Article | Science Revealing Ancient Magic: Phytolith Evidence from the Early Chalcolithic Site of Isaiia (Eastern Romania)

F. Tencariu, C. Delhon, D. Vornicu, A. Asăndulesei,C. Brașoveanu, M. Danu, 2022, Biology 11/8: 1102

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Abstract :

The present paper aims to present the newsworthy results and interpretation of the interdisciplinary analysis conducted at an Early Chalcolithic settlement (Isaiia, Romania). The archaeological campaigns of 2015 and 2017 offered remarkable results including a ceramic vessel, inside which an anthropomorphic figurine (with pregnancy depiction) and a small cone, both made out of clay, were found. Given the special character of the deposition, we collected several samples from the vessel and near it for phytolith analysis; samples of bone found next to the pot and from the nearby features were also dated by AMS radiocarbon. The palaeobotanical evidence based on the phytolith analysis showed that cereals and probably mugwort seem to have been in association with the small artefacts; both, and especially the latter, are known, aside from their practical uses (as aliment or remedy), as powerful symbols, used through the ages in magic practices. All of these facts nuance and augment the cultic interpretation of the deposition as a result of a ritual related to fertility (possibly to counteract some physiological problems or reproductive disorders) involving both feminine and masculine symbols and the use of plants.