Death on the Plain – Iron Age Burial Mounds of Podlože

In the middle of the fertile plain below Ptujska Gora, south of river Drava, stands a group of burial mounds or barrows. They date to the 7th and 6th century BCE – Early Iron Age – and are a part of a wider Lower Styrian Hallstatt culture.

The burial complex as seen from a kite.

The first exploration of the mounds was done in 1906; due to lack of modern archaeological methods – and the treasure hunt frenzy – the finds are scattered (most of them are probably in the museum of Graz) and there were no published conclusions.

As the agricutlural works threathened the mounds, further archaeological digs were done in 1981, 1985/1986 and 1995 under the auspices of dr. Ivan Tušek and dr. Marija Lubšina-Tušek of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, who published the results in 1996.

Northern group: Barrows 2, 3, 4 and 5, and the military bunker

Five barrows were identified, with Barrow 2 severely damaged and Barrow 5 completely razed. A completely unrelated military bunker, part of the northeastern defensive line of Kingdom of Yugoslavia, is somehow part of the site.

Geodetic survey of the site. The barrows and archaeological trenches are shown. Drawing by B. Žontar. From the article Nove raziskave podloških gomil pod Ptujsko goro (New research of Podlože burial mounds), Marija Lubšina-Tušek, Ptujski zbornik VI, 1996. Courtesy of M. Lubšina-Tušek.

In Barrow 2 a stone kist with a double burial was found, dating to Ha C2-D1, III. Styrian, at the end of 7th and the beginning of 6th century BCE.

Barrow 3 yielded a special find – a ceramic ciborium, a product of local potters from the hilltop settlement at Ptujska Gora. Other finds include ceramic and iron objects, typical for Hallstatt culture, and burned human remains (as the Hallstatians were practicing cremation).

Ciborium from Barrow 3
Assorted finds
Assorted finds

Ciborium and other assorted finds from the barrows. Photo Bine Kovacic. From the article Nove raziskave podloških gomil pod Ptujsko goro (New research of Podlože burial mounds), Marija LubšinaTušek, Ptujski zbornik VI, 1996. Courtesy of M. Lubšina Tušek.

Southern Barrow 1

These barrows are the last resting place of the people living in a so-called ‘hilllfort’, a fortified settlement perched on the hill above the fertile plains near Ptujska Gora.

Hallstatt culture was a clearly stratified one, with rich and powerful warriors, chieftains, peasants, servants and slaves. The people of Early Iron Age arrived to the Lower Styria after a curious and complete break of inhabitation in the 8th century, at the end of Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.

Dravsko polje plain and the foothills of Haloze. The burial complex is just outside the photo to the left, and the ‘hillfort’ is at the top of the hill on the far right. More burial mounds are situated on the slopes.

The Hallstatt culture and its people were destroyed in late by the belligerent Celts; they and their La Tène culture completely superseded the Hallstattians around 5th century BCE.

There are many Hallstat sites in the Lower Styria, and Hallstat culture finds from Slovenia are exceptional – the most famous are the Vace situla from Central Slovenia, and finds from the extensive site Kapiteljske njive near Novo Mesto in Lower Carniola.

The recent finds from the Podlože burial mounds can be seen in the exceptional Ptuj Ormož Regional Museum at the castle of Ptuj. The site itself was mostly cleared of the vegetation and is now a nicely arranged archaeological park – well worth a visit!

See the kite line? 😉

Many thanks to dr. Marija Lubšina Tušek of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, for allowing us to show the photos of the finds at the burial site!

All kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on a delta kite.

Military bunker, part of northeastern defensive line of Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

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