From village farms to proto-cities

Project leader : O. Weller

Partners and main participants: Trajectoires (R. Brigand), CEPAM (C. Delhon), Chrono-Environnement (D. Sordoillet, M. Buatier, J. Mudry, J.-P. Sizun, N. Rouge), National History Museum of Moldova (E. Sava, M. Vasilache, V. Bicbaev), National Archaeological Agency-MD (V. Vornic, S. Bodean, E. Mistreanu, S. Popovici), Academy of Sciences-MD-Institutes of Patrimony and Pedology (I. Ciobanu, I. Rozloga), Cadastre Agency-MD (T. Rudenco), University Al. I. Cuza University of Iasi-Romania (M. Alexianu, R. Curca, M. Danu, G. Romanescu, I. Sandu), Academy-Institute of Archaeology-Iasi-RO (D. Monah), Plateforme ArheoInvest (V. Cotiuga, A. Asandulesei, F. Tencariu) and Neamt Museums Complex (G. Dumitroaia, R. Munteanu, D. Garvan, V. Diaconu, N. Dorin, C. Preoteasa).

This archaeological mission in the Republic of Moldova (MEAE, 2016-2019) focuses on settlement dynamics and territories, in conjunction with natural resources, during the period of recent prehistory (5800-3000 BC). This project is a logical continuation of work carried out since 2004 on the Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies of Eastern Romania, with the identification of the oldest salt mines in Europe and the characterisation of their technical, ecological and socio-economic aspects, but also the reconstruction of long-term settlement trajectories.

This MEAE mission uses a cooperative and efficient GIS spatial analysis tool, supplied by new databases, in order to multiply field research and to develop laboratory analyses. In conjunction with increasing collaborations and training, this has made it possible to complete and obtain:

– geographical documentation for the entire country (topography, hydrography, vegetation, etc.) backed up by a precise digital terrain model (40 m) and a series of high-precision orthophotographs allowing for the detection of new archaeological structures or the completion of geophysical ground surveys;

– a series of geo-referenced databases for the whole of Moldavia for archaeological settlements from the Early Neolithic to the Chalcolithic (nearly 300 settlements), including several mega-sites exceeding 10 ha, and for all the saliferous resources with 321 entries (mineral springs, salt springs, salt lakes, salt soils);

– an analysis of the settlement of Moldavia using several methodological approaches (distribution, density, stability, attractiveness, predictive model) for the main archaeological cultures of recent prehistory (Cree, Bug-Dniestr, LBK Pottery, Precucuteni, Cucuteni-Trypillia, Gumelnita);

– a series of archaeological surveys throughout the region of more or less salty mineral springs, and the southern lakes, accompanied by ethnographic information to complete the models acquired in Romania.

Settlement dynamics and research in Romania and Moldova (R. Brigand 2019)

It is now well established that the Cucuteni culture expanded eastwards into the Moldavian and Ukrainian steppes, in the second half of the 5th millennium, around 4200 BC, bringing with it a settlement pattern of fortified villages built on high terraces. However, this rapid transfer of populations was accompanied by an adaptation to the specific context of the eastern plains. It is reflected in remarkable concentrations of the population and a radical increase in the size of settlements from west to east. In this way, the Cucuteni-Trypillia sites in the Republic of Moldavia represent an intermediate stage between the high fortified villages of north-eastern Romania and the proto-cities of the great Ukrainian plains. Despite this change of scale, the ways in which village space is structured remain more or less identical to the models observed in Romanian Moldavia, from where these populations originated.

Archaeological settlement during the Cucuteni B / Trypillia C1-C2 (R. Brigand 2019)

At the end of this project, the organisation of three international meetings with our Moldavian and Romanian partners (Iasi-Romania 2015, Los Cabos-Mexico 2017, Iasi/Cluj-Romania 2019) and several scientific sessions (Oman 2016, Kyoto 2016, Barcelona 2018), as well as the publication of some twenty articles, mark the culmination of our multidisciplinary research. Our worked spanned several scales; the scale of the exploitation site, of the Moldavian region and more broadly of Eastern Europe and themes: the very first salt production techniques in the world (JAS, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences), occupation patterns and long-term settlement dynamics in Moldavia (JAS-Report) or the study of pastoralism perceived through archaeology, ethnology and history (TCA-Routledge, Ethnoarchaeology-Springer).


Indicative bibliography:

ALEXIANU M., WELLER O., BRIGAND R. 2016. Romanian salt springs, intangible cultural héritage, archaeological reconstruc-tion: a variable geometry. In : S. Biagetti & F. Lugli (eds.) The Intangible Elements of Culture in the Ethnoarchaeological Research. Milan-New-York: Springer : 231-240. ALEXIANU M., WELLER O., CURCA R., BRIGAND R., ASANDULESEI M. 2016.

White Gold. French and Romanian Projects on Salt in the Extra-Carpathian Areas of Romania. Kaiserslautern: Parthenon Verlag, coll. Archaeologica et Anthropologica III, 564 p.

BRIGAND R. & WELLER O. 2018. Neo-Eneolithic settlement pattern and salt exploitation in Romanian Moldavia, Journal ofArchaeological Science: Reports, 17: 68-78.

BRIGAND R. & WELLER O. 2018. Kernel density estimation and transition maps of Moldavian Neolithic and Eneolithic settlements, Data in Brief, 17: 452-458.

BRIGAND R., WELLER O., TENCARIU F., ALEXIANU M., ASANDULESEI A. 2018. Ovine pastoralism and mobility systems in Romania: an ethnoarchaeology approach. In : E. Costello & E. Svensson (eds.), Historical archaeologies of transhumance across Europe, EAA Monograph Series, Themes in Contemporary Archaeology, 6, London : Routledge : 245-263.

DANU M., DELHON C., WELLER O. En soumission (juin 2020). Could the grasses have played a role in the earliest salt exploitation? Phytoliths analysis of prehistoric salt spring from Hălăbutoaia – Ţolici (Romania), Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

SORDOILLET D., WELLER O., ROUGE N., BUATIER M., SIZUN J.-P. 2018. Earliest salt working in the World: from excavation to microscopy at the prehistoric sites of Tolici and Lunca (Roman.), Journal of Archaeological Science, 89 : 46-55.

WELLER O. & BRIGAND R. 2017. Recherches systématiques autour des sources salées de Moldavie. Bilan 2011-2013 et synthèse de 10 ans de prospections, Memoria Antiquitatis, XXXI-XXXII : 145-252.