About a Curved Dagger Discovered at Piatra Craivii

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  • ACTA MVSEI APVLENSIS

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  • ABOUT A CURVED DAGGER DISCOVERED AT PIATRA CRAIVII

    In the Museum of Aiuds collections is preserved an iron curved dagger that is coming from Piatra Craivii1, a rocky height in the environs of Craiva village (Cricu commune, Alba district), well known in the archaeological literature for the Dacian fortress and settlement2. The pieces morphological and decorative characte-ristics generate a series of problems concerning the interpretation of such artefacts.

    The curved dagger, made from iron, is of type with a spit at the haft and the fixing rivet is still preserved. Its blade has a blood channel in the middle, while under the edge, on the half towards the haft, is another narrower groove. Between the blood channel and the blades edge, close to the maximum curvature, was applied a complex decoration, consisting in four punched circles displayed in a rhomb-like shape and linked by incised lines, made with a chisel. The circle towards the daggers point has an incised tail, whereas the one towards the haft has two rather similar lines. The latter were perhaps linked to another circle (or a group of two), but the pieces corrosion is hindering a more precise identification. Another circle, with two incised lines, was made on the blades area towards the haft, while an isolated one was placed right under the edge. The last visible circle is also under the edge, in the area towards the point.

    Dimensions: total length 31.9 cm; blades length 27 cm; hafts length 4.9 cm; blades maximum width 4.4 cm (fig. 1/1). The dagger was registered with the inventory no. 3457 and according to the older register of the Aiud Museum (which took over the collections belonging to the former Museum of Bethlen College) it was donated by Kerekes Mihly. This donation was made before 1901, the year when the piece was firstly published in the History of Alba de Jos District, as coming from Cetea, a site close to Piatra Craivii, without noticing the blades decorations3. Other weapons discovered at the foot of Piatra Craivii4 (a long sword of La Tne type and some spear heads)5 were published in the same book. In this case, the dagger might have been part of the same group of finds, representing the possible inventory of at least one destroyed incineration grave, of type Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii6.

    1 I would like to thank Mrs. Matilda Takcs, Mrs. Maria Vintil and Mr. Paul Scrobot, from the

    Museum of Aiud, for providing information concerning the artefact under discussion. The study is part of a project funded by a CNCSIS grant, code no. 1256/2007. 2 Berciu, Popa, Daicoviciu 1965; Moga 1981 etc.

    3 Herepely, Cserni 1901, pl. 22/246.

    4 Site known also as Piatra Caprei (Kecskek in Hungarian).

    5 Herepely, Cserni 1901, pl. 21/229-233; Rska 1944, p. 60, no. 51, fig. 23.

    6 See the comments in Popa mss.

  • A. Rustoiu

    84

    Fig. 1. - 1. Curved dagger from Piatra Craivii; 2. Curved dagger from Mala Vrbica-Ajmana (after Stalio 1986).

  • About a Curved Dagger Discovered at Piatra Craivii 85

    This type of graves, culturally defined by Z. Woniak7, is dating from the 3rd/2nd and 1st century BC and is characterised by an association, in funerary inventories, of La Tne swords, spears, curved daggers and shield bosses. In many cases, these artefacts are accompanied by Thracian horse bits. Their distribution area is covering especially northern and north-western Bulgaria, Oltenia and the Danubes Iron Gates region8. The presence of similar funerary complexes, plane or tumular, also in south-western Transylvania, is already well documented9 (fig. 2).

    Fig. 2. - Distribution map of the funerary contexts belonging to the Padea-Panagjurski kolonii group.

    7 Woniak 1974, p. 74-138; idem 1976, p. 388-394.

    8 Woniak 1974, p. 74-138; idem 1976, p. 388-394; Zirra 1971, p. 235-237; Zirra 1976, p. 175-

    182; Popovi 1989-1990; Srbu, Rustoiu 1999. 9 Rustoiu 2002, p. 11-40; idem 2005 (with previous bibliography).

  • A. Rustoiu

    86

    Plane incineration graves were discovered at Teleac, Blandiana and Trtria, while tumular graves were identified at Clan and Cugir. The latter are close to some Dacian fortresses and perhaps a similar situation might have been at Piatra Craivii. The frequent presence of these daggers with scabbards in graves of type Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii suggests a similar provenance for the piece under discussion. Alongside the above-mentioned finds, other older discoveries, only recently published, can be added. An example is the curved dagger with a fragmentary scabbard, discovered in the 19th century, which is coming from the surroundings of Deva10. At the same time, other pieces, published or not, might contribute to the increasing number of similar funerary contexts, not only in south-western Transylvania, but in the entire inner Carpathian region.

    From a typological and morphological point of view, the curved daggers discovered in northern Balkans are uniform (fig. 3). Their length varies between 25 and 35 cm and in all cases the blades have a blood channel. Some differences can be observed in hafts shapes (with a spit or with fixing rings), or in blades curvature and thickness (narrower and with a pronounced curve, others more massive and with a deeper blood channel) etc. In some cases, their metal scabbards were also discovered.

    The dagger from Piatra Craivii is of type with a spit at the haft, massive blade and a deeper blood channel. Similar pieces are known from the south of the Danube, as well as from the north of the river. From Bulgaria should be mentioned those from Altimir11, Komarevo12, Brkaevo13, Sofronievo14, Panagjurski Kolonii15, Prisovo16 etc., while from Romania are coming the pieces from Izvoru17, Radovanu18, Dubova19 etc. At the same time, curved daggers have been found in peripheral

    10 Bajusz 2005, p. 134, no. 69, fig. 18/141/3.

    11 Nikolov 1965, p. 174, 178, fig. 15/b, 18.

    12 Nikolov 1965, p. 184, fig. 23.

    13 Nikolov 1965, p. 189, fig. 30.

    14 Nikolov 1981, p. 40, fig. 6.

    15 Dimitrova, Gizdova 1975, p. 48, pl. 4/1.

    16 Woniak 1974, p. 93, fig. 9/16.

    17 Trohani 1981, p. 97-98, fig. 1 and information from G. Trohani to whom I would like to thank.

    The dagger from Izvoru has the blade decorated with a combination of lines and punched circles, but having a different composition. 18

    Vulpe 1976, p. 208, fig. 18/1. 19

    Zirra 1976, fig. 4/9; Spnu 2001-2002 (2004), p. 84, fig. 1/3. The incineration grave (and not inhumation, as it was sometimes mentioned) from Dubova (Mehedini) was discovered by chance in 1967, on the Danubes bank, on the spot-find Cotu Mare. In the archaeological literature, this grave was sometimes located at Ogradena. From the same region are coming some spear heads, two curved daggers and a fragmentary sword, which may suggest the existence of some destroyed graves: Medele, mss, sv. Dubova; Ogradena. Pieces from the above-mentioned grave were mentioned several times, see Zirra 1976, p. 179-180, fig. 3, no. 18 and fig. 4/4-5, 9 (shield boss, horse bit and curved dagger); Werner 1988, p. 91, no. 291; Srbu, Rustoiu 1999, fig. 5/2, 6/7 (in which we men-tioned the precise provenance of the finds, despite the wrong observation of Spnu 2001-2002

  • About a Curved Dagger Discovered at Piatra Craivii 87

    areas, especially in the Scordiscian territory20, but also in the composite ethnic milieu, Celtic-Dacian, from Slovakia. In the latter region, a piece that is quite close to the dagger from Piatra Craivii was found in the settlement at Koeca-Nozdrovice21.

    However, the closest analogy, concerning the shape and decoration, is coming from the grave no. 1 at Mala Vrbica-Ajmana, in the Iron Gates region, on the right bank of the Danube, in Serbia22 (fig. 1/2). This dagger has a length of 30.6 cm and above the blood channel it was made a complex decoration, quite similar, from the structural point of view, to the one on the piece from Piatra Craivii. The question is whether the significance of entire composition was identical.

    Blaenka Stalio is interpreting this decorative motif as a representation of a comet and of the constellation Ursa Major23. Depictions of various cosmic phenomena are often encountered on artefacts belonging to different periods and cultures24. Pliny (Nat. Hist., II, (22), 89-90), commenting archaic traditions, mentioned that people used to describe the comets in different ways, sometimes like beards, others as spears or swords and even as ba