The Burial Site at Marosszentanna

Some seventy years after its discovery, this Visigothic burial ground still offers the best, and indeed, the only penetrating look into the Goths' religious beliefs, society, and ethnic relationships, as well as into the Gothic material culture that reflects all these aspects.

The bodies of the dead were laid out in two directions, perpendicular to each other. Most of the graves are aligned along an approximate north-south axis. In the northern half and the northwestern quarter of the cemetery, amidst and, in the case of the fourth and ninth graves, above the former, twelve graves were found inserted on an west-east axis. The latter graves, with the exception of two that held the remains of women (one wealthy, the other poor) in Gothic costume, contained no grave goods, and there were neither vessels nor traces of food in any of them. The hands of two of the corpses were clasped in a Christian manner; these were the most recent graves in the graveyard (phase 3).

The core of the burial site had been obliterated by a sandpit. Its oldest and largest part (dating from the end of the 3rd century or first half of the 4th century, phase 1) lies northeast of the pit; here, only one or two peripheral graves are of a more recent date. It was on top of this older section that the latest east-west graves were placed.

Bronze and silver fibulae with half-moon shaped ends were found to the south and west of the sandpit. Since these objects did {1-152.} not appear before the middle third of the 4th century, and came to be worn mainly in the second half of the century, they identify the more recent section of the burial ground (phase 2). It is striking that neither the pagan sacrificial meat — pork, goat's meat, mutton, and poultry — nor the cooked eggs that were commonly placed in graves were found in the more recent Gothic graves or in the graves without burial objects. Also noteworthy is the small number of vessels indicating ritualistic offerings of drink. In the older part of the burial ground, entire sets of vessels were placed in the graves. Sets of vessels for the storage and comsumption of food and drink (pots and mugs, plates and glasses respectively) were found in some twelve graves; there were, on average, five or six vessels per grave, with 9–12 in the case of some lavish graves of boys and girls. The profusion of vessels — i.e., of provisions for the other world, stored in pots or on plates — also characterizes other early 4th century, Gothic burial grounds in Transylvania (e.g. those at Rugonfalva, Csombord, Marosújvár, and Mezőerked). In the more recent section of the burial site, graves contain only one vessel, or none. This reflects not social differences — the buried ornaments are richer — but an evolution of the Goths' religious beliefs.

Objects worn by both poorer and wealthier Gothic women, such as fibulae, clasps, combs, bead necklaces, and pendants of Roman origin were found in graves, as were objects associated with their daily work, such as the clay spindle-whorls, the bone receptacles of sewing needles, and knives. The grave goods of the men were modest: a bronze or iron buckle, flint and steel, a few knives, vessels, and the occasional iron fibula. In at least four or five graves, bodies were laid down in a supine position, on a north-south axis, without grave goods; it is possible that these had been poor but free Goths.

Only a few goods of Roman provincial provenance — an earthenware jug, two or three cheap glasses — were unearthed at Marosszentanna. Even copies of Roman vessels are absent at this {1-153.} burial site. No other Visigothic burial ground displays as little Roman merchandise and 'influence' as this one, the greatest burial site discovered in the heart of Dacia.