The Bronocice pot, discovered in a village in Gmina Dzialoszyce, Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship, near Nidzica River, Poland, is a ceramic vase incised with the earliest known image of what may be a wheeled vehicle. It was dated by the radiocarbon method to 3635–3370 BC, or 3470-3210 BC, and is attributed to the Funnelbeaker archaeological culture. Today it is housed in the Archaeological Museum of Kraków (Muzeum Archeologiczne w Krakowie), Poland.
The pot was discovered in 1974-76 during the archaeological excavation of a large Neolithic settlement in Bronocice by the Nidzica River, ca. 50 km to north east of Kraków. The excavations were carried out between 1974 and 1980 by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and the State University of New York at Buffalo (United States).
Sarunas Milisauskas, one of several archaeologists who worked on Bronocice excavation project wrote: "The 1974 field season yielded data beyond our expectations. An incised wagon motif was found on a Funnel Beaker vessel in a pit. An animal bone associated with the pot in the pit was dated by radiocarbon method, around 3400 BC (Bakker et al. 1999). The vessel represents one of the earliest pieces of evidence for the presence of wheeled wagons in Europe." Milisauskas, together with Janusz Kruk, attributed the Neolithic Bronocice findings to the Lublin-Volhynian culture (between 3100-2200 BC), "contemporary to the younger stage of the development of Tiszapolgar cycle in the Cisa River Basin... the culture is certainly older than the decadent period of the Funnelbeaker culture in Little Poland."
The picture on the pot symbolically depicts key elements of the prehistoric human environment. The most important component of the decoration are five rudimentary representations of what seems to be a wagon. They represent a vehicle with a shaft for a draught animal, and four wheels. The lines connecting them probably represent axles. The circle in the middle possibly symbolizes a container for harvest. Other images on the pot include a tree, a river and what may be fields intersected by roads/ditches or the layout of a village.
Bronocice pot inscription markings may represent a kind of "pre-writing" symbolic system that was suggested by Marija Gimbutus in her model of Old European language, similar to Vinča culture logographics (5700–4500 BCE).
According to a linguist, Stuart Harris, the meaning of the inscription is a rebus composition: "The cart is part of a rebus composed of letters from Old European, arranged to look like a cart traveling along a road beside a river flowing through a pine forest. Two rounds of a song comprise the rebus, sung in two parts, cart and driver, whose words lie above the water. In this song, the cart proposes something, the driver answers back." Harris translates the meaning of the Old European rebus song into English:
Cart: Bags of food in the cart, ribbons to woo I've got, wizard's mead she wants.
Driver: Heed those wizards, conveyance that I made. Make the conveyance manly, for the maiden of those maidens. Carry magicians over the water.
Cart: Into the grove to woo I drive, wizard of our enclosure.
Driver: Escort Cart, the food, a hundred wizards of mead spirit. Haul these on virtuous ground.
The image on the pot is the oldest well-dated representation of a 4-wheeled vehicle in the world. It suggests the existence of wagons in Central Europe as early as in the 4th millennium BC. They were presumably drawn by aurochs whose remains were found with the pot. Their horns were worn out as if tied with a rope, possibly a result of using a kind of yoke.
Based on Bronocice discovery, several researchers (Asko Parpola and Christian Carpelan), pointed out that "Indo-European languages possess inherited vocabulary related to wheeled transport", thus providing new research information about the origin of the Indo-European; "the wheeled vehicles were first invented around the middle of the fourth millennium BC." Other researchers (David W. Anthony) suggest that "the evidence of the wool and wagon/wheel vocabularies establishes that late Proto-Indo-European was spoken after about 4000-3500 BCE, probably after 3500 BCE."
In his review Theoretical Structural Archeology, Geoff Carter, writes: "The site was occupied during the Funnel Beaker or TBR culture phase, one of a complex group of cultures that succeeded the LBK in northern Europe, in the Fifth and Fourth Millennia BC. Bones from the pit in which the pot was found gave radiocarbon dates of around 3635--3370 BC, which, as the excavators pointed out, is earlier than dates for pictograms of wheels from the Sumerian Uruk Period."
- Wozy z Bronocic (in Polish), Strona oficjalna Muzeum Archeologicznego z Krakowie, retrieved 8 November 2009
- Parpola, Asko; Carpelan, Christian (2005). The Cultural Counterparts to Proto-European. New York, London: Routledge. pp. 121–2. ISBN 978-0700714636.
- Piggot, S., 1983; The Earliest Wheeled Transport: From the Atlantic Coast to the Caspian Sea. London: Thames & Hudson.
- Milisauskas, Sarunas (2015). "Myth Making by Jan Machnik: The American and Polish Cooperative Archaeological Project 1966–1978" (PDF). Sprawozdania Archeologiczne 67. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in:
- Piotrowska, Danuta (1990). "Comptes - Rendus Notes Critiques". Archeologia Polana XXVIII. Ossolineum - Wydawnictwo Wroclaw: 216.
- Harris, Stuart. "Old European texts from Ice-age Europe". Migration and Difussion. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in:
- Harris, Stuart (2009). "Bronocice pot: 'Bags of food in the cart'". Migration and Diffusion. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in:
- Anthony (2007), p. 67.
- David W. Anthony, 2007
- Parpola, 2005
- David W. Anthony, 2007
- Geoff, Carter (October 2009). "Theoretical Structural Archeology". Theoretical Structural Archeology. by Geoff Carter. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in:
- Anthony, David A. (2007). The horse, the wheel, and language: how Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05887-3.
- Exhibition at the Archaeological Museum in Kraków. Photos and reconstruction (in Polish)
- Details of research carried out by the Polish Academy of Sciences (in English)
- Local website with photos (in Polish)
- Original inscription (in Polish)
- Popular science magazine article (in Polish)