Archaeology of the Danube delta: Geological surveys in North Dobrodgea (Romania)

Laurence Manolakakis, Robin Furestier, Florian Mihail

The Danube Delta Archaeology Mission, directed by L. Carozza (UMR5602-Geode), comprised a first campaign of geological surveys in Northern Dobrodgea in 2014, between the Danube valley and the delta, carried out with R. Furestier and F. Mihail, in charge of lithic studies of Taraschina. The aim of these surveys was to find the sources of the flints used on the Neolithic site of Taraschina. We identified some finished products in Aptian secondary flint from Luda Gora (North-East Bulgaria), but these only represent a very small portion of the lithic industry. Some other pieces could be made of Prut flint, on pebbles transported by the river to the town of Galați (Boghian 2008[[Boghian D. 2008, Di alcune fonti di materia prima per l’utensileria litica delle comunita del complesso culturale precucuteni, in URSULESCU (N.), KOGALNICEANU (R.), CRETU (C.) (Eds), Cucuteni. Tresori di una civilta preistorica dei Carpazi. Editura Universitații “Al. I. Cuza” Iași/ Accademia di Romania – Roma, 2008, 39-70.]]), about 100 km east of Taraschina. However, the majority of the Taraschina lithic assemblage, consisting mostly of irregular flakes and blades (Furestier, Mihail 2014[[Furestier, R., Mihail F., 2014, L’industrie lithique de la zone 2 de Taraschina. in Carozza L. 2014, Archéologie du delta du Danube, Société et environnement durant le Néolithique et les Ages des Métaux dans le delta du Danube (Roumanie, Rapport de misison archéologique, MAEE, 2014, p. 25-38.]]), was made in other materials, of average quality and, apparently, on small-sized blocks. The aim was therefore to record all the materials available in Northern Dobrodgea, between the Danube, which borders Bulgaria, and its delta where the Neolithic site of Taraschina is located. Apart from some scattered data, only A. Păunescu had addressed the question of the geographical distribution of siliceous raw material deposits in Dobrodgea (Păunescu 1998[[Păunescu A. 1998, Considerațtii asupra depozitelor naturale care au constituit puncte de aprovizionare cu roci necesare cioplirii uneltelor de către comunitățile preistorice din Dobrogea, in Buletinul Muzeului “Teohari Antonescu”, II-IV, 2-4 1996-1998, 83-91.]). But the locations mapped in the article group together flints, quartz sandstones and quartzites in the same point. It was thus essential to locate the deposits on the geological maps and verify deposit location in the field (fig. 1).

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Fig. 1 : Geological map of Northern Dobrodgea (Romania, Institutul Geologic 1967): red dot: siliceous rock deposit in Păunescu 1998
blue dot: sources verified during the 2014 surveys.

Northern Dobrodgea (Fig. 1) is today largely covered by Middle Pleistocene aeolian loessic deposits, which can frequently reach a thickness of 25 m. The area is geologically marked by high lithological diversity, comprising sedimentary, magmatic and metamorphic rocks. The Upper Cretaceous secondary formations (in light and very light green) are of particular note, extending mainly between Precambrian formations and the right bank of the Taița River to the Babadag Basin, with a thickness of 250-300 m. Only the lower stages of the Upper Cretaceous, Cenomanian, Coniacian and Turonian, are confirmed. The Cenomanian consists of organogenic and conglomeratic limestones, glauconitic sandstone limestones and calcareous marls with neohibolites; the Coniacian consists of marly limestones and limestones with siliceous accidents; the Turonian, often in direct continuity with the Cenomanian, comprises yellowish and white sandstone with inocerami.

Four areas were selected for this first survey campaign (Fig. 2), based on the Upper Cretaceous outcrops indicated on geological maps and the cartography established by A. Păunescu.

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Fig. 2 : Walking survey windows (Carozza et al. 2014).

Tulcea (Somova, Mineri, Victoria and Beștepe hills complex), Upper Triassic (Carnian): reported as “limestones with siliceous accidents” on the geological map, but no flints were observed in the numerous outcrops of limestones, sandstone limestones and quartz. All the points reported by Păunescu were checked and turned out to be negative in terms of siliceous accidents or flints.

General Praporgescu (Cloșca, General Praporgescu, Mircea Vodă, Traian), Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian, Turonian and Coniacian): ‘marly and sandstone limestones’ according to the geological map, several incomplete silicifications and rare flints were found (Fig. 3a), mainly at the base of Turonian levels.

Nicolae Bălcescu, Mihai Bravu, Babadag and Slava Rusă, Turonian and Coniacian levels: limestones and sandstone limestones without silicifications, sometimes in the early stages of silicification (fig.3b, c).

From Babadag to Cape Doloșman, Cretaceous (Cenomanian, Coniacian and Turonian): several points located by Păunescu. Mostly limestone, sometimes in the early stages of silicification, but an important quartz outcrop (Fig. 3d) on the heights of Camena (the Slavic etymology of which means stone) near Mina Altăn Tepe. Flint at Cape Iancina in Sălcioara, heavily altered by gelifraction, but some usable fragments.

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Fig. 3: Flint and silicification samples collected at General Praporgescu (a), Cloșca/Baschioi (b, c) and Sălcioara-Cape Iancina (d).

Although the surveyed areas only represent a small part of the territory and their potential siliceous resources, the results obtained allow us to put forward some hypotheses on raw material supplies and territorial management.
The low number of flint deposits or silicifications indicates the low potential of the area for good quality flint, despite the presence of numerous Cretaceous formations (mainly Turonian and Cenomanian), between Traian in the west and Cape Iancina in the east. The right bank of the Danube, from Isaccea to Beștepe, appears to be completely devoid of exploitable deposits. There are no archaeological comparisons for the quartz sources, as quartz was not used in the Taraschina series.

North Dobrodgea does not appear to be a supply area for the Taraschina knappers. The unidentified raw materials from the site (and potentially from other Gumelnița sites in North Dobrodgea) do not appear to come from the local sphere. Flint procurement thus seems to be regional or even supra-regional, either through direct acquisition or as part of exchange systems with north-eastern Bulgaria (Luda Gora flint) and possibly Moldavia (Prut flint). This configuration corresponds to what has been observed elsewhere for raw material procurement in contemporaneous sites in north-eastern Bulgaria, on the other side of the Danube, attributed to the Karanovo VI culture (Manolakakis 2005,[[ Les industries lithiques énéolithiques de Bulgarie. VML, Internationale Archäologie 88, 314 p., 143 pl.]]), et s’inscrit parfaitement dans l’échelle territoriale et culturelle supra-régionale du complexe Kodžadermen-Gumelnița-Karanovo VI.

  • Furestier R., Mihail F., Manolakakis L, 2014 : Les matières premières siliceuses de Dobroudja du Nord. Prospections pédestres 2014. in Carozza L., Micu C. (Dir.), Archéologie du delta du Danube. Société et environnement durant le Néolithique et les âges des Métaux dans le delta du Danube (Roumanie). Rapport de mission archéologique, MAEE, 2014, 80-103.