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Dacian bracelets

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Subject: Thracian clothing, Dacia, Dacians, Bronze Age Europe, Prehistoric art
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Dacian bracelets

Dacian gold bracelet, dated to the 1st century BC or 1st century AD, from Sarmizegetusa Romania [1][2]
Dacians gold bracelet from Sarmizegetusa Regia, dated the 1st century BC or 1st century AD [3]
Dacian gold bracelet from Baiceni dated to the 4th century BC (Iași County)[4]

The Dacian bracelets are bracelets associated with the ancient peoples known as the Dacians, a distinct branch of the Thracians. These bracelets were used as ornaments, currency, high rank insignia and votive offerings[5] Their ornamentations consist of many elaborate regionally distinct styles.[6] Bracelets of various types were worn by Dacians, but the most characteristic piece of their jewelry was the large multi-spiral bracelets; engraved with palmettes towards the ends and terminating in the shape of an animal head, usually that of a snake.[7]

Contents

  • Dacians background 1
  • Bracelets in the transition period North Thracian and proto-Dacian 2
    • Types of bracelets in the Bronze Age and First Iron Age 2.1
      • Various bracelets 2.1.1
      • Spălnaca (Hopârta) 2.1.2
      • Multi-spiral types 2.1.3
    • Spiral motif 2.2
      • Spiral ending types 2.2.1
        • Sacoşu Mare 2.2.1.1
        • Firighiaz (Firiteaz) 2.2.1.2
        • Acâş and Săcueni 2.2.1.3
    • "Horn motif" from Pipea, Biia and Boarta 2.3
      • Boarta type 2.3.1
      • Mosna, Sibiu County 2.3.2
  • Zoomorphic bracelets 3
    • Ox-headed bracelets (Târgu Mureş, Apoldu de Sus, Vad) 3.1
    • Băiceni bracelets 3.2
  • Iron Age II (La Tene) 4
    • Toteşti bracelet 4.1
    • Common Dacian types of the La Tene IB (250–150 BC) 4.2
  • Bracelets in the "Classical Dacian" period of the Dacian State 5
    • Regional finds 5.1
      • East of the Carpathian Mountains 5.1.1
      • Moesia Superior 5.1.2
    • Bracelets with cord ornaments 5.2
    • Bracelets with a double torsade 5.3
    • The material of bracelets 5.4
    • Representations depicting the wearing of Dacian bracelets 5.5
    • Bracelets with a snake-motif 5.6
      • Description of the silver multi-spiral bracelets with palmettes and protomes at both terminals 5.6.1
        • Origins 5.6.1.1
      • The dragon and snake-head motif 5.6.2
      • The leaf motifs of the multi-spiral bracelets 5.6.3
        • The same motif seen in other ornaments 5.6.3.1
      • Significance and archaeology of the silver multi-spiral bracelets with palmettes and protomes 5.6.4
  • Gold multi-spiraled dragon-headed and animal protome bracelets 6
    • Description 6.1
    • Context 6.2
    • Chronology and authentication 6.3
    • Gallery – Iron Age II (La Tene) Gold bracelets 6.4
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10
  • 11 Gallery / External links to bracelets and other ornaments mentioned in the article

Dacians background

Spiral motif with gold bracelet found in Romania (dated to Bronze IV = Hallstatt A)[8]) repository Kunsthistorisches Museum[9]
Horn motif with gold bracelet from Pipea (Mureș County) dated to Hallstatt period [10] or to Bronze Age [11]

The Dacians lived in a very large territory, stretching from the Balkans to the northern Carpathians and from the Black Sea and the Tyras River (Nistru) to the Tisa plain, and at times as far as the Middle Danube.[12]

Dacian civilization went through several stages of development, from the Thracian stage in the Bronze Age to the Geto-Dacian stage in the classical period that lasted from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.[13] The Thracian stage is associated with the emergence of Thracian populations from the fusion of the local Chalcolithic stock with the incoming peoples of the transitional Indo-Europeanization Period.[14][15] By the time of Bronze Age, and during the transitional period to the Iron Age, the cultures of this Carpathian area may be attributed to proto-Thracian and even Thracian populations—ancestors of the peoples known to Herodotus as the Agathyrsae and the Getae, and to the Romans as the Dacians (by Iron Age II).[16][17] The culture of these nuclear groups were typified by military aristocracies.[18]

In these early times the most specific motifs of the bracelets are the spiral and the horn, used to provide the warrior with both physical and deistic protection.[19]

The 5th century BC is associated with the Dacian stage of art[22][23] and it is the time of the La Tène period (Iron Age II) when Dacian culture flourished, especially in Transylvanian citadels.[24] The Dacian art of Iron Age II has all the characteristics of a mixed style, with its roots in the Hallstatt culture (1200–500 BC).[25][24] It is characterized by an accentuated geometry, a curvilinear style and plant-based motifs.[6] At this time, besides their older local types, Dacians made all kind of bracelets that were common in the Roman Empire.[26] But, there was a constant preference of Dacians for decorating the silver spiral bracelets with animals protome such as snakes and wolves.[27]

The period of time between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD is termed "Classic Dacian".[28] At this time the Dacians developed the art of silverworking, and a style which may be described specifically as the Dacian style. It consists of older traditional local elements, dating back to Iron Age I, but also of elements of Celtic, Scythian, Thracian, and especially Greek origins.[29][25] The bracelets of this art-form include silver arm rings, with ends in the shape of stylized heads of animals, and heavy spiral-shaped armlets with gilded ends adorned with palm-leaves, and ending in animal-heads.[29]

The Classic Dacian period ends when parts of the Apuseni Mountains along with trade payments and tributes from abroad. Its existence in only one spot (at Sarmizegethusa), suggests that there was a central control of precious metal circulation.[30] According to the majority of historians this sort of monopoly of precious metals, and the Roman's forcible collection of Dacian gold objects, explains the scarcity of archaeological discoveries consisting of golden ornaments for the period between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD;[31][32] however, the existence of the "Treasures of Dacian kings" has been confirmed by the latest archaeological finds of large gold spiral-shaped bracelets from Sarmizegetusa. It seems that the Romans did not find the entire royal treasure.[33][34]

Bracelets in the transition period North Thracian and proto-Dacian

Types of bracelets in the Bronze Age and First Iron Age

Numerous bracelets were made of bronze and gold and many of them have been found in Transylvania, near the sources of the ores used in their manufacture.[35] They include the following types:

  • unequally spiraled armlet made of bronze, worn on the forearm that is also called "arm guard" i.e. those found at Apa (Satu Mare County)[36]
  • equally spiraled bracelet, used frequently in the early Hallstatt i.e. Pecica.[36]
  • open bracelet with widened ends, made of double gold wire i.e. Ostrovu Mare (Gogoşu).[36]
  • bracelet with spiralled or volutes endings i.e. Firighiaz/Firiteaz,[36] Sacoșu Mare.[37]
  • open bracelet decorated with incisions, with each end coiled in double opposed volutes i.e. Sacoșu Mare and Hodiş (Bihor County).[36]
  • overlapped ends, rhombic cross section i.e. Sacoșu Mare and Şmig.[36] The treasures from Şmig Sibiu County and from Ţufalău (Boroşneu Mare) contained also raw gold, thus suggesting the bracelets had been locally made.[38]

Some bronze bracelet types of the Bronze Age (i.e. incised solid bracelets) continue throughout all the Late Bronze Age and Hallstatt phases.[39]

Various bracelets

Hinova's gold bracelet, Bronze Age[41] or early Hallstatt [42]

Archaeological finds include two gold cylindrical muffs, a characteristic type of the middle and late Bronze Age and widespread throughout Central Europe. Two bronze specimens, both similar to the gold ones, have been discovered at [44][45]

Bracelets from Băleni, Galaţi (Late Romanian Bronze Age, Noua Culture) are particularly interesting because of their geometric décor, bands of right or oblique lines. They all have a green patina ranging from dark green to dull green, bluish green, bluish gloss.[46]

The fragmentary iron bracelet from the cremation cemetery found at Bobda is among the few unequivocally dated iron objects equivalent to Hallstatt A 1–2 in this region.[47][48]

A bracelet with snake-shape endings had been found at the Hallstattian necropolis in Ferigile (Vâlcea County).[49]

Spălnaca (Hopârta)

The bracelets from Spălnaca (Hopârta) are dated to Bronze Age IV (Iron Age I)[39] and have decorations of geometric characters. Although not directly influenced by the Hallstatt styles, the objects from Spalnaca pre-date the later tendencies for geometric surface decoration of chiseled or engraved lines.[50] Such discoveries at Spalnaca, Guterita and Dipsa show that bronze craftsmanship still flourished in the North Thracians from the Carpathian-Black Sea and Danube areas at the beginning of the Iron Age.[51][52]

Multi-spiral types

Multi-spirals type gold bracelet from Hinova, Late Bronze Age[53] or Early Hallstatt[42]

This type of Dacian bracelet originated in the Bronze Age.[43] The hoard found in 1980 at Hinova includes two such bracelets.[43] Multi-spiral types can be dated to the early Hallstatt periodand comprises also open and closed-end bracelets.[42] One of the spiral bracelets from Hinova weighed 261.55 grams and the other 497.13 grams.[43] The former, made of a thinner and narrower gold leaf, had a decoration consisting of two furrows cut along the edges and separated by a median crest.[43] A similar decoration, of a furrow along the median line, decorates a metal bracelet from the deposit found at Sânnicolau Român, dated to the second period of the Bronze Age.[43]

Finds from Dacia include spiral bracelets made of double gold wire, the largest of which weighed nearly a hundred grams. Gold spiral bracelets of this type have been discovered in Transylvania and Banat, spanning a long period which begins with the very late phase of the Bronze Age and ends with the middle Hallstatt. Similar pieces made of bronze were discovered in the deposit of bronze objects at Sacot-Slatioara.[54]

The multi-spiral bracelet type spans a long period of time that includes all Hallstattian stages.[55]

Spiral motif

Quadrangular bracelets (Sighetu Marmaţiei?) The small ones may have been used as currency.[56]

The traditional ornamental motifs of bracelets, the meander and the "whirling" spiral (i.e. Oradea, Firiteaz and Sacosul mare), are thought to follow the spread of a cult of the sun, their decorations suggesting the rotation of the sun on the heavenly vault.[57] This motif is recognized as one of the parallels between the artifact decorations of this North Thracian group and the ornamentations from the Mycenaean Shaft Graves. It is found in both the Aegean and east-central Europe from the Neolithic onwards.[20]

Scholars opinions are divided on the source of these comparable traits. One opinion states that the North Thracian spiral motifs originate from the local Eneolithic (Chalcolithic) antecedents rather than from any imported influence.[19] There are specific forms widespread in northern Thrace that are unlikely inspired by the Mycenaeans.[19] It is also argued that these motifs apparently did not appear in the intervening territory of South Thrace.[20] With North Thracians, the spiral motif appears prominently in the form of massive armguard (armlet) terminals, offering physical as well as apotropaic protection.[20] Hoddinott states that the twin spiral terminals, as on the bowl from Biia, would have been a natural development; either from a local single armlet type or from an Unetice spectacle pendant.[20]

The other opinion attributes the spiral motif to a northward spread of Mycenaean influence.[21] It is argued that the spiral of the Neolithic period disappeared during the transitional period towards the Bronze Age, and even during the Early Bronze Age; therefore, starting from the Middle Bronze Age the spiral would occur because of a Mycenaean sway to the north of the Danube.[21] These comparable features might have been occurred because of commercial relations between the Mycenaeans and Dacians relating to the gold mines of Transylvania.[58]

Spiral ending types

Sacoşu Mare

Whatever may have been the origin of the spiral motif, the craftsmen of the late Carpatho-Danubian Bronze Age IV and Hallstatt A had a marked preference for bracelets with a spiral ending, as found at Sacosu Mare.[54] The same décor featuring the coiled disk endings of the single- or double-spiral bracelets is found on contemporary ceramics.[9] There is also a striking resemblance between the gold bracelets from Sacoșu Mare, from Firighiaz (or Firiteaz), and from other locations in Transylvania that suggest a spiritual affinity in the proto-Dacian world.[9]

The hoard from Sacoşu Mare consists of bracelets and jewelry dated to the 13th to 12th centuries BC (Late Bronze Age and Hallstatt I).[37] The golden bracelets, around 74.15 grams (2.6 ounces), have open ends of approximately 6.6 cm (2.6 inches) in diameter. Some terminate with convex volute ends,[37] while others have double convex volute ends.[59] The bracelet's bar is decorated with engraved rows of diamonds flanked by dotted lines.[59]

Firighiaz (Firiteaz)

The finds from Firighiaz (Firiteaz), Timiş County, on left bank of the Lower Mureş River, are representative of the spiral motif bracelets of this period.[8] [60] The Firiteaz's treasure contains twenty-three bracelets made of gold bar, each weighing 0.2 kg (0.44 pounds), and the hoard is housed in the Vienna Museum.[9] Bracelets made of bronze, similar to the Firiteaz ones made of gold, had been found in Transylvanian deposits dated to the Early Iron Age.[61]

The Firighiaz treasure comprises three types of bracelets:

  • made of quadrangular cross-section bar; they are tapered at both ends (Type 1, dated to Late Bronze Age)[62]
  • made of quadrangular cross-section bar; inverted spirals ends (Type 2)[60]
  • made of semi-round cross section bar; these terminate with double volute spirals at each end (Type 3, dated to the 8th to 7th centuries BC)[60]

The earliest type one bracelets did not have ornamentations, while the later ones are engraved with groups of lines and angles or group of lines that alternate with lozenges (i.e. those from Sălaj).[64] This type is also common to the sites in: Domanesti (Sălaj County), Tăuteni (Bihor County) and Şpălnaca (Alba County).[62] Bracelets with quadrangular cross-section had previously been made of bronze, such as those at the beginning of the Hallstatt period. The gold ones are numerous, but are mostly of small dimensions; these smaller ones are considered to have been used as currency.[56]

The type two bracelets coil into spiral discs at only one end (terminal). At a later time, between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, they coiled at both terminals similar to the type three bracelets.[60]

The designs in type 3 bracelets, double-coiled (one at each of the two terminals), have also been found in bracelets from Biia (Alba County Romania), Fokoru (Heves, Hungary) and Bilje (Croatia).[60]

Spiral types similar to the Firighiaz type two have been found in a large area of Central and North-Western Europe: Bohemia, North-East Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, Poznan, West Poland, Pomerania, Lithuania, North Galicia, Germany (Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Turing, Mecklenburg) and Romania. Their prototypes may have been provided by the Lusatian Culture.[65] Some scholars believe that these bracelets were a kind of defensive weapon. This view is supported by the fact that this type was found usually on weapons deposits in Germany,[66] and that they appear to have been worn on the upper arm, as the traces of wear indicate.[67][66]

These locally-made bracelets from Firighiaz (Firiteaz), and from other Transylvanian finds, are half the size of the armlets of the similar style found in Germany and they could not be worn. It seems they were simple ornamental objects, a common trait to many similar items found in Romania.[66] Transylvanian bracelets of this type are described as nearly circular with 57 and 63 mm diameter. Their rods are of a circular cross-section (max. 10 mm thickness) gradually tapering towards the ends, where the cross-section becomes quadrangular and begins to curl in a spiral. The diameter of the spiral discs is 30–35 mm. Each of these discs are made from four spirals.[66]

Acâş and Săcueni

According to Pârvan (1928), the style of Firighiaz artifacts evolved over a considerable period of time into the later form styles of the Dacian Hallstattian bracelets as found at Săcueni (Bihor County), Pipea (Mureș County) and Biia (Alba County).[8]

Bracelets with double-volute ends like with Firighiaz type two, but with a different style, have been found at Acâş and Săcueni.[61] These are made of lozenge bar with a décor made of relief globule (similar to bracelets found at Saint-Babel) with double-coiled terminals.[68] The gold bracelets from Săcueni, as well as those from Acâş (Satu Mare County) and Hajdúszoboszló (Hungary) are typical Dacian bracelets of the Hallstatt period.[69]

Bronze bracelets of this type had previously been found in deposits belonging to the first Hallstatt period. Their ornamentation and groups of motifs is similar to the Firighiaz (Firiteaz) type. Analogous bracelets had also been found at Oradea.[61] Two bracelets with spiral ends, dated to the Iron Age, have also been found in Dacian tombs of the Lower Danube.[73]

"Horn motif" from Pipea, Biia and Boarta

The golden goblet from Biia with twin spiral terminals of the handles.[20]

Bracelets from Biia and Pipea, found in the 19th century, have an unclear chronology.[74] This series comprises a find from Abrud and another from an unknown Transylvanian location.[75] Some archaeologists are reporting them as dating to the Hallstatt,[76][10] though Márton (1933) dated them to the early La Tene period.[77] Popescu (1956) estimates these can be dated to the Hallstat phase B (1000–800 BC), but no later than C (800–650 BC).[74] whereas Mozsolics (1970) dates them to 1,500 BC.[11] The so-called Biia bracelet was found with the Biia gold "kantharos" that can be dated between 1,500 and 1,000 BC.[78] The handles of this goblet are also coiled into a double-spiral motif similar to other types of bracelets from the Carpathian area (i.e. Firigiaz 3, or Acas-Sacueni).[79]

There, specimens are made of bronze and are prototypes of the Pipea–Biia–Boarta series of bracelets; therefore, scholars agree these bracelets had been made locally, in the Transylvanian goldsmith workshops. This opinion is supported by metal analysis.[80]

These types of bracelets are possibly votive offerings, reminiscent of the cult of the bull.[81] Their common trait is the stylized motif of "horns". All of them have large C-shaped "horns" as terminals.[75] As with the spiral, Hoddinott purports that the east-central European bronzesmiths used this horn symbol to provide the warrior with both physical and deistic protection.[82] In the Aegean Shaft Graves it occurs only on a stele, a gold bowl and three pairs of gold earrings, which Hoddinott considers to be possibly of central European origin.[75] This thematic motif of the Carpathian peoples is confirmed by other archaeological finds from Transylvania that include three large rings weighing between 0.20 kilograms (0.44 pounds) and 0.60 kilograms (1.32 pounds). Their terminals are animal heads facing each other, depicting the heads of horses in two cases and bulls-heads in the third.[83] Eluere (1987) identifies the endings of the Pipea-Biia bracelets with the cultic and religious powerful horns of the bull, and estimates that this myth was perpetuated for centuries.[83]

According to Hoddinott (1989), the horned animal cults that are attested with these horns motifs were brought by the transitional Indo-Europeanization period immigrants who adopted these stylized motifs as their main apotropaic symbol;[19] however, the symbols of the horned animal replaced the local ones but were later associated with the sun-fire symbols of the earlier culture.[86]

The bracelet from Bilje (Croatia) belongs to the same Biia-Pipea type.[81] Hartmann noted that the percentage of silver and tin in the bracelets from Belly (Croatia) and Pipea (Romania) is almost identical. This suggests both bracelets had been made in the same region.[80] According to Marton, the armlets with semi-moon ends are part of an evolutionary series that terminates with the later silver snake-headed bracelets of the Classical Dacian times.[77]

Boarta type

The bracelet from Boarta (Şeica Mare-Sibiu County) was discovered in 1891 and is dated to 600 BC. It might be an example of the last phases in the evolution of the Biia-Pipea gold artifacts (For the photo of Boarta bracelet see the gallery of links [87]) A very similar copy of the Boarta type has been found with the treasure from Dalj, Slavonia.[88]

Unlike the Biia-Pipe type bracelets, the Boarta bracelet is flat, band-shaped, and has three raised ribs resembling the body of two other bracelets from Oradea. Its semi moon-shape terminals are smaller than the Biia-Pipea terminals;[88] thus, some scholars derive the type of the Boarta bracelet to be from some earlier bronze bracelets whose ends widen and whose bodies have more ridges.[89]

It seems that some other bracelets found at Bihor, Oradea, Targu Mures and Faget could possibly belong to the Boarta type, and not to the Biia-Pipea type.[88]

Mosna, Sibiu County

The terminal adornments of this gold bracelet look like animals' heads, but the zoomorphic motif almost disappeared because of the geometric stylization (see picture Mosna 1 above). It is dated to the Hallstatt period. This is not an isolated item, since it is stylistically connected to the geometric and zoomorphism of a collar and two bracelets from Veliki Gaj (Hungarian Nagygáj, Romanian Gaiu Mare) in Serbia.[92]

Zoomorphic bracelets

Gold bracelet with horse heads from Vad-Fagaras Brasov County; Kunsthistorisches Museum.[89][93]

In the past, on the basis of a relatively small selection of archaeological finds, some scholars considered that the art of Geto-Dacians was geometrical and non-iconic. This led to the zoomorphic representations of Dacian bracelets being seen as an expression of the art of the steppes people, and Scythian art in particular. The majority of archaeological finds to date show that the main aspect of Geto-Dacian toreutics is in fact a zoomorphic motif style of its own.[94] This Dacian style of animal art occurs at the time when various ancient historical sources begin to record the Geto-Dacians as an ethnic entity of the larger Thracian family; therefore, this artistic expression might be considered as specific to the Dacian society of the last centuries BC.[94]

Some scholars sustain that the zoomorphic motifs of that particular time do not represent any kind of zoolatry of the Geto-Dacians. These would be iconographic motifs highlighting and multiplying certain attributes of the deities or of the kings.[95]

Ox-headed bracelets (Târgu Mureş, Apoldu de Sus, Vad)

The tendency towards the apotropaic zoomorphism that crystallized at the end of the Iron Age I (i.e. bracelets from Biia, Pipea, Boarta etc.) is clearly manifested with the bracelets possessing ornamented ox heads of the Iron Age II (La Tene) from Târgu Mureş (Mureş County), Apoldu de Sus (Sibiu County), Vad (Braşov County) and one from an unknown Transylvanian find.[96] The bracelet from Apoldu de Sus seems to have an ox head at one terminus and a ram's head at the other end.[97]

The ox-head bracelets have been associated with the clay Hallstatian’s Moon idol, with which they undoubtedly share a similarity.[89]

The wires of these series of bracelets are thick, and decorated with ornamental protrusions.[97] Their characteristic decor consists of relief or incised circles, while there are also those with cuts or incisions that form a fir-tree motif.[96]

A bracelet with ox-heads discovered in the 19th century at Târgu Mureş (see picture) had been dated by some scholars to La Tene.[98] Others such as Popescu (1956) dated this particular one to the last period of the Hallstatt, since it might have been deposited together with a semi-moon type bracelet of that period.[74] As for the technique, it is noted that the bracelet from Targu Mures show a control of three-dimensional modeling,[99] with silver inlays.[100] There are two other bracelets of a similar type in the Transylvania Museum, though they are known to be discovered in Transylvania the original site is unknown.[88]

The religious meaning of the sacred horn had been lost over time, the circlets keeping this shape can only be described as decorative ornamentation.[89] The bracelet found in 1817 at Vad–Fagaras (Brasov County) terminating with horse heads depicted as wearing a bridle, is part of the general trend of bracelets replacing the sacred horn as a motif.[89][101]

Băiceni bracelets

Dacian gold bracelet Băiceni (Cucuteni), 4th century BC[4]
Head 1 – Detail of one of the zoomorphic bracelets from Băiceni (Cucuteni), 4th century BC[102]

In 1959 two bracelets terminating with "horned-horses", were found at Băiceni (Cucuteni).[103] They are dated to the end of the Iron Age I[36] and are found in the context of a hidden treasure of a Dacian nobleman.[104] The treasure comprised 2 kilograms of gold ornaments; a helmet, necklace, appliqués, harness, and buttons for vestments. They were ceremonial ensemble for kings or noblemen and their horses.[105] The bracelets and necklace terminate with protomes of horse heads and exhibit strong Thracian roots.[106]

The heads have also been interpreted as goat-heads (ibex).[36] Each head is very made of embossed gold foil with a filigree composition,[107] and had sun-symbols on the middle of the forehead. They also have what may be seen as ram's- or goats-horns (see picture "Head 1" on the right).[103] These Băiceni gold artworks of the 4th century BC are viewed as one of the links transferring the Thracian and North Thracian Art forms and motifs across to the Dacian silversmiths.[108]

Iron Age II (La Tene)

Dacians replaced gold, the popular Transylvanian metal during the Iron Age I period, with silver during Iron Age II.[109] The types of ornaments also changed, perhaps due to new social structures and hierarchy or due to changes of the preferences of the populous and sacerdotal aristocracy.[110]

Dacians absorbed influences from the western Celts and eastern Scythians, but also proved their artistic originality.[111] The bracelet style of the former is more individual, as they synthesized the older local elements originating from the Bronze Age into a new combination adapted to include the contemporary decorative forms and motifs.[111]

Objects specific to warriors (armors, harnesses etc.) became preponderant from the 5th century BC onwards, in contrast to the decorative objects (bracelets, torques and pendants) that predominated in the Bronze Age, and in the transition period leading up to the Iron Age.[94] In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC gold and silver military objects are replaced so that the treasures of the late Dacian La Tene comprise ceremonial ensembles of silver ornaments and clothing accessories, bracelets along with some mastos or footed cup vases .[112][110]

The geometrical and spiral motif ornamentation of earlier bracelets is more often replaced with zoomorphic and vegetal representations.[94] The decorations of bracelets that have been found, across the whole territory inhabited by Dacians, consist of lines cut into fir-tree shapes, dots, circlets, palmettes, waves, and bead motifs.[113]

Toteşti bracelet

Snake-headed Dacian bracelet from Totesti. Transitional Hallstatt-La Tene period[114]

Various single-spiral bracelets made of solid quadrangular (rhombic) gold bars, whose overlapping ends represent the head of a snake, were found in 1889 at Toteşti in Hunedoara County.[115][116] The head is geometrically stylized but clearly defined by decorative details. This artifact belongs to the so-called "Classic Dacian" period[116] and described as a "primitive work done by a not skilful hand". It was noted that the snake head is realistically depicted by the representation of the eyes, ears and other elements of the vipera ammodytes that is so commonly found in the area. The same scholars related these gold circlets to the later silver multi-spirals snake protome and palmette bracelets from Vaidei-Romos, Senereuş, Hetur, Marca and Oradea Mare.[115] Other scholars consider that Toteşti snake-headed ornaments should be interpreted on the basis of an abstract contemporary stylistic type, and not as an imitation of reality. In this interpretation Toteşti bracelets are not connected with the snakes from the region of Deva, but they are a tradition that began in Hallstatt times with the "Scythian rings" and continued into the La Tène period.[114]

In the Scythian tombs of Northern Hungary that are related to the Scythian invasions from around 700 BC, as well as in those of central Romania, spiral-shaped rings known as the "Scythian rings" have been found; with one end forming a fantastic animal, such as a dragon or serpent. These apotropaic creatures, themselves Turano-Siberian varieties of old Mesopotamian monsters, might have provided the model for the Dacian protome bracelet from Toteşti[117]—but neither the Scythian animals nor the Greek decorations appear to have had great success in Dacia, since the native geometric style continued to predominate.[118]

Analogies to the Totesti bracelets can be found not only to the multi-spiral bracelets, but also in the overlapping-end bracelets whose ends sometimes terminate with stylized animal heads.[38]

Common Dacian types of the La Tene IB (250–150 BC)

Silver Dacian bracelet from Transylvania, found also at Slimnic[119]
Silver Dacian bracelet from Transylvania, found also at Slimnic[119]

The archaeological findings dated to this period of time comprise the following types:

  • One-spiral bracelet made of bar with engraved ends (mostly Hatching and Zigzag)[120]
  • Bracelets with non-joined ends. It originates from Bronze Age i.e. from Spalnaca type [119] [121]
  • Bracelet made of bar having a plastic decoration of a Celtic type "S", i.e. Gyoma[120]
  • Bracelets with overlapped ends (i.e. Slimnic (Sibiu County) and Sâncrăieni (Harghita County).[119] [121] These are artifacts of local Hallstattian tradition originating from the first period of the Iron Age, and preserved until the late La Tene period.[122][121] Analogous models dated to the late Hallstatt period have been found at Balta Verde and Gogosu (both in Mehedinti County).[122]
  • Bracelets with slightly widened or thickened ends.[123]
  • Multi-spirals bracelet found with Slimnic treasure.[46] This is a re-adaptation of the older Carpathian spiral bracelet, earlier forms of it have been found in Bronze Age deposits at Balta Verde and Gogoşu (Mehedinti County).[121] This type could be considered as being just a simple form of the multi-spiral with protomes and palmettes.[122]


Bracelets in the "Classical Dacian" period of the Dacian State

The Dacian silver bracelet is one of the characteristic artworks of this period, and the most representative ornament on them is the snake protome.[124][29] Dacian bracelets have mainly been thought of as women's adornments but it can not be excluded that some types of bracelets, especially the multi-spirals ones, represented insignia of politico-military and sacerdotal functions and therefore worn by men.[125]

Bracelets became part of the objects that Dacians selected as votive offerings deposited outside settlements. Such offerings have been found in a fountain at Ciolanestii din Deal, Teleorman County, where silver bracelets and vases dated to 2nd or 1st century BC were found, and finds beside a lake in a forest at Contesti, Argeş County, where bracelets, pearls, and a drachma were found.[126]

Types of the La Tene II period (150 BC – 100 AD) include:

  • Bracelets with the ends curled back around the bracelet's wire i.e. Cerbal (Hunedoara County) and Remetea (Timis County)[119] [121]
  • Bracelets made of multiple twisted wires i.e. at Cerbăl[120] In the La Tène Age, this type appears to have been developed from the twisted types of the Bronze Age IV from Spalnaca.[127]
  • Bracelets with double torsade i.e. Cerbăl[128]
  • Bracelets made of decorated band with circles and dotted lines i.e. Cerbăl[120]
  • Bracelets made of ribbed bar[120]
  • Bracelets with single- or multi-spirals terminating with snake heads[124]

Regional finds

According to Horedt (1973), silver Dacian treasure finds can be typologically categorized into north and south groups, divided by the Târnava River. In the contact zone between them the artifacts are common to both zones.[131] In this classification the silver multi-spiral bracelets that are ornamented with palmettes and snake protomes would belong to the southern group.[131]

East of the Carpathian Mountains

The Dacian bracelets that have been found East of the Carpathians can be categorized into two main types:

  • Non-joined ends i.e. those found at Poiana (Galati County) and Gradistea (Brăila County). Numerous specimens are made of bronze, such as those found at Brad, Racatau and Poiana.[132][133]
  • Overlapped ends that are coiled onto the wire itself.[132] [133] This type has ornamentation consisting of geometrical motifs and sometimes of snake protomes.[133]

The characteristic metals used for bracelets found in the area of the Siret River valley are bronze and iron,[132] though silver was also probably used; a silver bracelet was found with a treasure of coins buried after 119–122 AD.[131]

In the Prut-Dniester region sub-types have been identified such as:

  • Bronze bracelets such as those found at Trebujeni, Maşcăuţi and Hansca
  • Non-joined ends, bar with vegetal décor such as those from Palanca-Tudora
  • Bracelets made of 3–6 twisted bronze wires with flattened ornaments in the middle.[134]
  • Multi-spiral types, such as the bracelets from the treasure found at Mateuţi (Rezina District) dated to the 4th century BC. This treasure includes two silver bracelets, one with five spirals and one with three.[135]

Moesia Superior

Dacian bracelets have been found in deposits from Tekija, Bare (Serbia),[136] Veliko Središte[137] and Paraćin.[138]

The style and type of the bracelets from Tekija and Bare are similar to the Dacian silver types; i.e. bracelets made of twisted wire and bracelets with overlapped ends that are coiled around the wire itself.[136] Even though the origins of this type should not necessarily be located in Dacia itself, since bracelets of this type are scattered throughout the entire Balkan-Danube area, the earliest dated bracelets from Tekija and Bare are very large, as were those typical of the Dacian cultural complex.[139] Bracelets with ends shaped as a head of, or tail of, a serpent are well represented in the Dacian deposits that are found at the Bare.[139]

The Dacian bracelets that are decorated with spiral end-pieces, i.e. Belgrad—Guberevac (Leskovac), along with thin Dacian silver necklaces found in East Serbia, characterize the presence of a Dacian La Tene culture at Paraćin in Serbia.[138]

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