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Ja. Czebreszuk, A. Kośko, M.

Szmyt
(Poznan, Poland)

THE HORSE, WAGON AND ROADS

Cultural resources used by early agrarian societies in the drainages of the Vistula and Oder
rivers.
The present paper was inspired by a need to sum up and publicize the results of research into
the triad of “inventions” mentioned in the title that has been carried out by Polish archaeologists over
the period of the last 30 years. The early 1970s are important in that they mark a prologue of direct
studies relying on local source evidence, i.e. coming from the drainages of the Vistula and Oder
rivers (Fig. 1). The studies of the title question intensified greatly in the last decade of the 20th
century and resulted in a number of publications.

1. The horse
In his summary of the Neolithic economy published in 1969, T. Wiślański [1] assessed that
the role of the horse “as game hunted in the forests of central Europe in the early phases of the
Neolithic was important.” In his assessment of the prologue of domestication [2], he claimed:
“Definite data that could argue in favor of the beginnings of the raising of the horse, chiefly as a
slaughter animal, were supplied by certain assemblages of the Globular Amphora culture, Radial-
Decorated pottery [also known as Baden culture – authors’ comment] and Corded Ware culture. The
first is illustrated by a horse grave in a tumulus from Potyry in Mazowsze and another one, albeit less
certain, from the Lublin region. This animal was also found in an animal grave in Złota. It is worth
mentioning that in Potyry an adult individual and a young one were found (…). Young and adult
individuals were found in the graves of the Radial-Decorated pottery culture in Małopolska and the
Corded Ware culture in śerniki Górne (…). The animal in question played a certain role in some
Early Bronze cultures. This is borne out by finds from Únětice culture tumuli in Łęki Małe (…). In
Łęki Małe horses were clearly slaughter animals butchered at a relatively young age”. Summing up
his arguments, the quoted author concluded that the inclusion of the horse “permanently in the
domesticated livestock” should be dated at the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age and pointed to a
special credit deserved by Globular Amphora culture populations for the domestication of the
animal. “The horse was raised chiefly for meat at that time, although it could have been occasionally
ridden already then as well” [3]. T. Wiślański was skeptical about the hypothesis concerning early
Neolithic chronology of the bit: “definitely dated parts of harness in Europe date back to the period
of transition between the Neolithic and Bronze Age while they become more common only in the
latter” [4].
The views quoted above may be taken as a point of departure for detailed studies of sources
that are commented upon in this paper. A special role in such studies was played by a research
program concerning Kujawy, one of key cultural centers on the North European Plain [5]. As a result
of the program two kinds of new data were obtained providing evidence for an early agrarian use of
the horse: (a) archaeozoological data and (b) archaeological data.

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Fig. 1. Location of sites mentioned in the text:
1- Bronocice, 2 – Dopiewo, 3 – Łęki Małe, 4 - Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, 5 – Potyry, 6 –
Smarglin, 7 – Złota, 8 - śerniki Górne, 9 – śuławka Mała
Note: 1 - Małopolska province, 2-3 – Wielkopolska province, 4,7,8 – Świętokrzyskie
(Holy Mountains) province, 5 – Mazowsze province, 6,9 – Kujawy-Pomerania province.

a. Of considerable importance are the percentage shares of post-consumption bone fragments


of horses in Kujawy settlement materials belonging to the cycle of the following Neolithic cultures:
the Linear Band Pottery culture – 0.3 %; the Late Band Pottery culture – 0.4 % (phases Ia-IIa), 1.1 %
(phases IIb-IIIc); the Funnel Beaker culture – 0 % (phases II-III), 2.2 % (phases IV-V); the Globular
Amphora culture – 0.8 % (phases I-IIa), 12.6 % (phases IIb-IIIa) [6]. This specification shows a
significant increase in the share of horse remains in Globular Amphora culture materials. The quoted
authors drew the following conclusions from their discussion: “Taking into account the fact that in
the whole Neolithic in Kujawy, remains of all wild animals never exceed 5 %, while in the case of
the horse it is only 2 % (…), it can be assumed that so great an increase in the number of bones of
this species in the Globular Amphora culture is a proof of raising” [7]. These results have been
verified by analyzing a rich series of animal bone sources related to the Globular Amphora culture
obtained along the course of a transit gas pipeline and dated to phases IIb-IIIa. Admittedly, it has
been found that this series contained a lower share of horse bones (max. 3 percent), but their
presence has been recorded even in small samples [8]. In sum, current knowledge points to an
important role of the horse amongst animals used by Globular Amphora culture societies in Kujawy.
It is manifested not only in the stable share of horse remains in post-consumption materials, but also
in considerable percentage variations of the share from site to site exceeding at times as much as 16
% [9]. These data, however, can be considered at best as an indirect indication [10] of the role of
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Globular Amphora culture societies in the domestication of the horse on the Central European Plain.
Then again, it should be remembered that there is far greater evidence of the multipurpose use of
cattle, also for traction, by Globular Amphora culture populations [11].
b. The problem of the beginnings of the use of a horse “in harness” (as a draft animal pulling
a wagon or for riding) [12] is outlined by sources from a proto-Bronze settlement in Smarglin, Dobre
Commune, Kujawy-Pomerania prov., site 22, dated at 2350-2150 BC. A discovery was made there
of a hypothetic clay model of a cheekpiece for a horse bit (Fig. 2), i.e. an important element of a
horse harness [13]. Basically, there are two kinds of cheekpieces: circular with stubs on one side
[Scheibenknebel], made of bone, and rectangular [Stangenknebel], made of antler. The specimen
from Smarglin belongs to the first kind representing, however, a hitherto unknown version of the
artifact. It is a clay model that can’t have been used as a cheekpiece and whose use cannot be easily
determined. The oldest circular bone cheekpieces with stubs can be found in the materials of the
Mnogovalikovaya culture [14]. Early materials of this culture, found on the Dniester and Dnieper
rivers, are dated at 2200-2000 BC [15]. In the borderland between Asia and Europe, in the
assemblages of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture (specifically in the cemeteries at Sintashta and Krivoe
Ozero [16]), the said artifacts may be dated at 2100-2000 BC at the earliest [17]. A majority of finds
of this kind, however, have a younger chronology, which is especially true for Europe, including
central Europe, where the oldest finds known so far come from the cultural environments of the
Carpathian Basin [18] and are dated at the earliest at the 2nd millennium BC. But—in the opinion of
the quoted author—cheekpieces of the circular type reach their westernmost range in today’s
Romania. Further west reached the rectangular type whose most numerous specimens are found
among the finds associated with the Füzesabony culture [19]. Also from the last culture circular
cheekpieces are known but without characteristic stubs.

Fig. 2. Smarglin site 22, Kujawy-Pomerania prov. Hypothetical clay model


of a cheekpiece. After: Czebreszuk, Przybył 2002.

The quoted chronological assessments seem to bear out a rather early position of Kujawy (or
rather Lowland, between the Oder and Vistula rivers) beginnings of the use of a horse “in harness”.
This conclusion may be corroborated by the observations of ritual consumption of horses in the
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“duke’s tumulus” of the Únětice culture in Łęki Małe, Wielkopolska prov. [20], dated to the period
of 2050-1900 BC [21]. Notably, Łęki Małe was a funerary center for the societies of the Kościan
communication junction (the Kościan group of the Únětice culture) on the map of long-range trails
of Early Bronze Europe [22]. It appears that a horse—taken in this role usually in the context of a
wagon—was eaten there as a “solar animal” [23].

Fig. 3. Bronocice, Małopolska prov. Representation of wagons on a vase of the Funnel


Beaker Culture. After: Milisauskas, Kruk 1978.

2. The wagon
In the prehistoriography of the drainages of the Vistula and Oder rivers, the
Neolithic/Eneolithic wagon appears relatively late. Until the late 1960s arguments in favor of its use
were indirect and concerned the finds of “model wagons with disk wheels” from the cultural circle of
the Carpathian Basin [24].
An entirely new source context for the study of the wagon question was created by the
images of wagons on Funnel Beaker culture vessels unearthed in the 1970s. The most telling of them
was pottery found at settlements in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, Kielce prov. [25] and, in particular, in
Bronocice, Małopolska prov. [26]. Particularly far-reaching significance—going beyond the Vistula
and Oder drainages—should be attributed to the wagons from Bronocice (Fig. 3). They are found on
a vessel (vase) dated by the radiocarbon method between 3637-3373 BC and associated with the
Bronocice III phase of the Funnel Beaker culture. The wagon representations (probably 5 of which 3
have survived) are placed in a “sequence of several symbols” making up “the following sequence of
senses: forest (tree) – wagon – fields (houses?) – roads – river (water). (…) The drawing consists of
a number of symbols making a coherent narrative. It is of exceptional importance as it does not have
any analogy in the European Neolithic. Relative analogies for it may be sought only in the so-called
pictograms known from the Uruk IV culture in southern Mesopotamia” [27]. The date quoted above
referring to the “vase with wagons” proves that we deal in this case with one of the oldest pieces of
evidence of road transport in the culture of the Old World. For the pictographic evidence from Uruk
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is dated as contemporaneous with the Bronocice find or slightly later (ca. 3650-3390 BC) [28]. It is
more or less with the same period that BC finds are associated; they lack, however, direct
radiocarbon dates. Also the traces of wagon wheels from Flintbek are dated to the same period [29].
The Bronocice find reveals above all the dynamics of transmitting the invention between the Middle
East civilization centers and the central European frontier of the Eneolithic proto-civilization.
It should be added that in the 1980s suggestions were made to extend the list of “wagon
images” to include ones found on the Polish Lowlands, chiefly in Kujawy. The suggestions also
concerned ornamentation of Funnel Beaker culture pottery of the eastern and Mątwy groups of phase
IIIC (circa 3500-3150 BC) [30]. A significant supplement to the outlined picture is provided by the
latest finds of “wagon images” from Dopiewo, Wielkopolska province, associated with phase IIIB of
the Funnel Beaker culture (kind oral communication from Prof. L. Czerniak).
Thus it can be assumed that the wagon made its appearance both in the loess regions of the
South (Małopolska) and podzol ones (sporadically chernozem ones) of the North (Wielkopolska,
Kujawy) in the second half of the 4th millennium BC. This assessment implies a need to find
evidence of a number of significant infrastructural changes accompanying a new means of
transportation. What is specifically meant here is the transformation of the Early and Middle
Neolithic trails into roads or at least the beginning of building passages across rivers or swamps (see
remarks below). Another area where evidence could be looked for is the interpretation of the
strengthening of the role of wood-tar production—observable from the middle of the 4th millennium
BC—being a consequence of a demand for “wheel lubricant”, i.e. a substance lessening friction of
wagon wheels [31].

3. Roads
The Neolithic turning of trails into roads was recorded for the first time in England in the late
1960s [32]. In the 1980s more evidence of this process was found in northern Europe (Germany, the
Netherlands) in the form of fragments of wooden road structures [33]. As an offshoot of these finds
attention was drawn to fords and their adaptation to road transportation. It was Kujawy, specifically
the valleys of the Bachorza and Noteć rivers, that was mainly mentioned in this context [34].
A milestone in these investigations was the source documenting of one of such fords in the
middle section of the Noteć, in śuławka Mała, Wielkopolska prov., site 1 [35]. What was unearthed
there was relics of a timber-earth fording structure in the form of a dyke making it possible to cross
the boggy section of the Noteć valley. The oldest manifestations of the use of this ford are dated at
ca. 5120 BC and associated with the activities of the populations of the Linear Band Pottery culture.
A successive stage of its use is connected with Funnel Beaker culture societies (ca. 3800-3400 BC)
but the main phase of its construction and use is dated between ca. 3050-2600 BC when the dyke and
adjoining settlement were used by Globular Amphora culture population groups [36]. It is to this
very stage that the main body of timber remains is linked. Also at that time, the structure was the
most massive and its size allowed wagons (oral communication from Jarosław Rola, M.A., for which
we are grateful) to cross.
Although we still lack finds from the Vistula and Oder drainages similar in rank to those
from śuławka, remains of more modest constructions, however, are discovered [37]. Hence, it can be
concluded that fording structures were permanent landscape fixtures as early as in the 3rd
millennium BC, which, in turn, proves that the network of trails had stabilized by then. The trails, at
least in places most difficult to cross (mostly bogs and marshes), took the form of carefully marked
roads.

4. Conclusions
Summing up the above review, it must be observed that a number of highlight dates,
indicating a prologue of fundamental changes in the means of transport, were documented by source
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evidence from the drainages of the Vistula and Oder rivers. The first of these dates, i.e. ca. 3650-
3400 BC, refers to the introduction of the wagon and the turning of trails into roads, the next one
(after ca. 3200 BC) stands for the inception of horse raising and still another one —ca. 2150 BC—
relates to the first use of a horse “in harness”. In the late 4th and early 3rd millennium BC or its first
half, one can observe a stabilization of communication trails, which is shown by fragments of roads
crossing marshes and bogs.
***
Notes:
1. All dates in the present paper are calibrated.
2. The work has been financed in part by grant no. 5H01H02121 from the Polish National Research
Committee.
References

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367-372.
12. Puchkov P.V., Zhuravlev O.P. Konnitsa v mednom i kamennom veke: legenda ili deystvitelnost’?
// Gistarychna-Arkhealagichny Zbornik 16. – Minsk, 2001. - 50-61.
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17. Anthony D., Vinogradov N.B., op. cit. – 1995. - 36.
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(III i początki II tys. przed Chr.). – Poznań, 2001. – Fig. 9.
22. Czebreszuk J., op. cit. – 2001. – 198-202.
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epoki brązu. – Poznań, 1979. – 176, footnote 508.
24. Wiślański T., op. cit. – 1969. – 168.
25. Uzarewiczowa A. Ornament na naczyniu kultury pucharów lejkowatych z Ostrowca
Świętokrzyskiego. // Wiadomości Archeologiczne 60. – Warszawa, 1975. – 25.
26. Milisauskas S., Kruk J. Die Wagendarstellung auf einen Trichterbecher aus Bronocice in Polen. //
Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 12 (1978). – 48.
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Europe and the Near East. // Antiquity 73 (1999). – Fig. 3.
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30. Kośko A. Udział południowo-wschodnioeuropejskich wzorców kulturowych w rozwoju
niŜowych społeczeństw kultury pucharów lejkowatych. – Poznań, 1981. – 151-153.
31. Kośko A., op. cit. – 1981. - 150; Kośko A., Langer J. Z badań nad wytwarzaniem i uŜytkowaniem
dziegciu w neolicie. // Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej 4. – Warszawa, 1986. - 597.
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34. Kośko A., op. cit. – 1981. - 154; Kośko A. Rozwój kulturowy społeczeństw Kujaw w okresie
późnego neolitu oraz interstadium epok neolitu i brązu w aspekcie recepcji egzogennych cech
kulturotwórczych. // A. Cofta-Broniewska (red.) Kontakty pradziejowych społeczeństw Kujaw z innymi
ludami Europy. – Inowrocław, 1988.
35. Krąpiec M., Makowiecki D., Michczyński A.., Nowaczyk B., Pazdur A., Pazdur M.F.,
Polcynowie I. i M., Stępnik T., Suchorska-Rola M., Rola J. Drugi sezon interdyscyplinarnych badań na stan. 1
w śuławce Małej gm. Wyrzysk, woj. pilskie (1993 r.). // Wielkopolskie Sprawozdania Archeologiczne 4. –
Poznań, 1996. – 23-58.
36. Krąpiec M. et al., op. cit. – 1996. – 30-36.
37. Sadowska-Topór J. „Pomosty” w dolinie Dzierzgoni na podstawie badań archeologicznych z lat
1994-1995. // P. Urbańczyk (red.) Adalbertus. Wyniki programu badań interdyscyplinarnych. Tom I. –
Warszawa, 1998. – 86.

Я. Шебречук, А. Кошко, М. Шмит

ЛОШАДЬ, ПОВОЗКА И ДОРОГИ

В данной работе представлены результаты исследований триады упомянутых в заглавии


изобретений, которые были проведены польскими археологами на протяжении последних тридцати
лет. Следует отметить, что ряд полученных абсолютных дат, указывающий на начало
фундаментальных изменений транспортных средств, были представлены находками у рек Вислы и
Одера. Первая находка (3650-3400 гг. до н.э.) относится к введению повозок (наиболее важная находка:
Броносич) и превращению троп в дороги (например, находки у Малой Жулавки); следующая (после
3200 гг до н.э.) обозначает начало использования лошади (находки у Кужавы, Центральная Польша,
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показывает особую роль обществ культуры шаровидных амфор в одомашнивании лошади на
Центрально-Европейской равнине); и еще одна – (2150 гг до н.э.) относится к первому использованию
лошади в узде (спорная находка у Смарлина). В конце IV – первой половине III тысячелетия до н.э.
можно наблюдать установление коммуникационных путей, что демонстрируется фрагментами дорог,
пересекающих болота и топи.

Ja. Czebreszuk, A. Kośko, M. Szmyt

THE HORSE, WAGON AND ROADS

In our paper we would like to present the results of research into the triad of “inventions” mentioned
in the title that has been carried out by Polish archaeologists over the period of the last 30 years. Summing up
our review, it must be observed that a number of highlight dates, indicating a prologue of fundamental changes
in the means of transport, were documented by source evidence from the drainages of the Vistula and Oder
rivers. The first of these dates, i.e. ca. 3650-3400 BC, refers to the introduction of the wagon (the most
important find: Bronocice) and the turning of trails into roads (e.g. finds from śuławka Mała), the next one
(after ca. 3200 BC) stands for the inception of horse raising (data from Kujawy, Central Poland, show the
special role of Globular Amphora culture societies in the domestication of the horse on the Central European
Plain) with the and still another one —ca. 2150 BC— relates to the first use of a horse “in harness” (the
disputable find from Smarglin). In the late 4th and early 3rd millennium BC or its first half, one can observe a
stabilization of communication trails, which is shown by fragments of roads crossing marshes and bogs.

Поступила в январе 2004 г.

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