Thursday, October 6, 2016

Brotlaibidol, Brotlaibidole, Loaf Idols

What the heck are these things?! 

Via Welt

The above brotlaibidol came out of grave that is being called "Prince of the Nebra Sky Disk".  Story at Welt.

Brotlaibidol aus Mangolding Lkr. Regensburg (commons)
Brotlaibidol (German) or Brotlaibidole (Italian) or in English commonly known as "loaf idols", they appear from North Central Italy and Slovakia to Northern Germany in the Bronze Age, mostly with cultures born from or influenced by the prior Bell Beaker including Polada, Terremerre and Unetice, although one partial loaf from Italy appears to be from a Beaker context at the turn of the 2nd millennium.

These are called "loaf idols" and are rather small, usually made of unbaked clay in a tiny tablet format.  Some appear to have been painted red and included white encrustation, similar to Beaker pottery, which may further highlight their funerary function.

There is a great question as to what these objects were for.  Do they contain primitive proto-writing like the pre-Elamite tablets?  Are they stamps for leather or another material?  Do they record quantitative or contractual information in primitive way?
Closeup from the Polada Culture

Seeing 3D images might be helpful from The Brotlaibidole project.


  1. Probably records of debts and storaged goods.

    Very interesting.

  2. OK, I'm not implying that they are the same or even similar things at all, but these objects have brought to my mind a group of Bronze Age petroglyphs from NW Iberia (Galicia, Asturias and North Portugal) known as 'Peña Tu' group: cf. figure #2 in this article:

    A new one has been 'found' just some days ago; locals already known the petroglyph, which is called "Pedra da Grade" (~Grid stone):

    Europe and world archaeology is really full of weird things.

    1. Very intriguing. I've only been able to look at the second link so far, but many of the petroglyph schematics do look similar, especially with horizontal lines.

      So would you suggest that the small idols are immitations of the larger?

    2. Well, given that most of the time petroglyphs are 2D representations of 3D objects/animate beings, I was prone to think that the NW Iberian petroglyphs were depictions of these tablets or other similar kind of items… But probably the only real similarity among both groups are the horizontal stripes and maybe the silhouette; as all of you are suggesting, the Italian-Central European tablets appear to contain some kind of very precise information like a countability, whilst the Iberian petroglyphs are usually associated to depictions of Bronze Age weapons: swords/daggers (n. 1, 4, 8 in the figure n. 2) and halberds (n. 5). So their motivation is probably very different.

  3. If they were found in tombs, they could be prayer tablets or some ritual object, no necessarily idols. Found in other contexts they could be receipts or records or some accounting tool, which is my bet.

  4. The top one, but not the others, resembles something you'd use as an anchor or socket top rock when starting a fire with a stick and bow drill method.

    The second to bottom set looks like a tally. I could imagine the dots marking years or olympiads of life or adult life, or descendants, or lifetime big game kills.

    The second and last examples look like they are both the same thing, but I'll be damned if I know what. I could imagine running some sort to string through the grooves with the interruption designs identifying who it belonged to. It is not clear if the bottom one spirals or has parallel groves.

    Do we know whether or not they have anything interesting inside them if they are broken?

    1. I think many are broken and AFAIK their just unbaked clay usually

  5. My wild ass hypothesis was that they were parts of (or used in the making of) musical instruments. I see frets and grooves for strings and holes for winding pins in a lot of them.

  6. I agree with Cossue that these wierd objects found in central Europe remember other finds in NW and SW Iberian could have fonctioned as some kind of ID card and PhD certificates such as the Engraved Stone Plaques found in SW Iberia, follow the link,