The Molnik Belt Plate

The Molnik belt plate was discovered in a cremation grave near the Molnik hillfort southeast of Ljubljana. The grave dates to the late sixth or early fifth century BC. The bronze plate, which originally bore a scene of a hunter equipped with bow and arrow, a large dog and a stag set inside an interweaving flechtband and palmette leaves, has become an icon of Slovenian situla art. At one or more points in its history, the plate was broken and the pieces riveted back together as four overlapping fragments, one upside down, with much of the original imagery hidden from view. Nonetheless, the riveted hook on the back of the plate shows that it remained functional. Innovative 3D visualisation techniques developed at the University of Bradford reveal details of the manufacture of the plate, including the skillful freehand nature of much of the work and the limited range of tools used. A key question is why, when all narrative potential had been lost, was the reworked Molnik belt plate still considered an appropriate item to place into a high-status grave? Was the plate some form of talisman or heirloom? Did it have some magical or religious significance? Was the value of the item drawn from its history? Unfortunately we do not know whether the Molnik belt plate had been in use for a few years or for many generations – a fact that is important to bear in mind when considering the dating of such items. Indeed, the life of the Molnik belt plate is far from over, as its appearance on modern Slovenian stamps shows.