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Keywords: West Morava course, Čačak region, Middle Bronze Age, burial customs, local characteristics

Abstract: The paper discusses various features of the Middle Bronze Age burials in the northern part of the West Morava course in Serbia. According to the characteristic of the way of burying, grave inventory, grave construction, it was possible to establish differences between two geo-morphological zones of this area.

The river West Morava represents a very important natural communication of the Central Balkans. Its valley connects the Inner Dinarides of the West Serbia with the Morava – Vardar transversal, the most important route of the Balkans since the earliest times. The northern course of the West Morava mostly be logs to the region of Čačak and it closely ties neigbouring territories. It includes the river valley from the Ovčar-Kablar gorge to Kraljevo, narrower on the one side, and on the other hilly and mountainous Dragačevo region and mountain Kablar range (Fig. 1). It is important to emphasize that all the graves from the Bronze Age are registrated exclusively under tumuli. Despite the fact that the whole territory is surveyed very thoroughly, there is still no trace of flat necropolises existence. Up to now, there have been 37 mounds excavated. 31 out of the 37 mounds are from the Bronze Age (26 from mountanious regions and 5 from the valley) (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜, でöÜ?ó゜, ゑíïó゜, 2002, p.15-27). From the Middle Bronze Age there are 59 grave units, buried in the 19 mounds. Since the greatest number of excavated graves belongs to the Middle Bronze Age, it gave a good base to provide some analyses. Beside relatively solid number of examined graves from the Early and Middle Bronze Age, from the Late Bronze Age came only few traces of their existence. It was very common to bury the deceased from the later phases of the Bronze Age into the older mounds from the Early Bronze Age. The calottal shape of the mound, easily visible in the landscape, probably was an obvious sign as a monuments replacement, marking the place consecrated to the burials (Fig. 2). All excavated mounds belong to the middle size object group, with the diameter up to 20 m and height between 1 – 2 m. The calotte is usually

The Thracians and Their Neighbours in Antiquity. Studia in Honorem Valerii Sîrbu, Brăila, 2009, p. 187-196


Katarina Dmitrović

made of earth, but rarely, stone can be used in mound construction (Dubac in Jančići, Fig. 3) (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜, でöÜ?ó゜, ゑíïó゜ 2002, p.15-28). Examined mounds had the central (primary) grave. The secondary graves have been buried on a certain distance from the central one, usually concentrically distributed. It is necessary to notice that the demolition of the central grave by secondary burials is extremely rare.

During the Middle Bronze Age the burying is biritual – incineration and inhumation of the deceased. In comparison to the previous phase – the Early Bronze Age - here one can establish several changes regarding the way of the burying, type and number of grave goods, and forms of grave constructions.

and number of grave goods, and forms of grave constructions. Fig. 1 – map with the

Fig. 1 – map with the sites. 1. Dubac, Jančići; 2. Veliko polje, Jančići; 3. Ravnine, Jančići; 4. Ruja, Dučalovići; 5. Kruševlje, Lučani; 6. Ivkovo brdo, Krstac; 7. Ošljevac, Turica; 8. Babinjak, Donja Kravarica; 9. Grotnica, Guča; 10. Ade, Prijevor; 11. Lugovi – Bent, Mojsinje.

Burial customs during the Middle Bronze Age


Burial customs during the Middle Bronze Age 189 Fig. 2 - Dubac, Jan č i ć

Fig. 2 - Dubac, Jančići, mound 1

Bronze Age 189 Fig. 2 - Dubac, Jan č i ć i, mound 1 Fig. 3

Fig. 3 – Dubac, Jančići, mound 3 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 7)

Inhumation was registrated in the mounds from the Dragačevo region and the Kablar range. Up to now, there have not been any inhumations from the West Morava valley. The greatest number of 15 inhumated skeletons come from the mounds from the site Dubac in Jančići (Kablar), and 8 from the Dragačevo mounds. The deceased are placed in slightly crouched position with arms bent in elbows, hands near the face. Legs are bent in knees. The deceased were placed on the right or the left side (there were totally 12 on the right and 6 on the left side). A special form was marked at the site Dubac in Jančići, mound 1, grave 9 and mound 3, grave 5 (Fig. 4). Here two skeletons were found in the stretched position, lying on the stomach. Athropological analysis revealed that both individuals were females (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.11,18). The deceased were positioned directly on the soil or into constructions with frames made of stone - e.g. Ruja in Dučalovići, mound 13, graves 1 i 2 (Fig. 5) (が½óöëÜçó゜ 2002, p.13,14). There are many examples where the graves were covered by stone:

Ruja in Dučalovići, mound 13, grave 1 (が½óöëÜçó゜ 2002, p.13, fig. 6); Dubac in Jančići, mound 1, graves 2-5, 7 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.7-10); mound 2, grave 4 and mound 3, graves 1, 2 and 4 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.15-18).

3, graves 1, 2 and 4 ( ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.15-18). Fig. 4 – Dubac, Jan č

Fig. 4 – Dubac, Jančići, mound 1, grave 9 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 4)

i ć i, mound 1, grave 9 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 4) Fig. 5 – Ruja,

Fig. 5 – Ruja, Dučalovići, mound 13, grave 1


Katarina Dmitrović

Very similar stone constructions were noticed at the sites Ravnine in Jančići (Fig. 6) (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ and ゑíïó゜ 2002, p. 27), Kruševlje in Lučani, grave 3 (ご¡ÜÑóÖÜçó゜ 1969, p.7, fig.10). These constructions were without traces of the deceased, and marked as cenotaphs. The unique construction excavated in Dubac in Jančići, mound 3, grave 3, represents the surface carefully made of four stone slabs, rectangular in shape, with partly preserved frame (Fig. 7) (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.17, fig.9). A child skeleton was lying on this surface. Another similar surface, rectangular in shape, but made of smaller stone pieces and pebbles, comes from the site Grotnica in Guča, mound 4, grave 1. The cenotaphs from the mound 3 in the same necropolis are of the same shape (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ and ゑíïó゜ 2005, p. 127,128, pl. III and IV). A very solid construction – another cenotaph - from the site Ivkovo brdo in Krstac (Dragačevo) mound 6, grave 3, was also rectangular in shape, made of stone slabs with stoned pavement (Nikitović 2003, p.19, fig. 6).

with stoned pavement (Nikitovi ć 2003, p.19, fig. 6). Fig. 6 – Ravnine, Jan č i

Fig. 6 – Ravnine, Jančići, cenotaph

p.19, fig. 6). Fig. 6 – Ravnine, Jan č i ć i, cenotaph Fig. 7 –

Fig. 7 – Dubac, Jančići, mound 3, grave 3 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 9)

The orientation of the inhumated skeletons was various, but it was possible to establish certain regularities: the most frequent (11 skeletons) was the NW – SE orientation. Direction N – S and NE – SW was noticed in three and W – E in two cases.

Incineration of the deceased also represents the typical burial form during the Middle Bronze Age in this region. In the majority of Middle Bronze Age graves prevails the ritual of cremation. Burnt bones are usually placed into a recipient – ceramic urn, often along with the grave goods. Urns were placed in various ways:

1. Without any construction

- there are many examples where urns are placed directly into the mound, without any construction: Babinjak in Donja Kravarica, mound 3, graves 1, 2 and 3 (が½óöëÜçó゜ 2004, p.15,16, fig. 12-14),

Burial customs during the Middle Bronze Age


Dubac in Jančići, mound 1, grave 10 and mound 2, grave 1 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.11-13), Veliko Polje in Jančići, grave 3 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1996, p.27), graves from horizon I from Lugovi – Bent in Mojsinje (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜, でöÜ?ó゜, ゑíïó゜ 2002, p. 47,48);

2. Stone contructions, made in several different features:

- urns placed on surfaces framed by stone with a layer of baked earth and soot - Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, urns 1, 3 and 4 (Nikitović 2003, p.12,13, pl. II)

- urns placed into a construction made of stone slabs resembling a small sarcophagus (Fig. 8) – Ravnine in Jančići, urn 2 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ and ゑíïó゜ 2002, p. 26, T. IV), Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, grave 3 (Nikitović 2003, p.13, fig. 4).

- construction made of stone slab and pebbles vertically positioned arround the urns (Fig. 9) – Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, urns 1 and 2 (Nikitović 2003, p.13, fig. 3), mound 6, urns 1 and 2 (Nikitović 2003, p.19,


3), mound 6, urns 1 and 2 (Nikitovi ć 2003, p.19, fig.6). Fig. 8 – Ivkovo

Fig. 8 – Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, grave 3 (after Nikitović 2003, fig. 4)


Katarina Dmitrović

- urn’s rim covered by a stone slab (Fig. 9) – Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, graves 2 and and 4 (Nikitović 2003, p.13,14), Dubac in Jančići, mound 1, grave 10 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p. 11, fig.6) and mound 2, graves 1 and 2 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.13)

- after earth filling, a circular or an oval pebble surface is placed above the urn’s rim (Fig. 10) – Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, graves 1 and 4 (Nikitović 2003, p.13,14), Babinjak i Donja Kravarica, mound 3, grave 1 (が½óöëÜçó゜ 2004, p.15, pl. IV), and Dubac in Jančići, mound 2, grave 2 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.13)

- urn placed on pebble surface - Grotnica in Guča, mound 3, grave 3 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ and ゑíïó゜ 2005, p.128, pl. III ).

and ゑíïó゜ 2005, p.128, pl. III ). Fig. 9 – Ivkovo brdo, Krstac, mound 3, grave

Fig. 9 – Ivkovo brdo, Krstac, mound 3, grave 2

pl. III ). Fig. 9 – Ivkovo brdo, Krstac, mound 3, grave 2 Fig. 10 –

Fig. 10 – Ivkovo brdo, Krstac, mound 3, grave 4


Wooden constructions:


construction made of wooden logs above urns - Lugovi – Bent in Mojsinje, mound 1, grave 13 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜, でöÜ?ó゜, ゑíïó゜ 2002,



Ritually fired surface:


urns placed on a layer of ritually burnt earth - Ivkovo brdo in Krstac, mound 3, urns 1 and 2 ( Nikitović 2003, p.13)


urns placed on the fireplaces – Lugovi – Bent in Mojsinje, mound 1, graves 11 and 13 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜, でöÜ?ó゜, ゑíïó゜ 2002, p.34)

Beside the very common custom of placing cremated bones into the urn, rarely was it noticed that burnt bones were placed directly on the soil, without any recipient - Ošljevac in Turica, grave 1 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1994, p. 32) and Dubac in Jančići, mound 2, grave 5 (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, p.15).

Burial customs during the Middle Bronze Age


Already mentioned was a very interesting situation on the site Ravnine in Jančići. It consisted of three urns with bones; three stone framed constructions – cenotaphs, and three fireplaces, without central grave unit. (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 2002). The construction with frames made of stone, oval and rectangular in shape, without the deceased, may have imitated previously described grave construction for skeletal inhumation (Fig. 6). Hence only incinerated traces of the deceased placed into ceramic urns were found in this mound, these constructions (cenotaphs) in relation with the custom of incineration can be indicative for opening very interesting questions on relations between inhumation and incineration during the Middle Bronze Age. Since the pieces of the bronze jewellery were found on the fireplaces, they can be understood as certain ritual units closely tied to the placement of the urns and the „grave construction“ (Fig. 12).

The grave inventory was found both in skeletal and in cremated graves (Fig. 4 and 11). It usually consisted of parts of the costume, jewellery, sometimes burned along with the deceased, ceramic vessels and very rarely weapons. The grave inventory is generally richer and more numerous in relation to the Early Bronze Age. Firstly, the bronze objects - mainly jewellery that belongs to the Central European forms - appear from the middle phase (ゑíïó゜ 1997, p. 44,45). Rarely can one find the weapons. The so-called Aegean knives, represented by four examples, are characteristic in this region. Concentration of the metal objects is noticed in the graves from the mountanious parts of the region. On the other side, in the Middle Bronze Age graves from the West Morava valley, there are only five bronze object found.

West Morava valley, there are only five bronze object found. Fig. 11 – Dubac, Jan č

Fig. 11 – Dubac, Jančići, mound 1, grave 10 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 5)

1, grave 10 (after ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ 1999, fig. 5) Fig. 12 – Ravnine, Jan č i ć

Fig. 12 – Ravnine, Jančići, fireplace with adornment

Ceramic vessels as grave inventory were characteristic especially for the graves from the West Morava valley. This interesanting disproportion in the archaeological material testifies on various funeral rituals between inhabitants in


Katarina Dmitrović

two geomorphologically different zones of this region. The numerous cenotaphs point out a well-developed funerary cult. These places have all characteristics of the genuine grave places, but without the traces of the deceased.

As it was already explained, during the Middle Bronze Age in the Čačak region, burials of deceased were biritual. Both ways of burials were used simultaneously. There is much bigger number of investigated graves in relation to the Early Bronze Age. This fact can testify of growing population thanks to the developing economy and better living conditions. The majority of examined graves belong to the middle and later phases of the Middle Bronze Age. The fact is, having in mind all excavation results on this territory so far, that biritual burying is present only in the mountainous regions (Dragačevo and Kablar range). The deceased from the West Morava valley were exclusively cremated. Among inhumated deceased, it is necessary to emphazise two female skeletons, both placed on the stomach, from the mound necropolis in Dubac, Jančići. This unique position points out some special ritual pattern. The graves with cremation are almost doubled in relation to the inhumation ones. The burnt bones were usually placed into an urn, often followed by some burial constructions. The inhabitants of the Čačak region during the Middle Bronze Age, despite being heterogeneous, are strongly mutually connected by using tumuli for burring of the deceased. This fact probably defines their common origin. It is well known that funerary rituals depends on many factors (tradition, economy, religion, fashion etc.) and often represent the most important national distinction. Grave forms, on the other hand, usually point out on class, community, tribe or í part of the people (でëñ?Üçó゜ 1979, p.79). Generally, the Middle Bronze Age burials from the Čačak region belong to the West-Serbian variant of the Vatin group after M. Garašanin (Garašanin 1983), spread in the West Serbia. Some local differences regarding the ritual, the number and the type of the grave goods, can indicate cultural influences from stronger cultural centres. There is an opinion, that the territory to the west from Čačak (mountainous parts) was under the influences coming through the Drina region, and the eastern parts (the river valley) were under the influence from the Great Morava region (ぞó¡óöÜçó゜ and ゑíïó゜ 2002, p. 32). These cultural emissions certainly influenced genesis of the particular ethno-cultural communities that represented a base for formation of Paleo-Balcan tribes. According to all cited characteristics of the burial rituals during the Middle Bronze Age - grave forms, stylistic – typological features of the findings, and their relations, it can be assumed that the mountain Jelica, separating the West Morava valley from Inner Dinarides massif, represents a potential border between different cultural influences. Sharply defined difference, again regarding burials, between mountainous territories and the valley is also known during the Iron Age (Dmitrović and Ljuština 2008). According to the funerary customs D. Srejović recognized the line Western

Burial customs during the Middle Bronze Age


Morava – Southern Morava separated Paleo – Balkan tribes Dardanians with Triballoi. (でëñ?Üçó゜ 1979, p.83). The border line between Roman provinces Moesia Superior and Dalmatia went through the zone near the line north-south, following the mountain Jelica direction (Alföldy 1965, p. 27 sq; Wilkes 1969, p.79). Having in mind that the level of investigated archaeological sites in this territory is still insufficient for giving definite conclusions, we assume that these coincidences are not accidental.

Katarina Dmitrović National Museum Čačak - Serbia E-mail: katarina.dmitrović


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Katarina Dmitrović

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