Vol.8, No.1 | [Article] Apotropaic Elements on Ceramics from the Early and Middle Bronze Age in the Northern Adriatic Region (Caput Adriae)



In the Early and Middle Bronze Age, the Istrian peninsula as the northern periphery of the “Mediterranean cultural sphere” was characterized by a dense
population with fortified mountain settlements (“Gradine” in the Croatian language). In these settlements a distinctive decorated pottery has been discovered, until recently completely unknown. One group of these vessels, namely, large jars for food storage, is distinguished by a decoration with combined plastic and incised ornaments with antithetically arranged handles on all four sides, which follows a certain order and allows the recognition of stylized faces. In light of other depictions in prehistory and early history, the appearance of “monster” and “grotesque” representations on medieval churches, and studies on recent cultures, we can assume that the “scary faces” on the Bronze Age pottery of Istria had some kind of apotropaic meaning. Something similar can be assumed for a particular embellishment of the spherical bottles that were also typical of the fortified mountain settlements of the Istrian peninsula.

Keywords: Northern Adriatic, Bronze Age, fortified settlements, ceramics,
apotropaic ornamentation