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The Human Face of Radiocarbon

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Zoï Tsirtsoni

Northeast Bulgaria

Chapter 3. The prehistoric cemetery at Smyadovo, Shumen district

Stefan Chohadzhiev
Traduction de Tatiana Stefanova

Texte intégral

The site and the excavations2

  • 2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.
  • 3 Popov 1978; Popov 1987; Popov & Venelivova 2004.
  • 4 Popov 1976, p. 26.
  • 5 Todorova 1986, p. 77.
  • 6 Ass. Prof. Stefan Chohadzhiev was the Field Director of the archaeological excavations. Svetlana Ve (...)

1The prehistoric tell near the town of Smyadovo was excavated from 1974 to 1990 by Nedelcho Popov, who published part of the finds3. The tell is known by the name of “Dyado Zlateva mogila” or “Nazlamova mogila”, and is located in the Golyam Yordan locality. The thickness of its cultural layer is 3.90 m. The excavator distinguished 7 building levels, dated back to the phases II and III of the Kodzhadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI cultural complex (KGK VI)4. A copper axe (a stray find) was found in the vicinity of the tell, and it was suggested that it could have come from the related cemetery5. According to information provided by the excavator, in July 1978 the workers building an asphalt road to a factory situated to the west of Smyadovo indeed came across two burials, with skeletons in a crouched position and grave goods including ceramic vessels and stone tools. The finds have been kept in the depot of the Shumen Regional Museum of History (SRMH). In 2005 the Shumen Museum decided to carry out a survey aimed at locating and excavating the cemetery related to the tell6.

2The locality in which the two burials were located is known under the name of “Gorlomova Koriya”, and is situated at about 130 m above sea level (fig. 1). It stands ca 2.5 km to the southwest (250°) of the present-day church in Smyadovo and ca 200 m to the northwest (320°-340°) of the tell. An area of 3100 m2 has been excavated up to 2008. Parallel trenches 0.50 m wide, oriented north-south and situated 0.50 m from each other, were excavated by hand in order to locate the grave pits. Within the researched area, we were able to locate and excavate 32 burials containing 37 individuals: burials 1‑4 in 2005, burials 5‑18 in 2006, burials 19‑27 in 2007 and burials 28‑32 in 2008. In the process of excavating the cemetery, we were also able to locate two previously unknown settlements – one of them dating to the Iron Age and the other to the Middle Ages (9th-11 thcentury AD). Both have been destroyed by long agricultural activity, and their remains completely cover the area of the prehistoric cemetery.

3The cemetery is situated on a low hill separated from the tell by a brook. As a result of the extensive erosion and the intensive cultivation of the soil, the burials are found at a depth of 0.60‑0.90 m below the modern surface. The grave pits were cut into the virgin soil, the so-called “Danubian loess”, to a depth of 0.20‑0.40 m.

  • 7 The opportunity to proceed with this dating was kindly provided by our colleague Zoï Tsirtsoni. Thi (...)

4The cemetery provided an excellent opportunity for testing the possibilities of the radiocarbon-AMS method, as burials dated to two different periods, the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, were excavated in an area of several hundred square meters. The burials belonged to individuals who differed in age and sex, and many of them contained large quantities of grave goods. The radiocarbon-AMS method was used for dating burials 3, 8, 13, 18, 20, 24 and 27, all excavated between the years 2005‑2007. In view of the goals of the ANR “Balkans 4000” project, I will present and comment on here the dates and contexts of only these burials7.

Fig. 1 – Smyadovo, geodetic plan of the prehistoric cemetery.

Presentation of the dated burials

Burial 3 (fig. 2)

  • 8 All dates are calibrated at 2 sigmas (95.4% probability).

Lyon-5511/SacA-13077; femur; date BP: 5929 ± 35; date cal BC8: 4891‑4717

5The burial was documented at a depth of 0.67 m below the present-day surface. The burial pit is oval, narrowing in the middle. It is approximately 0.80 m long and we were able to locate its southern edge.

  • 9 Skeletons were studied by Prof. Yordan Yordanov and Dr Branimira Dimitrova, physical anthropologist (...)

6The buried individual is a child (infans 1), ca 4‑4.5 years old9, laid in the grave pit in a crouched position on its left. The head is oriented 97º to the east and faces south. The skeleton is 0.68 m long. The upper limbs are flexed at the elbows against the face and some of the phalanges are preserved. The fingers have been placed almost at the mouth (as if the child was “sucking its thumb”). The lower limbs are slightly flexed against the body. The skull is fragmented. What attracts attention is that the skull has a strongly expressed occipital part and a small facial part.

  • 10 The X-ray structure analysis was done by Ass. Prof. Ruslan Kostov, whom I thank for the information (...)
  • 11 Bachvarov 2004, p. 49‑50.

7A stone bead of light green colour was found in the mouth cavity (at the tooth line of the mandible, at the place of the right molar) [fig. 2: 2, 5]. The bead was made from antigorite serpentinite – a rock which has never been found in Northern Bulgaria so far, rather only in the mountains of South Bulgaria10. The bead is 4 mm in diameter; its thickness is 1.5 mm and the diameter of the opening 2 mm. A charred grain, black in colour and about 3‑4 mm long, was found in the mouth cavity of the deceased as well. Finding small artifacts, placed intentionally in the mouth of the deceased, is a comparatively rare ritual practice. The bead and the grain can be related to the so-called “Charon’s obol” – a burial custom which has survived up to the present11. Five more beads, identical in shape and colour to the green bead, were found under the left side of the skull, and thirteen more, made from Spondylus shell and bone, were found around the cervical vertebrae and under the occipital bone (fig. 2: 6, 7). They are bigger in size, 5‑6 mm in diameter. A small snail shell with an opening was found on the right temporal bone as well as under the left one. Two small pieces of red ochre were also documented near the skull. A small copper band-shaped bracelet, 3.8‑3.4 cm in diameter and 2 mm thick, was discovered on the left ulna and radius (fig. 2: 8, 9). The bracelet was probably made by hammering, which is well evidenced by the longitudinal layers of the metal core. In some places, imprints of a fabric are visible on the copper bracelet, whereas greenish traces of copper are seen on the bones of the left arm.

8Fig. 2 – Smyadovo, burial no. 3.
1: general photo; 2, 3: details; 4: drawing; 5‑7: beads; 8, 9: copper bracelet.

Burial 8 (fig. 3)

Lyon-5512/SacA-13078; femur; date BP: 5680 ± 35; date cal BC: 4585‑4453

9The burial was documented at a depth of ca 1 m below the present-day surface. The burial pit is 1.06‑1.16 m deep and its length is 1.50 m.

10The buried person was an adult male (matures) ca 45 years old. He was laid in the burial pit in a crouched position on his left. The bones are well preserved. The lower and the upper limbs are strongly flexed. The phalanges of both hands are placed in front of the facial bones. The head is oriented to the southeast (114º) and faces south. The length of the skeleton is 0.93 m. The height of the deceased, calculated according to the length of the left femur (41.5 cm), was 1.63 m. Strong exostoses of both the bodies and the articular surfaces of the lumbal vertebrae have been identified.

11The grave goods comprise two poorly fired clay vessels. The first vessel is placed on the upper limbs and the chest (fig. 3: 6) and the second one on the lower limbs and the pelvis (fig. 3: 8). An axe-hammer is placed in front of the mandible (fig. 3: 5). More than 80 beads made from serpentinite, some of them still attached to each other and which probably belonged to a torn necklace, were found inside the first vessel (fig. 3: 3, 4, 7).

Fig. 3 – Smyadovo burial no. 8.
1: general photo; 2: drawing; 3, 4: beads
in situ, details; 5: stone shaft-hole axe; 6, 8: ceramic vessels; 7: stone beads after removal.

Burial 13 (fig. 4)

Lyon-5513/SacA-13079; femur; date BP: 5525 ± 35; date cal BC: 4448‑4332

12The burial was documented at a depth of 1.54‑1.66 m below the present-day surface. The deceased was laid in a crouched position on his left. The head is oriented to the northeast (75º) and faces south. The upper limbs are strongly flexed and the phalanges are in front of the facial bones. The lower limbs are also flexed at the knee joints. The height of the deceased, calculated according to the length of the long bones of the limbs, is 1.69 m using the Trotter-Gleser formula. The buried body was of a male in the group of adults (adultus), 20‑25 years old.

13The grave goods are comprised of a ceramic vessel in a very poor state of preservation placed in the space enclosed by the upper and lower limbs and the pelvis that has still not been restored, and of a stone axe-hammer typical for the Late Chalcolithic (fig. 4: 3). The handle of the tool was probably laid on the right shoulder and between the hands, immediately in front of the face. This situation provides a rare possibility to suggest the actual length of the handle, which should be ca 45‑50 cm.

Fig. 4 – Smyadovo, burial no. 13.
1: photo; 2: drawing; 3: stone shaft-hole axe; 4: detail.

Burial 18 (fig. 5)

Lyon-5514/SacA-13080; femur; date BP: 5670 ± 35; date cal BC: 4550‑4450

14The grave pit was documented at a depth of 0.89 m. It is oval in plan (dimensions 0.97 x 0.85 m) and has an almost cylindrical section. The bottom of the grave pit was reached at 1.58 m below the present-day surface. It was filled with charcoal and burnt rusty-red wall-plaster.

15The body was laid on its back. The head is oriented to the south (190º) and faces west. The bones of the skull are coloured red. The upper limbs are flexed at the elbow joints and are situated at some distance from the backbone. The left hand is partly below the pelvis and the left leg. The lower limbs are flexed at the knee joints and open wide. A stone, measuring 25 x 20 x 10 cm, was placed between them.

16The deceased was a ca 20 years old adult (adultus) and was about 1.72 m tall. The analyses conducted by the physical anthropologists revealed eleven post-mortem trepanations mainly affecting the two parietal bones. One of the trepanations is on the frontal bone, another on the occipital bone, and a third one at the left temporal bone. The trepanations are oval, quadrangular and triangular. A fragmented ceramic vessel was found under the pelvis of the skeleton (fig. 5: 3‑5). On the basis of contextual evidence, the burial could be dated, with great caution, to the post-Chalcolithic period or the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

Fig. 5 – Smyadovo, burial no. 18.
1: photo; 2: drawing; 3: ceramic vessel; 4, 5: details of the ceramic vessel.

Burial 20 (fig. 6)

Lyon-5515/SacA-13081; humerus; date BP: 4445 ± 35; date cal BC: 3328‑3015

Lyon-5516/SacA-13082; femur; date BP: 4470 ± 30; date cal BC: 3338‑3025

17The grave pit is almost rectangular in shape and measures 1.34 x 2.20 m. It lies at 0.75 m below the present-day surface and is ca 0.20 m deep. The filling consists of yellow-brown soil, which does not differ very much from the surrounding yellowish loess. The southwestern part of the grave pit was destroyed by a later pit, whereas the southwestern part of the burial was destroyed by farming machines. The agricultural activity also almost completely destroyed several burials whose pits had not been cut very deeply into the ground.

18Five skeletons were unearthed in the grave pit. Four of them (skeletons 20A-D) were laid extended on their backs, next to each other, oriented east-west with their heads to the east (81‑110º). The fifth skeleton (20E) was laid in the western part of the grave pit; it was also oriented east-west, but its head pointed to the west (278º). The bones of their lower limbs were found dismembered in the southwestern part of the burial pit. The four individuals were buried in couples, i.e. two by two, male-female of the same age (adultus): skeletons A-C belonged to individuals about 25 years old, B and D about 30 years old. They were laid facing each other and embracing. The deceased were relatively tall: A was measuring 1.71 m, B 1.68 m, and C 1.80 m. A post-mortem oval trepanation measuring 11 x 29 mm was documented on the occipital end of the left parietal bone of the skull of skeleton 20C. Skeleton 20E was lacking its skull, or any fragments of a skull. The excavated bones are massive and with highly developed relief.

  • 12 The analysis was carried out by a scanning electron microscope with an energy-dispersive X-ray anal (...)
  • 13 The analysis was made by Dr Petia Penkova (NIAM-BAS), to whom I am very indebted for the preliminar (...)

19Two fragmented ceramic bowls were found at the northern side of the grave pit (in its eastern and western corners) [fig. 6: 12, 13], and a spiral-shaped silver hair-ring was found under each one of the skulls, near the ear. Their composition is 96.41% silver (Ag) and 3.21% copper (Cu)12; the wires are 2‑4 mm thick and their weight varies from 1 to 4 g. Besides the spiral at the ear of individual 20D, a necklace consisting of 3 silver hair-rings and 18 Dentalium shells was found on its neck (fig. 6: 5, 10). A 10.4 cm long and ca 0.3 cm thick highly corroded ellipsoid bronze lamella, probably an ellipsoid dagger, was discovered on the chest of skeleton 20E (fig. 6: 11); the content of arsenic (As) in the alloy was ca 1%13. A lump of red ochre was also found there, and a piece of red sandstone was unearthed on the pelvis of skeleton 20B. Finally, two flint artifacts were found in the filling of the grave pit.

Fig. 6 – Smyadovo, burial no. 20.
1: general photo; 2: drawing; 3‑5: details; 6‑9: silver hair-rings from 20C‑20D; 10: a necklace made from Dentalium beads and three silver hair-rings from 20D; 11: bronze dagger (?) from 20E; 12, 13: ceramic vessels.

Burial 24 (fig. 7)

Lyon-5622/SacA-13382; femur; date BP: 5565 ± 35; date cal BC: 4457‑4343

Lyon-5623/SacA-13383; tibia; date BP: 5590 ± 40; date cal BC: 4494‑4348

20The grave pit was documented at a depth of 0.66 m below the present-day surface and its bottom was reached at 1.91 m. It is bell-shaped, with the diameter of its upper part measuring 1 x 1.35 m, the diameter of its bottom 1.95 x 1.70 m, and its depth is 1.23 m. The filling consists of gray-yellow loess mixed with burnt lumps of wall-plaster, charcoal and ash.

21Initially, a layer of fill ca 0.30 m thick was deposited in the grave pit, and after that the corpse of an adult male about 20‑25 years old (adultus, skeleton 24A) was “shoved” into it. The head points to the north. The arms tightly abut the walls of the grave pit. There are two post-mortem trepanations on the parietal bones. Another layer of the fill, ca 0.40 m thick, was deposited over the first corpse. The dead body of a young male about 15 years old (juvenilis, skeleton 24B), was also “shoved” into the grave pit on top of the second layer, his head pointing to the south. Four post-mortem trepanations are documented on his parietal and occipital bones. On top of the second dead body was laid a third one (skeleton 24C), belonging to a 20-year-old female adult (adultus); her head pointed to the east and her thigh bones lay directly on top of the skull of the second individual. Three post-mortem trepanations are documented on the parietal and occipital bones of her skull.

22All three corpses were pushed aside to the periphery of the grave pit and for that reason the skeletons are arch-curved following its edge. No grave goods were found.

Fig. 7 – Smyadovo, burial no. 24.
1: photo (view from east); 2: drawing, with skeletons A-C; 3: photo of the pit’s section A-A1; 4: drawing of the section A-A1: yellow colour represents loess, brown is yellow-brownish soil, black are dark-black lumps of daub, and red are rusty-colored lumps of daub.

Burial 27 (fig. 8)

Lyon-5624/SacA-13384; humerus; date BP: 4305 ± 35; date cal BC: 3006‑2885

23The grave pit was documented at a depth of 1.22 m below the present-day surface, and its bottom at 1.35 m. Its plan is rectangular with rounded edges, and measures 1.60 x 0.76 m; it was filled with gray-brown soil.

24The deceased was laid in a crouched position on his back, the head pointing to the east (98º) and facing north. The bones are well preserved. The arms are stretched alongside the body; the left hand is on the abdomen and the right one under the right thigh bone. The legs are flexed at the knees to the right. The physical anthropologists identified the individual as a male, ca 30 years old (adultus).

25The grave goods consist of three ceramic vessels placed at the feet of the deceased (fig. 8: 3‑8) and two flint artifacts discovered inside vessel 2 (fig. 8: 3‑4).

Fig. 8 – Smyadovo, burial no. 27.
1: photo; 2: drawing; 3, 4: ceramic vessel no. 2 (bowl); 5: ceramic vessel no. 1 (biconical pot); 6, 7: ceramic vessel no. 3 (jug); 8: detail, showing the three vessels
in situ.

Discussion

  • 14 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147‑148.
  • 15 Todorova et al. 1983, p. 26.
  • 16 Todorova et al. 1975, p. 325.
  • 17 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 183.

26Burial 3 is the earliest one. The date (5929 ± 35 BP = 4891‑4717 cal BC) is considerably earlier than the earliest 14C dates yielded by building level 7 at the tell (from 5700 ± 80 BP to 5480 ± 70 BP14) and can be related to an earlier period. It is very close to several 14C dates from settlements situated not very far from Smyadovo: Ovcharovo, building levels V‑VII15, and Golyamo Delchevo, building level III16. The latter are related to the Middle Chalcolithic period – the Polyanitsa IV and Sava IV cultures17.

27In trying to explain this incompatibility of dates between the cemetery and the settlement, one should pay attention to the discrepancy between the data used by the different authors. If we take AMS analysis to be trustworthy, we have to focus on the field information.

  • 18 Todorova 1986, p. 77.
  • 19 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147.
  • 20 Popov 1976, p. 26.
  • 21 Popov & Venelinova 2004, p. 13.
  • 22 Todorova 1986, p. 77.
  • 23 Chohadzhiev 2007, p. 57.
  • 24 Todorova et al. 2002, pl. 31: 8; 69: 14.

28In her description of Tell Smyadovo, H. Todorova mentions that the thickness of the cultural layer is 3.40 m18. The same thickness is given in the publication of the 14C dates related to Bulgarian prehistory, where it is also noted that the samples were taken from a depth of 3.55 m19. On the other hand, in his first report on the stratigraphic trench on the western periphery of the tell, N. Popov wrote that the thickness of the cultural layer is 3.90 m and comprises 7 building levels20. In a later publication, the total thickness is confirmed, but a distinction is made between two cultural layers: the upper layer which is 0.20 m thick is related to the Roman period and the lower one, dating back to the Late Chalcolithic, comprises 6 building levels21. The potsherds collected from the surface of the tell gave H. Todorova reason to assume that the place had been inhabited during phase I of the Late Chalcolithic KGK VI cultural complex as well22. It is possible that the grave was related to an earlier settlement, which was not documented in this stratigraphic trench. The existence of an earlier settlement situated close to the tell should not be excluded; such situations are common in present-day Northeast Bulgaria23. The grave offerings, which do not include ceramic vessels, also suggest an earlier date. The small copper bracelet looks similar to bracelets from Durankulak cemetery, burials 272 and 447, dating back to phase I of the Varna culture24.

  • 25 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147.
  • 26 Raduncheva 1976, p. 91, fig. 90.
  • 27 Todorova 1986, p. 68.

29The date from burial 8 (5680 ± 35 BP= 4585‑4453 cal BC) almost perfectly matches a date from building level 7 at the tell, which is considered to be the earliest one25 and is dated back to the Late Chalcolithic (probably to phase II of the Kodzhadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI complex). The burial ritual, the stone axe and the pottery (a lid and a bowl) find parallels in burial 39 from the cemetery at Tell Vinitsa26, which can be dated back to the same phase of the Late Chalcolithic27.

  • 28 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 145.

30The same concerns the date from burial 13 (5525 ± 35 BP = 4448‑4332 cal BC) which matches the date from building level 12 from Tell Ovcharovo (5525 ± 60 BP = 4460‑4330 cal BC)28.

  • 29 Ibid., p. 144.
  • 30 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 152‑155.

31The case of burial 18 is considerably more complicated. The date obtained (5670 ± 35 BP = 4550‑4450 cal BC) is very close to the one provided by burial 8, which relates it to the beginning of the Late Chalcolithic, but it could also be compared to another date, even earlier, from building level 6 in Tell Ovcharovo (Bln-1367: 5676 ± 60 BP), dated back to the Middle Chalcolithic (Polyanitsa IV culture)29. Thus, in chronological terms the burial has to be dated back to the Middle or Late Chalcolithic. However, this conflicts with the burial ritual – a cylindrical grave pit filled in with tiny lumps of burnt wall plaster, the position and orientation of the dead body, the head covered with red ochre, the post-mortem trepanations, a stone on the pelvis, a ceramic vessel placed before the corpse and typologically related to a later period – are all characteristics that do not fit into the chronological frame mentioned above. The archaeological context points to the so-called Transitional or post-Chalcolithic period, dating back to ca 5200‑4550 BP30. Regretfully no other burials of this kind have been discovered in Bulgaria up to the present, a fact which hampers the definition of its relative chronology. The time difference between the suggested date and its absolute date is at least 400 years. This is very disconcerting indeed, but in my opinion it can be connected to the problems (“anomalies”) of 14C, or to the existing periodization of the Copper Age.

  • 31 Rassamakin 2004, p. 23‑35.
  • 32 Berciu et al. 1973, p. 382, pl. 8.

32Burial 20 is definitely the most interesting one, not only because of the unusual positions of the deceased but because of the rich offerings as well. There are two dates for this burial which are very close to each other: 4445 ± 35 BP = 3328‑3015 cal BC, and 4470 ± 30 BP = 3338‑3025 cal BC; they place it at the end of the so-called Transitional period or the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. The archaeological context also points to the Early Bronze Age (EBA). The collective burial of individuals of almost the same age and the male-female embracing couples’ configurations in extended positions are unknown so far in present-day Bulgaria. The main characteristics of the burial ritual relate it to group I of the first burial tradition of the general typology of the Chalcolithic burials in the steppe zone of the Northern Black Sea region31. It needs to be pointed out that the area where the prehistoric burials were located has been intensively cultivated for many years. Therefore, even if any structures had existed above the ground, they would have been destroyed without leaving a trace. The offerings in the burial also point to the EBA. The two bowls are typical in shape. Similar shapes can be found mainly in the area to the north and the northeast and especially in the area of the Cernavoda II culture32.

  • 33 Vajsov 1993, p. 126‑129.
  • 34 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 494.

33The bronze artifact that was found on the chest of skeleton 20E (at this stage of research only preliminary results of the chemical analysis are available) is highly corroded. Although very thin, it can be interpreted as a dagger, similar to the Early Bronze Age daggers from present-day Hungary – the early phases of the Bodrogkeresztúr culture33. The Dentalium beads, although known as early as the Late Chalcolithic, are very common in the EBA as well. A necklace made from Dentalium shells, which was found in burial 5 from building level 13 in Tell Ezero, indicates a relationship with the Baden culture34.

  • 35 Kitov et al. 1991, p. 46.
  • 36 Alexandrov 2009, p. 8.
  • 37 Ibid., p. 12.
  • 38 Alexandrov 2009.

34Judging by the place they were found (near the ear of each of the deceased), the silver hair-rings could have also been used as earrings. These personal ornaments have been yielded by a number of Early Bronze Age cemeteries in a large area35. In the light of the recent studies on these ornaments, the hair-rings from the Smyadovo burial can be related to group IA2, which comprises artifacts of marginal size, i. e. the diameter of the hair-ring smaller than 1.3 cm and the diameter of the wire smaller than 0.3 cm36. The chemical analyses provide reasons to date them to the EBA Ib-EBA III periods37. As far as the absolute chronology is concerned, again there is a discrepancy between the AMS dates from the grave (3328‑3015 and 3338‑3025 cal BC) and those typical for this period (3000‑2200/2100 cal BC)38. The dates from burial 20 are even earlier than the dates of the personal ornaments from group IA1. The artifacts yielded by the grave date it back to the EBA II, while the absolute dates point to an earlier period within the frame of the EBA.

35Burial 24 is also very enigmatic. Three individuals of almost the same age (15‑25 years old) were buried in it. The samples provided two dates, from the two lower skeletons: 4457‑4343 cal BC and 4494‑4348 cal BC. It should be pointed out that the filling of the grave pit is homogeneous and that there is no evidence of a break in its usage; this probably means that the three corpses were buried at the same time. The radiocarbon dates date the assemblage back to the Late Chalcolithic. However, as for burial 18, the burial ritual seems rather different from the one typical for this period: the shape of the grave pit, the filling consisting of lumps of burnt wall plaster, the dead bodies being placed on top of each other, the lack of grave goods and the post-mortem trepanation on the three skulls. In view of these characteristics, I think that the burial has to be dated back to the transition between the Late Chalcolithic and the EBA. In this sense the absolute dates are probably again earlier than the archaeological context. The possibility should not be disregarded that the people buried in graves 18 and 24 were some of the first newcomers from the northeast who lived in the village together with the local Late Chalcolithic population, and were buried according to their own tradition which was totally different from the local one. Another scenario is also possible: that the newcomers inhabited the tell or the neighbouring area immediately after it was abandoned by the local Late Chalcolithic population. Their presence is indicated by the specific burial ritual, which was practiced within the boundaries of the Chalcolithic cemetery – although on its periphery – without disturbing earlier graves.

  • 39 Georgiev et al. 1979, fig. 172‑175.
  • 40 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 137‑142.

36Burial 27 provided the latest date. The relatively well preserved ceramic vessels allow comparison with similar vessels from Tell Ezero building levels 13‑1139. The date fits well into the series of dates from Tell Ezero, building levels 13‑1140; thus, the burial can be dated back to the EBA I‑II.

37The locations of the burials in the cemetery provide grounds for the following observations:

  • most of the deceased in the Chalcolithic burials are laid in a crouched position on their left, with their heads pointing to the east, except for the female burials, which vary a great deal – probably as a result of the various burial rituals in the regions in which the women were born and from which they came;

  • stone axes with holes were placed as grave goods in most of the male and young male burials;

  • all later burials are situated in the western part of the 2007 trench;

  • the westernmost Chalcolithic burials and the EBA ones are divided by an empty strip area 10‑15 m wide;

  • it seems probable that the Chalcolithic burials were marked by grave stones delineating the borders of the Chalcolithic cemetery, but it is also possible that there was memory of the place, and that the Early Bronze Age people considered and installed their cemetery at a distance from the Chalcolithic one;

  • the dead bodies in the single burials are in a crouched position, oriented east-west, with their heads pointing to the east;

  • the EBA dead bodies were buried in a crouched position on the right in contrast to the Chalcolithic ones, the majority of which were buried in a crouched position on the left;

    • 41 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 493.
    • 42 Alexandrescu 1974, pl. 2, 3.
    • 43 Stanchev 1989.
    • 44 Kalchev 2002.

    it is worth noting that the EBA burials are oriented east-west in contrast to the majority of the burials in the cemeteries at Ezero41, Zimnich42, Batin43, Tell Bereketska44, etc., which are oriented north-south.

38The following general conclusion regarding the absolute dates can be made:

  • 45 Gaydarska 2011.

39Two main groups of dates can be defined – 5929‑5525 BP (burials 3, 8, 13, 18, 24) and 4470‑4305 BP (burials 20, 25). However, for a time span of ca 1000 years there is no information available. Most of the calibrated BC dates yielded from Chalcolithic burials are within the first half of the 5 thmillennium BC or close to the mid‑5 thmillennium BC, i.e. they are earlier than the archaeological date – a fact for which we can propose different explanations. To a large extent, the data from the Smyadovo cemetery is relevant to the problems related to the new AMS dates from the Varna cemetery and the subsequent discussion45. The dates from Smyadovo prove once again that the Varna dates are not an isolated phenomenon and that the periodization of the Chalcolithic in present-day Bulgaria has to be submitted to a new discussion. Further research – on the field and in the laboratories – seems the only way of providing solutions to these problems.

Notes

2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.

3 Popov 1978; Popov 1987; Popov & Venelivova 2004.

4 Popov 1976, p. 26.

5 Todorova 1986, p. 77.

6 Ass. Prof. Stefan Chohadzhiev was the Field Director of the archaeological excavations. Svetlana Venelinova (Shumen Regional Museum of History) took an active part as a Deputy Field Director.

7 The opportunity to proceed with this dating was kindly provided by our colleague Zoï Tsirtsoni. Thirty-two samples were taken from burials 1‑27, nine of which have been dated. See also supra, chapter 2.

8 All dates are calibrated at 2 sigmas (95.4% probability).

9 Skeletons were studied by Prof. Yordan Yordanov and Dr Branimira Dimitrova, physical anthropologists at the Institute of Experimental Morphology and Anthropology with Museum at BAS, Sofia, whom I would like to thank for the preliminary information provided.

10 The X-ray structure analysis was done by Ass. Prof. Ruslan Kostov, whom I thank for the information provided.

11 Bachvarov 2004, p. 49‑50.

12 The analysis was carried out by a scanning electron microscope with an energy-dispersive X-ray analyzing system in the Eurotest Control AD Laboratory in Sofia.

13 The analysis was made by Dr Petia Penkova (NIAM-BAS), to whom I am very indebted for the preliminary results provided.

14 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147‑148.

15 Todorova et al. 1983, p. 26.

16 Todorova et al. 1975, p. 325.

17 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 183.

18 Todorova 1986, p. 77.

19 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147.

20 Popov 1976, p. 26.

21 Popov & Venelinova 2004, p. 13.

22 Todorova 1986, p. 77.

23 Chohadzhiev 2007, p. 57.

24 Todorova et al. 2002, pl. 31: 8; 69: 14.

25 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 147.

26 Raduncheva 1976, p. 91, fig. 90.

27 Todorova 1986, p. 68.

28 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 145.

29 Ibid., p. 144.

30 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 152‑155.

31 Rassamakin 2004, p. 23‑35.

32 Berciu et al. 1973, p. 382, pl. 8.

33 Vajsov 1993, p. 126‑129.

34 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 494.

35 Kitov et al. 1991, p. 46.

36 Alexandrov 2009, p. 8.

37 Ibid., p. 12.

38 Alexandrov 2009.

39 Georgiev et al. 1979, fig. 172‑175.

40 Görsdorf & Boyadzhiev 1996, p. 137‑142.

41 Georgiev et al. 1979, p. 493.

42 Alexandrescu 1974, pl. 2, 3.

43 Stanchev 1989.

44 Kalchev 2002.

45 Gaydarska 2011.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 – Smyadovo, geodetic plan of the prehistoric cemetery.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 472k
Légende Fig. 3 – Smyadovo burial no. 8. 1: general photo; 2: drawing; 3, 4: beads in situ, details; 5: stone shaft-hole axe; 6, 8: ceramic vessels; 7: stone beads after removal.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 476k
Légende Fig. 4 – Smyadovo, burial no. 13. 1: photo; 2: drawing; 3: stone shaft-hole axe; 4: detail.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Fig. 5 – Smyadovo, burial no. 18. 1: photo; 2: drawing; 3: ceramic vessel; 4, 5: details of the ceramic vessel.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Légende Fig. 6 – Smyadovo, burial no. 20. 1: general photo; 2: drawing; 3‑5: details; 6‑9: silver hair-rings from 20C‑20D; 10: a necklace made from Dentalium beads and three silver hair-rings from 20D; 11: bronze dagger (?) from 20E; 12, 13: ceramic vessels.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 192k
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-7.jpg
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Légende Fig. 7 – Smyadovo, burial no. 24. 1: photo (view from east); 2: drawing, with skeletons A-C; 3: photo of the pit’s section A-A1; 4: drawing of the section A-A1: yellow colour represents loess, brown is yellow-brownish soil, black are dark-black lumps of daub, and red are rusty-colored lumps of daub.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Légende Fig. 8 – Smyadovo, burial no. 27.1: photo; 2: drawing; 3, 4: ceramic vessel no. 2 (bowl); 5: ceramic vessel no. 1 (biconical pot); 6, 7: ceramic vessel no. 3 (jug); 8: detail, showing the three vessels in situ.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/506/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 211k

Auteur

Veliko Tarnovo University.

Tatiana Stefanova (Traducteur)
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