THE VAČE SITULA

Its quality design and craftsmanship in figurative representations make the situla – a situla is a decorated bucket-shaped vessel – from Vače near Litija one of the finest artefacts of situla art. It is even more important that it was crafted by a skilled local artisan. It is exceptional for its excellent preservation.
 
It was placed in the grave of a wealthy warrior, together with his helmet, two spears, battle-axe, a bracelet and a military belt. Only the skull of the young warrior's skeleton has been preserved to this day. In the Iron Age, young warriors had a special role and the most distinguished became the leaders of their communities
 
This famous situla which was crafted in the Iron Age is decorated with three horizontal bands – friezes, showing human and animal figures. The scenes that read in a sort of comic book sequence of events tell the story of the important acts and events from the noble's life. Situlas were supposed to have been used as ritual vessels to serve beverages.
 
Where does it come from 
This famous situla was excavated at the Reber archaeological site above Klenik near Vače in 1882 by a local man named Janez Grilc in the proximity of the warrior's grave, together with poorly preserved gear. He offered this extraordinary find for sale, and Dragotin Dežman, the curator of the Regional Museum of Carniola (today's National Museum of Slovenia) recognised its value. The warrior's gear and his skull are kept at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. 
 
How old is it 
The situla was crafted at the beginning of the 5th century BC during the Iron Age. It is the third principal period of the three-age system, which ends in our territory with the arrival of the Romans. It begins early in the last millennium BC when people in the territory of modern-day Slovenia learned to produce iron from iron ore and consequently mainly used iron as the material for their tools and weapons as it was harder than the materials previously used. This was an era of fearless warriors and women wearing breath-taking jewellery, as well as the period of the origin of some of the finest and most valuable archaeological finds in the territory of today's Slovenia.
 
How was it made 
The figural motifs on pails and other objects of situla art were made by a special technique called toreutics. Repoussé and chasing techniques were used to form minute detailed reliefs: repoussé on the reverse of the bronze sheet to form a raised design, and chasing to refine the design on the front by sinking the metal. The Iron Age craftsmen used punches, burins and small hammers in their work. Some of the lesser quality artefacts of situla art were made by impressing minute punches in the surface. The maker had to master the techniques and arranged the individual scenes in order before they started to work. The figural motifs can be seen in more detail on the unfolded surface of the Vače situla.
 
Situla art 
Situla art is the culmination of fine arts created by the Iron Age human. It got its name from the bronze pail-like drinking vessels decorated with various figural motifs. Other bronze objects, such as earrings, helmets and sheaths, bear similar ornaments. The emergence of situla art was influenced by the Mediterranean cultures, which is most obvious in the motifs and the ornamental styles. This art appeared in the hinterland of the Adriatic Sea, from the Apennines in central Italy to the Alps in the north; in our country it is mainly found in the Dolenjska, Zasavje and Posočje regions. It was present in the territory of modern-day Slovenia from the 7th century BC onwards to the arrival of the Celts. Situlas are most often ornamented with the figural designs of wild animals - deer and other forest animals - as well as scenes of people performing different tasks. The scenes depicted suggest a distinct social stratification of the Iron Age society and that the members of the upper social classes liked meeting over food and drink, sport, music competitions and hunting.
 
Curiosities 
The figural motifs from the Vače situla may be noticed on some contemporary objects. They are used as background graphics in the Slovenian passport and the identity card. An enlarged replica can be seen at its excavation site, on Vače near Litija.
 
Details
 
Object: Vače situla
Description: This situla holds a special place among the best known artefacts of situla art. The vessel is decorated with three friezes showing animal and human figures. The ornaments praised the virtues and life of the local nobility. Vače, near Litija, on the Sava river, where the situla was found, was one of the most important Hallstatt settlements in the territory of Slovenia and beyond in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. 
Date/Period: Early 5th century BC 
Material: Bronze sheet 
Dimensions: Height: 23.8 cm
Findspot: Reber above Klenik near Vače  
Inv. No.: P 581
Location: Permanent exhibition Prehistoric Treasures of the National Museum of Slovenia at the National Museum – Prešernova
 
Further reading
  • Dragan Božič: Nova spoznanja o odkritju Vaške situle. Življenje in tehnika, letnik 63, številka 10, str. 14–21, Ljubljana 2012.
  • Dragan Božič: Vaško situlo je imel vojščak s čelado. Delo, nedelja, 22. 9. 2013.
  • Neva Trampuž Orel: Situla z Vač. Stopinje v preteklost: Zakladi iz arheoloških zbirk Narodnega muzeja Slovenije, Ljubljana 2006, str. 94–95.
  • Neva Trampuž Orel: Starejša železna doba. Stopinje v preteklost: Zakladi iz arheoloških zbirk Narodnega muzeja Slovenije, Ljubljana 2006, str. 34–38.
  • Neva Trampuž Orel: Začetki železa na slovenskem. Arheološki vestnik 63. Ljubljana  2012, str. 17–36.
  • Peter Turk: Situla z Vač in njen čas. Slo: časi, kraji, ljudje, februar 2016, str. 12–17.
  • Peter Turk: Podobe življenja in mita: katalog arheološke razstave, Ljubljana 2005.