Overview of the Finds

The material from the Early Iron Age graves thus far excavated can be dated from the 11th/10th through the later 7th or 6th centuries B.C. All of the pottery deposited in tombs is handmade and includes both matt-painted and burnished wares, as well as vessels with plastic decoration. The matt-painted pottery shares much in common with similar vessels from southern Albania and northern Epirus (as well as western Thessaly and Macedonia), and some of the material may prove to be imported. In addition to the material found in tombs, Early Iron Age pottery fragments were encountered throughout the fill of the tumulus.

The metal finds include bronze, iron, and gold. Among the bronzes, so-called spectacle fibulae of a type familiar in sanctuaries and tombs in Greece, Italy, and the Balkans in the 10th through 8th centuries B.C. were common. The iron objects included a variety of dress pins, fibulae, and small tubular beads. There were also a number of bimetallic bronze and iron objects. The only gold objects found in 2004 and 2005 were two gold disks, in situ one on either side of the cranium and more or less at the position where the ears of the deceased would have been. The disks were decorated with repoussé concentric circles and finely incised strokes.

The only object of stone deposited in a tomb was a small bead of sardonyx or carnelian. Chipped stone tools, however, were relatively plentiful throughout the fill – and on the surface – of the tumulus. A number of examples dating from the later Bronze and Early Iron Age may be discerned, but also types that are characteristic of the Neolithic period and the earlier stages of the Bronze Age, as well as some that are Mesolithic and Paleolithic. The quantity and chronological range of these tools is such that they cannot be easily accounted for and it seems likely that the chipped stone tools derive from the debris of earlier sites that was intentionally brought to Lofkënd, presumably with the deceased, to be used as fill.

The other prominent type of find recovered from the general fill of the tumulus was what was entered into the Lofkënd database as “fired clay not pottery.” Many of these pieces and lumps of clay are amorphous, but a good many of them preserve reed, rod, or stake impressions suggesting that the clay had been used as a lining material in wattle-and-daub architecture. Similar pieces of fire-affected or hardened clay were found at the Neolithic site at Cakran. Whether or not such material was used in the Early Iron Age remains unknown, as there are to date no verified Early Iron Age sites in the Mallakastra region contemporary with the Early Iron Age tombs in the Lofkënd tumulus that have yielded any significant evidence of habitation of the period. The combination of chipped stone tools and remnants of wattle-and-daub architecture raises the intriguing possibility that those burying the dead intentionally brought material from other sites in order to use as tumulus fill.

The other material encountered in various contexts in the Lofkënd tumulus was bitumen (or asphalt). In one of the inhumations (Tomb 50), traces of bitumen were encountered over and around part of the skeletal remains of the deceased, and next to Tomb 35 was a large coarse vessel containing lumps of the hydrocarbon. In addition, a number of sherds recovered from the fill of tumulus were coated, or partially coated, with bitumen. The preserved bitumen on these sherds varies in thickness, depending on the state of preservation and the original thickness of the coating. The bitumen was presumably applied as viscous liquid while it was heated, and in most cases it appears to have been finished to create a smooth surface with no visible tool marks. The importance of bitumen in the prehistoric and, particularly, the historical context of this part of Illyria – including the reasons behind the colonization of Apollonia – will form part of our ongoing analysis of the site and region.

Drawing of matt-painted stemmed goblet from Tomb 17
Photo of matt-painted stemmed goblet from Tomb 17
Matt-painted one-handled tankard from Tomb 35
Matt-painted one-handled tankard from Tomb 13
Kantharos with plastic decoration from Tomb 43
Selected handle fragments from the fill of the tumulus
Large bronze spectacle fibula from Tomb 17
Smaller bronze spectacle fibula from Tomb 13
Small bronze spectacle ornament from the fill of the tumulus, probably displaced from a tomb
Iron fibula from Tomb 17
Iron tubular beads from Tomb 55
Gold disks found in situ on either side of the eastern cranium of Tomb 52
Bead of sardonyx or carnelian from Tomb 17
Selected chipped stone tools from the surface and fill of the tumulus
Selected pieces of fire-hardened clay from the fill of the tumulus preserving reed, rod, or stake impressions used as lining in wattle-and-daub architecture
View of coarse vessel in situ immediately to the north
of Tomb 35 containing pieces of bitumen
Selected fragments of pottery from the fill of the tumulus coated with bitumen