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The Human Face of Radiocarbon

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Zoï Tsirtsoni

Northwest Bulgaria

Chapter 6. The prehistoric settlement in the Ezeroto locality near the village of Borovan, Northwestern Bulgaria

Georgi Ganetsovski
Traduction de Tatiana Stefanova

Texte intégral

The site2

  • 2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.
  • 3 Nikolov 1996, p. 16.

1The Ezeroto locality is situated 3 km to the north of the village of Borovan, Vratsa district (fig. 1), on the high right bank of the Bratkovskata Bara River, which was blocked by the construction of a small artificial lake in the 1970s. The area is flat and is situated about 186 m above sea level. The prehistoric settlement was discovered during a survey conducted in 1996 by Bogdan Nikolov3. It covers an area of 12 hectares slanting from east to west, and is bordered to the north and the south by two dry streambeds (fig. 2).

  • 4 The present report refers only to the 2008‑2010 excavations.
  • 5 Ganetsovski 2008 and 2009.
  • 6 For terminology, see the introductory chapter.

2The archaeological excavations were carried out under the direction of Georgi Ganetsovski from the Vratsa Regional Historical Museum4. The team included Dr Radka Zlateva, Viviana Miteva and Miroslav Anchev, as well as workers from the village of Borovan. Three test trenches were excavated in 2008 and 2009 in the central, southern and eastern sectors of the site5. Three layers were documented: two of them date back to the Early Chalcolithic and the third one, which is heavily damaged, to the Final Chalcolithic6.

The Early Chalcolithic features

3The first stage of the Early Chalcolithic is related to a ritual pit with traces of fire, dug into the natural ground. Up to present, only one ritual structure has been documented in the central sector of the site. The pit is ca 0.20 m deep, dug into the loess, and situated under the second Early Chalcolithic building level. It was partially overlain by the floor of a hearth related to the upper Early Chalcolithic building level. The pit was filled in with a large amount of ash, fragments of fine and coarse ware broken on the spot and fired secondarily, as well as bones from a large herbivorous animal. The vessels were highly deformed as a result of the secondary firing. The pit fill also yielded burnt cattle horns bearing cut marks, bone artifacts (two awls, a spatula and a knuckle bone with polished sides), a stone pestle and a stone polisher, flint artifacts (a scraper and retouched blades), perforated appliqués made from Dentalium shells, fragments of ceramic zoomorphic vessels, and a leg from a ceramic graphite-painted cult table. All artifacts found in the pit were probably offerings. The bottom of the pit was paved with stones plastered with clay, whose colour changed to orange as a result of the firing.

Fig. 1 – Map of Northwestern Bulgaria and the location of the Borovan-Ezeroto prehistoric site, Vratsa region.

Fig. 2 – The Ezeroto locality near the village of Borovan.

4The second stage of the Early Chalcolithic was marked by building activity according to a preconceived plan. The two buildings excavated so far were constructed on the sandy loess and were destroyed by a conflagration. They consisted of a single room and were oriented southeast-northwest. The buildings had a wattle-and-daub construction and were rectangular in plan. They covered an area of 60‑70 m2, with the entrance on the eastern side.

5During the excavations, we found out that the Early Chalcolithic structures in this sector were partially damaged by those of the Final Chalcolithic. It seems that the builders of the 4th millennium BC village removed part of the debris and leveled the terrain. Their activity therefore partially destroyed the remains of the Early Chalcolithic settlement. It was found that a hearth/oven dating back to the Early Chalcolithic was overlapped by debris, ceramic sherds and animal bones related to the Final Chalcolithic period. We in fact assume that a part of the Early Chalcolithic artifacts (stone/flint) were recycled in a later period.

Fig. 3 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.

Fig. 4 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.

Fig. 5 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.

  • 7 Todorova 1986, p. 123‑126.
  • 8 Nikolov 1970; Nikolov 1974, p. 21‑30; Nikolov 1996, p. 16.

6The pottery yielded by these features in the three trenches displays all the characteristics in terms of technology, shapes and decoration typical of the pottery assemblages of the Early Chalcolithic in Northwestern Bulgaria7, and is related to the Gradeshnitsa culture8. There are many sherds decorated with wide incised lines filled in with white material and sherds decorated with incised geometric patterns, nail-impressed and plastic knobs (fig. 3‑5).

The Final Chalcolithic features

7The Final Chalcolithic layer consisting of dark brown soil was documented under the plough soil. In many places it cut through and damaged the Early Chalcolithic deposits. Obviously the area was leveled and the remains of the Early Chalcolithic village were disturbed. This would provide an explanation for the fact that no break was documented between the two layers (supra).

8The thickness of this layer varied between 0.40 and 0.90 m. In 2010, an area of 150 m2 was excavated in the southern and eastern sectors: it yielded the remains of three hearths or ovens, a pit related to everyday life activities, and a clay structure with a built-in grinding stone (fig. 6).

  • 9 Georgieva 1987, p. 2‑9; Vajsov 1992, p. 45‑59.

9The hearths or ovens were probably used simultaneously in the early 4th millennium BC. One of them can actually be interpreted as a kiln. This assumption is based on the presence of unfired vessel fragments and nine low-fired loom weights, found in situ on the western periphery of the structure’s floor (fig. 7). The pit was cut through a layer of light brown compact soil dating back to the Early Chalcolithic9; it was filled in with loose dark brown soil. It yielded Early and Final Chalcolithic potsherds, charcoal, fired pieces of wall plaster, stones, animal bones (probably bones of an ox), and flint artifacts. The bottom of the pit has a conical shape and is dug into the sandy loess. As was already pointed out, the function of the pit was most probably related to everyday life activities in the village. Finally, the grinding structure consisted of a grindstone embedded in a badly preserved horseshoe-shaped fired clay structure, facing southeast (fig. 8). Carbonized seeds were also discovered there and the remains of a big ceramic storage vessel and another concentration of carbonized seeds was found nearby (fig. 9).

  • 10 Todorova 1979, p. 66‑69; Georgieva 1987, p. 2‑9; Vajsov 1992, p. 45‑59.

10The features described were related to a building that was destroyed by fire. At the present stage of research, we are not able to define the size and the plan of the building. It seems that it was part of a settlement which was established in this location during the first half of the 4th millennium BC10.

Fig. 6 – Plan of the features of the Final Chalcolithic in the southern sector.

Fig. 7 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: floor of a thermal structure and group of low-fired loom weights and ceramic sherds.

Fig. 8 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: horseshoe-shaped platform with a grinding stone.

Fig. 9 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: fragmented grain-storage vessel, secondarily fired.

Fig. 10 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.

Fig. 11 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.

Fig. 12 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.

  • 11 Georgieva 1993b.

11The Final Chalcolithic layer described above yielded several flint arrow-heads, many potsherds with raised handles or handles of the Scheibenhenkel type, and sherds from a low-fired dark brown to black ware with an uneven gritty surface. This ware was made of a clay often tempered with a large quantity of organic inclusions (crushed shells). Potsherds decorated with plastic ribs, shallow incised lines or scratches, as well as with nail-impressions on parallel plastic bands were also discovered (fig. 10‑12). The pottery yielded by this layer allows synchronisms with the Galatin culture11.

  • 12 I am very indebted to Dr Zoï Tsirtsoni for the opportunity to participate in the project.

12The relative chronology presented above based on the archeological evidence is supported by the results from the radiocarbon analysis of two bone samples taken from the southern and central sectors. The samples were analyzed within the framework of the “Balkans 4000” project12.

Sample no.

Provenance

Lab code

BP value

Calibrated date (95.4%)

2

Square M10, 1‑2; depth -1.4 m*

Lyon-7482/SacA-21370

4957 ± 30

3891‑3666 BC

3

Square L17, 2; depth -2.05/-2.15 m

Lyon-7483/SacA-21371

5065 ± 35

3959‑3776 BC

* The depths are measured from the datum point of the site (186 m asl according to the Baltic Sea geodetic reference system).
Table 1 – Radiocarbon (AMS) dates from the Final Chalcolithic layer.

13According to its stratigraphic position, the second sample (Lyon-7483) was expected to belong to the Early Chalcolithic layer. However, the results of the analysis suggest that it actually belonged to the 4th millennium BC settlement, whose structures, as was already mentioned, penetrated the Early Chalcolithic layer.

The Early Bronze Age layer

  • 13 Alexandrov 1998, p. 233.
  • 14 Roman 1976, p. 113; Garašanin 1973, p. 189‑198.
  • 15 Dzhambazov & Katincharov 1974, p. 107; Yotsova 1981, p. 9‑26.
  • 16 Ganetsovski 2006, p. 85‑88.

14A certain number of ceramic sherds from jars or bowls with everted rims were identified during the study of the pottery. The colour range includes all shades of brown. The clay is tempered with a great deal of sand and has a characteristic grainy texture. The sherds are decorated with incisions and pricks, shallow incised lines, or plastic bands with finger-imprints. Strap handles and trumpet lugs have also been documented (fig. 13‑16). This pottery assemblage dates back to the second half of the Early Bronze Age13 and is related to the Magura-Coţofeni-Kostolac cultures14. Parallels can be found in the pottery assemblages of the Magura Cave, Vidin region15, and at the Altimir-Bresta site, Vratsa region16. The proposed relative chronology is supported by the results from the radiocarbon analysis of a sample (animal bone) taken from the southern sector:

Sample no.

Provenance

Lab code

BP value

Calibrated date (95.4%)

1

Square M10, 1; depth -1.45/-1.65 m

Lyon-7553/SacA-22060

3860 ± 30

2462‑2206 BC

Table 2 – Radiocarbon (AMS) date from the EBA layer.

15There are no architectural remains preserved from this layer; it was probably destroyed when the area was cultivated for growing vineyards. For the same reason, the Early Bronze Age pottery was very poorly preserved and was found together with ceramic sherds dating back to the Final Chalcolithic.

  • 17 The team was headed by Petar Zidarov (New Bulgarian University, Sofia).
  • 18 Zidarov et al. 2009, p. 16‑21.

16In 2009 the geomagnetic survey carried out at the site17 revealed the existence of a defense system consisting of a ditch and a palisade, which protected the settlement on three sides (fig. 17)18. A 30 m long trench in the eastern sector demonstrated that the ditch was about 6.5 m wide and 3 m deep. The soil fill of the ditch yielded ceramic sherds dating to all periods documented at the site. At this point of our research, we are not able to define the time when the defense system was established.

17Future investigations over a larger area should provide the opportunity to specify the sequence of, or the breaks between, the cultural deposits at the Borovan-Ezeroto site and the settlement organization in the various periods, as well as the time of the establishment of the defensive system.

Fig. 13 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.

Fig. 14 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.

Fig. 15 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.

Fig. 16 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.

Fig. 17 – Magnetometric plan of the Borovan-Ezeroto site.

Notes

2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.

3 Nikolov 1996, p. 16.

4 The present report refers only to the 2008‑2010 excavations.

5 Ganetsovski 2008 and 2009.

6 For terminology, see the introductory chapter.

7 Todorova 1986, p. 123‑126.

8 Nikolov 1970; Nikolov 1974, p. 21‑30; Nikolov 1996, p. 16.

9 Georgieva 1987, p. 2‑9; Vajsov 1992, p. 45‑59.

10 Todorova 1979, p. 66‑69; Georgieva 1987, p. 2‑9; Vajsov 1992, p. 45‑59.

11 Georgieva 1993b.

12 I am very indebted to Dr Zoï Tsirtsoni for the opportunity to participate in the project.

13 Alexandrov 1998, p. 233.

14 Roman 1976, p. 113; Garašanin 1973, p. 189‑198.

15 Dzhambazov & Katincharov 1974, p. 107; Yotsova 1981, p. 9‑26.

16 Ganetsovski 2006, p. 85‑88.

17 The team was headed by Petar Zidarov (New Bulgarian University, Sofia).

18 Zidarov et al. 2009, p. 16‑21.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 – Map of Northwestern Bulgaria and the location of the Borovan-Ezeroto prehistoric site, Vratsa region.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Légende Fig. 2 – The Ezeroto locality near the village of Borovan.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 236k
Légende Fig. 3 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-3.jpg
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Légende Fig. 4 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-4.jpg
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Légende Fig. 5 – Pottery from the Early Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-5.jpg
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Légende Fig. 6 – Plan of the features of the Final Chalcolithic in the southern sector.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Légende Fig. 7 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: floor of a thermal structure and group of low-fired loom weights and ceramic sherds.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende Fig. 8 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: horseshoe-shaped platform with a grinding stone.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende Fig. 9 – Final Chalcolithic layer, detail: fragmented grain-storage vessel, secondarily fired.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende Fig. 10 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-10.jpg
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Légende Fig. 11 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-11.jpg
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Légende Fig. 12 – Pottery from the Final Chalcolithic layer.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-12.jpg
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Légende Fig. 13 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-13.jpg
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Légende Fig. 14 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-14.jpg
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Légende Fig. 15 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Légende Fig. 16 – Early Bronze Age pottery from Borovan-Ezeroto.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Légende Fig. 17 – Magnetometric plan of the Borovan-Ezeroto site.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/510/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 74k

Auteur

Regional Historical Museum of Vratsa.

Tatiana Stefanova (Traducteur)
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