12 February – 10 April 2010

Exhibition curator: Marta Sierant

In the closing centuries of the fourth century BC major changes occurred in the realm of believes, economy and material culture of the societies inhabiting vast areas of central and eastern Europe. This new system of values, perceptible in archaeological evidence, is referred to as the Globular Amphorae Culture. Its traces have been discovered in the Łaba (the Elbe), Odra (the Oder) and Wisła (the Vistula) rivers, as well as in the western Ukraine and northern Moldova. Compared to the older Neolithic cultures, the Globular Amphorae Culture is characterized by increased mobility. Its representatives inhabited small, relatively short-lived settlements. They practiced farming which involved cultivating various cereal species and raising cattle, pigs, sheep, dogs, and – for the first time in the area of Poland – horses. In addition, they were excellent craftsmen skilled in working bone, antler, amber, and, most of all, flint. Their activity was associated with the main phase of use of the flint mine in Krzemionki Opatowskie.

The representatives of the Globular Amphorae Culture are known for spectacular sepulchral finds. They buried their dead in single or collective, usually richly equipped  graves, often comprising massive stone structures. Characteristically, the funeral ceremonies were accompanied by complex rituals which involved killing practices.

The remains of such ritual-sepulchral complex dating to 2875-2670 BC was discovered in Koszyce (southern Poland) during archaeological excavations in 2011. The multidisciplinary analyses carried out on the finds have brought many interesting results. The grave marked as 523 comprised 15 bodies (women, men and children) accompanied by rich equipment including pottery vessels, amber and bone ornaments, bone implements, boar tusks, flint objects. At a distance of c.a. 2 meters from the grave the researchers discovered another burial, which comprised skeletons of seven pigs accompanied by clay amphora and three fragments of stone polishing plates.

All the skulls from grave 523 bear traces of blows inflicted with various tools, in most cases with a flint axe. The presence of multiple blows implies not only an intention to kill but also to ritually open the heads (probably to gain access to the brains). In addition, the skulls of two women show traces of burning, which may suggest the practice of ritual cannibalism.

It is difficult to answer the question of whether the people from grave 523 (according to MtDNA analysis some of them were members of one family) were the victims of violence used by foreign attackers or whether they were killed, possibly by their kinsmen, for ritual purposes.

Photo M. Przybyła