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Controversies in Aegean chronology, methods of comparison and European relations:

Jan Bouzek

Abstract: Survey of Middle and Late Bronze Age relations between the Aegean and temperate
Europe, especially present-day Bulgaria. Dating controversy, necessity of deeper
understanding between archaeologists and scientists, general traits and specific items.
Key words: Aegean, temperate Europe, Bulgaria, Bronze Age, mutual relations

1. Dating controversy
The recent controversy in dating Thera eruption either in accordance with the Egyptologists or
with the C14 dates, at least to a certain degree connected also with European dendrodates,
does not seem to reach a generally acceptable solution. A similar problem is the Gordion
destruction date, this time C14 vs. Herodotus with his predecessor Hekataios did it happen
in connection with Cimmerian raids in early 7th century or hundred years earlier with C14 ?
The two positions cannot be reconciled in the present situation, and the two camps just do not
believe that the arguments of the other side are valid. Though I suspect that C14 dating is not
absolutely safe, it is reasonable to show that European parallels to Late Helladic I II A and
Late Mycenaean culture are not that much exactly dated and limited to one event only. Much
of the evidence we have to our disposal allows less narrow time span for explanation.
2. Archaeologists and scientists problems of mutual understanding
The maximum exactness, now worshipped by most of scientists, cannot be compared also
with ancient world of weight units, in which the grain was the smallest unit known. The same
situation concerns the length measures with digits, foot and elbow units, the Roman passus,
etc. The scholars who calculate with much smaller units than those used in antiquity usually
miss their target. On the opposite side I found myself how difficult is the calculation with
natural fractions as 1/3 or 1/7, where the per cent figures are misleading with every further
step done, as it often happens with the modular calculations.
Several modern dating methods came and left, as the thermoluminiscence, are very
approximate dating method only, other disappeared completely, as did also the serology or
lead isotope analysis for bronze objects as mark of provenance. The scientist are no more
clever than us, and their interpretations of measured phenomena give rather a degree of
probability than full certainty. We all should put cards on the desk showing what is certain
and what only more or less probable.
3. Necessity of more-sided approach, of direct perception, of descending ad fontes
The modern study is made more and more through the machines, computers and their
calculation. We will lose our ground if we would not be able to use our direct sensual
perception, especially our own proper eyes. The founders of archaeology in late 18th and early
20th century developed typology and stylistic study which was finer and better respected old

human artefacts. The individual objects are fossils now, but they can be put back in our mind
into their ancient structure as signs of development in time; like anything around us the old
cultures have their beginnings, early and mature phases ending in some mannerist phase and
final dissolution of the form, whose destruction opened a way towards a new culture, new
chapter of human civilisation.
The now widely used models and patterns lead us from free thought into a straightjacket, and
even more so does the prefabricated calculation systems in computers. The spirit moves,
where it wants, and our mechanic calculations lead to degeneration of freely thinking inspired
mind, which only can bring us forward to discover something really new.
Many mistakes are made by using one-sided approach only. The Egyptian goddess of
wisdom, Maat, taught on 12 basic approaches to reality, and a walk around any feature from
several points of view is always useful. As with Heidegger, anybody of us has his or her
limited horizon, clearing (Klrung) in the forest of unknown, and a specific mood, Stimmung,
inclinations, which may lead to preference of interpretation, e.g. either more dramatic or
more peaceful.

4. The Aegean and prehistoric Europe: general relations

The European and Aegean elites had some values in common, some acceptable ways of
exchange trade respecting a. o. some kind of common weight units, related religious ideas and
habits. At the end of the Central and North European Early Bronze Age, some influence from
the Shaft Graves and Thera eruption are already well known and studied by many (cf. Bouzek
1985,30-91, 1994) and similar situation existed during the Middle Bronze Age; in the Late
Bronze Age, Br D and Ha A 1, the Europeans exerted strong impact in the Eastern
Mediterranean, a.o. as participants of the migrations of the so-called Sea Peoples (cf. Bouzek
1985, 92- 190).
Technology of mining metallurgy and agriculture was roughly the same in the temperate zone
of Europe as in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mycenaean swords and spearheads and their
imitations are known from several parts of Europe (Fig. 1), Mycenaean weight units were
generally used in most parts of the temperate zone of the continent (Eiwanger 1989; Pare ed.
2000; Bouzek 2004). Spears and other weapons, notably swords, were first inspired from the
Aegean and later the Naue II sword developed in the NW Balkans became usual weapon also
in the Mediterranean (Sandars 1961, 1963; Catling 1956; Cowen 1966, Fig. 2) and similar
situation was with the armour (Bouzek 1985, 93-106), warfare, dress and way of life of the
elites in the Mediterranean and in the temperate zone of the continent had many common
traits, as had religious beliefs, confirmed by many similar traits in Nordic rock carvings
(Coles 2005), Danish razors (Kaul 1998), the Nebra disc (Meller, ed. 2004), imitations of
Aegean scripts (Bartonk Vladr 1977; Gebhard Rieder 2002), similar offerings,
sanctuaries, pantheon (Bouzek 2000a-c, Gold un Kult der Bronzezeit 2003; Jung 2007;
Schauer 1985; Schauer, ed. 1996; Mller-Karpe 2006; cf. Linders Nordquist eds. 1987;
Marinatos 2009; Nilsson 1950, 1967; Banos 2006). Amber played an important role in mutual

relations between north and south (cf. e.g. Beck Bouzek, eds. 1993, Bouzek 2005). Aegean
altars influenced similar customs in the Balkans and Central Europe (Bene 1981; Bouzek
1985, 66-77; Banou 2008) The general system of thought and its air, the kind of cultural
milieu, was similar in most parts of Europe (cf. for general picture Kristiansen 1998;
Kristiansen Larsson 2005; Sherrat 1993, Bouzek 1997).

5. Bulgaria and the eastern Balkans


Several surveys (Bonev 1988, 2003; cf. Bouzek 2005, 27-37) compiled much evidence and
they were followed by a number of more recent studies (cf. esp. Doncheva 2009 with rich
bibliography). The number of finds of oxhide ingots enlarged substantially (Gale 1981;
Lichardus et alii 2002, 16-167; Doncheva 2009, 91, here Fig. 4); they were common in many
parts of the Mediterranean, richly represented in Sardinia and also known in Suebia (Primas
Pernicka 1998). As far as analyses are known they came from Cyprus. Some fragments of
Mycenaean pottery (LH III B-C)) were found in SW Bulgaria - at Koprivlen, Levonovo,
Dragojna (Alexandrov 2005; Doncheva 2011, 88-89) and perhaps elsewhere (Carevo, Drama
?)1. Mycenaean horned swords were known and imitated in Bulgaria as well as in Macedonia
(Fig. 1-2 and Fig. 5), but early Naue II swords, still common in the western Balkans (Fig. 3;
Bouzek 1994; Bader1991; Harding 1995; Kilian Dirlmeier 1993; Doncheva 2011, 89)2. The
monumental Valcitran treasure, with parallels for its lids in private collections and finds of
unknown provenance shows best the splendour of Late Bronze Age Thrace together with the
magnificent sceptres (last survey Doncheva 2011, 90 fig. 4). This was the country of Rhesus,
the richest of all in the Iliad (Il. X, 436-441)3 and of great religious importance: Orpheus was
Thracian king, the family of priests at Eleusis claimed its Thracian descent and in Samothrace
the ritual language was Thracian dialect (cf, Bouzek 2004, 28-30, 42-50). The Central Balkan
dolls, known from NW tip of Bulgaria, were models for similar figurines in EIA Greece,
with all probability of similar religious role (cf. Bouzek 2004, 27-28 with bibl.). Mycenaean
double axe came to the eastern Balkans and was imitated there (cf. Buchholz 1983, here Fig.
1 and Fig. 5); it remained symbol of royal power still in the Odrysian kingdom of the 5th 4th
century B.C.. Diodorus Siculus in his VIIth book (in a fragment known only from the
Eusebius chronicle) mentions Thracian thalassocracy lasting 79 years, followed by that of the
Rhodians and preceded by the rule of the sea by the Pelasgians, another name of the Sea
1

The Drama fragments (Lichardus, Fol, Getov 2002, 140-159) are more probably of East Greek 7th century
date, the Carevo shard (Fossey, ed. 1997, pl. 2) not very convincing on the illustration.
2
The enlarged list by Doncheva 2011, 89, and several Naue II swords in new private collections without exact
provenance may change this picture.
3
.".here apart be the Thracians, the outermost of all,
and among them their king Rhezus, son of Eioneus.
His be verily the fastest horses that I ever saw, and the greatest,
whiter than snow, and in speed like the winds
and his chariot is cunningly wrought with gold and silver,
and armour of gold brought he with him, huge of size,
a wonder to behold. Such armour is beseemeth,
not that mortal men should wear, but immortal gods."
(Il. X, 436-441; Loeb translation)

Peoples. Thracians are known in North Aegean islands as population preceding the Greek
colonisation and it would be tempting to place the main bulk of stone anchors found in
number of places along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast into this period; their shape is typical
for LBA Mediterranean anchors (Angelova Lazarov, eds. 1994; Lazarov 2004; Bouzek
2005b).

6. Conclusions
For all aspects of relations between the Aegean, the Balkans and Europe the chronological
controversy, which seems now got stuck without certain conclusion, is only of secondary
importance. The general relationship of basic ideas and way of life in many aspects of Bronze
Age population between most parts of Europe is clearer now, but local developments were of
importance as well and acceptance of any innovation is only possible if the taker fully
understands it. All aspects of relations and trajectories should be considered and pros and cons
for any conclusion in any aspect carefully weighed in each case, avoiding extreme positions
and with the use of sofrosyne, the most important human quality according to Aristotle.

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Figures:
Fig. 1. Mycenaean type swords and spearheads north of the Aegean. 1-3 Karo A and related
rapiers, 4 fragments, 5 Perinari and Roie-de-Vede swords, 6 Spisk tvrtok mould, 7-8
Aegean Sandars C swords and their Balkan imitations, 9 Aegean Sandars D-G swords and
their Balkan imitations, 10 Mycenaean spearheads and imitations, 11 double axes of
Mycenaean type, 12 LBA royal sceptres. After Bouzek 1994, with additions.
Fig. 2. Mycenaean and related horned swords. 1 Mycenae, Chamber Tomb 58, 2 Dolno
Levski, 3 Doktor Josifovo, 4 Perushtitsa, 6 Galatin near Vratsa (all Bulgaria), 5 Medgidia
(Romania), 7 Tetovo near Skopje (Macedonia).
Fig. 3. Distribution of Naue II flange-hilted spurred swords (full circles type Sttzling,
empty circles related swords) and of the type Ennsdorf Vyn Slia (full triangles).
Fig. 4. Distribution of ox-hide ingots in the Balkans, after Doncheva 2011.
Fig. 5. Distribution of Mycenaean D-G swords outside the Aegean and their imitations (1-2),
of double axes of Mycenaean types outside Greece (3) and of double axes of the Kilindir and
Hermones types (4).

Sources of illustrations: l after Bouzek 1994, completed, 2-3 and 5 after Bouzek 1985, with
additions, 4 after Doncheva 2011.