Chalcolithic lithic industries of Sultana

My research focuses on the lithic industries of the Chalcolithic sites of Sultana, thanks to new excavations led by C. Lăzăr, and includes training a Romanian student in lithic technology. Autour du grand tell daté du Gumelnița et fouillé en 1924 (Andrieșescu 1924), se trouvent des sites plats et des cimetières couvrant l’ensemble du Chalcolithique : Boian pour l’étape ancienne et Gumelnița pour l’étape récente. Les sites sont installés dans la grande plaine loessique roumaine, sur la rive droite du Moștistea, affluent du Danube, et aujourd’hui au bord du lac artificiel de Moștistea.

Coordinator: Laurence Manolakakis

My research focuses on the lithic industries of the Chalcolithic sites of Sultana, thanks to new excavations led by C. Lăzăr, and includes training a Romanian student in lithic technology.

Numerous sites are found around the large tell dated to the Gumelnița and excavated in 1924 (Andrieșescu 1924). These include flat sites and cemeteries covering the entire Chalcolithic period: Boian for the early stage and Gumelnița for the late stage (Fig. 1). The sites are located in the large Romanian loessic plain, on the right bank of the Moștistea, a tributary of the Danube, and today on the edge of the artificial lake of Moștistea.

The sites of Sultana (after C. Lazar, pers. comm.)

I am resuming the study of all the Gumelnița lithics from former excavations. The first elements suggest that most of the flint supply is from the banks of the Danube, some twenty kilometres south of the site. These were Ludogorian Ravno and Kriva Reka type flints, collected in secondary contexts, as shown by the residual cores. Direct soft percussion was used for local domestic production, with a small-sized blade-bladelet type production.

On the other hand, the significant presence of blades flaked by indirect percussion, without any associated cores, seems to confirm the importation of these blades from the area where they were produced, i.e., northeast Bulgaria. A few broken blades were flaked by lever-pressure or crutch-pressure flaking. In the absence of evidence of local debitage, they also seem to have been imported from specialised workshops in the vicinity of Razgrad, in northeast Bulgaria (Manolakakis 2017).

After a complete study of the 860 or so lithics, this assemblage will provide important data on domestic debitage, and in particular, the question of flake production, which is absent from contemporaneous assemblages from Bulgaria, and the quantities of imported products and their role in the lithic economy. The site can then be compared with the rare contemporaneous Romanian sites for which a technological study has been conducted, such as Pietrele (Gatsov and Nedelcheva 2019).

In addition, I am carrying out the study of the lithic finds deposited in the tombs of the Boian and Gumelnița cemeteries, as excavations progress. The necropolis of Varna, where I was able to highlight five classes of wealth linked to different social and economic statuses (among others Manolakakis 2005), appears to be an unusual case. Indeed, in all the other known necropolises, even very large ones such as Durankulak, the tombs of the elite are less rich overall and their status is much less ostentatiously displayed. From the lithic point of view, these new data will shed light on the question of KGK funerary practices, especially as one of the necropolises at Sultana is exactly contemporaneous with Varna and the other is more recent (Phase A2). Indeed, the very large blades flaked by lever pressure at Varna are clearly linked to elites, and are whole and unused, but this does not seem to be the case in the other necropolises. The observation of the lithic material deposited in the Gumelnița tombs will therefore yield a complementary view, and the Boian material will lend chronological depth to the study. The collections can also be compared with the Hamangia funerary practices of Durankulak (Todorova 2002).


Andrieșescu, I. 1924. « Les fouilles de Sultana ». Dacia I:51–107.

Gatsov, I., et P. Nedelcheva. 2019. « Pietrele 2: Lithic Industry. Finds from the Upper Occupation Layers ». Archäologie in Eurasien 40:86.

Manolakakis, L. 2017. « So Long Blades… Materiality and Symbolism in the North-Eastern Balkan Copper Age ». P. 265–284 in European Archaeology. Identities and Migrations, édité par L. Manolakakis, N. Schlanger, et A. Coudart. Sidestone Press.

Todorova, H., éd. 2002. Durankulak, Band II. Die Prähistorischen Gräberfelder von Durankulak. Teil 2, Kalatogteil . Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

See also in «Current projects»

Contribution to the monograph on the Varna Necropolis Three bilingual (German, English) volumes dedicated to the necropolis of Varna, Das Varna Gräberfeld, will be published by Philipp von Zabern, in the DAI Eurasian Series, edited by V. Slavčev. I am in charge of the lithics, which I comprehensively reviewed after the recent revision of the funerary inventories. The multidisciplinary approach will combine technological and typological data, in connection with raw material supplies and types of production, as well as the functional analysis carried out by M. Gurova. L. Manolakakis in V. Slavčev, Dir. (2020, à paraître) IRP NORth (2020-2023) The Eastern European model of Neolithization contrasts with that of the West, in terms of modes and chronology. In the central Russian plain, the beginning of the Neolithic is dated between the second half of the 7th and 6th millennia BC, depending on the region considered, and is defined by the emergence of sedentarism and the appearance of ceramic technology. Despite occasional contacts with mixed farming groups, local populations maintained a lifestyle based on hunting, fishing and gathering. It was not until several millennia later that a real production economy was adopted and became widespread in the area (3rd and 2nd millennia BC). Based on the duration and the breakdown of events recorded in the Russian plain, we can follow the history of communities in the process of Neolithization in a very original way. MEAE Archaeological Mission: 2NOR (2018-2021) The archaeological mission 2NOR Neolithization of Northwest Russia, supported by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, is a Franco-Russian collaboration between the CNRS (coordinator Y. Maigrot) and the Hermitage Museum (coordinator A. Mazurkevich).