility that the Irish Annals contain records describing the arrival in the mid 3rd millennium BC, of the first metallurgists to Ireland from Montenegro. The finding of golden cross discs in both Montenegro (early 3rd millennium BC) and then in Ireland (late 3rd millennium BC), and the latest genetic data (which I will discuss in one of my future posts) seem to confirm this. 
So there is definite observable cultural influence brought to Ireland by immigrants from Montenegro in the mid 3rd millennium BC. 
But was there, at the beginning of the 3rd millennium, a previous cultural influence brought to Montenegro by people who emigrated from Ireland? 
Is it possible that the cultural process of “raising” of burial cists from the ground, which happened in Montenegro in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC was influenced by these Irish immigrants? Or did the Montenegrian immigrants arrive to Ireland in several waves, the first wave arriving before 2800 BC and the second wave arriving around 2500 BC?
I will talk more about this in my next post. 

Gruda Boljevica

In my series of articles about Late Copper – Early Bronze age tumuluses from Montenegro, I already talked about Bjelopavlići tumulus, Mogila na Rake tumulus and Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses. In this post I will talk about Gruda Boljevića tumulus.

Gruda Boljevića tumulus is one of the most interesting and most important archaeological sites of the Montenegrin Late Copper – Early Bronze age. It is also probably one of the most important archaeological sites found recently in Europe. 

Gruda Boljevića tumulus is located in the fertile Zeta valley in the area of the Montenegrian Capital Podgorica.

Tumuli are well known archaeological features in Montenegro, which is why Gruda Boljevića was also assumed to be a prehistoric grave even before the excavation. The local legend says that two wedding parties met and fought and that the victims of this tragic fight were buried under the Gruda Boljevića tumulus. This type of legends is often linked to ancient burial type archaeological sites in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. I already wrote about this type of sites in my post about wedding party graveyards. So it was assumed that Gruda Boljevića was one of such ancient burial sites. This assumption was confirmed during building of a house south of the tumulus, when one of many medieval stone cist graves,  which were dug into the original bronze age tumulus was discovered. This is the plan of the Gruda Boljevića tumulus with the locations of the medieval graves in and around the tumulus.

The aforementioned legend and knowledge of the existence of the graves, saved the mound from destruction, which was not the case with other mounds which allegedly existed nearby.

The tumulus had an irregular shape and had a diameter of 24 m. It was clearly recognizable between the existing houses in spite of its moderate height of 1.5 m. Its northwestern part was damaged by the building of a local road. Before the survey the mound was covered with grass. The grave pit was dug in gravel subsoil with an east-west orientation was discovered. On its bottom there were just small fragments of human bones and stone flint found. The deceased was obviously laid out in flexed position, but it is not clear whether on their back or on their side. The profiles shows that initial barrow had a diameter of approximately 10 m and a height of 0,8 m, and was made of red soil,with visible layers of clay in spaces of 20 cm. Above this follow layers of clear red soil, then a layer of red grey soil mixed with gravel, then humus. The prehistoric finds are located in the first barrow or on top of it. Approximately 0.4 m above the northern part/edge of the grave pit, objects of attire were placed. Even higher, 0.7 m above the eastern edge of the grave pit a ceramic set was deposited. Such a stratigraphic position is unique and without parallel in this cultural region. The fact that clay inter beds are disrupted exactly above both find concentrations and that personal belonging are normally placed beside the deceased, stimulated us to look for separate explanations for the grave and the finds above it.

Central grave

The grave pit of the central grave was dug more than 1 meter deep into the gravel substrate of the tumulus. This substantially distinguishes it from other “princely” graves from Montenegro. Such grave pits are typical for the Yamnaya culture, which at the end of the 4th and in the first half of the 3rd millennium dominates a significant part of Eastern Europe. For the Gruda Boljevića tumulus the best parallels can be found in the hinterland of the eastern Adriatic, between present day Albania and Hercegovina. Here, the deceased are normally laid down in a contracted position on their back or on their side, and oriented in an east-west direction. Grave goods are few or absent. Barrows are of moderate dimensions, made of soil and frequently surrounded with band of stones or a stone circle. On the basis of the observed larger pebbles and stone zones it is not impossible that Gruda boljeviča was also surrounded with such a construction, but that it was later destroyed by medieval inhumations. It is not possible to determine whether the stone flint from the grave pit is an actual grave good or a chance intrusion from the filling of the pit. Such artefacts are also reported from the covering layers of some other tumuli, e.g. Mala gruda and Piskovë.

Deposition above the central grave

Considering the good preservation and the completeness of the inventory, its concentration in two groups on a uniform level, the reopening of the grave and the displacement of grave goods is not likely. Objects were therefore found in situ. What is unclear, but a crucial question, is the relation of these finds with the grave below them. Two basic assumptions seem possible: they are connected to this grave and lay above it during or some time after burial. They are not connected to this grave and were deposited only after a considerable period of time. Both hypotheses can be supported with certain arguments. Elements of ritual practices are known from some tumuli, like Mala and Velika Gruda for example. In both cases with these rituals only smaller fragments of ceramics can be connected. Whole pots or other finds placed above the grave are known only from a few concurrent sites (Shtoj, Neusiedl). The find from Gruda Boljevića is exeptional by quantity and composition and exceeds all known examples of ritual enclosures. This and the stratigraphic position indicates that items were not placed above the grave during the burial ceremony as assumed by Govedarica and Baković. If really connected to the grave, then they were added after a certain period, interrupting the layers above the grave. Analogies for such complicated activity are however not known. That is why the second explanation of the situation is more probable namely, that the grave pit and the objects above it are not directly connected. In this case the grave pit represents a primary burial, which by its structure and the absence of grave goods fits well among typical Yamnaya culture graves, while the two concentrations of finds above it are the remains of a later, independent deposit. Comparison with inventories of other princely graves shows considerable similarities in the concentration, allocation and orientation of objects. With extreme caution this can be understood as a sign of another grave. In this case, in the centre of Gruda Boljevića two princes were buried, one above another! Of course, this hypothesis also has some open questions and uncertainties. The most essential is the absence of bones. But if bad preservation of the skeleton in the primary grave and in the central grave of Mala Gruda is taken into consideration, we must allow the possibility of the decomposition of the osteological material due to acidic soil. The second possibility is that it was a burial without a corpse, i.e. a cenotaph. In contrast with other rich “princes” buried in stone cists in a contracted position, the distribution of goods in the alleged secondary grave also allow an extended body position. The difference in the heights of the vessels and parts of attire could be caused by the subsidence of the primary grave pit fill or with the intentional deposition above or near the grave. As seen from the profiles, this grave would be dug into the primary barrow, but the building up of the barrow with an additional layer of soil in the context of this burial is also possible. Secondary graves that express chronological and cultural continuity of the tumuli use are quite a frequent feature in Yamna culture. For our case the most important are examples from neighbouring regions (Pazhok, Cerujë, Shtoj). The third event in the construction of the tumulus is the deposition of the pottery vessel found in the eastern part of the tumulus. Because of scarce data it is not possible to say with certainty when that happened; considering its location out of the centre in the layer of red soil (or on the border between the first and second barrow), this was probably the latest prehistoric activity. Also this vessel was found practically whole, but without any additional features or objects.  Therefore it is unclear if it was ritually placed, randomly discarded, or even used as part of a grave ensemble.

The grave goods found in the Gruda Boljevića tumulus show us that people who built this tumulus belong to the same culture, and I believe the same tribe, clan, as the people who built Bjelopavlići tumulusMogila na Rake tumulus and Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses.

This is the list of all the grave goods found in the Gruda Boljevića tumulus.

The Golden lockrings

This type of jewelry (lockrings made of precious metals) were one of the distinctive elements of the Yamnaya culture and were widespread in Eastern Europe. They are also a typical personal ornament of early Montenegro tumuli. However the lockrings of this particular type with profiled terminals are extremely rare. Apart from Gruda Boljevića, lockrings of this type are known only from Mala nad Velika Gruda tumuluses:

The stone battle axe

In my post about the Irish gold I talked about the mysterious golden cross discs which were found in Ireland and Britain and were all dated to 2400 BC – 2100 BC. I said that it is commonly believed that these ornaments originated in Ireland. In my post about the Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses I have shown that in fact this type of golden cross discs were made in Montenegro 300 – 400 years before the first such discs appeared in Ireland and Britain. This is the golden cross disc from Mala Gruda tumulus, which was used for making the axe shaft cap:

I also said that there is even older golden cross disc, which was used in the same way like the Mala Gruda one. That other golden cross disc was found in Gruda Boljevića tumulus: 

At the very least these golden cross discs show cultural link between the people who built Mala Gruda and Gruda Boljevića tumuluses. The form and the material from which these discs are made indicates that they are objects with the symbolic status. The way in which the discs are used indicates that they could even have a meaning of insignia. They represent status, and probably also have religious significance and may even be a tribal, clan, family symbol. 

This stone battle axe exceeds ordinary and older examples in elegance and superior craftsmanship. Stone battle axes with elaborate forms and of high quality are popular in the primary regions of the Yamnaya and Catacombe cultures, but because of some closer typological parallels the workshop of the Gruda Boljevića example should be searched for in the region of the western Balkans. The best quality stone battle axes of this type are found in Troy (Hansen 2001, 45, Abb. 35). However all these stone battle axes from the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterannean have the hammer end with the circular profile and biconnically widenned central part. The stone battle axes which are closest to the the Gruda Boljevića axe are the one axe from Lugansk and the axes of the Mihajlovka type (Gimbutas 1965, Fig. 330:1; Kaiser 1997, 105–108, T. 25: 9).

The curved shape is not usual for stone axes but was more common in metal forms. Typologically it is marked by curved shape, expanded blade, fasetted rectangular hamer end and rounded middle part. There are only few metal axes with similar characteristics: Two much cruder examples from Ljubljansko barje, one example from Vošanovac, and one from Bosanska Rača. (Korošec, Korošec 1969, T. 78: 1; Šinkovec 2014, kat. b. 110; Stojić, Jacanović 2008, 55 sl. 41, 315, T. 139: 1; Čović 1957, 249, sl. 8). Unfortunately all these four axes are only partially preserved.

What is interesting is that the oldest metal axe found so far which was discovered in the Vinča culture site Pločnik and was dated to the period between 5500 BCE and 4700 BCE, is of the same type as the Gruda Boljevića axe type.

 The copper dagger

The simple dagger with a triangular blade is badly preserved and corroded. Still some details are visible, like the imprint of the handle around the upper edge and two holes for attaching the handle with rivets. Those were put very close to each other, which opens up the possibility that one of them is the result of an antique repair. The triangular form is quite common and chronologically and geographically widespread. For a more precise determination, analysis of material should be done. It would answer the question of whether the object is made of copper or early bronze, and point to a direction for its origin.

The axe pendant

The shape and different traces on the trapezoidal, perforated pendant of red stone allow two interpretations of its use: as an amulet or as a whetstone. In favour of the first interpretation speaks the small size, careful production and red colour, and in favour of the second are the traces on the surface and a possible combination with the equally small dagger. Of course, there is also the possibility that it had a double purpose: both as an amulet and as a whetstone.

The pottery set

Three aspects should be taken in consideration when analysing the pottery set from the centre of Gruda Boljevića: ornament, forms, and the combination of objects. Also, it must be emphasized that all three vessels are similar in structure and decoration, therefore allowing the hypothesis of simultaneous production – perhaps even especially for burial purposes.Ornament has a decisive role in the cultural determination of Montenegro tumuli. In it we can recognize the “fashion trends” that reach from the Carpathian basin to the Adriatic, but which is not uniform. Obviously in most cases we cannot speak about imports or direct influences, but more likely about local variations that developed in different regions and cultures. The Montenegro material is usually classified as part of the “Adriatic type of Ljubljana culture”, although it has some peculiar features and shapes, which has caused M. Primas to speak of a “facies Kotor”. In fact the “Adriatic” elements are quite rare in the broader region and are always found in layers of local cultures. Their exposure therefore creates an exaggerated impression of cultural unity. The explanation of this pottery is perhaps hidden in its cult purpose. In contrast with settlement layers, where such sherds are rare, all vessels from princely tumuli are decorated in this style. Are they luxury variants used by the upper class or were they produced as funeral vessels with specific symbolism?

The plate

This is the plate from the Mogila na rake tumulus:

The plate found in Gruda Boljevića is almost identical to the one found in Mogila na rake tumulus except for the motif on the plate:

Plates with a fanshaped extension are prominent ceramic grave goods in Montenegrin tumuli, known from Gruda Boljevića, Mala and Velika Gruda, Mogila na Rake, as well as in a destroyed tumulus Rubeži. They are all richly decorated both outside and on the interior, and differ primarily in the base modelling that can be in the form of a low or high foot, sometimes with apertures.

The funnel

The funnel with a decorated exterior and plain interior is a unique find in the assemblages of Montenegrin tumuli and a rare ceramic form also in the wider region. Similar funnel shaped clay artefacts of a different form and function dating from the 3rd millennium BC and the early 2nd millennium BC are known from the Lower Austria, the southern Russian steppe (Black Sea region) and Hungary. Here are the examples from Unter-Mamau, Austria dated to the second millennium BC (1,2) and Kalmykia, Black Sea region Catacombe culture dated to the mid third millennium BC (3).

Here is an example of such funnel from Somogyvár-Vinkovci Culture from Balatonőszöd-Temetői dűlő in Transdanubia, Hungary, which was dated to 2110 BC.

None of these other known funnels are ornamented like the example from Gruda Boljevića and are all younger than the Montenegrian example.

The jug

Jugs with a long handle that connects the rim and shoulder or belly, are a widespread functional form. It should be noted that among such vessels from the princely tombs of Montenegro we can observe different shapes: the high and elegant pitcher from Gruda Boljevića, the small compact one from Mala Gruda, or the asymmetrical Sutomore example. They are, therefore, a popular and longlasting vessel type, produced by various local workshops. The combination of three vessels from Gruda Boljevića for now represents the largest known set. We can compare the pitcher and plate with sets from Mala Gruda and Mogila na rake. 

It is worth mentioning grave 6/15 from Shtoj with the same combination, but with other forms: a smaller jug and conical bowl. The plate/bowl and pitcher are therefore the basic service used in the funeral cult (and possibly everyday life), which is supplemented with funnel in Gruda Boljevića.

The ceramic pot

The ceramic pot is of a simple spherical shape, but with a typical reinforced rim. From Albania to Dalmatia (and beyond) this detail is often found in settlements and is considered to be the characteristic of the late Eneolithic.The cultural significance of this vessel is very interesting. Unlike ceramics from the centre of the tumulus, which are typical grave goods, this pot is characteristic settlement pottery, which allows us to connect the tumulus phase with the corresponding settlement layers.

 Absolute and relative chronology


Radiocarbon dating was done on fragments of bone from the central grave of Gruda Boljevića. the analysis was conducted by laboratories in Kiel, Germany. The results date the time of burial around 3050 BC (3090 – 3044 cal BC). The high dating of skeleton in the central grave actually confirms the hypothesis of a secondary deposit of the finds above it. The C14 sample dated only the primary tomb, while the complex above it should be compared with the dates obtained by analysing samples from the Velika Gruda tumulus. There the central grave with a similar inventory is dated in the period 2800-2700 BC. The final prehistoric activity at the Boljevića Gruda tumulus is the deposition of a ceramic vessel with a reinforced rim. Such ceramics are known from Odmut (layer VI), where it is dated to 3036 – 2754 cal/1σ, while at the Ljubljana marsh settlements such rims are known from about 2500 BC. Absolute dating of the grave with figurines from the Kuće Rakića tumulus also falls at 2500 BC. The presented dates again confirm the possibility of paralleling Adriatic culture with classical Vučedol and EH II, as proposed by Philippe Della Casa and marked as the 2nd phase of the Late Copper Age. In these nearly 500 years of cultural and sociological development we can distinguish at least three different forms of burial. Somewhat surprisingly, in the settlement layers (usually caves) these differences are not visible. According to existing studies and analogies, this is the time when the Odmut VI, Varvara A1, Ravlića Cave IIIa, Hateljska cave III and Nezir cave IV layers are formed. they are attributed to the developed Eneolithic, while simultaneous graves, due to the considerable social differences and the new economy, are often attributed already to the Early Bronze Age.

You can find additional information and detailed description of the tumulus in the article entitled “Podgorica praistorijske humke i srednjovjekovne nekropole Gruda Boljevića“.

So at the beginning of this post I said that I believe that Gruda Boljevića tumulus is one of the most important archaeological sites found recently in Europe. The reason why I believe that this tumulus is so important, is because it shows that the dolmen building, golden cross disc making culture which developed in Montenegro in the first half of the third millennium BC, has its direct cultural roots in Yamna culture of the Black Sea steppe. Why is this important?  

I have already shown that the golden cross discs which appear in Ireland and Britain around 2500 BC have their predecessors in golden cross discs from Montenegro which were dated to 2700 BC (Mala Gruda) and some time between 3050 BC and 2700 BC (Gruda Boljevića). Considering that these golden cross discs first appear in Montenegro and then in Ireland and Britain and nowhere else in between suggests that this cultural trait could have been a result of a direct cultural transfer between Montenegro and Ireland and Britain. Irish archaeologists are reluctant to say whether this cultural influence was due to trade or missionary contacts, or whether it was a consequence of a migration of a group people into Ireland. This is because Irish archaeologists don’t read pseudo histories like the Irish annals. If they did they would have seen the old Irish annals tell us that right at the time when the metallurgy and the first golden cross discs appear in Ireland, a group of people, a tribe a clan lead by Partholón arrives in Ireland. Partholón and his people are credited with introducing cattle husbandry, plowing, cooking, dwellings, trade, and dividing the island in four and most importantly for this story, they are credited with bringing gold which before them was not used in Ireland. They bring the golden cross discs. But where did Partholón and his people come from? The Irish annals tell us that too. They tell us that Partholón arrived to Ireland from the Balkans via Iberia. The Lebor Gabála Érenn, an 11th-century Christian pseudo-history of Ireland, tells us more. It tells us that Partholón came to the Balkans from the Black Sea steppe, the land where at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC we find Yamna culture…I will talk about this in detail in one of my next posts. 

Montenegrian archaeologists are still hesitant to say whether Yamna cultural influence on Montenegro was due to trade or missionary contacts, or whether it was a consequence of a migration of a group of Yamna people into Montenegro. If only Montenegrian archaeologists read Irish pseudo histories….

Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses

Among many tumuluses, cairns, which are strewn over the hills of Boka Kotorska bay, the two stand out: Velika and Mala Gruda.

While the other tumuluses in the area are located on tops of hills, these two tumuluses are located in the middle of the Tivat field. The local people preserved the legends that these two stone tumuluses were Prokletije, piles of stones accumulated through centuries as part of the cursing ceremony. I wrote about Prokletija ceremony in my post entitled “Prokletija – The cursing ceremony“. As a result, these tumuluses were preserved as the taboo linked with Prokletije forbids removal of even a single stone.

Velika Gruda and Mala Gruda tumuluses are only 270 meters away from each other. Mala Gruda is a single phase burial tumulus and has only a late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) tumb. Velika Gruda is a multi phase burial which has late Copper age (Early Bronze age), Iron age and Medieval burials. The late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) burial from Velika Gruda is equivalent to the late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) burial from Mala Gruda. These were rich princely graves, full of well made and decorated ceramics and metal objects made from silver, gold and copper alloys. The archaeologists who excavated these burials postulated that the people who were buried inside the Velika and Mala Gruda late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) burials were involved in trades between the Balkan Hinterland and Southern Italy and probably the rest of the Mediterranean.

So who was buried in these tumuluses? The archaeologists admit that despite all the modern procedures, analysis and equipment used it is “difficult to understand who built the Mala and Velika Gruda burials. This is because there is at present so little knowledge about what was going on in the Southwestern Balkans during the time when these tumuluses were built. Basically the problem is that the way these tumuluses were built, the way they were positioned in the  low lying landscape as well as some of the burial rite details have no parallels in the Mediterranean basin except in a small area of Montenegro and Northern Albania. The first next similar late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) burial is found in the steppe of the Yamna culture homeland….

The investigation of the Velika Gruda tumulus was completed in the early 1990s and the results were published in these two books:

Tumulus burials of the early 3rd millenium BC in the Adriatic – Velika Gruda, Mala Gruda and their context” which was published in 1996 by Margarita Primas who excavated the late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) burial.

The Bronze Age necropolis Velika Gruda (Ops. Kotor, Montenegro) : middle and late Bronze Age groups between Adriatic and Danube” published in 1994 by Philippe. Della Casa who excavated the Middle and Late Bronze Age burials.

A short review of both works by John Bintliff was published in the American Journal of Archaeology.

Archaeological investigation of the Mala Gruda tumulus was performed during the period 1970 – 1971. The tumulus was damaged during the First World War, when Austrian army built a bunker on top of it. The tumulus height in the middle is about 4 meters and the diameter is about 20 meters. Originally it was proposed that the tumulus dated to the period 1900 to 1800 BC. Howevere the latest dating pushes the date when this tumulus was built almost 1000 years back into the past to the period between 2800 to 2700 BC.

The Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses have very unusual structure. Remember the Bjelopavlovic tumulus and Mogila na Rake tumulus that I already talked about? They both had central dolmen cists which were built on the surface of the earth. Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses also have central dolmen cists built from massive stone plates. But these stone plates were placed inside the grave pit which was dug into the earth to the depth of half a meter. First the bottom of the grave pit was covered with a stone plate and then the vertical stone plates were placed on top of it to form the dolmen cist. The cover stone plate was then placed on top of it. The stone dolmen cist was then covered with a tumulus pile of yellow – brown clay. The surface of this clay inner tumulus was then burned using very strong fire, probably during the sacrificial rite which took place on top of this inner tumulus. This resulted in the whole inner clay tumulus being covered with a layer of ash which contained the most of the ceramic and stone finds. The clay inner tumulus was then covered with the layer of stones (large river pebbles) which varied in thickness between 0.3 – 0.5 meters. This stone layer was then covered with earth (humus). It is unclear if his layer of humus was natural or artificial.

The orientation of the dolmen cist was north – south. The body which was placed inside the dolmen cist was very badly preserved and was not possible to determine its precise position, but it is presumed that it was placed into the cist in the fetal position.

In the north part of the stone cist, next to the scull of the deceased, archaeologists have found five golden lock rings.

Lock rings are a type of jewelry from Bronze Age Europe.  They are made from gold or bronze and are penannular, providing a slot that is thought to have been used for attaching them as earrings or as hair ornaments. Ireland was a centre of production in the British Isles though rings were made and used across the continent, notably by the Unetice culture of central Europe. But these lock rings from Mala Gruda tumulus predate all the examples from northern Europe by many centuries and millenniums.

The only other lock rings from the late Copper Age (early Bronze Age) period which are similar to the lock rings from Mala gruda tumulus were found in Velika Gruda tumulus and in Gruda Boljevića tumulus, which is even older than the Velika and Mala gruda tumuluses. I will write about the Gruda Boljevića tumulus in my next post. Velika gruda tumulus also had lock rings of the type found in the Lefkas (Leukas) cemetary. But these Lefkas type rings are much simpler than the Mala Gruda type rings, and look like an inferior quality imitation of the Mala Gruda type lock rings. Here are the Lefkas type lock rings from Lefkas cemetary.

Next to the feet of the deceased, next to the eastern edge of the stone cist, archaeologists have found a set of ceramic dishes in fragments.

First is a shallow bawl with the ring leg:

Again we find the cross in the circle symbol which we see in the plate which was found in the Mogila na rake tumulus
Second is a jug with one handle:

Both dishes were made from reddish brown clay and were richly decorated and polished.

In that respect the plate from the Mala Gruda tumulus is very similar to the the ceramic bawls from the Vučedol culture from the same period like these two: 

In the past when it was believed that Mala and Velika Grida tumuluses were build at the beginning of the second millennium bc, it was proposed that the culture which built these Montenegrian tumuluses was influenced by late phases of Vučedol culture. But now that we know that Velika and Mala Gruda tumuluses were contemporary with the early period of the Vučedol culture things become much more complicated and confusing.

The most important artifacts were discovered at the eastern edge of the grave cist, at the waist level. These were a golden dagger and a silver axe. Actually both objects were made from complex alloys and not of pure gold and silver. Spectrographic analysis had shown that the dagger was made from the alloy of silver, gold and copper in proportion 3:2:2 and that the axe was made from the same alloy but in proportion  4:1:1.

The golden dagger:

The dagger  is leaf shaped with straight edges and rounded top. It has a short tong for attaching it to the handle and a triple profiled central ridge. Similar daggers are found in Anatolia dating to the mid 3rd millennium bc. Her is the Mala Gruda dagger and its Anatolian comparisons:

1. Mala Gruda: N. TASIĆ (ed.), Praistorija Jugoslavenskih Zemalja III. Eneolitsko doba (1979) pl. 42:8.
2. Karataş: M. MELLINK, “Excavations at Karataş-Semayük 1970,” AJA 73 (1969) pl. 74:21 (drawing J. Maran) dated to 2900 – 2600 BC.
3. Bayindirköy: K. BITTEL, “Einige Kleinfunde aus Mysien und aus Kilikien,” IstMitt 6 (1955) fig. 1 dated to 2500 – 2200 BC.
4. Bayindirköy: BITTEL (supra) fig. 4 dated to 2500 – 2200 BC.
5. Alaca Höyük: STRONACH (supra n. 47) fig. 3:4 dated to 3rd millennium bc.

The silver axe:

This silver axe is the last and the most important find from the Mala Gruda tumulus. For two reasons. Firstly the new dating of this axe opens some interesting questions about our understanding the chronology of the distribution of the shaft hole axes in the Balkans. Secondly the new dating of this axe opens some very interesting questions about our understanding of the Early Bronze Age Irish and British history. 

So, why is Mala Gruda axe important for our understanding the chronology of the distribution of the shaft hole axes in the Balkans?

The silver axe has a thin and narrow triangular blade with a cylindrical socket.  In the literature we read that “this type of axe belongs to the Vučedol Kozarac type axes”. However no axes like the Mala Gruda axe have been found in Vučedol culture.

Shape wise Mala gruda axe does look like Vučedol culture axes with one blade and a cylindrical extension for a handle haft. These type of axes were exported to the Eastern Mediterranean including to Troy via Lemnos. This is a picture of a hoard of such axes from Brekinjska (Pakrac) in Croatia.

However the axe from Mala Gruda tumulus is of an exceptional quality and made of Gold + Silver + Copper alloy and not bronze. Silver axes were found in Vučedol site of Stari Jankovci.

You can read about them in this Croatian article and this English article. The Stari Jankovci axes are also silver shaft-hole axes, but their shape is completely different from the shape of the Mala Gruda axe. So we can’t talk about direct link between these Vučedol silver axes and the silver axe from Mala Gruda. However this shows that both the knowledge how to make Mala Gruda type axe shape and material existed in the Vučedol culture, so we can say that it is possible the people who made the Mala Gruda axe were influenced by the Vučedol culture. So we could say that the Mala Gruda axe could have indeed been made by Vučedol metalworkers. Except that the site where the above two silver axes ware found was dated to 2500 – 2040 BC wheres Mala Gruda was dated to 2800 – 2700 BC. This means that the Mala Gruda axe is hundreds of years older. This is a very good article on the dating of the Vučedol culture sites .This opens a big question: who influenced who? Who learned from who?

It is assumed that the earliest shaft-hole axes were developed in the the north Caucasus by the Maikop culture sometime between 3500 and 3128 BC.

From here they spread within few hundred years to a large area in Central and Western Asia and Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans.

 

This picture shops main types of shaft-hole axes and axe molds from the above distribution area from the period late fourth millennium bc – early third millennium bc:

Aegean: 1 Thebes, 2 Servia, 3 Petralona, 4 Triadi, 5 Poliochni;Montenegro: 6 Mala Gruda;
Hungary: 7 Zók-Várhegy;
Rumania: 8 Virgis;
North Caucasus: 9 Lebedi, 10 Novosvobodnaya/Klady;
Daghestan: 11 Velikent;
East Anatolia: 12 Arslantepe, 13 Norşuntepe.

You can read more about the early shaft-hole axes in this great article entitled: “Indications for Aegean-Caucasian relations during the third millennium BC“. The most interesting part of this article I believe is this:

“…The earliest axes in Southeastern Europe are assumed to be the Baniabic type (Vîlcele) axes because their blade is not differentiated from the shaft. The upper edge of the axe is straight, while in the case of the axes of the Fajsz type and Corbasca type this edge is convex. At least some of the axes can be dated to the early Vučedol Culture (c. 31th – 28th century BC). The problem is that this dating is based on the fact that their shape is generally comparable to axes or moulds for axes from the northern Caucasus and Koban region, like the mold from Lebedi or from the Kura-Araxes Culture which were dated to that period. But the type is so simply shaped that even comparisons to much later axes are possible, and this makes the dating of the Baniabic type axes uncertain. The southeast European types of Dumbrăvioara, Izvoarele, Darabani and Kozarac have short shaft tubes and can be grouped to the second morphological trend. In some cases their tubes are faceted or ribbed. This feature is also found on one axe from the hoard of Stublo (Steblivka) in the western Ukraine. These types can be dated mainly to the earlier half of the third millennium BC…. “

So Vučedol culture Kozarac type axes are dated to the same period to which the Mala Gruda tumulus axe was dated. So is it possible that the Mala Gruda axe predates the Vučedol culture Kozarac type axes? And is it possible that knowledge how to make this type of axes was transferred from the South of the Balkans up North and not the other way round?

Finally why is Mala Gruda axe so important for our understanding of the Early Bronze Age Irish and British history? 

According to the archaeological data, a new people appeared out of nowhere on the Atlantic coast of Europe around the mid 3rd millennium BC: The Bell Beaker people. The Wiktionary says: “Bell Beaker is a complex cultural phenomenon involving metalwork in copper, gold and later bronze, archery, specific types of ornamentation and shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas….Several proposals have been made  as to the origins of the Bell Beaker culture, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands and Central Europe. And debates are still continuing. Archaeologists and historians are still debating whether the spread of Beaker culture was due to the migration of people or spread of ideas or both…”. 

Well for Ireland we know that the arrival of the Beaker culture was due to the arrival of the Beaker people. Before 2500 BC there was no metalwork in Ireland and no beakers. After 2500 BC there was as thriving sophisticated metalworking culture in Ireland and beakers. That can only happen if we have an influx of people with metalworking skills into Ireland around 2500 BC. And archaeologists and historians all agree on this. But where did these metalworking beaker using new Irish come from and who they were is “a mystery”.

But as I already said in my post about the Irish Gold, the answer to this “mystery” has been hidden in plain view in the ancient Irish annals. If only the archaeologists and historians read the ancient Irish annals as histories and not as “pseudo histories” as they like to call them.

So what can the Irish annals tell us about the arrival of the Beaker people to Ireland?

Well the old Irish annals don’t talk about Bell Beaker people of course. But they tell us that: “…after the flood, came Partholón with his people…” The Annals of the Four Masters says that Partholóin arrived in in Ireland 2520 Anno Mundi (after the “creation of the world”), Seathrún Céitinn’s Foras Feasa ar Érinn says they arrived in 2061 BC, Annals of Four Masters says that they arrived at 2680 BC. So Sometimes in the second half of the 3rd millennium.

Partholón and his people are credited with introducing cattle husbandry, plowing, cooking, dwellings, trade, and dividing the island in four and most importantly for this story, they are credited with bringing gold which before them was not used in Ireland. As I already said in my post about the Irish gold, this has was actually confirmed by the archaeological finds from Ireland. Some people came to Ireland around the 2500 BC or there after, and brought with them copper metalworking knowledge. They opened the first copper mine in Ireland in Ross Island and started making copper axes. The archaeologists originally believed that these immigrant copper metalworkers also started mining gold in Ireland. And that they used that gold to make golden ornaments. The reason for this belief is that around the same time when the Beaker copper metalworkers arrived to Ireland, we suddenly see gold being used for making ornaments, mostly gold lunulae, about which I wrote in my post about the Irish Gold, and gold cross discs like these ones:

 

But as I already said in my post about the Irish gold, it turns out that the gold from which the Irish lunulae and cross discs were made was not mined in Ireland, but that it was brought into Ireland from somewhere else. Archaeologists are now saying that the gold was brought into Ireland from Cornwall. The local Irish craftsmen then used it to make the lunulae and cross discs. In my post about the Irish gold I argued that these gold ornaments were probably not made in Ireland from imported gold, but that they were made wherever the gold was mined and smelted (Cornwall???), and that the finished gold lunulae and cross discs were imported into Ireland.

The archaeologists believed that these types of ornaments originated in Ireland because they have no precedence in Europe. Until the discovery that the gold from which these ornaments were made did not come from Ireland but from Cornwall. Now they believe that these types of ornaments originated in Ireland or Britain. And I would agree with them when it comes to lunulae. So far there is no precedence for this type of gold ornaments. But I have to say that now we have a proof that the golden cross discs did not originate in Ireland or Britain. I can say this because now we know that hundreds of years before these gold cross discs appeared in the British isles, they were made and used in the Balkans, more precisely in Montenegro. 

Have a look again at the silver axe from Mala Gruda tumulus. 

This silver axe was found together with a strange golden cap covering the the top of the axe shaft. The cap was made from a golden disk which is a thin embossed sheet of gold with a cross at the centre, surrounded by a circle. 

The design on the gold disc cap resembles the most the design found on the gold sun disc which was found in a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh, just over 20 miles from Stonehenge, in 1947 along with a pottery beaker, flint arrowheads and fragments of the skeleton of an adult male.

The two pence piece sized gold disc was made in about 2,400 BC, soon after the Sarsen stones were put up at Stonehenge, and is thought to represent the sun.It was kept safe by the landowner since its discovery and has only now been given to the Museum. The disk is a thin embossed sheet of gold with a cross at the centre, surrounded by a circle, and between the lines of both the cross and the circle are fine dots which glint in sunlight.

The golden cross discs found in Ireland and Britain were all dated to 2400 BC – 2100 BC. The golden cross disc from Mala Gruda was originally dated to the period 1900 to 1800 BC. I believe that this is why no one before made a connection between the Mala Gruda golden cross disc and the cross discs found in Ireland and Britain. Even if someone did make a connection, the Mala Grida golden cross disc was probably classified as being made under the influence of the late Beaker culture. However the latest dating pushes the date when Mala Gruda tumulus was built almost 1000 years back into the past, to the period between 2800 to 2700 BC. Now this changes everything. Someone in Montenegro was making golden cross discs 300 – 400 years before the first such disc appeared in Ireland and Britain. The thing is that this golden cross disc from Mala Gruda has no precedence. Except for another golden cross disc which was used in the same way, for making the axe shaft cap. And this other golden cross disc was found in an even older Montenegrian tumulus, which was dated to the end of the 4th – beginning of the 3rd millennium bc and which was linked directly to the late Yamna culture. I will write about this tumulus in one of my next posts. This means that we can say that unless new archaeological data emerges, the origin of these golden cross disc ornaments is in the early 3rd millennium BC Montenegrian tumulus building culture. 

Now the big question: Is it possible that people who made these golden cross discs in Montenegro or their descendants, were the same people who later made the golden cross discs in Ireland and Britain? Was there a migration from Montenegro to British Isles around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC? I believe so. And guess what, the Irish annals says so too. But I will talk about this more in one of my next posts. 

Until then stay happy and keep smiling. 

Mogila na Rake

Several early Bronze age tumulus graves have been discovered and excavated in Montenegro in last 10 years. They are concentrated in the fertile Zeta and Bojana valleys, both of which are linked to the Skadar lake. I already wrote about the Bjelopavlići tumulus. This time I will write about the tumulus known as “Mogila na rake” or “Spič tumulus” which was discovered in 2011.

Spič tumulus (Mogila na rake)

Tumulus which was found in the Spič field just south of Sutomore, under the Nehaj fortress is a tumulus type grave with a central dolmen cist which was built from a massive stone plates. It is estimated to be almost 5000 years old, dating to the early 3rd millennium BC, more precisely to 2700 BC. This is one of the so called princely graves common for southern Europe of that period.

This is a completely new archaeological locality. It was discovered by pure accident while people were clearing part of an old forest to build a house. Here is a picture of the first sight of the dolmen cist emerging from the tumulus mound.

This is what the dolmen cist looks like after all the soil was cleared away.

According to the archaeologists the tumulus was built by the people who belonged to the early bronze Age Ljubljana culture. This culture seem to have stretched along the whole East Adriatic coast. It also seem to have stretched inland into Bosnia and all the way to Sava and Danube where it could have had contacts with Vučedol culture.

The original tumulus had the radius of about 15 m and the height of about 1.80 m. The dolmen cist is surrounded by a ring of stones, which ritually separates the land of the dead from the land of the living. The sacred area was carefully cleared and compacted. It was then covered with fine dry soil and then treated with fire. Only then the central dolmen was built. The dolmen was made from massive stone plates. The person buried inside this dolmen cist was buried in a foetal position. This symbolizes rebirth after death and points to a belief that the death was seen as a new birth. Once the deceased was placed inside the cist, the cist was sealed with several types of clay, making the grave completely watertight The inside of the grave was as dry as when it was initially sealed almost 5000 years ago.  

This is the translation of the excavation report filed by archaeologist Mladen Zagarčanin who lead the excavation:

The Early Bronze Age tumulus “Mogila na Rake“ from Sutomore was found on the northeastern part of Spič field, about 1 km from the sea. The big earth-stone tumulus which had diameter of about 15 m, and height of about 1.80 m. It was discovered during the works related to the clearing of a private land with the use of diggers. During the dig the majority of the western and northeastern part of the tumulus was destroyed. The excavation work stopped when the digger uncovered the cover plate of the central tomb dolmen cist.

This is a rough cross section diagram of the tumulus:

The tumulus was covered with a layer consisting of large river pebbles.

After removing the stone layer the removal of the red-brown earth layer, about 0.80 to 1.00m thick, was carried out. There were almost no stones in this layer, although now and then one could notice particles of grime, small fragments of broken flint and small pieces of atypical pottery. The excavation of the earth mound confirmed the dense concentration of small and big stones, about 1.20 m thick, from which the stone layer was formed, covering the middle of the conical pile of pressed red coloured clay. The diameter of this layer was about 3.20 m, and the height about 0.80 m.
Further excavation revealed, the layer of green-dark earth, partly mixed with grime, which was roughly piled along the dolmen cist walls up to 0.60 cm height. Several fragments of pottery were found in this layer, as well as larger amount of chipped stone , while a smaller flat stone construction was confirmed on the north side of the same layer. We can assume that this construction represents a stair abutting the tomb, and it could have served as a platform from where the person in charge of the burial carried out the ritual.

With the removal of the green-dark layer the base of lower stone covering was revealed, round in shape, and made of medium and small pieces of limestone (0.5 to 0.20 m) mixed with red-brown earth. The cist was built on this layer using local stones. The sides were  constructed from massive trapezoidal shape stone plates (1.40 × 1.00 m, about 20 cm thick), which were bonded with yellow waterproof clay.

The cist was covered with two massive rectangle shaped plates (1m x 1.20m and 1.80 × 1 m; 20 cm thick), a large amount of yellow green clay was added to the layer of green-dark clay, whose purpose was to cover the plates both above and below, providing in that way the hydro insulation of the tomb interior.

Before the funeral ceremony, the interior of the cist was covered with a layer of fine sea sand, and the body was put on top of it in a foetal position, with the head directed toward to west, arms folded at the elbow, and with folded legs.

The anthropological analyses showed that the buried person was a man in his forties or fifties who had serious problems with his spine during his lifetime. During the detailed bone examination, it was concluded that he suffered of osteoporosis, or bone loss. It was also concluded that arthrosis, or arthritis was present among the ilium bones, as well as diseases of peripheral joints because of degenerative changes in joint cartilage. The third bone disease was found in the lumbar area and sacrum. The deformation found here indicates that the deceased walked with problems during his lifetime and that he suffered great pain in his back. These diseases suggest that he spent much time on horse back, because those deformities are characteristic for riders.

What is very interesting is that this was not the only skeleton found in the cist.

The bones of a child 8-10 years old (teeth and parts of other bones were preserved) were found his legs, as well as a smaller number of bones of a person 25-30 years old. The archaeologists assume that those are the bones of close family members, perhaps his son and wife who died before him. The missing skull and other bones of the buried skeletons point to the possibility that their bones were excavated from some other place and put in this tomb later on. But there is also a possibility that the woman and the child were sacrificed and then buried with the man. 

The cist did not contain any metal objects which is strange for these types of graves from this period. This could mean that this is not a grave of a warrior but a person who was in some other way important. Like a priest.

What was found in the cist are two ceramic vessels: a jug and a shallow plate.

The plate has a thick ring shaped stand and was thus interpreted as a thurible, a vessel used for burning incense during rituals. The thurible is richly decorated on both sides. The cross shaped detail was drawn on the upper surface which was shaped as a shallow plate with the extracted front and rounded back part, formed by the ribbons filled with the crossed lines. The ribbon ornaments formed borders which go along the edge of the vessel. Two holes were made on the corners of the extracted part of the thurible. On the bottom, a star shaped detail was engraved, formed of triangle fields and filled with crossed lines.

Now have a look at the cross symbol drawn on the top surface of the thurible. Remember the grave is dated to 2700 BC:

Is this pattern just a decoration with no meaning? Well if the above incense burning vessel was the only vessel with this symbol found in Montenegro we could say that this is indeed just a meaningless decorative pattern. But exactly the same vessels were found in other tumuluses and some of them are even older than this tumulus and were dated to the end of the 4th millennium BC. Surely the pattern choice was deliberate and must have had some cultural or maybe even religious meaning. I will talk about these other tumuluses and why they are extremely important for understanding of the Early Bronze Age Irish history in my next post. For now, let me just ask you a question: do you remember the gold cross discs which the Early Bronze Age Irish copper miners loved so much? The ones I wrote about in my post Or -Ireland’s gold

This is the pair of these “Irish” golden discs found in Monaghan, dated to 2200 – 2000 BC.

Remember that I said that these “Irish” cross discs were made from gold that was brought into Ireland from Cornwall? The gold which was, according to the Irish annals, brought to Ireland by Partholon? The same Pathalon which according to the Irish “pseudo histories” came from the Balkans, via Iberia sometime during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC? 

Please note the cross symbols on the discs. This is the same cross symbol found on the thurible from the Sutomore dolmen. Is this just a coincidence? I don’t think so. Not just because there are several incense burning vessel with this symbol found in Montenegro. But also because the same tumuluses which contain the incense burning vessel with this symbol also contain golden discs with this symbol… And all of them predate the Irish gold cross discs and because it all fits perfectly into the story of Partholon found in the old Irish histories.

But more about it in my next posts. Until then stay happy.

Bjelopavlići tumulus

Several years ago, archaeologists discovered a partially destroyed tumulus in the area between the two villages Frutak i Kujava near the town of Danilovgrad in Montenegro. The area is located in extremely fertile region which surrounds the lake Skadar and its tributaries.

 
The tumulus which originally had a diameter of 20 meters and a height of 1,75 meters was badly damaged by farming. Eventually plowing exposed a stone dolmen cist. Inside archaeologists discovered two bronze spearheads, a bronze needle, a bronze bracelet, a bronze armlet and a bronze fibula. Unfortunately I don’t have any more info about this tumulus nor pictures of the artifacts found in it. I would really appreciate any help in locating additional information about this tumulus.

Anyway, the area where this first tumulus was found had many more ancient tumuluses which managed to stay undisturbed until the present day. There were 6 more tumuluses in Frutak and 4 more in Kujava. So the archaeological investigation in the area continued.

In 2014 a team of archaeologists lead by Predrag Lutovac opened the second tumulus. Inside of the tumulus archaeologists discovered two stone dolmen cists.

The cists were surrounded by two concentric stone circles, one inside the tumulus and one marking the outer edge of the tumulus. 

Archaeologists believe that the edge of the tumulus was marked with a stone circle not only to prevent the tumulus soil erosion but also in order to separate the land of the dead from the land of the living. 

The data available about this archaeological site is extremely limited and confusing. It amounts to few news articles and one video interview. From this I was not able to determine how many people were buried in the tumulus. I believe that from what I can gather there were all together four people buried in the tumulus. I can’t wait to see the DNA data retrieved from the remains. I’d say we are in for a surprise… 🙂

This is the picture of the skeleton of the person buried inside the bigger dolmen cist. It is a skeleton of an adult male. He was buried in a fetal position. According to the archaeologists this symbolises rebirth after death and points to a belief that the death was seen as a new birth.

The tumulus was originally provisionally dated to the early Bronze age to the period around 1850 BC, but the latest results have moved the dating even further back in time, to around 2400 BC. According to the archaeologists the tumulus was built by the people who belonged to the early bronze Age Ljubljana culture.

Inside the tumulus archaeologists discovered ceramic artifacts. 

They also discovered bronze bracelets but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of these bracelets.

And finally, archaeologists discovered this mysterious bronze disc like object.

Now are you seeing what I am seeing? Are you seeing the concentric groves, the holes which look like they were drilled in the metal and used for screws or some kind of bolts or rivets? What is this and what was it used for? How was it made? And am I the only one who can see a “Celtic”  cross shape in it?

The vertical hands go below the circle and the horizontal ones go above the circle? Maybe yes maybe no 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t have the picture of the other side of this object so I can’t confirm my hypothesis. O and by the way, “Celtic” is in quotes for a reason 🙂 This object has nothing to do with Celts or Christianity….I use the name “Celtic cross”  because this is today the most commonly used name for this type of solar crosses even though the earliest examples of these solar crosses predate Celts by millenniums and date to 6th millennium BC Balkans and Central Europe…

Regardless of whether this is a “Celtic” cross or not, this is still a very intriguing object. Few people asked me if I had a scale of the object. Luckily I do. I hope this helps the speculation about the use of the object. 

This is a comparative table of Macedonian, Balkan and Caucasian bronze Early Iron Age (8th century bc) ornaments (pieces oj horse gear) . Have a look at the item 27 from the Balkans. I think this can help us understand the purpose of the above object. 

But we have to be careful when making conclusions based on the similarity of these two objects. Just because the symbol on two objects is the same doesn’t mean that they have the same function. The same symbol is found on Celtic standing crosses. Also just because the symbol first appears on horse riding equipment in bronze in the late Bronze Age, Early Iron Age, it doesn’t mean that it could not have been used on other earlier objects with completely different function. This doesn’t mean that the object from the tumulus is not part of the later contamination.

Anyway this is not why this discovery is already rewriting European history. It is the fact that we have early bronze age dolmens in the western Balkans that is so important. This is going to take some digesting and explaining. But I believe that this is just the beginning of the “surprise discoveries” and that what is to come is going to be even more interesting. 

According to the archaeologists only in Montenegro there are between 3000 and 5000 tumuluses of which only 10 have been excavated. What else will be found when all the other tumuluses are excavated and how will this change our understanding of the Early European Bronze Age?