A pair of Early Iron Age ceramic askoi and cups from Dalj sustain significant damage in earthquake

A pair of ceramic askoi with handles in the shape of rams and two cups with bird-shaped handles, dated to the Early Iron Age, i.e. the 7thcentury BC, were damaged in the earthquake of March 22, 2020. The finds were on display as part of the permanent exhibition of the Prehistoric Department kept on the third floor of the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb.

The Conservation-restoration laboratory examined the finds and ascertained significant damage. The finds had been restored at the middle of the last century, al is visible from both the material and techniques that were used to reconstruct them (wax and color on the plaster). Based on preliminary evaluation, the process of restoration will take at least three months, if not more due to the extremely thin vessel walls.

The Archaeological Museum in Zagreb keeps finds from the site of Dalj, an eponymous site of the Dalj group that occupied the area of the central Podunavlje region from the end of the Bronze and the Early Iron Age (from the late 10th century do the middle of the 6th century BC). The finds made their way to the Archaeological museum through the work of museum commissioners at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20thcentury, as well as through archaeological excavations conducted by Viktor Hoffiller at the Dalj-Busija position in Dalj in 1909 and 1911.

The standout finds include a pair of ceramic askoi, i.e. jugs used to hold and pour drinks. The askoi, which can be dated to the 7th century BC, were probably a part a set of vessels used in feasts, which was placed into the grave of an unknown rich person from Dalj. This set probably also included the two cups with bird-shaped handles. The concept of placing feasting sets into the graves of the elite is a characteristic of rich Early Iron Age burials across the wide area of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and central Europe.

The askoi from Dalj belong to a special group of askoi that are found in southern Pannonia, which have stylized handles in the shape of horned animals. Thereby, the depiction of rams probably also accentuates their certain symbolic and religious meaning. Other than in Dalj, askoi with handles in the shape of horned animals were also discovered in the rich grave units at the necropolises of Kaptol-Čemernica in the Požega Valley, and Goričan in the Međimurje region. However, unlike the black polished surfaces on the finds from Kaptol and Goričan, the bodies of the askoi from Dalj is red and still has visible traces of rich decorations: the meander motif that was depicted with black paint.

Although the askoi and cups from Dalj will be restored, due to the great damage they obtained in the earthquake, their integrity is seriously disrupted.




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