Spatial organization and population size of small Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements: Results of geomagnetic surveys in Baia and Adâncata, Suceava County, Bucovina, Eastern Romania

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Robert Hofmann Stanislav Ţerna Constantin-Emil Ursu Lennart Brandtstätter Heiko Tiede Wiebke Mainusch Sabrina Autenrieth

Abstract

Geomagnetic research and drillings provide new results regarding settlement organisation and population size of three small settlements from the Pre-Cucuteni and Cucuteni AB period in the Suceva County in Romanian Bucovina. In these settlements from different stages of the Pre-Cucuteni complex domestic dwellings can be distinguished from clearly oversized (special?) buildings which are situated in central positions and which contain partly special inventories. Different principles of settlement organisation are visible which show each far-reaching references to the Central Balkans on the one hand and the Bug-Dnieper interfluve on the other hand. Consistently populations with less than 200 inhabitants are reconstructed based on analogies to other Cucuteni-Tripolye sites.

Introduction

Since the discovery of Cucuteni-Tripolye sites, researchers have sought to find out more about the internal structure of settlements in order to be able to draw conclusions about the socio-economic organisation of Chalcolithic societies (for a history of research see, for example, Sorochin, 1993; Дудкін/Відейко 2004). Three basic approaches have been used for this purpose: large-scale excavations, the study of aerial photographs and geophysical prospections. Excavations covering large areas, including the complete unearthing of burnt houses, were carried out in the 1930’s by T. Passek (Пассек 1949). Aerial photographs were largely used by the military topographer V. Shishkin starting in 1964. This technique allowed him to identify a large number of sites, including the famous mega-sites from the Southern Bug Basin (Шишкін 1973; Шишкін 1985; Видейко 2012, 228–229). V. Shishkin extended his investigations to include the territory of Moldova, producing plans of several important settlements including Petreni and Stolniceni (Бикбаев 2007, 13–19).

First geomagnetic surveys on Cucuteni-Tripolye sites were performed in 1966 on the Podgorcy and Novye Bezradichi settlements in Ukraine (Даниленко et al. 1967), followed by further research in 1967 on Čapaevka and Mayaki settlements (Дудкин 1968; Дудкин 1970; Загний et al. 1971). The geomagnetic approach was first implemented to a much larger extent beginning in 1971, when the prospection of the mega-site of Maidanetske started, leading to a refinement of the methodology of prospection and the interpretation of Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements on large areas (Шмаглій et al. 1973; Видейко 2012, 231–236). Subsequently, numerous sites were scanned from 1970 to the 1990’s – above all, large settlements both in Ukraine and Moldova (Кошелев 2004; Дудкін 2007).

A new stage of geomagnetic prospection of Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements ensued in 2007 with the work of a team from Kiel University (initiated by J. Müller, H. Parzinger and S. Hansen) under the direction of Carsten Mischka in Romania (Mischka 2008; Mischka 2009), followed by new prospections on mega-sites in the Ukraine (e.g. at Nebelivka from 2009–2014: Chapman et al. 2014b; Burdo/Videiko 2016; Chapman et al. 2016; at Taljanki from 2011–2012: Kruts et al. 2011; Rassmann et al. 2014; Rassmann et al. 2016a; at Maidanetske from 2011–2012: Rassmann et al. 2014; Müller/Videiko 2016; Rassmann et al. 2016a; at Dobrovody in 2011: Rassmann et al. 2014; Rassmann et al. 2016a) and Moldova (Rassmann et al. 2016b). Performed in the framework of several international cooperations, these investigations again attracted the attention of researchers to the question of detailed plans of large Tripolian settlements. Thus, new plans of the mega-sites were prepared within several years – performed this time with the technical possibilities of the 21st century, leading to more highly detailed pictures and allowing a reconsideration of results of previous prospections.

In these plans, in several cases thousands of mostly burnt houses are arranged in oval rings associated with pits. At exposed positions within these settlements, particularly large building structures were discovered, which are interpreted as communal facilities for decision-making or other purposes (Chapman et al. 2014a; Müller et al. 2016). Furthermore, numerous pottery kilns could be identified in the new plans, which provide completely new insights into the technology and organisation of the (noticeably already highly specialised) pottery production (Kruts et al. 2011; Korvin-Piotrovskiy et al. 2016). Meanwhile, several of these different features have been checked by archaeological excavations (e.g. Видейко et al. 2015; Müller et al. in print).

The focus on mega-sites and their internal structures has become a constant and developing trend of the most recent geomagnetic research of Cucuteni-Tripolye sites. This has influenced both the chronological framework of new data and their specifics. Most of the large sites and new geomagnetic plans belong to Tripolye BII and CI stages. In contrast, there is clearly a lack of geomagnetic surveys at smaller sites, on the one hand, and earlier surveys from the Pre-Cucuteni/Tripolye A, Cucuteni A/Tripolye BI and the Cucuteni A-B/Tripolye BI–BII chronological stages on the other hand. They would be useful to provide very important and unique data on settling strategies and the structure of settlement systems of Cucuteni-Tripolye communities before the formation of large sites (cf. Marinescu-Bîlcu 1974; Bodean 2001; Zbenovič 1996; Збенович 1989; Дудкін/Відейко 2004).

Due to the greater focus on late Tripolye mega-sites, the origins of the radial settlement layouts and the spatial organisation of early Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements are still an unsolved question. There are at least two basic principles of settlement organisation: the “row pattern”, on the one hand, in which houses are arranged in more or less straight lines and, on the other hand, the “circular pattern”, which is characterised by circular (round/oval) arrangements of houses with a centre and a periphery. The first pattern is documented by excavations. The second one is rarer and known from just four settlements, which have been excavated (Bernashevka – Збенович 1980, рис. 3; Slobodka-Zapadnaia – Патокова et al. 1989, рис.1/2) or surveyed geomagnetically (Mohilna III – Дудкін/Відейко 2004, 306; Nicolaevca V – Saile et al. 2016; Țerna et al. 2016b). As early examples from the almost completely excavated Bernashevka (Podolje) and the geomagnetic surveyed site Iclod (Transylvania) show (Mischka 2012), we have to search for the beginnings of the circular pattern at least around the mid-5th millennium BCE. According to a case of similar settlement organisation, which has recently been discovered at the tell settlement of Borđoš (Vojvodina) and is associated with Vinča C2/D1 and classical Tisza pottery, the distribution area of this specific kind of settlement layout reached far more to the west than was previously assumed (Medović et al. 2014). It shows that there is an urgent need for further concentrated research on the problem of Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement organisation and the problem of mega-structures and special buildings.

As a contribution to the mentioned problems, a cooperation project was launched between the Museum of the Bucovina in Suceava, on the one hand, and the University of Kiel, on the other hand, which aimed at the performance of geomagnetic surveys of selected sites in the Suceava region. The results of the fieldwork that took place between the 2nd and 6th of March, 2015 are presented here for the first time.

Fig. 1 Map of Southeast Europe with in-vestigated sites. 1 – Baia, 2 – Adâncata.

Fig. 1 Map of Southeast Europe with in-vestigated sites. 1 – Baia, 2 – Adâncata.

The surveys focused, on the one hand, on the site of Baia, which belongs to the earliest (Pre-Cucuteni-I) stage of the Cucuteni-Tripolye complex (Fig. 1). Here, excavations have been conducted since 2012, during which ­– among other things – an extraordinary large building with special inventory was discovered. Thus, the opportunity arose to clarify the general settlement layout of a very early Cucuteni-Tripolye settlement and also to contribute to the problem of special buildings in corresponding sites. In Adâncata, on the other hand, we could survey a fortified settlement of the Cucuteni A-B stage as well, which remains a matter of ongoing fieldwork carried out by the Bucovina Museum.

General information about the settlements and the history of their research

Baia-În Muchie

Fig. 2 Baia. View on the site from the south-east. The arrow indicates the position of the settlement on the first flooded terrace of the Moldova River within the river’s valley.

Fig. 2 Baia. View on the site from the south-east. The arrow indicates the position of the settlement on the first flooded terrace of the Moldova River within the river’s valley.

Fig. 3 Baia. Position of the site within its micro-region. Rivers are labelled with italic font, the modern village is underlined, the settlement is marked with a star.

Fig. 3 Baia. Position of the site within its micro-region. Rivers are labelled with italic font, the modern village is underlined, the settlement is marked with a star.

The settlement of Baia-În Muchie is located in Suceava County, 2 km north of the modern village of Baia (Romania). It lies at an altitude of 370–375 m above sea level on the first floodable terrace of the large valley of the Moldova River (part of the Siret basin) in the sub-Carpathian region (Fig. 2 and 3) and is located between the Șomuzul Mocirlos and the Șomuzul Mare Rivers on a territory with many drainage channels which were artificially dug in the 20th century. The settlement is situated on the very edge of the terrace on a semi-circular foreland.

Baia-În Muchie was discovered in 1998 by Bogdan-Petru Niculică and Mugur Andronic (Niculică/Andronic 2000). Beginning in 2012, investigations have been started by Constantin-Emil Ursu from Bucovina Museum in Suceava. In 2013, the team was joined by the researcher Stanislav Țerna (High Anthropological School, Chișinău).

During three archaeological campaigns (2012–2014), a total area of 524 m2 was unearthed. The stratigraphical sequence of the site includes complexes and/or finds from the Early and the Late Copper Age (late Pre-Cucuteni I and Horodiștea), the Bronze Age and the first centuries AD. The two most consistent occupational layers documented so far belong to the Pre-Cucuteni period and the first centuries AD.

Fig. 4a Baia. Building no. 3 (middle–lower part of the plan).

Fig. 4a Baia. Building no. 3 (middle–lower part of the plan).

Four dwellings and a number of other complexes belonging to the Pre-Cucuteni sequence were excavated. Dwellings 1, 2 and 4 (the latter unearthed just partially) are of typical size for this early stage with dimensions not exceeding 25 m2. A real surprise and a major archaeological discovery turned out to be construction no. 3. Excavations on this structure started in 2013 and continued in 2014 (the investigation of this building shall be completed in the next years). With its exceptional dimensions (at least 11.1 × 17.6 m), building no. 3 from Baia is one of the largest burnt clay assemblages (if not the largest of these assemblages) from the late 6th–early 5th millennia BC in Southeastern Europe (Fig. 4a).

Fig. 4b Baia. Building no 3. Transversal profile through the building with the section of burnt daub layer, foundation trenches and post–Copper Age interventions. Red represents the burnt clay, light-brown the stones.

Fig. 4b Baia. Building no 3. Transversal profile through the building with the section of burnt daub layer, foundation trenches and post–Copper Age interventions. Red represents the burnt clay, light-brown the stones.

Apart from its huge dimensions, two other characteristics of building no. 3 are remarkable. First, its architecture is significant. A complex system of five parallel-segmented foundation trenches (53–63 cm wide and 90–130 cm deep) with postholes ensured the stability of the large building (Fig. 4b). The burnt clay from collapsed walls and the ceiling was investigated using a complex methodology, applied for the first time on the territory of Romania. All of the wooden imprints on clay were recorded using special sheets and a graphical system of symbols. Such an approach allowed us to trace the internal division of the space within the dwelling, including at least 8 rectangular rooms measuring 10–30 m2. The rooms were oriented in alignment with the main axis of the building. Moreover, some internal architectural elements were documented, including heating and clay installations (Ursu/Țerna 2014; Ursu/Țerna 2015; Урсу/Церна 2015).

Fig. 5 Baia. Building no 3. Pottery with stylized anthropomorphic representations.

Fig. 5 Baia. Building no 3. Pottery with stylized anthropomorphic representations.

The inventory of the building is as remarkable as its dimensions and architecture. The building contained a huge quantity of ceramic vessels (at least 200), grinding tools and chipped stone implements. The most striking element of the ceramic assemblage is the special pottery with stylized anthropomorphic representations (Fig. 5). Before Baia, such vessels were known from other settlements of the Pre-Cucuteni/Tripolye A chronological horizon, but in all of the cases only 1–2 vessels and/or several fragments were recovered. In building no. 3 from Baia, at least 33 vessels with stylized anthropomorphic representations have been discovered thus far and 68 such finds have been recovered at the settlement (Ursu et al. in print; Урсу/Апараскивей 2014). Such a concentration is unique for the entire Pre-Cucuteni-Cucuteni/Tripolye complex. In contrast, only two anthropomorphic figurines were found in the building. Such a low number is also quite unusual for Pre-Cucuteni-/Tripolye A complexes.

A detailed analysis of the distribution of postholes and foundation trenches together with field records and observations allowed us to make some assumptions on the microstratigraphy of the settlement and building no. 3. It is possible that the building existed during an earlier phase with the same orientation but smaller dimensions. This phase is contoured by the distribution of postholes. A second phase would be the one with foundation trenches and the dimensions that we recorded. Another micro-phase is represented by a complex of pits and clay ovens, which cut one of the foundation trenches of the building.

The pottery found in the excavations dates to the Early Copper Age horizon with the final Pre-Cucuteni I stage, which could roughly correspond to the turn of 6th and 5th millennia BC.

Adâncata-Dealul Lipovanului