Selected by Irina Oberlander-Tarnoveanu from Warwick Brag and David Trump, Dictionary of Archaeology, 2nd edition, Penguin Books, 1982.

  • Term
  • Definition


A late Neolithic site of the Cucuteni culture in Romania (Ariuşd village, Covasna County), which gave its name to the Cucuteni cultural area specific to South-East Transylvania. Its main feature is the three-coloured painted pottery.


A flint industry of Upper Palaeolithic type (c. 35,000 - 25,000 BC), named after a settlement discovered in 1860 in a cave at Aurignac (Haute Garonne), in Southern France. The maker of this culture is Cro Magnon man (Hommo sapiens fossilis). In France it is stratified between the Châtelperronian and the Gravettian, but industries of Aurignacian type are found eastwards to the Balkans, Palestine, Iran and Afghanistan. Bone points with split bases are diagnostic of the earliest Aurignacian, and in the west this is the period of the first Cave Art. At the Abripataud there is a radiocarbon date of pre-31000 B.C. for the Aurignacian, but there are possibly earlier occurrences in central and southeast Europe ( Istallosko in Hungary and Bacho Kiro in Bulgaria). Early Aurignacian was discovered in Northern Romania (Maramureş region and Northern Moldavia), while Middle Aurignacian is spread all over the territory of present Romania as part of Middle Aurignacian of Central Europe.


1. A rich Iron Age culture present in cemeteries and settlement sites over much of Romania (except its Northern part), Northern Bulgaria, Serbia, Voivodina, central Republic of Moldavia until Dnester River. The type site is on the Danube (Basarabi village, included in Calafat town, Dolj County). It is a local version of the Hallstatt culture, dating to end of the 9th century BC – c.650 BC.


An Early Iron Age village, of 7th to 5th centuries B.C., near Znin, in northwest Poland. The island site was ringed by a breakwater of piles and fortified by a rampart of timber compartments filled with earth and stones. Inside were more than a hundred wooden cabins arranged along parallel streets surfaced with logs. In response to a rising water level, the site was twice reconstructed. Biskupin belongs to a late stage of the Lusatian Culture.


An east Hungarian cemetery with at least fifty inhumation graves. It is the type site for the middle stage of the Hungarian Copper Age (c. 3900-3500 B.C.), noted for its metal battleaxes and axe-adzes of shaft-hole type. Spread in Eastern Hungary (highest density on Tisza River), Western Romania, Eastern Slovakia, North-Eastern Serbia until the Danube (Ostrovul Corbului site). Better known due to its inhumation cemeteries.


A middle Neolithic culture of Eastern Romania and Bulgaria, c. 4400-3500 B.C. Settlements become larger, even forming small tells. The pottery has geometric designs filled with white paste. Copper begins to appear in the deposits.

Bronze Age

The second age in the three age system, when bronze was the main material used for man's tools and weapons. The advantage of bronze over copper was such that trade in the scarce but necessary tin had to be organized. This trade led in turn to the rapid diffusion of ideas and technological improvements. As a result, far more emphasis has been placed on typology for the study of this age than the others. The rapid change of tools and above all of weapons, and their frequent recovery as components of a hoard, make particularly detailed analysis possible. In Asia the period coincides with written history, so the awkward archaeological name may be abandoned. In Europe, centres of metal-working were established in the Aegean (the Minoans and Myceans, the first European civilizatons), Central Europe (Unetice), Spain (El Argar), Britain (Ireland and the Wessex Culture) and Scandinavia. The later Bronze Age is the period of the great folk movements whitch led to the spread of the Urnfields. It was brought to a close by the introduction of iron. In America true bronze was used in northern Argentina before A.D. 1000, and the knowledge spread to Peru shortly afterwards, reaching its maximum popularity with the expansion of the Inca empire. Certain Mexican nations, including the Aztecs, occasionally allyed copper with tin, but bronze was never as important in the New World as in the Old, and we cannot use the term Bronze Age in America.


Copper Age culture spread over a large area from South-East Transylvania, North Eastern Wallachia, Moldavia and Western Ukraine. There is a radiocarbon date of 3675 +/- 50 for an early phase and one of c. 2980 +/- 60 B.C. for the second phase. Named Tripolije Cuture East of Dnester River. Also Ariuşd-Cucuteni-Tripoljie. The type site is Cucuteni, Iassy County. Its main stages are A, A-B and B.


Every human activity, whether representeted by an artifact ( material value) or a practice or belief ( non-material culture), which is transmitted from individual to individual by some kind of teaching, not by genetic inheritance. Althought usually bound by strict tradition, cultural change can come about comparatively rapidly by diffusion or by local development without external stimulation.


A tribal name for peoples in the territories of modern Romania and Bulgaria. They are often referred to as Thraco-Getians or Geto-Dacians, and were strongly influenced by both Celts and Scythians. Their culture belongs to the later Iron Age, from 4th century B.C. until their conquest by Rome in A.D. 106. It is a local version of La Tene.


A late Neolithic/ Copper Age culture of eastern Romania and Bulgaria (3500 - 2500 B.C.) Permanent villages of rectangular houses formed low tells. Copper and gold were coming into use beside flint. Gumelniţa can be derived from the Hamangia, Boian and Maritza cultures whitch preceded it in this area.


This site, in the Austrian Salzkammergut 50 km. east of Salzburg, is noted for its salt mines and for its cemetery of almost 3,000 graves. The oldest mine galleries go back to the Late Bronze Age, though most are of Iron Age date. The salt in the mines has preserved corpses, clothing and all sorts of mining tools. The cemetery began in Late Bronze Age Urnfield times, when the rite was usually cremation, but most of the graves are of the full Iron Age (Hallstatt and transitional Hallstatt - La Tene periods).

In central European archaeology the terms Hallstatt A (12th -11th century B.C.) and Hallstatt B (10th - 8th centuries B.C.) are used as a chronological framework for the urnfield cultures of the Late Bronze Age. The first iron objects north of the Alps appear at the close of this period, and the Iron Age proper begins with the Hallstatt C (or I) stage of the 7th century B.C. The area of fullest developments is Bohemia, upper Austria and Bavaria were hillforts were contructed and the dead were some times interred on or with a four-wheeled wagon, covered by a mortuary house below a barrow. Sheet bronze was still used for armor, vessels and decorative metalwork, but the characteristic weapon was a long iron sword (or a bronze copy of this) with a scabbard tipped by a winged shape. These swords are found as far afield as southeast England, in the so-called 'Iron Age A' cultures. During the Hallstatt D (or II) period, in the 6th century, the most advanced cultures are found further west, in Burgundy, Switzerland and the Rhinland. Wagon burials are still prominent, and trade brought luxury objects from Greek and Etruscan cities round Mediterranean. By the close of this period in the mid 5th century, elements of Hallstatt culture (though without wagon burials) are found from southern France to Yugoslavia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.


A type site in Northern Dobrudja, near Goloviţa lake (Baia commune, Tulcea county). It has given its name to an Early-Middle Neolithic culture in the Dobrudja and costal Bulgaria which is regarded by some as a branch of the Impressed Ware culture, arriving by sea from the Aegean before 4300 B.C. Noteworthy are its use of spondyllus shell bracelets and its famous terracotta and marble figurines, like "The Thinker of Cernavoda".

Iron Age

Iron had such manifest advantages over bronze that its spread was rapid. Indeed, in parts of the world like Africa, it overtook the earlier metal, excluding a Bronze Age altogether. In America iron was not introduced until the arrival Europeans. In most of Asia the Iron Age falls entirely within the historic period. In Europe it begins at earliest c. 1100 B.C., when the collapse of Hittites allowed the secret of iron-working to escape. Highlights are provided by the Villanovas in Italy and the cultures of Hallstatt and La Tene in central and western Europe. It is the period of the startling Celtic Art. Beyond the Mediterranean shores the age closes with the appeareance of the Roman legions in the1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D. Outside the imperial frontiers, it is conventionally taken to end with the Migration Period, c. 4th - 6th centuries A.D. Because of its overlap with history-strictly it should last at least until the Industrial Revolution - the period is even more anomalous than the others of the Three Age System.


A tell in Eastern Bulgaria. It disclosed 12 m. of stratigraphy, whith seven phases of occupation running from the Early Neolithic to the Bronze Age, 7th to mid 2nd millennium B.C. The development of the architecture, all in wattle and daub, was particularly interesting. The 50 to 60 early, scattered, square huts were replaced by rectangular, larger, porched, plastered and painted ones in later phases.

La Tene

The site of a great Iron Age votive deposit in the shallow water at the east end of Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland. Excavations in 1907-17 revealed wooden piles, two timber causeways and a mass of tools and weapons of bronze, iron and wood. Some of these objects bore curvilinear patterns whitch are the hallmark of La Tene art everywhere from Central Europe to Ireland and the Pyrenees.

La Tene has given its name to the second period of the European Iron Age, which followed the Hallstatt period over much of the continent and lasted from mid 5th century B.C. until the Celts were subdued by Roman conquest. The highest development, and the birth of the art style, took place in west central Europe from the Rhineland to the Marne. Contact with the Greek and Etruscan worlds brought wine, metal flagons and Attic drinking cups into lands north of the Alps, and La Tene art shows links with that of the Scythians to the east. In Britain, contact with the continental La Tene cultures is shown by chariot burials and the presence of La Tene art motifs on metalwork and pottery.


The period of transition between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic, with persistence of the old Palaeolithic hunting and collecting way of life in the new environment created by the withdrawal of the Pleistocene ice sheets around 8300 B.C. Glacial flora and fauna were replaced by modern forms, but agriculture was still unknown. Mesolithic flint industries are often distinguished by an abundance of microliths. The period came to an end with the gradual invention and diffusion of the ' Neolithic' manner of life based on farming and stock-rearing. In the Near East, which remained free of ice sheets, climatic change was less significant than in northern Europe and agriculture was practised soon after the close of the Pleistocene. In this area the Mesolithic period was short and poorly differentiated, but it became longer as one moves further away from centres of early farming. In Britain the Mesolithic - Neolithic transition did not come until around 4000 B.C.


A fortified hilltop near Bucharest, Romania, the type site of a Middle to Late Bronze Age culture, c. 2000-1600 B.C., which covered much of eastern Romania. It was of local origin, but absorbed influences from both the south (notably Faience in trade) and the steppes. It had a rich and varied repertoire of pot and metal forms.


A neo-Grecism invented by Lubbock in 1865 to describe that section of the human past, as classified by the Three Age System, in which man was producing his own food by cultivation of crops and domestication of animals, but was still relying solely on stone as the material for his tools and weapons. These criteria become progressively more difficult to apply as we learn that both food production and metal-working took a long time to develop. If the term Neolithic is to be retained at all, it must be based on the appeareance of food production, sometimes called the Neolithic revolution, commencing in southwest Asia 9000-6000 B.C. This might be considered the most important single advance ever made by man, since it allowed him to settle permanently in one spot. This in turn encouraged the accumulation of material possessions, stimulated trade, and by giving a storable surplus of food allowed a larger population and craft specialization. All these were prequisite to further human progress.


A Middle to Late Bronze Age culture of Eastern Hungary and North-Western Romania, the type site just within the latter. It dates to the period 2000-1600 B.C., and shows connections with Unetice.


Beginning with the emergence of man and the manufacture of the most ancient tools some 2 1/2 to 3 million years ago, the Palaeolithic period lasted through most of the Pleistocene Ice Age until the final retreat of the ice sheets in about 8300 B.C. It is generally subdivided into : Lower Palaeolithic, with the earliest form of man (Australopithecus and Homo Erectus), and the predominance of core tools of pebble tools, handaxe and chopper type; Middle Palaeolithic, the era of Neanderthal Man and the predominance of flake-tool industries (eg. Mousterian) over most of Eurasia; Upper Palaeolithic starting perhaps as early as 38000 B.C., with Homo Sapiens, Blade-and-Burin industries and the Cave Art of Western Europe.


The oldest stage of the Hungarian Copper Age ( 4100-3900 B.C.). It takes its name from Tiszapolgar-Basatanya, a cemetery in the plain of eastern Hungary with 156 graves containing single inhumations accompanied by pottery and a few copper objects. The oldest graves belong to the Tiszapolgar phase, while the more recent ones are of the Bodrogkeresztur culture.


A cemetery of individual cremation graves with the ashes of the dead placed in pottery vassels, or funerary urns. Sometimes unurned cremations may also be present. The term Urnfield cultures is used in a special sense for a group of related European Bronze Age cultures in which the above rite was practised. The idea of urnfield burial is an ancient one in central Europe where cremation cemeteries of the later 3rd millennium B.C. are known in the Kisapostag culture of Hungary and the Cârna culture in Romania. By 1500 urnfields were common in East Central Europe, and from there the new rite spread north and west. It was introduced into North Italy by the Terramara people in the mid-2nd millennium, and from there spread southwards through the peninsula as far as Sicily and the Lipari islands during 11th to 9th centuries. From Central Europe urnfield burial, with its distinctive pottery and associated bronze tools, spread westwards across the Rhine in 11th century. By c. 750 it had reached Southern France and shortly after that date urnfields appear in Catalonia, where evidence from place names suggests that the newcomers were Celts. Over most of the region north of the Alps, urnfield cultures came to an end with the start of the Hallstatt Iron Age in 7th century, while the Mediterranean Islands were incorporated into the Classical world of the Greeks and Etruscans.


A large tell just outside Belgrade in Yugoslavia. Its lowest level consisted of Starcevo material. The next two, of the Middle and Late Neolithic, are called after this site but distinguished by hyphenating with others, Vinca-Turdaş and Vinca-Plocnik, dated by radiocarbon to c. 5400-4800 and 4800-4500 B.C. The pottery throughout is typically dark burnished, with fluting and simple incised decoration. The site represents a settled farming community but its position and contents demonstrate the importance of trade also.


The type site of a Slavonian culture of the Late Neolithic, lying beside the river Drava in Croatia. It is characterized above all by its pottery, excised and filled with white paste. The material is related to that from the Ljubljansko Blat and the Eastern Alps generally. Some copper was already being worked.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Last update: September 6th, 2001.