Universitatea „Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu, Facultatea de Ştiinţe Socio-Umane; Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences
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Istorie & Antropologie
Bird Offerings In Tenth-Eleventh Century Necropolises From Alba-Iulia
This article focuses on the bird offering identified during the archaeological researches made in the last decades in the cemeteries from Alba Iulia (Brândușei Street/Str. Brândușei, Salvation Station/Stația de Salvare, Emperor’s Spring/Izvorul Împăratului, Hunters’ Street/ Str. Vânătorilor, Pîclișa- At the Springs/Pîclișa-„La Izvoare”). This custom, common particularly in the inhumation graves from the 10th century, is represented by the bird’s skeleton or by the eggs remains (chicken, duck), laid between one to three copies, in different anatomical regions of the body. Regarding the bird skeleton, we mention two special situations in which we have a combination of two chickens and a cock (Salvation Station/M. 500), or a combination of one chicken and equine skeleton (Emperor’s Spring/ M. 78). Another interesting association was identified in a warrior grave from Emperor’s Spring(M. 165), where the equine offering was combined with an egg offering.
Concerning the egg offering (chicken, duck), it is imposed a perspective with two interpretations: rebirth/ the beginning of a new life or as a food appendage. The egg shells were identified both in children graves (simple/ fitted out with stone) and in adults graves (women and men), depending on the necropolis’s characteristics. Sometimes, the egg remains were found near a ceramic pot (Emperor’s Spring/M. 154, M. 156, M. 161, M. 222; Salvation Street/ M. 378, M. 494, M. 496, M. 624; Pîclișa/ M. 30, M. 33) or within it (Brândușei Street/ M. 15, Museikon).
From afar, the most interesting particular situation can be observed in the necropolis from Emperor’s Spring, were most of the graves with bird offering bear the mark of Christian tradition. Furthermore, compared to the number of graves from the necropolis, this custom definitely stands out at Emperor’s Spring, necropolis that is synchronous with the Byzantine church uncovered at Alba Iulia in 2011. In some cases, the presence of two or three eggs could be correlated with a food offering, but in other cases, in connection with a certain anatomical area (on the left or on the right side of the body), it could be correlated with the gender of the one buried. At Emperor’s Spring, (M. 113, M. 126), we have the only casesfrom all Alba Iulia’s necropolises in which we encounter as an offering duck eggs. In some graves with egg offering, were discovered traces (more or less consistent) of coal (Emperor’s Spring/M. 161, M. 165), making clear that the custom existed during the 10th century, but that it disappeared in the next century, as the Christianity was reactivated.
The graves with egg offering have a diversified funeral inventory, composed of ceramic pots, jewelry (looped rings, necklaces, beads), everyday tools and weaponry (knives, arrow heads, quiver, battle axe). Both at Emperor’s Spring and Salvation Station, can be observed graves with sparse egg offering and some situations in which the eggs are grouped.
With one or at most two exceptions (Salvation Station/M. 624?, Hunters’ Street/M. 198), all the situations considered can be dated, without any trouble, in the second half of the 10th century and can be correlated with the period when the transition from paganism to Christianity was made, occurred as a consequence of Gyla/Gylas’s, baptism in Constantinople and bringing the Byzantine mission conducted by Hierotheus at Alba Iulia.
Keywords: Alba Iulia, Transylvania, suite, offering, bird, eggs, Christianity, paganism
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