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The Otomani culture, also known as Ottomány culture in Hungarian, is a local Bronze Age culture (ca. 2100–1600 BC cal.), getting its name from eponymous site near the village of Otomani located in Bihor County, Romania.
Otomani culture is located in Crișana (western Romania), eastern Hungary, eastern Slovakia, western Ukraine - Transcarpatia (Zakarpattia Oblast - within stretch of Carpathian mountains) and southeast Poland (stretch of Carpathian mountains and nearby areas). Thus, people of Otomani culture secured middle stretch of what will be later known as "Amber route", and indeed, amber is often found in Otomani sites.
Habitat, Settlements, Housing and Material Culture
People belonging to this wast culture settled along river banks, in valleys but also on strategic places like mountain passes and hills used for mighty fortified settlements. Some places like caves and natural springs were used like places of cult. This culture was contemporary with Wietenberg culture in Romania, Unetice-Madarovce-Veterov-Boheimkirchen cultural complex in Moravia, Austria and western Slovakia, Mierzanowice culture in Poland and Makó culture in Hungary. High cultural level is illustrated most of all by fortified settlements with highly advanced defensive architecture including ditches, stone walls, ramparts, towers and complicated gates protected by bastions, by urbanistically organized houses (1, 2 or three rooms), tell disposition at lowland sites (consequent use of houses made of clay, creating and artificial hill with many stratigraphic levels), high level of metal working (bronze, gold, silver), high level of bone and antler working (including elements of horse harness made of antler), pottery of high level, often considered one of the most exquisite ceramics of prehistoric Europe, with beautifully adorned amphorae, jugs, broad bowls, small cups, pottery of milk processing, and piraunoi - transportable ceramic ovens, richly decorated, often interpreted as used not only for profane, but also cult activities(burning incense). Distinctive features of Otomani ceramics is decoration with spiral or circular motives, rich plastic ornamentation, use of wave pattern or patter of "running spirals", polishing of pottery to reach "metallic effect" and high burning temperatures. Metalworking is illustrated by gold jewelry, mainly earrings, small bronze objects (pins, personal ornaments, small tools - needles, awls), militaria include battle axes, spear-heads, daggers, knives, and arrowheads. Stone is still widely used for sickles and working axes.
Mortuary rite is inhumation in flexed position on large flat cemeteries in direct vicinity of settlements, with different sides for man and woman, at the final stages shifting towards biritual rite, with more cremations, using urns. Graves are equipped with rich grave goods, including personal adornments like beads (in male graves often made of animal teeth and boar tusks) and metal jewelry, tools, arms and ceramics. In child grave at Nizna Mysla cemetery (Eastern Slovakia), ceramic model of four-wheel wagon was found and interpreted either as child toy or cult object.
Collapse and Legacy
End of Otomani culture is connected with turbulent events at the end of Old Bronze Age in Central Europe, where we see collapse of whole "Old Bronze Age world" with highly progressive culture of mighty hill-forts, great distinction in personal wealth, and exchange over wast distances. Gradual decline in numbers of fortified settlements, change of burial rite and finally decision of people to desert fortified settlements could had several reasons, including collapse of trade and exchange networks, attacks of enemies, internal collapse of society or environmental causes. Following Middle Bronze Age/Late Bronze Age cultures are very different in burial rite (cremation, erecting of barrows) as well as in handling bronze - there is "explosion" in bronze working, and many bronze hoards found across whole Europe illustrate this change in quantity and quality of produced bronze objects. We see not only bronze ornaments and arms (including first examples of swords), but also bronze tools (sickles, axes, adzes), which changed everyday life of prehistoric man. But it's important to appreciate and recognize legacy of Otomani culture for further development and it's strong influence illustrated by imports of Otomani ceramics over long distances.
- Bronze Age Europe
- Bronze Age in Romania
- Prehistory of Transylvania
- Bronze Age in Poland
- History of Slovakia - Bronze Age
- History of Hungary - Bronze Age
- N. Boroffka, Die Wietenberg-Kultur. Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der Bronzezeit in Südosteuropa. Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie 19. Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH (Bonn 1994).
Bronze Age culture in Transylvania, Central Romania
- Die prähistorische Ansiedlung auf dem "Wietenberg" bei Sighisoara-Schässburg [Gebundene Ausgabe]
- European Societies in the Bronze Age. A. F. Harding. Cambridge 2000. ISBN 0521367298