Some Issues Regarding the Late Eneolithic in the Middle and Lower Danube Basin
Romanian version


The issues at stake regarding the late eneolithic in this geographical space refer to the current stage of the discoveries - namely the character of the research and the context - as well as to the relative and absolute chronology of such discoveries. If the context of the discoveries is relatively balanced, a rather different image is offered by the question of the number of settlements and the number of points including funeral finds as well as by the question of the geographical spread of the same. In the current research stage, it is possible to distinguish two main zones, from the point of view of the settlement-funeral finds ratio: 1. the Tisza basin, characterised by the great concentration of necropolises (fig. 2); 2. the Trans-Danubian zone where the ratio is reversed: a relatively high concentration of settlements (fig.1) and missing necropolises, with only isolated documented tombs (fig.2), the majority being found within the settlement precincts. Transylvania occupies a special position in the Tisza basin, owing to the reduced number of settlements, the absence of funeral finds and the high number of isolated discoveries. Essentially, it can be stated that in view of the relation between the ceramic types and the context of the discoveries in the middle and lower Danube basin, the notions of cultural groups or of cultures actually hide mere ceramic styles associated with funeral type finds - Bodrogkeresztúr (inhumation and bi-ritual necropolises) and Lažòany (incineration and bi-ritual necropolises), in the Tisza basin (fig. 2,fig. 3) - with settlements (fig. 1) in which isolated tombs appear as well (fig. 4) (Balaton and Lasinja), or they hide just wide-spread ceramic styles (with regional variants): the "pill-shaped"- handle horizon, the ceramic vessels decorated by successive stitches.
If we overlook the economic factors brought into question above (as it is often the case that the feeble documentary traces of settlement in the Bodrogkeresztúr area are generally blamed upon the supposed pastoral character of the corresponding economy of the zone), then the existing differences between these two geographical zones are to be derived from the distinct treatment given to the deceased: thus, on the one hand, for the necropolises (of the Tisza basin) - the individual dressing elements expressing the social person (i.e., the sex, the age, the affiliation or social status) of the deceased and, on the other hand, the special burials (fig. 4) within the settlement precincts (in Transdanubia), which could be related to other complexes, differing from the habitations or funeral ones, to be potentially included in the category of the places of worship or of the depositing habits.
By the absence of the necropolises and the presence of burials within the settlement precincts, the east-Carpathian area is roughly similar to Transdanubia. Some metal parts, which could be included in the category of the status objects, have different destinations in the Bodrogkeresztúr and the Cucuteni-Tripolje areas. Whereas in the Tisza basin the copper axes mark the social person of the deceased (being mainly associated with the deceased crouching on their right-hand side), or they appear in hoards consisting of one or more pieces (fig. 5) - in the east-Carpathian zone they appear in hoards situated on the settlement precincts, being deposited in crates, in association with jewels (Cărbuna, Horodnica, Brad). The copper daggers (fig. 6) found in precisely catalogued archaeological contexts are concentrated in the mid-Danube basin in tombs and hoards; by contrast, in the lower-Danube area, they are present in caves (Zlotska-Pécina and Băile Herculane, both of these representing cave sites). Gold jewels (fig. 7) appear in the Tisza basin in funeral contexts and in treasures, and in the east-Carpathian area in settlements (e.g.,Traian). The fact that, on the one hand, the jewelry of this kind appears in tombs with deceased crouching on their left-hand side and the copper axes appear in tombs with deceased buried crouching on their right-hand side, while, on the other hand, there are no cases in which these categories of parts are associated to funeral contexts or to hoards pleads for the inclusion of the hoards of this period into the category of the oblations/purposeful hoards , the difference between gold and copper acquiring a symbolical rather than an economic value. There exists a certain relationship between the metal pieces and the anthropomorphic idols: while in the Tizsa basin, functioning as a major metallurgical centre, the metal pieces appear quite frequently in tombs and hoards, whereas the anthropomorphic idols are missing in the neighbouring zones, which mark the limit of the area with Bodrogkeresztúr findings and which represent just secondary metallurgical centres, anthropomorphic idols are frequent in settlements, either in the culture layer or in the worshipping complexes. ?n the following period (Cernavodă III-Boleráz; Baden-Coțofeni) the situation changes: in the Tisza basin the anthropomorphic idols reappear and the number of metal pieces is reduced, whereas in the former Cucuteni-Tripolje area, the anthropomorphic idols (formerly met with only in settlements) appear quite frequently in the post-Tripolje tombs. These differences correspond to differing social structures expressed through the careful marking of the individual's social person in the funeral practices or through the existence of certain worshipping practices within the settlements.
The different weight carried by the settlements and by the necropolises within the geographical units of the middle and low Danube basin influences both the definition of the late eneolithic cultural groups in this area and their chronology. In the middle and lower Danube basin there exist archaeological contexts containing associated ceramic materials pertaining to different cultural groups (fig.9): Bodrogkeresztúr pottery associated with pill-shaped handle materials and with Cucuteni A-B and B material or with Balaton-Lasinja materials; Retz type ceramic associated with Boleráz material; Cucuteni A-B and B material associated with pill-shaped-handle materials; ceramic material decorated with successive stitches in association with pill-shaped handles. Thus, discoveries pertaining to cultural groups considered to be in a succession relationship appear associated in the same complexes. In a big number of sites, the Bodrogkeresztúr material appears in association with the Hunyadi-halom material (considered to be a later material); in addition, there exist funeral finds with grave inventories containing vases typical for both groups (Polgár-Basatanya, Paszab). It is quite possible for the Boleráz type discoveries to be accompanied, if only for a brief period of time, by the widespread style characterising materials decorated with successive stitches, spreading from the Czech and Slovak regions (and to be found in association with Boleráz ceramic materials) to Transdanubia (where they are included in the II and III phases of the Balaton group) and further, to the Drava and Sava rivers. The presence of certain Bodrogkeresztúr elements and of some ceramic material with pill-shaped handles in certain Cucuteni settlements suggests the contemporariness of Bodrogkeresztúr/pill-shaped handles with Cucuteni AB/Cucuteni B, which conclusion is also supported by the relationships with the eastern area of the Cucuteni-Tripolje cultural complex. By means of the Cucuteni culture it is possible to establish the contemporariness relationship obtaining between the Bodrogkeresztúr/pill-shaped handles and Cernavoda I.
Basing on typological proof mainly, but also on stratigraphy, the succession of the cultural groups from various regions was established, as follows: Balaton I - Balaton II/III; Ludanice - the ceramic group decorated in the Gajary style; Lasinja I - Lasinja II/III. The position occupied by the Bodrogkeresztúr group within this diagram is hard to fix, on the one hand, because of the existing affinities between it and the Ludanice group, and also because of the resemblance that some of its decorative motifs bear with the Gajary (post-Ludanice) style, as the different decoration techniques are subordinated to inlay; on the other hand, the difficutlry of determining its position within the diagram is due to the absence of any decisive elements for the internal periodization of the different cultural groups or ceramic styles, such as the settlements in several layers belonging to the same culture. The great frequency of the necropolises in the Tisza basin explains the tendency manifested by certain researchers to devise an internal division diagram for the Bodrogkeresztúr group, by defining the chronoloical phases of the necropolises (and of the entire Bodrogkeresztúr group) using the typological resemblance of some vases of the previous (Tiszapolgár) period or the presence of the pill-shaped handles. From this point of view, the Polgár-Basatanya necropolis occupies a major position owing to the presence of the tombs with Tiszapolgár, Bodrogkeresztúr or pill-shaped handle inventories. Thus, the Bodrogkeresztúr group was divided into two or three phases: by the typological resemblance with the Tiszapolgár ceramic, especially of the long stem vessels (of the early period), or by the presence of the pill-shaped handles and of the decoration with successive stitches (the early phase of the Bodrogkeresztúr group, or another cultural group referred to as Hunyadi-halom), there existing also a "pure" Bodrogkeresztúr phase (devoid of these elements). The planimetric analysis (fig. 8) proves the existence of different groups of tombs with Tiszapolgár ceramic (to the west of the necropolis) and with Bodrogkeresztúr ceramic (to the east of the necropolis and in its middle), which caused H. Parzinger to believe in an uninterrupted evolution of the necropolis from the west to the east, bearing upon the type II associations as well; in his opinion, this type could be further subdivided, by considering the smaller or greater distance of the Bodrogkeresztúr tombs from the Tiszapolgár ones and from the obvious vase groups in certain groups of the necropolis. These conclusions, however, need to be certified by the (as yet inexistent) stratigraphic data for these settlements.
According to the existing 14 C data, the Gumelnița and Tiszapolgár cultures (fig. 11,fig. 15), the Krivodol culture (fig. 14), the phases II and III of the Sălcuța culture (fig. 12,fig. 13) and the Lengyel III culture form a first group, whose cessation dates are situated somewhere in the period 4200-4000 ca1BC, later to disappear in favour of the Bodrogkeresztúr cultural group (fig. 16), the Balaton II-III group (fig. 18), the final eneolitic of Bulgaria (fig. 17),the Cucuteni AB and B cultural group (fig. 22,23), the Cernavoda I-Pevec group (fig. 24), the Retz one (fig. 19), the Baalberg cultural group (fig. 20), the TRB (fig. 21); 3800-3600 calBC represents the interval when these groups cease and the new period begins : the late TRB phase (fig. 25), Boleráz (fig. 26), Baden (fig. 27), Coțofeni (fig. 28). The dating in the 4200-3800/3600 calBC interval becomes imperative for the late eneolithic cultures and groups of the middle and lower Danube basin, i.e., Bodogoresztúr, Balaton, Sălcuța IV, Hunyadi-halom, the groups with ceramic decorated by successive stitches; there is a possibility for these cultures and groups to have survived even later, especially of the ones more widely spread (pill-shaped handles, ceramic decorated by successive stitches).
In the period called by the Hungarian archaeological school "the middle copper period", or "the late eneolithic period", in the Romanian school's terminology, respectively, two zones characterised by individualised features can be distingushed in the middle and lower Danube basin: Transdanubia and the Sava and Drava basins, on the one hand, and the region stretching from the Tisza and the lower Danube, as far as the mouth of the Argeș river, on the other side. In the first zone are concentrated the majority of the settlements, as contrasted to the second region, where we encounter a density of funeral discoveries. These zones are also delimited by means of other elements, such as: the different modality of depositing the metal pieces in the tombs or in hoards consisting of one or several pieces, the treatment given to the deceased. Judging from the latter standpoint, Transdanubia and Slovakia represent what we could call "conservative" zones, with a lot of elements ( such as the habitation type, in-situ burials in the settlement precinct, worship sites, ceramic types) taken over from the previous period and also forming a secondary metallurgical zone. The second zone, characterised by the frequency of the necropolises separated from the settlements, by impressive quantities of metal pieces and by a standardized funeral code offers a distinct image. The differences may be due to the varying social structures of the communities that make up these two geographical zones, to their respective positions in respect to exchanges and the mineral resources or it may be due to the different worshipping practices. These two zones are at one point covered by two ceramic fashions: the ceramic decorated by successive stitches (in the first region) and the ceramic with pill-shaped handles (in the second region), ostensibly intermix throughout the entire area.
It is worth noting that the ulterior discoveries (Boleráz) appear in the conservative regions (Transdanubia, Slovakia, Serbia) and in the lower Danube basin (the Cernavoda III variant), i.e., in the boundary zones of the former spreading area for the Bodrogkeresztúr group (fig. 10;). If we accept the chronological evolution generally accepted by the majority of researchers, Bodrogkeresztúr/, the horizon with pill-shaped handles - Boleráz/Cernavoda III, we have to admit a cultural hiatus in the Tisza basin and in Transylvania (with rare Boleráz-Cernavoda III discoveries), until the appearance of the first phases of the Baden and Coțofeni cultures. In the current research stage, there exist no arguments for defining, especially in respect to the Transylvanian table-land, a cultural group corresponding to the Boleráz and Cernavoda III finds.
The stratigraphical observations made in Oltenia and Muntenia regarding the unmediated successions of, respectively, Sălcuța IV- early Coțofeni (Sălcuța, Retevoiești, Băile Herculane) and Sălcuța III-Cernavoda III (Șimnic), Sălcuța III-Sălcuța IV (Sălcuța, Ostrovul Corbului, Teliš) indicate a probable contemporariness, or at least a partial contemporariness of the discoveries of the Sălcuța IV type with the Cernavoda III type ones. On the other hand, the typological closeness of some ceramic material ( cups and especially the decorations with trestle motifs, overlapping strands, handle decorations) attributed to the Coțofeni I culture of Transilvania and to the Boleráz culture of Slovakia ostensibly suggests some kind of closeness, at least chronologically speaking, between these two categories of discoveries. We have to take into consideration other arguments as well: the high C14 data for the Bulgarian Coțofeni culture; the C14 data for the north Danube Coțofeni culture (ranging from 3350 to 2700 BC) come from the Coțofeni III phase, as it is defined at present, with only one exception; the stable settlements with various levels (of Ostrovul Corbului, Bretea Mureșană, Sebeș-Râpa Roșie, Șincai) belong to the Coțofeni III phase, just as the funeral finds of this culture. When adding to these well-defined elements the fact of the spreading over different areas of ceramic material decorated by successive stitches and of ceramic decorated with strands (alongside other elements), some definitely outlined regional groups are observed to exist within the Coțofeni III phase; these are in obvious contradiction with the sparse elements connected to the so-called Coțofeni I phase, that cover a wide area.
From the end of the eneolithic and until the formation of the "cultural block" Baden - Coțofeni, in the middle and lower Danube basin, several wide-spread ceramic styles succeed each other (those with pill-shaped handles, the ceramic decorated by successive stitches, the Boleráz, Cernavodă III and Cernavodă I). There was a short period of time when these styles were in existence, and, for some reasons which I have tried to discuss previously, the "tiered" model for their evolution ought to be revised.

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