of the most flourishing civilizations from the last half of the 5th
century BC is (next to the Ariuşd Cucuteni Tripolie complex)
location of this exceptional culture was mentioned for the first time
by the "father" of Romanian archaeology school, Vasile
Pārvan, as early as 1922. However, only from 1924 Vladimir Dumitrescu
made available to prehistorians worldwide the first collection of specific
materials (pottery, art objects, lithic and bone artifacts, etc.) gathered
from the very eponymous found on “le massif de Gumelniţa qui domine
de plus de 20 m la plaine du Danube”, a settlement that would
be systematically researched beginning with 1925.
Area of the Gumelniţa Culture. Genesis and Evolution
the area of Gumelniţa culture generally corresponds to that of
Boian culture in Muntenia, but it extended also to Dobrudja, on the
territory earlier spanned by Hamangia culture, as well as to south Bessarabia.
To the south it spans the eastern half of Bulgaria, both to the north
and to the south of the Balkans (known under the name of KodjadermenKaranovo
VI) reaching the Aegea.
mainly againt the background of Boian culture, it surely has a component
of Marita culture (partially contemporary to Boian), in south-east Bulgaria,
whose graphite painted pottery is one of the characteristic features
of Gumelniţa culture.
of the unitary aspect of the culture, several regional variants could
be defined: a North-Dobrudjan one, a Dobrudjan one, a South-Balkan one
and the Stoicani–Aldeni cultural aspect in North-East Muntenia
and South-East Moldova, extending further to the East of the river Prut,
in the area right north of the Danube.
culture evolves along two main phases, A and B, in their turn divided
into two stages each – A1 – A2 and B1 – B2 –
the first three stages documented also stratigraphically (the last one
raising for the time being some questions), and has, like all Eneolithic
cultures, its specific elements. First we would point out the multitude
of tell settlements, next to which we find those situated on terrace
ends, islets, errosion witnesses, etc., reinforced or not by artificial
defence/protection systems and invariably emerged near natural water
sources (springs, rivers, streams, lakes, marshes etc.) and easily exploitable
natural resources: waters, fields good for agriculture, animal breeding,
hunting, etc., all this making up a certain category of man’s
relations to the environment.
Tools. Ornaments. Art.
element specific of the culture is pottery, especially the black one,
but also a brown one (rarely, brick-red), both kinds well polished,
having various shapes and decorations, the latter incised, in relief
and barbotined, as well as graphite painted. Very used during phase
A (but occurring also in phase B), graphite painting required a rather
complicated technology and a double baking in the oven, the last one
up to 800º C. However, they painted also in white and red, on the
bottom of the vessel, but we also encounter a three-colour category,
after the firing of the vessel in the oven. Also now occur the first
askos and rhyton type vessels, as a result of the links with the Aegean-Anatolian
south. Another characteristic of this culture and of Salcuţa culture
(most likely to a large extent a Gumelniţa culture variant), during
the entire Neo-Eneolithic of Romania is represented by massive axes
and long silex blades, sometimes exceeding 30 cm, as well as arrow tips
and lances cut in the same rock. It is also worth mentioning a wide
range of bone and horn tools, including arrows, tips, blade pieces,
those for pottery modelling, harpoons, grubbing hoes, “coulters”,
“boumerangs” etc. Also many ornaments were made out of bone
in its turn used currently both for making ornaments (including pins
with double spiral head – a type spread far into south-east Asia,
in Indus Valley) and for various types of massive aexs, all of them
revealing rather advanced knowledge of Gumelniţa craftsmen in the field
of copper processing technology.
as phase A2 occured also the oldest gold ornaments in settlements in the
area of the lower Danube, probably worked in the regions south of the
cult pieces of Gumelniţa Culture
the art of this culture is extremely rich, varied and specific, and,
although the anthropomorphic statuettes prevail, the zoomorphic ones
are rather frequent.
are clay modelled, but there are also bone, and more rarely marble ones.
A large part of the clay anthropomorphic statuettes witness to the skills
of the modellers, both as regards the power of perception (the way certain
physiognomies and attitudes are rendered), as well as the skill of the
execution. The bone ones are three types, two excessively sketchy, the
third one attempting (within the limits allowed by the raw matter) to
render the human body more faithfully, as copper ornaments – necklaces,
belts, earrings are added. There are also many anthropomorphic vessels
(some of them real works of art), zoomorphic or anthropo-zoomorphic
ones, all of them linked, like the statuettes, to various religious
practices of the Gumelniţa population.
with phalic handles and lid pot with zoo-antromorphic appliques,
findes of Gumelniţa Culture
statuette of Căscioarele - Ostrovel
As we return to
the settlements of the culture, for the time being (in the case of Romania,
where only the small settlement of Teiu and the village of Gumelniţa
B1 of Căscioarele – Ostrovel were exhaustively researched)
we do not have enough data on the internal organization of the community,
but next to the dwellings themselves, arranged or not in a certain order,
we encounter workshop-dwellings for processing lithic material, bones,
horns, ornaments, statuettes, etc.). But, for instance, also a “slaughtering”
construction in the settlement of Cascioarele – Ostrovel or another
type of “mill” in the settlement of Medgidia. Both these
workshop-dwellings in settlements, and the “workshops” discovered
outside them witness to the existence of crafts and skilled craftsmen
who must have worked equally for the human group to which they belonged,
as well as for intertribal exchanges. We might even think of settlements
of a certain economic specificity, depending also on the environment
they used to exploit equally for the needs of the community as well
as for the bartering with other necessary goods that they must have
of rebuild dwellings one cell and two cells )
Certain settlements also include places specially arranged for worship
that, according to the “shrine” models uncovered, give us
the image of the wide extension of such constructions and of the role
played by them in the life of the communities in question.
and Ritual. Cemeteries
aspect of the spirituality of Gumelniţa populations is revealed by their
attitude towards the dead. In the case of the culture in question, the
dead were grouped in places specially arranged for them (outside the
settlements), known being some cemeteries in the vast Gumelniţa region,
but we know also exceptions from this rule. .
ritual and physical aspect of this populaiton resemble those from the
last phase of Boian culture (naturally, given its contribution to the
genesis of Gumelniţa culture): the burying in a crouched position, from
a moderate to a very pronounced one, usually on the left side, offerings
occur but they are usually scarce. The physical characteristics correspond
to the Mediterranean-like stock with the four pheno-typical variants
known. But the details of the ritual (position of arms, the various
categories of offering and their share in the grave, the use or not
of ochre, the degree of crouching in the case of this position, the
shape of the pit, etc.) do not seem to have been submitted to rigorous
standards, as only few generalizations can be outlined.
graves as well as disparate (human) skeleton parts were uncovered in
most Gumelniţa settlements. First we should mention children’s
graves under and among dwellings, some of the skeletons bearing various
malformations that led to the hypothesis of ritual sacrifices. Also
linked to certain beliefs (a worship of the skull) must be the depositions
of human skulls (usually, deliberately sectioned) under or near fireplaces.
As regards the skeleton parts mentioned above and interpreted by some
as originating in earlier ruffled graves, Alexandra Bolomey considers
that their occurrence is more frequent than previously thought and that,
in fact, they come from contemporaries of the dwelling period, either
remained without graves (out of reasons we cannot figure out), or unburied,
killed and chopped within some magic rituals and ceremonies.
the relative chronology of Gumelniţa culture, the various pieces
"imported" earlier than Cucuteni, dating from the Precucuteni III phase
(or even from the end of Precucuteni II phase) and other Cucuteni ones
from phase A, as well as a pottery fragment belonging to Petresti culture
in Transylvania – pieces uncovered in Gumelniţa culture settlements
– make us consider the beginning of this culture contemporary
to Precucuteni III culture (and to the end of Precucuteni II) and then
to Cucuteni A phase, and at the end to the beginning of Cucuteni A-B
phase. The Petreşti type fragment points out a parallelism between
Gumelniţa A2 and a relatively late Petreşti phase.
chronology, still under discussion, according to the latest calibrated
data, assigns this culture (as mentioned above) to the limits of the
last half of the 5th century BC and maybe to early 4th century BC.
As in the
catalogue each Gumelniţa settlement has its place accompanied by details
both on the specific aspects and on the bibliographic ones, we have
confined ourselves to some generalizations on the culture in question.
As regards relative chronology, each author has the choice for the high
chronology or for the low one.
- Ostrovel - 1963-1965
Dumitrescu, Hortensia Dumitrescu, Silvia Marinescu Bîlcu,