The Global Prehistory Consortium at EURO INNOVANET
Balkan - Daube Script - Aritcles
An inscribed Madonna - Figurine from Tangiru - The inscription from Daia Româna

The "mythogram" from Ocna Sibiului
Iuliu Paul

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" (Fig. 1).
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 structure.
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.


ANTONOVA, 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, 30.
LEROI-GOURHAN, A., 1964 - Les religions de la préhistoire, Paris, 1964.
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.