Religious use of the signs
Evidence for ritualistic use of signs is well represented throughout the Vinča-Tordos and later Vinča cultural sequence.
Figure 8. Tordos (Turdaş) artifacts from Zsˇfia Torma notebook
The prominent use of signs, including those abstracted from symbolic motifs, on cultic objects implies an association of signs with religion and the belief system.
Signs, as expressions of the world view, represent a significant set of information about daily or cyclical affairs.
Signs on figurines, which likely were regularly prepared for household magico-religious ceremonies (as suggested by the frequency of figurines in excavated houses), are among these expressions. In the context of a ritual, a sign incised on the figurine may be expressive of a desire, request, vow, etc.
After completion of the ceremony the figurine need have no further significance and can be discarded; this is a probable explanation for the abundance of figurine fragments recovered from the excavation of pits and other refuse areas.
Typical meander-like incisions are found on figurines and also appear in conjunction with organized signs on cult objects.
"The vast majority of figurines are female, as are virtually all figurines bearing signs. Figurines are frequently found in houses, and have been noted in clusters around benches and other architectural features sometimes interpreted as 'shrines'. These figurines are thought by some scholars to represent votive offerings" (Winn, 1990:277).
The Tartaria tablets have ritualistic associations in that they were placed in a burial pit together with the charred bones of an individual.
Lengthy sign groups on miniature vessels may reflect ritualistic or magical formulae; indeed, the notable correlation of these rather haphazard sign clusters with miniature vessels and figurines strongly suggests their usage in ceremonial contexts.
Religious or ideological considerations offer, so far, the best explanation for the use of signs in the Vinča culture.
"It is intriguing that the signs are already differentiated according to artifact context during the earliest period of sign use at Tordos.
Single distinctive signs occurring particularly on vessel bases contrast with the presence of complex sign groups on spindle whorls, and signs on figurines are also distinguished.
The distinction between signs on pottery and the more organized signs on tablets and other artifacts may signify functional differences or different levels of usage and formality. Success attainable solely through an individual's own careful efforts (pottery manufacture, spinning) may require only simple magical notations; however, individuals facing more serious life events (birth, illness or death) may seek the services of a religious practitioner (shaman or priest)" (Winn, 1990:277).