Lithic studies: an alternative approach to Neolithization
Most models of Neolithization of the Balkans have focused on pottery, with little attention paid to other aspects of material culture. A distinctive feature of the Early Neolithic Karanovo I culture of Bulgaria is a flint industry characterized by ‘macroblade’ technology and widespread use of ‘Balkan Flint’ in conjunction with formal toolkits. The origins of this technology and the associated raw material procurement system are still unresolved. Balkan flint also occurs in Early Neolithic contexts outside the Karanovo I culture area, notably in the southern Balkans (Turkish Thrace) and in the lower Danube catchment (Carpathian Basin, Iron Gates, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria). The only securely identified outcrops of Balkan flint are in the Upper Cretaceous Mezdra Formation in the Pleven-Nikopol region of northern Bulgaria. One of the most challenging aspects of the Neolithization debate is to accommodate the evidence provided by lithic studies. Among outstanding questions are: (i) was Balkan flint used by the first (‘pre-Karanovo’) Neolithic communities in Bulgaria; (ii) what role did Balkan flint play in the Neolithization of Southeast Europe; (iii) did access to Balkan flint result in the emergence of a new laminar technology; (iv) how did the Early Neolithic Balkan flint exchange network compare to that based on obsidian, which developed in and around the Aegean Basin; and (iv) what and where were the origins of the Balkan flint network and the formal tools associated with it?
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