Signs are incised on pottery, spindle whorls, figurines and other clay artifacts.
The signs are not components of ornamental motifs, although a few examples are abstractions from decorative prototypes.
A sign may occur as a single, isolated sign on an otherwise unmarked area, or as a component of a sign group.
This study includes correlations of sign usage according to context - pottery, figurines, spindle whorls, miniature vessels, "tablets" and artifacts of undefined use.
Signs found in isolation frequently appear on pottery and occasionally on figurines, but rarely on spindle whorls.
Signs on pottery were analyzed according to their location on the vessel: (a) rim/upper body; (b) side near base; and (c) base.
Certain signs, including
are inscribed anywhere on the vessel; they are also found in sign groups and, indeed, later appear as script signs in the Mediterranean.
Pictographic signs and symbolic elements are generally located on highly visible portions of the vessel:
At Tordos, pictographs, or abstractions from them, are common; they are occasionally placed on the base, perhaps as information or to facilitate sign recognition on vessels that were inverted when stored.
A few signs seem to be restricted to the lower side of vessels, where they are not readily visible unless one intentionally observes the basal angle of the vessel.
At certain sites, such as Medvednjak and Banjica, many of these are unique signs and may identify the owner or producer:
Signs suggesting the utilization of a numbering system appear on the base or on the lower side adjacent to the base:
Many of the Tordos signs restricted to the base are distinctive; such signs frequently are thought to denote identification of contents, provenience/destination or manufacturer/owner.
However, basal signs are frequently zoomorphic representations,
comb or brush patterns
A specialized category confined to the base is a type of filled cross
,which is generally divided into symmetrically arranged quadrants.
A similar arrangement is often found on stamp seals or artifacts considered to have cultic usages.
Certain signs are randomly placed on pottery but are excluded from the base. Most of these
appear commonly on figurines and may refer to a different sign subset dependent on other contexts.
Particularly common representations on figurines are triple chevrons, 6 chevrons or 6 parallel lines; such arrangements probably reflect an ideological feature of the Vinča cultural template.
Distinctive figurine signs
found at several sites perhaps may signify specific concepts, personal identifications, or even an attempt to acquire magico-religious powers during rituals associated with specific figurine usage.
Similar signs are also found on spindle whorls and are sometimes randomly placed on pottery.
In short, the distribution of single signs contradicts the notion that the Vinča signs are merely owner's or maker's marks.
Sign groups occur principally on spindle whorls and to a lesser extent on pottery, but a small number of tablet-like objects and figurines are marked with groups of signs.
Sign groups on pottery usually consist of only two signs, though there is ample space for more; in contrast, numerous signs are incised on whorls, despite the limited available space.
Neither the order nor the direction of the signs in these groups is readily determinable; moreover, judging by the frequent lack of arrangement, precision in the order probably was unimportant.
Miniature vessels also possess sign-like clusters which are disarranged, but concepts or mnemonic aids most likely were inferred or interpreted by an individual familiar with the culture-specific content of the signs.
The range of signs on whorls and tablets is more extensive and generally consists of signs commonly found in groups.
Figurine signs are limited in variety but are prominently displayed and are more distinctive than the elemental signs on vessels.
A few signs found on figurines are also observed on spindle whorls and tablet-like objects, e. g.
Some whorls and loom weights are incised with a single distinctive sign. Others are incised with combinations of parallel and perpendicular lines that may be magical marks or may symbolize the intent to successfully spin or weave into fruition one's desires - whether that be a material object, a wish or simply good luck.
Other whorls suggest a complex, deliberate marking which is more in line with signs incised in the more arranged format typical of tablets and seals.
Figure 2. Spindle whorls: a, b, c (Tordos); d (Fafos) figurines: e, f (Jela); g (Selevac); h (Medvednjak)