Chapter V

The “Golden Age”

The period from the second to the fifth century A.D. is the “golden age” of Baltic culture. Not only were East Prussia and Lithuania now the outposts of active and complex trade with the provinces of the Roman Empire and Free Germany, they had also grown through increasing industry and agriculture into a vigorous cultural centre that influenced all of north-eastern Europe. Never before had the Balts enjoyed such a wealth and variety of metal products. In the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, bronze objects had been concentrated around the sources of amber and the principal trade routes, and were items of luxury; now, metal production had increased so much that bronze and iron objects were commonly used by all people, even in areas far from the Baltic Sea. Trade routes leading to the north, and east to the Finno-Ugrians in the North-east Baltic area, Finland, and northern and eastern Russia, intersected on territory occupied by the Baltic tribes. The Balts thus became the most important transmitters of the metal culture to the north and east, and their zone of influence was geographically the largest in Europe outside of the Roman Empire.


Fig. 36. Baltic lands in the Roman period, c. A.D. 1–500. 1, Baltic; 2, eastern Slavic (Chernjakovo culture, c. third-fifth centuries A.D.); 3, Zarubincy sites, second century B.C.–second century A.D.; 4, barrows of fourth–fifth centuries presumed to be Krivichian; 5, Finno-Ugrian; 6, Gothic cemeteries and their tentative spread to the Black Sea; 7, limits of the Roman Empire; 8, amber route between the area of source and the Roman provinces; 9, principal trade routes of Baltic ornaments; 10, westward expansion of the Huns, late fourth century A.D.


Graves: Continuity and Distribution

The Baltic tribes, except for the Prussians, abandoned cremation at about the time of the birth of Christ and began to inhume their dead. Separate tribes developed their own distinctive burial rites: some — for instance, Sembians, Semigallians, Letigallians, Lithuanians, and other eastern Baltic tribes — built earth barrows above single or family graves and surrounded them with stone circles. Sudovians built stone barrows; Curonians placed their dead in stone circles or rectangular walls; their neighbours in central Lithuania used flat graves, supporting the tree-trunk coffins with stones. The differentiation of local burial rites as from the second century A.D. enables us to follow the borders between the various Baltic tribes, which remained unchanged in this area up till the beginning of history.1 The continuity of the burial rites which can be observed from almost a thousand cemeteries, some containing hundreds of graves dating from a single century or several, gives basic proof of the stability of the Baltic tribes during the Iron Age. Settlements, in many cases stratified, substantiate a long, undisturbed occupation. There is no evidence of migrations, shifts of population, or invasions of the Baltic lands by foreign peoples. Throughout the “golden age” the Balts possessed about the same lands as during the Early Iron Age: from the lower Vistula in the west to the basin of the Oka in the east, and from the basin of the Daugava-Dvina

Fig. 37. Warrior's grave in a tree-trunk coffin. Shield and spear along the side, pots with provisions behind the head. Second or third century A.D. Cemetery of Wiekau, Samland


in the north (up to the upper Velikaja River in north-western Russia) to the Pripet swamps in the south. The amazing increase in finds is due to the growth of population, agriculture, metal industry and trade, and the accumulation of wealth in individual hands.

Villages and Hill-Forts

The hill-top village — a typically Baltic settlement pattern throughout earlier centuries — was not sufficient for the requirements of the growing material culture and population. From the first centuries A.D. onwards, the villages began to extend downward over the slopes into larger areas sometimes covering from 10,000 to 20,000 sq. m. While hill-top villages continued to exist, the more populated areas gave rise to larger villages which, for their protection, were sited next to a small, fortified earthwork. Earthworks, though considerably smaller than the area housing the village community, had higher ramparts and deeper trenches, and the slopes were terraced and paved with stones. The ramparts were up to 5 m. high and 20 m. wide, built of fairly thick, long timber stakes and covered with earth and stones. Ramparts and wooden palisades sometimes surrounded the whole earthwork. The level area within the fortifications was small, usually not more than 100 sq. m. In several instances, traces of one or two wooden structures, probably also for defence, were found within the fortifications. The hill-fort of the first centuries A.D. is the prototype of the later feudal castles; the village with scattered farmsteads, of the townlets which grew beside the castles. [Plate 17]


In his Germania (A.D. 98), Tacitus mentions that in the cultivation of corn and other fruits of the earth, the Aistians “labour with more patience than is customary to the laziness of the Germans” — Frumenta ceterosque fructus patientius, quam pro solita Germanorum inertia laborant. No wonder that the settled Baltic tribes occupying fertile East Prussian lands were able to make a better impression on Tacitus concerning their agricultural activities than were the restless Germanic tribes on the


southern Baltic coasts. What do the archaeological finds add to Tacitus’ telling statement? When he wrote, the Baltic culture was still in the stage of the Early Iron Age; the floruit of the metal culture started after c. A.D. 100. Archaeological data on the agriculture of the second and third centuries A.D. increases: finds of iron axes, hoes, sickles, and scythes from those times in graves and villages are numerous. In 1961, a farmer’s grave dating from the second or third century A.D., containing iron-tanged plough-shares in addition to fragments of iron mounting of the wooden parts of the plough, a large sickle (“bush-knife” having an indented blade), knives, axe, chisel, awl, instrument for striking fire, and spear, was discovered in the cemetery of Szwajcaria near Suwalki, which belongs to the Sudovian tribe.2 Iron shares, it is presumed, were attached horizontally or at a slight angle to the wooden plough. The area where this find was made was hilly and forested and the plough was probably used after slash-and-burn to clear it of roots and all other remains. The iron ploughshares from Szwajcaria are the first to be found in the Baltic area and the earliest in all northeastern Europe. Wooden ploughs made from a tree-top will continue to have been used, as they were in the Middle Ages and later. So apparently were wooden harrows, as is shown by the early borrowing of the Baltic word for harrows by the Finno-Ugrian tribes. Iron hoes are found in the heavy clay soil area of the Lielupe-Mūša basin in central Latvia and northern Lithuania. While iron sickles, small and large, of Early Iron Age type continued in use, the scythe made its way from the west to the flatlands of East Prussia, western and central Lithuania, and Latvia. Here it replaced the sickle, but in the uplands of eastern Lithuania, Latvia, Byelo-Russia, and central Russia the sickle remained in use. The geographical distribution of the scythe and the sickle, defined by lowlands and uplands, continued throughout the following centuries. Even today in the sandy highlands and lake areas of


Fig. 38. Sudovian farmer's grave from the cemetery of Szwajcaria near Suwalki, c. A.D. 150–250. At the feet lie iron plough-shares and a shrub knife; at the head, a socketed axe, a spearhead, three knives, a chisel and an awl

the moraine belt the sickle is still being used by Lithuanian, Latvian, and Byelo-Russian women (the scythe, in prehistory and history, was always wielded by men).

In addition to wheat, millet, and barley, known from earlier times, rye and oat grains appeared in the storage pits of villages dating from the second century and later. Wheat, millet, and rye were found in the largest amounts. Among the wheat


Fig. 39. Iron scythe, c. A.D. 250–350. Maskatuži, south-western Latvia

grains were distinguished the species Triticum diccocum, spelta, vulgare, and compactum, of which the most common were diccocum and spelta, as in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages.

The grain storage pits usually appeared in the house area. One of the most interesting “granaries” from the hill-fort of Gabrieliškiai near Girkalnis in central Lithuania was 2 × 2.5 m. in diameter and 30 cm. deep, paved with stones and apparently lined with birch bark, containing about thirteen gallons of grains of all the above-mentioned species, remains of charred bread, bronze ornaments, an iron spearhead, and six badly worn Roman coins, one of which was of Marcus Aurelius” reign (161–80), while the other five were no longer decipherable.3 The various grains were found mixed together: it is likely that they were sown thus and that bread was made of mixed grain flour.

Large cemeteries continuing in use at the same place for centuries — they are found to the greatest degree of concentration in the most fertile areas such as Masuria, Samland, Notangia, the clay soil region of the Rivers Pregel (Prėglius) and Inster (Įsrutis), the alluvial depression of the lower Nemunas, the clay soil lowlands of the River Lielupe-Mūša basin and along the lower Daugava — indicate a stable agricultural population that used the same arable lands over a long period. The presence of seeds of the weed Chenopodium album found among the grains supports this contention. The seeds of rye-grass (Bromus secalinus) found among the rye grains bear witness to fallow fields, indicating the two-field system. Slash-and-burn agriculture was used at the same time, particularly in the hilly and forested areas extending eastward from east Masuria, eastern Lithuania, and eastern Latvia to Byelo-Russia and central Russia. The large iron sickle, an instrument used for cutting shrubs and young trees, was distributed over these same areas. In the less fertile zone of the eastern Baltic lands the grain species appear to have been less numerous. In the villages of the


upper Dvina basin, east of Velikie Luki, only the soft-grained Triticum vulgare of the wheat family and barley have been found.4 Flax and hemp were widely spread, as is attested by linen fabrics and hemp cords, although the seeds of flax are not known and hemp grains, being fatty, survived only in exceptional cases.

Animal Husbandry

In the breeding of domestic animals there were no changes from the earlier periods. The eastern Baltic hill-forts show about the same percentage of domestic animal bones as in the Early Iron Age: domestic animal bones to wild animal bones were in the ratio of 70–75 to 25–30 per cent or less, with cattle dominating, followed by sheep, horse, and pig. The Sudovian and Lithuanian sites yielded a considerable number of sylvan horse bones of the tarpan type (Equus gmelini), which were also present in the Early Iron Age settlements. In the forested up-lands (the Polotsk, Vitebsk, Smolensk area), the hill-top villages yielded a large number of bones of the local species of small, thin-legged cattle. These animals survive on green fodder in pastures throughout a considerable part of the year. Bones of swine and boar appear frequently in the Baltic villages.5


Iron slag and small vaulted clay ovens for iron smelting were found in many villages, where trained smiths very probably formed a separate class of people, released from farming. Hoards were found to contain smiths” equipment including anvils, hammers, chisels, and files. Iron axes, socketed or perforated (socketed in the western, with shaft-hole in the eastern zone), hammers, chisels, knives, awls, needles, shears, scythes, sickles, hoes, spearheads, shield buckles, bridle-bits, spurs, and other objects show entirely local forms. Any weapons or tools having common prototypes (chiefly Celtic and Germanic) in central Europe before the birth of Christ attained a purely Baltic character around A.D. 200.

Besides the iron industry, the manufacture of bronze, brass, silver, and gold greatly increased. At the end of this period steel


came into use; socketed axes of the fifth century were made of this metal, attained through a prolonged heating of iron in contact with charcoal. All the processes of metallurgy were used: casting, hammering, riveting, winding, twisting, engraving, incrustation, oxidation.


The Baltic culture was a link in the chain of the so-called “barbarian” cultures beyond the imperial frontiers, and its growth certainly owes much to the influence of the Roman Empire and its provinces. Through the increase in trade relations during the second and third centuries, this culture became inseparable from the general cultural pulse of Europe.

Again it was amber that attracted the south and kept alive the long standing trade routes between the Baltic Sea and the Adriatic. From the classical authors we learn how greatly amber was valued and desired, and from where it was shipped. During the first and second centuries A.D., at least five Greek and Roman authors mention and describe the shores of the Baltic Sea, called in ancient times the “Northern” or “Suevian” ocean. These were: Strabo, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Tacitus, and Ptolemy. Even earlier, the sources of amber were known to travelers, as Pliny mentions in his account of the journey of Pytheas of Massalia which took place around 320 B.C. Pliny (A.D. 23–79) writes in his Natural History:

Pytheas says that the Gutones, a people in Germany, inhabit the shores of the estuary of the Ocean called Mentonomon, their territory extending a distance of six thousand stadia: that, at one day’s sail from this territory, is the Isle of Abalus, upon the shores of which amber is thrown up by waves in spring, it being an excretion of the sea in a concrete form; also, that the inhabitants use this amber by way of fuel, and sell it to their neighbours, the Teutones. Timaeus, too, is of the same belief, but he has given to the island the name of Basilia.6


At the end of his long account of falsehoods that have been told about the origin of amber, and calling “amber — a thing so common, ... which is imported every day,” Pliny states:

There can be no doubt that amber is a product of the islands of the Northern Ocean, and that it is the substance called glaesum by the Germans; for which reason the Romans, when Germanicus Caesar commanded the fleet in those parts, gave to one of these islands the name of Glaesaria, which by the barbarians was known as Austeravia.

The “amber island,” Glaesaria, called Abalus by Pytheas, Basilia by Timaeus, Balcia by Xenophon of Lampracus (also mentioned under this name by Pliny in Natural History), and Austeravia by the barbarians, cannot be anything but the Peninsula of Samland. It was taken for an island because the ancient travelers reached it from the west by way of the sea.

Tacitus states clearly who the amber gatherers were: “On the coast to the right of the Suevian ocean, the Aistians have fixed their habitation ... [here follows the description of their language, customs, and patient cultivation of crops]; and furthermore they explore the sea for amber, in their language called Glesum, and are the only people who gather that curious substance. It is generally found among the shallows, sometimes on the shore.”7

About the amber trade and the Roman passion for amber we again hear from Pliny the Elder:

Amber is imported by the Germans into Pannonia, more particularly; from whence the Veneti called by the Greeks Eneti, a people in the vicinity of Pannonia, and dwelling on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, first brought it to general notice....

From Carnuntum in Pannonia, to the coasts of Germany from which the amber is brought, is a distance of about six hundred miles, a fact which has


only very recently been ascertained; and there is still living a member of the equestrian order, who was sent thither by Julianus, the manager of the gladiatorial exhibitions for the Emperor Nero, to procure a supply of this article. Traversing the coasts of that country and visiting the various markets [commercia] there, he brought back amber, in such vast quantities as to admit of the nets, which were used for protecting the podium against the wild beasts, being studded with amber.

The arms, the litters, and all the other apparatus were for one day decorated with nothing but amber, a different kind of display being made each day that these spectacles were exhibited. The largest piece of amber that this personage brought to Rome was thirteen pounds in weight.8

Then he describes several kinds of amber:

There are several kinds of amber. The white is the one that has the finest odour, but neither this nor the wax-coloured amber is held in very high esteem. The red amber is more highly valued; and still more so, when it is transparent, without presenting too brilliant and igneous an appearance. For amber, to be of a high quality, should present a brightness like that of fire, and not flakes resembling those of flame. The most highly esteemed amber is that known as the “Falernian,” from its resemblance to the colour of Falernian wine; it is perfectly transparent, and has a softened, transparent brightness. Other kinds, again, are valued for their mellow tints, like the colour of boiled honey in appearance. It ought to be known, however, that any colour can be imparted to amber that may be desired; it is sometimes stained with kidsuet and root of alkanet; indeed, at the present day, amber is even dyed purple. When a vivifying heat


has been imparted to it by rubbing it between the fingers, amber will attract chaff, dry leaves, and thin bark, just in the same way as the magnet attracts iron. Pieces of amber, steeped in oil, burn with a more lasting flame than pith or flax.

So highly valued is it as an object of luxury, that a very diminutive human effigy, made of amber, has been known to sell at a higher price than living men even, in stout and vigorous health.9

In addition to Pliny’s account of amber imports into the Roman Empire, there are as evidence the amber objects them selves: a vast number of beads, vases, cosmetic jars, lamps, human effigies, Eros figurines, busts of bacchantes, sculptures of lions, panthers, dogs, goats, tortoises, dolphins, snails, birds, various fruits, and countless other objects. One of the most beautiful collections of amber objects comes from the work-shop at Aquileia, of the first and second centuries A.D.10

The amber traffic traversed central Europe and was controlled chiefly by the native inhabitants. The principal route from Samland and the mouth of the River Vistula followed the same direction as during the Mycenaean Age: up the lower Vistula to the River Warta, then up its tributary Prosna to the upper Oder in Silesia, thence to Moravia and down the River Morava to the Danube. Through the fortress of Carnuntum at the junction of the Morava with the Danube (the present Petronell near Hainburg in lower Austria), as mentioned by Pliny, the traffic entered Pannonia, the province of the Roman Empire in present day western Hungary and northern Yugoslavia. According to Pliny, the Veneti living on the shores of the Adriatic dispersed the amber from Pannonia to Italy. Aquileia, the important point of assembly at the northern coast of the Adriatic, could be reached by good roads through the province of Noricum in present-day Austria.11 For local trading in amber many other waterways were also used, in


Germany leading to the River Elbe and Bohemia. In later centuries, in the third and particularly the fourth and fifth, when Goths had established themselves north of the Black Sea, the amber trade lent added importance to the Vistula-western Bug-Dniester route. The Dnieper route across Byelo-Russia and Lithuania may also have been used. Goths, Sarmatians and Huns made frequent use of amber for their ornaments, and it is found as far east as the Kirghizian steppes.

The Baltic people apparently did not themselves carry the amber to the south in the centuries around the birth of Christ. They sold it to the Germanic tribes who were then their immediate neighbours at the mouth of the River Vistula. The amber was sold in the trade centers, the “commercia,” there, in Samland, at the mouth of the Nemunas near present Klaipėda (Memel) or Tilžė (Tilsit), and possibly in Galindia and Sudovia — places where the greatest quantities of Roman imports were concentrated. Maintenance of long-distance trade routes across Free Germany, far from being an easy task, represented a constant struggle with ever-increasing tolls, and therefore the exploratory journey of the knight of Julianus in Nero’s reign must have been, as Wheeler suggests, an attempt to simplify and cheapen the process.12

In trading with the Germanic tribes for metal, fur was next in importance to amber. Tacitus mentions that mainland Germans were very fond of wearing dress decorated with fur which they obtained from across the ocean. This waterway may have been the East Baltic. The many trade routes across the Baltic coastlands leading to the northern forested zone were very probably used for fur traffic. Otherwise it would be difficult to explain what kept the long-distance trade routes of north-eastern Europe alive. In this trade the Balts must have acted as mediators between the Finno-Ugrians and the Germanic peoples in addition to shipping furs from their own country. The Finno-Ugrian habitation sites yielded considerably more


bones of furred animals than the Baltic sites. Also, the Baltic export to the south could have included horses, cattle, skins, goose feathers, honey, wax, and other items that were traded in early historic times.

Roman Imports

Roman imports into East Prussia, western and central Lithuania, and into western Latvia are quite impressive: many thousands of Roman coins, in addition to terra sigillata pots, fibulae, glass beads, bronze vessels, oil-lamps, and bronze statuettes. As would be expected, the imported items are found around the amber source-areas, particularly in Samland, Masuria, and western Lithuania, at the seashore, and along the river courses. In East Prussia alone we know of some 250 find places, cemeteries, and hoards with Roman coins, certain of the hoards containing hundreds or thousands of silver and bronze coins. For example, the treasure found near Ostróda (Osterode) at Preussisch-Görlitz included 1,134 denarii, and another at Dorotowo (Darethen) in the district of Olsztyn (Allenstein) in Masuria had 6,000 denarii. In many other hoards silver denarii number from 100 to 400.13 In Lithuania there are now over 60 known places, mostly cemeteries, with a total of about one thousand Roman coins; they are grouped at the seashore and the lower Nemunas, and taper off along its tributaries. In Latvia there are not less than 42 places, also at the sea coast, and some around Riga and along the River Daugava.14 Further east and north, coins and other imports are scarce. From Byelo-Russia, around Minsk, only a few places containing Roman coins are reported.

The distribution of Roman coins identifies the most active Baltic trade centers and the disseminating commercial arteries within Baltic territory. The great number of coins shows that amber was exchanged for these, more than for jewelry or other items. They must have been greatly valued by the native peoples. There is hardly a known cemetery in Samland or Curonia dating from the third century A.D. where Roman


coins were not found. They were put in the men’s graves beside other valued belongings. The Curonians always placed Roman coins behind the head, usually in a birch-bark case, next to the miniature clay pots, an iron axe, a scythe, and two spears. [Plate 18] The coins, however, had no value as currency. They were even made into ornaments and, attached to chains, worn as necklaces. Silver denarii were used as material for solid silver fibulae or for silver plates to coat the bronze fibulae, neck-rings, and bracelets. Bronze coins and silver denarii date from the second to fourth centuries A.D., the greatest number being from the period between the reigns of Trajan and Commodus; the latest are from A.D. 375. The majority of the coins come from the Roman provinces, Pannonia and Noricum and, through the agency of the Germanic tribes, from the Rhineland and central Germany as well. Some could have reached the Baltic coast from the Roman province in southern Russia.

From c. A.D. 100 onward and from the same origins, chiefly Pannonia and the Rhineland, come other Roman articles: fluted glass bowls and beakers, bronze vases, situlae and sieves, terra sigillata pots, drinking horns, and series of fibulae, including the beautiful fretworked winged fibulae, the strongly prop filed bow fibulae having triangular legs and shields on the bow, which are decorated with rows of small triangles of blue and red enamel, and fretworked and enamelled disc-fibulae.15 Glass and terra sigillata pots are known only from East Prussia, but some of the ornaments traveled quite a distance from the amber coasts. A bronze vessel made its way to the fourth-century grave of a rich woman, in the suburb of Kaunas. [Plate 24] From Kapseda in western Latvia a Roman oil-lamp made of ash-grey clay closely parallels those found in the Crimea and the lower Dnieper region, where they are dated to the second century B.C. This lamp is one of the few known imports from southern Russia, and if it arrived in the East Baltic before our era, may represent one of the earliest items of Roman import.16


Baltic Art

Trade with Free Germany and with the provinces of the Roman Empire undoubtedly played a decisive role in the prosperity of the local metal culture. Provincial Roman and Germanic fibulae gave impetus to the rise of new forms. However, the variety of forms in jewelry that emerged between the second and fourth centuries was stimulated not only by these Roman and Germanic examples. Many types go back to the local forms of the Early Iron Age and some reflect remote relationships to the jewelry of the Celtic La Tène. The most telling factor in shaping the “golden age” was creative vigor. The imported articles were not imitated; forms were not merely borrowed but transformed. The new variants created followed the “Baltic line.” One can see a certain Baltic art style latent in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, which during those early times never unfolded entirely; metal was scarce and perishable materials were used. Now, through the combination of native inspiration, southern influences, and the general rise of welfare, the Baltic style came into its own.

In the pages that follow I shall try to survey bronze, silver, glass, and gold ornaments without going into too great detail in their description or chronology. Both points have been well examined by other prehistorians.17 The chronology can be established by reference to the Roman coins or other imports in graves, the rapidly changing and spreading local forms of ornaments, particularly those of fibulae, and the stratigraphy. However, the dating is approximate, remaining in frames of about 50 years. Roman coins, unfortunately, do not indicate the date of their issue; an appreciable time span must be allowed for their travel to the Baltic lands and for their use by the local people.

Throughout the four centuries forming the “golden age” we find constantly evolving variations of jewelry types, some styles being short-lived, others lasting through the four or five centuries. This period, which reached its zenith around A.D.


300 when the Balts achieved an especially notable aptitude and individuality in jewelry making, must be treated as a whole, and the illustrations taken to represent the most typical of a multiplicity of ornaments. They are chosen from the central Baltic tribes, chiefly Curonians, Lithuanians and Sudovians.

For the women’s headdress we find circular temple ornaments made of bronze spirals or bronze plate, one of the most characteristic pieces of Baltic jewelry and worn for centuries since the beginning of the Early Iron Age. In the first centuries A.D. these ornaments attained their greatest variety of forms. In addition to those made of round wire coiled four or five times, which have prototypes in the fifth century B.C., there came into fashion the plate-shaped ones made of cast bronze decorated with concentric lines in relief or fretwork. Around the edges they were adorned with small rounded “buttons” or with braided bands and fretworked zig-zags or small circular plates also in concentric design. In the middle was a circular hole with an opening on one side, probably for inserting the girl’s braids, as shown in reconstruction. In graves, temple ornaments always appear in pairs, one on each side of the skull. Some remains of hair and woolen cloth on the inner side indicate their attachment to the hair and the woolen cap. Temple ornaments became particularly frequent in the second and third centuries A.D. and persisted until the sixth century. They are found in greatest quantities in western and central Lithuania.

Temple ornaments and simple beret-like woolen caps appear to have been worn by girls and younger unmarried women. Married and rich women’s head-dress was more refined. They wore head cloths descending over the shoulders and secured either by woollen caps embellished with small round bronze plates and double spiral pendants or by broad diadem-like bands of a woollen cloth adorned with small, round or rectangular bronze plates. The edges of the head cloth were sometimes


Fig. 40. Girl’s and woman’s bead and neck ornaments in central Lithuania of the second century A.D.: bronze temple rings, fibula, and necklaces made of bronze spirals and lunar and solar pendants; b, girl’s ornaments of the second century A.D.: temple ornaments, glass bead necklace, fibula, and bronze chain attached to pins; c, Curonian woman’s head and neck ornaments, c. A.D. 300. Western Lithuania

adorned with such plates. The richer the woman, the more spectacular was her head-dress.

In all known graves that yielded items of headdress there also appeared considerable numbers of other ornaments: fibulae, necklaces, neck-rings, bracelets, finger- and toe-rings, and chains attached to pins. In 1951 was found one of the earliest graves to contain the refined head-dress of a woman of rank; this was in Kurmaičiai near Kretinga, western Lithuania, and


Fig. 41. Bronze fibula with cast pin from rich woman’s grave in Kurmaičiai, near Kretinga, second century A.D.

is dated to the second century. The woman’s broad diadem was adorned in front with two vertical rows of rectangular decorated plates, the fillet with alternating plates of round or rectangular design. The edges of the head cloth, 70 cm. long, were also embellished with rectangular plates. The cloth was fastened on top of the head with a shielded-bow fibula; two other fibulae were fastened to the blouse. Two barrel-shaped bronze pins connected by a bronze chain fastened on to the woollen cloak. Beyond her head lay a birch-bark box filled with ornaments: trumpet-ended neck-rings, a twisted neck-ring with button-shaped clasped ends, and a massive round bracelet decorated with a pulley-motif. In addition a spool of very well-preserved woollen thread was found.

With the second century A.D., Roman-imported glass-bead necklaces appeared en masse in a variety of colours and shapes. These necklaces are of transparent beads, usually blue or green, spherical, conical or cylindrical, ribbed or fluted. Found, too, were necklaces of enamelled beads, usually of dark red colour alternating with black, yellow, and green, or with white, yellow, brown, or grey. Very prolific were gilt beads, spherical, conical, or pendant-like ending in spirals. The largest quantities of beads come from the regions where Roman coins abound, with particular concentration in Masuria and the lower Nemunas basin. In the latter area around A.D. 300 a local glass industry was started, to adorn native types of fibulae and neck-rings with blue hemispherical beads. Beads of bronze


Fig. 21. Bronze fibula with chains attached, c. A.D. 200. Pakuonis near Kaunas

and amber were also produced locally. [Plate 19a] It is of interest to note that amber beads were extremely rare in the land of amber; they appear in greatest numbers outside the source-area. To the amber gatherers the substance was apparently so common that they yearned for more exotic ornaments. In the villages of Samland amber is usually found in raw or half-finished condition.

Necklaces were also made of bronze-wire spiral beads with lunular or solar pendants attached. [Plate 19b] Solid or fretworked lunular pendants branching out into three parts at each of the two points, and pendants of wheel or rosette shape, or made of triangular or rectangular plates, were particularly frequent from the second century to about A.D. 400. Pendants were also suspended on chain holders from neck-rings and chains. Pendants, fretworked chain-holders, and chains made of tiny bronze-wire rings were the most cherished and the most characteristic types of jewelry in the period between A.D. 200 and 400. Chains ending in pendants were attached to fibulae or, more frequently, to a pin or two pins with barrel-shaped, disc-, wheel-, ring-, or rosette-shaped heads, secured to the cloak on both sides of the chest at the shoulders; the pendants covered the whole width of the woman’s chest. Usually more than one, they numbered from two to six, suspended on semicircular or rectangular fretworked chain-holders. Used also as pectorals were


Fig. 43. Chest ornaments. a, made of fretworked plates and pendants suspended on pins. Bronze. 1:3. Labotakiai, district of Klaipėda, western Lithuania. c. A.D. 300; b, made of bronze bars, chain-holders and pendants attached to pins having silver-plated rosette-shaped heads. Aukštakiemis near Klaipėda, western Lithuania. c. AD. 300. Formerly in Prussia Museum, Königsberg

tubes made of spiraled bronze wire, or striated or ribbed bronze bars spaced with fretworked plates and pendants.

Skilful examples of ornamental openwork in bronze, other than the chain-holders, is seen on belt parts or spacers showing a variety of geometric patterns, and in some cases, schematized human and bird figurines. [Plate 20] The most accomplished fretwork


ornaments are found at the end of the third and throughout the fourth century. To this period can also be dated the rosette-shaped fibulae and heads of pins coated with silver plate in a concentric ring pattern; such fibulae and pins, often with blue glass beads on top of the central protuberance, being a specialty of the Curonian tribe. [Plate 21] The rosette-shaped fibulae, known in a great variety of styles, go back to imported prototypes in the Danubian provinces of the Roman empire, but those made in the Baltic lands attained a purely local character. [Plates 22 and 23]

In the series of endemic ornaments neck-rings were extremely abundant. The five dominant types are: those with trumpet ends, those with “button” or conical clasping ends, those with one end spoon-shaped and a hook on the other, twisted and ending in large loops, those with a hook and loop, and those with a circular plate or box on one end and a hook on the other, usually with a wire wound over the ends. These neck-rings were made exclusively of bronze wire, the more refined examples being coated with silver at the ends and decorated with blue glass beads. A handsome collection of neck-rings of four of the above types was found in the previously mentioned rich woman’s grave in Veršvai, the suburb of Kaunas, beside the Roman bronze vessel and other ornaments. [Plates 24 and 25]

The trumpet-ended neck-rings, very frequent in the second and third centuries, go back to the local Early Iron Age and ultimately to the Middle La Tène prototypes in central Europe. Considerable quantities of them were found in Samland,

Fig. 44. Fretworked belt parts. Bronze. Fourth century A.D. Stragna, near Priekulė, western Lithuania


Lithuania, and Latvia, tapering off into Estonia and Finland. Neck-rings with button-shaped clasping ends also have their beginnings in the era before the birth of Christ. In the third and fourth centuries A.D. their ends were usually conical. [Plate 24] They developed into several variants within the tribal boundaries and were most popular with the Curonians and other tribes in Lithuania and Latvia. Neck-rings with peculiar spoon-shaped ends are native to central and eastern Lithuania, making their appearance around A.D. 300 and lasting until about 600. [Plate 22] The latest variants known from eastern Lithuania and Byelo-Russia were quite massive and frequently made of silver. [Plate 23] Twisted neck-rings with looped ends were most fashionable in the eastern Baltic lands between central Lithuania and central Russia in the fourth century. Those ending in a hook and a loop or plate, and having ends wound with wire, had been widely distributed throughout the Rhineland, Scandinavia, and central and southern Russia. The Balts, particularly the Prussians, adopted them and developed a number of variants, such as the decoration of ends with rings and ribbing in the third and fourth centuries.

A remarkable series of neck ornaments was achieved through combining pendants and neck-rings with looped and conical ends. Lunular, semicircular, triangular, or rectangular plates with embossed ornament were suspended on twisted or ribbed bars and on fretworked plates from the ends of the neck-rings. To the dangling-plate pendants, solar pendants were added, secured on a wire connecting the loops, the wire spiral ling in the centre in lunar pattern. Obviously these pendants were connected with solar and lunar symbolism.

Both outside influence and the ability to adapt to local style are demonstrated by about a thousand bow-fibulae scattered all over the area from the Vistula to Finland. Among the, earliest were the flat-bow type with “eye” ornament and several variants of strongly profiled fibulae. They reached the western Balts


Fig. 45. Neck-ring with conical ends and pendants attached, c. A.D. 300. Pleškučiai near Priekulė, western Lithuania

through the lower Vistula. In the first centuries A.D. their production was concentrated in the hands of the Prussians, in Samland and in Masuria, whence they spread over Lithuania, Latvia, and the lands of the western Finns. In the third and fourth centuries local variants appeared. The profiled bow-fibulae with horizontal projections at the head, the middle of the bow, and at the foot, developed into a peculiar stepped


fibula type with their centre of production in Masuria. In the third and fourth centuries they were the most frequent fibula types in the coastal region between East Prussia and Finland, with local variants in Curonia and the northern East Baltic area. [Plate 22] Second in number only to these were the crossbow fibulae, which became extremely common in the fourth and fifth centuries. After that they branched into many local variants and were in use for five hundred more years. Around A.D. 400, the crossbow fibulae attained their most elegant and bizarre form. Often they were made of silver or, if of bronze, were embellished with striated silver rings placed in groups over the shaft and on the spiral and silver plates in between. [Plate 27] The most beautifully wrought examples of these ornaments adorned a chieftain’s chest.

Bands of pointillé, pulley motifs or concentric circles, little suns; horizontal, vertical, or diagonal striations; net pattern, zig-zags, crosses, rhombs, braided motifs, ribbing, and embossing — all of these types of design embellished neck-rings, fibulae, massive or delicate banded bracelets, pendants, horse-trappings, pots, and bone objects. This simple and serene but extremely painstaking and minute decoration characterizes Baltic ornamental art throughout the five centuries, and in later prehistoric times it was still faithfully carried on, with varied combinations of the same motifs. Animal and anthropomorphic motifs were rare but not unknown. The Prussians made fibulae in horned animal shapes and the bands of geometric motifs on pottery were interspersed with horse and sun symbols. From the princely grave of Szwajcaria comes a plaque in the form of a stag. [Plate 26] The silver-plated frontispiece of the horse-harness from the same grave was adorned with two highly stylized human heads in addition to pulley, concentric circle and rosette motifs, and incrusted blue glass beads. [Plate 31] The technique and the decoration on this piece of harness indicate local origin.


Fig. 46. Bronze fibula with a leg in the shape of horned animal’s head (for the body the popular bow fibula with step-like projections was used). Third century A.D. 2:3

A special achievement in the decoration of ornaments was the use of enamel inlay. The local industry of incrustation started in the second century A.D., soon after the appearance of the first enameled imports from the Danubian provinces of the Roman empire and from the Rhineland. The enamelled disc-shaped fibulae and the incrustation technique itself show that much was learned from the imported enamelled objects, but promptly the process was adopted by Baltic tribes and enamel was soon applied to ornaments of local style.18

The earliest horseshoe-shaped fibulae with red and green enamel inlay are found in the Vilnius and Kaunas areas in Lithuania dating from the second century A.D. [Plates 32 and 33] To the same century, or around A.D. 200, are dated enamelled disc fibulae from northern Masuria, the land of the ancient Galindians. In these two areas, Galindia and eastern Lithuania, the greatest quantities of enamelled objects are found. Among them the semi-lunar fretworked or solid pendants and horseshoe fibulae decorated with crescentic projections found in eastern Lithuania and eastern Latvia are striking examples of Baltic art of the third to fifth centuries. [Plates 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, and 40] Enamel inlay was also used for the decoration of neck-rings and bracelets. The earliest enamelled bracelet, dating from the second century A.D., comes from western Lithuania; it has red enamelled squares of a net pattern,


the enamelled areas alternating with groups of iron ribs. [Plate 41] Other enamelled bracelets were of the broad band type with projecting ends and broadened in the middle; they had fretwork squares, the solid parts being inlaid with red, orange, white, and green enamel. [Plate 42] These latter date from the fourth century. Flattened parts of neck-rings and bow-fibulae also were appropriate for incrustation. The most masterly examples of enamel decoration were long chains made of many fretworked plates with enamel inlaid squares, circles, crescents, or triangles, apparently used as attachments for drinking horns. Colours of the enamel were dark red, red, green, blue, light blue, orange, and white. These outstanding examples, dating from the fourth century, are from Galindia in southern East Prussia, and there are very close, even identical, parallels from central Russia19 and the Kiev area. [Plate 43]

In the fourth century Baltic enamelled ornaments were dispersed all over northeastern Europe: to Estonia and Finland in the north, and thence to Sweden; via eastern Lithuania and the upper Dnieper to the Kiev area and the Ukraine; and along the routes of the Desna, Ugra, Oka, Volga, and Kama rivers to eastern Russia and almost to the Middle Urals.20 There is no doubt that they spread through the eastern Baltic lands from the hub of their industry. The most important production centre of the enamelled ornaments was most probably in Galindia around the Masurian lakes.

A magnificent collection of enamelled ornaments comes from a hoard hidden in the hill-top village of Moshchiny on the small Popolta river, a tributary of the Ugra, in central Russia. [Plate 43] Illustrated here is merely a small part of the fretworked enamelled plates — the drinking horn attachments, the crescentic pendants with projections used for making bead necklaces and the broad bracelets. In addition, there were numerous neck rings, glass beads, and ornamental plates. This huge hoard of 85 objects now occupies an entire glass case in the


Historical Museum of Moscow. Sixteen hundred years ago the collection probably belonged to a trader who traveled from Prussian Galindia across eastern Lithuania and Byelo-Russia to Moshchiny. He may have picked up some neck-rings and bracelets in eastern Lithuania, where exact parallels are known. The hoard indicates that Moshchiny was one of the entrepôts of the traffic accessible to the eastern Baltic tribes on the route it took along the River Ugra and the River Oka into the lands of the Volga-Finnic tribes.

Class Society

With the progress in agriculture, trade, armaments, arts and crafts, a section of the community had become well-to-do. Some unusually ornamented women’s graves are known from as early as the second century. In the fourth and fifth centuries the number of graves belonging to the wealthier class increased remarkably, and they contrasted notably with those of the poor. The evidence of social differences is striking in large cemeteries where, among hundreds of graves, only a few are outstanding in wealth. Wealthy women wore all of the available jewelry: bracelets, neck-rings, fibulae, and chains. A woman in the double grave of Veršvai, dating from the fourth century was not only adorned with ornaments but behind her head were additional neck-rings, bracelets, glass beads, chains, and a bronze pot, while the man at her side was equipped with an iron axe and a pin. [Plate 25] A woman in a double grave in the cemetery of Upytė in central Lithuania had six bracelets on each arm, a silver necklace, a wheel-shaped silver fibula with chains and pendants, three long chains and a bronze pin, while her dress was adorned with bronze spirals along the edge. [Plate 23] The man with her had no grave goods at all. In the fourth and particularly the fifth centuries, silver fibulae, gold plaques, and bronze ornaments plated with silver were the usual attributes of the higher-ranking people. Although men’s graves were not resplendent in jewelry, in some chieftain’s graves there were fine specimens of silver or gold fibulae and plaques, enamelled


ornaments, drinking horns, swords, shields, spears, and horse bridles.

Magnificent princely burials of the Sudovian tribe dating from the fourth and early fifth centuries were found in the large cemetery of Szwajcaria situated on what is now the Polish–Lithuanian border near Suwalki during the 1956–7 Warsaw archaeological expedition headed by J. Antoniewicz.21 The chieftains” barrows were the largest in the cemetery, 18 m. in diameter, while other barrows averaged between 8 and 10 m. The chieftain who had ruled during the fourth century lay inhumed upon a sandy platform under the barrow. He was aged about 55, while other people in the same cemetery were younger — between 30 and 40 years of age. He was furnished with an iron sword 85 cm. long, a shield, spears, an axe, iron shears, a bone comb, a pair of pincers, a horse bridle, silver fibulae, silver- and gold-plated plaques, and a silver figurine of a stag. The horse head-gear in particular shows the splendid decoration, specially designed for the chieftain’s horse: silver-plated frontispiece with blue-glass beads, embossed rosettes and stylized human heads. [Plate 31] Only the large iron shears contrasted with the other exquisite princely belongings. They certainly do not indicate that the chieftain used to shear sheep in his lifetime; they were laid close to his face apparently to protect him against the evil powers.

In the centre of a princely barrow in Szwajcaria dating from the beginning of the fifth century a horse lay buried on a layer of sand 2 m. from its cremated master. The horse’s legs were contracted, which suggests they were fettered with a rope before the burial. Among the cremated remains of the chieftain lay a sword 94 cm, long, a silver crossbow fibula, a round enamelled plaque with a knob in the middle, amber beads and a pair of iron shears. [Plate 44]

The sword was made by the “patterned steel” technique — in which layers of iron and steel are heated together at a high


temperature. For this reason it is presumed to be a Roman import. A similar sword was found at Nydam near Sonderburg, Jutland. Altogether, only three swords of this kind are known in the Baltic territory; two from Szwajcaria and one (1 m. long) from another chieftain’s grave at Krikštonys on the River Nemunas in southern Lithuania. All three appear to have belonged to Sudovian chieftains. The disc-shaped plaque decorated with concentric circles of bluish-white and white enamel is an ornament that does not appear among the local enamelled jewelry. It originated in the Rhineland, where it was made in the second half of the third century. Similar plaques were exported to Scandinavia; they probably reached the Sudovian lands in the fourth century and were placed in the chieftain’s grave around the beginning of the fifth. This late date is indicated by the silver crossbow fibula current in the fifth century.

The “golden age” may be considered as having begun with the feudal system, which reached its peak before the dawn of history. The presence of several chieftains” graves within the borders of one tribe speaks for the existence of local districts each ruled by one lord. One district centre of this type was located near the above-mentioned cemetery of Szwajcaria. There was a large settlement and a small hill-fort 1 km. away from the cemetery containing the graves of chieftains of earlier and later periods. Five other contemporary cemeteries were found within a radius of about 5 km. from this centre„ but these did not contain any princely graves.22 The chieftain’s grave at Krikštonys in southern Lithuania,23 which is about 50 km. from Szwajcaria, indicates another seat of a landowner and the centre of another administrative unit. When all the chieftains’ graves have been discovered we shall be able to count the districts within the limits of one tribe, but the few known at present already illustrate the manner in which the lands were divided. Approximately the same pattern of tribal


administration and ownership of lands by a powerful chieftain is known to us from the beginning of history. The only difference was that in the first centuries A.D. the earthworks and castles were of miniature size, and the towns were in the embryonic stage.

During the “golden age,” the foundations were laid for the economy, for feudalism, the habitation pattern, and art. In the centuries to come, these were to continue and develop further.