Liviu Măruia
Daniela Tănase
Adrian Bejan

Un mormânt cu podoabe de aur din epoca sarmatică timpurie descoperit la Sânnicolau Mare – Seliște (jud. Timiș) / A Sarmatian Grave with Gold Adornments Found at Sânnicolau Mare – Seliște (jud. Timiș)

Jan. 1, 2011

Sânnicolau Mare–Selişte
gold jewelry
early Sarmatians



The present study is aimed at bringing to the public and specialists’ attention an archaeological discovery made in 2005, which is of great importance to the complex issue of Sarmatian settlement on the lower course of the Mureş river. The archaeological location is well known by the townspeople as a place of provenance for many artefacts. Even so, in modern times it has created confusion in regards to the „Roman Age” settlement at Sânnicolau Mare, which has been perpetuated even in archaeological studies, thus giving rise to a great historiographic debate in the last century and a half. The discussion of a Roman presence in the western Banat area has its starting point in the XIXth century, based on information that is both very old and ambiguous, regarding accidental discoveries made by non-specialists. This information was then passed down as certainties in modern historiography. Systematic research on the archaeological site was carried out for 12 years, (1995-2007), by a team lead by Professor Adrian Bejan, Universitatea de Vest, Timişoara. The research has revealed a very complex archaeological site, with a median thickness of the archaeological deposit of about 2 m (and thicker than 3 m in some areas), containing numerous archaeological complexes which can be dated as early as the Bronze Age and as late as the Late Dark Ages (above ground houses, hovels, a well, workshops etc.). The archaeological artefacts accumulated from the successive years of research are impressive, being mostly composed of ceramic shards, some of which can be restored, but also metal artefacts (bronze, iron) and even stone (grinding stones made of tufa or andesite, large mica-schist fragments etc.) of diverse in type and usage. Apart from all stand the Sarmatian Age and Dark Age (both Early and Late) burial sites, which contain numerous graves. Many of these graves lack artefacts, but in one, the subject of the present study, gold pendants, a medallion and beads were discovered. The S-N orientation of the grave is typical the Iazig Sarmatians in the Carpathian Basin. It is worth mentioning that the right forearm and arm bones are missing. Two human bone fragments (possibly forearm) were found in the head region, accompanied by a bronze bracelet (Fig. 8-9). The grave contained, besides clay pots, adornments of gold and glass (a necklace of gold beads and pendants horseshoe and tear shaped, as well as blue and navy colored glass, limestone and glass beads) and a spindle whorl. In our opinion the grave discovered at Sânnicolau Mare-Selişte is proof that Metanast Iazigs had entered to a small degree the north western corner of the Banat. Other Early Sarmatian Age burials have not been unearthed as of yet in this region; the Sarmatians having settled on the Banat plains during the last third of the 2nd century A.D. The grave at Sânnicolau Mare-Selişte dates during the 1st century A.D., based on these gold jewelries being the earliest Sarmatian artefacts. Although we do not have an anthropological assessment of the skeleton, based on the grave inventory and analogies with other burials of women containing jewelry, in the Carpathian Basin, we believe the individual buried at Sânnicolau Mare-Selişte was a woman. She had been buried with all due respect, as a high social status demanded, as indicated by the jeweler and food offerings. Questions remain regarding the missing right forearm, which may be related to the fragments in the head area, perhaps as some sort of magic ritual.