Aurel Rustoiu

Magia ascunsă a unor amulete din Dacia preromană. În legătură cu un pandantiv-căldărușă din sudul Transilvaniei / The hidden magic of some amulets from pre-Roman Dacia. About a bucket-shaped pendant discovered in southern Transylvania

Jan. 1, 2019

Dacia pre-romană
mobilitate umană
bucket-shaped pendant
pre-Roman Dacia
human mobility



A bucket-shaped pendant was recently discovered by treasure hunters in southern Transylvania, in the Dacian fortresse from Tilişca probably. More than two decades ago, it was noted that among the pendants from pre-Roman Dacia was a category of finds made of bronze or iron which resemble the shape of a miniature bucket. #ese pendants were worn around the neck on strings, sometimes in combination with other items, for example glass beads. Chronologically, such pendants were used in the Dacian environment from the 1st century BC, but they are more numerous in contexts dated to the 1st century AD. Similar ornaments were also used in the following centuries in different cultural areas, for example in the territory of the Przeworsk culture, among the communities belonging to the Carpic culture or in the Sarmatian environment. It can be therefore presumed that the use of the pendants in question had a “supra-regional” character. In pre-Roman Dacia, they are mostly encountered in the areas outside the Carpathians range, mainly in Dacian settlements on the Siret valley, whereas similar finds are quite scarce in Transylvania. More recently, the number of finds has increased due to several archaeological investigations. Some examples are provided by the investigations carried out in the garden of the medieval castle at Hunedoara, in south-western Transylvania, which unearthed a cult place used since the Early Iron Age for various ritual practices, including votive offerings and human cremations and inhumations. Regarding the function of these pendants, Pliny the Elder lists numerous medical or protective remedies based on mineral, vegetal or animal substances. In order to be efficient, these had to get in close contact with the “patient”, so different means were used to keep them attached to the body. #ese included different types of containers which could have been made of organic materials, for example leather or textiles, while others were made of more durable materials, for example metal. One of the better known examples is the bulla, which was used in the Etruscan and Roman environment. #e bucket-shaped pendants more likely had fulfilled a similar role, holding medical and protective remedies of organic origin. Since they were lacking a lid, their contents could have been replaced according to the necessities. #eir presumed apotropaic function is also supported by their association with strings of glass beads and other metal pieces. Aside from these pendants, some bracelets having a split middle or a small middle tube have been identified in pre-Roman Dacia, but also in other cultural areas. #e small tubes were more likely used in the same way as the bucket-shaped pendants mentioned above. Various materials of mineral, vegetal, or animal origin could have been inserted to protect the owners of the respective bracelets (see Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. XXVIII. 9 and 47). Both the pendants and the bracelets were worn in a very visible manner, though their content, which aimed to offer protection, remained concealed. In both cases, the magical power of these remedies was augmented by the act of concealing them. Lastly, the widespread circulation of the bucket-shaped pendants was a result of individual mobility across the Dacian cultural area and also in the surrounding regions. #is mobility allowed the circulation across time and space of knowledge and practices that seldom left behind archaeological traces.