Iron Age water goddess found in Bavaria

(ORDO NEWS) — Perhaps people worshiped a small figurine as a deity of water more than two and a half thousand years ago.

Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of Monuments have discovered a unique clay figurine in a ravine near a prehistoric settlement. It is small – only 19 centimeters high.

Most of all, the researchers were surprised by the modeling: the face of the figurine looks, of course, peculiar, but it is done very skillfully – the eye sockets, nose, lips, and chin are clearly visible.

Scientists suggest that in its original finished form it was about ten centimeters longer – the lower part has not been preserved.

Since the anterior surface of the body is missing, the shape of the body does not provide any information about the field.

Iron Age water goddess found in Bavaria 2

There are five perforated holes on each side of the head from the bottom of the chin to the line of the eyes. It is unlikely that these are ears – their modeling is then too rough and does not correspond to the modeling of the face.

Perhaps in this way the ancient sculptor depicted a cap decorated with metal rings. And such a headdress is attributed to women.

The Iron Age settlement, next to which the statuette was found, dates back to the 8th-6th centuries BC, a period that in those places belongs to the Hallstatt archaeological culture.

Of course, no one digs all the ravines with every prehistoric monument – as is often the case, the find was made during rescue archaeological work before the construction of the road.

Iron Age water goddess found in Bavaria 3
The face sculpt is rather thin

At the site, archaeologists found not only a small clay figurine, but also numerous sherds, bone pottery tools and a well-preserved and also very unusual clay stamp.

The clay objects show no signs of wear and tear as a result of exposure to water: this leads to the assumption that they were not washed into the ravine, but were deliberately left in this place as offerings.

Lime deposits indicate that at about that time a spring spouted very close (which, of course, had dried up long ago).

Most likely, it was he who was the source of water supply for the Hallstatt settlement. Therefore, German archaeologists suggested that the figurine they found was the goddess of water who guarded the spring.

“It can be assumed that at that time people considered this special picturesque place sacred, and the small statuette served them as a ritual offering or they even attributed magical powers to it,” said Professor Matthias Pfeil, head of the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of Monuments.

Scientists admit the following: ceramic shards and pottery tools are quite common for Hallstatt – quite a lot of such finds have been made. But there are still no other figurines comparable to this one for this culture.

Similar figurines made of clay are known, for example, from the Western Black Sea region and date back to the 5th millennium BC.

But the time gap between those finds and the Hallstatt culture is too great to talk about some kind of borrowing. All this leaves a lot of room for future interpretations.

Apart from the figurine, the purpose of the clay stamp is not quite clear yet. Its pattern is very unusual – no similar specimens have yet been found in Bavaria.

Because its printed surface curves inward, scientists speculate that it was used to decorate organic materials such as bread dough.

This is also supported by the corresponding experiments carried out by researchers of the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments with a replica.

Iron Age water goddess found in Bavaria 4
It is possible that bread was decorated with this clay stamp

We add that the time frame of the Hallstatt archaeological culture, which is usually associated with the Celts, is still the subject of scientific discussion.

For example, according to the periodization of Paul Reinecke , the settlement in question belongs to the end of the so-called Hallstatt B and the beginning of Hallstatt C.

However, later researchers believe that Hallstatt B (1100-800 BC) is the end of the Bronze Age, and not iron. Well, such findings add fuel to the scientific debate.


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