Version classiqueVersion mobile

The Human Face of Radiocarbon

 | 
Zoï Tsirtsoni

Chapter 1. The chronological framework in Greece and Bulgaria between the late 6th and the early 3rd millennium BC, and the “Balkans 4000” project

Zoï Tsirtsoni

Texte intégral

Introduction: The love-hate relationship between archaeology and radiocarbon dating2

  • 2 J. Evin, director for more than 20 years of the Lyon Radiocarbon Laboratory, used a similar express (...)
  • 3 Neustupný 1968; Todorova et al. 1975; Georgiev et al. 1979; Treuil 1983; Renfrew et al. 1986.

1The general outlines of the chronology of the Aegean and Balkan prehistory have been established over the last decades of the 20th century. Previously, it was believed that the development of the local Neolithic was altogether much slower than its Western Anatolian counterpart and that it only arrived at maturity when Anatolia was already entering the Early Bronze Age. The results from a number of excavations in multi-layered settlements that could be partly synchronised with some of the Anatolian sites ultimately brought down this scheme and pointed out the parallel developments on both sides of the Aegean Sea3.

2The contribution of the newly introduced absolute dating techniques, especially radiocarbon, in this reassessment was decisive. 14C dates not only corroborated the archaeological evidence, but they further triggered a number of questions, concerning, for instance, the date of the earliest metal objects and, ultimately, the origins of the Aegean and Balkan metallurgy, or the appearance of hierarchical traits in prehistoric societies – both considered as key-points in the transformation of the primary Neolithic societies into the more complex Chalcolithic and Bronze Age ones. More generally, absolute dates allowed archaeologists to perceive the historic depth of the different processes: some of them looked surprisingly slow, while others, on the contrary, seemed unexpectedly rapid. At various points of the chronological sequence several “dark spots” appeared (one might say, inevitably), which became the object of more or less vivid debates, when they were not simply ignored.

  • 4 The local archaeological community includes not only Greeks and Bulgarians, but also foreign schola (...)

3Indeed, for many years and even still today, the local archaeological community remained sceptical about the validity or usefulness of the numbers produced by radiocarbon dating4. Several factors contributed to this attitude:

  1. The results were not always in accordance with what was expected on the basis of archaeological evidence, either in terms of stratigraphic relationships (ex. samples coming from deeper, thus presumably older layers, giving younger dates than those collected higher), or in terms of material culture (ex. layers assigned to period A according to the finds, being dated by radiocarbon at period B).

    • 5 See for instance the comments in Demoule 2004, p. 183, about some of the 14C dates from Sitagroi an (...)

    The results were not always coherent with one another. Even samples taken from the same strata, or measures made from the same sample gave sometimes results that were distant from each other by several centuries: this justified of course suspiciousness, and was frequently invoked as proof of the method’s weaknesses5.

    • 6 This is typical of the Aegean Bronze Age, especially its Southern regions (Peloponnese, Cyclades, C (...)

    The method did not seem precise enough. The great statistical errors found in the earlier radiocarbon values (between 100 and 300 years BP during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s) left too much room for speculation. The resulting dates, sometimes spanning up to 1000 calendar years, were considered to be unsatisfactory, not to say completely useless, especially in areas where the material typological criteria allowed (or were presumed to allow) fixing the chronological framework with a precision of only a few generations6.

    • 7 A good synthesis of the developments up to the late 1990s is found in Waterbolk 1999. The evolution (...)

    The radiocarbon scientists have been constantly adjusting their methods (duration of the 14C half-life, calibration curves, “reservoir” effects)7. Such practices are not very frequent in human sciences, where revisions are usually considered rather as an acceptance of the original theory’s failure. Thus, instead of being recognized as improvements reinforcing the validity of the method, the successive changes induced a certain disbelief in the method altogether. Although this is not always stated openly, many archaeologists are deeply convinced that many of the current chronological problems in Aegean and Balkan prehistory have their origin in the radiocarbon method itself. Consequently, they expect them to be solved by physicists, or consider them as unsolvable.

    • 8 G. Hourmouziadis has publicly shared some of these opinions in one of his last talks at the annual (...)

    The very notion of chronological sequence is contested. This is the more marginal, and yet certainly the most interesting of the objections expressed so far. Its origin is philosophical: if time is continuous, it cannot be divided, and therefore, it cannot be measured8. But the critique is addressed to chronological divisions in general, and not specifically to radiocarbon dating.

The “4th millennium problem”

4The “Balkans 4000” project, part of whose results are discussed in the present volume, was conceived as an attempt to throw light on one of those “dark spots” in the Aegean and Balkan chronology, the so-called 4th millennium problem. In the present state of our knowledge, the number of sites or layers dated to the first centuries of the 4th millennium BC is indeed conspicuously low, especially compared to that of the preceding and the following periods. Although very few scholars have directly accused the radiocarbon method to be responsible for this gap, many of them underline the random character of the samplings, the big margins of error, and the real or hypothetical anomalies of the calibration curve, thus allowing room for hope that further or better-conducted measurements could change the picture.

5Things are however more complicated than that. Before anything else, one has to see how this evidence – in fact, this absence of evidence – fits the relative chronological sequence in the same areas. If the gap in radiocarbon dates coincides with an obvious break in the occupational sequence, its validity is reinforced; we can then start discussing its possible causes and/or the destiny of the humans involved in these changes. If, on the contrary, the chronological gap falls in a seemingly unbroken part of the sequence, other explanations should be sought. The confrontation with “standard” archaeological data – stratigraphy and material culture – is thus essential. In doing so, it is important to put things into some perspective, and adopt a frame of observation that embraces also the phenomena taking place before, as well as after, the debated period. This will not only help to understand the origins of the historical problem, if this proves indeed to be one, but also to appreciate how the “4th millennium problem” enters, or not, the different archaeological narratives.

The terminological confusion

6Before beginning to review in some detail the different stages of evolution in the two countries concerned by the project, Greece and Bulgaria, and the questions generated by the discrepancies between relative and absolute chronology, it is useful to recall the main features of the periodization systems used in each one of them. This will help to understand better some of the problems that will be discussed later in this book.

  • 9 The reasons will not be further analyzed here. For a more detailed discussion, see Tsirtsoni 2006.

7As in most parts of the world, there is no unanimity among scholars about the limits or the content, much less the names, of the various stages recognized in local developments. But in the areas and for the periods that we consider here, the phenomenon has taken on outrageous proportions. It is indeed difficult to find two chronological tables that agree completely with each other, and the reader of this book will remark that the authors feel regularly obliged to state which of all possible terms they choose to apply (e.g. “Late” or “Final Neolithic”, “Final Chalcolithic” or “Transitional period”, etc.), or to which “Late Neolithic” they refer! The reasons for this situation are epistemological, historical, and political, in the broad sense9.

8There are two main symptoms of the terminological confusion that reigns in the area:

  • the multitude of “cultures”, i.e. smaller or bigger taxonomic entities that reflect affinities between sites, and which are frequently used as equivalents of chronological phases;

  • the multitude of names used for describing the presumed socio-economic realities behind the phenomena observed.

  • 10 Younger readers should not forget that Greece was separated from Bulgaria and the other Balkan coun (...)
  • 11 The concept of archaeological “cultures” characterizes rather the German school of thought, and has (...)
  • 12 And whoever says originality, says priority: the next step is indeed, in most cases, to trace back (...)

9Both owe much to the extreme fragmentation of the archaeological practice, i.e. regionalism (in the interior of each country) and nationalism (between countries), which magnifies differences and favours antagonisms10. They are further sustained by the vicinity with other major historical and cultural entities (Anatolia, Near East, Eurasian steppes), each having its own chronological framework, as well as by the interaction with modern Western European schools of thought, carrying their own habits and taxonomical principles11. The absence of strong “federating” schemes, like the presence of palaces, for instance, in the later Aegean, leaves room for all kinds of combinations – and interpretations. Thus, the definition of a new “culture” or a new period is not only a convenient tool for comparing local phenomena with what has been already observed a few kilometres away, but also a way of claiming their difference or originality12.

  • 13 The best-known example of such change is the chronological position of the Thessalian “Larissa cult (...)

10Cultures” are first defined on the basis of the specificities, real or presumed, of the material evidence found on a site, and are later extended to other sites on the basis of affinities, real or presumed again, with the material evidence from those sites. Among the criteria used are settlements’ arrangements, funerary customs, and most of all, pottery styles. “Cultures” are thus perceived as taxonomic entities in a given space and time, reflecting some kind of contact between the population groups, although not necessarily ethnic affinities. They theoretically imply no statement of value, and their way of chronological ordering, which is of course tributary to the stratigraphical sequence at the eponymous sites (when a sequence exists), is more freely subject to changes13. In other words, “cultures” can be occasionally, but not necessarily, synonymous of periods or phases, knowing that the observed variations can be due not only to temporal changes, but also to other parameters such as coexisting traditions, differences in contexts, or simple recording distortions.

  • 14 These combinations differ from the so-called “cultural complexes”, which are large-scale agglutinat (...)

11Cultures” should not be confused with individual sites’ sequences either. In some cases, every phase in a sequence can be taken as typical of a “culture” (e.g. Karanovo I, II, III…, Ezero A-B), but in other cases a “culture” can be defined around only one, or only some, of a site’s many phases (e.g. the “culture” of Sesklo refers to the middle part of the site’s sequence). On the other hand, some “cultures” combine elements from the sequences of two or more neighbouring sites, e.g. Velušina-Porodin, Attica-Kephala, Bubanj-Hum, and others14. More importantly, a phase in a site’s sequence represents a more-or-less well-defined reality of a precise archaeological record, whereas a “culture” is an artificial entity that ultimately puts together some of the “highlights” of distinct archaeological records. In this sense, it is, like all generalizing concepts, highly reductive.

  • 15 See for instance, Lichardus et al. 1985, p. 225: “une ‘culture archéologique’ est une entité histor (...)

12Problems begin when “cultures” are used as equivalent to phases from single sites, or when they start having their own life and their own evolution, and being treated as historic phenomena followed over broader regions15. And this is indeed what happens in our area: “Dimini”, “Rachmani”, “Varna”, “Krivodol”, and others, are used as autonomous chronological units, displayed both horizontally and vertically on periodization grids. Thus, the “Rachmani culture”, defined on the basis of a presumably characteristic range of artefacts (specific vessel types decorated with incised and impressed decoration or with a paint applied after firing, acrolithic figurines, etc.), is thought to succeed “Dimini” in a particular geographical area (Thessaly), and to be contemporary with the “Krivodol culture” in another area (NW Bulgaria), the latter being defined on the basis of a different series of artefacts (two-handled vessels, impressed or barbotine decoration, etc.). “Rachmani” and “Krivodol” are also compared directly with phases from individual sites in other areas (Dikili Tash II, Karanovo VI…), then the whole thing is considered according to its socio-economic dimensions, in order to decide whether it should be ranged or not in the same evolutionary stage, sometimes called a “civilisation”. A serious semantic and methodological shift is obvious.

13Leaving aside the fundamental epistemological question of whether human history can be seen or not as a linear evolutionary process, the decision of where the dividing lines should fall and what names should be given to the various periods reveals the theoretical positions and the ambitions of their authors, and directly affects the construction of the periodization schemes. The term “Neolithic” is not perceived as merely a conventional taxonomic unit, but as the meaningful name of a true economic and cultural phenomenon, which should be clearly distinguished from names referring to phenomena of a different economic or cultural nature. The simple fact of calling a “culture” Neolithic rather than Chalcolithic (or the contrary), is sometimes enough for changing its position on the relative chronology grid.

14To summarize, it is clear that terminological confusion has a deforming effect on our perception of time, and ultimately on the way we deal with the archaeological record. Many problems come from the fact that synchronisms are based on affinities between “cultures” distant from each other by several hundreds of kilometres. The growing refinement of local or regional sequences further amplifies things, for it is rare that the same persons have a direct (and at the same time profound) knowledge of phenomena taking place, for instance, in Southern Romania and Thessaly or the Peloponnese. Authors repeat each another, focusing on the parts they know best, and arranging the others according to external references, filtered through their idea of how things should be. What the impact of these choices is on the chronological issue and how they articulate with the true or imaginary dating problems will be shown below.

The stages of development: a comparative outline of the evolutions in prehistoric Greece and Bulgaria

The “mature” Neolithic: expansion and innovation

  • 16 We do not discuss here at all the question of the neolithisation of Greece and the Balkans.
  • 17 This will be the only time that I evoke a date, just to situate the reader in the general timeline. (...)

15Our story starts at a time when the entire territory of present-day Greece and Bulgaria (fig. 1) is densely settled by people living in permanent sedentary villages and practising successfully a fully agro-pastoral economy16. All types of landscapes and natural environments have been conquered: fertile alluvial plains, marshy lowlands, river terraces, highlands, and islands, and humans seem equally well “at home” on low mounds established over the remains of pre-existent settlements (tells, called also locally toumbes, magoules, mogili, etc.), in newly founded flat settlements, as well as in caves, many of which are settled for the first time now. According to radiocarbon dates, we are some time after 5500 cal BC (table 1)17.

  • 18 For recent overviews of the developments in the Greek Neolithic see: Demoule & Perlès 1993; Alram-S (...)
  • 19 Especially A. Sampson and archaeologists working with him; see for instance: Sampson 1993a; Sampson (...)
  • 20 The “culture” of Dimini was defined as early as the 1900s by the excavator of this Thessalian site (...)
  • 21 Wace & Thompson 1912; Hauptmann & Milojčić 1969.
  • 22 Evans & Renfrew 1968.
  • 23 Recognized as early as the 1930s at the excavations of Orchomenos in Boeotia and Corinth in the Pel (...)
  • 24 Bakalakis & Sakellariou 1981. For the pottery types of this period in Macedonia (Greek and beyond), (...)

16In Greece, this period corresponds to the end of the Middle Neolithic and the beginning of the Late Neolithic I18 (or Late Neolithic Ia, according to some scholars19). It is also found locally under the group-name of the “pre-diminian” period, i.e. the period before the “culture of Dimini”, which characterizes the next stage20. Several local “cultures” are identified, especially in Thessaly around the sites of Tsangli and Arapi21, but also in the Cyclades around the insular “Saliagos culture”, which is considered to emerge in the latest part of this stage22. In Southern Greece, no eponymous site is put forward, but the whole area is part of the “matt-painted culture”, which makes reference to one of the dominant pottery decorative techniques23. At the other end of the country, in Aegean Thrace, it is again the pottery (grey undecorated with biconical shapes) that characterizes the local “Paradimi culture”24.

Fig. 1 – Map of present-day Greece and Bulgaria with the sites mentioned in the text.

* Used mainly by A. Sampson and other scholars working in the Southern Aegean.
Table 1 – Comparative chronology of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic and the beginning of the Early Bronze Age period in Greece and Bulgaria; state of research prior to the “Balkans 4000” project (various sources). Grey areas represent broadly claimed hiatuses in occupation.

  • 25 For recent syntheses of the periodization schemes and various “cultures” in Bulgaria see Boyadzhiev (...)
  • 26 But the reverse is not true: in Thrace there also exist flat sites on low terraces (e.g. Drama-Gere (...)
  • 27 Kanchev 1973; Nikolov 1993; Nikolov 1998.
  • 28 Defined by Berciu 1966 on the basis of his excavations at the eponymous site.
  • 29 Defined by Todorova & Vajsov 1993, and named after the sites of Topolnitsa (Promachon) in the middl (...)

17The latter shows strong affinities with the material culture in the neighbouring Bulgarian Thrace. It is the period of the “Karanovo III culture” and its local variants in the middle Struma valley (“Dolna Ribnitsa”), the Northeastern part of Bulgaria (“Usoe”) and the Northwestern part (“Kurilo” or “Brenica”)25. The distinction relies especially on the nature of settlements, i.e. the presence or not of multi-layered sites (tells), which seem indeed to be absent outside Thrace26. This stage, which is still called here “Middle Neolithic”, will rapidly give place to the next “Late Neolithic” period, characterized by a series of changes in the pottery repertoire of the dominant Karanovo sequence (“Karanovo IV” or “Vesselinovo culture”), including the appearance of the first incise-decorated vessels27. In the Northeastern part of the country, elaborate incised and impressed-decorated wares echo directly the ceramic productions of the Romanian “Hamangia culture”28, whereas in the South-West, the appearance of several dark-on-light painted wares is clearly connected to the Greek Late Neolithic I productions: they are thus included in the first Greek-Bulgarian trans-frontier “culture”, named “Akropotamos-Topolnitsa”29.

  • 30 Vasić 1932‑1936.
  • 31 About the origins of the Vinča culture and its Aegean and Anatolian connections, see Srejović & Tas (...)

18Taken as a whole, most of these “cultures” can be seen as regional variants of the so-called “Vinča civilisation” (stages A-B), named after the eponymous Serbian site30, and characterized, in terms of material culture, by the presence of grey and black polished wares, eventually decorated with light channels. This does not mean that the features that are described here have their origin in the Northern Balkans; it simply underlines the similarities in material culture over extremely extended areas, raising the question at the same time of the nature of the mechanisms behind these similarities31.

  • 32 This should be kept in mind when we draw comparisons with achievements from the later period, for t (...)

19Very few tombs are known for this period and most of them were arranged as intra-site burials and not in organized cemeteries. Thus, our knowledge about the social organization, the status, or the hierarchy of the different population groups relies almost exclusively on evidence from settlements32.

  • 33 Renfrew & Slater 2003; Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010.
  • 34 See Šljivar et al. 2006; Borić 2009; Radivojević et al. 2010.

20It is from settlements that come the first metal objects recorded in prehistoric Greece and Bulgaria: tiny beads or small pins from native copper indicate that the inhabitants of the area began to know the metals, although they are obviously using them very tentatively33. The similarities with the developments in the Western Balkans are, once again, worth noticing: the first copper artefacts, as well as the first evidence for mining in Serbian copper deposits, are indeed associated with material assigned to the Vinča B “culture”34.

  • 35 Up-to-date syntheses about the distribution of Spondylus are provided in Séfériadès 2010; Ifantidis (...)
  • 36 See also Douzougli 1998, p. 131.

21Several other elements of the material culture connect Greece to the Balkans: one of the most obvious is the presence, already in this period, of artefacts from Spondylus shells in sites of both areas. The Mediterranean, and most probably Aegean, origin of these shells is today accepted almost unanimously: it implies that networks of long-distance exchange existed between some of the Aegean coastal sites and those lying further to the interior35. Furthermore, it confirms the establishment of some common “tastes” in fields other than pottery, thus announcing what will be described as the “Balkan koine36.

The emergence of true metallurgy: continuity and change

  • 37 The term of “Chalcolithic” (from the Greek chalkos = copper) has been broadly used for many decades (...)
  • 38 And indeed they have been asserted: see Aslanis 1989 and 1992.
  • 39 Supra, discussion about terminology.

22The next stage is seen as a time of further developments and, eventually, of major changes in both material culture and social organization. The second position is more pronounced in Bulgaria, where the new achievements are believed to inaugurate a whole new era, called “Chalcolithic” or “Eneolithic”, by reference to the rising importance of metals, namely copper37. The latter seems indeed to be accompanied by a series of other features, such as the further intensification of exchange or the strengthening of architectural differentiation in and between settlements, which would justify the introduction of a new label. The Chalcolithic (or Eneolithic) period is subdivided, according to the usual tripartite scheme, into Early, Middle and Late, whereas a possible final stage is recognized in some areas (infra, p. 28-30). In Greece, on the contrary, the period that succeeds the Late Neolithic I (or Ia) is taken to represent a simple evolution of the already established “Neolithic” way of life, although some of the new features seen in Bulgaria could also be asserted here38; consequently, it is usually called Late Neolithic II (or Ib, respectively). In many parts of the country, the Neolithic option is maintained until the end of the Bulgarian Chalcolithic, and even beyond, but in others the passage to a local “Chalcolithic” is claimed soon after (infra, p. 23-24). Clearly we are presented with a divergence in points of view rather than in data properly speaking39.

  • 40 In Greece, such a movement has been proven at the flat settlement of Makrygialos in Central Macedon (...)
  • 41 Some of these “new” settlements could actually be transfers from neighbouring locations, distant by (...)
  • 42 Todorova 1978, 1979 and 1986.
  • 43 For Greek LN I sites surrounded by ditches, see Aslanis 2010 (mentioning among others, Arapi, Stavr (...)
  • 44 Tsountas 1908. Similar walls have also been discovered in the site of Palioskala: see Toufexis 2003 (...)
  • 45 Sesklo is abandoned, precisely, during the LN I period.

23Indeed, in both Greece and Bulgaria many settlements continue to develop in the same sites as before, even if some of them move slightly horizontally40. New settlements also appear, some of which display a completely new layout41. Many of them are surrounded by ditches, eventually reinforced by earthen walls and/or palisades. This practice, although first described in Bulgaria and considered to be one of the essential components of the emerging hierarchical societies of the Chalcolithic42, is now well attested both in Greece and Bulgaria at a much earlier stage43. Similarly, one of the most emblematic architectural features of the Thessalian Late Neolithic II, the construction of concentric stone-walls around some of the settlements (e.g. Dimini and Sesklo44), echoes earlier works (Sesklo); however we lack evidence about a direct affiliation between the two45.

  • 46 See Malamidou et al. 2006; Malamidou 2011.
  • 47 Phelps 2004, p. 96‑102; Douzougli 1998, p. 110‑117.
  • 48 Indeed, although more discrete, the black burnished and black-topped vessels with channelled decora (...)

24In Greece, the houses’ layouts and building techniques remain practically unchanged, whereas pottery fashions seem to develop in the same directions as in the previous period. Indeed, most of the regions that used dark-on-light painted decoration in the LN I continue to produce painted wares also in this period, although two diverging tendencies are obvious. In the North (Thessaly, Greek Central and especially Eastern Macedonia), we turn toward more elaborate and sophisticated products, possibly produced in a limited number of specialised workshops46, whereas in the South (Central Greece, Peloponnese) painted productions seem to get quantitatively fewer and technically simpler despite the presence of some fancy wares, like the polychrome “Klenia” and “Gonia ware”47. Black pottery is still present but undergoes some mutations, especially in the North-East (Eastern Macedonia) with the emergence of the highly decorative – although technically less demanding than the previous LN I black wares – graphite-painted pottery48. The latter connects this region directly to the “cultures” developed further North in present-day Bulgaria.

  • 49 Todorova & Vajsov 1993; Vajsov 2007.
  • 50 Todorova 1986, p. 127‑128; Chohadzhiev 2006, and 2007.
  • 51 Todorova 1978 and 1986. See also Schlor 2005, sp. p. 140‑144; Krauss 2008, p. 129‑133.
  • 52 See Demoule 2004, p. 155‑158, with discussion about the significance of the pottery groupings.

25Recent work has proven that the emergence of the graphite-painted pottery, which is one of the main characteristics of the Balkan Chalcolithic in general, takes place, precisely, in the contact zone between Greece and Bulgaria, and has its roots in the technological achievements of the previous “Akropotamos-Topolnitsa culture”49. The two areas remain strongly connected during the biggest part of the Bulgarian Chalcolithic, forming the so-called “Slatino-Dikili Tash culture”, which is considered to be one of the variants of the “Karanovo V-Maritsa culture” in Thrace50. The latter is one of those presumably long-living “reference-cultures” that displays not only several variants, but also several stages of internal development. According to specialists, a distinction should be made between the early stages, dominated by incised and incrusted wares deriving more or less directly from the previous Karanovo IV wares, and the later stages, dominated by graphite-painting51. However, the precise nature of these variations (i.e. whether they are indeed entirely chronological or not) has not been established in a completely satisfactory way52. Incised and graphite-painted wares also characterize the pottery productions further to the North, but their proportions and specific features differ from one region to another. Thus, to the East and North-East, the well-established tradition of the “Hamangia culture” (supra) persists during the early phases of the Chalcolithic and merges with the emerging “Sava culture” on the Black-Sea coast and the “Polyanitsa culture” in the interior, whereas the North-West is distinguished by the “Gradeshnitsa culture”. In all cases, there seems to be a progressive shift from linear incised pottery towards more and more graphite-painting.

  • 53 For a revision of Todorova’s fine periodization of the phase Karanovo VI in Thrace, see Petrova 200 (...)

26Graphite-painted decoration ultimately becomes the hallmark of the next sub-period in Bulgaria (“Late Chalcolithic”), although several other techniques are present as well: incised, impressed, grooved, barbotine, painted after firing… The country now splits into two parts: to the East spreads the broad “Kodzhadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI cultural complex” (usually abbreviated KGK VI), which stretches also to Southern Romania; to the West extends the “Krivodol culture”, part of the other major complex “Krivodol-Sălcuţa-Bubanj Hum” (abbreviated KSB), that reaches Southwestern Romania and Eastern Serbia. Both are believed to go through several successive stages of development – an element that should confirm their long duration and authorize fine chronological comparisons53.

  • 54 See Todorova 1986, p. 112; Boyadzhiev et al. 1993, p. 80.
  • 55 There is a growing interest about this issue. See the recent synthesis of Rosenstock 2009, and the (...)
  • 56 As they have been identified only through geomagnetic survey, we are not sure about their date (cf. (...)
  • 57 About the newly excavated settlements of Orlitsa and Varhari in the Eastern Rhodopes, see respectiv (...)

27Actually, in terms of material culture, there are many more similarities than differences between the two complexes, especially toward the late stages: indeed, some of the pottery types that were found initially only in the area of the KSB “culture” (two-handled vessels, “askoi”, vessels with barbotine decoration), are later well-represented also in the East54. The most striking difference is in the nature and location of settlements: whereas in the area of the “KGK VI culture” most of the sites are tells established in lowlands, in the area of the “KSB culture” there are only flat sites located on high, and usually steep, river terraces. In addition, most of the Eastern sites are surrounded by ditches and/or palisades, whereas those in the West are not. This difference has been interpreted as an adaptation to the field configuration: the naturally defensive position of the latter would indeed make useless the construction of a fortification system. This is not the place to discuss the question of what a tell is exactly55, or whether ditches and palisades are truly fortifications, or simply space delimitations. We should note however that some of the so-called “flat” Western sites are indeed multi-layered settlements (Krivodol, Ezero-Sadovets) and that conversely, some of the Eastern mogili do not exceed in height 3-4 m (e.g. Smyadovo). Their actual shape could therefore result from later taphonomical factors rather than from real differences in the settlement pattern during the Chalcolithic. Furthermore, some of the Western sites could have also been surrounded by ditches (e.g. Borovan56). Last but not least, recent fieldwork has increased evidence regarding the proportion of flat sites also in the broad area of the KGK VI culture, and even in the heart of the Thracian plain57. In other words, it is possible that the two “complexes” are indeed more similar to each other all the way through this period, and not only at the end.

  • 58 As often, the choice seems to be a question of school rather than argument: German-speaking authors (...)
  • 59 According to the terminology introduced by A. Sampson: see supra, n. 19.
  • 60 This is the “French” option, found among others in Lambert 1981, and the works of J. Deshayes and R (...)

28The Greek counterpart of the distinction between the Bulgarian Early-Middle and Late Chalcolithic (respectively the Karanovo V-Maritsa and the KSB/KGK VI “cultures”) is found in the distinction between the Thessalian reference-cultures of “Dimini” and “Rachmani”, and in a series of associated phenomena observed elsewhere in the country, such as the “Attica-Kephala culture” in Southern Greece. The stage corresponding to the “Rachmani” and “Attica-Kephala” “cultures” is usually described as “Chalcolithic” or “Final Neolithic”58, but also occasionally as “Late Neolithic II” (different from the commonly called “Late Neolithic II”, supra), further subdivided into (a) and (b)59; very rarely it is considered to be a simple prolongation of the common Late Neolithic II and not differentiated from it at all60. It is not surprising that authors need to specify which of the “Late Neolithics” they mean, nor that external readers have so much difficulty in reproducing correctly the suggested synchronisms!

  • 61 See among others, Kea-Kephala (Coleman 1977), Zas on Naxos (Zachos 1999), Samos-Tigani (Felsch 1988 (...)

29The main characteristic of this stage in Greece in terms of material culture (with the exception of Greek Eastern Macedonia which follows the Northern trends) is the almost complete disappearance of pottery with painted decoration applied before firing. The new wares, when they are not undecorated (which occurs more and more often), are incised, decorated with relief elements, or painted with coloured materials applied after firing – the so-called “crusted decoration”. Similar post-firing paints are also found, as already said, in the Bulgarian Late Chalcolithic pottery, alone or combined with other techniques, and this is one of the most frequently evoked “cultural” links between the two areas. Another trend of this phase in Southern Greece is the “pattern-burnished” decoration, i.e. the creation of simple geometrical motifs (oblique lines, hatches) by differential polishing of the vessel’s slipped surface. This kind of ware, which, technically speaking, has nothing to do with painting but produces a visual result that indeed very much resembles painted decoration, is not at all found in the North: its area of diffusion is clearly turned toward the South and the East, i.e. the Aegean islands and Asia Minor61.

  • 62 H. Todorova has gone as far as suggesting a total collapse between the two “cultures” (Todorova 199 (...)
  • 63 See Diamant 1974; Sampson 1993a; Sampson 1997; Sampson et al. 1999.
  • 64 For example, Agios Dimitrios in the Peloponnese (Zachos 2008), Platykampos-Galini in Thessaly (Touf (...)
  • 65 Johnson & Perlès 2004.

30In terms of settlement pattern, a certain renewal is obvious, although it is not as marked as sometimes suggested62. Indeed, according to many authors, this stage is characterized by a considerable increase in the number of settlements in caves – a phenomenon that would presumably reflect important changes in subsistence patterns, namely an increased role of animal-breeding and pastoralism. It appears however that most of the caves were already occupied during the preceding period (i.e. the LN II, according to the dominant terminology), or even earlier (LN I)63. On the other hand, among the newly founded sites there are also several open-air settlements that do not differ at all from those of the preceding period64. In Thessaly, a drop is noticed in the overall number of settlements between the Late Neolithic II (“Dimini”) and the Final Neolithic (“Rachmani”), but many sites are found in the same spots as before, and their size is not necessarily smaller65.

  • 66 For instance Treuil 1983; Alram-Stern 1996, p. 95‑101; Andreou et al. 1996; Dimakopoulou 1996; Alra (...)
  • 67 See Alram-Stern 2007 (with previous references), and Alram-Stern 2011, p. 201, fig. 1. This subdivi (...)
  • 68 Thus, the recent excavations at the cemetery of Tsepi in Attica have proved the combination of crus (...)
  • 69 Material from Petromagoula was first reported by Hatziangelakis 1984, and that from Doliana by Douz (...)

31Taken as a whole, the most striking feature of the Greek Chalcolithic (or Final Neolithic) would be its duration. The dominant idea, indeed, in the local archaeological literature is that “Rachmani” is a very long-lasting period (more than one millennium), which bridges culturally the Aegean Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age66. Some scholars have pinpointed the existence, locally, of more-or-less significant variations in pottery types and suggested the distinction of two sub-phases. Thus, in the region of Attica and neighbouring islands (Euboea, the Cyclades), a distinction has been proposed between an earlier “Agora-Kephala” stage, featuring crusted and pattern-burnished wares, and a later “North slope” stage, where such decorated wares would be extremely rare or missing67. But there is no proof that these variations are actually due to chronological differences nor that they are valid in other parts of the country as well68. The discovery of a specific type of vessel with incised decoration, not known from other “Rachmani” sites, in at least two settlements in Northern Greece (Doliana in Epirus and Petromagoula in Thessaly), gave grounds to believe that this “culture” had probably experienced some internal evolution, and that it might be possible to distinguish a last stage before the start of the Early Bronze Age proper69. The impact of this discovery was however until recently very limited, and the broadly accepted definition of the “Rachmani culture” and its Southern Greek counterparts has not been really put into question.

  • 70 See Slavchev 2010, with all the previous literature.
  • 71 Todorova 1978, p. 74‑79; Bailey 2000, p. 197‑208; Boyadzhiev 2002 and 2010.

32One of the essential components of the Bulgarian Chalcolithic, which is also one of its basic differences from its Greek counterpart, is the presence of rich organized necropolises. The most famous is of course that of Varna, with its ca 300 graves and its 6 kilograms of golden finds70. But it is not alone: several sites in the same area possess more or less extended cemeteries, closely related to settlements of the same period: Devnya, Durankulak, Smyadovo, and more recently Provadia. Their analysis has allowed the establishment of a true typology of Chalcolithic funerary customs, according to the gender and probably the social position of the dead persons71. More importantly, it revealed the wealth of these societies, reflected in the quantity and quality of the objects that accompanied some of the dead: ornaments made from imported Spondylus and other shells, flint-stone tools made with extraordinary skill, ornaments, tools and weapons from copper and gold…

  • 72 Coleman 1977; Sampson 1993a.
  • 73 The pits are generally more regular and their walls lined with stones. In Bulgaria, all graves are (...)
  • 74 At Kephala, some figurine fragments were reported from the area around the graves, but none were re (...)
  • 75 Among which, a few ring-shaped pendants (or “ring-idols”), presumably one of the major symbols of t (...)
  • 76 The idea about copper is very old (Todorova 1978, p. 62‑63). The idea about the exploitation of sal (...)

33In Greece, the only cemeteries known so far are those of Kephala, on the island of Keos (Northwestern Cyclades), and Tharrounia, in Central Euboea72. The comparison is more than disappointing: the graves, although built with greater care than those found in the Bulgarian cemeteries73, are few in number and rarely contain more than one or two small pottery or stone vessels. There are no ornaments, no metal tools or weapons, not even figurines – which would be the hallmark of the later Early Bronze Cycladic cemeteries74. The existence of necropolises that would have contained offerings similar to those found in Bulgaria can be deduced from the discovery in Northern Greece, but unfortunately out of context, of a number of gold ornaments like those of Varna75. But even so, the Greek archaeological record seems far behind the Bulgarian discoveries. Therefore it is presumed that this situation reflects a true difference in the social structure between the two countries, which in turn would be the result of differences in their economy. The key of the Bulgarian success was likely the large-scale exploitation of high-valued mineral resources, namely copper and salt76.

  • 77 Nikolov 2008 and 2012; Nikolov et al. 2009.

34It would be surprising that in a country like Greece people did not produce sea salt. Yet, there is no evidence so far in the archaeological record for an even occasional exploitation of this important sea resource. On the contrary, prehistoric salt-producing centres have been excavated in recent years in both Bulgaria and Romania: one of them lies at Provadia, west of the Varna lagoon. Its use begins in the Bulgarian Late Neolithic, but the peak of its activity is situated in the Middle and Late Chalcolithic. Its life thus seems to parallel the emergence of rich hierarchical societies in this area, and its end coincides with the latters’ end77.

  • 78 The earliest positive evidence about the exploitation of the silver mines at Siphnos dates to the F (...)
  • 79 Chernych 1978; Pernicka et al. 1997, p. 131‑133; Pernicka & Anthony 2010, p. 170‑173.
  • 80 Concerning gold, the identification of sources is getting more complicated due to the use of alluvi (...)
  • 81 Anthony 2010, p. 35; Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010.

35Similarly, although Greece is quite rich in metals (copper and gold in the North, especially Eastern Macedonia and Chalkidiki peninsula, silver in Attica, silver and gold on the island of Siphnos in the Cyclades), their exploitation seems to have been very limited before the Early Bronze Age78. On the contrary, there are at least two major copper-extracting centres in Bulgaria during this period: one is Aibunar, in Thrace, and the other is Medski Rid, near Burgas, on the Black Sea coast79. There is no concrete evidence for gold mining, but it is possible that the ores found in the Sredna Gora and Sakar Mountains (Southeastern Bulgaria) were already known in the Late Neolithic. Their exploitation could have been a response not only to local demands but possibly also to those from neighbouring areas80. In other words, what would have explained the astonishing enrichment of the Bulgarian Chalcolithic society is not the metalworking itself, which is attested also in Greece by a number of sporadic metallurgical finds (crucibles, slags, tuyères, etc.) and a few local types of artefacts (ornaments, daggers), but the privileged access to raw materials81.

36In conclusion, Greece and Bulgaria seem to participate from the late 6th millennium BC onward in a broad cultural phenomenon leading to the adoption of common technical achievements and aesthetic preferences. This phenomenon also takes place in other parts of the peninsula. It has been described as the “Balkan koine”. But inside this “koine”, like in all phenomena of this kind, there are significant variations: some of them seem truly important, whereas others might be magnified by the optic of different scholars.

The transition to the Early Bronze Age

37The most striking difference between the archaeological narratives in the two countries concerns the form and the conditions under which this phenomenon comes to an end.

  • 82 The only scholar so far to have claimed the existence of a serious break between the Greek Neolithi (...)

38In Greece, as we said already, the majority of scholars estimate that the Neolithic (or Chalcolithic) way of life progressively undergoes a rather deep, but smooth transformation toward a new state of things, which becomes archaeologically visible by the end of the 4th millennium BC under the name of “Early Bronze Age”. The key concepts here are “progressive” and “smooth”. In that sense, the discussions about the unity or not of the “Rachmani culture”, its subdivisions, the existence or not of a final stage between it and the starting EBA (supra), are secondary, since they do not put into question the overall continuous character of the transition82.

  • 83 Todorova 1995, p. 89‑90; Weninger et al. 2009, p. 34‑44. The local changes would be connected with (...)
  • 84 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 173; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 358‑359; Draganov 1998, p. 218. The steppes invasion h (...)
  • 85 Todorova 1995, p. 89‑90.

39On the other side of the border, the picture is completely different. The dominant version here is that of a break: social, cultural, economic, and even demographical. According to it, the Chalcolithic civilisation collapses in a rather brutal way many centuries before the start of the Early Bronze Age; the greatest part of its achievements (metallurgy, social hierarchy, aesthetic refinement) is lost during this collapse, and the EBA appears as a totally, or almost totally, new start. The causes of this dramatic situation could lie in environmental changes, themselves connected to important changes in climate83, in human factors (conflicts, invasions)84, or possibly both. The transitional period, eventually subdivided into a “Final Chalcolithic” and a “Proto-Bronze” stage, would have been a time of reorganization of the country’s living forces, marked by the arrival of new population elements85.

40How is it possible to consider two so contrasting versions of History in two adjacent areas that shared up until then a common (even if not uniform) socio-economic and cultural background? Did the invaders, or the cataclysmic effects, stop at the frontier? Did they cross it and Greeks didn’t see it? If one side is right, does it mean that the other is wrong, or could the truth stand somewhere in between? After all, what do the data tell?

41The data, it is well known, whether archaeological, paleoenvironmental or other, tell much what one wants to hear. The different points of view expressed in the chapters of this book are just another illustration of this well-guarded scientific secret. There are however some stable bases for discussion, which we will try to enumerate in the following pages.

The question of continuity in material culture

42The first question one asks when determining whether or not there is continuity or discontinuity between two historical phenomena is: do their material cultures look related? In other words, do the achievements, productions, etc., of what follows recall or resemble what precedes. Naturally, everybody expects to have minor or major differences, things that drop off and things that appear. In addition, even if this is not an automatic idea anymore, most of us expect to see some kind of progress made in at least some fields. Finally, although we are all more or less conscious that external similarities are not always synonymous of direct ideological or social connections, we admit that when two successive phenomena in the same geographical area share a number of features, there exists between them some kind of derivation.

43In this respect, the different states of evidence in the two countries partly explain the different approaches concerning the Neolithic/Chalcolithic-Bronze Age transition.

  • 86 Similar questions have been asked for other parts of the Balkans (see for example Bognár-Kutzián 19 (...)

44Indeed, the contrast in the material culture between the Late Chalcolithic and the beginning of the EBA in Bulgaria seems radical: no more elaborate shapes and richly decorated vessels, no more fancy figurines and miniatures (one of the most singular trends of the Bulgarian and generally Balkan Chalcolithic), no more Spondylus bracelets and other exotic items, no more rich necropolises… Decorated vessels (of much simpler style and technique however, mostly incised) will again make their appearance at a second stage, but in the first Bronze Age layers all pottery is dull-coloured (grey, brown, black), with a limited inventory of shapes, and the only decoration eventually present are some grooves or impressions, or simple applied motifs. Metalworking is present, but uses new techniques and materials (namely arsenical copper, used alongside pure copper), and produces essentially tools and arms; gold (which will appear, too, at a later stage) is completely absent from these very first Bronze Age layers. By all evidence something serious separated the two86.

45Actually, both the disappearance of “old” elements and the appearance of “new” seem to be altogether progressive, but this progression is not uniform; its fluctuations are in fact one of the elements used in the various scenarios about the causes of the presumed collapse (see infra).

  • 87 Lichardus et al. 2003; Gleser & Thomas 2012.

46The break seems very brutal in Thrace, where nothing seems to get between the “mature” KGK VI and the EBA I “Ezero culture”. The only site so far where a stage preceding Ezero A has been recognized, is Drama-Merdzhumekja, in the Eastern part of the Thracian plain: the related finds have practically nothing in common with their Chalcolithic counterparts, but they do show parallels with the Romanian “Cernavoda III culture”87, thus supporting the idea of a foreign infiltration. Its presence does not change the nature of the transition properly speaking, which remains brutal, as far as it concerns the material culture.

  • 88 Vajsov 1993, p. 117‑118.
  • 89 For the “sceptre” from the cemetery of Kyulevcha, see Vazarova 1986. For discussions see Georgieva  (...)
  • 90 Manzura 1999.
  • 91 These are actually vertical handles with a flattened attachment in the lower end, known mostly unde (...)

47A similar situation is found in Northeastern Bulgaria, where some signs of the forthcoming EBA are seen with the so-called “Hotnitsa-Vodopada” or “Pevets culture”. The most important is the presence (in very small numbers however) of objects made from arsenical copper, which distinguish themselves from the previous Chalcolithic productions in the same area88. The pottery displays affinities with that of the “Cernavoda I culture”, named after the eponymous site in Southeastern Romania: this fact is considered to be a sign of the infiltration (or invasion, according to the authors) of foreign elements in the Bulgarian territory originating ultimately from the steppes to the North of the Black Sea, as suggested also by the sporadic presence of a particular kind of zoomorphic “sceptres” with parallels in those areas89. The newcomers used a new kind of fabric for their ceramics (shell-tempered) and a new decorative technique (“false corded” or “caterpillar”), which were not known in the area before and which would be further used during the standard EBA in the same area90. Another original morphological feature in pottery are the so-called “disc-like handles”, but whose origin lies probably to the West, and not to the North91.

  • 92 Todorova 1995, p. 90: “there is no evidence for settlement discontinuity between the two stages of (...)
  • 93 See supra, p. 23. About the chronological position of these sites, see Georgieva 2005 (with further (...)
  • 94 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Boyadzhiev et al. 1993, p. 82.
  • 95 Panayotov 1989 and 1995; Nikolova 1999; Alexandrov 2011.

48In Northwestern Bulgaria, the ends of the two stages seem practically to touch each other and it is maybe the only part of the country where the collapse scenario looks invalid92. The Chalcolithic is indeed prolonged here by an ultimate stage (“Krivodol-Sălcuţa-Bubanj Hum IV”, not to be confused with the simple “Sălcuţa IV culture”, see right below), which preserves many characteristics of the previous stage, for instance graphite-painting in pottery, found however in some new combinations – with impressed, barbotine, or crusted decoration. In fact, similar pottery is sporadically found also in some sites in Thrace (Kozareva Mogila, Stara Zagora Mineralni Banii), and thus it is not impossible that the two major Chalcolithic complexes disintegrate together after all93. In NW Bulgaria we also witness the appearance of new types of objects (especially heavy tools) made from cast copper: these objects have direct parallels further to the North and West, in the so-called “Bodrogkeresztúr culture”, found in the Middle Danube valley94. The following “proto-Bronze” stage (locally called “Galatin culture”, considered to be a variant of the Western Romanian “Sălcuţa IV culture”) sees the disappearance of all pottery with graphite and the appearance of vessels with “disc-like handles”, made from coarser (eventually shell-tempered) fabrics, like those found further East in the “Pevets culture”. The full EBA will be manifested in this area by the use of a pottery almost completely devoid of any decorative elements, coming essentially from a new type of grave (barrows)95.

  • 96 Georgieva 1993b; Georgieva 2007.
  • 97 Grembska-Kulova 2002. For the two copper daggers from Haramiiska Dupka (non arsenical copper), see (...)
  • 98 Draganov 1998; Georgieva 2003. The site of Sozopol has also provided an artifact (a bone spoon) who (...)

49Finally, at the other areas in the South (i.e. outside Thrace), the existence of an ultimate Chalcolithic stage is attested by the presence of pottery recalling the “KSB IV” graphite-painted, crusted and impressed-decorated vessels96, and, more unusually, copper artefacts recalling “Bodrogkeresztúr” types97. This is especially true for the mountainous area of the Rhodopes (see below) but also for the coastal area around Sozopol98. But the equivalent of the Northern “Proto-bronze” stage has not been clearly established here and the Early Bronze Age features seem to appear here almost as suddenly as in Thrace.

  • 99 See Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010; see also Pullen 2011, p. 631‑633.
  • 100 A silver pendant from grave 19 of the Tsepi cemetery in Attica: Pantelidou-Gofa 2005, pl. 21.7.
  • 101 See among others: Johnson 1999; Pullen 2000; Pullen 2011; Alram-Stern 2011; and also Kakavogianni e (...)

50In Greece, on the other hand, especially the Southern part, the contrast is less sharp, partly because the achievements there had never reached the level attained in some Bulgarian sites, and partly because the “decline”, in aesthetic terms, had already started during the advanced stages of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic (supra). The difference between a typical pottery inventory from a Final Neolithic site in, let’s say, the Peloponnese or even Thessaly, and its Early Bronze Age I equivalent are minor, and several types seem to derive directly from Neolithic antecedents. The same is true for a large part of the metal artefacts, especially the triangular copper daggers, which appear in the last stages of the Neolithic and continue unchanged (including their composition) to the EBA I99. Even the emblematic Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic “ring-pendants” have possible descendants among some ornaments from very early EBA I contexts100. The effect of continuity is more pronounced as one moves to the South (e.g. the Cyclades, Crete) or toward areas that appear to have been settled late in the local Neolithic sequence (e.g. Northeastern Aegean islands). In many of these areas, a new “FN-EBA I” (or “FN-Early Helladic I”) label has been created for designating contexts that have indistinguishable features of the two periods, and which are implicitly or explicitly admitted to represent a true chronological interface101. To the North however (Greek Macedonia and Thrace), the picture is closer to that of neighbouring Bulgaria.

The question of continuity in settlement

51Both in Bulgaria and in Greece (Northern and Southern), a great number of EBA I settlements are established at the same spots where settlements of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic period existed. This is most evident in open-air multi-layered settlements (whether actually characterized as tells or not, see supra), but also concerns several caves. This persistence in occupation is troubling: taken on its own, it could be considered as a sign of continuity, especially when there is no evidence of a stratigraphic hiatus (i.e. layer of abandonment), but in practice the question is directly connected with the previous issue of the material culture. Indeed, in sites where the latter displays a “normal” evolution, i.e. with many similarities (or at least, not such striking differences) between the last Neolithic/Chalcolithic and the first EBA layer, one readily admits that the transition from one to the other was smooth. Conversely, when the differences in the material culture are clearly important, one tends to speak about discontinuity, even if the layers directly succeed one another. It remains then to explain, how long the interval actually was between the two settlements (if an interval existed), and where did the people go during it. These are precisely the two “thorniest” issues in our discussion.

The question of the overall occupation density

52Hiatuses are frequent in individual settlements’ histories, and no one makes a story when a site or a group of presumably contemporaneous sites is abandoned, for in most cases the next stage in the broader regional cultural evolution is represented in some other neighbouring sites.

  • 102 With the exception of Drama-Merdzhumekja: supra, n. 87.
  • 103 Anthony 2010, p. 45, reports more than 600 tell settlements in the distribution area of the “KGK VI (...)
  • 104 Merkyte 2007, p. 40, fig. 33.
  • 105 Draganov 1995, p. 236; Draganov 1998.

53But what happens when there is no evidence for the kind of situation that replaces the one now lacking in the abandoned settlements? This is indeed the picture we get from many parts of the two countries, frequently the very same parts that flourished the most in the previous period. In Bulgaria, practically no site is recorded for the period between the end of the Chalcolithic and the start of the EBA, as we know it culturally from other regions, in the entire Thracian plain and the Northern part of the Black-Sea coast102. Let us be reminded that these were the most densely settled areas during the Chalcolithic103, and that the latter was also the area that hosted the most brilliant achievements for this period: the necropolis of Varna and the salt-producing centre of Provadia. The shock is indeed great! In fact, hardly 30 sites of this transitional period are known in the whole country104, and they are concentrated in two regions that appear like “refuges”: the Northern foothills of the Balkan range in Northwestern Bulgaria, and the Rhodope Mountains to the South, close to the frontier with Greece. A third area may have existed in the Southern part of the Black-Sea coast, near the city of Sozopol, but it would have been abandoned rapidly afterwards as well105.

  • 106 Especially the cave of Maaras at the Angitis sources; see Trantalidou et al. 2005a, 2006.
  • 107 Papadopoulos 2007; and also Koukouli-Chrysanthaki & Papadopoulos, chapter 18 in this volume.
  • 108 A drop was seen instead in the transition from LN II to the FN, see supra.
  • 109 Weisshaar 1989. See also discussion by Toufexis (chapter 19) and Adrymi-Sismani (chapter 21) in thi (...)
  • 110 Johnson 1999; Christmann & Karimali 2004.
  • 111 Coleman 2011, p. 28‑29, indeed suggests considering this “Petromagoula-Doliana group” as the Greek (...)

54On the other side of the frontier, big tells like Dikili Tash or Sitagroi also seem to experience a hiatus in their occupation, but evidence from more “marginal” cave sites could sustain, on the basis of pottery affinities with the Rhodopian sites, the hypothesis of a continuation of life in the area106. Similarly, on the opposite island of Thasos a series of settlements could, if put together, bridge the whole transition from the mature graphite-painted “cultures” of the local Late Neolithic II to the first monochrome EBA I productions107. Evidence is very scarce in Central and Eastern Macedonia, but in Thessaly, where the archaeological record is richer, the “Rachmani culture” is generally admitted to be followed directly by the EBA I without any serious drop in the number of sites108. It has even been suggested, on the basis of evidence from the tell of Pefkakia, that part of this “culture” is actually EBA, but this idea has been rejected almost unanimously by the archaeological community109. Instead it has been convincingly argued that a separate stage should be distinguished at the transition between the two: this “FN-EBA” stage (supra) is attested so far in a very small number of sites110, enough however to establish its existence and confirm that the area was at no point found uninhabited. Interestingly, this stage shows affinities to some of the features found in Bulgarian “Proto-bronze” sites: could this be a start of a consensus111?

  • 112 This seems to be the result from a number of surveys (for instance Runnels et al. 1995; Mee & Forbe (...)
  • 113 Several authors suggest in fact that the majority of the new sites fall at the end of the FN period (...)

55Further to the South, the evidence is at the same time more overwhelming and less precise. As we said already, the diagnostic features of the two periods are becoming more and more indistinguishable. The general impression is that the number of sites not only does not drop during the Final Neolithic, but it actually increases112. The problem is that, precisely because of this quasi-uniformity in the FN-EBA I material culture, we are unable to say in what timespan they fall. Are they all contemporary? In that case, and if the overall period of the transition lasted several centuries, they could be grouped together in any part of it (the start, the middle or the end), thus leaving a place for a gap in the general region’s occupation113. If they are not all contemporary, then the presumed increase of settlements would be just a “flattened image”. The area would not be depopulated as presumed for Bulgaria, but could suffer a decline after all.

The question of the duration

56All questions converge indeed on that. What are we talking about? A rapid shift from one settlement pattern and one material culture to another, or a long period of evolution? How long? Is it the same everywhere or are there variations according to region? And if yes, in which part of the transitional period do these variations occur? The beginning, the middle, or the end?

  • 114 Already in the late 1960s, with the series of Azmak, Karanovo and Ezero (Kohl & Quitta 1966, p. 32‑ (...)
  • 115 See infra, “The evidence from radiocarbon dating”.
  • 116 At the site of Mandalo: Maniatis & Kromer 1990. In fact, a similar gap had already been detected se (...)
  • 117 See supra, p. 13‑14.
  • 118 Among others Pefkakia (Weisshaar 1989, p. 139), Dikili Tash (Treuil 1992, p. 33‑36).
  • 119 With the exception, as already said, of J. Coleman (supra, n. 82).

57This is also where radiocarbon enters the scene more actively. As long as the duration of the different phenomena was only estimated on the basis of comparisons between stratigraphic and pottery sequences, all possibilities were open. But when the first series of 14C measures arrived, in the late 1970s, and showed that in some cases the last Neolithic/Chalcolithic levels were separated from the earliest Bronze Age by almost one millennium, the tone changed. The fact that evidence was first collected in Bulgaria114 explains to a great degree why it was here that the concept of the break won the most ground. The repeated character of the evidence was also important: the phenomenon was observed not in one or two sites but in several of them, and with more or less identical results115. The first time that the gap was detected on a Greek site and clearly claimed as such, it produced the same surprise116, but the isolated character of the statement, together with a certain resistance of the local scientific community (after all, the discovery was announced by two radiocarbon scientists, not archaeologists117), did not lead exactly to the same conclusions. Even when concomitant evidence arrived from further sites118, nobody really adhered to the occupation break thesis and most discussions about the Neolithic-EBA transition continued to imply that the absence of 14C dates from the 4th millennium would be due to other factors, and not necessarily to a gap in settlement119.

  • 120 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 353.
  • 121 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 358‑359.

58The question of the duration is important because it is used as a measure of change. According to the point of view one adopts, it might give the measure of the “shock” suffered by the Neolithic/Chalcolithic populations (the time needed to overcome the disastrous effects of the collapse), or illustrate the slow pace of the developments. It all depends on what one puts inside this interval, as well as at its ends. Moreover, the eventual fluctuations of this time gap over the different regions is potentially significant. H. Todorova bases her cataclysm scenario upon the observation of an earlier abandonment of the sites in the lowlands (North-East Bulgaria and Thrace) compared to that of the sites in the hinterland (North-West Bulgaria). Y. Boyadzhiev suggests instead that this corresponds to the trajectory of the invaders from the steppes and to the subsequent movements of the local populations, and notices that the last Chalcolithic settlements in Thrace could actually have been abandoned a little later than those of the North-East (the latter being more on the “frontline”)120. Both authors, as well as several others who follow them, agree that the presence of later settlements in caves of the Rhodope Mountains to the South, belonging to a “degenerated” final stage of the Chalcolithic, is the result of a movement of refugees from the abandoned plains towards these inhospitable, and so far uninhabited, highlands121.

59It is time to take a closer look at the radiocarbon evidence from the two countries.

The evidence from radiocarbon dating

  • 122 Inventory established by the author, with the help of Nicolas Doutau, using a Filemaker database. F (...)
  • 123 Sites dated with archaeomagnetism include Ovcharovo, Telish, Russe, Yunatsite, and others; for a su (...)

60Until 2007 (i.e. when the “Balkans 4000” project was initiated), there were approximately 480 published 14C dates from Greece and Bulgaria, split almost fifty-fifty between the two countries, for levels or features that are archaeologically assigned to the later stages of the Neolithic, including the Chalcolithic and transitional periods, and to the initial stages of the Early Bronze Age122. This is the evidence on which all the discussions about the chronology of the various “cultures” and periods in the two countries were based (table 1). It was completed by a small number of dates obtained by other methods, such as TL (in Greece) and archaeomagnetism (in Bulgaria), whose impact was, however, altogether very limited123.

  • 124 Higham et al. 2007. Their impact has been abundantly discussed: Gaydarska 2011; Chapman 2013.
  • 125 Gleser 2011. Three other series of dates from settlements were published that same year, with less (...)
  • 126 Pappa 2008, table 5.2.
  • 127 Sampson et al. 2009, p. 202‑204.
  • 128 Maniatis & Papadopoulos 2011; Maniatis & Facorellis 2012.

61In the years between 2007 and 2012, were added some seventy more dates in the two countries (except of course for those produced in the frame of the “Balkans 4000” project). From Bulgaria, the most significant series was that from the graves of Varna, which put the discussion about the Bulgarian Late Chalcolithic on a completely new basis124, and those from the two neighbouring settlements in Drama (Gerena and Merdzhumekja) in Eastern Thrace; the latter is particularly important, for it refers to the unique, so far, pre-Early Bronze Age I occupation level in this area (supra)125. In Greece, one should note those from Makrygialos in Central Macedonia126, Sarakinos cave in Boeotia127, and Agios Ioannis and Limenaria on the island of Thasos128. They brought the total number of dates to ca 550.

62Naturally, not all of them are equally precise, neither in terms of physical measurements nor in terms of archaeological contexts. Furthermore, many of them present smaller or bigger problems, most of which are common to radiocarbon dating in general (supra, p. 14), but some are specific to the particular time and place. We encounter among the former the various calibration problems (e.g. “plateaux” due to the sharp variations in the calibration curves), the differences in the mode of expression of the radiocarbon dates (raw BP, uncalibrated bc, or calibrated at 1 or 2 sigmas), or the a priori connexion of the 14C dates from individual levels/events with specific “cultures”; we will have the occasion to comment further upon some of these problems. On the other hand, the inequalities in the distribution of 14C dates in geographical and chronological terms, as well as in terms of the types of sites represented, is specific to this context. There is nothing wrong with that: it is natural to have more samples dated from big sites than from small ones, from sites or from levels that are investigated systematically rather than from short salvage or side-operations, from contexts where “good” samples are abundant (burnt levels, tombs) than from poor or eroded contexts. We simply need to keep in mind that such selection procedures lead to biases, and some of our lacunae could actually be due to them.

  • 129 The dates are discussed in BP values and after calibration at 2 sigmas (95.4% confidence), without (...)

63Considering these limitations, we could establish the chronological relationship between the different stages of development as follows129.

64In both Greece and Bulgaria, the “mature” Neolithic stage is considered to start, as we said already (supra, p. 17), towards 5400/5300 BC. Its end is placed in the early centuries of the 5th millennium: around 4900/4850 BC according to Bulgarian scholars, towards 4800/4700 BC according to Greeks. These estimations are based on the evidence from ca 170 dates 14C dates for levels assigned to this period, covering the interval between approximately 6700 and 5900/5800 BP. Their distribution is very unequal and many regions are under or not at all represented (e.g. Thessaly, Peloponnese, Northern Bulgaria as a whole), but the suggested interval seems securely bordered, taking into account also the dates concerning the end of the preceding stage and the start of the next.

  • 130 Most of them are from big tells in Thrace and NE Bulgaria (Azmak, Drama, Ovcharovo, Golyamo Delchev (...)
  • 131 Two dates from Yagodina (Bln-2358, Bln-2245) are considered as outliers; see Görsdorf & Boyadhziev  (...)

65The latter (i.e. the Bulgarian Early-Middle Chalcolithic/Greek Late Neolithic II-“Dimini”) would cover the rather short interval between 6000/5900 and 5700 BP, or, after calibration at 2 sigmas, the years between ca 4900/4800 and 4500 BC. This stage is so far attested by some 35 14C dates in Bulgaria representing the biggest part of the territory130, but not all of it: for instance, we have no dates from the Northwestern part of Bulgaria (the area of the “Gradeshnitsa culture”, supra, p. 23), nor from the mountainous area on the Greek-Bulgarian border (the Rhodopes), which is thought to have been uninhabited131. In Greece, the ca 65 available 14C dates are distributed, although not equally, from Eastern Macedonia and Thrace to the Cyclades and Crete.

  • 132 Again, there are practically no dates for NW Bulgaria and the Rhodopes. The three dates from the la (...)
  • 133 Including those from Pefkakia in Thessaly, Mandalo (phases Ib-II) in W. Macedonia, most of the date (...)
  • 134 This seems to be the case, among others, of some dates from Sitagroi, Paradeisos, Dikili Tash, or K (...)
  • 135 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 367, n. 8. See also Boyadzhiev & Aslanis, chapter 9 in this volume.
  • 136 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 171. Other, simpler explanations might be conceived however, starting from the (...)
  • 137 See Todorova 1995, p. 88 (where a moderate version is expressed, deploring the insufficient study o (...)
  • 138 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Todorova 1998, p. 41, and table 3. This scheme in fact ignores not only the e (...)

66This stage would be followed by a period of roughly equal duration, until approximately 5500/5400 BP (= ca 4300/4200 BC), where the quasi-totality of the 14C dates belonging to the Bulgarian Late Chalcolithic in Northeastern Bulgaria and Thrace (the area of the KGK VI “culture”, ca 80 dates in total)132 and many of the dates assigned to the Greek Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic (i.e. “Rachmani” and assimilated) phenomena (ca 60 dates) are concentrated133. Indeed, although some of them give intervals with a lower limit after 4300/4200 or even after 4000 BC, it is probable that this is due to the big standard deviation of the original measurements rather than to a true prolongation of occupation134. This situation is considered by some scholars to be very intriguing, if not to say abnormal, considering the great difference in the thickness of deposits corresponding to the two stages at a number of multi-layered settlements135. The overlapping of some of the dates with those obtained from levels assigned to the previous period has also been pinpointed as an additional sign of an anomalous situation136. That is why it has been proposed to revise the true chronology of the end of this period to the years around 4000 BC, or even later during the 4th millennium. One should note however that the results look altogether consistent with the relative comparative chronology as it is established today, in particular for Bulgaria, i.e. the idea that the KGK VI “culture” (or at least its “mature” phase) ends before its Northwestern counterpart (the KSB “culture”, see below). They look more problematic for Thessaly and Southern Greece, where, as already said, the situation seems to be more or less undifferentiated over a very long time (supra, p. 29). From this point of view, what is most surprising is not so much the claim, by authors like H. Todorova, of a break in the occupation at the start of the KSB cultural sequence based on the absence of dates from Northwestern Bulgaria137, but the similar claim for a break in occupation at the “Dimini-Rachmani” transition in Greece despite the substantial number of dates falling in the 4600/4500-4300/4200 BC interval138.

  • 139 In Macedonia, outside two dubious dates from Sitagroi and Paradeisos (see supra, n. 134), there is (...)
  • 140 E.g. Promachon-Topolnitsa, Limenaria, Sarakinos, Poros-Drakaina, Tharrounia.
  • 141 Among the newly founded sites, one should probably count Porto Heli-Halieis in the Peloponnese (Pul (...)
  • 142 The validity of the archaeological context of most those dates has been however severely criticized (...)

67The following centuries witness a decrease in the number of dates, and at the same time a redistribution. Less than twenty 14C dates from Greek sites fall in the timespan between roughly 5400 and 5200 BP, i.e. approximately the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC. They cover the biggest part of the territory from Eastern Macedonia to the Southern Peloponnese, but sparsely, with no more than one, two, or at most three dates for each site139. An equivalent number of dates represent the next timespan between 5200/5150 and 4700/4600 BP, i.e. approximately the first half of the 4th millennium BC. Again they show a great geographic dispersal, both in terms of regions and individual sites, some of which were also represented in the previous group. Among those who did not, some were occupied during the previous stages of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic period140, but others seem to be founded only now, or at least were not radiocarbon dated before141. This situation would support the idea of a continuous, although possibly slowed down, development, suggested by the rest of the archaeological evidence142.

  • 143 Filipova & Bozilova 2003, p. 286.
  • 144 Settlements of Telish-Redutite, Pipra, Krivodol (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 152), and Sadovets- (...)
  • 145 Dates in the years around 3900‑3700 cal BC (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 157). The other dates fa (...)
  • 146 One date from the underwater excavations at the site of Urdovitsa gives 3776‑3386 cal BC (ibid.). T (...)
  • 147 Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 154‑155.
  • 148 See also the discussion in chapter 14 in this volume.

68In Bulgaria, reliable dates in the years between 5400 and 5200 BP are known from a handful of settlements concentrated in two areas, those very same where evidence was lacking in the preceding period: North-West Bulgaria (the area of the KSB “culture”) and the Rhodopes. This distribution echoes well the general lines of the relative chronology (supra, p. 28, 30). Two dates from wood collected through deep corings in the area of Sozopol on the Black-Sea coast also fall in this interval143 and fit the archaeological evidence well for a last “KSB IV-looking” Chalcolithic stage in the area (supra, p. 30). Surprisingly, none of the individual Northwestern sites occupied in those years has provided dates after 4000/3900 cal BC144, although the region appears to have been settled for some time based on the material evidence (i.e. the time corresponding to the Scheibenhenkel horizon-“Galatin culture”). The first half of the 4th millennium BC is represented in the area only by two dates from one site (Magura cave), apparently settled now for the first time and continuing in the next period145; a similar situation is found around Sozopol146. The situation is slightly different in the Rhodopes, where the two cave sites illustrating the local “Transitional” period (Yagodina and Haramiiska) provide values that cover the whole timespan from ca 5250 to 4950 BP, i.e. 4200/3900 to 3900/3650 BC in calibrated dates (2s)147. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that either site was settled continuously for five centuries: they could also well have been occupied for no more than one or two148. But this is the work of further analysis, which is not done here.

  • 149 Ovcharovo-Plato and Hotnitsa-Vodopada (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 129, 155). Both are located i (...)
  • 150 See supra, p. 31.

69As already said, no dates are known from Northeastern Bulgaria from the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC. The first half of the 4th millennium is, on the contrary, represented by a small but tight series of nine 14C dates from two small, flat, neighbouring sites, occupied now for the first time149. The values cover the timespan between 5150 and 4850 BP, giving after calibration dates between 4100/3800 and 3700/3400 BC. Once again, this does not mean that the sites were occupied for the entire period, but only that their time of occupation falls within it150. Thus, the choice to assign the corresponding levels to a “Proto-Bronze” stage rather than to a “Final Chalcolithic” one, relies more on considerations connected to their material culture and less to their ascertained chronological position at the mid-4th millennium.

70Another interesting cluster emerged recently in Thrace, with the seven new 14C dates from the “Transitional period” level in Drama-Merdzhumekja. They fall in the years between 4900 and 4600 BP, i.e. between 3800/3650 and 3500/3100 cal BC, thus overlapping partly with the other “Transitional” groups of dates collected elsewhere in Bulgaria. Their importance lies both on the fact that it they are the first to appear in this region after five or six centuries with no data, and on the fact that they correspond to an assemblage which, culturally speaking, clearly ranges itself on the EBA side (supra, p. 27).

  • 151 A unique date from the neighbouring site of Rupkite (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 166, where the (...)
  • 152 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 513; Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 138‑141.
  • 153 Rupkite, Yunatsite (Tell Yunatsite 2007, p. 234, table 1), Dabene (Nikolova & Görsdorf 2002, p. 533 (...)
  • 154 See also discussion in Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 153‑155; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 354‑355; Johnson 1999, p. 3 (...)

71Although the site itself of Drama-Merdzhumekja has not provided evidence for a prolongation of the settlement in the Early Bronze Age proper, many other sites in Thrace seem to be settled (or re-settled) in the years immediately after 4600/4500 BP, i.e. around 3500/3300 and 3000/2900 BC151. Dates come essentially from the tell settlement of Ezero152, but a few other sites are sparsely represented as well153. Unfortunately, the presence of a “plateau” in this part of the calibration curve together with the relatively big errors of the majority of the available dates (between 50 and 100 years BP) does not allow a better degree of precision154.

  • 155 In the North, Sitagroi (Coleman 1992), Dikili Tash (one unpublished date, see Tsirtsoni, chapter 15 (...)
  • 156 The only site so far to provide evidence about an occupation prior to 3300 BC is Agios Ioannis on t (...)

72Some 25 dates from various sites in different parts of Greece155 indicate a similar interval for the beginning of the EBA here: ca 4550 to 4300 BP, or 3500 to 2900 cal BC, with a clear concentration however in the years 3300-3000 BC156.

73From what preceded, it appears that:

  1. The available radiocarbon dates in general reflect quite well the rhythm of evolution suggested by the relative chronology. Some “anomalies” have been detected, for example the quasi absence of dates from the Scheibenhenkel horizon in NW Bulgaria (supra, p. 34), which could however be attributed to sampling biases and might hopefully be repaired by future dating. The same could be said for the absence of dates from the last quarter of the 5th millennium in Thrace, if we admit that the material found in some of the last “KGK VI” layers there, parallels that of phase “KSB IV” (supra, p. 28). The existence of a horizon of the same period on the Southwestern Black-Sea coast would need to be further confirmed by dates coming from archaeological contexts.

    • 157 Cf. Coleman 2011, p. 13.
    • 158 See for instance Johnson & Perlès 2004; Tomkins 2008, p. 36‑40.

    The existence of a long gap in settlement in some parts of Bulgaria is presently suggested by both the field/material evidence and the radiocarbon dates. This does not mean however that things were really so: as shown by the fortuitous discovery of sites like Hotnitsa-Vodopada or Ovcharovo-Platoto in NE Bulgaria, or the more recent Drama-Merdzhumekja in Thrace, the absence of evidence in a given region does not necessarily mean absence of occupation in general157. At most we can conclude that a gap existed in the occupation of individual sites – a situation which, by its repetition, certainly deserves to be explained – but not necessarily in the region as a whole. The question of visibility of archaeological sites has indeed been evoked by numerous scholars as a possible explanation for such phenomena of apparent “depopulation”158, and it will be interesting to see if future research reserves more surprises for us in that matter or not.

  2. The existence of a similar gap in some areas in Greece is at the moment much more questionable. Given the low diagnostic character of the material culture in general and the scarcity of dates from some key-areas (e.g. Thessaly), the question of the duration of the “Rachmani culture” and other related phenomena remains open. The number and distribution of the 14C dates, as well as the affinities between some of the latest “Neolithic” features and the first “pre-Bronze” ones (supra, p. 29), seem to indicate however that we are dealing with individual abandonment events rather than with some kind of generalized collapse.

  3. From that point of view, what may seem more troubling is the coincidence, for a number of sites with similar profiles, of the time of abandonment and the time of reoccupation – in terms of both relative and absolute chronology. Indeed, some of the biggest tell settlements in the Bulgarian and Northern Greek lowland plains (e.g. Ezero, Karanovo, Yunatsite, Dikili Tash, Sitagroi) seem to be abandoned at the end of the “mature” Chalcolithic in the years around 4300/4200 BC, and be re-settled in the beginning of the “standard” EBA around 3300/3000 BC. Before considering a possible explanation for this kind of parallel, we should probably check whether this is something that truly affects this particular type of site, i.e. see if there is a correlation between the type and/or the location of the settlements and their destiny.

    • 159 See supra, p. 13‑14, and infra, chapter 2.

    In all cases, radiocarbon appears to be an altogether reliable dating method, especially with all the improvements brought in recent years in both the processing/measuring methods and in the calibration curves159, reflected in the growing refinement of the regional chronological sequence. Used correctly, its results likely reflect historical realities.

The “Balkans 4000” project

  • 160 As already said in the Preface (supra, p. 9), the program also included the comparison of archaeolo (...)
  • 161 For further details about the selection procedure, see infra, chapter 2.

74The general aim of the “Balkans 4000” project was to clarify the chronological and historical relationship between the different phenomena observed in Bulgaria and Greece between the end of the 6th and the end of the 4th/early 3rd millennium BC, focusing on the problem of the transition from the Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic to the EBA160. In doing so, we were aiming, first, to test and eventually refine with new radiocarbon dates some of the patterns outlined above, such as the one regarding the differential ending of the Chalcolithic according to area, or the emergence of a series of “pre-Bronze” phenomena in some of these areas, apparently interconnected in spite of the distances separating them from each other and from their Neolithic/Chalcolithic antecedents. We were also hoping to fill some of the existent gaps – since, at all evidence, there is not one gap that we are dealing with, but several: those concerning the 5th millennium in North-West Bulgaria and the Rhodopes, the late 5th and early 4th millennium in Thrace or Thessaly, etc. That is why we tried to date samples from a number of contexts as reliable and as varied as possible (table 2)161.

75The opening of the geographical frame of investigation was the first necessary condition for the success of such a project, and one of its major successes indeed, for it allowed “breaking” for the first time at such a scale the repetitive and somehow circular vision of things that working inside the frontiers of a sole area or country imposes. If the hypothesis of a steppe invasion was right, for example, it would be expected to have had a serious advance at the date of the settlements’ abandonment in North-East Bulgaria, not only compared to that of the rest of present-day Bulgaria, but also compared to sites further South, at least those found right on the other side of the modern frontier – unless we decided that the invaders had stopped at this precise point (see supra, p. 26-27). Bulgarian dates would be expected to be altogether earlier than the Greek ones, unless we agreed to say that the two series of phenomena were not related. Ultimately, if the dominant Greek interpretation proved to be right, we might find out that many settlements in both countries had levels dating to the intermediate period, or that other sites in the vicinity, undated so far, actually represented the missing interval.

76Another necessary condition was the opening of the “typology” of investigated sites, both in terms of topography and nature. The reasoning was much the same as for geography, above: since some of the dominant scenarios claim the existence of a connexion between the sites’ setting (lowland-highland, coast-hinterland) and the date of their abandonment, or their emergence, we should check that all lowland sites, for example, in a given region ended at approximately the same date, and that the latter was earlier than the date (or the dates) recorded for the sites found at a higher altitude. On the other hand, much of the archaeological discourse around the Neolithic/Chalcolithic-EBA transition present the end of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic “koine” as the failure of a social and economic system (connected or not to external pressures), which was organized, for a large part of the investigated areas, around big tell settlements. The latter would be replaced by smaller, more “mobile” flat sites, whereas caves would be more resistant than all the other types of settlement. Again, this was a pattern that needed to be tested by new, targeted radiocarbon dating. The 34 sites from where samples for radiocarbon dating have been taken (table 2, fig. 2) represent, precisely, those different situations.

  • 162 Evin 1999, p. 8: “C’est donc une chance pour les spécialistes du radiocarbone d’être mis, par les ‘ (...)

77This chapter closes with a remark that takes us back to the initial discussion about the relationship between 14C and archaeology. The rapprochement between radiocarbon specialists and archaeologists working in the Aegean and the Balkans was not primarily an objective of the “Balkans 4000” project, neither an objective per se of the present book, but the work exposed in the following chapters gives an idea of the kind of results that we can get if we work together. For that matter, the words of J. Evin fifteen years ago are still very relevant today: “Radiocarbon specialists are lucky, because the ‘soil readers’ have been warning them against contradictions [i.e. between some 14C dates and the expected relative chronology], thus pushing them to revise and make precise their results. One should hope that it will always be so: that neither ‘radiocarbonists’ nor archaeologists follow uncritically one another’s affirmations, but that they each bring, instead, their own specificities to the building of chronology.”162.

Fig. 2 – Map with the sites dated by the “Balkans 4000” project.

* Prehistoric occupation only.
Table 2 – Profile of the sites dated in the frame of the “Balkans 4000” project.

Notes

2 J. Evin, director for more than 20 years of the Lyon Radiocarbon Laboratory, used a similar expression (“je t’aime, moi non plus”, literally: “I love you, me neither!”) in his inaugural speech of the 1998 conference on Radiocarbon and Archaeology (Evin et al. 1999, p. 7). In the same volume, H.J. Waterbolk, more optimistic, has been describing the relationship as “a golden alliance”.

3 Neustupný 1968; Todorova et al. 1975; Georgiev et al. 1979; Treuil 1983; Renfrew et al. 1986.

4 The local archaeological community includes not only Greeks and Bulgarians, but also foreign scholars working in those countries (French, German, British, American…). Generally speaking, the latter have been usually more favourable in introducing absolute chronology into their archaeological discourse, but not necessarily less sceptical, especially when the results presented did not coincide with the ideas they were forming about the different events or phenomena. Among the scholars that rejected 14C all along are personalities like Vladimir Milojčić or Sinclair Hood. An example of their arguments is found in Hood 1973, p. 111: “The chronology which I am proposing [i.e. for the Aegean] is based upon archaeological correlations without taking the evidence of 14C into account. The bases for absolute dating on archaeological grounds are the early civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and more especially that of Egypt where the dates are more certain”. Interestingly, this kind of discourse is still used by some of the scholars working in those very same regions, who still find it hard to admit the results of 14C dates and the turnarounds they might imply (see Bietak 2003; Bietak & Höflmayer 2007; and response by Manning & Kromer 2011). This debate is however beyond the scope of this book.

5 See for instance the comments in Demoule 2004, p. 183, about some of the 14C dates from Sitagroi and Divostin. The argument was also put forward by Theocharis 1981, p. 164, who added however with sagacity: “Για τις ανωμαλίες αυτές ίσως δεν είναι υπεύθυνη η μέθοδος, αλλά ο τρόπος με τον οποίο συλλέγονται τα δείγματα [= maybe the explanation for these anomalies is not the method but the way of collecting the samples]”.

6 This is typical of the Aegean Bronze Age, especially its Southern regions (Peloponnese, Cyclades, Crete), where the existence of fine typological sequences, on the one hand, and parallels with the well-established (and presumed infallible) chronologies of Mesopotamia and Egypt, on the other hand, made 14C dates look superfluous (cf. supra, n. 4). Their use was literally snubbed before 1990s, when the review of the date of the Theran volcano eruption brought to light the severe discrepancies between the “historical” and the absolute chronology of this period. An up-to-date synthesis of this debate is found in Warburton 2009. For the place of the radiocarbon dating in Aegean archaeology in general, see also Manning 1996, p. 28.

7 A good synthesis of the developments up to the late 1990s is found in Waterbolk 1999. The evolution of calibration curves can be followed in the successive articles of Reimer et al. in the Radiocarbon journal, especially Reimer et al. 2004; Reimer et al. 2009.

8 G. Hourmouziadis has publicly shared some of these opinions in one of his last talks at the annual meeting of archaeologists of Northern Greece (AEMTh 2008); but no printed work followed. For a broader discussion, see Schier 2013.

9 The reasons will not be further analyzed here. For a more detailed discussion, see Tsirtsoni 2006.

10 Younger readers should not forget that Greece was separated from Bulgaria and the other Balkan countries (former Yugoslavia, Albania) by a well-guarded frontier from 1945 to 1989. Things were somewhat better between Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia, since they were both in the communist side, but a certain distrust existed, because of the old conflicts around the Macedonian issue. All these countries have, indeed, been at war during the first decades of the 20th century (the Balkan wars). Therefore, what appears to be today a more-or-less united, open space of communication, was until recently a sum of clusters that were rather hostile to each other and ignored much of what was happening next door, or were informed about it through third parties. The relationships with Turkey were hardly better: although not constrained by frontier policy, Turkey has been a traditional enemy of all these countries (the roots of this conflict going back to the period of the Ottoman empire). An interesting analysis of the situation in Greek Macedonia during the formative stages of prehistoric archaeology and the North-South division in Greek archaeological practice is given by Fotiadis 2001.

11 The concept of archaeological “cultures” characterizes rather the German school of thought, and has influenced, historically, Eastern Europe and the Balkans more than Greece; see the synthesis by Trigger 2006, p. 232 sq. In Greece, it has mostly been applied by some of the German or German-bred scholars who laid the basis of the local chronological system in the early years (Tsountas, Milojčić), but has been less followed since. In Bulgaria, on the contrary, as in most of its Western and Northern neighbours (former Yugoslavia, Romania, and beyond), the number of different “cultures” continues to grow.

12 And whoever says originality, says priority: the next step is indeed, in most cases, to trace back the emergence of one or the other feature of the “culture”, and ultimately demonstrate the latter’s innovating character. This issue has been developed in Tsirtsoni 2006.

13 The best-known example of such change is the chronological position of the Thessalian “Larissa culture”, which was initially placed after the “Dimini culture”; excavations at the site of Platia Magoula Zarkou have shown that it actually preceded it: Gallis 1987.

14 These combinations differ from the so-called “cultural complexes”, which are large-scale agglutinations of several distinct “cultures” (ex. Karanovo-Gumelniţa-Kodzhadermen or Krivodol-Sălcuţa-Bubanj Hum) and cover huge geographical areas.

15 See for instance, Lichardus et al. 1985, p. 225: “une ‘culture archéologique’ est une entité historique concrète et appréhendable dans un espace et un temps donnés, et qui possède son système, ses structures et ses dynamiques propres”. This definition is non-realistic, for archaeological data rarely give full access to an understanding of “the particular economical systems, social structures and religious elements” that would be necessary for characterizing a “culture”. Although not considered as chronological units in the first place, “cultures” become indeed so, since they are the markers of chronological horizons (ibid., p. 210).

16 We do not discuss here at all the question of the neolithisation of Greece and the Balkans.

17 This will be the only time that I evoke a date, just to situate the reader in the general timeline. The rest of this section discusses the different developments in terms of their succession, disconnected from the problems of date, which are treated in a separate section afterwards (infra, p. 31‑36).

18 For recent overviews of the developments in the Greek Neolithic see: Demoule & Perlès 1993; Alram-Stern 1996; Papathanasopoulos 1996; Treuil et al. 1989, p. 123‑163 (2nd edition 2008, p. 58‑98); Papadimitriou & Tsirtsoni 2010; Tomkins 2010. For regional syntheses see: Sampson 1987 and Sampson 2006 (for the Aegean islands); Aslanis 1992, and Andreou et al. 1996 (for Northern Greece); Phelps 2004 (for the Peloponnese).

19 Especially A. Sampson and archaeologists working with him; see for instance: Sampson 1993a; Sampson et al. 1999; and Mavridis & Tankosić, chapter 22 in this volume.

20 The “culture” of Dimini was defined as early as the 1900s by the excavator of this Thessalian site (Tsountas 1908), but its extent has been further determined following the works of 1960s and 1970s in Thessaly itself and in surrounding areas, where imported or Thessalian-looking pottery has been found (i.e. Maliq in Albania: see Prendi 1972). The term “pre-Diminian” has been generalized in Greek bibliography by D. Grammenos (e.g. Grammenos 1991).

21 Wace & Thompson 1912; Hauptmann & Milojčić 1969.

22 Evans & Renfrew 1968.

23 Recognized as early as the 1930s at the excavations of Orchomenos in Boeotia and Corinth in the Peloponnese; for a recent synthesis see Douzougli 1998, p. 93‑109.

24 Bakalakis & Sakellariou 1981. For the pottery types of this period in Macedonia (Greek and beyond), see also Tsirtsoni 2000.

25 For recent syntheses of the periodization schemes and various “cultures” in Bulgaria see Boyadzhiev et al. 1993; Bailey & Panayotov 1995 (especially the contributions of L. Pernicheva and H. Todorova); H. Todorova 2003; as well as Anthony 2010 (with reference also to Romania and adjacent regions).

26 But the reverse is not true: in Thrace there also exist flat sites on low terraces (e.g. Drama-Gerena: Lichardus et al. 2000, p. 97 sq.; also Gaydarska 2007, p. 155‑157), and it is even claimed that they constitute the dominant type of settlement (Todorova 1995, p. 85). Their number has been increased in recent years, thanks to the large-scale rescue excavations conducted in the frame of public works (e.g. Hadzhidimitrovo, Halka Bunar, etc.). See also Boyadzhiev 2004.

27 Kanchev 1973; Nikolov 1993; Nikolov 1998.

28 Defined by Berciu 1966 on the basis of his excavations at the eponymous site.

29 Defined by Todorova & Vajsov 1993, and named after the sites of Topolnitsa (Promachon) in the middle Struma valley and Akropotamos, further to the South, in the Pangaion Pieria valley.

30 Vasić 1932‑1936.

31 About the origins of the Vinča culture and its Aegean and Anatolian connections, see Srejović & Tasić 1990; Roodenberg 1993.

32 This should be kept in mind when we draw comparisons with achievements from the later period, for there is a possibility of distortion. In Greece, the only organized necropolis in this period is that of Platia Magoula Zarkou: Gallis 1982. For the Late Neolithic burial practices in Bulgaria see Bachvarov 2003; Boyadzhiev 2002 and 2010.

33 Renfrew & Slater 2003; Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010.

34 See Šljivar et al. 2006; Borić 2009; Radivojević et al. 2010.

35 Up-to-date syntheses about the distribution of Spondylus are provided in Séfériadès 2010; Ifantidis & Nikolaidou 2011. Actually, exchange networks already existed in the Early Neolithic, and even before (obsidian, by sea; silex, by land). But the distances reached now, as well as the quantities that circulate, seem to be much greater than before. Although the exchanges of finished products (i.e. pottery) have been proven at a regional scale as early as the Early Neolithic, it is only now that we witness the long-distance transportation of objects, such as the so-called “rhyta”, found from the Dalmatian coast to the Southern Peloponnese: see Biagi 2003; Sophronidou & Tsirtsoni 2007, p. 250 (with previous bibliography). These objects could be valued for themselves or their content. The transportation of marble from the Cyclades to Greek Macedonia, both Eastern and Western, seems also to start now, as attested by a number of vessels and ornaments found in LN I contexts there (Ifantidis 2008, p. 81; Maniatis et al. 2012). But it is not clear at the moment whether it was the raw material or the finished objects that were imported.

36 See also Douzougli 1998, p. 131.

37 The term of “Chalcolithic” (from the Greek chalkos = copper) has been broadly used for many decades in other parts of the Old World, although with a different content (see Schoop 2005, p. 14‑17). The term “Eneolithic” is a neologism, adapting the Latin version “Aeneo-lithic” (aeneus = copper) of the original term. The term “Copper Age”, broadly used in the Western and Northern Balkans (Serbia, Romania, Hungary), is much less employed in Greece and Bulgaria; among the few exceptions, notice the German team working at Drama (“Kupferzeit”).

38 And indeed they have been asserted: see Aslanis 1989 and 1992.

39 Supra, discussion about terminology.

40 In Greece, such a movement has been proven at the flat settlement of Makrygialos in Central Macedonia (Pappa & Besios 1999; Pappa 2008). Similar movements may have existed inside the limits of some tells, but this has not been clearly established yet.

41 Some of these “new” settlements could actually be transfers from neighbouring locations, distant by only few hundred meters. This has been proven in Drama, in Bulgarian Thrace, where the settlement moves from the Gerena locality to Merdzhumekja, ca 300 m away; in the latter a tell will develop (Lichardus et al. 2003). Unfortunately, similar fine regional investigations are still very rare, and the evidence from surface finds alone is not reliable enough for such discussions.

42 Todorova 1978, 1979 and 1986.

43 For Greek LN I sites surrounded by ditches, see Aslanis 2010 (mentioning among others, Arapi, Stavroupoli, Kleitos); simple ditches are also attested at the end of MN (e.g. Souphli). Several Bulgarian examples have been brought to light in recent years through geomagnetic survey (works of P. Zidarov at Brezhani, Borovan, etc., presented at the AOR Reports), or through excavation (e.g. Yabalkovo: Leshtakov et al. 2011; Roodenberg et al. 2014). Although their precise date is not always known, they seem to appear as early as the end of the Bulgarian Early Neolithic (= Greek Middle Neolithic, between 5800‑5500 cal BC); see also examples from the “Hotnitsa culture”: Boyadzhiev et al. 1993, p. 69.

44 Tsountas 1908. Similar walls have also been discovered in the site of Palioskala: see Toufexis 2003, and also chapter 19 in this volume.

45 Sesklo is abandoned, precisely, during the LN I period.

46 See Malamidou et al. 2006; Malamidou 2011.

47 Phelps 2004, p. 96‑102; Douzougli 1998, p. 110‑117.

48 Indeed, although more discrete, the black burnished and black-topped vessels with channelled decoration display a better quality of fabric, forming and firing, than most of the graphite-painted vessels in the same areas; cf. Courtois 2004, p. 4, 10‑11.

49 Todorova & Vajsov 1993; Vajsov 2007.

50 Todorova 1986, p. 127‑128; Chohadzhiev 2006, and 2007.

51 Todorova 1978 and 1986. See also Schlor 2005, sp. p. 140‑144; Krauss 2008, p. 129‑133.

52 See Demoule 2004, p. 155‑158, with discussion about the significance of the pottery groupings.

53 For a revision of Todorova’s fine periodization of the phase Karanovo VI in Thrace, see Petrova 2007.

54 See Todorova 1986, p. 112; Boyadzhiev et al. 1993, p. 80.

55 There is a growing interest about this issue. See the recent synthesis of Rosenstock 2009, and the contributions in Hansen 2010; Hofmann et al. 2012.

56 As they have been identified only through geomagnetic survey, we are not sure about their date (cf. supra, n. 43). See also Ganetsovski, chapter 6 in this volume.

57 About the newly excavated settlements of Orlitsa and Varhari in the Eastern Rhodopes, see respectively chapters 12 and 13 in this volume. For flat settlements in Thrace, see supra, n. 26.

58 As often, the choice seems to be a question of school rather than argument: German-speaking authors (e.g. Aslanis, Alram-Stern, Douzougli) prefer the term Chalcolithic, whereas Anglo-Saxons and scholars who follow them usually prefer the term Final Neolithic, introduced by C. Renfrew (1972). Some of the latter however have recently pleaded for the generalization of the term “Chalcolithic” (Broodbank 2008, p. 285; Sherratt & Sherratt 2008, p. 292).

59 According to the terminology introduced by A. Sampson: see supra, n. 19.

60 This is the “French” option, found among others in Lambert 1981, and the works of J. Deshayes and R. Treuil (for instance Treuil 1983 and 1992).

61 See among others, Kea-Kephala (Coleman 1977), Zas on Naxos (Zachos 1999), Samos-Tigani (Felsch 1988).

62 H. Todorova has gone as far as suggesting a total collapse between the two “cultures” (Todorova 1995, p. 90, and 2003, p. 289 and 293). But this idea has not been adopted by other scholars. See also infra, p. 33, n. 138.

63 See Diamant 1974; Sampson 1993a; Sampson 1997; Sampson et al. 1999.

64 For example, Agios Dimitrios in the Peloponnese (Zachos 2008), Platykampos-Galini in Thessaly (Toufexis 1999, and 2009, p. 569‑571), Paradeisos in Aegean Thrace (Hellström 1987).

65 Johnson & Perlès 2004.

66 For instance Treuil 1983; Alram-Stern 1996, p. 95‑101; Andreou et al. 1996; Dimakopoulou 1996; Alram-Stern 2007.

67 See Alram-Stern 2007 (with previous references), and Alram-Stern 2011, p. 201, fig. 1. This subdivision corresponds to the phases LN IIa and IIb of Sampson 1993a and Sampson et al. 1999. For comments on the validity of this division, see Coleman 2011, p. 19, 31 (n. 32).

68 Thus, the recent excavations at the cemetery of Tsepi in Attica have proved the combination of crusted decoration with small collared pots (“amphoriskoi”), presumably typical of the EBA I (Early Cycladic I) phase of “Grotta Pelos”: Pantelidou-Gofa 2005, p. 324.

69 Material from Petromagoula was first reported by Hatziangelakis 1984, and that from Doliana by Douzougli & Zachos 1994, but these materials really only captured the attention of archaeologists after the analysis proposed by Johnson 1999 (although the potential of the Petromagoula discoveries was already underlined by Andreou et al. 1996, p. 549), and the additional evidence from Mikrothives (Adrymi-Sismani 2007; see also chapter 21 in this volume). The first synthesis to integrate these data into the general discussion was Papadimitriou & Tsirtsoni 2010.

70 See Slavchev 2010, with all the previous literature.

71 Todorova 1978, p. 74‑79; Bailey 2000, p. 197‑208; Boyadzhiev 2002 and 2010.

72 Coleman 1977; Sampson 1993a.

73 The pits are generally more regular and their walls lined with stones. In Bulgaria, all graves are simple pits.

74 At Kephala, some figurine fragments were reported from the area around the graves, but none were really found inside them.

75 Among which, a few ring-shaped pendants (or “ring-idols”), presumably one of the major symbols of the Balkan “koine”. One of these groups of ornaments was found close to the Neolithic settlement of Aravissos, in Greek Central Macedonia. The other group was confiscated by Greek police authorities from a band of looters in Katerini (again in Central Macedonia), but who refused to reveal the objects’ provenance. For details see Dimakopoulou 1998.

76 The idea about copper is very old (Todorova 1978, p. 62‑63). The idea about the exploitation of salt is more recent: it has been supported in a quite triumphal manner by the discoveries of the recent years in Provadia, infra.

77 Nikolov 2008 and 2012; Nikolov et al. 2009.

78 The earliest positive evidence about the exploitation of the silver mines at Siphnos dates to the Final Neolithic: Wagner & Weissgerber 1985; regarding those of Attica, the earliest evidence dates to the very start of the EBA: see Kakavogianni et al. 2006b, 2008, and Kakavogianni et al., chapter 23 in this volume.

79 Chernych 1978; Pernicka et al. 1997, p. 131‑133; Pernicka & Anthony 2010, p. 170‑173.

80 Concerning gold, the identification of sources is getting more complicated due to the use of alluvial gold from rivers.

81 Anthony 2010, p. 35; Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010.

82 The only scholar so far to have claimed the existence of a serious break between the Greek Neolithic and Early Bronze Age is J. Coleman. The fact that thirteen years after its launching (Coleman 2000) his “scenario about the coming of the Greeks” has not found any echo in the local archaeological literature (except his own: Coleman 2011), shows to what degree the idea is strange to scholars there.

83 Todorova 1995, p. 89‑90; Weninger et al. 2009, p. 34‑44. The local changes would be connected with the 6‑5.2 ky cal BP Rapid Climate Change event.

84 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 173; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 358‑359; Draganov 1998, p. 218. The steppes invasion hypothesis was already formulated by M. Gimbutas (1977, 1979), prior to the introduction of radiocarbon dating in the area.

85 Todorova 1995, p. 89‑90.

86 Similar questions have been asked for other parts of the Balkans (see for example Bognár-Kutzián 1973, p. 37, about the Bodrogkeresztúr-Baden transition).

87 Lichardus et al. 2003; Gleser & Thomas 2012.

88 Vajsov 1993, p. 117‑118.

89 For the “sceptre” from the cemetery of Kyulevcha, see Vazarova 1986. For discussions see Georgieva 2005; Anthony 2010, p. 48‑49; Merkyte 2007, p. 42‑46.

90 Manzura 1999.

91 These are actually vertical handles with a flattened attachment in the lower end, known mostly under their German name Scheibenhenkel. Their position in the local sequences is considered so well specified that many scholars actually refer to this stage as the “disc-like handles horizon” (e.g. Johnson 1999); about their distribution, see also Valentinova, chapter 5 in this volume.

92 Todorova 1995, p. 90: “there is no evidence for settlement discontinuity between the two stages of the Transitional period. In some places the accumulations from the two stages lie stratigraphically one on top of the other and document a degree of relative cultural continuity lacking in the other parts of the country at this time”.

93 See supra, p. 23. About the chronological position of these sites, see Georgieva 2005 (with further references).

94 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Boyadzhiev et al. 1993, p. 82.

95 Panayotov 1989 and 1995; Nikolova 1999; Alexandrov 2011.

96 Georgieva 1993b; Georgieva 2007.

97 Grembska-Kulova 2002. For the two copper daggers from Haramiiska Dupka (non arsenical copper), see Vajsov 1993, p. 118‑121.

98 Draganov 1998; Georgieva 2003. The site of Sozopol has also provided an artifact (a bone spoon) whose handle ends as a zoomorphic figure, recalling the “sceptres” mentioned supra, n. 89; see Dimitrov 2007.

99 See Zachos & Douzougli 1999; Zachos 2010; see also Pullen 2011, p. 631‑633.

100 A silver pendant from grave 19 of the Tsepi cemetery in Attica: Pantelidou-Gofa 2005, pl. 21.7.

101 See among others: Johnson 1999; Pullen 2000; Pullen 2011; Alram-Stern 2011; and also Kakavogianni et al., chapter 23 in this volume. For comments upon the problematic character of this label, see Coleman 2011, p. 19.

102 With the exception of Drama-Merdzhumekja: supra, n. 87.

103 Anthony 2010, p. 45, reports more than 600 tell settlements in the distribution area of the “KGK VI culture”.

104 Merkyte 2007, p. 40, fig. 33.

105 Draganov 1995, p. 236; Draganov 1998.

106 Especially the cave of Maaras at the Angitis sources; see Trantalidou et al. 2005a, 2006.

107 Papadopoulos 2007; and also Koukouli-Chrysanthaki & Papadopoulos, chapter 18 in this volume.

108 A drop was seen instead in the transition from LN II to the FN, see supra.

109 Weisshaar 1989. See also discussion by Toufexis (chapter 19) and Adrymi-Sismani (chapter 21) in this volume.

110 Johnson 1999; Christmann & Karimali 2004.

111 Coleman 2011, p. 28‑29, indeed suggests considering this “Petromagoula-Doliana group” as the Greek equivalent of the “Proto-Bronze Age” seen in the rest of SE Europe.

112 This seems to be the result from a number of surveys (for instance Runnels et al. 1995; Mee & Forbes 1997, p. 41‑51), but also from a standard enumeration of known sites, either excavated or unexcavated (see for instance Broodbank 2000, p. 153‑156; Tomkins 2008, p. 36‑40).

113 Several authors suggest in fact that the majority of the new sites fall at the end of the FN period, i.e. in the years just preceding the start of the EBA proper: Vitelli 1999, p. 98‑99; Pullen 2000, p. 185‑186; Pullen 2011, p. 19‑20; Alram-Stern 2011.

114 Already in the late 1960s, with the series of Azmak, Karanovo and Ezero (Kohl & Quitta 1966, p. 32‑38; Quitta & Kohl 1969, p. 226‑231), followed by those of Golyamo Delchevo (Todorova et al. 1975) and Ovcharovo (Torodova et al. 1983).

115 See infra, “The evidence from radiocarbon dating”.

116 At the site of Mandalo: Maniatis & Kromer 1990. In fact, a similar gap had already been detected several years before in the radiocarbon series from Sitagroi (Renfrew 1971), but its significance, not to say its existence, were seriously minimised (see also Renfrew 1986a, p. 173; and Renfrew 1986b, p. 482, although a different view is expressed by Sherratt in the same volume: Sherratt 1986, p. 430).

117 See supra, p. 13‑14.

118 Among others Pefkakia (Weisshaar 1989, p. 139), Dikili Tash (Treuil 1992, p. 33‑36).

119 With the exception, as already said, of J. Coleman (supra, n. 82).

120 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 353.

121 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 358‑359.

122 Inventory established by the author, with the help of Nicolas Doutau, using a Filemaker database. For the Bulgarian dates, we mainly used the synthesis of Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996. For the Greek dates, we used the syntheses of Coleman 1992; Sampson et al. 1999; and Alram-Stern 2007, completed by individual sources (cited below accordingly).

123 Sites dated with archaeomagnetism include Ovcharovo, Telish, Russe, Yunatsite, and others; for a summarized presentation see Kovacheva 1995. Thermoluminescence has been used at Sitagroi (Liritzis 1979), Dimini and Sesklo (Liritzis & Galloway 1982), and more recently at Dikili Tash (Roque et al. 2002), where it was also coupled with OSL (Vartanian et al. 2001). TL coupled with Obsidian Hydration dating was recently used at the site of Strofilas in the Cyclades (Liritzis 2010).

124 Higham et al. 2007. Their impact has been abundantly discussed: Gaydarska 2011; Chapman 2013.

125 Gleser 2011. Three other series of dates from settlements were published that same year, with less spectacular, yet very consistent results: 11 dates from the tell settlement of Yunatsite in Thrace (Tell Yunatsite 2007, p. 232‑238); 4 from Sadovets-Ezero and 11 from Liga-Telish, both in North-West Bulgaria (Merkyte et al. 2005, p. 34‑35, 140‑141; Merkyte 2007, p. 21‑22, 36). These dates are taken into consideration for the discussion that follows but are not shown in table 1, which represents, as we said, the state of research at the beginning of the “Balkans 4000” project.

126 Pappa 2008, table 5.2.

127 Sampson et al. 2009, p. 202‑204.

128 Maniatis & Papadopoulos 2011; Maniatis & Facorellis 2012.

129 The dates are discussed in BP values and after calibration at 2 sigmas (95.4% confidence), without any further statistical treatment.

130 Most of them are from big tells in Thrace and NE Bulgaria (Azmak, Drama, Ovcharovo, Golyamo Delchevo), but there are also a few dates from sites in the Struma valley (Balgarchevo, Slatino, Golyamata Peshtera).

131 Two dates from Yagodina (Bln-2358, Bln-2245) are considered as outliers; see Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 154; and Todorova & Avramova, chapter 14 in this volume, p. 266.

132 Again, there are practically no dates for NW Bulgaria and the Rhodopes. The three dates from the last destruction layer at Liga, falling precisely in these years, stand out as an exception (Merkyte et al. 2005, p. 34‑35).

133 Including those from Pefkakia in Thessaly, Mandalo (phases Ib-II) in W. Macedonia, most of the dates from Dikili Tash (phase II) and Sitagroi (phase IIIA-B) in E. Macedonia, Kitsos cave (phase III) in Attica, Tharrounia cave (phase II) in Euboea, and Limnes-Kastria cave (phase III) in the Peloponnese. For references see supra, n. 122.

134 This seems to be the case, among others, of some dates from Sitagroi, Paradeisos, Dikili Tash, or Kitsos, with standard deviations between 85 and 200 years BP, sometimes cited as evidence for an occupation at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th millennium BC; cf. the discussion by Koukouli-Chrysanthaki & Papadopoulos, chapter 18 in this volume, p. 357.

135 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 367, n. 8. See also Boyadzhiev & Aslanis, chapter 9 in this volume.

136 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 171. Other, simpler explanations might be conceived however, starting from the mixing of samples or insufficient understanding of the excavated contexts; see supra, p. 14, and infra, chapter 2, p. 41 and 48, 49.

137 See Todorova 1995, p. 88 (where a moderate version is expressed, deploring the insufficient study of the formation process of the KSB culture); and Todorova 1998, p. 42, and table 3.

138 Todorova 1995, p. 90; Todorova 1998, p. 41, and table 3. This scheme in fact ignores not only the evidence from absolute chronology, but the evidence from cultural parallelisms as well, since it puts together elements that belong to different stages of evolution (e.g. Mandalo-Sitagroi IV). It has sometimes been adopted by other scholars working in the Balkans (e.g. Merkyte 2007, p. 42), but in Greece itself it has never been really considered.

139 In Macedonia, outside two dubious dates from Sitagroi and Paradeisos (see supra, n. 134), there is one date from Limenaria (Maniatis & Facorellis 2012, p. 287, table 1), three from Dikili Tash (unpublished, see Tsirtsoni, chapter 15 in this volume), and two from Mandalo (Maniatis & Kromer 1990). In the Peloponnese: two dates from Agios Dimitrios (Zachos 1987, p. 305), three from Kouveleiki B, two from Limnes-Kastria (Sampson et al. 1999, p. 282), and two from Francthi (Vitelli 1999, p. 138). There is also one date from the small island of Youra in the Sporades (Sampson et al. 1999, p. 282), and two from the cave of Zas in Naxos, but whose stratigraphic position is unfortunately contested (Manning 2008, p. 56).

140 E.g. Promachon-Topolnitsa, Limenaria, Sarakinos, Poros-Drakaina, Tharrounia.

141 Among the newly founded sites, one should probably count Porto Heli-Halieis in the Peloponnese (Pullen 2000, p. 184‑185), Platykampos-Galini in Thessaly (Toufexis 1999, p. 425), Doliana in Epirus (Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 126), and Mikrothives, also in Thessaly (Adrymi-Sismani 2007, p. 74; see more in the chapter 21 in this volume). For the site of Agios Ioannis on Thasos (Maniatis & Papadopoulos 2011), see below. According to its excavator, the unique date from the short-lived settlement at Kea-Kephala is “erroneously late” (Coleman 1977, p. 110; and Coleman 2000, p. 124), and the site should be no later than the beginning of the 4th mill. But other authors take this date at face value and range Kephala at the mid‑4th millennium BC (e.g. Tomkins 2008, table 3.1).

142 The validity of the archaeological context of most those dates has been however severely criticized by Coleman 2011, p. 17‑19.

143 Filipova & Bozilova 2003, p. 286.

144 Settlements of Telish-Redutite, Pipra, Krivodol (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 152), and Sadovets-Ezero (Merkyte 2007, p. 21‑22). Human presence in Liga is attested in this period only by tombs (Merkyte et al. 2005, p. 34‑35, 140‑141).

145 Dates in the years around 3900‑3700 cal BC (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 157). The other dates fall in the interval between ca 3400‑2900 BC.

146 One date from the underwater excavations at the site of Urdovitsa gives 3776‑3386 cal BC (ibid.). The other dates from the site cluster in years around 2900‑2500 BC.

147 Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 154‑155.

148 See also the discussion in chapter 14 in this volume.

149 Ovcharovo-Plato and Hotnitsa-Vodopada (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 129, 155). Both are located in short distance from some important Chalcolithic tells.

150 See supra, p. 31.

151 A unique date from the neighbouring site of Rupkite (Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 166, where the site is found under the name of Karasura), which so far looked isolated, might take now a different significance. The existence of a “transitional” period level in this essentially EBA tell had been claimed on the basis of evidence from pottery, but the latter was very poor, and looked altogether closer to the last Chalcolithic productions rather than to the earliest EBA ones (Georgieva 1997, p. 318‑319).

152 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 513; Görsdorf & Boyadhziev 1996, p. 138‑141.

153 Rupkite, Yunatsite (Tell Yunatsite 2007, p. 234, table 1), Dabene (Nikolova & Görsdorf 2002, p. 533), Dyadovo (ibid., p. 535).

154 See also discussion in Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 153‑155; Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 354‑355; Johnson 1999, p. 330‑332; Maniatis & Papadopoulos 2011, p. 30‑34.

155 In the North, Sitagroi (Coleman 1992), Dikili Tash (one unpublished date, see Tsirtsoni, chapter 15 in this volume), Pentapolis (Manning 1995, p. 180); in the South, Eutresis (Coleman 1992), Zas and Markiani (Manning 2008).

156 The only site so far to provide evidence about an occupation prior to 3300 BC is Agios Ioannis on the island of Thasos; on the other hand, analysis suggests that it could not be placed before 3500 or 3600 BC, as was initially suggested: see Maniatis & Papadopoulos 2011; and Koukouli-Chrysanthaki & Papadopoulos, chapter 18 in this volume.

157 Cf. Coleman 2011, p. 13.

158 See for instance Johnson & Perlès 2004; Tomkins 2008, p. 36‑40.

159 See supra, p. 13‑14, and infra, chapter 2.

160 As already said in the Preface (supra, p. 9), the program also included the comparison of archaeological/radiocarbon evidence with the results from palaeoenvironmental research, conducted under the supervision of Laurent Lespez (at the time lecturer in the University of Caen) in two distinct zones in Northern Greece. A detailed presentation of these results is given by Lespez et al. fortchoming, whereas a more critical synthesis is provided in Lespez et al. 2014.

161 For further details about the selection procedure, see infra, chapter 2.

162 Evin 1999, p. 8: “C’est donc une chance pour les spécialistes du radiocarbone d’être mis, par les ‘lecteurs de terrain’, en face d’une contradiction qui les force à revoir et préciser leurs résultats. On souhaiterait qu’il en soit toujours ainsi et que ni le ‘radiocarboniste’ ni l’archéologue ne se laisse guider sans esprit critique par les affirmations de l’un ou de l’autre, mais que chacun apporte sa spécificité au bâti de la chronologie”.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 – Map of present-day Greece and Bulgaria with the sites mentioned in the text.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/503/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende * Used mainly by A. Sampson and other scholars working in the Southern Aegean.Table 1 – Comparative chronology of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic and the beginning of the Early Bronze Age period in Greece and Bulgaria; state of research prior to the “Balkans 4000” project (various sources). Grey areas represent broadly claimed hiatuses in occupation.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/503/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 596k
Légende Fig. 2 – Map with the sites dated by the “Balkans 4000” project.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/503/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 776k
Légende * Prehistoric occupation only. Table 2 – Profile of the sites dated in the frame of the “Balkans 4000” project.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/503/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search