Problems of the Social Reproduction and of
the Visible and Invisible Social Powers in
Prehistoric Eurasia  
(How were the Advancement and the Social
Astuteness Fuelled in Prehistory?)

organized by Lolita Nikolova (Bulgaria and USA)
Marco Merlini (Italy)

The 13th Annual Meeting of the European
Association of Archaeologists
Zadar, Croatia, 18-23.09.2007

The Session's abstract (.pdf)
Session program (updated August 12th, 2007) (.pdf)
Session presentation summary and photogallery

Lolita Nikolova (USA/Bulgaria)
Marco Merlini (Italy)
Michel Seferiades (France) (no presentation in Zadar)*
Svetlana Ivanova (Ukraine) (no presentation in Zadar)*
Alenka Tomaž (Slovenia)
Mikola Kryvaltsevich (Belarus)*
Stilian Stanimirov (Bulgaria)*
Stefan Stamenov (Bulgaria)*
Paola Demattè (USA)
Cristian Schuster (Romania)
Alexandra Comsa (Romania)
Tinaig Clodoré-Tissot (France)
Paola Ucelli Gnesutta (Italy)

*only abstract
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International Institute of Anthropology
Figurative and abstract themes in mobile art of the Grotta delle Settecannelle
(Viterbo - Italy). Implications and interpretations within the context of late Palaeolithic
culture (by Paola Ucelli Gnesutta, Italy) (

The Epigravettian layers of Grotta delle Settecannelle, a cave situated near Viterbo in
Northern Latium, have yielded about 40 engraved objects discovered in situ, with flint
instruments and faunal remains, in connection with fireplaces. Few of these incised
artifacts come from the level of Evolved Epigravettian, dated to 15.700 BP, while the
majority of mobile art was found in levels of Final Epigravettian, dated between 12700
and 12000 BP, and of late Epigravettian, dated 10.700 BP.
Two pebbles used as retouchers have engraved animal figures. The other finds, stone
and bone tools, non-utilitarian objects and body ornaments are decorated with abstracts
and geometric patterns that appear at a relatively early stage at Grotta delle
From archaeological evidences, it is possible to assume that and religious ceremonies,
were  not performed in special and secret sites, but took place in the same space where
daily activity was practised, as observed in “open air sanctuaries” of France and of
Spain. The presence of body ornaments indicate differences of status and role inside
the human group.
Technological and stylistic analysis of the engravings and of the themes represented  
has pointed out similarities between Settecannelle art and contemporary manifestations
discovered in Italian and European sites and reveals the emergence of new spiritual
conceptions, common to a large part of Europe in Tardiglacial age.

Shamanism through the Balkans area during the Neolithic, Eneolithic and Early
Bronze Age (by Michel Louis Séfériadès, France) (

ABSTRACT – This paper focuses on researches, using a lot of recent data, related  to
the ancient religions and old ways of thinking (1962, Levi-Strauss’“La pensée sauvage”)
of the Balkans area from the beginning of the  Neolithic period and until the dawn of the
Bronze Age.  

Late Palaeolithic Anietovka 2 on the Bug, green polished Mushrooms (probably
hallicinogen ?) stones from Vinca, the well known Otzaki Proto-Sesklo sherd (dancing
shamans), the Gomolava  and Szentes-Ilonopart dancing shamans from Serbia and
Southern Hungary etc, the Serbian and Bulgarian actual folk customs, as, for example,
the Sourvaraki in Pernik district, show the continuity and the last impacts of the old
shamanistic behaviours and the actual Balkanic (South-Eastern Europe) cultural
KEY WORDS – Shamanism, Europe, Balkans, Neolithic/Eneolithic and Early Bronze
SEFERIADES M.  2002. La représentation de l'élan de la Mer Baltique au lac Baïkal".
In  Dolukhanov P., Séfériadès M. (sous la direction de), "Russie, carrefour de l'Homo
Sapiens, les révélations de l'archéologie russe", Dossiers d'Archéologie, Dijon, n° 270,
SEFERIADES M. 2005. Note shamanique : à propos du bucrane néolithique de Dikili-
Tash (Macédoine orientale grecque). In Honorem Silvia Marinescu-Bïlcu 70 de ani,
Cultura si Civilizatie la Dunarea de Jos, Calarasi, 97-114.
SEFERIADES M.  (forthcoming). L’ours néolithique des Balkans.

How to Interpret the Neolithic Social Personality? (by Lolita Nikolova, USA/Bulgaria)

My approach will try to construct a framework for the interpretation of the prehistoric
social personally in terms of the already obtained results and perspectives of research.
Placing the concepts of R. Tringham,  J. Chapman and D. Bailey in the context of the
modern understanding of the social personally, we will try mostly to point to some
similarities and differences among the regional cultures in the Balkans that may have
been a result of social practices related to specific concepts of social identity. We will
also discuss the role of the archaic mythology and the handcraft for the reproduction of
the certain concepts of social personality in the different regions of the Balkans. Finally,
we will point to misuse of the Neolithic in the contemporary hypocrite literature on

Did Southeastern Europe develop a rudimentary system of writing in Neo-Eneolithic
times? (by Marco Merlini, Italy) (

Merlini’s presentation inspects the internal structuring of the sign system developed in
Neo-Eneolithic times in the Danube basin exploiting a database that accounts more
than 3000 signs from 647 inscribed objects and 756 inscriptions according to 118
variables. The statistics from the database give new information to verify if these cultures
might have expressed an early form of writing (i.e. the so called “Danube script”) and to
investigate the organizing principles of this possible system of writing. A specific notice
will be done on the overall composition of the sign inventory utilized by the
communities of the Danube civilization (How many hundreds of signs were in use? And
which were they?), the investigation of sign employment on objects according to their
typology (i.e. figurines, pots cult vessels, mignon altars, spindle whorls…), the frequency
of sign use with the regional differences and the time frame.

The origins of Chinese writing: signs and symbols in archaeological context
(by Paola Demattè, USA) (

The earliest deciphered and widely accepted form of writing from China are the late
Shang dynasty oracle bones inscriptions (ca. 1300 cal bce). While some scholars
believe a number of inscriptions carved on ritual bronze vessels, pottery, or jade may be
slightly earlier (middle Shang, ca. 1500 bce), Chinese writing is generally said to have
begun in the Shang dynastic period (ca. 1600-1300 bce) during the Middle Bronze Age.
This understanding of the origins of Chinese writing is based on a purely linguistic
analysis of the writing phenomenon, which ignores the archaeological context and
associated socio-political evidence. As a result of this linguist approach signs such as
pot-marks, single graphs, indecipherable inscriptions, and pottery decorations which
existed before the Shang period but whose exact linguistic value is still uncertain, are
ignored.  However, these Late Neolithic or early Bronze Age (ca. 3500-2000 bce) signs
suggest that signing activities were well developed before full blown writing became
widespread during the Shang period.  In addition, archaeological evidence indicates
that mature writing evolved from these earlier signing systems as a result of the
increasing social and political complexity of the societies of the Late Neolithic.
This paper will analyze as number of early signing systems which may have led to the
mature Chinese writing of the Shang oracle bone inscriptions, and will argue that non-
linguistic visual signing (from pot-marks to pottery decorations or rock art) play a role in
the development of writing systems.

Ornament as a symbolic and social communication mean
(Structure, rhythm and meaning) (by Stefan Stamenov, Bulgaria) (

The analysis of the ornament requires destucturing two categories – composition and
rhythm. The former is connected with the category of space, and the latter with the
concept of time.  It is well known that we have structure (or composition) in every
picture. It is not so with the rhythm, which is considered specific for the art of ornament.  
Investigating the structure of the ornament we can use the classical three hierarchical
levels – composition, motive, element. If the ornament is geometrical the elements are
represented by geometrical figures. Almost every one of them has its meaning,
considered as symbolic meaning. An attempt to divide the elements to their presumable
parts will lead to appearing of meaningless strokes and curves. This can be an argument
that there is some level at which an image is able to transmit information. At the same
time, composing a motive or group of motives shows that the location of the ornamental
elements on the field forms patterns, that has geometrical shapes, which is an argument
that the composition itself can’t be meaningless. It is also an argument that the
ornamental structure consists of two parts. First part is compounded of the motives and
elements that are painted on the surface. Second part consists of the composition itself,
the arrangement of the motives and elements on the surface that forms shapes too,
although not painted. The problem, which arise here is about the arrangement of the
ornamental elements. Can we discover some rules that will predict this arrangement?
The other category, the rhythm, as it was mentioned is connected with time. The main
question here is how an unmoving picture can express time. The widespread conception
is that the rhythm, being repetition of similar elements has connection with the time
category, which can be presented as a repetition of similar events ( natural or cultural ).  
But is every repetition able to create rhythm? In my opinion it is not, because the rhythm
needs some regularity. Although the rhythm may be of the so-called irregular type, it is
in some way regular. And since the ornament is a visual art, another question arises. Is
the rhythm connected with the shape of the elements and the composition of the
ornamental picture. I will try to argue that it is, and that this connection along with the
logic of building ornamental structure can give us clue to the meaning of the
ornamental picture.
The ornament was one of the strongest symbolic and social communication means in
Prehistory when it functioned to connect communities and generations through
reproduction of specific traditions or innovations and was used for distribution even of
coded messages.

Symbols of Power in the Prehistoric Society (According to the Archaeological
Findings from the Varna Eneolithic Necropolis) (by Stiliyan Stanimirov, Bulgaria) (

The Varna Eneolithic Necropolis is a lurid science discovery which significance
exceeds the limits of the Prehistory of modern Bulgaria.
The finds from the Necropolis have been curated in the Archaeological museum in
Varna city where they are arranged in three exhibit halls. The larger part of the gold
objects, as well as the most representative other types of the findings belong to three
graves only. The staffs or the sceptres – a symbol of the temporal power or religious
authority are a distinguishing feature mark of those graves. Another group of three graves
have been represented by sculptures of human faces from clay (by one in each grave).
Gold subjects have been appliquéd on the distinctive points of the face - the forehead,
the eyes, the mouth and the ears, as symbols of social power.
The discovered gold objects are more from 3 000 and are with a common weight of over
6 kilograms. Unusually, their kind is over 38 different types. There is a great number of
the findings of the other materials. Copper findings are over 160, flint - over 230, and
near 90 objects are made of rock and marble . A multitude of nearly 1 100 ornaments -
bracelets, beads and appliqués made of Mediterranean mollusks shells were found. The
chinaware is quite frequently found among the grave inventory, too – over 650 earthen
The findings as type, placement and a quantity, the types of graves of the Varna
necropolis, the large complex of sunk settlements, and another facts give reason as well
it is accepted that in the Varna lakes region was born the first European civilisation. It
seems that the settlements near the Varna lakes have been a center of a big region.
The graves from the Varna necropolis illustrate a range of social othernesses in
reference to the material status, the temporal power or religious authority.

The Ceramic Jewelry in the Fifth Millennium Cal BCE (by Alenka Tomaz, Slovenia) (e-

Decorating the human body with different colours or ornamental items such as jewellery
has been one of the most common practices since the earliest stage of the  human
civilization. We could say that it is old as are the human beings themselves. The oldest
examples of small artificial personal ornaments were made from stones, shells, bones,
antlers, etc. However, with the boom of pottery production, one of the most important
technological innovations in the Neolithic period, and it wide use in the everyday life,
the production of adornments took a new turn. Personal ornaments made of fired clay
are relatively rare discovered from in the Neolithic period and therefore deserve a
special attention; especially because they exhibit a series of elements, which can help
us reconstruct some specific social and cultural aspects of past.

At Catez–Sredno polje, which is located beside the Sava river in southern Slovenia,
small personal ornaments and other parts of ceramic jewellery were discovered in
settlement contexts dated from the first half of the fifth millennium cal BCE. Beads of
different shapes made from fired clay, as well as perforated ceramic discs made from
broken pots can be recognized as parts of jewellery. In our approach we are introducing
some aspects of their production, use and distribution. And most importantly we are
exploring a range of possible visible and invisible elements of social powers that make
the personal ornaments what they are, embodying something individual on the one
hand, and something social, on the other hand.   

The Early Metal on the Territory of Belarus: Periods, Ways of Supply, Cultural and
Social Implications (by Mikola Kryvaltsevich, Belarus) (

The territory of Belarus is stretching from the Bug region and the Prypiats catchment
area to the Dzvina and the Upper Nioman regions and to the Upper Dnieper, outlying
copper and bronze minefields explored for early raw-materials extraction.
First metal articles emerged in the Upper Dnieper region in the Middle-Dnieper Culture
(MDC) burials. The MDC burial complexes containing copper and bronze articles date
back to the end of III millennium BC – 1700 BC and are simultaneous with the period Br
A1 (2350 – 1700 BC) of the Central European Bronze Age. Initially in the Upper Dnieper
region the dominant role belonged to the metal coming from South-Eastern steppe and
forest-steppe zones, primarily from the Catacomb Culture communities. Later, separate
metal artefacts (including tin bronze ones) started to come from the metal work centres
around Carpathians. Metal, as well as some other prestigious articles came from the
communities of around Carpathians epicorded cultural area. Basing on oblique data,
one can assume that separate articles could have been made directly by the MDC
According to their functional use, the earliest metal articles detected on the territory of
South-Eastern Belarus fit in the categories of jewellery and armour. Predominantly they
are part of prestigious burial inventory complexes and accompany dead males. Metal
articles as well as other rare imported artefacts (amber pendants, faience bead,
sophisticated stone articles made of imported raw materials etc.) acquired a symbolic
implication emphasizing a relatively high social status of certain dead persons and kin
groups they belonged to.
In other Belarusian regions, namely in Prypiats and Brest Palessie, the Upper Nioman
and the Dzvina regions one can trace only occasional copper and bronze articles. The
earliest of them could have been brought from Central Europe at the end of I – II Bronze
Age periods (according to Northern European dating). The later spread of metal articles
compared to South-Eastern Belarus can be explained by the lack of need for metal as
an element of prestige. In this case it may signify that the communities residing on this
territory had long been characterized by egalitarianism, preserving the traditional, sub-
Neolithic mode of life.
From the III period of Bronze Age on metal articles penetrate to the territory of Belarus
with grater intensity. Part of them has analogies among the articles of the Lusatian
Culture. Supply routs of certain metal articles are being established from Central Europe
and Baltic region. Nevertheless, bronze articles do not become abundant. These are
mainly armour and jewellery.
In general, socio-cultural life on the territory of Belarus in the epoch of Central
European Bronze Age was distinguished by a relatively long sub-Neolithic period.  
Copper and bronze articles were not in large demand, which makes one judge about
certain peculiarities of social institutions’ development, some of which preserved
conservatism and often remained at the level of sub-Neolithic period. Probably, only
with the rise of iron industry utilizing local raw materials, one can observe the upsurge of
social and cultural life as well as building of fortified settlements – hill forts.

Social differentiation in the Bronze Age of Romania.
An anthropological approach (by Alexandra Comşa, Romania) (

The territory of Romania was an area of major changes during the Bronze Age and that
was due to the significant population movements which occured  at that time. They
resulted in more intense mixtures among the local and alogeneous communities, but
also in  relative changes of the funerary rituals or the appearance of new ones. Besides,
in some cases, we consider that even the rite employed could be a rank mark of the
individual, of course, when considering the archaeological context. Sometimes, the
large families were grouped together, sometimes there were other criteria for burials.
In our paper, we try to use data regarding the sex or age category of the individuals, but
also funerary aspects of ritual and rite, in order to point out the existence of a certain  
social stratification in the material cultures of the Bronze Age in Romania.

The Social Structure of the Communities, as Rendered by the Bronze Age Cemeteries
in Southern Romania (by Cristian Schuster, Romania) (

It is, generally, considered that, the funerary monuments from the prehistorical
communities on the Lower Danube would reflect the social stratigraphy in its various
moments. This is the case of the cemeteries, of the isolated Neolithic and Eneolithic
burials. Subsequently, during the transitional period to the Bronze Age, the situation was
rather different in this regard and not only. A cultural „crumble” could be detected,
being also reflected by the inventory of the burials. Many of the funerary monuments
lack the inventory. It is evident that the social structure  faced changes, determined by
the intense mobility of the populations (movements from the east to the west), of their
economical life (a sudden decrease in the plant cultivation and increase of the cattle
breeding activities) and of the religious beliefs.
These trends were also maintained in many of the cultural manifestations of the Bronze
Age. For the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (the Zimnicea-Mlăjet group) a slight
social differentiation could be observed in the case of the funerary monuments, as
examples being relevant the necropolises from Zimnicea (Romania) and Batin
(Bulgaria). Later on, during the Glina culture, they completely disappeared. The
situation was somewhat identical in the Middle Bronze Age (during the Tei and
Verbicioara cultures), but the social stratification became evident and nuanced
especially in the Late Bronze Age (during the Gârla Mare culture).
Of course, the possible and probable social stratification which could be detected by
the use of the funerary monuments, should have been corroborated with their traces in
the habitat forms, namely: the features of the settlements, their distribution upon a
certain territory, their architecture. The civilian and /or military constructions should be
helpful in this sense, the same like those with religious character.
In the analysis regarding the social structure of the communities in the Bronze Age on
the Lower Danube, the demographic dynamics, the proportion between the „vernaculars”
and the alogeneous, the cultural influence directly or indirectly induced from the
neighboring or remote areas (northern Black Sea, Greece, Anatolia, Central Europe)
could not be neglected.

Problems of the Social Reproduction in the Pit Grave Culture communities (by
Svetlana Ivanova, Ukraine) (

The long history of the Kurgan communities from the Early Bronze Age of Northwest
Pontic and respectively the traditions of the kurgan burials provide a rich database for a
detailed analysis of different aspects of the social reproduction of the prehistoric
population of Eurasia. As a result of the study of the burial goods and changing
dimensions of the tombs, we will offer some criteria to distinguish social status from and
within sex and age groups.
We will point to the fact that the ritual burial goods and adornments are linked with
children, adolescents and young males. The data show that the most various burial
goods were deposited in male burials - implements made of flint, stone, bone; metal
knives, awls, weapons (darts, bone and flint arrows), ritual burial goods (fragments of
axes, astragals), adornments (silver spirals, compound copper bracelets). Implements,
weapons and anthropomorphic steles are related to male burials of mature and senile
age. Some categories of burial goods are common for males, females and children. As
for chariots, their distribution relates to all age groups.
The presence of children’s burials with specific categories of burial goods perhaps
testifies some aspects of inheritance of the social status; though we believe that the
social status was not steady in the Pit Grave society and it varies through ages. Based
upon the data from the Pit Grave Culture, we will also discuss some opportunities to
differentiate an inherent and attained social status in Prehistory.

"Musical instruments of the Bronze Age Europe" : Sounds and Prestige (by Tinaig
Clodoré-Tissot, France)

Sounding artefacts and musical instruments have been found in Europe  
(Central Europe, Scandinavia, and Occidental Europe) in different  
archaeological contexts, for the Bronze Age period ( 2300/2100 B.C.-  
750 B.C) . Most of these instruments are similar to the sounding  
instruments of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, but for the  
very first time musical instruments made of bronze do their  
apparition, in the Bronze Age. Most of these bronze musical  
instruments are considered as prestige goods. Archaeological analysis  
of the main sites categories and the discovery contexts, in which  
these instruments have been found, added to ethnological comparisons  
helped us to understand the musical thought, the significance of  
sounds and their uses during these periods.

I will present the sounds of a selection of instruments excavated in  
Europe, such as bone flutes and whistles, clay rattles, clay and  
bronze horns.
EAA 2007 Zadar:

Official opening ceremony
Our favorites from Zadar
What is Archaeological
Problems of the Social
LBK Dialogue continues