Gumelniţa Culture in the North-East of the Romanian Plain. Short History
by Stănică Pandrea
In the below we mean to present a historical and chronological survey of Gumelniţa culture in NE Romanian Plain. This subject raised controversy, as some archaeologists (Vl. Dumitrescu, N. Harţuche, P. Haşotti, V. S. Bejlekci) consider that in this part of the Romanian Plain developed a regional aspect of the large Gumelniţa – Kodjadermen – Karanovo VI cultural area, while other archaeologists (Gh. Ştefan, E. Comşa, M. Petrescu – Dîmboviţa, I. T. Dragomir, T. Passek, V. Sorokin, H. Todorova) assigned the Gumelniţa settlements in this area of the Romanian Plain to a distinct cultural aspect named Aldeni II / Stoicani – Aldeni / Bolgrad – Aldeni.
The Romanian Plain is a much larger space than it is usually perceived, spanning three historical provinces: Oltenia (Little Wallachia), Muntenia (Wallachia) and Moldova (Moldavia).
The syntagm North-East Romanian Plain first of all means the north and east ends of the Romanian Plain, named Bărăgan. The Bărăgan runs further to the north of the Siret – Danube confluence, upwards along the valleys of the Siret, Bârlad and Prut, up to the north of the great lakes in Bessarabia. Thus, the south of Moldova, by its physical, geomorphological, climatic, hydrological and ecological aspects is a prolongation of the Bărăgan.
In conclusion, the North-East of the Romanian Plain means the Bărăgan Plain and its contiguous zones, that is the space bordered to the south by the river Ialomiţa, to the east by the Danube, to the west by the Curvature Sub-Carpathians and to the north by an imaginary line linking the localities of Mărăşeşti – Tecuci – Cahul – Taraclia – Izmail. The unity of this space is given by the Danube and its tributaries. It is not by chance that the Romanian Plain is called by geographers the Plain of the Danube.
In this space, the Danube is joined by long tributaries, such as the Ialomiţa, Călmăţui, Buzău, Siret, Bârlad, Prut. These rivers link the Plain of the Danube, and, especially the Bărăgan, to the Curvature Sub-Carpathians (by the Ialomiţa and Buzău), to the Central Moldavian Plateau (by the Siret, Bârlad and Prut), and to the Buceag Steppe it is linked by the great lakes north of the Danube (Cahul, Ialpug, Cătlăbug).
Due to the Danube and its tributaries – Ialomiţa, Buzău, Siret, Bârlad, Prut – the Bărăgan practically includes the entire north-east Muntenia and south Moldova, a space whose geographical unity is conferred by the Danube.
B. Stratigraphy. Division into Periods
The stratigraphy issues do not seem to be complicated, as many settlements with more dwelling layers, as well as settlements with a single dwelling layer, which provides the outline of a correct image of the cultural evolution. It should be mentioned that in all the researched settlements the dwelling layers were identified due to the dwelling complexes (especially dwellings).
Until now we have researched settlements with a single dwelling layer – such as those of Cireşu, Spiru haret, Râmnicelu, Drăgăneşti – Tecuci, Puricani, Gura Idrici, Igeşti – Scândureni, Nagornoye. Some of these settlements can be dated to the Gumelniţa A1 phase – those of Cireşu, Drăgăneşti – Tecuci; other settlements can be dated to the Gumelniţa A2 phase – those of Spiru haret, Puricani, Nagornoye, Râmnicelu.; in a few settlements we uncovered archaeological material which, typologically and stylistically, can be dated both to the Gumelniţa A1 phase and Gumelniţa A2 phase – it is the case of those of Igeşti – Scândureni, Gura Idrici, Trestiana II.
In most settlements researched we uncovered tow Gumelniţa dwelling layers – like those at Lişcoteanca – Moş Filon, Movila Olarului, Movila din Baltă, Brăiliţa, Vulcăneşti, Lopăţica, Aldeni, Ozernoye. In almost all these settlments, the lower dwelling layer can be dated to the Gumelniţa A1 phase, while the upper dwelling layer can be dated to the Gumelniţa A2 phase. An exception is the settlement of Brăiliţa, where both dwelling layers belong to the Gumelniţa A2 phase, but in the upper layer we uncovered also pottery with analogies in the Gumelniţa B1 at Sultana, Măgura Gumelniţa and Căscioarele – Ostrovel.
However, also settlements with more then two Gumelniţa dwelling layers were researched – those at Stoicani, Suceveni, Însurăţei – Popina 1. In this case, the stratigraphical situation is the following:
a) at Însurăţei – Popina 1, four dwelling layers can be dated to the Gumelniţa A2 phase and at least one dwelling layer belongs to the Gumelniţa A1 phase;
b) at Stoicani, in our opinion, the six dwelling layers have the following cultural dating – tow dwelling layers can be dated to the Gumelniţa A1 phase (layers 6 and 5); a dwelling layer comprises archaeological material that, typologically and stylistically, can be dated both to the Gumelniţa A1 phase and the Gumelniţa A2 phase; however, typical the Gumelniţa A2 phase pottery prevails (layer 4); two Gumelniţa A2 phase layers (layers 3 and 2), but in layer 2 we uncovered also pottery that has analogies in the Gumelniţa B1 layers at Sultana and Măgura Gumelniţa;
c) at Suceveni three dwelling layers were identified: the lower layer is typical of the Gumelniţa A1 phase; the intermediate layer comprises archaeological material that, typologically and stylistically, belong both to the Gumelniţa A1 phase and Gumelniţa A2 phase; however, the archaeological material typical of the Gumelniţa A2 phase prevail; the upper layer comprises archaeological material typical of the Gumelniţa A2 phase, that have close analogies to the settlments of Stoicani (layers 3 and 2) and Brăiliţa (the upper layer).
It can be noticed that in most settlements there are dwelling layers that comprise archaeological material belonging both to the Gumelniţa A1 phase and Gumelniţa A2 phase, which definitely proves a cultural evolution during the Gumelniţa A1 and A2 phases. The presence of the settlements with a single dwelling layer comprising archaeological material belonging both to the Gumelniţa A1 phase and Gumelniţa A2 phase, typologically and stylistically, in our opinion, confirms the fact that the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain had the tendency to evolve culturally from the Gumelniţa A1 phase to the Gumelniţa A2 phase.
Further on, we are going to present a few stratigraphical data, meant to clear up the relationships between the Gumelniţa culture and its predecessors.
In the north-east of the Romanian Plain, until now, 28 Gumelniţa A1 settlmenets were researched. Out of these, 20 settlements (representing 71.42%) were founded on places that earlier were not inhabited, and 8 settlements (representing 28.57%) overlap Boian – Giuleşti dwelling layers.
In the settlements of Aldeni – Gurguiul Balaurului, Largu – Popină, Suceveni – Stoborăni, Lişcoteanca – Satnoieni, Moş Filon, Movila din Baltă, Însurăţei – Popina 1 and Popina 2, the Gumelniţa A1 dwelling layer overlaps a Boian – Giuleşti dwelling layer. That reality made I. T. Dragomir and N. Harţuche state that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain, the Gumelniţa culture emerged against a Boian – Giuleşti cultural background, that in this geographical area had a longer evolution.
In our turn, we pointed out on another occasion, that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain the Boian – Giuleşti culture lasted longer, as it evolved synchronously with the Precucuteni 1, Turdaş 2, Vinca C1, Boian – Vidra phase, Hamangia 2 cultures. Therefore, a question can be raised: can talk about a participation of the Boian – Giuleşti phase (that lasted longer in the north-east of the Romanian Plain) in the genesis of the Gumelniţa culture in this geographical area?
During the current stage of researches, one cannot maintain the hypothesis according to which in the genesis of the Gumelniţa culture, in the north-east of the Romanian Plain, participated also the population in the settlments of Boian – Giuleşti in that space. We can argue by the following:
a) the typological and stylistical analysis of the Gumelniţa A1 pottery uncovered in the settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain, do not point to a Boian cultural legacy (nor Boian – Spanţov, and least of all, Boian – Giuleşti legacy); mpst Gumelniţa A1 pottery and pottery fragments uncovered in this geographical area have the closest analogies to the Gumelniţa A1 pottery uncovered in the tells at Medgidia, Ovcarovo, and Durankulak, and to those in the Sava – late phase cultural phases uncovered in the tells at Sava and Goljamo Delcevo, as well as to those in the Mariţa – late phase layers uncovered in the tells at Drama – Medjumekja and Azmaska Mogila;
b) there are no differences between the Gumelniţa A1 archaeological material in the settlments, that overlap a Boian – Giuleşti dwelling layer and the Gumelniţa A1 archaeological material in the settlements founded on land that earlier was not inhabited;
Even if the stratigraphical situation proves that, in certain settlements, the Gumelniţa A1 dwelling layer overlaps a Boian – Giuleşti dwelling layer, one cannot talk about a filiation link between the Boian – Giuleşti phase cultural manifestations in the north-east of the Romanian Plain and the Gumelniţa – phase A1 culture in the spece geographical area, as even a short typological and stylistic analysis obviously contradits that.
The data available in the current stage of researches allow us to state that between the end of the Boian – Giuleşti phase cultural manifestations in the north-east of the Romanian Plain and the beginning of the Gumelniţa – phase A1 culture there is a chronological gap. Taking into account that 20 out of the 28 Gumelniţa A1 settlements are newly founded, we may consider that the population who founded the Gumelniţa A1 settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain "colonized" that geographical area, coming from the south (very likely from Dobrudja and north-eastern Bulgaria).
As indicated by the stratigraphical data and the results of the typological and stylistic analysis of the archaeological material, the Gumelniţa culture in the north-east of the Romanian Plain developed both in the Gumelniţa A1 and Gumelniţa A2 phases.
It should be said that the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain do not develop synchronously. That is why further on we are going to present this situation:
a) most settlements begin their evolution in the Gumelniţa A1 phase continuing also in the Gumelniţa A2 phase – those of Aldeni, Gherăseni, Suceveni, Lişcoteanca, Stoicani, Vulcăneşti, Însurăţei;
b) two settlements exist only in phase A1 – those of Cireşu and Drăgăneşti – Tecuci;
c) a few settlements begin by the end of phase A1 and continue in the phase A2 – it is the case with those of Gura Idrici, Igeşti – Scândureni, Trestiana II;
d) there are also settlementsthat begin at the level of the Gumelniţa A2 phase, and evolve over its entire period – like those of Brăiliţa, Nagornoye, Puricani.
1. Relative chronology data.
The archaeological finds revealed the relationships of the Gumelniţa culture in the north-east of the Romanian Plain with the contiguous cultural areas:
a) Precucuteni III pottery fragments were uncovered in the Gumelniţa A1 layers at Lişcoteanca, Stoicani, Drăgăneşti – Tecuci, Lopăţica and Vulcăneşti;
b) Hamangia III pottery fragments were uncovered in layer 6 (the lower one) of the settlement of Stoicani, that belongs to Gumelniţa A1 phase;
c) Gumelniţa A1 pottery fragments were uncovered in the Precucuteni III settlements at Traian – Dealul Fântânilor, Târpeşti, Bernaşovka, hanska, Alexandrovka, Isaiia, Târgu Frumos;
d) in the settlement of Cireşu (belonging to Gumelniţa A1 phase) they uncovered Cucuteni A2 pottery fragments, while in the settlement of Igeşti – Scândureni, the Gumelniţa archaeological material was discovered in association with the Cucuteni A2 pottery material;
e) the Cucuteni A3 pottery fragments were uncovered in the Gumelniţa A2 dwelling layer of Brăiliţa, Lişcoteanca and Însurăţei (a similar situation can be encountered at Hârşova and Carcaliu).
Starting from the realities mentioned above, one may state that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain, the Gumelniţa A1 phase starts its existence when in Moldova the Precucuteni – phase III culture develops, and later, in the Gumelniţa A2 phase evolves synchronously with the first two stages of Cucuteni A phase.
In the Gumelniţa A2 phase one can distinguish an evolution, somehow different, for the south of Moldova and the north of Muntenia:
a)the expansion towards the south of the Cucuteni A3 stage leads to the disappearance of some Gumelniţa settlements in the basin of the Prut river – it is the case with the settlements of Gura Idrici, igeşti – Scândureni, Puricani, Mănăstioara, where the Gumelniţa A2 dwelling layer overlaps a Cucuteni A3 dwelling layer; further to the south, the Gumelniţa settlements continue their existence , as they are contemporaneous to the new Cucuteni A3 settlements (fact proven by the occurrence of Cucuteni A3 pottery fragments in the Gumelniţa A2 settlements);
At the Cernavoda I – Cucuteni A4 cultural layer, a southward expansion of the Cernavoda 1 culture leads to the disappearance of the Gumelniţa culture, not only in the north-east of the romanian Plain, but also from the entire Muntenia between the Siret and Argeş rivers, but also from Dobrudja.
At the end of this subchapter we point out the following synchronisms:
- Gumelniţa A1 = Precucuteni 3 = Cucuteni A1 – A2;
- Gumelniţa A2 = Cucuteni A3 = the beginning of the Cernavoda 1 culture.
2.2.Absolute chronology data
the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain,
we have few 14C data, but we can use the data available for the contemporaneous
Gumelniţa settlements, as well as the data available for the contiguous
Starting from the data mentioned above, we consider that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain the Gumelniţa A2 phase evolved between 4700/4650 - 4500 cal BC.
Starting from the data mentioned above, we consider that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain the Gumelniţa A2 phase evolved between 4500 - 4000 cal BC.
Starting from the data mentioned above, we shall try to review the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain.
The fact that some Gumelniţa A1 settlements overlap Boian – Giuleşti settlements raise the issue of the beginnings of the Gumelniţa culture in the north-east of the Romanian Plain and its relationships with the Boian culture in this part of Romania.
The Boian culture populates the north-east of the Romanian Plain in the Giuleşti phase. The Boian – Giuleşti settlements continue their existence in that area up to the Boian – Vidra cultural layer and, very likely, turns into a regional aspect, which is proven by the uncovering of some Boian – Vidra pot fragments in the Boian – Giuleşti settlements of Lişcoteanca, but also by the uncovering of some Precucuteni II pottery fragments in the Boian – Giuleşti settlements of Brăiliţa.
The long life of the Boian – Giuleşti settlements must have been a reality. The issue is to what extent the Boian communities in the north-eastof the Romanian Plain participates in the emergence of the Gumelniţa in that area. The typological stylistic analysis of the Gumelniţa A1 pottery material proves that the Boian communities and the Gumelniţa A1 pottery material have no filiation links. The fact that the Gumelniţa A1culture does not include Boian – Giuleşti archaeological material suggests that between the two cultures there is a chronological gap.
The population who founded the Gumelniţa settlements arrives in the north-east of the Romanian Plain having their own well established lifestyle. To maintain this we argue that there are no differences between the Gumelniţa A1 material in the settlements that earlier had not been inhabited.
We mention that the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain were assigned by E. Comşa, M. Petrecu-Dîmboviţa and I. T. Dragomir to the Stoicani – Aldeni culture. Agreeing with N. Harţuche, Vl. Dumitrescu and V. S. bejlekci we consider that, in our turn, the Gumelniţa settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain belongs to the great Gumelniţa – Kodjadermen – Karanovo VI complex.
In spite of that, during the Gumelniţa A1 phase we can point out certain peculiarities, but that we consider legacies of the Mariţa culture, that next to the Boian culture – Spanţov phase, participated in the Gumelniţa culture genesis.
The Gumelniţa culture settlements in the north-east of the Romanian Plain cease, as a matter of fact the entire Gumelniţa culture in Muntenia and Dobrudja, in the Gumelniţa A2 phase. It is interesting that almost all the settlements cease all of a sudden. The researches conducted in the Gumelniţa layers duirng the Gumelniţa A2 phase at Lişcoteanca and Însurăţei prove that these settlements were fired or abandoned.
The fact that after the Gumelniţa A2 settlements ceased to exist, no stable settlements were uncovered. At the same time they uncovered some Cernavoda 1 pottery fragments, some isolated graves and a cemetery at Brăiliţa, which proves that in the north-east of the Romanian Plain, after the Gumelniţa settlements ceased to exist, north-Pontic shepherd tribes established themselves and this way emerged the Cernavoda I culture.
In the end, we may state that the Gumelniţa tribes come to the north-east of the Romanian Plain with a well established lifestyle. The end of the Gumelniţa settlments must have been violent and dramatic, as the population in these settlements was forced to withdraw under the ‘shock’ from the north-Pontic Cernavoda I tribes, but, very likely, also under the pressure exerted by the Cucuteni A3 tribes.