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The Human Face of Radiocarbon

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Zoï Tsirtsoni

Rhodopes

Chapter 12. The Late Chalcolithic site of Orlitsa1

Yavor Boyadzhiev et Kamen Boyadzhiev
Traduction de Tatiana Stefanova

Texte intégral

The geographical setting and the research2

  • 1 Y. Boyadzhiev is the author of the part regarding the settlement’s structure and architecture, and (...)
  • 2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.

1The prehistoric site of Orlitsa is located in the Eastern Rhodope Mountain range (Kardzhali region, Kirkovo municipality), close to the southernmost point on the Bulgarian-Greek border at the Makaza Pass (41° 18’ 43” N, 25° 23’ 13” E) [fig. 1]. The site is situated on the northern slope of the Gyumurdzhinski Snezhnik mountain (its peak, Veykata, rises to 1482 m above sea level), which is part of the chain of mountains marking the southern border of the Eastern Rhodope range. The site is located at the southern foot of a low hill (440 m asl) at the confluence of the Orlishka and the Lozengradska Rivers, in the catchment area of the Varbitsa River, on their right bank. The confluence area is a flat river-terrace 700 m long (along the Orlishka River) and 470 m wide. At this point the left banks of the rivers are cut into the rock, whereas there is an accumulation of deposits along the right banks. The river terraces are not well pronounced, except for the flood terrace of the Uzuntsi Dere River, whose right slope is slightly higher. The place occupied by the prehistoric people was the only one convenient for settlement – large enough and comparatively flat. The climate in this region is continental-Mediterranean and is characterized by a warm summer and a mild winter.

  • 3 I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my colleague Dr Georgi Nehrizov (NIAM-BAS) for the (...)

2Rescue excavations were carried out at the site in October-November 2003 and in May-December 2004 due to the construction of a road connecting the towns of Kardzhali (Bulgaria) and Komotini (Greece). Initially, it was assumed that the site dated back to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age, due to the presence of potsherds on the surface of the site, and the rescue excavations took place under the direction of Dr Georgi Nehrizov (NIAM-BAS). After establishing that the materials on the surface were eroded down from the hill situated to the north and that the site was inhabited in the Late Chalcolithic, Dr Yavor Boyadzhiev (NIAM-BAS) was invited to lead the project3.

The settlement’s structure and the architecture

  • 4 The excavated area was limited to within the bed of the future road.

3The site is situated at the western part of the river confluence at 370 m asl (fig. 2). Its northern boundary is formed by the slopes of the hill, whereas its southern boundary most probably by the bank of the Orlishka River. The western border is marked by the bed of a sweeping stream, a right feeder of the Orlishka River. The settlement occupies a narrow band, at least 120 m long (to the place where house 3 was documented), starting from the bed of the stream and going to the east (fig. 3). The excavated area is 40 m wide (measured from north to south). However, it is possible that the occupied area was wider, since the low and flat area next to the river was not excavated. It is absolutely certain that buildings 2 and 6 continue to the south in the unexcavated area, and it seems possible that other buildings have also existed there4.

Fig. 1 – Map of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and the location of the Chalcolithic sites along the Varbitsa River.
1: Varhari; 2: Tell Sedlare; 3: Tell Podkova; 4: Orlitsa.

Fig. 2 – The site, general view from north.

Fig. 3 – General plan of the Orlitsa site.

  • 5 The study of the geomorphology of the area was made by Ass. Prof. Dr R. Kenderova (Sofia University (...)

4Houses and features were documented at various depths – from 0.30 to 3 m below the modern surface. These differences are a result of the deposits accumulated after the abandonment of the site, and whose thickness increases from northeast to southwest. The ancient surface slanted strongly in the north-south direction, but also in the east-west direction in the central part of the site. The surface was terraced and this resulted in a considerable difference in the levels at which the various buildings were constructed – the hypsometric difference is almost 3 m for a distance of 50 m. The settlement was destroyed by a fire; later on its remains were covered by water and remained submerged for a certain period of time5. The beds of numerous streams running down the slopes of the hill situated to the north are clearly visible.

5This was a single-layer settlement. The buildings were arranged in a 20‑25 m wide band following the foothills. The distance between the houses varies, from 4 m between houses 1 and 5, to 25 m between houses 3 and 4 (fig. 3). The highest concentration of buildings was documented in the central part of the site, where four of them are situated relatively close to each other – houses 4, 2, 1 and 5. In total, six buildings were excavated.

House 1

6The house consisted of two parts (fig. 4). The main room was more than 15 m long and about 5 m wide; parts of its western and northern walls were discovered (fig. 5). They were made from wood and clay; the wooden posts were ca 10 cm in diameter and wedged by stones. Stones were also used in the construction of the wall, especially for the northern wall which was the most solid one. It has not been possible to trace the southern wall, because the southeastern and the southern part of the building were destroyed by a wide stream. No traces were found from the eastern wall either. It could have been made from wooden elements and/or separate vertical wooden posts (resting on horizontal ones?) bearing the construction of the second floor.

  • 6 The archaeobotanical remains yielded from the Orlitsa site were analyzed by Ass. Prof. Dr Tsvetana (...)

7The house had two storeys. Burnt wooden beams covered by the burnt pieces of daub were found in some places, especially in the southern part of the house. The wooden post, probably plastered with clay, which apparently supported the second storey, was discovered in the central part of the room. Fragmented clay vessels were found underneath, as well as on top of the burnt debris. An oval clay platform bearing a grinding stone together with the grinder, was discovered on the lower floor in the northeastern part of the room. Next to the grinding stone lay the pieces of another feature with a 15 cm high lining, plastered with a 2 cm thick layer of clay at the base. A platform measuring 1.50 x 0.80 m and made from stone slabs tightly arranged next to each other was found to the north. The platform abutted the northern wall. Two more grinding stones were discovered in the northern part of the building. Most of the small finds – stone adzes, conical clay weights (fig. 22: 5‑14), a head of clay anthropomorphic figurine (fig. 22: 1), etc. – were found in this part of the house, especially at its eastern end. The number of the clay vessels found on the first floor is higher. The wooden posts of the walls were made from oak trees, whereas the house equipment was made from ash timber6.

Fig. 4 – House 1, general view from the west at the level of the destruction of the second floor.

Fig. 5 – House 1, remains of the western wall (view from the north).

  • 7 A similar method of house building is still very popular in the mountainous villages situated on hi (...)

8The northern room was situated 0.70 m from the main room. Its southern side was marked by a row of charred oak-tree posts 8 to 10 cm in diameter (fig. 4, 6), which were fixed into the ground at a relatively shallow depth – an average of 0.05 m. Young trees, about 10 years old, were used for the posts. A 0.80 m wide door was documented in the middle of the row of postholes. The room featured a platform consisting of burnt wooden beams 0.15‑0.20 m wide (made from oak and black pine), whose preserved length was up to 4.10 m (fig. 4, 6, 7). The beams followed the inclination and the irregularities of the surface. The evidence clearly shows that the beams were not lain on a solid flat surface but fell from a certain height. The wooden construction was covered with a 0.10‑0.15 m thick layer of clay mixed with a large amount of straw and tiny pebbles (fig. 7). To the north it abuts the base of a heap of stones 0.40‑0.50 m high; the latter covers an area 2 m long and 0.90 m wide. Pieces of burnt daub were scattered next to its northern side, and fragments of two horizontally burnt wooden beams at a distance of 0.60 m from each other lay 0.40‑0.50 m to the north. The stones were probably used for the reinforcement of the terraced slope. We presume that the northern side of the wooden, clay-plastered construction rested on the higher terrace and was at the same level as the ancient surface; its southern end was situated ca 1 m higher than the surface and was connected to the second floor of the southern room of the house (fig. 8)7. The width of the wooden construction up to the concentration of stones was ca 3.40 m, and 5 m to the northernmost fragment of charred wooden beam. It rested directly on top of the virgin soil and no finds were discovered underneath. This evidence provides reason to suppose that the room to which this construction belonged was not inhabited by people, in contrast to the central part of the house, on whose floor were unearthed a great number of clay vessels and other finds. It can be suggested that this space was used for keeping livestock; however no proof can be provided in support of this statement, as the stream running in this part of the settlement after the abandonment of the house destroyed any possible evidence that animals had been kept in this spot.

9The two rooms of House 1 were connected at their western end to a facility, measuring 1.80 x 1.80 m, made from solid stones and thick clay plaster (up to 0.20 cm), which had fallen down during the fire and buried the clay vessels inside.

Fig. 6 – House 1, charred wooden planks in the northern room.

Fig. 7 – House 1, charred wooded planks plastered with clay and concentration of stones at the northern end.

Fig. 8 – Schematic reconstruction of house 1, N-S section.
A: farm place; B: corridor; C: living place.

Fig. 9 – Building 2, southwestern part; level with debris (view from south).

Fig. 10 – Building 2, southwestern part; the floor (after the removal of the pieces of fired daub).

House 2

10House 2 had a rather unusual construction. Its foundation consisted of a 0.30 m thick layer of clay whose upper part was severely fired (fig. 9). The house covered an area larger than 50 m2 (9 m long and more than 5.50 m wide), its western end remaining under the unexcavated area. Two rows of postholes (oriented north-northeast/south-southwest) were documented, and some of them were grouped in pairs inside deep pits (fig. 10). The posts were plastered with clay. Some of the pits had a clay lining. A row of postholes oriented east-west was discovered in the southern end of the house, at the edge of an area covered by pieces of daub, fired to a brick-red colour. In the northern part, a 0.13‑0.15 m thick layer of wall plaster was unearthed, facing the ground: it seems that it belonged to a facility with vertical walls, at least 0.70 m high and ca 1 m long. To the east of the thick layer of debris, at a distance of 2‑2.50 m, was found a thin black-brown layer of soil mixed with small pieces of fired wall plaster. Several fragmented ceramic vessels lay at its eastern end. This layer was documented 0.05 to 0.07 m higher than the upper level of the thick debris. It is possible that these are the remains of a veranda situated in the northeastern part of the building, similar to house 5. However, there was no reliable evidence supporting such a suggestion, or a suggestion for a second floor in house 2.

11A concentration consisting of small and medium-size stones was discovered 2.80 m to the north of the debris and 0.20 to 0.40 m higher than their level. The stone concentration was 0.40 m thick and covered an area of 3.60 x 2.60 m (oriented east-west). These stones can be interpreted as remains from the reinforcement of a terrace on the slope (like the one seen in house 1, see fig. 8). Two pits were documented in the space limited by the stone concentration and the layer of debris. A third pit was found 0.90 m away from the southeastern corner of the debris.

House 3

  • 8 This suggestion is supported by the presence of fragments of the hearth’s floor which form a smooth (...)

12The building was approximately rectangular in plan measuring 5 x 4 m. Its outlines were marked by a 0.30 m thick cultural deposit yielding ceramic sherds and building destruction (fig. 11). Postholes with a diameter of 0.15‑0.16 m, apparently marking the walls of the house, were documented at the northwestern and the southeastern side of the cultural layer. Pieces of fired wall-plaster were found all over the cultural deposit, but the highest concentration was documented at the edges close to the postholes, forming ca 0.70 m wide bands. A large number of stones, probably part of the wall construction, were discovered to the northwest of the wall-plaster pieces. Remains of a destroyed hearth or oven, slanting down and overlapping each other, were found beside the northeastern corner of the house. The evidence provides grounds to suggest that the structure fell down from a certain height. Considering that the natural surface was the floor of the house and that the highly fragmented ceramic vessels found there were not in situ, it seems very likely that the house consisted of two floors with an oven on the second floor8. Two storage pits were unearthed to the north of the house.

Fig. 11 – House 3, plan of the destruction level (scale 1/75).

House 4

  • 9 The remains of the house were destroyed by several mountain streams in a later period. They damaged (...)

13No traces of its outlines were documented9. Its area was marked by a cultural deposit covering ca 70 m2. The deposit yielded a large number of flint artifacts, as well as potsherds, especially in its western part. However, no ceramic vessels were found in situ. It seems that the vessels fell from a certain height because the sherds are mixed. They were found on top of a very thin (0.02‑0.04 m) layer of sandy soil, which was on top of a natural layer of stones. No traces of a floor were documented. The evidence provides grounds to suggest that the house consisted of two floors and only the second floor was used as living space. It seems probable that the lower floor was used as a storage place and/or room for economic activities. A large grinding stone was unearthed almost in the center of the house, whereas a grinding stone and a grinder were also found in its northeastern corner. Remains of a hearth were discovered ca 2 m away from the southeastern corner of this deposit. Ca 5 m away to the north, two pits, as well as other features destroyed by later flood beds, were documented.

Fig. 12 – House 5, plan of the lower level (scale 1/75).
A: burnt beams, remains of a veranda; B: stones from the central part of the northern wall; C: row of burnt posts in the eastern wall; D: stone facility in the southwestern corner.

House 5

  • 10 The western part of the southern wall of the house remained in the unexcavated area.

14It consisted of two floors and measured 13.50 x 7.50 m (fig. 12). The floor of the second storey was made from wooden beams and planks, whose burnt and clay plastered remains were documented (the thick clay plaster was fired to brick-red colour on both sides) [fig. 13; 15]. Fragmented clay vessels were found on top of or between the pieces of fired daub, but not underneath. Each of the house walls was constructed differently: the central part of the northern wall was made from stones (fig. 14); the western wall was made from wattle-and-daub including stones of various sizes in its northern part, and the wooden posts were reinforced with stones at the base; the eastern wall was made of thick wooden posts (0.20‑0.25 m in diameter), densely arranged next to each other and plastered with clay (fig. 15; 16); the southern wall was made of thin wooden posts with a diameter of 0.10 m10. The entrance of the house was at the western side, at a spot where the wall made a 0.55 m long turn at a right angle inside the house. A 2 m long (from north to south) and ca 1.20 m wide area was documented there; it was not covered with pieces of fired wall plaster, but with a large amount of charred wood, including the remains of two charred wooden beams which were oriented north-south. The evidence provides grounds to suggest that a wooden ladder to the second floor has existed in this place.

15The basement was divided into two rooms (fig. 12). The northern room was 8.20‑8.40 m long: its end was marked by an almost vertical rise of the floor level, marked at this part of the house by gray-black clay. There were also remains of a wooden plank/beam whose long side was oriented east-west. The rise coincides with the line of the entrance at the western wall. The room was most probably used for sheltering the livestock and/or preserving hay, as no facilities, small finds or clay vessels were documented in it, but only the foundations of the pillars supporting the upper floor. The southern room measured 4‑4.60 x 7.60‑7.80 m. It seems likely that the two rooms were separated by a wooden partition. However, the boundary between them was destroyed by the bed of a later stream. The entrance in the western wall is the only visible feature, and it was probably used to access both rooms because it was situated on the boundary between the two. A solid stone facility was found in the southwestern corner of the room – a vertical stone slab (0.80 m high and 1.40 m long) abutting a horizontal stone slab (1.40 m long, 0.33 m wide and 0.06 m thick) placed on the virgin soil (fig. 17). The vertical slab abutted the western wall of the house.

16A veranda, up to 3 m long, existed on the second floor along the northern and the northeastern walls of the house. Its preserved remains consist of wooden planks with a preserved maximum length of 1.90 m and perpendicular wooden beams plastered with a thin layer of clay (fig. 12; 18).

Fig. 13 – House 5, the northwestern part. The upper level of the debris, concentrations of stones and pieces of fired daub.

Fig. 14 – House 5, the northern wall.

Fig. 15 – House 5, the eastern wall.

Fig. 16 – House 5, the eastern wall; a detail: charred wooden posts.

Fig. 17 – House 5, the southern room.

House 6

  • 11 A similar construction technique was used until recently in this region, as well as in many other r (...)

17It faced the cardinal points with a slight deviation and consisted of two rooms (fig. 19; 20). The western room measured 7 x 5 m and its walls were marked by a row of horizontal stone slabs. Most probably the vertical wooden posts supporting the roof rested on these stone slabs. Wooden beam/planks, probably plastered with clay, might have closed the spaces between the posts11. A bench measuring 1.20 x 1.20 m abutted the northern wall: it was made from densely arranged stones (the smaller ones in the upper part) probably plastered with clay. A platform consisting of a layer of stone slabs, most of which were arranged next to each other, was documented to the west of the bench, between it and the western wall of the house. The platform was 1.70 m away from the northern house wall. It seems likely that there was one more room in the southern direction of this part of the house where fragmented ceramic vessels were documented. However, this part of the house remained outside the future bed of the road and was not excavated.

Fig. 18 – House 5, remains of veranda in front of the northern wall (detail: vertical beam supporting the veranda).

18The eastern part of the house was marked by a 10 m long row of post holes parallel to the eastern wall of the western room and situated 5 m away from the eastern wall. From its northern end starts a 1.60 m long perpendicular row of post holes, perfectly matching the line of the northern wall of the western room. Its southern part was arch-shaped and formed a small apse (fig. 21). Three layers with a high concentration of fragmented vessels were documented in it; they form a band up to 2 m wide (east-west). This spot was also characterized by an extremely high concentration of charred wood; its remains were not documented next to the wall but at the inner side of the fired pieces of daub, among the fragmented pottery. Most probably they were the remains of charred wooden construction, e.g. wooden shelves on which the clay vessels were kept. A small number of ceramic sherds were found in the rest of the eastern room, which also contained a large number of flint artifacts and stone adzes; the highest concentration was documented at the boundary between the two rooms. No tools were discovered in the western room. The distinction in the construction and in the objects found in each, reveal that the two rooms differed in function: the eastern room was used for the main economic activities and for those related to the household, with a special sector where the kitchen pottery was kept and probably used. The western room was most probably used only for living.

19Considering the above, one notices that each of the houses had its own typical features and differed from the others. There were one-storey houses (e.g. house 6), as well as two-storey houses. In the latter case, people either lived on both floors (e.g. house 1) or on the upper floor only (e.g. house 5, probably also houses 3 and 4), and used the spaces on the lower floor for economic and household activities. The study of the distribution of the small finds reveals differentiation among the houses. The flint artifacts are the most numerous among the small finds – 196 pieces. Half of them were found in two houses, houses 2 and 4, whereas the lowest number was documented in house 3. In addition, the remains of house 3 did not yield a single stone adze, while six or seven adzes were found in each of the remaining buildings. However, house 3 yielded the highest number of the so-called “cult objects” – three anthropomorphic and two zoomorphic figurines, as well as two fragments of “cult tables”. In fact, cult objects were found only in one of the remaining buildings – house 1, which yielded two anthropomorphic and two zoomorphic figurines. Also, in comparison to the rest of the houses, house 3 yielded a higher number of fine ceramic vessels, some of them graphite-painted. The highest number of flint artifacts and stone adzes were discovered in house 4 and its adjacent area, including various facilities related to economic activities.

Fig. 19 – House 6, plan (scale 1/100).

Fig. 20 – House 6, view from north.

Fig. 21 – House 6, the apse: debris.

20The study of the charred wood from the houses revealed a careful selection of the timber used for the wooden parts of the buildings as well as for the furniture. The wooden frames of the houses were made from oak, and the verandas were made from softwood because of the lower weight of this timber. The furniture was made from ash, due to its hardness and high quality, which also made it suitable for manufacturing tools, hornbeam which was suitable for smaller artifacts, and pear (or other trees from the Pomoideae family).

  • 12 Boyadzhiev 2006.

21The sharp contrast between the cultural deposit within the houses and the space between them is especially typical of the site. The finds, including the potsherds, are very few outside the houses. The cultural deposit differed only by the darker colour of the soil. A higher number of ceramic sherds and tools were documented only in the area of the pits and the facilities surrounding house 4, where, apparently, household and economic activities were performed. The observations provided grounds to assume that the houses were surrounded by courtyards, which were carefully cleaned and maintained in perfect order; for that reason no anthropogenic remains typical for the space between the houses on settlement mounds were documented. Different facilities relating to everyday life activities were unearthed in the courtyards. Hearths (or ovens?) were discovered near houses 3 and 4. An assemblage consisting of four pits (with grinding stones found next to three of them), a large storage vessel, a room for keeping livestock, as well as the remains of light structures (pieces of fired daub), were discovered to the north and northwest of house 4 (fig. 3). It was destroyed by the fire and the floods that happened later. Three of the pits were plastered with fine clay12. Remains of facilities – horizontally arranged stone slabs and ceramic sherds – were documented also to the northwest of house 1. Fruit trees – wild cherries, pears and wild plums – were apparently grown in the courtyards: besides the fruit stones and the charred wood from fruit trees, round spots of charcoal, as well as numerous single charcoal pieces, were documented in the space between the houses indicating that trees had grown there.

22A spring existed to the east of house 6 (when we reached its level, water burst forth) and the area surrounding it was paved with stones, apparently to prevent it from getting muddy and to provide easier access to the spring in rainy days.

The finds

23The archaeological excavations yielded tools made from various rocks and minerals (opal, jasper and rock crystal). Among the polished stone tools, adzes definitely prevail (fig. 22: 15, 16). An interesting collection of finds came from house 1: it consisted of conical and cylindro-conical clay artifacts, most of them horizontally pierced at the upper part which can be interpreted as weights for a fish net (fig. 22: 5‑14). Clay spoons were also found. The site also yielded a nice collection of anthropomorphic figurines, including a beautiful head of a clay figurine with individualized facial features (fig. 22: 1).

24The pottery yielded by the site is poorly preserved mainly due to the action of water. On one hand, the numerous floods destroying the site after it ceased to function have transported away part of the ceramic sherds and damaged the surface of the surviving ones. On the other hand, the fact that the remains of the site were covered by water for a certain period of time brought further damage to the pottery.

25The clay used for the vessels is mixed with sand and grit. The main colour of the pottery varies among different shades of brown – red-brown or dark brown mainly. Plates and jars are the main pottery shapes.

26The plates are usually conical and open, and differ mainly in the rim shape. The following types have been distinguished: plates with S-shaped rims whose edge can be thinned, regular or thickened (fig. 23: 2, 5‑8); plates with a straight rim (fig. 23: 1); plates with a rim thickened at the inside (fig. 23: 13, 15); plates with a vertical rim (fig. 23: 4); plates with an incurved rim (fig. 23: 9, 11, 14); plates with thickened and inverted rims (fig. 23: 10, 12).

Fig. 22 – Small finds (scale 1/3).

27The jars are represented by two main types – spherical, and biconical with a smooth carination. The spherical jars usually have a short conical (fig. 24: 2, 4, 8) or cylindrical neck (fig. 24: 1). The biconical jars with rounded carination usually do not have such a nicely shaped neck; sometimes the neck is slightly marked by a shallow incision below the rim (but some of the spherical jars are also shaped in a similar way).

28The bowls are the third group in terms of number of finds following the plates and the jars. What is characteristic for the site is the dominance of rounded shapes and carination of the pottery assemblage. The following types have been documented:

  • biconical bowls (fig. 25: 1‑4, 6, 7). There are different variants of this shape – with a short (fig. 25: 3) or high (fig. 25: 4, 6) upper part. The carination is sharp or rounded. The shapes with rounded carination often have a slightly flared and rounded rim.

  • conical bowls with cylindrical upper parts (fig. 25: 5). Their upper part is shorter than the lower one, whereas the upper part is shaped as a frustum of a cone. They usually have thickened carination marked on the outside.

  • globular bowls (fig. 24: 3; 25: 8). Two variants are documented: spherical bowls with straight rims and spherical bowls with a rim marked by a wide shallow depression 2‑3 cm below the end of the rim.

  • hemispherical bowls (fig. 24: 6; 25: 10). Their rim is either straight or slightly thickened on the inside.

Fig. 23 – Pottery shapes from the Orlitsa site, plates (scale 1/4).

Fig. 24 – Pottery shapes from the Orlitsa site, bowls and jars (scale 1/4).

Fig. 25 – Pottery shapes, bowls (scale 1/4).

Fig. 26 – Pottery shapes, cups and jugs (scale 1/4).

Fig. 27 – Decoration of the pottery (scale 1/4).

29Some of the bowls have vertical handles. There are also bowls with horizontal cylindrical lugs below the carination (fig. 25: 3).

30Jugs (fig. 26: 5‑11) or cups (fig. 26: 1‑4) are not very common. Some of the jugs have a small horizontal lug below the rim (fig. 26: 5, 6, 8). The cups are biconical (fig. 26: 1‑3) or with straight, slightly convex sides (fig. 26: 4).

31Incised decoration is the most common (fig. 27: 1‑5). Usually the pattern consists of several parallel lines arranged at an angle to each other. The incisions are narrow and relatively shallow. There are single incised lines or wide channelling. The bowls with rounded carination are the shapes which are most often decorated with incisions (fig. 24: 3; 25: 8). Some of the vessels are decorated with triangular or rectangular pricks (fig. 27: 6), or with nail impressions. Graphite-painted decoration is also present (fig. 23: 4; 25: 2, 4; 27: 9, 10), especially on the plates. The comparatively low number of graphite-painted sherds probably results from the fact that the surface of the ceramic sherds was damaged by water. It is possible that the same reason accounts for the lack of crusted decoration. A trace of crusted decoration is visible on a sherd – the paint has faded away leaving an imprint of the pattern. Numerous vessels were decorated with plastic bands (fig. 27: 7) carrying finger imprints or incisions, or with plastic knobs – single (fig. 23: 12; 25: 4; 26: 3) or double (fig. 25: 10; 27: 5) – differing in size or shape. The jars were decorated with channelling or barbotine.

32The pottery assemblage of the site reveals parallels with sites from the present-day Upper Thrace, the Southern Black Sea coast and Southwestern Bulgaria, as well as Eastern Macedonia, Aegean Thrace and the southern foothills of the Strandzha Mountain. The analysis of the pottery assemblage provides grounds to date the site back to the Late Chalcolithic.

The radiocarbon dates

  • 13 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 182.
  • 14 Ibid., p. 167‑173, fig. 10. About the coincidence of radiocarbon dates from some Early and Late Cha (...)

33Two 14C dates are available for the site – Ly-14799: 5780 ± 35 BP and Ly-14800: 5690 ± 35 BP, giving after calibration (at 2σ) 4716‑4541 and 4606‑4455 cal BC respectively (table 1). Dates of similar values are published from Early Chalcolithic sites, e.g. Tell Azmak, or Slatino13, as well as from sites dating back to the first half of the Late Chalcolithic, the Karanovo VI and Kodzhadermen cultures14. In view of the parallels of the pottery, which indicate clearly that the site dates back to the Late Chalcolithic, the date of the settlement can be specified in the beginning or the mid Late Chalcolithic, most probably around 4500 cal BC.

Table 1 – Radiocarbon dates from Orlitsa.

  • 15 See chapter 13 in this volume, p. 247.
  • 16 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 354‑355, fig. 1.
  • 17 Peykov 1978; Kanchev & Chohadzhiev 1994.
  • 18 Raduncheva 1997.

34The dates from Orlitsa together with the dates from Varhari15 are the first that stand witness for a Late Chalcolithic occupation in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. So far the available dates from two cave sites in the Western Rhodope Mountains – Yagodina and Haramiiska Dupka – have provided grounds to suggest that the territory of the Rhodope Mountains was settled in a later period, in the Final Chalcolithic (4000‑3800 cal BC)16. It seemed to be most probably related to specific events that had a crucial influence on the peaceful existence of the Chalcolithic people – invasion of steppe-tribes from the northeast, or climate change which made the traditional habitats unsuitable for farming. The radiocarbon dates from the Orlitsa and Varhari sites reveal that the Eastern Rhodope Mountains were populated as early as the end of the Early Chalcolithic. Apparently this process was not related to events of “catastrophic” nature but to the normal development of the prehistoric society. In fact, the “colonization” of the Rhodope Mountains started considerably earlier – in the Early Neolithic as attested by the settlements in the present-day towns of Kardzhali and Krumovgrad17. The lack of evidence of Chalcolithic sites from the Varbitsa River valley up to present (except for the settlement mound at Sedlare18) was apparently not a result of the absence of such settlements, but rather of the geographic characteristics of the region. As was shown by the archaeological excavations, the Orlitsa and Varhari sites were flooded and covered by water for a long period after they were abandoned. Later on, they were covered by a thick deposit of eroded soil and no trace of them was visible on the surface. The fact that information about four sites (Varhari, Sedlare, Podkova and Orlitsa) at a segment of ca 40 km along the Varbitsa River is already available, and there are probably other sites which have not been identified yet, reveals that in the Chalcolithic the region was well populated. It is also worth remembering that one of the main roads connecting Northeastern Thrace and the Aegean coast passed through these territories.

Notes

1 Y. Boyadzhiev is the author of the part regarding the settlement’s structure and architecture, and the radiocarbon dates; K. Boyadzhiev wrote the parts about the history of research, the pottery and the small finds.

2 Text translated from Bulgarian by Tatiana Stefanova.

3 I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my colleague Dr Georgi Nehrizov (NIAM-BAS) for the opportunity to excavate the settlement.

4 The excavated area was limited to within the bed of the future road.

5 The study of the geomorphology of the area was made by Ass. Prof. Dr R. Kenderova (Sofia University).

6 The archaeobotanical remains yielded from the Orlitsa site were analyzed by Ass. Prof. Dr Tsvetana Popova (NIAM-BAS).

7 A similar method of house building is still very popular in the mountainous villages situated on hill slopes.

8 This suggestion is supported by the presence of fragments of the hearth’s floor which form a smooth curve.

9 The remains of the house were destroyed by several mountain streams in a later period. They damaged the debris (especially to the east) and destroyed the remnants, if any, from the construction of the walls. The southern part of the house remained in the unexcavated area.

10 The western part of the southern wall of the house remained in the unexcavated area.

11 A similar construction technique was used until recently in this region, as well as in many other regions in Bulgaria (in the mountains mainly).

12 Boyadzhiev 2006.

13 Boyadzhiev 1995, p. 182.

14 Ibid., p. 167‑173, fig. 10. About the coincidence of radiocarbon dates from some Early and Late Chalcolithic sites, see also the discussion in Boyadzhiev & Aslanis, chapter 9 in this volume, p. 165.

15 See chapter 13 in this volume, p. 247.

16 Boyadzhiev 1998, p. 354‑355, fig. 1.

17 Peykov 1978; Kanchev & Chohadzhiev 1994.

18 Raduncheva 1997.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 – Map of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and the location of the Chalcolithic sites along the Varbitsa River.1: Varhari; 2: Tell Sedlare; 3: Tell Podkova; 4: Orlitsa.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Légende Fig. 2 – The site, general view from north.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Légende Fig. 3 – General plan of the Orlitsa site.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Légende Fig. 4 – House 1, general view from the west at the level of the destruction of the second floor.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Fig. 5 – House 1, remains of the western wall (view from the north).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Légende Fig. 6 – House 1, charred wooden planks in the northern room.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Légende Fig. 7 – House 1, charred wooded planks plastered with clay and concentration of stones at the northern end.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Fig. 8 – Schematic reconstruction of house 1, N-S section. A: farm place; B: corridor; C: living place.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Légende Fig. 9 – Building 2, southwestern part; level with debris (view from south).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Légende Fig. 10 – Building 2, southwestern part; the floor (after the removal of the pieces of fired daub).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Légende Fig. 11 – House 3, plan of the destruction level (scale 1/75).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Légende Fig. 12 – House 5, plan of the lower level (scale 1/75). A: burnt beams, remains of a veranda; B: stones from the central part of the northern wall; C: row of burnt posts in the eastern wall; D: stone facility in the southwestern corner.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Fig. 13 – House 5, the northwestern part. The upper level of the debris, concentrations of stones and pieces of fired daub.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Légende Fig. 14 – House 5, the northern wall.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Légende Fig. 15 – House 5, the eastern wall.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Légende Fig. 16 – House 5, the eastern wall; a detail: charred wooden posts.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Légende Fig. 17 – House 5, the southern room.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Légende Fig. 18 – House 5, remains of veranda in front of the northern wall (detail: vertical beam supporting the veranda).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Légende Fig. 19 – House 6, plan (scale 1/100).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Fig. 20 – House 6, view from north.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Légende Fig. 21 – House 6, the apse: debris.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Légende Fig. 22 – Small finds (scale 1/3).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 204k
Légende Fig. 23 – Pottery shapes from the Orlitsa site, plates (scale 1/4).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Légende Fig. 24 – Pottery shapes from the Orlitsa site, bowls and jars (scale 1/4).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Fig. 25 – Pottery shapes, bowls (scale 1/4).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Légende Fig. 26 – Pottery shapes, cups and jugs (scale 1/4).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Légende Fig. 27 – Decoration of the pottery (scale 1/4).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Légende Table 1 – Radiocarbon dates from Orlitsa.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/520/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
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