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TIA Janus

Dr Draga Garasanin

Bronze Age in Serbia

Summary from the catalogue, Belgrade 1972 (exhibition in National museum of Serbia, Belgrade)

The Bronze Age, the period whose archaeological survey is the theme of this exhibition, represents in history, art and socio-economic relations, an important stage in the earliest history of Europe. Formally, the Bronze Age was the period, with greater or lesser variation which encompasses the second millenium BC (the period of time from 2000-1000 BC), the era which was dominated by the technique of working metal an the exploitation of certain ores, more modem methods of production of tools, more perfected shapes of weapons and different new forms of jewelry. But we must not forget the fact that these new forms depended also on the new especially developed abilities for exploiting certain raw materials: mining techniques as well as the techniques of working and shaping metal into definite forms which created and demanded the specialized activity of a group of people in the community. In this period it is not any longer possible to speak only of the division of labor between men and women, as it was in the previous Neolithic period. But we must consider the unequal distribution, of the ores which were necessary for the production of bronze, that is the simultaneous need of two ores: copper and tin, which made necessary closer trade and barter between different areas and regions. This unequal distribution also created the basis for a certain state of noneqilibrium in the relations between different groups; naturally this created insecurity, and frequent conflicts which reflected the need for the creation of a definite system of defense and attack. The Bronze Age was at the same time, the epoch, when we begin to have definite class distinction within the primitive community. The beginnings of those divisions which shall bring us to the final social separation and the formation of the rich tribal aristocracy; which in the developed stages of the Iron Age is visible in the princely graves such as exist at Trebeniste or Novi Pazar, already within the framework of the formed Illyrian tribes - the Desidiates or the Autariates. From here to the later formation of the first Illyrian state, which as can be seen more clearly now, only transitional stage exists, between the tribal alliances and the slaveholder state community of the Roman type or the Hellenistic state; which was only one step away, and whose formation depended on the regional conditions which existed at the time. A comparison of the so-called Illyrian state with the Dacian state would be very useful but we feel that this goes beyond the scope of this survey.

As far as the ethnic and linguistic composition of the carriers of the Bronze Age is concerned much debate in the fields of archaeology and linguistics has taken place especially in southeastern Europe and the Balkans. If we accept the thesis of some archaeologists, who have also based their conclusions on the critical appraisal of the linguistic evidence, we can say that the beginning of the Bronze Age represents the stabilizing stage after a long transitional period from the Neolithic to the metal age, when is a series of often archaeologically impossible to document waves, we have the penetration towards Europe and especially its southeast of the Indo-European herdsmen from the Russian steppes. It is necessary to mention, especially by the archaeologist, that these migrations do not necessarily mean the total destruction of the older Neolithic population. It is definite that at certain times villages were burned, pillaged and completely destroyed. However during this long process and other similar movements, we come to the final stabilization and symbiosis of the older agricultural elements of the Neolithic with the newcomers who bring with them a definitely more primitive material culture, but at the same time a more refined and developed patriarchal organization as well as new language elements. This is the way according to a group of archaeologists from the Balkans that Bronze Age would represent the period of the Indo-Europeanization of the indigenous population. The period when the basis for the later development of the Palaeobalkanic ethnic groups took place: such as the Illyrians, Thracians and eventually the Dace-Mysians south of the Sava and Danube Rivers, and north of the Danube in later Dacia, the Dacians and the Getae.

The last phase of this development is connected, first of all with the end of the Bronze Age and the transition into the Iron Age, the period which in Central Europe, on the basis of the characteristic method of burial of this period, is called the Urnfield period. Also in the Balkans and the Lower Danube we can count on new tribal movements at this time. These movements begin as it seems under the pressure once again originating in the Pontic area with new groups which are headed towards the Lower Danube. This series of tribal movements and migrations is historically reflected under the name of the so-called Aegean Migrations or the Invasion of the Sea-peoples, the fall of Troy, the destruction of the Mycenaean state and the disintegration of the Sea Peoples to Egypt. This event was commemorated in the famous inscription of Ramsis III at Medinet-Habu.

Culturally as well as economically, and historically the Bronze Age represents, therefore, an especially important stage in the development of Europe, the accent of which falls on its southeastern part, which due to its geographic situation was earmarked to play a very important role.


How within the framework of this historical development, different areas or rather regions came to play a smaller or larger role as well as fit into the broader cultural complexes and their separate evolution presents us with another problem? We cannot negate the importance of the geomorphological evolution of this area. For instance Serbia lies on one of the main natural communications of the old Balkans, the Morava-Vardar river valleys whose importance on the basis of archaeological research today has been definitely established. This was the area, as is known, where cultural influences of different large areas of the earlier civilizations met with each other: the Aegeo-Asia Minor area, the Pannonian-Carpathian, the Balkans with its particularities and finally, from the end of the Neolithic and during the centuries of the transitional period from the Neolithic to the metal age, the nomad-steppe elements which brought with them the transition of the Indo-European languages and new forms of economic life which were an important factor in the creation of the cultures of the Bronze Age. But here, natural features of certain zones plays an important role, on this basis we can separate several large cultural areas in which, during the Bronze Age, a basis was created for further cultural and ethnic separation. In a broader sense they are related to wider cultural areas. While, for example, central Serbia, is related to the Morava valley and its tributaries, in a cultural sense it is related on one hand to the whole area of the Lower Danube Plain between the Stara Planina and the Carpathians and on the other hand it is related to the influences from the Aegean world and the areas of formation in modern-day Greece of the refined Mycenaean culture. The region of the Danube Lands is widely related to the Pannonian Plain and the Carpathians, and illustrates in essence a similar cultural development, in which however a stronger Central European influence is evident. Western Serbia, hilly and mountainous, south of the Sava Plain, is closely related already to the western part of the Balkan Peninsula, that area where we have the formation and development of the mutually related tribes who are to be designated later by writers as Illyrians. They spread over a wider area one ethnic determinant which in essence originally only comprised the southern part of this zone i.e. Albania and Montenegro, the Illyrian nucleus, however this is the same area that later in the first millenium BC fundamentally affected the cultural development of this region. It must be mentioned here that the borders of the Bronze Age are still not clearly defined, so that the appearance of certain large cultural complexes: the Balkano-Carpathian, the Thracian, are taken to mean the geographical areas of Thrace in southern Bulgaria and the western Balkans, where very often they met one another and assimilated which in the last analysis is the process of ethnogenesis of the Paleobalkanic peoples. This field of study has opened many new possibilities of interpretation for the already existing data and archaeological material which, however exceeds the limits of this exhibition.


Finally, we have arrived at the point where we must treat the question of time divisions of the different stages of the cultural development of the Bronze Age i.e. its chronology. For a long time the system that was in use for the chronology of the Bronze Age in this area was based on the Central European archaeological material and was created by the well known German archaeologist P. Reinecke. Using as a basis the characteristic appearance in the archaeological inventory of closed assemblages, finds that definitely belong to the same time of deposit and that were contemporaneous and analysing the elements and transforming and expressing them in numbers of years, he divided the Bronze Age into four phases which he denominated by the use of the letters A-D, which encompass generally the years from 1800-1200 BC. However, systematic archaeological investigation in the Balkans and the Lower Danube region has definitely confirmed, that this system cannot and must not be schematically transferred to these areas. Taken as a whole, we must count on one phase of the Early Bronze Age which takes place around 1600 BC and approximately corresponds to phase A of Reinecke's chronology, even though its beginnings most likely belong somewhere before 1800 BC The Middle Bronze Age which when used according to Reinecke, encompasses his last phase of the Early Bronze Age A 2. This extends all the way to the year 1300-1200, terminating with his Phase C and finally his Late Bronze Age, approximately 1300-1200, phase D or as called by other archaeologists, the Urnfield period in Central Europe. This period is marked by the characteristic cultures at the beginning of the great historical events of the Aegean migrations, which actually mark the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron age and according to many Balkan archaeologists the actual formation of the Paleobalkan peoples - the Illyrians and Thracians.


Using the above mentioned facts as a basis, i.e. their interpretation, we wish to offer a suitable text for exhibition of the Bronze Age in Serbia which would furnish the data necessary about this archaeological material and its historical interpretation. It is therefore necessary to take a quick glance at the transitional period from the Neolithic to the Bronze and its development in the different territories in the sense and manner that we have set out in this text earlier i.e. its different stages and phases and its characteristic traits in each of these areas. It is in this vein that we shall continue.


It has already been mentioned that the period of transition from the Neolithic to the Metal Ages represents an epoch when a series of successive incursions, brought forth the Indo-European immigrant herdsmen from the Pontic steppes into different areas of Europe, especially the Lower Danube and the Balkans. From this symbiosis and assimilation of the native peoples with the newly arrived elements, a series of new culture groups from this period related to different areas in Pannonia and the Balkans originated especially in this country. The final stage of this long process which lasted for many centuries, is the definite stabilization which manifests itself in the specific features of certain culture groups in the territory of modem-day Serbia, i.e. the Early Bronze Age in the narrow sense of the term.

The culture groups that belong to the period of transition and are to be. found in modern-day Serbia are: the Tiszapolgar and Bodrogkeresztur groups found especially along the Tisza river and in the Banat. However their elements exist even in Western Serbia, along the Drina the very interesting and not fully explained finds from Visesava near Bajina Basta. The Baden group, extending over the whole territory of Vojvodina and within the framework of its territory the somewhat separable groups of the Baden type in a narrow sense e.g. the Baden-Kostolac group whose appearance is related to the Danube Lands area of Serbia and modem-day Vojvodina; finally the so-called Vucedol group, whose elements, as is the case with the Baden group appear also in Sumadija. In all these groups without going into detail, we are dealing with the combination of earlier indigenous and newly arrived elements. How we are going to relate the appearance of these different groups within the limits of this exhibition to the closed assemblages, ought to and must be explained, since archaeology by dint of the material at its disposal i.e. pottery and its interpretation remain for the moment an open question. Separation on the basis of territorial occupation of cultural groups is at the moment very difficult. In some of these groups and contemporaneous with we them have the appearance of definitely identifiable shapes of copper axes. Their manufacture is important first of all for determining the metallurgical centers and workshops. From these centers, metal objects were distributed far and wide.

The first stage of the Early Bronze Age according to the earlier mentioned definition, is the period of definite stabilization based on the conflicts which resulted from the confrontations of the native populations with the arrival of new elements. This manifested itself with the appearance of several new local cultural groups with their specific features. In this way, for instance, we have in the Morava valley in this period the culture named by the excavator as Bubanj-Hum III. The earlier phases of the evolution of this group, Bubanj-Hum I and II, correspond definitely to the transitional phase from the Neolithic to the Metal Age: if we analyze this group carefully we can see that already in the transitional period that we are dealing with definite movements of the native population in certain areas of the Lower Danube, especially in Oltenia going South. About these movements there can be no doubt since they explain the appearance in the Morava valley and even as far away to the south as Pelagonia and northern Thessaly and parts of Albania of cultural elements that correspond to the Krividol-Salcuta group, Bubanj-Hum I and II in Macedonia, on the territory of Pelagonia of the Suvodol-Supljevac group as well as in the southeastern part of Albania of the Maliq II phase. In question here are the first movements under the pressure of the Indo-European elements from the Lower Danube. On the contrary, during the systematic excavations, that took place during several seasons at Bubanj near Nis it was noticed that the third phase of the Bubanj-Hum group was characterized by the intensive development of stockbreeding (in the layers corresponding to this phase there was a marked increase in the remains of animal bones), and the separate appearance of the typical shape of the double handeled vase. This is especially related to the later phase of the Early Bronze Age in Macedonia, especially in Pelagonia and the northwestern part of Aegean Macedonia, as well as the phases of Maliq III a-b in Albania. Chronologically, these new features correspond to the epoch before the beginning of the Mycenaean civilization with its rich princely graves, the so-called Shaft graves. In the cultural-historical sense it is possible to believe in a definite stabilization of the Indo-European peoples, who, as we have already mentioned are the basis for the origin and further development of the well known Paleobalkan peoples.

The evolution in the Pannonian part of the above mentioned territory and Western Serbia, even with its regional differences was in essence very similar. In the northern part of the Banat, the area near the mouth of the Mures, we are met by the group called the Mokrin-Periamos; in the last few years the character of this group has been analyzed in detail due to the excavations that took place in Mokrin itself near Kikinda. The burial rite is still hi the Neolithic tradition i. e. the typical fist graves where the skeleton is placed in a contracted position. The grouping of the graves into smaller units, would lead us to believe in the existence of some type of tribal or family community. The basic forms of pottery are shapes of vases with one or two handles which do not surpass the rim, and which are characteristically poor in decoration. The shapes, as well as the potter's technique points to an older tradition; while the metal finds, the grouping and arrangement of the graves indicates the arrival of new elements. It is interesting to note however, that burial under a tumulus which is very characteristic of the Indo-European elements coming from the Pontic steppes, is not very common. However, on the other hand, there are a series of elements in the material culture that Hungarian archaeologists have established, and offer proof of a definite cultural continuity with the previous epoch while there are other certain features, such as those in the Somogyvar group which point to similar manifestations in the material culture and burial rite which definitely indicates ties to the tumulus burial type, not only by the relations to the Pontic steppe region but specifically with the burial rite in Western Serbia e.g. Belotic-Bela Crkva, Dragacevo.

Now let us take a look at the tumulus graves on the territory of Western Serbia, which belong to the Belotic-Bela Crkva group and tall into the Early Bronze Age of this region. The method of interment here, is definitely related to the appearance of the new tumulus burial rite, which was brought here by the Indo-European tribes. It could be noticed from the skeletal remains under the tumuli that the graves of the men as well as the leaders of the family community were treated specially (e.g. Graves 24-25 in the Bela Crkva tumulus I and tumulus II). The composition and construction of these tumuli point to very close ties with the Pontic steppes. This is also demonstrated by the means of interment. However, aside from the skeletal graves where the deceased placed in a contracted position, and the special attention that was paid to the male population; which indicates a patriarchal order characteristic of the early Indo-European herdsmen, we also wave burial by means of cremation (e.g. Belotic tumulus XII). The cremated remains and funeral gifts where left on the pyre where the cremation took place and not put into a vase. The type of funeral rite from this time on, can be traced throughout the whole area of Western Serbia until the Roman period; that is to say until the time when the ethnic appurtenance of the Illyrian population of this area is no longer in doubt.

Although in the early phases of the Bronze Age the borders of certain areas not always clearly defined, the different phases of their material culture and other manifestations based on archaeological methods form the basis for the stabilization of the Bronze Age. In its later evolution offers the fundaments for the further differentiation of the ethnic composition of the Paleobalkan peoples. The uncertainty of these borders on one hand and the cultural unity on the other, along with the local variations can still indicate the appearance of new groups e.g. in Srem and Slavonia of the so-called Vinkovci group. Although the details of this group are still not fully understood, there are definite forms in the material culture, especially the pottery which indicate close ties with the Belotic-Bela Crkva group of Western Serbia and the Illyrian region. It can be seen from the above mentioned, that the situation in Pannonia where we also have the appearance of the Somogyvar group with its tumuli is very complex and which historically should be treated as one of the phases of the Indoeuropeanization taking place in the Early Bronze Age in this area. Of no lesser importance would be the tumulus graves in Vrbica in Oltenia, which today, definitely point to close relations with the events that took place within the Bela Crkva group and in this way help to further the final solution of the process of Indoeuropeanization that took place during the Early Bronze Age in all the areas that extend from the Carpathian mountains to the western Balkans.


In the next epoch, the period of the mature, Middle Bronze Age, almost everywhere we have the continuity of the different cultures which are later to form the groups of the Late Bronze Age. The period which set the stage for the events that were to take place during the Aegean Migrations. How we are to interpret these new and different aspects of the material cultures of this period in relation to history will have to be interpreted on the basis of archaeology which is still the only source that we have at our disposal. The evidence at our disposal today seems to confirm the historical interpretation of the archaeological material that was set out in the Symposium on the territorial and chronological borders of the Illyrians in prehistoric times in Sarajevo in 1964.

In the area of the Morava lands we meet during this period, several groups which can be distinguished archaeologically. The Slatina group is one in question, it received its name from the site in Donja Slatina (Lower Slatina) near Leskovac. Here, during the excavations, the basic features of this group were established. Chronologically this group belongs to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (i.e. the phases A 2/B 1 according to the chronological system established by P. Reinecke). So far the existence of this group has only been documented in the south of the Morava lands area. The finds that also belong to this group, aside from those from Donja Slatina are: Gradac near Zlokucani in the vicinity of Leskovac and Velika Humska Cuka near Ms. The position of their settlements usually dominated the nearby area, making it easy to defend as well as survey the movements of anything taking place in the region. They usually had control in this case, for the natural communications in the Morava valley. The cultures of this period are still not very well known, this is mainly due to the lack of ceramic material. The technique and fabric and method of decoration-diagonal flutings indicate a close connection with the Bubanj-Hum phases I and II. On the other hand, however, certain shapes such as conical bowls with a handle that surpasses the rim and terminates in a button-like shape or the larger vases with wide, flat rims, indicate the beginning of a long cultural evolution in the Morava Lands area, which perhaps has some connections with some of the phases of the Cernavoda culture in Rumania. The appearance of this group here, would most likely have been due to the immigration of new peoples from the Lower Danube towards Oltenia. The cultural relations here are still unclear. The present situation will not be solved until large excavations undertake to excavate this type of site and try explain the intricate of life that took place in this area at this time.

More interesting in this respect is the so-called Paracin group which extends over the whole area of the confluence of the Velika Morava. This group also appears in the Timok valley (the site Pisura Cesma near Zajecar). The most important sites for this group at the moment are Glozdar in Paracin and Rutevac near Aleksinac, both of which are cemeteries. The settlements belonging to these cemeteries have not been identified as yet. The method of burial in these cemeteries is very important: in question are urn graves, where the burnt remains of the deceased were placed in an urn, along with a series of gifts: small vases, some metal objects usually jewelry. These finds as well as this burial rite are related to the already mentioned Balkano-Carpathian cultural complex which covers the whole territory from Stara Planina to the Carpathians including modern-day Vojvodina. Once again, we seem to have proof that this area cannot be considered as the area where either the Thracians or Illyrians originally formed. It seems possible that this is the area where the so called Daco-Mysian tribes formed, which has been pointed out by some linguists (VI. Georgiev) that there exists a separate Daco-Mysian language group in the Balkans. A further proof of this theory would be that it is just this territory of the Morava Lands that belongs to the area of Moesia, which was later during the formation of the Roman provinces in the Balkans created. As far as the archaeological material is concerned, it should be mentioned that the ceramics of the Paracin group show certain interesting traits: single handled vases that surpass the rim and have a button-like termination are a direct continuation of the Slatina group. Double handled vases which surpass the rim, sometimes with the button-like termination is one of the most characteristic features of the Bronze age in southeastern Europe. The nearest parallels come from eastern Pannonia and Oltenia, where we have the so-called Verbicioara group in Rumania. From the Bubanj-Hum I and II phases we have the bowls with inward curved rims. Although decoration on the vases of the Paracin group is scarce, the flutings that do appear are related to the Slatina group and perhaps point to an earlier Bubanj-Hum evolution. Incised decorations, ornaments on the vases, especially in a spiral shape internally connected by a motive in the shape of a letter M, demonstrates the relation to the Verbicioara group. On the whole, the Paracin group can be considered a local phenomenon taking place at the confluence of the Velika Morava river, related by its features to the cultural development of this region as well in a broader sense to the Balkano-Carpathian area.

It is very interesting to note, that on the site of Glozdar itself, in Paracin, that there are certain graves which definitely belong to the Late Bronze Age and are connected with the Aegean Migration. In this exhibition this is demonstrated by the Grave 1962/2. Certain shapes of the vases that were found as grave gifts in this grave, such as vases with incurving rims and handles surpassing the rim, and decorated with flutings, indicate the ties with the Paracin group of the Middle Bronze Age. On the other hand, the shape of the urn in which the cremated remains were deposited, the high neck and the rounded channeled shoulder as well as the shapes of the handles and their arrangement on the urn indicate a later period: the Urnfield period in Vojvodina, especially in the Banat. Here we can no doubt count on an internal evolution without any changes in the ethnic composition of the population, from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age and the Transition period to the Iron Age. What actually took place, in the south Morava Lands area, during the mature Bronze Age and the transition to the Iron Age is at the moment not completely clear. After the end of the Slatina group, solitary finds such as the urn from Lapotinac with its vertically bored handles and incised hatched triangles, indicates, as has already been pointed out in archaeological literature, the ties with Macedonia and the Thracian complexes. However, it is only with the Late Bronze Age that we can with certainty define a developed and formed cultural group. The systematic excavations carried out at Brzi Brod near Nis, (in archaeological literature known under the name of the Mediana group, the type site is at Brzi Brod in the proximity of the Roman Mediana) in 1972 confirmed this. The ceramic forms, vases with inward curving and channeled rims, represent an evolution of the older forms whose tradition can be traced back to the transition period from the Neolithic to the metal period and the immigration of new groups of peoples from Oltenia to the Morava lands area the Bubanj-Hum group. The vase shapes with one handle that surpasses the rim and terminates in a button-like shape, is one that had a definite evolution in the Mediana group and its origin is to be sought in the older traditions of the Bronze Age in the Morava Lands area-the Slatina and Paracin groups. On the other hand, certain forms of the vases of the earliest phase, remind one of the urn shapes from the end of the Paracin period, while the bowls with the incurving rims, and vases with wide, flat and often channeled rims must be related to the end of the Bronze Age and beginning of the transition to the Iron Age in Pannonia and the Sava Lands area, e.g. Donja Dolina. Their relation to the so called Baierdorf-Velatice group of the alpine area also indicates a date of the Bronze Age D (according to Reinecke), even though there are certain archaeologists who would like to place this group in a later time.

Much more important, however, is the historical interpretation of the Mediana group. The importance of the Mediana group was already noticed in 1962, but true confirmation only took place after the extensive systematic excavations that took place in 1972 under the direction of M. Garasanin. This excavation offered the possibility with certainty, on the basis of the stratigraphy, to separate three distinct phases at Mediana I-III, The material culture of the first of these phases is very definitely related to the material culture found in Macedonia after the destruction of the Late Bronze Age settlement, winch marks the beginning of the Aegean Migration. On the basis of this we can infer that tribes emigrating from the Morava Lands area took place in the Aegean Migration. In any case they were only one of the component factors, that is to say, that they moved south down the Morava-Vardar Valley towards Greece and the Mycenaean world. On the other hand the tribes from Thrace and Dobrudza, played an important role in the destruction of Priam's Troy, which is reflected in the Homeric epics. It as also important to note that in Mediana during the period of the Aegean Migration that there are no traces of any settlement destruction over a large area, which would indicate that there were no incursions from the outside of any large extent. In other words, it is certain that some of the peoples from the Morava Lands area went south. They were most likely attracted by the riches of the Mycenaean world, and under the pressure of the other tribes that were moving south from further north. But it as evident that the cultural stream of events was not greatly disturbed. These are the archaeological facts that help to solve the historical problems that are so important for this period, and illuminate the significance of the Balkans in the Bronze Age.

In the above text we have tried on the basis of the archaeological data to offer a picture of the evolution of the Bronze Age in the Morava Lands area until the Aegean Migration. This survey has used and analyzed the existing archaeological material and interpreted it from a historical aspect, which we believe is the final aim of modem archaeology. This type of interpretation is shared by many other archaeologists of specific regions: A. Benac, M. Garasanin, I. Nestor, V. Dumitrescu, M. Korkuti, F. Prendi, the author of this article et alii. It was intentional that we did not discuss any metal objects, which can be attributed to these groups with more or less certainty. It should be noted that many of the metal objects in question are typical for the metallurgy of the Middle Bronze Age in Central Europe and the Carpathians. Some of the shapes, such as the disc-shaped headed pin (Petschaftkopfnadel) in the Paracin group chronologically belongs to the Middle Bronze Age (Reinecke B2-C). In Mediana until now no metal objects have been found, except the appearance of a mould during the 1972 excavation which would indicate the existence of metallurgy. Unfortunately, the mould was damaged, so that the shape of the object in question is difficult to define. Especially interesting are the large bracelets with spreading extremities the so called Juhor type bracelets which are also richly decorated with geometric ornaments. These bracelets were casted and their distribution is mainly concentrated around the Juhor mountain and on the Lower Morava Lands area. Outside of this region bracelets of this type are only rarely found, e.g. in the Banat and Pelagonia (near Bitolj). In the hoard from Trcevac (near Svetozarevo), which contains gold and bronze objects belonging to the Middle Bronze Age, we have bracelets of tills type in a primitive form. This would indicate that during the Bronze Age, the Morava Lands Area was in close contact with Central Europe. On the other hand, it is likely that there existed also local workshops that worked metal objects, such as the Juhor type bracelets, which were local forms of the gold work in these areas.


The cultural development of the Morava Lands area in the Bronze Age is also closely related to the region of Kosovo. This connection is all the more obvious when one takes into account the natural communication route, especially the Toplica Valley, which was even used during the Roman period as the fasis for the important road leading from Nis to Lezha (Naissus-Lissus). On the other hand it is evident that the region of Kosovo in this period already had close cultural contact, and also ethnic contacts with the west Balkan Illyrian area. Unfortunately, on the basis of the archaeological information at our disposal, it is not possible with certainty to offer a complete picture of the Kosovo region during the Bronze Age. However, on the basis of the known sites from this region (Ljusta near Kosovska Mitrovica and Gladnica near Pristina) we seem to have a culture that is very similar to the Mediana group. It seems possible on the basis of this to trace their genesis back to the Paracin and Slatina groups. On the other hand the urn from Ljusta, unfortunately a solitary find, seems to indicate influences from Pannonia on the basis of its shape and decoration. It is quite clear that no widespread conclusions can be based on one solitary find.

Today, however, it is definite that the events that took place in the Kosovo region during the Bronze Age are more closely related to the west Balkan complex. This has been indicated on the basis of the tumulus graves in Rogovo, even though the funeral rite (the remains of the deceased were placed on a stone slab) here has so far no analogies in any other region. The metal objects from one of the Rogovo tumuli: bronze bracelet whose ends terminate in the shape of a seal and a seal-shaped headed needle indicate the Middle Bronze Age and ties with Central Europe, although the bracelet should be related to the west Balkan region. In any case it is only future systematic archaeological excavations that will allow us to take a definite stand of this question.


The region of Vojvodina, just like the Morava Lands area, is for the most part related to the Balkano-Carpathian complex. However, on the other hand there are certain factors which are more closely related to the region of Pannonia. Today, in general, in this region we can distinguish two cultural groups: the Vatin group named after the type site at Vatin near Vrsac and the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo group after the types sites of Dubovac near Kovin and Zuto Brdo in the village of Vinci near Golubac in Serbia. It must be immediately noted that the characteristics of these groups can be traced in the Serbian region of the Danube Lands, in the same form as in Vojvodina, however they don't extend more south than Central Serbia and the Morava Lands area. The events in Western Serbia, on the basis of the material culture are closely related to Vojvodina, even though the burial rite is different and connected to the west Balkan complex, and shall be treated later in this survey.

The Vatin group has been known in archaeology ever since the beginning of this century. Its typical forms and the extent of its culture are throughout the whole of the Vojvodina, although the main center is however in the Banat, the area nearest to the Carpathians. In question is a typical Middle Bronze Age culture, which has been investigated in settlements such as Vatin and Zidovar. In these settlements the remains of rectangular prehistoric houses have been found built on the surface of the ground. Their shape and form in general, corresponds to similar features that have been noticed in other areas of the Balkano-Carpathian complex. Here, although there are differences in the shapes as well as the ornamentation of objects we can also put the Paracin group. The burial rite consisted of the cremated remains of the deceased being placed in an urn, along with the grave gifts which were arranged around the urn and other different vases, while the metal objects were placed in the urn. However, skeletal burials in an extended position certainly existed. But until now we still have no definite evidence of this, that burial under a tumulus was practised as it was in the west Balkan area. It is evident that what we have here are flat graves, that formed small groups, which on the basis of the available information would lead us to believe that they were the graves of families or small clans.

As is the case with other culture groups of the Bronze Age, the basis for following culture patterns and changes, is the detailed study of the pottery of each group. Very often in the pottery we have the imitation of metallic vessels, a characteristic example of this would be the double handled vase whose handles surpass the rim from Omoljica near Pancevo. Aside from this, characteristic are the single handled vases that surpass the rim, a footed jug, lids with crossed handles, and urns, often with cylindrical necks and curved shoulders and strap handles and lugs on the belly, arranged in a definite order similar to the Paracin Grave 1962-2. There is also a rich variety of handle shapes: the so called ansa lunata, homed and volute types. The decoration on these vases as relatively poor. Of the ornaments present we have sometimes wide flutes, ribbed channels which are arranged horizontally and diagonally. More often we have incised ornaments in the shape of a gar land with spiral terminations. Sometimes on the urns these decorations are done with the aid of a cord. In any case the main esthetic value of this pottery are its proportions, the sharply profiled shapes that certainly imitate original metal shapes. Other art forms such as sculpture and the plastic arts which were so common in the Neolithic period, and which do not exist in the Bronze Age groups of the Morava valley, are somewhat better represented here, especially the animal shaped vases from Vatin, and the well known bird vase from Starcevo, where we also have the remains of a late Vatin phase grave. Today, chronologically it is possible to divide the Vatin group into three phases. This has been accomplished mainly on the basis of the differences of the material from different sites and closed assemblages from graves. At the well known site of Zidovar near Vrsac there exists well differed levels that belong to the Vatin group and other groups of the Metal Age. When this material is published in it entirety it shall no doubt offer us a clearer picture of the situation. The oldest phase of the Vatin group is the so called Pancevo-Omoljica phase named after the type sites in Pancevo and Omoljica. They can be placed at the very beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (according to Reinecke A2/B1) and are characterized generally by the vases that have one or two ansa lunata handles, rarely they are of a developed form. In Pancevo, a small vase with three feet was found, it has been related to the so called Madarovce group of Central Europe, which also belongs to this period. The next phase, the Vatin-Vrsac phase, is actually the classical stage of the Vatin group. During this phase we have many different typical ceramic forms as well as the ones from the previous phase. The inventory of the metal finds from one of the graves from Vatin itself furnishes us with the data necessary to date this phase. The material in question is a characteristic bronze axe and a disc-like shaped headed pin. Finally, we have the large urnfield necropolises, where the urns are decorated by the use of a cord, e.g. Belegis, Surcin, Islands as well as Rospi Cuprija in Belgrade, which all belong to the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Also of importance for dating, is the bronze pin with a grooved head from one of the graves from Islands, which is typical of the Bronze C period according to Reinecke. This phase in any case lasts into the next period, and we can therefore count on an uninterrupted evolution till the next phase of transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Although the rite of burial in an urn remained, the decoration of the urns is much different now, especially the use of flutings such as we have in the Grave 1962/2 from Paracin or in Grave 13 from Rospi Cuprija. Here the urn had a somewhat higher neck, a curved fluted shoulder and handles that were covered by bowl. The closest analogy to this type of bowl comes from the graves in Debark near Kragujevac which also belongs to the Late Bronze Age and transition to the Iron Age. The territory where we find the Vatin group, aside from the already mentioned Banat and Serbian Danube Lands area, is Srem, but in a separate variant. The datation of these finds was made possible by the use of the metal objects from the hoards of Lovas and Vukovar, which belong to the Middle Bronze Age. We shall return later in this survey to the West Serbian variant. According to its character the Vatin group, is no doubt to be related to the Balkano-Carpathian complex, characterized by a series of groups that are similar to it chronologically as well as in burial rite and grave goods that are to be found. Such groups would be to Otomani, Verbicioara or Tie in Oltenia, Transylvania, and Wallachia. It is especially interesting to note the position of the west Serbian variant in relation to the Vatin group, which must be given a somewhat different ethnic interpretation.

The Dubovac-Zuto Brdo group is to be found in the Banat and the Serbian Danube Lands area, extending to the east in the Oltenian Danube Lands area and in northwestern Bulgaria - the region of Vidin. Culturally this groups is related to other groups that have a characteristic pottery where the incised ornaments and decoration are filled with a white paste, the so called incrusted ware. This type of pottery is to be found in south and west Pannonia. In essence we can say that we are dealing with the same culture complex within which we have different groups and variants, of which the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo is the richest. On the other hand even here we have local differences, which cannot unfortunately always be evaluated. This group is mainly known from grave finds, while our knowledge of its settlements is very scarce. The best investigated necropolis in Korbovo, indicates that the burial rite was similar to that if the Vatin group and other Urnfield groups of the Bronze Age in the Pannonian and Carpathian regions. Among the ceramic shapes that are current we have urns with high necks, sometimes with a steeped profile, the so called two-storied urns, vases with one or two handles very often with a sharp profile, similar to the Vatin ones. We also have different shaped bowls that were often used as urn lids or covers, and double cups similar to those of the Paracin and Vatin groups. Of special interest is the rich variety of decorations, especially the so called Greek meander which was so often later used in Greek art. We must also mention the bird rattles as well as the rich repertory of figurines and plastic arts which separates the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo group from the other groups of the Bronze Age. The typical statuette is one where the figure wears a long wide bell shaped skirt. The appearance of the human figures is very simple although the rich decoration series of sites such as: Vrsac, Korbovo, different sites along the Danube in Serbia incates the use metal jewelry. This type of statuette is well known from a Cirna in Oltenia, Novo Selo in Bulgaria et alibi. The best known and by far the pretties shown example was the so called Idol of Klicevac; it was found in a grave in Klicevac near Pozarevac, unfortunately it was destroyed during World War I. Also important are the two terracotta cult chariots from Dupljaja near Vrsac. On the chariot that is being drawn by some sort of water birds we have a human figure in an upright position dressed in a characteristic skirt common to these groups. On the existing example in the National Museum in Belgrade, we have a male figure dressed in a female's dress. This scene, is definitely connected to the myth of Apollo from Delphi, who lived six months of the year in the land of the Hyperboreans, far to the north and in a fog covered area, which can be related to Pannonia and the Lower Danube area, while the other six months were spent in the sunny Greek world, at the temple in Delphi. If we take, however the information from the ancient myth and that offered by archaeology, and then combine it with the historical information that we have about the earliest period in Greek history on the basis of the archaeological material, we see that just at the time of the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age or otherwise known in Greek mythology as the Epoch of the Trojan War, we have a series of events in the material culture (the meander ornament) and in religious conceptions (the Delphic Apollo cult) and other areas that show close connections to the more northern Balkan region. It must be noted here, that in some of the graves from the Kerameikos in Athens, during the period when the material culture of the Greek world- the Protogeometric and Geometric periods - was at its height, we have shapes and objects whose form and method of decoration indicate a close relationship with the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo group. On the basis of the above stated it would seem possible to say that the carriers of this culture group from Pannonia a the Carpathians and Danube Lands area played an important role m the Aegean Migration.

The chronological position of the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo group within the framework of the development of the Bronze Age in southeastern Europe is not open to any doubt. It is certain that it lasts from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age (according to Reinecke's Phases A2/B1 to Phase D). It is very interesting to note that certain Dubovac-Zuto Brdo type objects have been found in urn graves that are typical of the transition period to the Iron Age. One such example is the grave from Paracin or grave 13 from Rospi Cuprija. We also have another example in grave 32 from Cruceni in Romanian Banat. In a historical sense this means that certain elements of this culture group which evolved during the Bronze Age went on to exist after the end of this period, and can be so traced. It is still not clear what the relationship is to the earlier Vatin group. Culturally and historically it is difficult to believe, that these two groups no matter how similar they are to each other (some of the sites are only a few kilometers of each other) could have developed on the same territory next to each other and still retain their own distinct characteristics. Archaeology today, with its recent investigation has offered us definite answers, on the other hand historically these features are difficult to explain. It is evident that this is due to a lack of investigation and that future systematic excavations shall offer us a solution to this problem.


On the basis of its geomorphological position, and on the basis of the character of its material culture, it is evident that the region of Western Serbian is an entity in itself. In our survey so far it has been mentioned several times, that the characteristics and shapes of the movable inventory of the cultures of this region must be related to the Vatin group, i.e. with Pannonia and in the long run with the Balkano-Carpathian region. On the other hand, if we bear tin mind that the funeral rite that was practiced in this region, is the reflection in an ethnic sense of the population of this region. It can be seen that this region is related to Bosnia and to the evolution of the western part of the Balkan Peninsula as a whole, where on the basis of a given symbiosis of the Indo-European nomads from the Steppes and the indigenous population of this region, we have the nascence of the foundation for the later development of the Illyrian tribes.


Although the archaeological information has not been able to give us definite answers to all the questions that exist, we still must analyze the data that it offers us and on that basis try to solve the historical problems concerned with it in a broader sense.

The type of settlement that is characteristic of the West Serbian variant of the Vatin group is the so called gradina or hillforts. These settlements to be found on a dominating well fortified position, and with understandable internal evolution during different prehistoric periods can be with certainty traced to the Iron Age, the era when with certainty we can speak of the existence of the Illyrian tribes. Unfortunately, archaeological research is still not developed enough, that on the basis of it we could with certainty follow this long evolution, that chronologically encompasses several centuries. On a site in Ljuljaci near Kragujevac, where a similar gradina and archeological material has been found, it has been noticed on the basis of typology that there exists several phases of the above mentioned variant of the Vatin group. The above site unfortunately was never excavated in the modern way and this is the reason that we have to rely on typology as a means of differentiation of levels. It seems sure that a systematic excavation would have the possibility of differentiating several phases of building levels and parts of the settlement. Unfortunately, no such type of research has been undertaken and the question has to remain open for the moment.


The burial rite of this group is the characteristic tumulus burial. The existence of this type of necropolis, had already been noticed at the end of the last century. This was due primarily to the excavations that took place on a series of necropolises in the regions of Valjevo, Loznica and in Dragacevo in the vicinity of Cacak. It has only been since World War II that the systematic excavations on some of the necropolises, especially in Belotic and Bela Crkva and to some extent in the surrounding of Cacak, that we have been able to gain some new and more complete information.

There is no doubt that the most common form of burial during this period was under a tumulus, in small or large necropolises which probably represent the cemeteries of large families or clans. Where the settlements are located that belong to these necropolises is still an unsolved problem. All attempts during the excavations that have taken place so far on the necropolises to locate the settlements have been futile. Does this mean that these settlements were made up only of groups of huts, from some sort of ephemeral material that has left no traces that modern archeological techniques can determine. Or is it possible, that during the summer the inhabitants lived in tents in the mountains, this would lend a partial answer as to why there have been no traces of their settlements. This is a question that has not been posed by archaeologists so far and it might contain a possible answer.

The burial under the tumulus was effected on the basis of two principles, that, have already been described in the Early Bronze Age in the Belotic-Bela Crkva group:cremation and burial of the deceased. The construction and appearance of these tumuli does not differ greatly from the earlier ones: aside from the regular tumuli, those simply covered with earth, and those that have a typical ring of stones going around the base of the tumulus.Contrary to this, in the cremated graves there are definitely new moments: now in the central part of the tumulus, we find a stone nucleus, that was formed by piling up stone blocks in the shape of a cone, under which the urn was placed and in which we have the cremated remains of the deceased. In the urn or next to it there are to be found the grave goods, such as small ceramic vases or different sorts of metal objects, usually jewelry (sometimes amber) that followed the deceased into his grave. Contemporaneous, with these graves as is shown by the grave goods, (as in the earlier Belotic-Bela Crkva), are skeletal graves. Here the deceased is placed on the earth, usually in an extended position not in a flexed position as was the case earlier). Sometimes, the deceased was placed In a sort of stone cist, e.g. in the central grave of Tumulus 14 in Belotic. The skeleton in the central grave of Tumulus 19 in this same necropolis was placed in a similar manner. This is very important for determining and following the internal evolution of the Bronze Age in these parts. In some cases on the basis of certain archaeological observations, we have been able to draw very interesting conclusions. For instance in Tumulus 16, we have an urn in which the remains of the deceased were very carefully placed. The tumulus itself was formed on the pyre where the cremation of the deceased was practiced, and we can very clearly distinguish between the remains of the deceased and the burnt earth and ash. Under the pyre, where the urn had been placed in a special stone construction, we discovered a skeletal grave, and it is quite clear that the pyre was not damaged in order to place the skeleton there. It is evident then, that the grave existed before the cremation and the collecting of the remains of the deceased that were placed in the urn. In this grave we fund a vase that is in type very similar to some of the other finds from the necropolis in Belotic. On the basis of the above mentioned it seems possible that the skeletal burial took place before the urn grave, and that we are most likely dealing with a human sacrifice.


Although modem systematic excavations have offered us much information about the burial rites in this region it is still not possible to state any sort of reason for the preference of one type of burial to another. For instance, in the tumulus necropolis in Debark, in one of the excavated tumuli the urn graves appear in a sort of double cist, built of stone slabs. In front of these cists in which we have the urns, v/e have vases that are an integral part of the grave inventory. On one of the cist cover slabs, on the longer side, there are some incised signs, which perhaps may be interpreted as some primitive form of writing. As far as the archaeological material of the West Serbian variant of the Vatin group is concerned, the most typical feature is its pottery. Aside from the typical urns, bowls, double handled vases that often have a sharp profile and handles that surpass the rim and terminate in a bottonlike shape, we have double cups, and the characteristic incised and channeled decorations, which are closely related to the typical shapes of the Vatin group, However, the basic features are markedly more primitive and roughly worked. This would indicate, that aside from the definite connection with the Vatin group, that local manufacture was practised, and that contacts with this group could only have taken place at the very beginning of this phase.

The West Serbian variant of the Vatin group lasted for a long time, in any case during the Middle and to the Late Bronze Ages, as can be seen from the inventory of the metal finds from some of the graves. On one of the decorated slabs from the stone cist in Tumulus III of the Bela Crkva necropolis, we have a thorn-like ornament which along with the rest of the inventory of the grave indicates the Middle Bronze Age as a date. Contemporaneous with this grave would be a short sword with a tang from a tumulus grave in Joseva, where pottery also was found, that according to its character, can be related to the Vatin-Vrsac phase in the Banat of the Vatin group. Large pins with flat heads and a somewhat widened upper part, decorated with geometric ornaments, are one of the local features of the necropolises of Western Serbia in the Middle Bronze Age. Especially interesting are the metal finds from the central grave of Tumulus 19 in Belotic. A bracelet, that comes from this grave, which is ellipsoidal in shape and ends that are opposite to each other, belongs to the bracelet type called Gucevo-Barajevo-Jajcic. This type of bracelet is very common to the beginning of the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age (Reinecke's Phase D-Hallstatt Al) and is found in almost every hoard and tumulus grave in Serbia. As far as the long spindle-shaped pins are concerned, which first appear at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (Reinecke's Phase C), their unnaturally long length (length 117,5 cm.), might be considered as a sign of respect. The distribution of these needles is common throughout a wide portion of Europe at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the transition into the Iron Age. The fact that these features are not solitary or accidental in Belotic is proved by the fact that we have similar finds from a tumulus grave in Rocevici near Zvornik. Finally, in the already mentioned tumulus from Debark, in one of the graves, a tanged arrowhead was inbedded in the spinal chord of the deceased and it is evident that this was the reason for death. The shape of this arrowhead belongs to the Late Bronze Age and to the beginning of the transition to the Iron Age.

The character of the pottery of the West Serbian variant of the Vatin group, indicates close contacts with this group in Vojvodina. The distribution of this group during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages has already been mentioned earlier in this survey. The metal finds which can be chronologically divided into several phases, illustrates here as well, that this bronze industry is very closely related to Central Europe and the Carpathian region. On this basis, these finds can without any difficulty can be attributed as a whole to the Vatin group, i.e. the Balkano-Carpathian complex of the Bronze Age. The important difference here, however, is the method of tumulus burial. According to the traditions, that can be traced in these parts from the Early Bronze Age, the burial rites practiced in southern Pannonia must have known a different evolution. In western Serbia the rites that were performed along with the local variations could be found on the whole area of the western Balkans all the way south to Marathon, and can be traced even during the Iron Age when we have the complete development of the Illyrian population of these parts. It must not be forgotten that burial rites, as has already in archaeological literature been pointed out, always remain rather conservative. Therefore, they offer very often a much sounder basis for the ethnic interpretation of a population, than is the case with movable grave goods that can be much more easily adapted to the existing local forms. If one keeps this in maid, especially the existing cultural continuity and development in the western portion of the Balkan Peninsula, it is not difficult to see that we are dealing with the Indoeuropeanization of the indigenous population that later is to be the foundation for the Illyrian tribes. This assimilation and regrouping of ethnic elements on the western part of the Balkan Peninsula took place at the end of the Aegean Migration, during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age around the year 1200 BC


In the above survey, we have tried to offer, on the basis of the available archaeological material, a picture of the Bronze Age and its cultural and chronological development during the centuries that this important period in prehistory belongs to. The distinction between cultural areas, depends to a great deal on the geographic and topographic character of the land, and indicates the basis for finer distinctions of the written sources that pertain to the Paleobalkan peoples. It is very important, that during the whole Bronze Age a continuity can be followed that extends to the period of transition into the Iron Age. This is characteristic of all the cultural groups of this area, including the Dubovac-Zuto Brdo, which in Oltenia is followed by the Insula Banului group and later the Bassarabi group in these parts and Transylvania (compare also some of the finds from Saraorci near Smederevo). In Thrace at this time we have the appearance of the new group, the so called Psenicevo which kept close contacts with the peoples of the Morava Lands area as can be seen from the finds in the Mediana group. It can also be noticed that the people, who during this period lived in the Morava Lands area took part if only partially in the movements attributed to the so called Aegean Migration. In this manner, the Bronze Age evolves as a very important stage in the process of formation of the Paleobalkan peoples, their ethnogenesis, and the historical events that have left their imprint, in a sense on the historical evolution of the old Balkans. Until now, enough attention has not been paid to this very important period in the ancient history of southeastern Europe except among the small circle of interested specialists. It is the purpose of this exhibition, to try and fulfill this gap, and offer a more understanding picture of this, not too well known period. We shall be very pleased if this exhibition and this short accompanying survey helped in any way to achieve this aim.

Dr Draga Garasanin

Translated by M. R. Stefanovic M. A.

// Project Rastko / Archaeology //
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