Gumelnita Civilization

Gumelnita Civilization

Gumelnita culture belongs to an important cultural complex known as Gumelnita- Kodjadermen-Karanovo VI, dated in the V millennium BC and representing the first major cultural unification between South Balkans (Dikhili Tash, Sitagroi ...) and the Carpathians. Inside these large complex local particularities are manifested. They are often difficult to perceive and explain, but they are definitely related to the elements inherited from the previous cultures, the necropolis of Varna (Bulgaria) being the most obvious example.

Cultural complex Gumelnita-Kodjadermen-Karanovo VI was born of the local evolution of cultures Boian, Marita and Karanovo V. This phenomenon occurred rapidly, speaking from the beginning of a culture with unique character, with regional aspects. Cultural uniformity will be even more evident in the A2 phase of Gumelnita culture, during which ceramic and plastic shapes are virtually identical across the area of exposure.

The main settlements are the tells (Karanovo, Harsova, Ordusani ...) whose stratigraphy provides a large amount of information on the chronological evolution of this culture and on relations with neighbouring cultural groups (Vinča, Cucuteni, Dimini, Salcuta). Necropolis of Varna is a site of great importance for understanding this culture, the impressive wealth of the graves that were discovered allowing highlighting a strong social organization based on a strict hierarchy.

Evolution of Gumelnita-Kodjadermen-Karanovo VI culture progressively ends with the arrival at the Danube of the tribes belonging to Cernavoda I culture considered by many researchers as the first proto-Europeans. If evolution of Gumelnita culture ends abruptly in this area, it continues for at least a century in other regions (Wallachia, Thrace, the Balkans) with Gumelnita phase B.

One of the most brilliant civilization of the last half of V millennium BC is (besides the complex Ariusd - Cucuteni - Tripolie) Gumelnita culture.

In Romania, the prevalence area of Gumelnita culture corresponds generally to that of the Boian culture in Wallachia, but it has also spread to the Dobruja, on the territory occupied before by Hamangia culture, as well as in southern Bessarabia, to the south it occupies the oriental half of Bulgaria, both north and south of the Balkans (hence known as Kodjadermen - Karanovo VI) reaching the Aegean Sea.

Formed mainly from Boian culture, it certainly has a component of Marita culture (partly contemporary with Boian), in south-eastern Bulgaria, whose pottery painted with graphite is one of the characteristic features of Gumelnita ceramics.

In spite of the unitary aspect of the culture, several regional variants could be defined: one north tothe Danube, another from Dobruja, the third South Balkans, plus the cultural aspect Stoicani - Aldeni in north eastern Wallachia and south-eastern Moldavia, which also passed to the east of the Prut, in the area situated immediately at north of the Danube.

Evolving over two main phases, A and B, in turn subdivided into two stages, A1 - A2 and B1 - B2, the first three stratigraphically and documented stages (the last raising many questions), Gumelnita culture has, like all Neolithic cultures, its specific elements. Thus, firstly, the many tell type settlement are noted, besides which we can find those situated on nozzles of terraces, islands, erosion witnesses etc., reinforced or not with artificial systems of defence / protection and invariably formed around natural water sources (springs, rivers, streams, lakes, swamps etc..) and easily exploitable natural resources: water, land conducive to agriculture, livestock, hunting etc.., they all making up a particular category of human relationships with the environment.

Another specific element of the culture is ceramic, especially black, and another, burnt to brown (rarely, even to red-bricky) both species well polished, with various forms and decorations, the latter carved in relief and clay slipped, as well as painted with graphite. Prevalent in phase A (but also present in phase B), painting with graphite requires a quite complicated technology and a double baking in the oven, the latter up to 1,100 ° C. It is painted with white but also with red amid the vessel, but we also meet a trichrome painted category, after burning in the vessel in the oven. The first vessels of askos and rhyton type appear now, due to links with southern Aegean-Anatolian. Another feature, typical of this culture, but also to Salcuta culture (quite probably variant of Gumelnita culture), within the entire Neo-Neolithic in Romania, is constituted by the  massive axes and  long flint blades, sometimes exceeding 30 cm, arrowheads and spears cut in the same material adding to them. We should also mention a variety of bone and antler tools, among them standing out arrows, tips, leaf pieces, the pieces modelling ceramics, harpoons, mattocks, "ploughshares", "boomerangs" etc. Many ornaments were made of bone and shell.

Copper is itself currently used both for making ornamental objects (among those with double spiral twisted head - type spread far into the south-east Asia, in the Indus Valley) and for various types of massive axes, all proving very advanced knowledge of Gumelnita craftsmen in copper processing technology.

Since the A2 phase the oldest gold ornaments appear in settlements in the Lower Danube area, probably made in south river regions.

Finally, the plastic of this culture is extremely rich, varied and specific, and although anthropomorphic statues prevail, the zoomorphic ones are quite common.

Statuettes, mostly, are modelled in clay, but were also cut into bone and, more rarely, in marble. A lot of clay anthropomorphic statues testify qualities of modellers, both in terms of spirit of observation (showing certain physiognomy and attitudes), and skilful execution. The bone ones are of three types, two overly schematic, the third one attempting (within the limits allowed by the raw material) to more accurately illustrate the human body silhouette, adding bronze ornaments - necklaces, belts, earrings. Anthropomorphic vessels are also numerous (some true works of art), the zoomorphic or anthropomorphic-zoomorphic ones, but also various compositions either strictly anthropomorphic, or anthropo-zoomorphic, all connected, as statues, by the various cult manifestations of Gumelnita population.

Returning to the settlements of culture, we heretofore do not have (for Romania, where they only comprehensively surveyed the small settlement from Teiu and village Gumelnita B1 – from Cascioarele - Ostrovel) of sufficient data on the internal organization of the community territory, but with houses themselves, settled or not in a certain order, we also meet workshop-houses (processing the lithic equipment, bone, horn, ornaments, statues etc..), but also for example a "slaughterhouse" construction in within the settlement of Cascioarele - Ostrovel or another of "die" type in the settlement of Medgidia. Both these house-workshop of settlements, as well as the "workshops" discovered outside them are proof of the existence of specialized crafts and craftsmen that worked equally for human group they consisted of, as well as for intertribal exchanges. We can even envision settlements with a certain economic specific, dependent on the environment they were equally exploiting for the community’s needs and for barter with other necessary goods that would not be at hand.

Special places for worship which, according to models of discovered "sanctuaries" do not miss from the content of certain settlements and give the image of the amplitude of such buildings and the role they played in the life of those communities.

 Gumelnita settlement is divided into four levels:

- Gumelnita A2 a level (3.00 m) represents "A2 Gumelnita in ongoing phase”: pieces of copper, gold, anthropomorphic pendant;
- Gumelniţa A2 b level (1.50 / 1.70 m)
- Gumelniţa A2 c level (0,70 / 1,00 m) represents the "end of A2 Gumelnita  phase and eventually stage towards Gumelnita B"; within the layer  more anthropomorphic figurines were found: pair of "lovers", "tesaliana" statue;
- Gumelnita B1 level (3765 ± 70 bc): figurines of bone.

In all four levels surface housing area with rich inventory have been found. The floor was made of beaten earth covered with clay and "walls of very thick poles bound together by a long wattle and a lot of clay where straw and chaff were mixed". Post-Gumelniţa settlement is represented by Cernavoda I ceramic fragments over the last level Gumelnita B (up to - 0.60 / 0.70 m), without representing a proper housing level.
Not far from Gumelnita tells, on the terrace across it, in the late 50s, several inhumation graves belonging to Gumelniţa culture were discovered by accident when local people dig some holes to remove of clay from the terrace pit. Given these findings, in the 60s a systematic excavation was conducted in order to confirm the existence of a cemetery on this terrace. Later, in the 70s, inside the former ISCIP Ulmeni, located on the same terrace (150m northwest of road Oltenita- Calarasi), during some development projects, other tombs belonging to the same culture were identified. Based on these findings it was assumed that the terrace across the tell was used by Neolithic settlement’s inhabitors (Calomfirescu hill) as a necropolis. Investigations have been conducted by Silvia Marinescu-Bîlcu, Ersilia Iorgulescu Tudor Barbu Ionescu, Done Serbanescu.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Eponymous site is the tell from Gumelnita (Romania), located in Wallachia near the left bank of the Danube. It represents the beginning of chalcolithic in Romania (also called Eneolithic) taking birth at the beginning of fifth millennium BC. It is divided into two phases (A and B), with an estimated duration of almost a millennium. It has a vast area spreading from the Black Sea in the east, west to central Bulgaria, the Danube Delta in the north and in south to Greek Thrace. Most often, the settlements are of "tell" type, sometimes surrounded by defence ditches.

Characteristic materials are: ceramics, bone or horn, copper and even gold. Ceramics has very diverse forms, it is decorated with incisions, plastic, clay slipped or painted ornaments, especially with graphite. The machine of bone or horn is abundant. Copper, hammered or cast, is routinely used for ornaments but even for small tools or axes. Objects made of gold appear. Highly developed plastic art is represented by numerous figures of animals and especially of the abundant production of anthropomorphic statuettes, mostly women, or human representations often with pierced ears.

Another aspect of spirituality of Gumelnita populations is unravelled in their attitude towards the dead ones. If culture in question, the dead were grouped in special places for them (outside settlements), known being a few necropolis from the vast Gumelniţa area, but exceptions to this rule are also known. Social differentiations in the cemetery appear very clearly expressed, as the very rich from Varna (Bulgaria). Rite, ritual and appearance of this population are similar to those of the last phase of Boian culture (naturally, given its contribution to the genesis of Gumelnita culture): burial in crouched position, from moderate to very sharp, usually on the left, present offerings but generally poor. The physical characteristics correspond to the Mediterranean fund correspond with the four known functional variants. But the details of the ritual (arm position, various types of offerings and their extent in the tomb, use or not of the ocher, the degree of crouching for this position, as the pit etc.) do not seem to be subjected to rigorous canons, only few generalizations being drawn.

But funerals, as scattered skeletal parts (human) were found in almost all Gumelnita settlements. Primarily children graves from under and among the houses should be mentioned, to some skeletons being able to find various defects that led to the hypothesis of possible ritual sacrifices. Also in connection with certain beliefs (worship of the skull) are the deposits of human skulls (in general, intentionally sectioned) under or around fireplaces. In terms of skeletal parts mentioned above and interpreted by some people as coming from old disturbed graves , Alexandra Bolomey considers their frequency is greater than appreciated and that actually they come from living contemporary period, or are left without grave (in reasons that escape us) or unburied, killed and chopped up in some magic rituals or ceremonies.
Eponymous station to this exceptional culture was first mentioned by the creator of Romanian archaeological school, Vasile Parvan, since 1922. But starting with 1924 Vladimir Dumitrescu will provide to worldwide prehistorians the first collection of specific materials (ceramics, plastics, lithic and bone machinery, etc.) gathered from the eponymous settlement situated on" le Massif of Gumelnita qui domine plus de 20 m la plaine du Danube ", settlement that will be studied systematically starting with 1925.
Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic Gumelniţa plastic
One of the most spectacular and interesting aspects of Gumelnita civilization is represented by the extraordinary richness of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations. Some of them, outstanding achievements of Gumelnita craftsmen, are true masterpieces of prehistoric art. Gumelniţa anthropomorphic plastic has several features that distinguish it from the plastic of other neo-Eneolithic civilizations. There is above all a great typological diversity reflected in the morphology of statuettes, modelling technique, arm position, sex play, the way of decoration. Gumelnita plastic achievements are various, from realistic pieces of excellent artistry, up to very sketchy piece that the human figure is barely recognizable. One of the features of Gumelnita anthropomorphic statuettes is their expressiveness, making what could be called a civilization of gesture, of attitude. Arm position (on the belly, laterally laid, in the "thinker" position), the figuration of mouth (ajar or open), modelling some humps, representation of sitting statuettes, that is why meet a cast of characters modelled in various attitudes in Gumelniţa plastic.

       Another feature that differentiates Gumelniţa plastic is the diversity of material that it is transposed. Most parts are modelled in clay, common fact to all neo-Eneolithic civilizations. Instead bone figurines represent an original feature of Gumelnita civilization and even if pieces of bone are found in other cultures (e.g. Cucuteni), they are far from the number and typology of the Gumelnita ones.
Originality of Gumelnita plastic is evidenced by the existence of special representation as statuettes with mobile head (thesalien), statues with pots on head or extremely spectacular plastic combinations as for example "pot with lovers", discovered at Sultana that seems to illustrate a true mythical theme.

           Through their diversity, by the artistry of some parts, Gumelniţa anthropomorphic pots represent another spectacular aspect of that civilization. Anthropomorphic pots modelled in body shape, prosopomorphic covers, pots with anthropomorphic attributes exceed by number and artistic quality the achievements of other eneolithic civilizations.
        Although less studied, Gumelniţa zoomorphic plastic is characterized by the same typological diversity. Although most representations are extremely sketchy, some parts are modelled in a very realistic manner.
      Gumelnita culture, integrated in the Neo-Eneolithic era, belongs to a very complex world, with a wide geographic area and with duration of over three millenniums. It is hard to believe that this world, these civilizations did not have spiritual life, even if evidence to this effect is not clear. In these conditions, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic plastic are probably materializations of this spiritual life, we might say of a religion, understood here in its broadest sense of the word, as a system of beliefs and myths too less known.
            The analysis of findings brought to light by archaeological excavations has revealed some characteristics of Gumelnita plastic, able to focus investigation of spiritual life on several main directions.
        Thus, it is clear the predominance of a female character, 34% of all anthropomorphic representations. This may represent a deity, the term having a general meaning, of manifestation of the sacred, without indicating at this stage of research the nature and status of this deity. Male representations are less numerous, about 1% and a rate of about 10% is made up of asexual representations, so without any clue (breasts, sexual triangle) indicating the sex of the statue.

web counter
web counter