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Part of one of the hoards as it was found in 2012.

Gifts for the Gods? Over 350 Artifacts Discovered in Transylvania Begin to Provide Details on Ancient Trade Routes

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Corina Bors with the National History Museum of Romania, recently presented at the European Association of Archaeologists in Glasgow, Scotland about the two massive stashes that were discovered in 2012 at Tartaria in Alba County, Romania. The artifacts have been dated to approximately the 8th century BC and include a valuable hoard of weapons and jewelry. At the meeting, Dr. Bor ş presented on why this discovery is important and what it means for information on contact and trade routes in the Carpathian Basin. She also discussed the possible significance of the location where the immense wealth was found and who may have buried it.

The two hoards from Tărtăria - Podu Tărtăriei contained 300 and 50 artifacts, respectively. The goods unearthed include: bronze jewelry such as torques (rings worn around the neck) and bracelets, hairpins and brooches (all bronze), iron spears and axe heads, bone tools, and horse harnesses.

Bronze brooches

Bronze brooches, Tărtăria - Podu Tărtăriei vest (Alba County), Transylvania, Romania. ( Corina Bors )

Borş stressed the importance of the role of scientists, not the local public, in the archaeological discovery - the first found by Romanian archaeologists from the time period. As trained archaeologists were responsible for the unearthing, a complete and careful excavation and conservation work has been done on the artifacts. Artifacts which are believed to be being among the richest and most complex of their kind from that period discovered in Romania so far in Romania and, very likely, the entire Middle Danube River Basin.

After three years of analysis, some interesting pieces of information have been revealed regarding the Iron Age stashes. Through the use of various archaeometrical investigations, the researchers discovered new data regarding contact between sites in the Pontic and Balkan areas during the middle Hallstatt period :

“The preliminary analysis of certain objects indicates wider connections to the north Pontic areas, as well as to the south western Balkan ones, providing new data to discuss upon the long distance exchanges and contacts during the first centuries at the beginning of the first millennium BC in the Carpathian Basin.” Dr. Bors wrote in the abstract for the meeting in Glasgow.

The location of the two hoards has also been noted as significant. Specifically, the artifacts were recovered from a small ravine of the archaeological site (that also contained pottery and a burial site with many human remains.)

The archaeologists from the study explained the choice as perhaps being associated with offerings to the gods. "Such bronze hoards might be seen as votive depositions, or, in other words, gifts to the deities of that time," Bor ş told Live Science . In many other parts of Europe there have been similar stashes found in caves, near springs, in rivers, and in marshes.

As for who placed the goods, Borş said :

“It's plausible to believe that this offering was made by somebody with high social status…a warrior chieftain."

Iron spears and axe heads found in the stashes from 2012.

Iron spears and axe heads found in the stashes from 2012. Tărtăria - Podu Tărtăriei vest (Alba County), Romania. ( Corina Borş )

Of course, it is also possible, that the quantity of artifacts may indicate more than one rich individual being responsible for the offerings, if that is truly what they are.

Analysis continues on the metalwork, including X-ray fluorescence , to better pinpoint the trade and contact network in the region during prehistoric times. Following this, excavation work is planned for next year to see what other information can be extracted from the site.

Featured image: Part of one of the hoards as it was found in 2012. Tărtăria - Podu Tărtăriei vest, Romania. ( Corina Borş )

By: Alicia McDermott

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