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The Zoomorphic Figurine in Luncani / The History of Romania in One Object
Photo 1: The Wild Boar in Luncani (Late Iron Age)
This amazing figurine represents a wild boar cast in solid bronze (produced in the á cire perdue technique). The silhouette of the animal is supple, and some of the anatomical elements are very carefully transposed (snout, teeth, ears, hooves). The orbits are deep, probably the eyes having been originally rendered from colored glass paste. Decorated with circles and triangles, the mane (crest) of the wild boar is oversized compared to the rest of the body. The piece weighs approximately 0.6 pounds, is 2.8 inches tall, 4.1 inches long and 0.6 inches wide.
The figurine entered the collection of the museum from Cluj in the second half of the 19th century; in 1876 it was already included in the exhibition of the International Congress of Prehistory in Budapest. The details behind the artefact’s discovery are, unfortunately, unknown, with the museum’s inventory registering only the donor of the piece and the place where it was discovered: Gerend, the modern day village of Luncani in Cluj county.
Photo 2: Josephinian land survey with the location (18th Century)
Photo 3: Expansion of the Celts
The figurine dates back to the Late Iron Age (Latène Period), and was most likely produced in the Celtic world in the 3rd century B.C. or at the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. The Celts were an ancient population that occupied much of Europe during the Iron Age. The generic term of Celts or Gauls actually describes several tribes united by a similar civilization. Originating along the Rhine and the Upper Danube, after the 6th century B.C. the Celts occupied the modern-day territories of France, Spain, Great Britain, and Northern Italy. They then arrived in Central Europe and the Balkan Peninsula, some getting as far as Asia Minor, in what is currently Turkey.
Photo 4: Celtic sword (The National Museum of Transylvanian History - MNIT collection)
Photo 5: Celtic knife (MNIT collection)
Photo 6: Celtic spearhead (MNIT collection)
The Celts were skilled warriors whose conquests were carried out mostly by force. Nevertheless, they failed to unite their territories into large-scale political formations, eventually being defeated by the Romans. In the second half of the 4th century B.C., the Celts arrived in the Carpathian Basin. The presence of these newcomers in what is now Transylvania is attested by 500 graves, discovered in more than 70 sites, and over 100 settlements.
Photo 7: Celtic discoveries in the Carpathian Basin
Photo 8: Celtic graves discovered in Transylvania
Celtic materials appear mainly in the North-East Transylvania, the Mureş - Târnave Basin and the Upper Basin of the Someş River. The presence of the Celts in Transylvania can be followed all the way through to the 2nd century B.C. when, with the rise of the Dacians, the traces of their material culture disappear.
The Luncani figurine belongs to a series which existed all over the Celtic world. Similar pieces have been found in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Hungary. So far, the Luncani figurine is the only one of its kind discovered in modern-day Romania.
The wild boar (sus scrofa attila) was not an easy prey, and was therefore appreciated in the Celtic world not only for its meat, but also as a trophy. At the same time, it occupied a special place in Celtic imaginary and spirituality. Wild boar was eaten at funeral banquets, being considered a food fit for gods and heroes, and in many Celtic graves the meat offering for the afterlife was that of the wild boar or of its domestic relative, the pig.
Photo 9: Celtic helmet (MINT collection)
Photo 10: Celtic urn (MINT collection)
The wild boar was also associated with fighting and war, being frequently represented on Celtic weapons. It is likely that pieces similar to the one from Luncani were pinned on helmets or worn as banners in battle. The head of a boar was used as ornamentation for a well-known Celtic instrument: the carnyx (also used in battles).
The wild boar likewise played an important role in Celtic religion, with Druids sometimes adopting its name as their own. In some depictions, the wild boar appears alongside the gods or some gods are represented as boars. Numerous amulets in the Celtic world were cast in the shape of a wild boar and used for protection.
Photo 11: The Wild Boar in Luncani, drawing after Cristina Bodo
Given its strength and virility, the animal was seen as a symbol of fertility. It is no coincidence that the genitals of the wild boar from Luncani are exaggerated in size and depicted similarly to human ones. In contrast to its relatively small size, the wild boar from Luncani offers a lot of information about the world of the Celts and is one of the most important pieces in the collection of the National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj.
Text and video presentation by archaeologist and curator Luca-Paul Pupeză. Film concept by Geanina Simion and Dragoș Popa. A team of The National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj-Napoca.
The second season of THE HISTORY OF ROMANIA IN ONE OBJECT, our online program that evokes decisive epochs in Romania's past starting from objects with powerful symbolic and representative value, is developed in partnership with two of the most important history museums in the country, Moldavia's History Museum in Iași and The National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj-Napoca.