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Anthropomorphic Stelae of the 4th and 3rd Millennia Between the Caucasus and the Atlantic Ocean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2020

Angelika Vierzig
Affiliation:
Mars-la-Tour-Straße 23, 26121 Oldenburg, Germany. angelika.vierzig@gmx.net
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Anthropomorphic stone stelae of monumental dimensions dated to the 4th and 3rd millennia BC have been found in southern Europe between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caucasus. They are understood as symbolic human representations the size of which arises out of a new self-awareness of humankind in the world. Anthropomorphic stelae are one of many innovations appearing during this epoch. Other innovations are copper metallurgy and tools, in particular weapons and jewellery, as well as the wheel, the wagon, and the plough drawn by animals. These innovations are depicted on stelae; what is more, the stele itself is an innovation in which the other changes are bundled. Comparable stylistic features of stelae in different areas demonstrate far-reaching contacts. Often the origin of anthropomorphic stelae is seen in the Russian steppes, with the archaeogenetically proven migration from east to west being the cause for the building of stelae in central and western Europe. However, the oldest known stelae apparently originate in western Europe. The impulses behind the dissemination of innovations must have emanated from continuous exchange relations, but the migration in the 3rd millennium bce did not bring with it the idea itself of anthropomorphic stelae. Nowadays the question about the function of stelae is usually answered with the representation of ancestors. When anthropomorphic stones keep the memory of common roots alive, they serve the building of identity.

Résumé

RÉSUMÉ

Stèles anthropomorphes des 4ième et 3ième millènaires entre le Caucase et l’océan Atlantique, de Angelica Vierzig des stèles anthropomorphes en pierre de dimensions monumentales datées des 4ième et 3ième millénaires av. J.-C. ont été trouvées dans le sud de l’Europe, entre l’océan Atlantique et le Caucase. Elles sont reconnues comme étant des représentations symboliques dont la taille découle d’une nouvelle connaissance de soi de l’humanité dans le monde. Les stèles anthropomorphes sont une des nombreuses innovations appparaissant au cours de cette époque. D’autres innovations sont la métallurgie du cuivre et les outils, en particulier les armes et la joaillerie, ainsi que la roue, la charette, la charrue tirée par des animaux. Ces innovations sont dépeintes sur les stèles et, de plus, la stèle elle-même est une innovation dans laquelle sont rassemblés les autres changements. Des traits stylistiques de stèles comparables dans des zones différentes démontrent des contacts lointains. Souvent l’origine des stèles anthropomorphes se voit dans les steppes russes avec la migration prouvée archéo-génétiquement de l’est à l’ouest étant la cause de la construction de stèles en Europe centrale et occidentale. Toutefois, la plus ancienne stèle connue a apparemment son origine en Europe de l’ouest. Les impulsions derrière la dissémination des innovations ont dû émaner de relations d’échanges continuelles mais la migration au 3ième millénaire av. J.-C. n’a pas appporté avec soi l’idée même de stèle anthropomorphe. De nos jours la question de la fonction des stèles est généralement réglée par la représentation des ancêtres. Quand les pierres anthropomorphes gardent vivante la mémoire des racines communes, selles contribuent à la construction de l’identité.

Zusammenfassung

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG

Anthropomorphe Steinstelen in monumentaler Größe aus dem 4. und 3. vorchristlichen Jahrtausend finden sich im südlichen Europa zwischen Atlantik und Kaukasus. Sie werden als symbolische Menschendarstellungen verstanden, deren Größe einem neuen Selbstbewusstsein der Menschen in der Welt entspringt. Anthropomorphe Stelen sind eine von vielen Innovationen der Epoche. Weitere Neuerungen sind Kupfermetallurgie und -geräte, insbesondere Waffen und Schmuck, sowie Rad, Wagen und Pflug, von Zugtieren bewegt. Diese Innovationen werden auf Stelen dargestellt, darüber hinaus ist die Stele selber die Innovation, in der sich die übrigen Veränderungen bündeln. Vergleichbare Stilmerkmale von Stelen in verschiedenen Gebieten weisen weiträumige Kontakte nach. Vielfach wird der Ursprung der anthropomorphen Stele in den russischen Steppen angesiedelt. Mit der archäogenetisch belegten Migration von Ost nach West seien auch in Mittel- und Westeuropa Stelen errichtet worden. Die ältesten Stelen stammen aber offenbar aus dem Westen Europas. Impulse für die Verbreitung von Innovationen müssen von fortwährenden Austauschbeziehungen ausgegangen sein, aber die Migration im 3. Jt. bce hat nicht die Idee der anthropomorphen Stelen mitgebracht. Die Frage nach der Funktion der Stelen wird heute meist mit der Darstellung von Ahnen beantwortet. Wenn die anthropomorphen Steine an gemeinsame Wurzeln erinnern, dienen sie der Stiftung von Identität.

Resumen

RESUMEN

Las estelas antropomorfas del IV y III milenios entre el Caúcaso y el océano Atlántico, por Angelika Vierzig Las estelas de piedra antropomorfas de dimensiones monumentales datadas entre el IV y el III milenio bc se han registrado en el sur de Europa entre el océano atlántico y el Caúcaso. Se interpretan como representaciones humanas simbólicas cuyo tamaño surge de una nueva autoconciencia de la Humanidad en el mundo. Las estelas antropomorfas son una de las muchas innovaciones que aparecen durante esta época. Otras innovaciones son la metalurgia y útiles de cobre, en particular las armas y la joyería, la rueda, el carro y el arado tirado por animales. Estas innovaciones están representadas en las estelas, de hecho, la estela en sí es una innovación en la que se agrupan estos cambios. Las características estilísticas comparables de las estelas en diferentes áreas demuestran contactos de gran alcance. A menudo el origen de las estelas antropomorfas se establece en las estepas rusas, donde se encuentra bien documentada arqueogenéticamente una migración de este a oeste siendo probablemente la causa de la elaboración de estelas en Europa central y occidental. Sin embargo, las estelas más antiguas documentadas se originan aparentemente en el este de Europa. Las motivaciones subyacentes en la difusión de las innovaciones debieron emanar de relaciones de intercambio continuas, sin embargo, la migración del III milenio bc no trajo consigo la idea de las estelas antropomorfas. Actualmente la pregunta sobre la función de las estelas suele responderse como la representación de los antepasados. Estas piedras antropomorfas mantienen viva la memoria de raíces comunes que sirven para la reconstrucción de la identidad.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Prehistoric Society

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