During the rescue excavations of a tumulus close to the village Ovchartsi, southeastern Bulgaria, a burial of ca. 65-year old woman with rich golden and bronze grave goods and a unique wheel-made vessel of unusual shape and painted decoration was discovered. The tumulus lies in the so-called Maritsa Iztok (Eastern Maritsa) region (Fig. 1). This region is one of the most intensively researched areas in Bulgaria, due to numerous archaeological rescue excavations, necessitated by the fact that whole stretches of landscape and archaeological monuments have been systematically destroyed since the 1960s by open charcoal mines.
In a wide diachronic perspective the Bell Beakers are the end of a sequence of cultural phenomena that can be termed as supra-regional systems of expansion, being interpreted as ideologically motivated. Starting from the central and northern part of the European continent they gradually spread to its West and the fringes. This particular chapter of Europe's history begins in the middle of the fourth millennium BC in shape of the Cernavoda III-Boleráz and subsequent Baden sequence, proceeding – temporarily slightly offset – north of the Carpathians represented by the Globular Amphora culture, to reach its first height around 2800/2700 BC with the emergence of the Corded Ware / Single Grave cultures. The appearance of the latter is embedded in a trans-European process of transformation that from 2900 BC on shatters the previous existing material, social and economical foundations.
The term mattpainted pottery was first used by A. Furtwängler and G. Loeschke in their classification of pottery from Grave Circle A in Mycenae. It quickly gained wide use in research as the designation for a category of pottery with dull, lustreless, that is, ‘matt’ painting. In the course of time different chronological and technological appearances accumulated under this very flexible nomen. The spectrum ranges from the wheel-made and handmade polychrome ware of Middle Helladic southern Greece, to handmade pottery of the Late Bronze Age – with bichrome and monochrome ware in West Macedonia and monochrome ware in Central Macedonia – and the Iron Age phenomenon of mattpainted handmade pottery in Epirus and Albania.
In the last decades the research interest in the study of pre-Mycenaean contacts of the Aegean region with the geographical zones to the north and west has considerably diminished. While until the early 1970ies there was still much debate going on about aspects like the northern links of cord-decorated pottery or of the origin of the tumuli in Greece, already ten years later such subjects and the whole problem of possible Balkan connections of the earlier parts of the Aegean Bronze Age had almost disappeared as research topics of Aegean Archaeology. The question arises why this was the case.
by Robert Hofmann, Zilka Kujundžić-Vejzagić, Johannes Müller, Nils Müller-Scheeßel, Knut Rassmann
(11 April 2008)
This paper gives a summary of the aims, strategies and results of an interdisciplinary Bosnian-German research project which has been carrying out intensive fieldwork since 2002. Within the geographically clearly delimited Visoko Basin in central Bosnia it concentrates on questions concerning the development of the settlement system, the economy, the social organisation, the demography as well as the supra-regional exchange and communication network of the Late Neolithic. The fieldwork focuses on large scale excavations within the settlement mound Okolište. The latter comes into question as a central place because of its extraordinary size and the existence of an extensive fortification system. Although the spatial organisation of the settlement indicates a surprisingly high population, the reasons for this concentration of people are not identifiable, yet. However, it is clear that the disintegration of the settlement started soon after its establishment.
The Lofkënd burial tumulus in the Mallakaster region of Albania, jointly excavated by a team from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and the Albanian Institute of Archaeology in Tiranë over four seasons (2004-2007), revealed 85 ancient and 15 modern burials, containing a total of over 150 individuals. On the basis of the vertical and horizontal stratification of the tombs, together with secure AMS 14C radiocarbon dates from human bone and charcoal, the Lofkënd burials can be dated to the period from the 14th to the 9th centuries B.C.