Station: [228] Soul Birds

Did Bronze Age people imagine that the souls of their dead were able to fly like birds to the other world?  It’s a fact that bird symbols played a dominant role in the funerary cults of the late Bronze Age. Clay rattles in bird shapes, for instance, have been found in the graves at Liebersee, in the communal grave and in the block excavation in this room.  Feather-like patterns were also etched onto vessels.  

Inside, the bird rattles were hollow, and filled with little stones or clay balls, to make rhythmical sounds like a child’s rattle. However, these rattles are found in adults’ as well as children’s graves.  Most of them represent water birds, and they are found right next to a jug. Sometimes the bird figure was even executed as a liquid container.. 

Bird figures also occur in connection with flat dishes, small discs and models of chariots.  Oval discs presumably represent boats and round ones, sun symbols.  Does this illustrate the ancient belief that the sun crosses the sky in his chariot during the day, and travels over the sea in his boat at night? Sometimes the birds also bear cattle horns.  Maybe these symbols refer to Bronze Age notions about the basis of their agricultural existence: water and sun. The human being was first depicted in the early Iron Age, as shown by a human rattle figure from Niederkaina.