Ritual Vehicle
Image #216301

Type of object: Chariots and Wagons

Material: bronze

Period: Hallstatt

Find spot: former Yugoslavia

Country: former Yugoslavia

Date: c.500 BCE

Collection: Paris, St-Germain-en-Laye, Musée des Antiquités

This bronze wagon was found in former Yugoslavia. It was classified as in a group of "Kesselwagen with ornithomorphic protomes" by Pare. The symbolism of the combination of wheel, vessel, and water-bird was found in the central and western Europe including Italy from previous period. For example, a wagon from a grave at Acholshausen, Germany (c.1000 BCE) has four bird-figures and a vessel (see figure below). It continued in Hallstatt era and even beyond it. Pare introduced the record of use of wagons by Antigonos of Carystos in the third century BCE.

"They say that in Crannon in Thessaly there are only two ravens. This is why two ravens on a bronze wagon (two, because more than two are never seen) are represented on written treaties of friendship as the distinguishing emblem of the city, which it is usual to add in all cases. The wagon was attached for the following reason (for this might seem a strange thing to do): they have a bronze wagon set up as a votive offering which, in times of drought,  they shake, praying to the god for water; and this, they say, is then granted. Theopompos reported something even more remarkable. The ravens, according to him, stay in Crannon only until they hatch their young; when they have done this, they leave their young behind and depart. Ktesias tells of something similar in Ecbatana and in Persia. But since he lies so often, I omit that passage as belonging to the realm of romance. Myrsilos of Lesbos reports that in the Lepetymnos mountains in Lesbos there is a temple of Apollo and a heroon of Leperymnos, where (as in Crannon) there are only two ravens, although there are many ravens in the places round about" (qtd. in Pare 185).

Here Antigonos talked about custom in Crannon, a Greek city in the third century BCE. The wagon with water-bird was used for a votive offering in the period of drought in Crannon. The people in Crannon had a certain belief in the relation between water-bird and rainfall. Pare also points out that there were some bronze coins from the city of Crannon of the fourth century BCE, which depicted vessel wagons with birds. His other example in Balkans is Apollo’s chariot draught by the team of swans. Vehicles (in Apollo's case, the chariot) with birds had a religious relation to Apollo. According him, “clearly the meaning of the "vessel-bearing wagon" and the "vessel with antithetic bird-pair’ survived at least until the 3rd century BC in the Balkans." (Pare 185) The Greek custom only suggests the early stage of cult wagon. We cannot conclude that the use of the vessel wagon with birds, as this one, had the same use as Crannon one. However, we could assume the Greek belief suggests its remote origin in Hallstatt culture.

Pare, C.F.E. Wagons and Wagon-Graves of the Early Iron Age in Central Europe. Oxford (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, 1992)



Bird-wagon in the Later Bronze Age


Bronze Kesselwagen
Early Urnfields

From a grave at Acholshausen, Germany (c.1000 BCE)

Collection: Würzburg, Mainfränkisches Museum





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