SYMBOLIC MEANING OF METAL CAULDRON IN SCYTHIAN BURIAL PRACTICE FROM ETHNOANALOGY PERSPECTIVE


Keywords: archaeological interpretation, ethnoanalogy, bronze cauldron, burials, Scythian culture, symbolic meaning.

Abstract

As historiography shows, sociocultural aspect is the main perspective commonly analyzed in the interpretation of symbolic meaning of Scythian bronze cauldrons. The deposition of such vessels is typical to burials: average barrows of ordinary members of society as well as unique wealthy graves of Scythians with high social status. The hypothesis of sacral symbolic meaning of a cauldron in social perspective is primarily based on some passages by Herodotus (IV, 61 and IV, 81). These written sources merge with general context of archaeological findings — cauldrons are associated with rich grave goods.

Number of scholars made some successful attempts to calculate the size of Scythian cauldrons, correlate it with a reconstructed nomadic food-value and archaeological context (such as high of the mound and grave goods). Therefore, the cauldrons became a definite marker in Scythian society stratification study. But such viewpoint does not explain the urgent need to deposit Scythian bronze vessels during the burial ritual.

The article introduces ethnoanalogy as a method, vital for interpretation of spiritual and ideological nature of artifacts. It is underlined that the approach in choosing analogies in ethnography should be structured and calibrated in order to escape scholar’s personal influence on results and to broaden the range of possible meanings.

Earlier researches failed to find constant features of the cauldron agency in Scythian burial practice and thus to interpret them. The author states that a cauldron possesses certain characteristic features in every case of Scythian burial practice. Such peculiarities include the disposition (namely the main chamber, dromos and household premises), quantity in one grave, quality of a vessel.

Strictly correlated with archaeological data, ethnoanalogy reveals that cauldron’s agency in Scythian burial practice is strongly connected with the Otherworld (votive offerings, border guard), and this symbolic meaning is realized in the concrete context of depositions.

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Published
2019-12-25
How to Cite
Bielopolska, O. A. (2019). SYMBOLIC MEANING OF METAL CAULDRON IN SCYTHIAN BURIAL PRACTICE FROM ETHNOANALOGY PERSPECTIVE. Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 33(4), 269-277. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2019.04.19