"mythogram" from Ocna Sibiului
Within the Ocna Sibiului territory, at "Triguri" - a high terrace
of Visa brook, situated near the old salt mines (the present lakes) -
the largest Neolithic settlement from our country has been identified
and then researched through systematic excavations (since 1977). Within
the settlement, there were found six successive habitation levels, marked
by pit houses and surface dwellings. In this context, we discovered a
new "cult assemblage", unique until the present day in this
part of the ancient world.
We are talking firstly about a small conic figurine made of stone (micaceous
gritstone) (Fig. 1), having 2 cm at bottom and 4.5 cm in height. The figurine
was found among the remains of the dwelling no. 8, which was uncovered
during the excavations of the 12th section and its adjacent cassettes.
Nearby, about 30 cm West, a parallelipipedic piece has been found. It
has a deteriorated (broken) side (the bottom) and is 4 cm long, 2 cm high
and 2.5 cm width. The piece seems to represent the support (pedestal)
on which the statuette was set. Their size, stratigraphic position and
other characteristic elements seem to justify the association of the two
pieces in a conceptual and therefore functional "assemblage"
Both the statuette and the pedestal bear certain incised-engraved signs,
which, according to their shape and elaborated disposal, seem to represent
symbols and ideograms made in a linear manner (Fig. 2; 2,1 a-b; 2,2 a-b
- unfolded design).
The only known analogy is represented by a statuette chiseled in lune
spar, discovered a while ago in the sanctuary no. 21 from the VIIth layer
of the Çatal Hüyük settlement, Anatolia (J. Mellaart
1963, fig. 18). According to the C14 method, the layer has been dated
between 6200-6500 B.C. (Antonova 1977, p. 21). The head of the researches
from Çatal Hüyük (J. Mellaart 1963, 1967, p. 60 sqq,
Pl. 88, 89) asserts that the statuette would represent a bearded man riding
a bull. Other researchers (Hokmann 1968, p. 5, Pl. 1, 30) believe that
it represents an embraced couple.
As for us, comparing the two representations, we would choose the second
interpretation. Thus, the statuette from Ocna Sibiului, although similar
in shape and general features to that from Anatolia, differs from the
latter. The difference is given not only by an essential expression of
a marked schematization, but also by the fact that the main symbol (the
embraced couple - suggestively represented by a combination of incised
or gouged ornaments) is completed by a "system of signs" that
we consider being ideograms.
A close analysis of the last ones makes us believe they derive from ancient
signs and symbols, having, in their turn, a complementary meaning. These
signs and symbols are known both in the Paleolithic cave art and in the
applied art, and they last, inclusively on the territory of our country,
until the dawn of the Neolithic Age (Gourhan 1964, 1987; Cârciumaru
1987, p. 136, fig. 49).
We believe it deals with feminine and masculine signs and with pairs of
signs made through grinding and engraving-incising, and disposed on two
clearly demarcated registers. One should notice the fact that masculine
signs that complete both the character schematically represented by a
bearded man and his attributes dominate the upper register. The two signs
("the sun or a star, and the moon") situated on the left side
of the figurine seem to be illustrative.
The lower register is dominated by the feminine sign - the lozenge - placed
in a central position, chiseled in relievo, in a manner similar to the
very stylized head and beard of the male character from the upper register.
The central sign from the lower register is associated with some pairs
of signs executed similarly to those from the upper register, the only
difference being the fact that the predominant technique for the latter
seems to be the excision.
As about the pedestal, it raises on the one hand some questions we do
not intend to avoid and, on the other hand, a series of complex problems,
some of them being, at least partially, dealt with in a paper devoted
especially to these discoveries (I. Paul 1995, p. 129-134).
According to the archaeological context in which they were found, the
pieces belong to the first "farmers" from the Carpatho-Danubian
area, namely to those representing the so-called Precris culture, dating
from the 6th millennium B.C. This culture appeared due to the ethno-cultural
symbiosis between the representatives of an ancient Aegean-microasian
civilization (first of all, the Proto-Sesklo culture) - populations that
entered the Carpatho-Danubian area in the 6th millennium B.C. - and the
old native Epipaleolithic populations. The result of this symbiosis was,
at a spiritual level, a magico-religious syncretism whose characteristic
representation is the "assemblage" (idol and pedestal) found
at Ocna Sibiului (Fig. 1; Fig. 2).
Taken as a whole, these groups of signs include - through the association
of some urano-solar and chtonic symbols - a complex symbolism of an anthropocosmic
According to the beliefs of some primitive cultivators, the origin of
the cereals, as well as the "the myth of the creation" (the
creation of the Universe), are often related to a hierogamy between the
god of the sky and Mother Earth, or to a mythical drama involving not
only a sexual union, but also the death and revival ("the mystery
of the vegetation"). Taking into consideration everything we have
mentioned above, we can suggest that the "assemblage" from Ocna
Sibiului represents the first known attempt in Europe to render "the
myth of the creation" through plastic and graphic means. In other
words, we are dealing with a "mythogram" whose purpose was probably
to record (fix), preserve and transmit this kind of spiritual knowledge.
It might also have provoked the spectator to recall and orally express
the whole myth, as well as to perform the related ritual practices.
The cultural-historical meaning of this discovery is remarkable as it
proves the fact that the oldest Neolithic populations known in the Carpatho-Danubian
area managed to create well-developed socio-economic structures and superstructures
phenomena. They also had knowledge of an unalphabetic "writing system"
(having a linear character), based on symbolist, ancient local traditions.
E.V., 1977 - Antropomorfaia sculptura drevnih zemledelcev Drevnei i Srednei
Asii, Moscova, 1977, p. 22, pl. VII, I.
CÂRCIUMARU, M., 1987 - Marturii ale artei rupestre preistorice în
România, Bucuresti, 1987, p. 136-137, fig. 49.
HÖKMANN, O., 1968 - Die menschengestaltige Figuralplastik der südost-europäischen
Jungsteinzeit und Steinkupferzeit, in Münstersche Beiträge zur
Vorgeschichtsforschung, Band 3-4, 1968, vol. I, p. 5, vol. II, pl. 1,
LEROI-GOURHAN, A., 1964 - Les religions de la préhistoire, Paris,
LEROI-GOURHAN, A., 1987 - Gestul si cuvântul, Bucuresti, 1987.
MELLAART, J., 1963 - Excavations at Çatal Hüyük, Second
Preliminary Report, in Anatolian Studies, vol. XII, 1963, fig. 18.
PAUL, I., 1995 - Vorgeschichtliche untersuchungen in Siebenbürgen,
Alba Iulia, 1995, p. 135-146.