Migration i førromersk jernalder


  • Niels Henrik Konstantin-Hansen


migration, førromersk jernalder


Migration in the Pre-Roman Iron Age

The archaeological group in focus here is the so-called Poienesti-Lukaševka culture (PLC), which came into existence very suddenly around 200 BC in present-day Romania and Moldavia. Stray finds are also known from the Ukraine, but the main area of settlement lay on the southern bank of the Dniester river, as attested by professionally excavated settlement structures and necropolises. The commonly accepted thesis on these archaeological remains is that they are the physical manifestation of the Bastarnae and Skiri, two Germanic-speaking tribes who migrated to the Pontic region in the late Pre-Roman Iron Age. The term ‘Germanic-speaking’ is of importance here, meaning that this is a linguistic rather than an ethnic or even racial identification, as was common in archaeological theory and practice in the early 20th century.

The PLC group had a duration of around 170 years, archaeologically speaking, since its settlements and graveyards had been abandoned by 30-20 BC. Figures 3-5 show, respectively, the chronological system used, i.e. the revised chronology devised by C.K. Jensen, as opposed to the older Becker system, the three phases of the principal necropolises of the PLC and the material culture of the three phases of this culture.

Three groups of artefacts link the PLC with Northern Europe: The intriguing so-called crown neck rings, which originated in Jutland and Northern Germany, the later typological examples of which are seen dispersed across Eastern Europe, in all probability marking routes of migration (figs. 6a-8); the so-called fire-dogs or andirons (figs. 9-12), which were in all likelihood ritual implements for use in association with domestic hearths in living quarters and known from the same areas as the neck rings and, finally, the PLC ceramic assemblage, which indicates a general northwestern area of origin, which includes parts of present-day Poland (fig. 13). The remains of Dacian, Celtic and Greek ceramics in the settlement layers of PLC habitations show interaction with the neighbouring communities, albeit not always in a peaceful manner.

The Greek city-states ventured forth into the Pontic area from around 700 BC, and from around 200 BC and onwards, at the time of emergence of the PLC, a number of written sources describe violent incursions and dealings with two newly-arrived tribes, the Bastarnae and the Skirie. These two tribes continued to raid the neighbouring communities or to serve as mercenaries until 29 BC, when they were finally defeated while attempting to cross the Danube.

The name Sciri is the oldest ethnonym known in the Germanic languages, meaning ‘the Pure’ or ‘the Shining’. This strongly implies a North European origin for these people, since it was in these parts that the Germanic peoples proper were encountered by Caesar in 50 BC. It must be noted, however, that language is only part of any given ethnic identity, and therefore, of course, these two tribes were not ‘Germanic’ in the sense of the descriptions of Caesar or Tacitus.

It is argued, through material comparison with the surrounding cultures, that the PLC culture had no presently-known precursors in Moldavia and was therefore not indigenous to that area but the result of a migration from Northern Europe, and that the material remains are ethnically very specific, due to the constant strife in the area, which highlighted ethnical tensions as reported in the written sources.

This is put into a wider context by drawing upon evidence from the Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe as a whole. From being a relatively isolated region, possibly with an egalitarian ideology governing society from the Late Bronze Age onwards, the area underwent an almost violent transformation around 200 BC. New forms of settlement were established, in the shape of villages, new necropolises were instigated and imported weaponry and Etruscan and Italic bronze vessels were included in the funerary furnishing. There seems also to have been social upheaval in Eastern Europe, as the earlier Pomeranian culture disappeared and was replaced by the Oksywie, Przeworsk-, Zarubintsky- and Poieneşti-Lukaševka groups (figs. 1-2). These groups interacted with each other, as demonstrated by the distribution of material culture throughout their main areas of settlement, and built bridges between the Northern World and the Mediterranean city culture. Though we cannot be certain of the reasons for this sudden turn of events, it is argued by some authors that there was a short, but very severe climatic crisis in the years 207-204 BC, as demonstrated by several geological and dendrochronological surveys and as also mentioned in written sources from the Mediterranean and China. This may have triggered tensions inherent in Northern Iron Age societies, as demonstrated by Hedeager (1990). In any event, social change is attested in the years around 200 BC, which may have prompted the migration of the Bastarnae and Sciri, who then arrived in the Pontic region at about the same time. Judging from the position of the aforementioned crown neck rings in relation to the other archaeological cultures in the region, it is argued that ritual specialists deposited these rings as ritual and ethnic markers along the route.

Niels Henrik Konstantin-Hansen
Moesgaard Museum





Konstantin-Hansen, N. H. (2013). Migration i førromersk jernalder. Kuml, 62(62), 9–40. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/24462