Axe-shaped pendants among Sarmatian finds

Gulyás Gyöngyi

Hadak útján. A népvándorláskor fiatal kutatóinak XXIV. konferenciája. Esztergom, 2014. november 4–6. Conference of young scholars on the Migration Period. November 4–6, 2014, Esztergom

MŐT Kiadványok 3.1 (2015) 129–163

DOI 10.55722/Arpad.Kiad.2015.3.1_08


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A tanulmány egy viszonylag kis számú, de a szarmata leletanyag jellegzetes ékszertí-pusával, a balta alakú csüngőkkel foglalkozik. A csüngőtípus az antik görög, valamint a Pontus-vidéki műveltséghez visszanyúló gyökerekkel rendelkezik, amely a szarmaták Kárpát-medencei betelepedésével, illetve a későbbi vándorlási hullámoknak köszönhetően Közép-Európa terüle-tén is elterjedt. A tanulmány kitér a balta szimbolikájára, a csüngőtípus tipológiai vizsgálatára, illetve más népcsoportoknál betöltött szerepének vázlatszerű bemutatására is.

Kulcsszavak: balta, baltacsüngők, Kárpát-medence, szarmata temetkezések, viseleti szokások


One of the most characteristic object types unearthed from Sarmatian graves in the Carpathian Basin is a group of objects consisting of pendants of various shapes. The aim of the present study is to make a survey of the axe pendants found among Sarmatian finds in Hungary and classify them according to their shapes as well as to show their role in Sarmatian wear. My survey covers the sites of Central Bačka and North Banat in the vicinity of the southern border of Hungary but sites further to the south (Banatski Karlovac, Vršac, Vojlovica-Pančevo) are merely listed in Table 1.

Two forms of axe pendants can be distinguished, the single-edged and the double-edged types. Among Sarmatians the securis-type (single-edged) axe pendant became current. This pendant type has been recovered from 64 sites in the Carpathian Basin and 56 of these are in the territory of Hungary. I classified the 124 pendants that have been assembled into types, subtypes and groupes according to the shape of blades or boards. The majority of axe pendants can be classified as axe-shaped and are further subdivided into six groups. A lesser part of the pendants belong to the poleaxe and single item types.

The use of the axe-shaped pendants is detectable from the 2nd to the early 5th century, there are, however, types that characterize a specific area or a shorter period. The so-called winged axe pendants (type I.2) or the asymmetric poleaxe-shaped pendants (type II.2) have been unearthed from burials of the latter half of 4th–early 5th century. Likewise, axe pendants with fan-like blades also come from late Sarmatian (4th-century) graves. While pendants of subtype I.2 occur in the Maros River region and the Üllő site, those belonging to subtype II.2 are only known so far from the region of the Tisza and Maros Rivers.

Axe pendants are generally found in women’s graves, less often in children’s graves and in a few cases they also occur in male burials. They are worn in the neck (as part of a bead necklace, fixed on a torques or without beads) and on the right forearm (as part of a bead bracelet, attached to a bangle, or tied on a separate cord). They are rarely located around the left wrist, but there is also an instance of a limestone pendant carved in the shape of an axe that has been found among beads at the feet. In most cases single pieces are found beside the skeleton, sometimes, however, two, three or even five specimens are observed.

The earliest single-edged axe pendants are known from 4th-century Greek cities of the west and north parts of the Pontus region. The pendants reached the Carpathian Basin along the Danube. They appeared in the Great Plains in the 2nd century, after the settlement of the region by the Sarmatians and remained a characteristic feature of female costume well into the 5th and 6th centuries.