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.
The study of similarities and dissimilarities in material culture is the essential basis upon which the Culture-Historical approach to archaeology rests. In Central and Eastern European Archaeology concepts derived from this tradition are still very dominant, while it has been largely abandoned in Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. Yet alternatives for the study of the spatial stylistic variation in material culture have not been properly developed, despite the promising start made by D. L. Clarke in his work “Analytical Archaeology”. In consequence, we still have to live with spatial archaeological units of classification – our traditional “Archaeological Cultures”, which are poorly defined and heavily biased by outdated concepts about ethnicity.
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.
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.