Sunday, September 6, 2015

Establishing the Identity of Bulgaria’s First Farmers – a New Perspective

Maria Gurova
Archaeologia Bulgarica
XVI, 2 (2012), 1-26
(Link)

Some quotes from this paper:

Pottery complexes and diversification

In spite of the common agreement about the important role of pottery as an expression of group identity, it is confusing and difficult to evaluate how the impressive corpus of pottery research deals with this problem. From studies of pottery ‘grouping’, the impression gained is that it is rather a grouping of formal pottery features, than an allusion to the people involved, the real pottery makers expressing themselves in the stylistic variability of ceramics. Traditionally most periodizations of Neolithic culture in Bulgaria are based on regionally differentiated styles of pottery forms and decoration. There are fundamental and general works on material culture interpretation and presentation (Georgiev 1961; Тодорова / Вайсов 1993), as well as some detailed studies on intra- and inter-settlement culture with an (over)emphasis on pottery complexes (and their evolution) (Николов 1992; 1996; Leshtakov 2004; Nikolov 2002; 2004; Leshtakov et al. 2007; Lichardus-Itten et al. 2002; 2006; and others). Undoubtedly pottery could be considered and applied as a significant cultural identity marker. On the basis mainly of vessel style and variability at the very beginning of the Neolithic different local cultural groups have been distinguished:  for example, Gradešica-Circea, Galabnik, Slatina, Kremenik-Anzabegovo and Kremikovci (Nikolov 2002). They reflect broader entities denoted as cultures: the ‘monochrome Neolithic’, represented by several (some of them contested) sites; the western Bulgarian culture with painted ceramics; and the celebrated Karanovo I culture with its rich white painted pottery, well known from Thracian tells, but differentiated into several phases and variants (Slatina in the Sofia basin and three sites in the middle Mesta river plain). There are major debates about the cultural affiliation of some west Bulgarian sites to the proto-Starčevo culture, and the relation of sites belonging to the so-called ‘monochrome phase’ of the Bulgarian Early Neolithic with cultural phenomena of Carpatho-Danubian versus (north)western Anatolian cultural entity (cf. Тодорова / Вайсов 1993; Чохаджиев et al 2007; Nikolov 2002; Stefanova 1998). The Ohoden site in western Bulgaria, for example, is presented as belonging to the proto-Starčvo culture or Western Balkan cultural zone, while another part of the pre-Karanovo I culture in central-northern Bulgaria (Dzhulyunitsa and several sites along Yantra and Russenski Lom rivers) –show direct interactions with north western Anatolian sites, establishing an Eastern Balkan cultural zone. On the other hand for both Ohoden and Dzhulyunitsa a strong pottery affiliation with the Koprivets cultural group is emphasized (Ганецовски 2007; 2008; Еленски 2006; 2008; Elenski 2004).

This discrepancy in arguing for the “monochrome” occurrence (without a good series of radiocarbon dates) makes the concept ambiguous and unconvincing: consequently the attempt to search for the origin and identity of the isolated “monochrome” enclaves results in a rather vague perspective. The unifying cultural alliance/divergence among these phenomena is the fact they are altogether in the frame of the Early Neolithic Balkan-Anatolian block according the periodization of H. Todorova (Тодорова / Вайсов 1993, 74-76).

The problem of the “monochrome” horizon of north Bulgarian Early Neolithic could probably be resolved in the case of further detailed and comparative study between new promising sites Ohoden and Dzhulyunitsa, combining all the data from the sites (dating evidence, pottery and flint assemblages, particular structures, burials, “exotica” [single obsidian artifacts from both settlements], etc.).

Cultural periodization based on details of pottery typology is often inconsistent with other features of the material culture such as the more conservative flint assemblages. This imbalance between innovative (pottery) and retardive (flints) features of cultural phenomena is still insufficiently examined or taken into consideration on intra- and inter-settlement interaction levels (Gurova 2004).

Establishing cultural entities

A well known fact is that the Karanovo I culture is included in the interregional cultural complex Pre-Sesklo–Starčevo–Karanovo I–Koros–Criş, which is thought to represent the Early Neolithic processes (adopted Neolithization) in the wider area of south-eastern Europe. Respectively, the consideration of ‘identity’ goes from regional to supra-regional level. Regarding the denotation mentioned above, there is an opinion to call it “Starčevo-Criş civilization” that covers the area from Greek Macedonia to the south of Central Europe (Transylvania) and belongs to a Balkan-Anatolian Neolithic complex. According to the author (Lazarovici) in this area the general evolution and scale is almost identical; attested phenomena have the same sequence, only the dynamism is different, from area to area or from one moment to another.

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