Langhansbau: Seat of the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte
Europeanvirtualmuseum 10 items from Berlin Museum
The Art of the Ice Age Apart from the spoken word the prehistoric art is a kind of communication. In this way complex contexts could be produced and understood on an abstract level. The capacity to transmit such contexts through artistic expression is an ability of the modern men. They started to demonstrate their ideas and central themes of their environment. The first relicts considered certainly as art belong to the Aurignacian. A lot of items made of bone and ivory were excavated in caves around the hills of the Schwäbische Alb in Southern Germany. Common motifs are animals and human beings (Holdermann 2001; Müller-Beck/Albrecht 1987). As one of the most exciting and fascinating pieces from this period could be regarded the Lions man, a statuette found in cave of Hohlenstein-Stadel which shows a figure half man and half animal (Ulmer Museum 1994).
Cave Art The highlights of the paleolithic art belong undisputedly to the Magdalenian period. At this time art was spread nearly all over Europe with a high concentration from the Dordogne over the Pyrenees to Cantabrian Spain. The cave art became famous by the paintings in Altamira and Lascaux. The first paintings and rock engravings were discovered in the spectacular site of Altamira Cave, World Heritage since 1985, by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola's in 1879. In 1940 followed the discovery of paintings in the cave of Lascaux and in 1991 in the Grotte Cosquer near Marseille (Beltran/de Quiros/Ramos 1998; Clottes/Courtin 1995; Rietschel 1982).
Mobile Art Mobile art in form of engravings and incisions of bones, ivory or stone was also widespread in the Magdalenian period. In Lalinde the head of a horse was incised in fine, sharpened lines. This is typical for the preparation of a bone from an animal hunted urgently. A lot of parallels are known from the Paleolithic period for the technical style of the decoration (Hoffmann 1996, 94- 95). Common themes of the paintings and engravings are women, human hands, mysterious signs and animals like mammoth, bison, horses and deers. These animals became important because they were hunted by the late paleolithic men. At the end of the Ice Age the mammoth had disappeared and the hunting of deers and horses became more and more important. So it is not surprising that they had an central role for the expression of the artists. Maybe the depictions of these animals coud be connected with the magic for a successful hunt.
The horse in the art Bibliography: A. Beltran/F. Bernaldo de Quiros/P. A. Saura Ramos 1998, Altamira. J. Clottes/J. Courtin 1995, Grotte Cosquer bei Marseille. A. Hoffmann 1996, Botschaft aus der Steinzeit. Eine Neuerwerbung. MuseumsJournal 10, H.3: 94-95. C.-S. Holdermann 2001, Eiszeitkunst im süddeutsch-schweizerischen Jura. H. Müller-Beck/G. Albrecht 1987, Die Anfänge der Kunst vor 30000 Jahren. G. Rietschel 1982, Lascaux, Höhle der Eiszeit. Ulmer Museum (Ed.) 1994, Der Löwenmensch. Tier und Mensch in der Kunst der Eiszeit.
Anthropomorphic Vessels of the Baden Culture The Baden Culture is dated to the Copper Age from 3600 to 2900 B.C. The culture is named after the Königshöhle in Baden south of Vienna, which was excavated in 1892. The distribution area reaches from the eastern part of Austria to Hungria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Southern Poland. A characteristic sign of the ceramics is the decoration of the vessels with rows of grooves in several patterns. The most important leftovers of the people of the Baden Culture are the oldest models of wagons in the world (like the model of a wagon from Budakalász) and the anthropomorphic and gynecomorphic vessels. The characteristic sign of the anthropomorphic and gynecomorphic vessels of the Baden Culture are the breasts in plastic style at the bulbous part of vessels in the shape of pots, bottles and vases. Central elements of decoration of those vessels are often X-shaped strips. Depending of this decoration and further signs Nevizánsky divided the decoration into the stylish groups A-F (Nevizánsky 2002, 79-98).
Anthropomorphic urns With the help of typological signs Nevizánsky devided these vessels into the series I-VI. He allocated the gynecomorphic vessels to the serie I (bulbous vessels with a low and widening neck) and II (slim vessels in the shape of vases with a high neck). The group of anthropomorphic vessels in the shape of bottles belong to the series IV-VI. The common sign of these types are plastic, arisen arms and faces with eyes and a nose. The mouth is not depicted. They are connected with the gynecomorphic vessels through the depiction of breasts in plastic style. In the most cases the anthropomorphic vessels were used as urns.
The vessel from Ráckeve The only example for a vessel of the series III is the item of Ráckeve, which is a transition type from the elder group of the gynecomorphic vessels to the younger group of the anthropomorphic vessels. It is a vessel in the shape of a bottle with a low, conical foot, breats formed in plastic style and X-shaped decoration. The unusual shape of the risen arms connects the vessel with the anthropomorphic vessels, even if there is no face depicted (Nevizánsky 2000, 79-98).
Anthropomorphic vessel from Troy The gynecomorphic vessels and urns used in the death cult are, as the headless idol figures, a mirror of the cult and the religious belief of the Baden Culture (Bondár 1999/2000, 23-24). It is uncertain, if there was any cultural and religious connection to Minor Asia, especially to Troy. This thesis once was made by Kalicz on the basis of typological relationship of some vessels of the Baden culture with some objects found in Troy (Kalicz 1963). At the opposite Nevizánsky demands the origin of the anthropomorphic vessels of the Baden Culture in the region of the Carpathian Basin (Nevizánsky 2000, 79-98). Bibliography: M. Bondár 1999/2000, Neue und vergessene Idole der Badener Kultur. Acta Archaeologica Hungarica 51, 23-34. N. Kalicz 1963, Die Péceler (Badener) Kultur und Anatolien, Budapest. G. Nevizánsky 2002, Antropomorfné a gynokomorfné nádoby badenskej kultúry z územia Kataptskey kotliny (Anthropomorphe und gynaekomorphe Gefäße der Badener Kultur aus dem Gebiet des Karpatenbeckens). Slovenská Archeológia 50,1, 79-98.
Sun Cult in the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is not only a period of technological innovations, but also brings some reforms in artificial power. Since the 16th century B.C. appear in the South of Scandinavia figural depictions of fishes, snakes, horses, wagons and ships. An example for the mythological idea of the journey of the sun, pulled by a horse, is the sun wagon from Trundholm. 3400 years ago it was sunk in a swamp in Denmark. The motif of a sun god accompanied by horses is well known in later times, for example in the Greek vase painting. But the depiction of Trundholm showing the journey of the sun with the help of a divine horse is the earliest one of this kind (Kaul 2004: 54-57).
The Ship in the Northern Bronze Age One of the most important motives of the Northern Bronze Age is the ship. It appears on rock paintings as the rock painting of Torsbo in Bohuslän, Sweden, dated to 1600- 1300 B.C., and also on weapons and razor blades from 1100-500 B.C. It is no surprise that the ship, as a symbol for movement and transport, became a central role in Scandinavia. But it also had a special meaning as a vehicle of the divine and mythological sphere, as a vehicle of the eternal journey of the sun. On any razor blades ships were depicted alone or in combination with symbols of the sun (Kaul 1998; Kaul 2003, 37-51).
Heavens disc from Nebra The motif of the ship was not only widespread in Scandinavia. Depictions of ships as part of the religious art are also known from Middle Europe to Egypt. One of the most fascinating objects surely is the Heavens disc of Nebra, 3600 years old. The circle round bronze disc was decorated with golden platings showing the full moon, half moon and the seven stars of the plejads. These observations of the sky have their roots in the belief of the people of the Neolithic Period. In later times the depiction of the sky was added by the horizon and a ship, which as a symbol is closely connected with Bronze Age religion (Meller 2004, 22-31).
Belt plate from Floth In Middle Europe depictions of ships just became widespread in the Late Bronze Age since the 11th century B.C. Different to the northern ships the stems of the middle European ships were depicted as birds heads. This is a common motif on weapons, costume garnements and bronze buckets from Southern Germany to Hungary and Italy. The motif is also known in Poland, as shown by the belt plate from Floth. On closer examination it is conspicuous that the sun, wandering from the morning to evening, is depicted by a plastic hemisphere, which is pulled by stylized birds. Along the horizontal main axis of the belt plate are two bended figures with narrowing ends forming animal heads (probably of birds) and are called ships with bird protomes. In the middle of each ship stands a human figure whose head is marked by a double circle. The linear body with a fish-boned chest continues in legs formed as bundles of lines. The arms are raised in a praying position. Circling the figure a sun pulled by a bird moves from sunrise past the zenith to sunset. The marginal illustration shows a ship pulled by birds. The ship is moving forward to a human figure. The body line of the human leads to a sun ball which forms the head. During the Bronze Age the sun was most likely personified and illustrated as a human (Hänsel 1997, 11-22).
Bibliography: B. Hänsel, 1997 Gaben an die Götter – Schätze der Bronzezeit Europas – eine Einführung, Gaben an die Götter – Schätze der Bronzezeit Europas. Bestandskataloge des Museums für Vor- und Frühgeschichte 4, Berlin: 11-22 F.Kaul, 1998 Ships on Bronzes. The Metalwork of the Late Neolithic and Earliest Bronze Age in Denmark. Jutland Archaeological Society Publications 32, Kopenhagen F. Kaul 2003, Der Mythos von der Reise der Sonne. Darstellungen auf Bronzegegenständen der späten Nordischen Bronzezeit, Gold und Kult der Bronzezeit. Ausstellungskatalog, Nürnberg: 37-51 F. Kaul, 2004 Der Sonnenwagen von Trundholm, Der geschmiedete Himmel. Die weite Welt im Herzen Europas vor 3600 Jahren. Ausstellungskatalog, Stuttgart: 54-57 H. Meller, 2004 Der geschmiedete Himmel, Der geschmiedete Himmel. Die weite Welt im Herzen Europas vor 3600 Jahren. Ausstellungskatalog, Stuttgart: 22-31
Golden Hats of the Bronze Age – Symbols of Power and Calendar Systems Four conical objects made of gold are belonging to the most fascinating relicts from the Later Bronze Age: The Golden Hat from Schifferstadt, found in 1835 near the river Rhine, the Cône dAvanton, found 1844 near Poitiers, the Golden Cone from Ezelsdorf, discovered in 1953 nearby Nuremberg in Bavaria and the Berlin Golden Hat, whose provenience is unknown and which was bought by the Museum for Pre- and Early History in 1996. All four items consist of thin gold foil and are made of one piece. They could be regarded as masterpieces of the goldsmiths work.
The Golden Hats – Headgears Although the Golden Hat from Schifferstadt was considered as a headgear from the time of his discovery, there were doubts on this use because of the thin material and the fragility. These doubts were strengthened by the discovery of the Cône dAvanton and the Golden Cone from Ezelsdorf. Both were missing a brim. Following the items were considered as crowns of cult posts. It was S. Gerloff, who contradicted this thesis with well founded arguments, still before the Berlin Golden Hat was known. She referred to the golden headgears from Ireland and from the Atlantic coast in Spain. These headgears can be connected with the golden, conical hats just not by their decoration. Parallels and examples of the conical hats are known since the 3rd and 2nd millenium in the glyptic and plastic art from Mesopotamia to Anatolia, Cyprus and Greece to Sardegna. Even in Scandiniavia and the Baltic region figural, mostly stilyzed depictions of men wearing conical hats are known (Gerloff 1995, 153-194; Gerloff 2003, 190- 203).
Together with certain forms of weapons the hats could be regarded as symbols of power. Especially the golden hats of the later Bronze Age were probably worn by priests during ritual actions. Maybe they had connections to the so called sword wearing noblemen, but they possessed an own authority inside the society. Maybe they could be regarded as a noble rank of priests, which is later on comprehensible with the celtic druids known by historical sources (Sperber 2003, 204- 219).
Important knowledge about the function of the golden hats has thanked to W. Menghin, who established proof by comparison, that all four known items were Bronze Age calender systems with an encoded rhythm of numbers. It is possible to understand this by the example of the Berlin Golden Hat: Apart from the numerous circle symbols the decoration of the Berlin Golden Hat includes 19 lying half moons, 19 eye models and on the top an eight-radiated star. Since the 18th century BC these motives occur in the Middle East glyptic art. Here they are connected with mythological sceneries having a clear astronomic-cosmological context. The so called Moon pectoral of the Tutenchamun tomb also includes such elements. For this reasons there seems to be a connection between the symbolism and the reduced pictorial program of the Golden Hat and the Middle East and Egyptian cosmology. The altogether 1739 symbols are systematic arranged in 19 horizontal ornament zones.
Among them are 1701 concentric rings and each coincides with a day. Taking astronomic calculations as a basis the number of symbols on the Golden Hat corresponds nearly exact with 57 solar (= 3 * 19) and 59 lunar months. The result of multiplying 57 * 4 is 228 solar months (= 12 * 19) of the Metonic Cycle and also corresponds approximately with the 135 lunar months of the moon cycle, both cycles last 19 years. Consequently the number system represented on the decoration of the Berlin Golden Hat can be considered as the copy of a lunar-solar calendar from the time 3000 years ago, long time before the Babylonians and Greeks developed similar calendar systems (Menghin, 2000, 31-108; Menghin 2003, 220- 237
Bibliography S. Gerloff, 1995 Bronzezeitliche Goldblechkronen aus Westeuropa. Betrachtungen zur Funktion der Goldblechkegel vom Typ Schifferstadt und der atlantischen Goldschalen der Form Devils Bit und Atroxi, Festschrift für Hermann Müller-Karpe zum 70. Geburtstag, Bonn: 153-194 S. Gerloff, 2003 Goldkegel, Kappe und Axt: Insignien bronzezeitlichen Kultes und Macht, Gold und Kult der Bronzezeit. Ausstellungskatalog, Nürnberg, 190-203 W. Menghin, 2000 Der Berliner Goldhut und die goldenen Kalendarien der alteuropäischen Bronzezeit, Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica 32: 31-108 W. Menghin 2003 Goldene Kalenderhüte – Manifestationen bronzezeitlicher Kalenderhüte, Gold und Kult der Bronzezeit. Ausstellungskatalog, Nürnberg, 220-237 L. Sperber 2003 Wer trug den goldenen Hut? – Überlegungen zur gesellschaftlichen Einbindung der Goldkegel vom Typus Schifferstadt, Gold und Kult der Bronzezeit. Ausstellungskatalog, Nürnberg, 204-219