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M. Gurova and Chavdar Nachec, Formal Early Neolithic Flint Toolkits. Archaeological and Sedimentological Aspects, 2008

M. Gurova and Chavdar Nachec, Formal Early Neolithic Flint Toolkits. Archaeological and Sedimentological Aspects, 2008

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05/28/2011

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29
Geoarchaeology and Archaeomineralogy (Eds. R. I. Kostov, B. Gaydarska, M. Gurova). 2008.
Proceedings of the International Conference, 29-30 October 2008 Sofia, Publishing House “St. Ivan Rilski”, Sofia, 29-35.
FORMAL EARLY NEOLITHIC FLINT TOOLKITS:ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND SEDIMENTOLOGICAL ASPECTS
Maria Gurova
1
, Chavdar Nachev 
 
1
National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1000 Sofia; gurovam@yahoo.fr 
National Museum “Earth and Man”, 1421 Sofia; chnachev@hotmail.com
 
ABSTRACT.
Bulgarian Early Neolithic chipped stone assemblages reveal coherent and diagnostic flint toolkits for the vast Karanovo I and IIcultural area, characterized by high quality yellow-honey coloured flint, quite long and regular blades with (bi)lateral semi-abrupt high retouch andsometimes with rounded or pointed ends, as well as highly (re-)used sickle inserts. One of the most challenging questions in relation to thesetoolkits is the identification of their raw material outcrops, supplying strategy and the network of their wide scale distribution.
Archaeological background
The focus of this study is the diagnostic flint toolkits whichform an intrinsic part of the Early Neolithic assemblages of theKaranovo I and II cultures. Apart from their distinctive techno-typological and functional features, another key feature is thespecial raw material from which the toolkits are made: highquality, yellow-honey coloured flint, with sporadic whitish spots(well known and often referred to in the literature as BalkanPlatform flint). The complex of significative traits of thesetoolkits permits their consideration as one of the diagnosticelements of the Early Neolithic material culture (Gurova, 2005).Typologically, these toolkits consist mostly of medium tolong, regularly-shaped blades, ranging between 12 and 15 cmlong, frequently with (bi-)lateral semi-abrupt retouch (frommarginal to high and steep), and sometimes with rounded or pointed ends. Most of the artefacts in these toolkits possessmacro- and micro-wear traces of use. The flint assemblagesreveal many characteristics of so-called “formal tools” whoseproduction requires a special raw material, advancedpreparation, anticipated use and transportability” (Andrefski,1994, 22). From a technological point of view, this industryindicates the application of indirect percussion (punchtechnique). Pressure flaking with an organic stick is used for the characteristic high and steep retouching (Fig. 1). It must bestressed that, with only one exception, neither cores nor debitage linked to their preparation are attested among theassemblages. In this sense, any attempt to apply somediacritic concept of 
chaîne opératoire
reconstruction of thetoolkits fails.These formal tools are recorded in varying density andquantity among the flint assemblages of many Early Neolithicsettlements, some of which had short life-spans, and othersreveal only limited archaeological evidence. Only a few sitesoffer the possibility of studying the formal tools in conditions of changing contextual data. In spite of the fact that an impressivecorpus of flint studies has been done over the last twodecades, too many questions still arise with regards to theseflint toolkits: tracing their (becoming mythologicallyoverexposed!) raw material, its outcrops and procurementstrategy; the location of their workshops, identification of their manufacturers (flint knappers) and technological origin; theidentification of their distribution and exchange networkmechanisms; elucidating their interactions and impacts withadjacent Early Neolithic cultural groups and identities, etc.
Fig. 1. Typological characteristics of the toolkit from Yabalkovo (drawingM. Gurova)
 
 
30
Chronological and spatial features of the formaltoolkits
In order to put the discussed problem in adequatechronological framework, we present the division of the EarlyNeolithic in Bulgaria, according to the recent study on absolutedates (Boyadziev, 1995, 179): Early pottery (‘monochrome”phase) 6300/6200 – 6000/5900 cal BC; Early (‘classical”phase) 6000/5900 – 5500/5450 cal BC. Regarding the timespan of the toolkits under discussion and their function, it isuseful to point out that they are abundant during the whole“classical” Early Neolithic Karanovo I and II periods of the TellKaranovo sequence, or until ca 5500 cal BC. On the other hand, in terms of their lasting ‘retardation’ in the samesequence, the end of the Karanovo III period at Tell Karanovo:5500-5280 cal BC (Görsdorf, 1997, 379) can be regarded as a
terminus ante quem
for the presence of formal toolkits.
Spatial distribution of the formal toolkits 
Local distribution
The formal toolkits are commonly found in the vast area of the Karanovo I and II cultures and their constituent regions inSouthern Bulgaria: Thrace – the Tells Azmak, Karanovo andKapitan Dimitrievo, and the Yabalkovo site; the Northernfoothills of the Rhodope Mountains – the Rakitovo site, theSofia Plain – Slatina; and the valley of Struma – Kovačevo(Fig. 2). The map shows sites in Western Bulgaria, which havebeen published (Gatsov, 1993). Other research has beenundertaken by the author, and some of this work is still inprogress (Gurova, 1997, 2001, 2001, 2004, 2005, in press). InNorth Bulgaria the flint industry exhibits a very different pattern(exclusively expedient in character and an absence of theformal tools under discussion here), despite the fact that aproportion of the artefacts were made of the same raw materialas used for the manufacturing of the discussed formal tools.Two sites belonging to the “monochrome” phase of the EarlyNeolithic sequence are marked in blue in recognition of their important position in the context of the Neolithisation debate.
Supra-regional distribution
Formal toolkits as a distinguishable category of the EarlyNeolithic flint repertoire have never before been discussed inthe literature on the complex technological and socialdimensions. Nevertheless some aspects of their stylistic‘coherence’ have often been observed in the course of work ondifferent assemblages from adjacent major cultural areas –Proto-Sesklo, Starčevo and Körös-Criş. The most commonfeature mentioned in these studies is the presence of rawmaterial from the Pre-Balkan platform among the EarlyNeolithic assemblages from the Balkans.According to C. Perlès a characteristic feature of thechipped-stone assemblages of Neolithic Greece is the“predominant use of 
non-local 
raw materials often obtainedfrom considerable distances” (Perlès, 2001, 201). Recently,interesting and promising research has been done by G.Filippakis on the north Greek Neolithic assemblages, comingfrom outside the obsidian area. I hope our further study andcollaboration will lead to positive issues of reliable comparisonof the assemblages from both regions – Bulgarian Thrace andGreek Macedonia.
Fig. 2. Map with Early Neolithic sites: triangles without numbers – western group studied by Gatsov; grey triangles – study and direct observation of theauthor; numbers 9 &10 – ‘monochrome pottery’ sites. The three main flint outcrops are indicated by white signs in relation to modern cities. Arrowsindicate presumed directions of: spread of Neolithisation – black; distribution of Dobrudzha flint – white. Numbered sites: 1 – Kovačevo; 2 – Slatina; 3 –Rakitovo; 4 – Kapitan Dimitrievo; 5 – Yabalkovo; 6 – Azmak; 7 – Karanovo; 8 – Dzhuljunitsa; 9 – Koprivets; 10 – Ohoden
 
 
31From the Ovče Pole region the crucial culture group of Anzabegovo is very promising, but still enigmatic from a lithicpoint of view. However the researcher, Elster mentioned thatamong the implements there was “honey-brown flint appearingto be similar to well known eastern European flint with noknown local source” (Elster, 1977, 161).The Iron Gates region will be also mentioned on the basis of Borić’s assessment on the lithic industries underlying “…ageneral trend toward the laminarization of blades and the useof steep retouch, as well as a tendency to use good quality rawmaterial of attractive appearance, such as yellow-spotted flintfrom pre-Balkan platform that most likely originated in theregion of Shumen in North-East Bulgaria” (Borić, 2005, 19).According to Kozłowski, the tardif phase of Golocut(Voyvodina) offers some dozen implements of yellow flint fromthe Pre-Balkan platform; the drawings of some implementsfrom the site confirm the typological similarity with the formaltools discussed in this paper (Kozłowski, 1982, 150, Figs. 11-12). The same author concludes that in the area of the Körös-Criş culture there are retouched blades and unretouched sicklesegments made of yellow imported flint – as a result of directdiffusion from the Balkans (Kozłowski, 1982, 154). In theSoutheast there is undeniable evidence of penetration of formal tools of Karanovo I aspect in Hoca Çeşme phase II(Gatsov, 2000; 2005).Comparative evidence from the Romanian Early Neolithicflint assemblages is very limited and the distribution of “yellow-spotted” raw material and items in this direction is still to beadequately documented, although Bonsall has reported thepresence of Balkan flint artefacts in Criş culture contexts atSchela Cladovei on the left bank of the Danube, a few kmdownstream from the Iron Gates gorge (Bonsall, 2003; 2008).As a concluding remark it should be stressed that no specialstudy elucidating the scale and intensity of the circulation andspread of yellow-spotted flint artefacts has been undertaken.The reasons are many, the most important being the scarcityof publications with relevant and detailed information aboutEarly Neolithic flint assemblages among which these formaltoolkits are detectable. This applies particularly to someemblematic sites adjacent to Bulgarian lands and culturalareas.
Raw material for the toolkits: where from?
 
How should we summarize our knowledge of the rawmaterial parameters of Early Neolithic assemblages and, inparticular, their formal toolkits? It has already been mentionedthat foreign specialists have drawn attention to the high qualityand yellow-honey-waxy colour of a particular raw material,originating from North-Еast Bulgaria (Pre-Balkan platform) andits spread across the region. One study fixed the provenancein the vicinity of Shumen (Voytek, 1987).At local scale the research has gone more slowly. Therehave been some sporadic studies of cryptocrystalline siliceousrocks ‘flint” over the past three decades. The first archaeologistto show the abundance and variety of the flint sources fromNorth-Еast Bulgaria, who also tried to establish a database anda link of the identified flint outcrops to prehistoric artefacts andtheir circulation, was Kanchev (1978; Kanchev et al., 1981).In his publication Gatsov (1993) presumed North-westBulgaria to be the region of provenance of the raw materialused for Early Neolithic assemblages from Western Bulgaria(
vide supra
). At the same time, Skakun noticed that “certainspecimens are probably made of Dobrudzha flint”. On thebasis of her deep knowledge of North-East Bulgarian flintassemblages both from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic, sheconceived this fact rather as accidental emphasizing that theexploitation of Dobrudzha flint started no earlier than theChalcolithic (Skakun, 1993, 54). She had already reached thesame conclusion about a dozen implements from the ‘bighouse’ of Slatina (Skakun, 1992, 102).There are two general types of flint recognised among theassemblages from the Tells Karanovo and Azmak. Theinvestigation was done by V. Kurčatov who suggested that theabundance of artefacts was due to the proximity of localoutcrops and identified them (more theoretically than actually)in the region of the Sveti Ilia Hills in Eastern Thrace, not veryfar from the tells (Gatsov, Kurčatov, 1997, 215). Thisassumption has been quoted repeatedly, but never substantiated by further serious research. In fact, it could beconsidered as disproved.Preliminary research on a series from Yabalkovo has ledZlateva-Usunova to reveal that “…the predominant rawmaterial with identified origin comes from deposits in the Upper Thrace, the Sredna Gora, North (understand Western) Bulgariaand the Eastern Rhodopes” (Leshtakov et al., 2007, 201). Infact, the first to presume, somewhat theoretically, a north-eastern provenance for the raw material used for the Neolithicbig blades was Tsonev. He did this in the context of his theoryabout the role of long blades in “communal perception of longdistance exchange through common metaphors” (Tsonev,2004, 262).The research initiated by the present author (M. Gurova), incollaboration with the mineralogist Ch. Nachev, comprisesanalysis of archaeological artefacts from the sites of Karanovo,Kovačevo, Rakitovo, Yabalkovo and Dzhuljunitsa and differentflint outcrops from the country in order to identify theprovenance of the formal Early Neolithic toolkits raw material.Microscopic and comparative analyses of thin sections fromthe mentioned materials are in progress (Figs. 3, 4).
Fig. 3. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and micro fauna filled with micro-crystalline chalcedony – blade fragment, archaeological site Rakitovo,sample N582; possible source – Upper Cretaceous (Moesian flint);transmitted light, crossed polars

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