Bronze-Casting and Organization of Production at Kalnik-Igrisce (Croatia)

By Vrdoljak, Snjezana; Forenbaher, Staso | Antiquity, September 1995 | Go to article overview
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Bronze-Casting and Organization of Production at Kalnik-Igrisce (Croatia)


Vrdoljak, Snjezana, Forenbaher, Staso, Antiquity


Recent excavations at the Late Bronze Age settlement site of Kalnik-Igrisce, northwestern Croatia, have brought to light evidence of small-scale bronze-casting. From that evidence, and the pattern of similar evidence from other sites in the southwestern part of the Middle Danubian Basin, conclusions can be drawn about circulation of metal and its control by an elite.

One key issue in recent discussions of production organization in hierarchical societies is the relationship between craft specialists and the social elite (Clark & Parry 1990; Costin 1991). Most studies distinguish two basic categories of products: utilitarian and prestige. Monopolizing access to prestige items should be of concern to the elite, as these objects define status and legitimize power. Workshops producing elite goods should be fairly few in number and located in major settlements, where they could be supervised by the central authority. We would expect them to be operated by a restricted number of master craftsmen, 'attached specialists' sponsored by the elite (Brumfiel & Earle 1987: 5). Production of utilitarian items - less tightly controlled or even left to the individual initiative of independent specialists - will be more widespread across the landscape (Wells 1984: 52, 65-70).

During the Middle Danubian Late Bronze Age, bronze continued in use for producing exquisite luxury items, such as bronze vessels, swords, defensive weaponry and elaborate decorative pieces. By that time it is also common enough to be widely used in agricultural and wood-working tools, in less ostentatious decorative elements and for other mundane purposes.

Presently available evidence of metallurgical activities from the southwestern part of the Middle Danubian Basin lends general support to the production model outlined above. New data related to this issue comes from the Late Bronze Age settlement of Kalnik-Igrisce.

Kalnik: the site and the evidence for bronze-casting

Kalnik is a group of steep wooded hills drained by small rivers, some 50 km northeast of Zagreb in northwestern Croatia [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. Elevation varies between 500 and 600 m above sea-level, reaching the highest point in Vranilac (641 m). The Late Bronze Age site of Igrisce is situated directly beneath the main summit, at about 500 m above sea-level, on a 2-km long and 100-200-m wide inclined bench which breaks the steep south-facing slope. The rocky summit ridge protects it from the northern winds, while its position provides a controlling view of the wide valley below. Several springs are located in the immediate vicinity (Homen 1988).

A series of surface scatters (mostly potsherds, some animal bones, occasional small bronzes) can be observed along the entire length of the bench (Majnaric-Pandzic 1990: 63). A greatly varying density of surface finds, as well as their character, suggests that the settlement consisted of fairly dispersed individual residences. There were not very many of them, probably a few dozen at most, and possibly less, for some might have shifted location during the occupation. There is no evidence of unusually rich or elaborate households, of a 'central area' within the settlement, defensive works, or any other indication of elite-organized central authority.

The excavated area (about 80 sq.m) is situated on a 10-15 [degrees] slope. The upper part of the cultural accumulation containing pottery of various periods and a large quantity of limestone rocks, has been disturbed by slope wash. The lower part (0.5 to 0.9 m thick) remains largely in situ, as the well-preserved remains of several substantially built hearths shows. It contains large quantities of pottery (over 300 sherds per cu. m on average), numerous animal bones, as well as small bronzes. Except for hearths, its general character suggests a household midden.

By its formal stylistic traits, the pottery belongs to the Baierdorf-Velatice group of the Middle Danubian Urnfield Culture (Pittioni 1954; 'Zagreb group' after Vinski-Gasparini 1983) which covers the earlier part of the Late Bronze Age, Br D-Ha A2, or 13th-11th centuries BC (Muller-Karpe 1959).

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