The lithic industries of Hamangia

The Hamangia culture extends to the south of the Danube Delta, in Romanian and Bulgarian Dobroudja/Dobrodgea along the Black Sea, from the Late Neolithic (Hamangia I-III) to the Late Chalcolithic (Hamangia IV then Varna/KGK). Hamangia lithic productions have never been analysed up until now, and yet are extremely interesting as this culture merges in stage IV with Sava IV to give rise to the 'Varna culture' according to Bulgarian terminology. From a Romanian point of view, it disappears into the syncretism of the KGK cultural complex. I have already studied the Sava (I-IV) and Varna lithic industries in Bulgaria, and it is thus only natural for me to turn to those of Hamangia in Dobrodgea, as part of a programme directed by L. Carozza. This research programme is being developed under the dual aegis of the Danube Delta Mission and the Franco-Romanian LIA (IRP) Geoarchaeology of environmental changes in Lower Danube and Delta, created in 2019.

Study coordinator: Laurence Manolakakis, as part of the Archaeology of the Danube Delta mission (dir. L. Carozza)

The Hamangia culture extends to the south of the Danube Delta, in Romanian and Bulgarian Dobroudja/Dobrodgea along the Black Sea, from the Late Neolithic (Hamangia I-III) to the Late Chalcolithic (Hamangia IV then Varna/KGK). Hamangia lithic productions have never been analysed up until now, and yet are extremely interesting as this culture merges in stage IV with Sava IV to give rise to the ‘Varna culture’ according to Bulgarian terminology. From a Romanian point of view, it disappears into the syncretism of the KGK cultural complex. I have already studied the Sava (I-IV) and Varna lithic industries in Bulgaria, and it is thus only natural for me to turn to those of Hamangia in Dobrodgea, as part of a programme directed by L. Carozza. This research programme is being developed under the dual aegis of the Danube Delta Mission and the Franco-Romanian LIA (IRP) Geoarchaeology of environmental changes in Lower Danube and Delta, created in 2019.

It concerns the complete study of the archaeological material from three sites in Dobrodgea (Fig.1), which have largely contributed to the definition of this culture. D. Berciu carried out extensive excavations at the Cearmulia tell of Jos (1950-1954), then at Golovița (1960-1961), after which he published a work of synthesis on Hamangia. Finally, he extensively excavated the Baia tell in 1961, attributed to the Late Chalcolithic Gumelnița, but the field documentation has sadly disappeared (Berciu 1963, 1966).

Fig.1: Dobroudja/Dobrodgea (white outline) and location of the studied Hamangia sites (©Google Earth).

My work focuses on the technological study and the characterisation of the lithic materials from these three sites, in collaboration with F. Mihail who is carrying out the functional analysis. As storage conditions were at times not very rigorous, the study was carried out as the sorting of the material advanced. A chapter of the monographic publication planned by L. Carozza will deal with these aspects of the collection.

The few previously studied elements from the Hamangia sites (Manolakakis and Mihail 2019 in mission report, L. Carozza, C. Micu dir.) indicate a local supply of flint blocks, sometimes of good quality, but always of rather small dimensions, including varieties of local flint unknown in the Danubian loessic plain. These local flints were flaked by direct hard percussion to produce flakes and laminar flakes. The currently identified materials appear to differ from one site to another, but the numbers from Golovița are still too small for these differences to be convincing (Fig. 2).

Fig.2: Raw material distribution in the Hamangia dwelling sites (on the left) and Gumelnița (on the right).

The Ludogorie flint pieces correspond exactly to the indirect percussion debitage found in northeast Bulgaria on the same raw material. Only one long, very light and regular mesial fragment raises the question of possible pressure debitage with a crutch. This Ludogorian flint cannot be of local origin; it is either exogenous, from northeast Bulgaria, or of regional origin, in which case it would have been collected from the banks of the Danube more than 45 km away as the crow flies. In all cases, the debitage differs from that of other flints, with the production of true blades by indirect percussion, produced either locally or in northeast Bulgaria. The complete absence of cores and waste suggests that semi-finished products were imported to the site.

The toolkit includes the usual end scrapers and retouched blades. However, I have already identified sickle elements with gloss running parallel to the edge. This is markedly different from the known East Bulgarian sickle blade inserts with gloss always running obliquely to the edge, and suggests different hafting traditions.

The Baia-tell pieces (Gumelnița habitat) consist of identical flints to those from the two Hamangia sites, such as Ludogorie and the local greenish-brown Cretaceous flint with inclusions. In addition, there are other local varieties, which will be observed mesoscopically during the next mission. At the present stage of study, Ludogorian flint represents the majority of the pieces (more than three-quarters of the pieces) (Fig. 2 right).

Direct hard percussion was used for the debitage of local flint flakes and laminar flakes, while direct soft percussion was used for the production of local flint blades and some Ludogorian blades, although most of the latter were flaked by indirect percussion.

Some of the Gumelnița debitage is thus comparable to the Hamangia sites, namely that of local flint by direct hard and soft percussion. Two Ludogorian blades were also flaked by direct soft percussion, suggesting local debitage, either on blocks brought from Bulgaria or on blocks collected in secondary contexts. However, most Ludogorian blades were flaked by indirect percussion, as in north-eastern Bulgaria at the same time. In addition, rare Ludogorian fragments seem to have been pressure flaked with a crutch.

The toolkit includes sickle elements with oblique gloss, in accordance with the KGK hafting tradition of inserts. This difference between Hamangia and KGK still needs to be substantiated, not only on Hamangia blades, but also on Gumelnița lithics, in order to determine whether there is a rupture between the two cultures or whether both hafting techniques were used for the Gumelnița sickle inserts.

Bibliography

Berciu, D. 1963. « Неолитна култура Хаманджиа в България ». Археология (The Neolithic culture of Hamangia in Bulgaria , Arheologija) V(1):5–7.

Berciu, D. 1966. Cultura Hamangia. Noi contribuții . Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România.

Manolakakis, L., et F. Mihail. 2019. « Industries lithiques des habitats Hamangia de Cearmulia de Jos et Golovița et de l’habitat Gumelnița de Baia Tell ». P. 30–36 in Société et environnement durant le Néolithique et les Ages des Métaux dans le Delta du Danube (Roumanie) – Mission Delta du Danube, Rapport de mission, édité par L. Carozza et C. Micu.

See also in «Current projects»

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. 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.