EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION EXPLORATORY WORKSHOP

EARLY SYMBOLIC SYSTEMS OF COMMUNICATION
IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


KARLOVO, BULGARIA, 14-20 APRIL 2002, SUMMARIES
EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION

PREHISTORY FOUNDATION
Pre-Writing Signs on Neo-Eneolithic Altars

Cornelia-Magda Lazarovici

Archaeological Institute, Iasi, Romania
magdamantu@yahoo.com

The beginning of Neolithic in the area of the “Old Europe” has brought important changes in the spiritual life and to the magic religious practices. Older or newer archaeological discoveries from this particular area show the existence of special cult places in the open air or in special dwellings such as home sanctuaries or communitary sanctuaries. It seems that such cult places had special furniture and inventory, as altars, small altarpieces and table altars. The small altarpieces imitate the shape of monumental altars and were used for burning substances or liquids (maybe some had aromatic qualities) or as lamps for maintaining the fire, the light or the heat, all of them symbols of life and of the alive world.
     Altarpieces are present from the first early Neolithic cultures. We have sketch their typology (considering the form of their recipient, their number of legs but also taking into account their specific features; the altarpieces with zoomorphic or anthropomorphic characters). 
      Altarpieces decoration differs from one type to another and especially from one civilisation to another. Many altarpieces do not have decoration, other have both decoration and signs and others have only sacred symbols. Despite the fact that they are decorated or just showing sacred signs, most altarpieces respect some “cult rules” whose meaning is more difficult to explain.
      Our analyse, based on the database we have created (over 300pieces) is referring to the area represented by Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and ex-Yugoslavia.
     We have identified the most frequent signs and try to interpret their meaning: “M”, “W” (sign-symbol of the Moon Goddess; expression of some astronomical realities as Cassiopea constellation); ”V” (eyes of statuette; associated with cross band, a sign and a sacred decoration), the “eye” (power of the Divinity, or expression of the good forces belonging to the animals from the neighbourhood of men, or on the contrary, the evil, terrifying, the destructive forces of wild animals); the spiral (Sun or Moon, suggesting the lapse of time); the triangle with the pick up or down (sign of sexual identity, connected with fertility and fecundity); circle and concentric circles (sun rays, the idea of light, heat, the cognition; breasts , sign of fertility and fecundity).
     The seriation  work  we have done for the  mentioned database shows that sometimes these signs-symbols are associated, 4 to 7 signs on one altarpiece. This kind of an arrangement can be considered a mythogram, an allegory or some kind of sacred ritual designed to point out the significance of the altarpiece.      This association might be also a “sacred saga” in the manner in which M. Gimbutas believed that all signs represents “sacred hieroglyphs”.
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2002 © European Science Foundation
2002 © Prehistory Foundation & Reports of Prehistoric Research Projects
2002 ©The Author
Editor: Lolita Nikolova
All rights reserved. Published: 12/21/02
Since 12/21/02
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