UD: May 2018
“To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace”.
Words of the Celtic Chieftain Calgacus
In the year 1971 an extraordinary archaeological discovery was made at the locality of Slana Voda (Salty Water), near the village of Krajčinovići, in southwestern Serbia. A mass burial containing 25 partially burnt skeletons was found, along with a wealth of archaeological material, including pottery, bronze dishes, jewelry, 60 iron swords and other weaponry (Zotović 2007).
The Mass Grave from Slana Voda
(after Zotović R. Social and Cultural Aspects of the Burial Krajčinovići –Slana Voda (South-West of Serbia, Middle of II c. BC. In: Acta Terrae Septemcastrensis, VI, 1, 2007. Pp. 199-205).
The site is remarkable for a number of reasons, foremost among them the fact that it had previously been thought that his part of western Serbia was uninhabited in the late Iron Age, i.e. this was the first archaeological material to be found in the area dating between the 5th c. BC and the Roman period (loc cit.). Therefore, the site provided the first confirmation that western Serbia was indeed inhabited in the pre-Roman period.
The material from the burials is also particularly noteworthy, consisting of mostly Celtic material (with older Illyrian influences to be observed in some of the pottery), and imported Hellenistic pottery and jewelry, which illustrates trade contacts between the Celtic population in this area and the Hellenistic world. Two further Celtic burials across the border in modern Bosnia Herzegovina were excavated in the 20th c. at Mahrevići by Čajniče (Truhelka, Ć. 1909. Gromila latenske dobe u Mahrevićima kod Čajniča, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu XXI, p. 425-442) and Vir by Posušje (Marić, Z. 1962. Vir kod Posušja, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu N.S. XVII, p. 63-72). At both of these sites the burial rituals (positioning of the bodies etc.) and archaeological material uncovered were similar to the Slana Voda burial.
Weaponry from the Slana Voda Burial
(after Zotović 2007)
Till Death Do Us Part
The positioning of the bodies, burial ritual, and accompanying archaeological material at Slana Voda indicate that this a war burial carried out at the middle of the 2nd c. BC (Zotović op. cit.), which coincides chronologically with the first historical accounts of conflict between the Roman Empire and the Balkan Celtic tribes (see ‘Scordisci Wars’ article). From a human perspective, perhaps most noteworthy about the Slana Voda burial (as is the case with the mass graves at Mahrevići and Vir) is the fact that the bodies are of male and female ‘warriors’, i.e. of both men and women, arranged together with their weapons.
Jewelry from the Slana Voda Burial
(after Zotović 2007)
The archaeological evidence from Slana Voda illustrates that the burial was carried out under conflict conditions, yet time was taken to give the dead an ordered burial, and no distinction was made between the men and women, who had apparently died together. Chronologically, this burial coincides with the first phases of Roman expansion in the region, and the mass grave at Slana Voda would appear to mark the arrival of ‘Pax Romana’ in this part of the Balkans.
On the Celts in southern Serbia see also: