Chapter Six
The Ovcharitsa Microregion

6.1 Gonova mogila (barrow)

6.1.1 General information and earlier studies

Gonova mogila was almost totally destroyed in 1964-65 during the construction of the Ovcharitsa dam. In 1980, the remaining part of the barrow – with a basal diameter of 7 – 12 m and a height of 2 m - was excavated. Three graves have been found, which were dated to the EBA (AFig. 6.1.1a). The skeleton in the initial grave was covered by red ochre. According to the publication, a long obsidian blade (AFig. 6.1.1c) and a necklace of copper and shell beads were claimed to be found in this grave (Kunchev 1991). However, according to one of the excavators, the finds were not discovered in the grave context but still could be related to the deceased (Borisov 1991). An exact parallel to the grave was given from the Csóngrad burial, in Hungary (Ecsedy 1979: 23, Fig. 12-13) and it was accepted as one of the earliest pit grave culture graves in Bulgaria, dated to the (?) first half of the IV mill. uncal BC (Kunchev 1991).

The position of the second grave-pit is not clear. According to the published illustration and catalogue data, it is a secondary grave dug into the mound. According the text, however, the grave was dug into the sterile ground. The base of the pit and the skeleton were covered by red ochre. Two broken stones were found near the waist on both sides of the skeleton (AFig. 6.1.1.b). The grave was also considered as one of the earliest pit-graves in Bulgaria.

The last burial was of a child. The bones were seriously damaged by the acid soil. Neither grave goods nor red ochre was found in the grave.

The published illustration and catalogue data show that the barrow was covered by a mound of broken stones.

6.1.2 The site and its surroundings according GIS analyses

Gonova mogila is located on a high hill, at 164-189 masl (CDFig.227), with a 3-4° slope (CDFig.228) and a Northern aspect (CDFig.229). The viewshed analysis from the site was performed a) from the surface (CDFig.230), b) with an additional 2m, which was the barrow’s height during the excavations (CDFig.231), and c) with an additional 4m to justify the visibility if the barrow height was reduced by later destruction (CDFig.232). All the three viewsheds share one and the same pattern of good visibility to the Northeasternmost part of the study region, patchy to the Northwesternmost part and with visible spots over the hills above Polski Gradets tell. The difference between the three is in the degree of consistency of the view, especially around the site. From the surface, there was a patchy view over the area 700m South of the site and a visible strip 1.5km South West of the site. The height of 2m assured visibility over an additional strip 800m to the East. The viewshed from 4m increases the visibility between the site and the above visible strips around the site. The only contemporary visible site is Aldinova mogila. Polski Gradets pit site would have been visible from Gonova mogila if the barrow was 4m higher.

The results of the cost surface (CDFig.233) analysis are summarized in Table 6.1.1:

Table 6.1.1 Site distribution around Gonova mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Ovcharitsa I
1 Ovcharitsa II, Aldinova barrow
2 Polski Gradets tell, Polski Gradets pit site
3 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Ovchartsi barrow, Goliama Detelina flat site
4 Taniokoleva mogila – all locations, Goliamata, Malkata and Manchova barrows, Barrow 4
5 Galabovo tell, MIBC3 and 4, Kurdova mogila
6 MIBC1 and 2, Obrutchishte flat site, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika, Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
7 KMBC

In summary, the sites that most likely were contemporary with Gonova mogila were located in the area of easiest access. Beyond the first cost strip, there are sites that are most probably later than Gonova mogila, which may have be a result of a certain pattern of (re-)occupying the landscape.

The logistics network (CDFig.234) derived from the cost surface analyses repeats in general the pattern of the sites in the interfluve (viz., the Polski Gradets sites). The main direction of movement is from East to West and not from North to South, as it is from the two Polski Gradets sites. This means that moving 5km North to the very edge of the Ovcharitsa valley is enough to re-direct the movement; in order to reach Gudgova tell, for example, one should use the main routes along the valleys rather than to climb up the hills due South of the site.

The main North and South routes are the same, being the track of the only path that crosses the study region through the contemporary mining area. There are differences in some of the paths or segments to single sites that are due to the direction of the movement.

The main North route connects Galabovo tell with Gonova mogila and the track derived from both cost surface analyses is one and the same. The visibility from the path is also the same in general, but differs significantly in its sequence because of the change of direction. The stages of this sequence are formed by the viewsheds to each of the sites along the valley of the Ovcharitsa. They have been summarized for the West-East direction of movement in the Galabovo case study. Here they are summarized as if the traffic was from East to West.

The North route starts with very good general visibility over the Northeasternmost part of the study area (CDFig.235), (CDFig.236). There are invisible areas South of Ovcharitsa II and South/South East of Gonova mogila, while, further South, there are visible spots over the hills between the two Polski Gradets sites. Heading to Ovchartsi barrow, a very good panorama up to 4 km to the West of the site is revealed over the valley of Ovcharitsa, that turns into a patchy view after the 4km point. Also patchy is the view over the hills and the gullies from 1.5 up to 10km to the South East of Ovchartsi barrow (CDFig.237). Aldinova mogila, Ovcharitsa I and II are visible from all the paths to the Western sites along the Ovcharitsa valley. From the path to Ovchartsi barrow, three more barrows are visible. Moving Westwards, there is a gradual increase in the visibility over the North part of the Ovcharitsa valley. The view to the South part of Ovcharitsa valley depends on the location of the destination site. The best panorama over the Ovcharitsa valley is from the path to Galabovo, which is the same as discussed in Galabovo case study (see above, p.165-166). There are minor variations in the views over the North part of the valley and the hills between the two Polski Gradets sites, depending on the actual location of the each site and the segment to it from the main North route. Thus, for example, the tell Polski Gradets is visible only from the paths to Goliamata (CDFig.238), Malkata (CDFig.239), Tcherniova (CDFig.240) and Kurdova (CDFig.241) barrows due to the variable views over the hilly area. More substantial are the differences in the viewsheds to the areas South East of the main North route. For instance, the path to Ovchartsi barrow (the site is located exactly on the North route) has better visibility over the South East areas than the path to barrow 4, which is generally located to the South East of the main North route. This is maybe due to the topographic particularities of the terrain that restricts the visibility of barrow 4 (standing hills) and aids visibility from Ovchartsi, which is located on a high hill. The areas South East of the path and the central parts of the study area are not visible from the paths to Goliamata and Malkata barrows, but are visible from the paths to Goliama Detelina site (CDFig.242), Manchova (CDFig.243), Kurdova and Taniokoleva barrows (CDFig.244). The general visibility to the South East from all the paths is patchy.

The paths to the Polski Gradets sites are the same as the reverse ones derived from the cost surface analyses of each of the sites. This is to confirm that, although deriving from different cost surfaces, the path had one and the same track in both directions due to the landscape particularities. The last segment of the route Polski Gradets pit site – Gonova mogila (or the first one if the direction was from Gonova mogila) is the route to Ovcharitsa I (CDFig.245) - the site with the easiest and straight access. If there was any movement between Ovcharitsa I and Gonova mogila, it happened during the LBA, when Ovcharitsa I was founded. The visibility from this 500m-long path is good over the Northeasternmost part of the study area and patchy around the two sites - no more than 1km to the South, West and East (CDFig.246). There are also visible strips over the hills East and South of the Polski Gradets pit site and over the Northwesternmost area of the study region. Only Aldinova mogila is visible from the path.

The main North route is used to reach Aldinova mogila (CDFig.247), as well as Ovcharitsa II. The last segment to Ovcharitsa II is different because of the Eastwards direction of movement (CDFig.248). The visibility from the path is very good over the Northeasternmost part of the study region. There are visible spots to the South and SouthWest of Gonova mogila and to the South of Ovcharitsa I. The panorama over the North part of the Ovcharitsa valley is patchy (CDFig.235). Two barrows – Ovchartsi and Aldinova, Polski Gradets pit site and Ovcharitsa I are visible from the path.

The same difference because of the direction of the last segment is also valid for the path to Goliamata (CDFig.249) and Malkata mogila (CDFig.250), previously discussed in the Polski Gradets tell case study (see above, p.238-239).

There are two new tracks that connect Gonova mogila with Kurdova mogila (CDFig.251) and MIBC. One of them has appeared in a previous logistical network – the path to Kurdova mogila is the same as the path to the barrow from Polski Gradets tell. The other is the route to MIBC, which generally matches the path from MIBC to Taniokoleva mogila, except that the latter is from South to North and does not reach the main North route. Since it appears here for the first time, the track is going to be discussed in the next paragraph, rather than in the relevant case study. The path Gonova- Kurdova mogila follows the main North route to the West and turns left at the major cross-road of the main North route – the starting-point for the paths to Tcherniova, Manchova and Taniokoleva barrows and Goliama Detelina flat site. The path ascends, winding to the South West, South and South East for a total of 3km. From the path, there is a good visibility over the Northeasternmost part of the study region - the Northern Ovcharitsa valley -, as well as over the hills in the Eastern part of the study area. The panorama over the central part of the study region is consistent but strip-like (CDFig.241). All but two from the sites located in the Northern part of the study area are visible from the path.

The path to MIBC starts for the same major crossroad on the main North route and may have been in use during the EBA2. The path ascends to the South East and has two right branches to Manchova and Taniokoleva barrows and one left branch to Goliama Detelina flat site (CDFig.234). Roughly 3 km after the split from the main route, the path turns right and 300m later reaches the path MIBC – Taniokoleva mogila (CDFig.252), (CDFig.253), (CDFig.254), (CDFig.255). The general panorama from the paths to MIBC is very good over the Northeasternmost part and the hills in the Eastern part of the study region. While following the main North route, there is very good visibility over the valley and patchy views to the North. A patchy strip-like view is had over the central part of the study area and maybe it is not a coincidence that the sites in the area are located at the few visible spots (CDFig.256), (CDFig.257). There are single visible spots to the Southernmost part of the study area. Ten barrows, three BA sites and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the paths. There is some difference in the intervisibility between the barrows. MIBC1 is not visible from the paths to the other three barrows, while, from the path to barrow 1, all MIBC barrows are visible (CDFig.258). The more Easterly location of MIBC2 is probably the reason for the better visibility from the path to this particular barrow (CDFig.259). It shares the panorama discussed above but, in addition, there is very good visibility over the South part of Sokolitsa valley and the Sakar foothills. Two more sites are visible from this path – the Iskritsa pit-site and Klisselika tell.

6.1.3 Summary and discussion

Gonova mogila is claimed to be one of the earliest burials, if not the first one, in the Maritsa Iztok study area. It contains rare evidence (the obsidian blade) that relates the barrow to a burial located at a significant distance, as well as evidence that relates it to contemporary and later barrows in the region (e.g. the stone cairn). Taken as a complex, however, the grave set resembles a local LCA burnt house inventory from Galabovo tell (see p. 169), which is strong evidence for relational continuity between the social practices on tells and on barrows. This is a crucial starting point in the discussion for the origin of the barrows, which has so far been uncritically accepted to be part of a non-local nomadic tradition.

The data from Gonova mogila confirms that long-distance contacts, as documented by the presence of non – local flint and Spondylus shells, were not an exception for the study area.

And finally, the most important evidence from Gonova mogila is the explicit formalization of the burial domain, documenting the emergence of a new arena of social power.

6.2 Ovcharitsa I flat site

6.2.1 General information and earlier studies

The Ovcharitsa I flat site was excavated in 1981-83. At that time, its Southern part had already been buried as a result of re-cultivation activities in the area. The site was supposed to cover 1ha, of which only 0.23ha was investigated. Traces of LBA, EIA and Medieval habitation have been found. The site has two major publications that make an extremely selective presentation of the material from the LBA and the EIA (Kuncheva – Russeva 1991, Leshtakov et al. 2001). During my museum study, I was able to establish that the total amount of excavated material was 13 boxes (0.7 m3 each) of pottery and animal bones. The following description summarizes the publications and site reports.

Archaeological evidence

The consistency of cultural layers was destroyed by severe modern cultivation. As a result, there was no undisturbed feature found on the site. Three building horizons were identified dating to the LBA, which form a 1m-thick cultural layer. The first building horizon was marked by pieces of burnt house rubble. The plan, size and inventory of the dwelling were not possible to establish. A large quantity of sherds and tools was found in the context of the first and second occupational stages. The last building horizon has almost totally been destroyed. Several similar scatters of burnt house rubble were found that could be related to the general stratigraphic sequence. A major characteristic of Ovcharitsa I cultural layer is the intensive distribution of burnt house rubble.

The number and type of finds from Ovcharitsa I are summarized in Tables 6.2.1-2:

Table 6.2.1 Stone artifacts from Ovcharitsa I
Axes Pestles Polishers Whetstones
5 47 15 3
Table 6.2.2 Clay artifacts from Ovcharitsa I
Whorls Net weights Loom weights Figurines
32 38 3 2

Fragments of stone moulds for spearheads, two bone tools, 11 horn/antler tools and eight flints were also found. Some of the horn/antler tools were not finished, which made the investigators infer bone and horn production on the site. Whole and restorable vessels and sherds were the main archaeological material excavated from the site (AFig.6.2.1).

The published illustrations contain whole and restored vessels, as well as fragmented and whole stone tools, whorls and bone tools (AFig.6.2.1).

6.2.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analyses

The Ovcharitsa I flat site is located on a terrace at 140-164 masl (CDFig.260), on the edge of a 1-2/2-3° slope (CDFig.261) with a West/North West orientation (CDFig.262). The visibility from the site is limited – none to the South of the site, less than 1km to the West, 1km to the North West, none to the North and North East and patchy to the East and South East (CDFig.263). The hills 3 - 3.5km to the South are visible, as is the Northern part of the Ovcharitsa valley from 1 to 3 km to the North and North West. EBA Gonova mogila is the only visible site.

The cost surface analysis (CDFig.264) and site distribution is given in Table 6.2.3:

Table 6.2.3 Site distribution around Ovcharitsa I
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Aldinova and Gonova barrows
1 Ovcharitsa II, Polski Gradets pit site
2 Polski Gradets tell
3 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Ovchartsi barrow, Goliama Detelina flat site
4 Taniokoleva mogila – all locations, Goliamata, Malkata and Manchova barrows, Barrow 4
5 Galabovo tell, MIBC2-4, Kurdova mogila
6 MIBC1, Obrutchishte flat site, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika, Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
7 KMBC

In summary, two contemporary cemeteries were in non-immediate but fairly easy access to the Ovcharitsa I site. LBA barrow burials are located in the 4th cost strip, while possibly contemporary settlements were in the 5th and 6th cost strips, which would have required a day trip for a return journey. The LBA KMBC is in the most remote area.

The similarity of the cost surface analyses of Gonova mogila and Ovcharitsa I imposes the similarity of their logistical network (CDFig.265). The only difference is in the first segment (the last if the movement was reverse) of the path to Aldinova mogila. It descends to the West for 300m and then turns right, due North for 800m when it reaches the main North route (CDFig.266).

Viewshed analysis is performed only for this path, as the discussed segment may affect the visibility from the path (CDFig.267). The remaining paths share the panorama discussed for the Gonova mogila case. The path from Ovcharitsa I to Aldinova mogila has good visibility 1-1.5km to the North and South of the path but has patchy visibility beyond that point. The tiny visible strips over the Ovcharitsa valley assure the visibility of the Ovchartsi barrow to the Southwest. Gonova mogila is also visible from the path.

The panorama from this path is the initial view for every route from Ovcharitsa I.

Resources and land use

The site area was claimed to be 1ha, which should accommodate 125-168 people. Their minimum annual consumption of cereals should be 26 250 - 35 280kg, for which 131 – 176 ha of arable was needed. The site is located in one of the most devastated areas of the study region. The impact on the soil distribution is visible in Table 6.2.4.

Exploitation area

The calculations of the exploitation area were made for the presently existing soil types. Some suggestions for the soil cover in the destroyed area are also made. In the area up to 2000m from the site, there was sufficient arable land for the estimated population; it consisted of meadow soil, cinnomonic forest soil and smolnitsa. The distribution of the soils is zonal – meadow to the East, cinnomonic to the South East and smolnitsa to the North and East, suggesting arable/fallow land rotation in some kind of zonal cultivation. In the exploitation area, there was more arable/fallow land than was required for the estimated population; hence, some natural vegetation should also be present. The area up to 2000m also contains 577 ha of potential arable land and 100 ha of present dam basin. The construction of the dam suggests existence of a river in the Ovcharitsa site vicinity (the site is 1km from the dam), hence for possible meadow distribution. The pattern of soil distribution shown on CDFig.268 does not contradict the possible presence of meadow soil around the site. Therefore, I should assume that there was more meadow soil in the exploitation area. The increased quantity of meadow soil should result in a diminution of the exploitation area and some kind of cultivation in which meadow soil may have been used instead of the heavy smolnitsa.

Table 6.2.4 Soil distribution around Ovcharitsa I
Distance from site No soil Artificial soil Initial pedogenesis Meadow Cinnomonic forest soil Smolnitsa rendzina
0-500m 9ha 17ha 29ha 27ha - - -
500-1000m 1ha 3ha 58ha 73ha 4ha - -
1000-1500m 53ha 3ha 50ha 59ha 34ha 37ha -
1500-2000m 127ha 47ha 39ha 6ha 72ha 96ha 15ha
2000-2500m 150ha 55ha 49ha 11ha 66ha 88ha 52ha
2500-3000m 118ha 18ha 51ha 29ha 71ha 255ha 19ha
3000-3500m 136ha 2ha 20ha 8ha 128ha 256ha -
3500-4000m 6ha - - 46ha 151ha 344ha -
4000-4500m 5ha - 1ha 39ha 165ha 354ha 5ha
4500-5000m - - 24ha 18ha 153ha 310ha 47ha

In summary, even in the present devastated state of the soil distribution, the area up to 2000m from the site contains enough arable land to sustain the dietary regime of the estimated population at Ovcharitsa I.

6.2.3 Summary and discussion

Given the present state of the data, it is not possible to make conclusive claims about settlement practices. There appears to be evidence for settlement activity, as there are traces of continuous occupation, building activities and production processes (horn/antler and stone mould). Two probably contemporary sites were located close to the settlement. Both cemeteries were flat and situated in areas of earlier sites. There are two different paths to the cemeteries, from which the mortuary places are intervisible. The presence of burnt rubble and charcoal in one of the cemeteries – the Polski Gradets pit site - suggests that a possible source for these burnt remains was Ovcharitsa I – the closest site to Polski Gradets with evidence for burnt daub concentrations. The data from Ovcharitsa I and the Polski Gradets pit site constitute important evidence for the practice of burning houses and burnt rubble re-deposition during the LBA. Indirect evidence for deliberate fragmentation practice is the fragmentation of stone and bone tools, fragmented whorls and the stone spearhead mould.

Ovcharitsa I is located in an area from which only one EBA barrow was visible. The LBA cemeteries were not visible from the site but located in a region with very easy access. Other possible contemporary settlements and burials are relatively remote, suggesting a dispersed pattern of settlement in comparison with the EBA pattern.

6.3 The Ovcharitsa II site

6.3.1 General information and earlier studies

The Ovcharitsa II site (AFig. 6.3.1A) was excavated over several years, from 1984 to 1989. At present, the site is under mining spoil and 1.8ha of its 2.5ha area was investigated. There are three major publications of the site (Kančev and Kančeva-Russeva 1996, Kuncheva-Russeva 2000, Leshtakov et al. 2001). All of them generalize the evidence from the investigations rather than presenting the excavated features and material in detail. Four occupational stages were recognized on the site – Neolithic, EBA, LBA and EIA. The following description summarizes the data from the publication and a part of the site documentation. During my museum study, I was not able to work with the archaeological material from the site due to problematic museum storage conditions at Nova Zagora Museum. I was given access to only the information and materials available in the museum displays. Therefore, the current summary of the archaeological evidence is incomplete but is still the only one that unites all the available data sources.

Archaeological evidence

The earliest occupation during the Late Neolithic is mentioned only in the site reports and no material or any other information has been published.

The following occupational stage - the EBA – dates the construction of the most prominent features. They were organized in a complex system of enclosures, of which only one was fully excavated and the remaining three were sampled (AFig. 6.3.2A). The Northern part of the inner ring consisted of a series of inter-connected spaces described by the excavators as chain-like dwellings (Kančev and Kančeva-Russeva 1996), while the Southern part was made of broken stones mounted in clay. The rampart was 165m long and from 50 to 175 cm wide. Another chain of dwellings 4m in parallel to the North of the first one was also found. Its West and South part was not excavated, while its Eastern side ends into a fortification wall. It is interesting to point out that the Northern dwelling chain reaches the wall roughly in the same area where the South dwelling chain turns into a stone wall (AFig. 6.3.2A). The fortification wall is poorly preserved, with rows or stone piles mainly in the lowest part. It is in parallel to the two dwelling chains and was constructed of two parallel rows of broken stones. The space between the rows was filled with small stones, pieces of clay (maybe daub) and limestone. The investigated rampart length was 268m.

Fifteen – twenty cm South of the end of the dwelling chains, a stone construction was found that has some additional fortification facilities. Their characteristics were not specified and the feature was accepted to be the entrance to the settlement.

The last parallel enclosure was a ditch with a length of 168m. It was up to 1.20m deep, 1-2.5m wide in the base and 3.5-5m wide at the top. The ditch was filled with crumbly soil, mixed with animal bones, sherds, pieces of daub, stones, burnt daub, bone and stone artifacts (AFig 6.3.3a).

The chain dwellings were claimed to be piriform, dug up to a depth of 2m and connected by their short sides. The party walls were made of broken stones of different size. In several cases, they were not very well preserved and there were only stone scatters or single stones. In some case broken stones also additionally supported the long sides.

Five subsequent horizons were observed in the vertical cross-section of the dwellings (AFig. 6.3.4A). The upper horizon contained postholes for roof supports of the dwellings. Only the upper two horizons floors of beaten clay were observed. Traces of thin oven bases were observed in the last 3 horizons. Their light construction made excavators infer a temporary type of settlement. In the bounded area of the inner enclosure, there were 29 EIA pits. The EIA layer has destroyed the EBA layer, in which two rectangular houses were found (AFig. 6.3.2A). They were interpreted as semi-pit dwellings as they were discovered at a depth of 83cm. The houses were marked by pieces of daub/plasters and were 7.5/6.5m and 7/5.5 in size. The total number of dwellings was 18, while the total number of ovens was 19. There were dwellings with two ovens and dwellings with no oven at all. The first building horizon contained no ovens; there was only one in the second building horizon, seven in the next occupational level, eight in the 4th building horizon and three in the last occupational level. The only contextual information for the dwellings derives from squares F3/G3, where an oven base and a dwelling floor were found under a stone scatter.

Eleven crouched inhumations were excavated North and South of the ditch (AFig. 6.3.2B). The data from the relatively standardized burials is summarized in Table 6.3.1. On the basis of the pottery – the only grave goods found in five of the graves – the cemetery was dated to the LBA/EIA transition period (AFig.6.3.6O-Q; AFig.6.3.10O, P); parallels were made with pottery from one of the MI barrows (Manchova mogila), as well as with the ceramics from the Tei IV-V culture of Eastern Romania (Kuncheva-Russeva 2000). The other cited parallels derive from North West Bulgaria (Vratsa region) and North East Bulgaria (Varna region) and are generally dated to the EIA. The published evidence is extremely scanty and the only possible conclusion is that the graves had no indication on the surface (grave 3 was destroyed by grave 4). Traces of burning or any other particularities of the grave fill were not mentioned at all.

Fig. 6.3.1 Evidence for Late Bronze Age cemetery at Ovcharitsa II. Source: Kuncheva – Russeva 2000

The archaeological material from the Ovcharitsa II site is very selectively published. During my museum study, I could establish the data summarized in Tables 6.3.2-5, as well as that there were 31 large boxes of unstudied material. Some of the vessels were in the process of preparation for publication (AFig. 6.3.5A, B, D, F-N; AFig. 6.3.6A-N). There were also two boxes of as yet uninvestigated animal bones.

Table 6.3.2 Stone artifacts from Ovcharitsa II (AFig. 6.3.8 A – E)
Axes Polishers Pestles Adzes Ploughshare Cylinders Maces Total
43 6 4 4 1 10 5 73
Table 6.3.3 Clay artifacts from Ovcharitsa II (AFig. 6.3.8 L, N; AFig. 6.3.9 J, K, N)
Net weights Whorls Spoons Axe models Zoomorphic Figurine Others
78 3 2 3 1 1
Table 6.3.4 Bone and horn artifacts from Ovcharitsa II (AFig. 6.3.8 H – K)
Awls Whorls Processed bones Processed horn/antler
25 4 24 14
Table 6.3.5 Bronze artifacts from Ovcharitsa II
Axes Adzes Jewelry Miniature vessels Others
1 (AFig. 6.3.8Q) 2 (AFig. 6.3.8O-P) 1 1 (Afig. 6.3.9L) 2 (AFig. 6.3.8M)

The chipped stone assemblage consists of 2 cores, 3 blades and 23 retouched tools (AFig. 6.3.7). They are found mainly in dwelling contexts. It was claimed that, with the exception of the two cores, the initial and secondary processing had taken place off-site (Zlateva-Uzunova, 2003).

There were very few grinding stones and evidence for agriculture activities consisted of mattocks and hoes, mainly made of bone. However, in the two dwellings found in the area bounded by the inner enclosure, numerous complete and fragmented grinding stone were found, as well as pieces of burnt house rubble and sherds.

The contextual information from Ovcharitsa II is also very limited. The material mentioned was found mainly in the dwellings and their surroundings. Two horn tools, a zoomorphic figurine and three unspecified objects derive from the rampart. During the museum study, I was able to establish that at least one box containing animal bones and sherds also derived from the rampart.

One horn tool, one awl, one axe and 8 sherds from body parts subsequently perforated and then accepted to be net-weights were found in the ditch.

In the site reports, numerous pieces of burnt house rubbles, fragmented and whole vessels were mentioned. The illustrations of the published material show restorable but not whole vessels (AFig.6.3.5C, E; AFig.6.3.9, AFig.6.3.10) and at least two fragmented stone tools (AFig.6.3.8B, C). Fragments of stone maces were reported to be found as well.

In summary, the extremely scattered data from Ovcharitsa II show evidence for burning activities (the burnt house rubble) and fragmentation practices (AFigs. 6.3.5-9), structured deposition (the enclosure themselves) and feasting activity (the animal bones). The presence of stone cylinders is an indicator of on-site polished stone tool production.

6.3.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analyses

The site is located on a hill, at 140-164 masl (CDFig.269), on a 2-3° slope (CDFig.270) with a Southern aspect (CDFig.271). There is not very good general visibility from the site (CDFig.272). It is patchy over the North part of the Ovcharitsa valley and there is a consistently visible strip to the West and North West of the site. The areas North, North East and East of the site are totally invisible, while views to the South and South East are patchy. Two barrows (surely one and one with one out of four possible locations) and the Polski Gradets pit site are visible from the site.

According to the cost surface analyses (CDFig.273), the site distribution is the following: -

Table 6.3.6 Site distribution around Ovcharitsa II
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Aldinova barrow
1 Ovcharitsa I, Gonova barrow, Polski Gradets pit site
2 Polski Gradets tell
3 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Ovchartsi barrow, Goliama Detelina flat site
4 Taniokoleva mogila – all locations, Goliamata, Malkata and Manchova barrows, Barrow 4
5 Galabovo tell, MIBC2-4, Kurdova mogila
6 MIBC1, Obrutchishte flat site, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika, Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
7 KMBC

In summary, during the EBA, two barrows had the easiest access to the Ovcharitsa II site, followed by settlements and subsequently by an increasing number of other barrows. During the LBA, two of the contemporary sites had very easy and quick access, while three barrows were in the 4th cost strip and one barrow cemetery in the last cost strip. In is important to point out that only one of the sites with relatively easy access from Ovcharitsa II is visible from the site.

The logistics network derived from the cost surface analysis repeats in general the networks of the previously discussed sites located in the North part of the study area (CDFig.274). The minor differences are again in the paths between the sites in the North East part of the study region, while the main South and North routes remain the same. To avoid repetition, route tracks and their viewshed are going to be presented only for the path Ovcharitsa II – Aldinova mogila that was not previously discussed (CDFig.275).

The path is about 1.6 km long and initially descends to the North West and then heads due North across the valley and finally ascends for 200m to the West to reach the barrow. The visibility from the path is good up to 2km in each direction from the path and thereafter with patchy views to the North/North East, the South/South East and the North parts of the Ovcharitsa valley, but with no views to the East (CDFig.276). Three barrows (two certainly and one with one out of four possible locations) and the Polski Gradets pit site are visible from the path.

A summary of the landscape setting of the Northeasternmost part of the study area during the EBA is given in section 6.4.3.

Resources and land use

The Ovcharitsa II site is located in the most devastated area of the study region. Most of the possible exploitation area of the site is now either without any soil cover or at some stage of non-natural soil development. Table 6.3.7 shows the present state of soil distribution around the site.

Table 6.3.7 Soil distribution around Ovcharitsa II site
Distance from site Without soil Artificial soil Initial pedogenesis Smolnitsa Meadow Rendzina Cinnomonic forest soil
0-500m 81ha - - - - - -
500-1000m 230ha 15ha 3ha - - - -
1000-1500m 216ha 53ha 65ha 70ha - - -
1500-2000m 131ha 68ha 84ha 241ha 14ha - -
2000-2500m 28ha 8ha 122ha 302ha 128ha 35ha 32ha
2500-3000m 8ha - 18ha 469ha 130ha 52ha 79ha
3000-3500m 39ha - - 559ha 50ha 1ha 174ha
3500-4000m 20ha - 19ha 507ha 25ha 58ha 228ha
4000-4500m 89ha 13ha 40ha 267ha 125ha 14ha 189ha
4500-5000m 157ha 52ha 7ha 206ha 41ha - 220ha

The pattern of totally devastated resource distribution imposed a different means of estimation of the possible exploitation area. First, calculations were made for the areas that still have their natural soil cover while, secondly, some interpolations were made for the soil cover in the destroyed area.

Exploitation area

Although the area of the site was mentioned to be 2.5ha, the actual habitual area did not exceeded 1.4ha, which is approximately the area bounded by the inner enclosure. Such an area could accommodate 215-240 persons, who would need 45,150 – 50,400kg grain annually for their basic dietary needs. The amount of arable land needed is 225-252ha.

As Table 6.3.7 shows, the main type of soil around the site is smolnitsa, which, according to CDFig.277, is spread South, West and North of the disturbed area. The distribution of meadow soil is patchy to West and North and more consistent to the East of the disturbed area. The estimates have shown sufficient arable land for browse, fallow/cultivation rotation type of agriculture and preserved natural vegetation within 2500m of the site. In such an exploitation area, the ability to cultivate heavy smolnitsa is implicit, while meadow soil may have been used either for pasture or as a buffering arable resource, as this soil is unevenly spread within the 2500m limit. Such a pattern of land use is not an exception in the exploitation area pattern of the sites in the study region. However, this is the maximum size of exploitation area for Ovcharitsa II, as 1,104ha within the 0-2500 m area from the site were covered with some type of soil that most probably have been in use as well. Although it is not possible to reconstruct the original soil distribution, the elevation, slope and soil maps suggest that the destroyed region North of the site was a flat area of the valley of the Ovcharitsa that was covered by meadow soil. The hills to the West and South of the site may have been covered by smolnitsa, while the higher terrain to the South East could have been covered by rendzina and/or cinnomonic forest soils. Such a hypothetical soil distribution would favour a meadow type of agricultural resource, which would have reduced the dependence upon the heavy smolnitsa and defined a smaller size of exploitation area.

In summary, if Ovcharitsa II was occupied as a settlement, the area within 2500m of the site would have provided sufficient resources for a successful agro-pastoral subsistence strategy.

Catchment area

The only information for possible non-local resources derives from the flint assemblage. Most of the tools were made of high-quality material with localized sources in North Bulgaria. Flints from the same sources were found at Galabovo and Gudgova tells, that integrates the site with one and same broad catchment area and distribution network (cf. Sirakov 2002). There were tools made of type of material not found at other sites in the study area but found at other contemporary sites in the Upper Thracian Plain (e.g. Ezero, Yunacite and Mihalich: Sirakov & Tsonev 2001). The diversity of raw materials and sites on which different varieties of these materials are found suggest several smaller distribution networks that exchange and trade local and regional materials and /or tools that exceed the study region by 30 to 100km.

6.3.3 Summary and discussion

The current interpretation of Ovcharitsa II as a fortified settlement with pit-like chain dwellings is a result of two major problems in Bulgarian prehistory. First, the site was excavated 15-20 years ago, when the notion of structured deposition in ditches not necessarily connected with defensive functions was far from consideration. Although recently, after the discovery of several enclosures for which defensive claims were difficult to make, ditches are now seen to serve other types of activities, the Ovcharitsa II site data has not been re-considered in the light of the new evidence.

The second problem concerns the definition of a pit-dwelling. This issue has been generally discussed (Bailey 2000; Chapman 2000c) but, in Bulgarian archaeological theory and practice, there is neither a formal debate nor a definition of a pit dwelling. Claims for pit or semi-pit dwellings are produced and reproduced without the justification of any experimental archaeology examples or any taphonomic processes.

A detailed critique of the pit-dwelling notion, although very important, is not an aim of the current study. Rather, I should focus on the evidence from Ovcharitsa II in order to critique the interpretation of the pit-dwelling claim in this particular case study. The comments on pit-dwellings are going to be connected with a second critique - of the fortification nature of the site - as both claims seem to miss the important alternative of structured deposition in the enclosure.

There is an obvious inbalance between the size of the features and their contents – a contradiction reinforced by the large quantity of un-studied material. On the basis of my own working experience in Bulgaria, I should assume that the selectivity in the published material is due to the general research pattern in Bulgaria – the representation of feature sherds for purposes of relative chronology. I should also assume that the boxes in the Nova Zagora museum storerooms contain mainly pottery and fewer artifacts from other material. Most probably, the content comprises fragments of non-restorable vessels found as pottery scatters in each of the enclosures. The presence of sherds was mentioned in the fill of the rampart and in the dwellings from the bounded area.

The pottery deriving from the site is typical for the EBA agricultural society of South East Bulgaria that used to occupy both tells (e.g., Ezero) and flat sites (e.g., Mihalich), in houses that bore no resemblance to pit-dwellings. Therefore, there is no evidence to conclude that the features described as chained pit-dwellings were, in fact, actively inhabited. An alternative explanation is that certain type of practices have taken place at Ovcharitsa II, which may have involved the construction of house-like features but which, in fact, were not actually inhabited. These practices involved a widespread use of structured deposition of large quantities of material culture.

As discussed in Chapter 3 (p. 78-79) three ditch enclosures have been published so far in Bulgaria. One of them (Cherna Gora) is reminiscent of Ovcharitsa II enclosure in terms of its inner and outer ditches. The fill of the ditches comprises sherds, ash, charcoal, stones, daub and animal bones. There is some internal variability in the assemblages - more restorable vessels in Drama-Merdzumekja, no ash and charcoal at Konevo (Leshtakov 2002). What is more important to point out is the presence of a hearth at Cherna Gora. Despite these minor differences, the initial interpretation was that the three enclosures were related to ritual, not defensive, practices.

It is a fact that the number of burnt features and beaten clay levels in the ditches at Ovcharitsa II is greater than in the other enclosures and maybe that is the reason for the interpretation of these features as pit-dwellings. However, it is not necessarily the number nor the particular type of the feature (beaten clay level, oven, etc.) which are so significant but the contexts in which they were found. There are strong arguments against the claim for houses with triangular/trapezoidal cross-sections dug to a depth of 2m, such as insects, lack of drainage, a small floor area and steep, irregular walls. As regards the question of length of occupation, the investigators themselves point out the light construction of the ovens, concluding a temporary nomadic habitation. However, such a claim for temporality strongly contradicts the defensive function of the wall and the ditch.

In addition, if such houses existed, they would be a unique form of house architecture not known before or after the Ovcharitsa II phenomenon. Before this current interpretation of Ovcharitsa II can be accepted, there should be sound arguments for profound social changes at the beginning of the BA in the Maritsa Iztok region of the kind, which would have led to the radical re-conceptualization of living space. Neither before nor after, in Maritsa Iztok study area and anywhere in the Balkans have such arrangements of dwelling space been ever encountered. This leaves the interpretation of the Ovcharitsa II ditches as features which defined and enclosed ritual space – an enclosure which was reinforced by multiple episodes of structured deposition within the ditches, often mimicking domestic practices.

6.4 Aldinova mogila

6.4.1 General information and earlier studies

Aldinova mogila was excavated in the late 1960s and two inhumations and eight cremations were found (AFig.6.4.1A). The site has two publications, which are consistent only in the Roman chronology of the cremations. The size of the barrow in the first publication is mentioned to be 4m in height and 40m in diameter and the inhumations are dated to the LBA on the basis of the presence of a LBA settlement in the vicinity of the barrow (Batsova and Kunchev 1974). The second publication re-dates the burials as one of the earliest BA graves in the MI study area and the barrow size is said to be 1m in height and 36/30m in diameter (Kunchev 1991). The following description summarizes the publication data and the different size is considered in the GIS analysis.

Archaeological evidence

Grave 1 was located 2m South of the barrow center and was considered to be the initial burial. The deceased is in a crouched position on the back, covered with red ochre. The skeleton was destroyed by the acid soil and the skull was missing. It was not specified whether the missing skull was a result of soil acidity or post-mortem activity.

Grave 2 was 3 m to the North East of the centre of the barrow. Despite lying in the sterile soil, it was considered as secondary one. The body was in a crouched position on its left side. The skeleton was also affected by the soil acidity. The base of the grave-pit was covered with red ochre. The head orientation of the deceased was related to the location of the enclosure Ovcharitsa II and it was claimed that the dead were looking towards their settlement (Dimitrov 2000).

6.4.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analyses

Aldinova mogila is located on a hill at 115-140 masl (CDFig.278), with a 3-4° slope (CDFig.279) and an Eastern aspect (CDFig.280). The general visibility from the barrow is limited – none to the North, East and South but good over the Ovcharitsa valley to the South West/North East vicinity of the site (CDFig.281). The hill on which Gonova mogila is located is visible; hence the barrow is visible as well. The hills between the two Polski Gradets sites are also visible. Ovcharitsa II site is possibly seen from Aldinova mogila, as it is at 10m from a visible cell. As stated earlier (p.94), the viewshed analysis is calculated for a cell 1ha in area, while Ovcharitsa II is bigger than 1ha. Thus, there is a possibility that at least part of the EBA enclosure was visible from the barrow.

A viewshed analysis was performed with 1m added on the surface, corresponding to the height of the barrow. There is hardly any improvement in general visibility (CDFig.282).

Another viewshed was calculated with 3m in addition to the surface, in case the barrow has suffered some late destruction. The panorama around the site is better but remains generally the same over the Northeasternmost part of the study area (CDFig.283).

The viewshed based upon a 4-m height for the barrow does not contribute much more to the general visibility from Aldinova mogila. It is important to point out that the site’s visibility remains unchanged during the process of growing of the barrow (CDFig.284).

Cost distance analysis (CDFig.285) results are summarized in Table 6.4.1:-

Table 6.4.1 Site distribution around Aldinova mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Ovcharitsa I and II
1 Gonova barrow
2 Polski Gradets tell, Polski Gradets pit site
3 Goliamata, Malkata and Manchova barrows, Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Ovchartsi barrow, Goliama Detelina flat site
4 Taniokoleva mogila – all locations, Barrow 4
5 Galabovo tell, MIBC, Kurdova mogila
6 Obrutchishte flat site, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika, Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
7 KMBC

In summary, Aldinova mogila is located very close to its possible contemporary sites, which in the same time are most probably the earliest BA sites in the study area. The later EBA sites are relatively evenly distributed to the South and South West, while the EBA barrows are clustered in the 3rd- 5th cost strips.

The logistical network is the same as discussed for Gonova mogila, as only the paths between the Northern sites differ. In this particular case, these are the paths to Ovcharitsa I and Polski Gradets pit site – both already commented in the previous case studies (CDFig.286).

The three possibly earliest EBA sites in the North part of the study area are not intervisible from their static location. From the paths between them, however, and to the only earlier site in the area – Polski Gradets tell – almost full intervisibility is achieved. This is to say that when the first trips between the Late Copper Age Polski Gradets tell and EBA Gonova barrow were made, visible areas were spotted in which the later or almost contemporary sites were subsequently located. While walking between the three sites, however, the earlier tell cannot be seen, as if it was important to establish the visual link with the contemporary sites rather than with the earlier sites. Polski Gradets tell was eventually re-used during the BA, after some time of abandonment, which, in relation to its invisibility from the EBA sites and the paths between them, may have meant a deliberate, if temporary, denial of any link to the previous inhabitants of the landscape.

6.4.3 Summary and discussion

All the three EBA sites commented so far appear to follow a recurrent pattern of cost distance in respect to the distribution of the other sites. All three of them are located in almost reciprocal accessibility in terms of cost, as well as sharing almost identical approaches to the rest of the sites in the study area. This may indicate a deliberate location of sites along the valley of the Ovcharitsa, in which Aldinova and Gonova barrows, together with Ovcharitsa II, maintained a certain distance from the other slightly later sites (the later barrows were founded at a distance that follows this pattern) but also from the earlier sites (e.g. Polski Gradets tell). Such a hypothesis is based on the landscape characteristics of the sites and, while there is no clear relative chronology of the barrows in the region, its validity is highly probable because of a) the likely early date of Gonova barrow and b) the obvious spatial interrelation between the sites and the remaining sites of the study region. Even if the sites were not chronologically related, they are still spatially clustered, thus evoking one and the same accessibility pattern. This is to say that the subsequent re-settling of these sites after long periods of time may indicate a deliberate return to an older pattern of spatial relations, for the legitimatization and/or re-negotiation of some specific social issues.

6.5 Ovchartsi barrow

6.5.1 General information and previous studies

The Ovchartsi barrow was excavated in 1986 when its Northern part was swept away during mining activities (AFig. 6.4.1B). In addition, contemporary looting pits destroyed the burial mound, which was shown through excavation to be 5.5m in height and 40m in diameter. The results of the investigation are published in a short article (Kalchev 1994). At least three phases of burial were identified on the site – EBA, EIA and Medieval. The following section summarizes the data from the publication. In some unpublished references, the barrow was related to a flat site 200m East of the barrow. It was also interrelated to other four barrows considered as belonging to one cemetery, though without supporting evidence (Leshtakov and Borisov 1995, Dimitrov 2000).

Archaeological evidence

The initial grave of the barrow is thought to be the crouched inhumation 8m South West of the centre of the mound. The grave-pit was dug 50cm into the sterile soil. There were pieces of red ochre near the feet. Close to the left hand, a shallow oval dish with two small perforations was found. Next to it were bones of the hind leg of a pig. Two more oval dishes were found close to the left knee. The grave was classified as belonging to the Pit-Grave culture. Despite published parallels with the pottery from the 12th and 13th building horizons of the Ezero tell, the grave was not chronologically related to the development of the Ezero culture. Rather, the burial was considered as one of the earliest Pit-Grave culture barrows.

The second grave contained a cremation which, on the basis of the grave goods, was dated to the EIA.

A third, cist-like grave, made of broken stones, was found 4.20m below the present surface of the barrow and 6m North West of its centre. An incomplete human skeleton, without grave goods, was found in the grave. At the same level from the surface and close to the centre of the mound, a hearth/trizna was excavated. Traces of intensive fire were said to be present but no pottery scatter. A bone of the hind leg of a deer was found in the hearth. The cist –like grave and the hearth/trizna were both dated to the EIA, although arguments for such dating were not discussed.

Five and a half m from the present surface of the barrow in its Southern part, several spots of ash and charcoal were excavated. Their total number was not specified and it was mentioned that three of them contained human bones, two with very fragmented bones of small caprines, and five of them with only ash and charcoal. The features were interpreted as cremations that took part off-site and the bones were buried in three places. The other burnt features were connected to the particularities of the burial rite.

A reconstruction of the barrow formation was presented in which the initial pit-grave was covered by a low mound. Later, the mound was leveled for the placement of the cremation and ritual hearths, which in turn were covered by another mound. The EIA cremation was the next burial that was deposited to the North and yet more soil was added to the barrow. The last deposits were the cist-like grave and the hearth/trizna, after which the final part of the barrow mound was formed.

6.5.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analysis

The Ovchartsi barrow is located on a hill at 140-164 masl (CDFig.287), with a 5-7° slope (CDFig.288) and a North West aspect (CDFig.289). There is a good visibility over the Ovcharitsa valley up to 5km to the South West of the barrow (CDFig.290). There is a patchy view over the Northern parts of the valley and to the Northeasternmost part of the study area. There are also patchy visible strips over the hills South and South East of the barrow. Three barrows are visible from the site - Goliamata, Malkata and Tcherniova (three out of four possible locations). Aldinova mogila and Ovcharitsa II are located 12-15m from a visible cell, so there is a possibility that these sites were visible as well.

The viewshed with 5.5m in addition, which was the barrow’s height at the time of its investigation, shows more visible areas in comparison to the first viewshed (CDFig.291). There are more patchy views over the hills South East of the barrow and over the hills between the two Polski Gradets sites. Polski Gradets tell becomes visible as well.

Almost the same areas and the same sites were visible with an additional 7m to the barrow surface (CDFig.292).

Cost surface analysis (CDFig.293) arranges the sites in a pattern different from that discussed so far (Table 6.5.1).

Table 6.5.1 Site distribution around Ovchartsi barrow
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Ovchartsi barrow
1 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Goliama Detelina flat site
2 Goliamata, Malkata and Manchova barrows, Barrow 4, Taniokoleva mogila 1
3 Taniokoleva mogila 2-4, Kurdova mogila
4 Galabovo tell, MIBC, Ovcharitsa I and II, Polski Gradets tell, Aldinova barrow
5 Obrutchishte flat site, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika tell, Polski Gradets pit site, Gonova barrow
6 Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
7 KMBC

In summary, the Ovchartsi site location suggests a pattern of inter-site arrangement in which a contemporary EBA settlement and a barrow are situated in an area with easy access. They are surrounded by a dense barrow zone, while other possible contemporary settlements are at a greater cost distance from Ovchartsi barrow. It is interesting to point out that sites located in different valleys (e.g. Gonova mogila in the Ovcharitsa valley and Klisselika tell in the Sokolitsa valley) have equal accessibility in terms of cost. This may be interpreted in two ways: a) for the barrow location, other factors were considered more important than the least cost distance from earlier and contemporary sites (e.g. it was important that the Polski Gradets tell was visible but not necessarily with easy access, etc.); or b) the sites in the first and the second cost strip have been most important for the Ovchartsi barrow location.

The logistics network shows a mixed pattern in comparison with the logistics network considered so far (CDFig.294). For the sites East of Ovchartsi, the routes are exactly the same as the ones from Galabovo tell (CDFig.7), while, for the sites West of Ovchartsi, the path network repeats the Gonova mogila pattern (CDFig.234). There is one major difference from both networks – the path to Barrow 4, which is straight to the South West of Ovchartsi (CDFig.295). The path starts to the South/South West descending for 1.4km, ascending for 200m to reach Barrow 4. From the path, there is a patchy view over the Northeasternmost part of the study area and over the hills in the Eastern part of the study region (CDFig.296). There is good visibility over the valley of the Ovcharitsa and its Northern part. Three barrows and Polski Gradets tell are visible as well.

6.5.3 Summary and discussion

There are two disputable claims in the current interpretation of the Ovchartsi barrow. The first one concerns the relative chronology of the initial grave. The presence of three vessels with good parallels in the tell Ezero sequence dates the grave as contemporary with, or later than, Ezero A phase. Therefore, the assignment of grave 1 to the earliest phase of Pit-Grave burials is problematic. The presence of pottery also suggests a relation between the deceased and the sedentary agriculturalists of the Ezero culture.

The second general disagreement is connected with site formation processes and the chronological determination of features without datable material. In the absence of a cross-section in the publication, there is no possibility of justifying the suggested vertical and horizontal stratigraphies.

To summarize, the Ovchartsi barrow was not one of the earliest barrow burials in the study area. It contained traces of activity that included the deposition of whole and partial human skeletons, burning and feasting with animal bone deposition.

6.6 Barrow four

6.6.1 General information and earlier studies

Barrow four was excavated in 1987 and is the last barrow located in the land of the village of Goliama Detelina, for which reason it is termed number 4. During the excavations, the barrow was 1.60m in height and 30m in diameter but its original height was believed to be over 2m in height, as the site was continuously cultivated (AFig. 6.6.1). The graves found in the barrow were dated to the EBA and the numerous Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic sherds in the mound were believed to derive from an earlier flat site, whose soil and deposits were used to form the barrow. As traces of such earlier sites have not been found near the barrow, it was considered that their possible location was to the North of the barrow – an area already destroyed by the mining. The excavation results are published (Leshtakov and Borisov 1995) and are summarized in the following description.

Archaeological evidence

The initial grave (N5 according to the field number) is in the sterile soil in the centre of the ancient mound. The body was on its back with crouched knees. There were no grave goods but a stone was found near the heart. The soil above the body was mixed with ash and charcoal. Red ochre was also mentioned as present.

The next burial was also in the sterile soil 8m South of the initial grave. The body was in a crouched position on its left side. There were no grave goods found.

The third burial is in the mound and the body is in a crouched position on the back. No grave goods were found. Red ochre was spread in the head/shoulder area.

The next grave in the mound contained traces of burning (a hearth according to the excavators) next to the head of the deceased. The body was in a crouched position on its left side. Next to the body in the pelvic area was found the base of a thick vessel that was related to the Catacomb grave culture rite of zharovnia. The ritual is related to the use of fire during the burial process.

The last burial was also in the mound and the grave pit was identified only by its burnt base. The body was in an extended straight position. There were no grave goods and no red ochre.

Nine other features were also excavated, which were said to be related to the burial activity. The investigators discussed the possibility that some of them were real graves or cenotaphs. Since soil acidity has destroyed the majority of the skeletons in the graves, it is likely that some human bone deposits in the features may have suffered a similar effect. Strong evidence for symbolic burials (cenotaphs) and cremations was not found and the features were finally interpreted as ritual pits and trizna. The characteristics of the feature are summarized in Table 6.6.1:

Table 6.6.1 Ritual features in barrow 4
N Stratigraphic position Feature type Inventory Traces of burning Animal bones Relation to grave
1 In the mound Beaten platform Fragmented vessels/two restored (AFig. 6.6.1A, B, F, G, L) No No 4
2 In the mound Platform of scattered vessels Fragmented vessels No No 1
3 In the mound Beaten platform A pot, a lower grinding stone, sherds of thick vessels (AFig. 6.6.1C-E, H-K, M) Spot of ash and charcoal next to the stone Poorly preserved, among the sherds 4 or 5
4 In the mound Platform Heavily fragmented vessels (2?) No No 4 or 5
5 In the mound Platform Fragmented vessel Spot of burnt soil Heavily burnt, among the sherds -
6 In the sterile soil Pit Sherds, stone pestle; at 35cm from the pit a base of thick vessel Spot of ash and charcoal over a hearth 70-80cm East of the pit; over them pottery scatter No 4 or 5
7 In the mound Platform Pottery scatter, small quartz stones (AFig. 6.6.1O-T) No No 4
8 In the mound Platform Heavily fragmented vessel, scatter of small quartz stones No No 4
9 In the sterile soil Pit Fragment of several vessels, one un-baked dish (AFig. 6.6.1N, U, V) Small pieces of charcoal among the sherds Almost decayed, in the North part of the pit 5

The features were either on the surface or dug into the mound but both had heaps above them. There was a debate on the chronology and parallels with the pit-grave culture but no final conclusion or reconsideration of the traditional steppe nomadic hypothesis.

6.6.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analyses

The site is located on a hill at 164-189 masl (CDFig.297), with a North West aspect (CDFig.298) and a 2-3° slope (CDFig.299). The visibility from the barrow is very restricted (CDFig.300). There is a visible spot 800-1300m to the West and North West of the site, as well as one more from 2.1 to 3.2 km to North West. No sites are visible from the barrow but Goliamata mogila is on the edge of visible/invisible cell.

The viewshed with an additional two meters to the surface, which was the height of the barrow during its excavations, has very little improvement in the same general directions as above (CDFig.301).

Still restricted but better in comparison with the two previous panoramas is the view from the barrow with an extra 4m height (CDFig.302). A tiny visible spot to the North East of the study area assures visibility of the Ovchartsi barrow. There are two tiny visible spots to the North West as well.

The results of the cost distance analysis (CDFig.303) are summarized in Table 6.6.2:-

Table 6.6.2 Site distribution around Barrow 4
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Barrow 4
1 Goliamata, Malkata and Tcherniova mogila – all locations,
2 Goliama Detelina flat site, Manchova and Ovchartsi barrows, Taniokoleva mogila – all locations
3 MIBC
4 Galabovo tell, Kurdova mogila, Klisselika tell, Iskritsa dwelling site
5 Iskritsa pit site, Atanasivanova mogila, Gudgova and Polski Gradets tells, Ovcharitsa I and II, Aldinova barrow
6 Obrutchishte flat site, Mednikarovo tell, Polski Gradets pit site, Gonova barrow, KMBC

It is interesting to point out that the pattern observed for the Ovchartsi barrow, in which sites located in different valleys have equal accessibility in terms of cost, is valid for Barrow 4 as well. The great diversity of sites in the last two cost strips may mean that the barrow location in terms of cost is to more closely related to sites in the nearer cost strips. Thus, a clear pattern of barrow clustering could be observed up to the third cost strip. Only one EBA settlement was found in this cost distance cluster that could be related to the location of the Barrow 4 (see section 6.9.2).

The logistical network presents a mixed pattern of all the paths and networks discussed so far (CDFig.304). The main North route and the segments to the sites in the North part of the study area are the same as in Galabovo tell case study (CDFig.7), with one exception – the segment to Tcherniova mogila is the same as in the Gonova mogila logistical network because of the direction of the movement from East to West.

There are three new tracks in the Barrow 4 logistical network - to Taniokoleva mogila, to Goliamata and Malkata mogila and to Kurdova mogila.

The routes to the Southern part of the study region have already appeared in the logistical network of both the Iskritsa sites, Atanasivanova mogila and Klisselika tell but, since Barrow 4 is later than, or contemporary with, these sites, their use may have started the beginning of the Bronze Age. If the movement was from North to South, there was one main route, which starts from Barrow 4 and follows the ridge of the hill for 3.3 km to the South East. At this point, the path splits into two and the West branch heads towards MIBC and the sites in the Western part of the Sokolitsa valley, while the Eastern branch leads to Klisselika and Gudgova tells.

The Western branch descends for 1km to the South West, where it connects to the first branch to MIBC3 (CDFig.305) and MIBC4 (CDFig.306). The path starts to ascend again and 900m to the South is the second branch to MIBC1 (CDFig.307) and MIBC2 (CDFig.308). The last 900m of this segment match the route to barrows 1 and 2 from Polski Gradets tell. From the intersection with the second branch, the route starts to descend for 1 km due South, when it heads South West and South again until it reaches the main South route. The routes between the sites in the South Western part of the study region are discussed in the Iskritsa case study.

The visibility from the path to barrow 3 and 4 of the MIBC is mainly over the central and Eastern parts of the study area (CDFig.309), (CDFig.310). There are also some visible spots over the foothills of the Sakar Mountain, as well as over the Northern and North Eastern parts of the study area. Six barrows (one is barrow 2 from the same cemetery), the EBA enclosure and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path. The panorama from the path to barrows 1 and 2 is generally the same but improves significantly over the Southern parts of the Sokolitsa valley (CDFig.311), (CDFig.312). The same sites are visible and it is interesting to point out that, despite the increased visibility over the Southern parts of the study area, just two more sites are visible (the Iskritsa pit site and the Klisselika tell), but only from the path to MIBC2. The pattern of different inter-site visibility along the approach to MIBC is confirmed here as well. From the path to barrow 2, only MIBC 3 is visible, while the path to MIBC 1 has views over barrows 2 and 3.

The visibility from the extension of the West branch towards Mednikarovo tell (CDFig.93) (which includes the visibility of the sites located along the segment – both the Iskritsa sites and Atanasivanova mogila) and KMBC is generally the same, but with minor differences. The panorama is patchy and scattered across the central, Eastern and Northern part of the study area. Six barrows, all the sites in the Sokolitsa valley (Klisselika tell is on the edge of visible/invisible area), the Ovcharitsa II enclosure and Polski Gradets tell were visible from the path.

The Eastern branch is the route to Klisselika (CDFig.314) and Gudgova tells, most of which coincides with the path from Polski Gradets tell to Klisselika. It ascends to the South East and then descends to the South and, upon reaching the Sokolitsa valley, it turns left to the two tells. A viewshed analysis from the path Barrow 4 – Gudgova tell was performed in order to characterize the visibility for most of the route already discussed between Polski Gradets tell – Klisselika tell (CDFig.162). The view from the path is patchy to the Northeasternmost and the central parts of the study area; good over the Eastern hills and the Sokolitsa valley, where the actual path is passing, and patchy over the rest of the valley and the foothills of Sakar. There is also a consistent visible spot over the Northern part of the Ovcharitsa valley. All the sites in the Sokolitsa valley - five barrows, the EBA enclosure and Polski Gradets tell - are visible from the path.

In summary, the paths to the earlier and contemporary sites in the Southern part of the study area provides the view over all the Neolithic/Copper Age sites, as well as over a high proportion of the Bronze Age sites, despite the lack of a consistent landscape panorama.

The new routes to Taniokoleva, Goliamata, Malkata and Kurdova barrows also follow the main path to the South for 600m, when it turns right and bifurcates after 400m. The North West path descends for 1.4km until it reaches Goliamata (CDFig.315) and Malkata mogila (CDFig.316). The West/South West path descends and ascends for 1.8 km when it reaches Taniokoleva mogila (CDFig.317). A further 1.8 km to the South West is needed from the branch to Taniokoleva mogila to the final site on the path – Kurdova mogila (CDFig.318). The last segment ascends and descends low ridges several times, which is the reason for the relatively high cost distance between the two barrows. The view from the first path is good over the valley of the Ovcharitsa and its Northern part and patchy over the Northeasternmost, central and Eastern parts of the study area (CDFigs.319). Five barrows, the EBA enclosure and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path. The panorama from the second path is patchy over the valley of the Ovcharitsa and its Northern part, as well as over the Northeasternmost parts of the study area (CDFig.320). There is good visibility over the hills and the gullies in the central and Eastern parts of the study area. Six barrows, one EBA settlement, the EBA enclosure and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path. The view from the last segment of the route is similar to the panorama from Taniokoleva mogila but patchier in the central part of the study area. Five barrows, the EBA enclosure and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path (CDFig.321).

In summary, despite the different landscape panoramas, almost the same suite of sites are visible from the paths from Barrow 4 to sites in both the Northern and Southern parts of the study area.

6.6.3 Summary and discussion

One of the most striking aspects of Barrow 4 is the number of memorial structures, which is bigger than the number of the burials. This evidence suggests that special memorial rites may have been performed not only in relation to certain individuals but also as an act of community solidarity and reconciliation. Such a hypothesis is supported by the fact that the number and the combination of the features (platforms, pits, trizni) in Barrow 4 is unique in the study area. In addition, Barrow 4 is located in an area with equal accessibility from the two microregions. Therefore, it is likely that the features in the barrow memorialise an act of joint pilgrimage to a common ancestral place, where important social re-negotiations have taken place through a set of social practices such as personal enchainment through pottery sherds between the living from one hand and identity exchange with the ancestors on the other hand.

An intriguing aspect of the creation of barrow 4 concerns the deposition of Neolithic and Chalcolithic sherds in the mound of the barrow – a point that receives little attention in the site publication. If, as suggested, the soil for the mound was taken from potential settlements, it is important to point out that there was a deliberate choice of this particular area for barrow building. But if the sherds did not derive from any, as yet unknown, nearby settlements, they must have been carried from a long distance. The closest Chalcolithic sites in terms of cost are Galabovo tell and Iskritsa, while the closest Neolithic site is Klisselika tell – all located in the 4th cost strip.

This evidence reinforce the importance of the social practices that have taken place in Barrow 4, in which the targeted link with the ancestors is done first on the level of rituals relating the newly-dead and the living, and second on the level of sealing the act of such a deposition, thus creating a close cycle newly dead-living-ancestors.

6.7 Goliamata mogila (the big barrow)

6.7.1 General information and earlier studies

The barrow was excavated in 1987 and 34 graves with 38 skeletons were found. The barrow was 4.20m in height, 41/46m in diameter and had no traces of subsequent severe destruction (AFig. 6.7.1A). The initial publication of the barrow is very short (Kunchev 1991) and during the preparation for the full, detailed second publication, the excavator passed away. This has left his analysis incomplete and the way in which the archaeological data from the site are currently presented (Kunchev 1995) contains some discrepancies in the stratigraphic data and lacks any analytical discussion. The barrow was generally dated to the EBA, with four subsequent LBA burials and the construction of the barrow was related to the Pit Grave culture. An additional article was published that discussed in details the ceramic grave goods and some particularities of the EBA burial rites (Leshtakov and Popova 1995).

Archaeological evidence

Table 6.7.1 summarizes the evidence from the graves (AFig. 6.7.2). In addition to these data, some other points are noteworthy.

A bonfire with incompletely burnt beams was found in the mound. It was mentioned in relation to the ash and charcoal found close to grave 18.

In three graves (19,29 and34), organic covers were excavated (most probably wooden) - a rite that was related to the Pit Grave culture (Panayotov 1989). Grave 34 had traces of organic material on the grave pit base – another ritual paralleled in the Pit Grave culture. However, each of these three graves contained pottery. Graves 19 and 25/26 had stelae in the grave mounds. One similar stele above grave 25/26 had traces of red ochre.

Table 6.7.1 1 Summary of the graves data in Goliamata mogilal; Source: Kunchev 1995, Leshtakov and Popova 1995
N Stratigraphic position No of individuals Position of the body Objects in the grave Red ochre Type of feature Depth in cm Date
1 In the mound 1 Crouched on left No None Pit 150 LBA
2 In the mound 1 Crouched on left No None Pit 140 LBA
3 In the mound 1 Crouched on left No None Pit 150 LBA
4 In the mound 1 Crouched on back No None Pit 160 LBA
5 In the mound 1 Crouched on back No None Pit 370  
6 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on back No Pieces Pit 420  
7 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on back No Pieces Pit 410  
8 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on back A dish Powder Pit 420 EBA1-3
9 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on back A dish Powder Pit 440 EBA1-3
10 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left A dish Powder Pit 410 EBA1-3
11 In the mound 1 Crouched on back No Pieces No 280  
12 In the mound 1 Crouched on back Vessel base Powder Pit 290 EBA3/MBA
13 In the mound 1 Crouched No Pieces No 335  
14 In the mound 1 Crouched on left Silver pendant Pieces No 335  
15 In the mound 1 Crouched on left No Pieces Pit 370  
16 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left No Pieces No 400  
17 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched No Pieces Pit 440  
18 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on back A bowl Powder Pit 420 EBA1
19 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left A jug, 2 dishes, bronze needle Pieces Pit 420 EBA1
20 In the mound 1 Crouched No Powder No 440  
21 In the mound and in the sterile soil 2 babies Crouched No Pieces No 440  
23 In the mound 1 Crouched on left No - Pit 430  
24 In the mound 1 Crouched on back 2 dishes, 3 jugs Powder Pit 440 EBA1
25 In the sterile soil 2 babies Crouched on left and right No Powder and pieces Pit 440 EBA1
27 In the mound 1 Crouched on back A dish Powder Pit 440 EBA1
28 In the mound 2 Crouched on left A dish Powder Pit 440  
29 In the mound 2 Crouched on left and right 7 dishes, 2 jugs, a pot, horn awl Two worked pieces Pit 440 EBA1
30 Initial 1 Crouched on back Bronze rings Powder Pit 440  
31 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left A cup and two dishes Powder Pit 440 EBA1
32 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left No Powder Pit 440  
33 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left A dish None Pit 440 EBA1
34 In the sterile soil 1 Crouched on left A jug, two broken stones Powder Pit 440 EBA1/2

Chronology

According to the excavator, the earliest was grave N30, which was considered as one of the earliest pit-grave culture burials in the region. The next grave was N34, followed by 19, 24 and 29 – all dated to the EBA but after the time of the first burial. Another 24 graves were also generally dated to the EBA. One grave (12) was related to the Catacomb culture and 4 graves were dated to the LBA on the basis of the sherds present in the grave pit fill. Numerous subsequent episodes of the addition of further soil were mentioned but just four graves were said to have their own mounds – the initial grave 30, grave 25 with the two stelae and graves 19 and 29, both of which were taken as the richest graves in the barrow (Kunchev 1991).

One of the aims of the latest publication of the barrow (Leshtakov and Popova 1995) was the relative chronology of the graves. Eight of them (34, 33, 31, 29, 27, 24, 19 and 18) were dated to the EBA1 period on the basis of parallels in pottery. Two of them (34 and 29) appeared to be dug towards the end of the period rather than in its beginning. Three graves (8, 9 and 10) were generally dated to the EBA since their pottery was atypical. Grave N25 was accepted to belong to the EBA1 on the basis of its stratigraphic position. More problematic was the chronology of grave 12. It contained a generally atypical vessel but the fact that it was the base of a vessel allowed the investigators to infer the presence of zharovnia. Such a case was already discussed in relation to grave 4 (grave 2 in the original publication) in Barrow 4.

According to Leshtakov & Popova (1995), most of the graves with pottery were dated on the basis of parallels with BA sites in the Upper Thracian Valley – Ezero, Yunatsite, Bereketska and Ovcharitsa II.

Interpretation

According to the excavator, the barrow was a kin burial place and the deceased in grave 30 was the communal ancestor. Leshtakov disagrees in general with the Pit-Grave notion and provides strong arguments against such claim (Leshtakov and Popova 1995). His precise analysis of pottery reveals that the shape of the vessels from the barrow is not different from the forms of settlement pottery. The decoration, however, is poorer, as the percentage of decorated vessels in EBA settlements varies from 40 to 64%, while in Goliamata mogila it is only 15%. Vessels or specific shapes and decoration that are strongly characteristic for EBA 2 and 3 were not observed (Leshtakov and Popova 1995). I would assume that, if some burials were conducted during these periods, either no vessels or only uncharacteristic ones were put in the graves.

Further analysis of the pottery has pointed out that the main difference between the vessels in Goliamata mogila and the contemporary settlement ceramic production lies in the characteristics of the temper. Organic materials (stalks, grains, and animal excrement) were found in the clay of 33% of the vessels. Very often, the organic temper is accompanied by small pieces of red ochre. There are cases in which only organic materials or only red ochre was used as temper. Associations with plants are also visible on the base of the vessels. Four of the vessels in grave 29 have mat impressions, while the usual drying surface for BA vessels in the settlements of the region is sand. The technological, typological and decorational characteristics of the pottery from Goliamata mogila shows significant differences from the pottery from the BA settlements on the one hand, and from the pottery from other BA burials on the other. On that basis, Leshtakov & Popova (1995) concluded that the vessels in Goliamata mogila were deliberately made for the burials, which was also the case with the vessels from the flat BA cemetery near Bereketska tell, 30km to the North West. There are, however, many differences between the pottery from the two mortuary sites, that were interpreted as evidence for different burial rites (Leshtakov and Popova 1995).

Spatial analysis of the vessel location showed that the upper part of the body and the area around the head were the preferred places for deposition. These results do not contradict the pattern observed at other BA cemeteries (e.g. Bereketska tell).

The vessels were either whole or broken because of soil pressure. Most of them were interpreted as vessels for liquids – jugs, cups and small dishes. In two of the dishes and the vessel base (zharovnia), red ochre was discovered and it was concluded that these vessels were used as containers of the mineral. In only one dish, residues of ritual food (meat) was claimed to be present.

In summary, the latest publication of Goliamata mogila opposed the typical Pit Grave culture characteristics with precise pottery analysis and anthropological evidence showing the presence of the local South European racial type. The authors, however, did not present any alternative hypothesis for the appearance and distribution of the barrows and their possible social implications.

6.7.2 Plant remains

Eleven out of thirty vessels had traces of plant impressions. The thirty-seven prints were of einkorn (T. monococcum), emmer (T.dicoccum), bread/compact wheat (T. aestivo/compactum), two species of barley (Hordeum vulgare var. nudum and Horedum vulgare), millet (Panicum miliaceum) and vetch (Vicia ervilia). Weed species were also identified but only two of them were specified – Bromus secalinus and Setaria italica.

6.7.3 The site and its surroundings according to GIS

The barrow is located on a hill at 140-164 masl (CDFig.322) on a 1-2° slope (CDFig.323), with a Northern aspect (CDFig.324). From the site, there is good visibility over the valley of the Ovcharitsa and its Northern parts and patchy over the Northeasternmost part of the study area and the hills between the two Polski Gradets sites (CDFig.325). There are also visible strips to the South West of the site and to the central and Eastern parts of the study area. Four barrows and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the site.

The viewshed with an additional 4.20m in height shares the same general visibility but with an overall improvement in all directions (CDFig.326). In comparison to before, three more barrows are visible, all in the vicinity of Goliamata mogila – up to 3km away. The visible Polski Gradets tell is at 7.3km, while the neighbouring flat settlement of Goliama Detelina – 1.5km away - is not visible from the barrow.

Cost distance analysis (CDFig.327) show the following results:

Table 6.7.2 Site distribution around Goliamata mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Malkata mogila
1 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Barrow 4, Goliama Detelina flat site
2 Manchova and Ovchartsi barrows, Taniokoleva mogila – all locations
3 Kurdova mogila, MIBC 3-4
4 Galabovo tell, MIBC 1-2, Polski Gradets tell, Aldinova barrow
5 Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site, Atanasivanova mogila, Gudgova and Klisselika tells, Ovcharitsa I and II
6 Obrutchishte flat site, Mednikarovo tell, Polski Gradets pit site, Gonova barrow
7 KMBC

In summary, Goliamata mogila is located in a barrow landscape with one exception – a settlement in the first cost strip. The barrows up to the 2nd cost strip are visible from the site while the settlement is hidden. The only visible settlement – tell Polski Gradets - is in the 4th strip where the second group of possible contemporary settlement sites appears.

The logistical network is similar to the Gonova mogila network, except for the segments to some of the sites in the Northern part of the study area (CDFig.328). The paths to Klisselika (CDFig.329) and Gudgova tells and Iskritsa sites (CDFig.330) that cross the study area differ from the Gonova mogila network (CDFig.234) but resemble the Barrow 4 network (CDFig.304). The route to the MIBC ascends and descends for 2.2km in a winding pattern with a predominantly Southern direction, where it joins the path to the cemetery that starts from Gonova mogila (CDFig.331), (CDFig.332), (CDFig.333), (CDFigs.334). A viewshed to MIBC 2 was performed to justify the visibility from Gonova mogila (CDFig.335). The general visibility pattern over the study region was confirmed. The difference between the two viewsheds was better visibility over the Northeasternmost part (in the Gonova case) and better visibility over the central part (in the Goliamata mogila case).

The different segments to the Northern sites in a West-to-East direction were discussed in the Galabovo case study. There are four new segments – to Taniokoleva, Manchova and Kurdova barrows and to the Goliama Detelina settlement. The path to the first barrow descends to the South West for 1.2km and then ascends for 800m (CDFig.336). There is a good visibility over the Ovcharitsa valley, along the path itself and towards a gully between two hills in the central part of the study area (CDFig.337). There is a patchy view over the Northeasternmost part and the Eastern hills of the study area. Six barrows, one flat site and a tell are visible from the path.

The path to Manchova barrow descends to the West/South West for 1.5km and ascends for 500m (CDFig.338). The visibility from the path generally follows the same pattern as from the previous path but it is better over the valley of the Ovcharitsa and the central part of the study area (CDFig.339). The same sites are visible as well (only Manchova mogila is replaced by Tanoikoleva mogila).

The path to the last barrow takes the same West/South West direction but between the other two paths (CDFig.340). It ascends and descends low ridges for 3.5 km until it reaches Kurdova mogila. The panorama from the path is similar to the view from the path to Taniokoleva mogila but with more visible areas in the central part of the study area (CDFig.341). The same sites are visible again, apart from the flat site of Goliama Detelina.

The path to Goliama Detelina descends Westwards for 1.5km (CDFig.342) and has a good view over the Ovcharitsa valley. There are patchy visible strips over the central, Eastern and Northeasternmost parts of the study area (CDFig.343). The same sites are visible again.

In summary, the three paths have different but similar patterns of landscape visibility but one and the same inter-site visibility – 6 barrows and two settlements. It is important to point out that these same sites were also visible from the Barrow 4 logistical network.

There is one more point that should not be omitted. The path from Goliamata mogila to the Iskritsa dwelling site crosses (CDFig.344) the study area from South to North, rather than following the two main routes along the valleys, which is the path from the Iskritsa pit site to Goliamata mogila (CDFig.330). This is a confirmation of the pattern already observed in the paths from Polski Gradets tell to the adjacent Klisselika and Gudgova tells, in which two adjacent sites or two opposite edges of one and the same site, such as Iskritsa, could be reached via two totally different routes. This provides a logistical choice and alternative opportunities for outward and return journeys.

6.7.4 Summary and discussion

Goliamata mogila is the biggest barrow in the study area. The deceased consisted of all age -sex categories but the number of females in the fertile age (n = 10) was accepted to be high and was related to pregnancy and birth complications (Kunchev 1995). Certain palaeo-pathological conditions were recorded – spondylosis and spondyloarthritis in the spinal area. Some recent investigations (but not all) have argued that there is link between the intensification of such kind of condition and agricultural activities (pers. comm., C.A. Roberts). In the case of Goliamata mogila, 75% of the skeletons with spondylosis and spondyloarthritis are males.

The evidence from Goliamata mogila matches in general the pattern of barrow burials discussed so far in terms of body position, the use of red ochre, grave goods and the presence of a mound. The difference from the other barrow burials is the relatively rare use of fire (the bonfire in the mound and ash and charcoal near grave 18) and the lack of any other features but graves (e.g. no pottery scatters or pits were detected in the barrow).

A major difference is the intensive deposition of pottery in the graves, registered in only one other case in the study area. – the MIBC. Last but not least is the presence of stelae – a phenomenon with no analogues in the study area. Stelae are found in Pit Grave barrows in North Bulgaria (Panayotov 1989) and this is one of the arguments which relates Goliamata mogila to this culture. The cultural and social aspects of the barrow will be discussed later (p.340-343) but here it is noteworthy that stelae were additional grave markers, apart from the grave mound itself. It is possible that the stones were used either to attract or to restrict certain types of post-burial activity. The red ochre painting on one of the stelae emphasizes the importance of this mineral in the social practices in MI burial. Red ochre is usually associated with blood symbolism but its inclusion into pottery as temper and its use for painting stelae suggest greater symbolic complexity. Colour symbolism was also encoded in the sienite stele through the juxtaposition of the red ochre painting and the white stele.

Despite discrepancies in the stratigraphic data, some general trends can be observed in the burial sequence. The initial stage of barrow expansion was horizontal and contained graves 25 and 30-34. They were cut into the sterile soil at one and the same depth. Most probably these initial graves had mounds, as the second group of graves was said to be cut into a pre-existing mound.

The second stage was of vertical expansion, if we accept that the graves in the barrow also have also their own small mounds. Graves 27-29 were at the same depth as the first group. Most probably to the second group belong graves 20-24 but some particularities should to be mentioned. Graves 20 and 21 were at the same depth as all graves discussed so far but no pits were identified. It is possible that the bodies were placed on the ground surface. Such a claim is problematic for grave 21, however, since this was said to be in both the sterile soil and in the mound (Kunchev 1995:40). It seems that the initial burial surface was uneven, which rendered precise stratigraphic observations difficult. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that the barrow expansion was not only vertical and horizontal but also uneven. This would explain the fact that graves 20-34 were all found at a similar depth but at the same time were either in the sterile subsoil or in the mound.

The next stage of barrow expansion was again horizontal, as graves 16-19 were cut into the sterile soil. Four of the graves were in pits and one on the surface. The difference in the depth of the graves confirms the possible unevenness of the initial burial terrain.

The graves from these three stages all fall within the EBA1 period, so it is difficult to infer whether the barrow has initially expanded in horizontal and then in vertical mode or whether the barrow growth was both vertical and horizontal. Evidence from graves 29 and 34 show that most probably the dynamics of barrow expansion was simultaneously in area and height. Both graves could be dated towards the end of the EBA1 and N34 was in the sterile, while N29 was in the mound.

The fourth stage in barrow growth was vertical and consisted of graves 11-15. Two of them were in pits and three on the surface. Most probably, all of them had mounds that allowed vertical barrow expansion.

The following expansion stage was again horizontal, as graves 6-10 were dug into the sterile. As with stages 1-3, it is difficult to establish whether stages 4 and 5 were simultaneous or consecutive. The chronology of the graves puts them generally in the EBA.

The final stage of barrow formation cannot be definitely connected with vertical growth. Graves 1-5 were dug into the mound and four of them were securely dated to the LBA. It is not impossible that the graves had mounds, which would have contributed to the total height of the barrow.

During the first four stages, nine graves were made by digging pits into the sterile and one was laid on the surface. The remaining 12 graves were in the mound (one of which in the sterile as well); in five cases, the bodies were on the surface, in seven cases in pits. In the last two stages, the graves were formed only of pits cut both into the mound and into the sterile.

Therefore, it may be concluded that, for the burials in the sterile, it was important for the virgin soil to be dug out and replaced by the body. The six cases of surface deposition (one in the sterile, 4 in the mound and one in both) suggest that there were cases in which the integration of the deceased within the ancestors’ barrow followed a different pattern, in which some of the dead most probably had the right to be buried in the mound (e.g, they were close kin) and the cutting into the antecedent deposit was not necessary; while others should gain this right by digging into the mound. The rest of the burials were dug into the ancestral mound on the one hand and had their own mounds on the other. This created a closed cycle of digging – filling – mound-forming, following a pattern which resulted in the re-establishment of the initial status quo.

The distribution of grave goods in the graves shows a pattern in which the burials in the sterile contain relatively more graves with grave goods than the graves in the mound (there were grave goods in 8 out of 15 graves in the sterile soil (53%) and in 6 out of 16 graves in the mound (38%)). It is also apparent that the percentage of the burials with grave goods in the sterile is greater than the graves without grave goods. Therefore, it may be concluded that the two commonest, yet contrasting, practices in Goliamata mogila were burials with grave goods in the sterile (n = 8) and burials without grave goods in the mound (n = 10). Together with the other two practices – burials in the sterile without grave goods (n = 7) and burials with grave goods in the mound (n = 6) - the evidence from Goliamata mogila show a complex pattern of post-mortem social message exchange, in which at least four ways of re-negotiation of social reproduction could be observed after the death of a particular member of the local society.

Most probably, an important part of these four burial patterns was the means of relating to the existing mound. Given the present state of the data, conclusive claims cannot be made but at least five patterns seem to present: - 1) next to the barrow mound but with a) a separate or b) a common mound, 3) dug into the mound (which is comparable to the message of pits on the tells: Chapman 2000c) with or 4) without an additional mound and 5) laid on the surface of the mound and then covered by a mound.

The place of Goliamata mogila in the overall chronological and social development of the region will be discussed in Chapter 8. Here a few short comments are noteworthy. The first concerns the grave 12. Its stratigraphic position within the mound does not contradict its late chronology in EBA3 or even MBA because it is in the mound, showing that it is dug into a pre- existing barrow. The grave appears to be problematic only if the zharovnia rite is related to a particular culture. But if the evidence is viewed not from a culture-historical perspective but as a social practice, in the first place comes the continuity of the ancestor cult in which the link between the ancestors, newly dead and the living is re-emphasized in subsequent burials at one and the same place - in this particular case, a continuity which stretches back for more than 1,500 years.

Secondly, it is important to point out that several cross-references were made to the pottery from Ovcharitsa II. This relates the barrow and the enclosure not only in terms of chronology but also of production and distribution.

Lastly, if some of the vessels were deliberately made for the burial, it is not very likely that they were the products of exchange. This is not to say that exotic objects or imported pottery were not deposited in graves. Rather, it is to emphasize that if there was a message conveyed through the display of vessels as grave goods in the graves of Goliamata mogila, this most probably was not that sedentary societies produce special pottery for nomadic burial. I would argue that it is more likely that the very same society which buried the deceased had produced the pottery for the burial.

In summary, an essential element of Goliamata mogila was its specific and accumulating place value, built up through active use for more than 1,500 years. The viewshed analysis indicates increasing visibility of not only sites but also the surrounding landscape as the barrow increased in height. There were six stages of intensive expansion of the barrow that may have reflected important moments in the social life of the local inhabitants. The latter were a pottery-producing society that used and probably cultivated cereals, pulses and weeds as a temper component in the clay. Therefore, it may be concluded that these species were consumed as well. The main development of the barrow was during the EBA but there is no evidence to support population change from the Chalcolithic or population difference from the contemporary BA society (Ezero culture). Social dynamics at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd mill. BC in the study area developed a new concept of spatial arrangements, in which the barrow was central to the social landscape of the local inhabitants.

6.8 Malkata mogila (the small barrow)

6.8.1 General information and earlier studies

The barrow was excavated in 1986 and no later destruction was reported to be present. It was 2m in height and 18 x 21m in diameter. Six graves altogether were found (AFig. 6.8.1a). Five of them were dated to the LBA and one to the EBA. The site has received only one short publication (Kunchev 1991).

Archaeological evidence

The data from the publication is summarized in Table 6.8.1. The site diary contains some information, which was excluded from the final publication but will be utilized here.

Table 6.8.1 Grave data from Malkata mogila
Grave number Stratigraphic position Body position Object in the graves Red ochre Grave feature
1 In the mound Crouched on right Fragment of bronze sword, fragments of small vessels (AFig. 6.8.1A) No No
2 In the mound Cremation A clay jug, a hair pin, spindle whorl (AFig. 6.8.1B-D) No Pit
3 In the mound Cremation A clay jug, bronze arrowhead (AFig.6.8.1F-E) No Pit
4 In the mound Cremation Fragmented cup with handles No Pit
5 In the mound Crouched on left A clay cup (AFig. 6.8.1G) No No
6 In the sterile soil Crouched on back no Powder and pieces Pit with organic pad and wooden cover

In the site diary, a pit 70cm in depth and 2m in diameter was mentioned as present. It was filled with black soil and cultural residues, whose nature, however, was not specified. Two more pits were excavated that contained no archaeological material.

Although the publication claims lack of red ochre in most of the graves, the site diary mentions soil colouring, most probably with red ochre, in graves 2 - 5.

The last mismatch between the publication and the diary is the sloping of the data for graves 4 and 6, as well in the site diameter, which is mentioned to be 30m in the diary.

6.8.2 The site and its surrounding according GIS analysis

The site is located 500m to the northwest of Goliamata mogila. It is on a hill at 157-168 masl (CDFig.345), on a 1-2° slope (CDFig.346) with a North West aspect (CDFig.347). The visibility from the site is generally the same as from Goliamata mogila but more restricted towards the Eastern hills (CDFig.348). The viewshed from the site with an additional 2m height is slightly improved in all previous directions, more significantly to the Eastern parts, as with the visibility from Goliamata mogila towards this part of the study area (CDFig.349). The viewshed with 3m additional height to the surface was performed to check the visibility status in case the barrow was reduced in size by some later destruction (CDFig.350). The view from 3m height is the same as the previous two, with little improvement in any previously visible areas and it is very similar to the visibility from Goliamata mogila (see above).

The close distance between Goliamata and Malkata mogila determines not only the similar visibility but also same cost surface results (CDFig.351) and logistics network (CDFig.352).

6.8.3 Summary and discussion

The pattern in Malkata mogila shows that the LBA cremations are in pits, while the LBA inhumations are on the surface. So it is likely that the pits were considered as natural urns for the burnt remains. All the LBA graves have grave goods, in contrast to the initial EBA burial that has no grave goods.

6.9 Goliama Detelina flat site

6.9.1 General information and earlier studies

The Goliama Detelina flat site was excavated in 1982-83. Prior to the investigations, the humus and a large part of the cultural layer had already been swept away by mining work. The total area of the site was claimed to be 2.5ha, of which 0.65ha was investigated in three sondages (AFig. 6.9.1). The results of the excavations were summarized in a general article on the settlement pattern of the region (Leshtakov et al. 2001). The site was dated to the end of the EBA2 and EBA3 on the basis of regional pottery similarities. Scattered Medieval materials and AD19th century burials have also been found. The following description summarizes the data from the publications, part of the site documentation and my own museum study.

Archaeological evidence

The best-preserved cultural layer was 70cm thick and was supposed to consist of two building horizons. However, there is definite evidence for only one occupational level. Remains of six (seven according to site reports) dwellings have been excavated; it was possible to define the ground-plans for just two of them (AFig. 6.9.1a). They were rectangular structures, probably with two rooms, and with the wattle and daub construction and beaten clay floor typical for the region. In all dwelling remains, traces of ovens were found. Altogether 13 ovens have been excavated at the site. Some of them have traces of several reconstructions that allowed the excavators to conclude a long-lasting habitation. Five of the dwellings were said to contain burnt house rubble. The house inventory evidence is summarized in Table 6.9.1. Five pits were also excavated at the site, each claimed to contain a small amount of BA material. Comments on the pits and their contents were not made in the publications.

Table 6.9.1 House inventory data from Goliama Detelina flat site
House No Location Stone tools Flint tools Antler/bone tools Clay objects Vessels House rubble
1 Sondage 1 G1/2-H1/2 Yes Fragments of 3 antler hoes Loom weights, whorls, fragmented Figurine Fragmented Yes – not mentioned to be burnt
2 Sondage 2 A1-3/B1-3 pestles, whetstones, polishers, grinding stones, fragments of 5 axes, yes Spindle whorl, wheel model, 3 loom weights Fragmented and whole Massive presence of burnt rubble
3 Sondage 2 B3/4 Yes Yes Yes yes Fragmented and whole Not mentioned
4 Sondage 2 B4/C4 Yes Yes Yes Yes Fragmented and whole Large amount of burnt rubble
5 Sondage 3 A1/A2 Axes, whetstones Yes - Spindle whorls Fragmented Large amount of massive burnt rubble
62 Sondage 3 19/20 – 20/21 Pestles, axes Yes - Loom weight, 5 wheel models Fragmented and 4 restorable Large amount of burnt rubble
7 Sondage S20/21 - - Bones but not tools - Fragmented Massive presence of burnt rubble

The cultural layer in general consists of the same artifacts mentioned in Table 6.9.1. Tables 6.9.2-4 summarize the artifactual material studied so far. During my museum study, I was able to establish that there were 9 large boxes of pottery and some animal bones, which still have not been studied in detail.

 

Table 6.9.2 Stone tools from Goliama Detelina flat site (AFig. 6.9.3 A-C)
Type of tools Pestles Adzes Whetstone Axes Polishers Grinding stone Cylinders Maces
No of tools 25 2 3 29 26 3 6 2
Table 6.9.3 Clay objects from Goliama Detelina flat site (AFig. 6.9.3 I-Q)
Type of objects Whorls Net-weights Loom weights Spoons Wheel models Figurines
No of objects 31 30 15 2 12 1
Table 6.9.4 Horn and bone tools from Goliama Detelina flat site (AFig. 6.9.3 E-G)
Type of objects Worked horn/antler Worked bone Bone awls
No of objects 10 5 5

In addition to the data from the Tables there were also 25 flint tools, two metal tools and a Cardium shell – presumably from the Black Sea. Publication illustrations present some fragmented stone, clay and bone/horn tools (AFig. 6.9.3). During my museum study, I ascertained that some of the objects published as whole were, in fact, fragmented (e.g. AFig. 6.9.3O). In addition, there were at least 10 fragmented vessels in the museum display in Nova Zagora and 18 out of the 30 vessels prepared for detailed publication were also fragmented (AFig.6.9.2). I was not able to study the content of the 9 boxes of material because of the conditions of the museum storerooms.

All the three published stone tools are fragmented, each made of a different type of rock. Petrological investigations, however, have not been made. Four more fragmented stone tools were on museum display. One of the maces showed traces of the production process – the shaft was not polished yet. The relatively large number of stone tools (n = 96), the evidence for their production (e.g. the drilled-out cylinders and the incomplete mace) and the presence of fragments suggest on-site production and distribution at Goliama Detelina. These remains may also point out to a certain type of depositional practice, in which keeping the production waste and the broken tools at the site had specific meaning, linking present tool-users to past tool-makers. 

6.9.2 The site and its surrounding according to GIS analysis

The site is located on a terrace at 120-135 masl (CDFig.353), on a 4-5° slope (CDFig.354) with a North West aspect (CDFig.355). The general visibility from the sites is low (CDFig.356). There is a consistent view over the area North of the site – along the valley and its Northern parts. Single spots are visible to the Northeasternmost part of the study area. Also visible is the gully 7.5km South East of the site. Three barrows are visible from the site.

Cost distance analyses (CDFig.357) are summarized in Table 6.9.5.

Table 6.9.5 Site distribution around Goliama Detelina
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Tcherniova mogila – all locations
1 Malkata, Goliamata, Manchova and Ovchartsi barrows
2 Barrow 4, Taniokoleva mogila – all locations
3 Galabovo tell, Kurdova mogila, MIBC 3-4
4 Atanasivanova mogila, MIBC 1-2, Polski Gradets tell, Aldinova barrow
5 Obrutchishte flat site, Mednikarovo tell, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site, Gudgova and Klisselika tells, Ovcharitsa I and II, Polski Gradets pit site, Gonova barrow
6 KMBC

It is interesting to point out that, although the Tcherniova barrow has the easiest access from the settlement, it is in fact further from the barrows in the first cost strip.

In summary, Goliama Detelina settlement is surrounded by barrows, while the possible contemporary settlements are relatively remote. The location of the barrows in zones with different accessibility may have been related to the possible link between settlements and barrows (e.g., Tcherniova mogila is more likely to be linked to the Goliama Detelina site rather than to Barrow 4). Another possible argument for this settlement-barrow relation could be the visual connection. In such a case, three barrows (Tcherniova mogila– all locations, Manchova mogila and Taniokoleva mogila – all locations) located in different zones of accessibility appear as possible candidates for the place of the Goliama Detelina site. Tcherniova mogila appears in both cost distance and visual variants of connection, which may be interpreted as a definitive link between the barrow and the settlement.

The logistical network (CDFig.358) repeats in general the Gonova mogila network. The individual paths to some of the sites in the Northern part of the study area follow those in the Galabovo tell network due to the direction of movement. The segments to Goliamata (CDFig.342) and Malkata mogila (CDFig.359) and Kurdova mogila (CDFig.360) are directly from the site rather than following the main North route.

In order to check the inter-site visibility pattern observed along the paths from Goliamata mogila to some of its neighbouring sites (see above), viewshed analyses were performed for the paths to the same sites.

The path to Tcherniova mogila is crossing the Ovcharitsa valley for 1.8km (CDFig.361); here, there is good visibility over the valley to the East (up to 4.5km) and to the West (up to 5.3km) of the path (CDFig.362). There are scattered visible spots in the Eastern and North Eastern parts of the study area, as well as a strip to the South/South East over a gully and a hill in the central part of the study area. Five barrows and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path.

The path to Manchova mogila descends and ascends for 700m (CDFig.363). The view from the path is good over the valley and its Northern part, as well as over a strip of a gully and a hill to the South East (CDFig.364). There is patchy visibility towards the Eastern hills and the Northeasternmost part of the study area. There are three tiny visible strips to the South/South West of the path. Five barrows are visible from the path.

The route to Taniokoleva mogila descends for 1.1km to the South East and ascends for 600m to the South (CDFig.365). The visibility from the path is similar to those discussed above but more restricted towards the Eastern hills, the Northeasternmost part of the study area and the West/SouthWest (CDFig.366). Four barrows are visible from the path.

The path to Kurdova mogila winds in a Southern/Southwestern direction, descending and ascending several times over a total distance of 2.6 km (CDFig.360). The visibility from the path is very similar to the path to Manchova mogila but with more visible areas in the central and Eastern part of the study area (CDFig.367). Five barrows and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path.

The track, landscape and sites visibility from the path to Goliamata mogila is the same as the reverse route.

A comparison between the visibility patterns of Goliamata mogila (hence Malkata mogila and Barrow 4, which share the same visibility) and the Goliama Detelina settlement with one and the same sites in the Northern part of the study area shows better landscape and site visibility from the paths than from the barrow. This is probably due to the better static viewshed and more Eastern location of Goliamata mogila, as well as to the shorter paths from the settlement in comparison with the paths from the barrow. However, it is very important to point out that, despite the reduced landscape and site visibility, most of the sites and a large part of the landscape are still visible from the Goliama Detelina logistical network. This is a confirmation of the pattern observed so far in all the viewshed analyses of logistical networks, in which sites appear to be located in areas from which they can be seen while walking through the landscape. 

Resources and land use

Goliama Detelina settlement is one of the sites with the most severe surrounding destruction; 3364 ha of the area up to 5km around the site is now under current mining operations and therefore has lost its soil. Table 6.9.4 and CDFig.368 show the present soil distribution around Goliama Detelina site.

Table 6.9.6 Soil distribution around Goliama Detelina site
Distance from site Without soil Meadow soil Smolnitsa Cinnomonic forest soil
0-500m 61ha 8ha - -
500 -1000m 160ha 74ha 14ha -
1000 -1500m 247ha 70ha 80ha -
1500 -2000m 345ha 101ha 73ha 10ha
2000 -2500m 368ha 98ha 183ha 50ha
2500 -3000m 395ha 109ha 341ha 30ha
3000 -3500m 400ha 117ha 482ha 35ha
300 -4000m 408ha 89ha 561ha 79ha
4000 -4500m 463ha 75ha 596ha 152ha
4500 -5000m 517ha 124ha 655ha 177ha

The exact original soil cover of the huge destroyed area is not possible to reconstruct. On the basis of the present soil distribution shown above, however, some suggestions can be made. Smolnitsa was most probably spread to the North East, while, to the South South West, smolnitsa along with cinnomonic forest soil was probably distributed in a mosaic-like pattern.

Exploitation area

The area of the site is 2.5ha, which may have accommodated 215-240 inhabitants. The necessary annual amount of crop – 45,150 - 50,400kg – requires 225-252ha of arable land. Excluding the area without soil, the necessary arable soil is available in the area up to 2000m from the site. As in previous case studies, one third of the land was classed as fallow, thus leaving 275ha for actual annual cultivation. Such a figure is very close to the upper edge of the range of necessary arable land (252ha), leaving very little room for natural vegetation. I should assume that exploitation area did not exceed the 2000m limit since 813ha of natural soil cover was destroyed, which most probably was either cultivated or covered by natural vegetation.

The pattern of soil distribution suggests crop rotation, in which different spots of arable land around the site in the 2000m limit were cultivated in sequence.

6.9.3 Summary and discussion

The devastated state of the site at the start of its investigations determined to a great extent the scarcity and poor condition of the archaeological features and artifacts. The consistent evidence for fire in all the dwellings strongly suggests the social practice of burning houses. Accidental or hostile fires are not impossible but, on the basis of the case studies discussed so far, which indicate the probability of controlled and managed fire, I should rather suggest that this was also the case at the Goliama Detelina settlement. Deliberate fragmentation was practiced at the site, as revealed by the inventory of the houses and the numerous fragmented objects. It is possible that some structured deposition has taken place at the site in the five pits but, until the site is published in full, further comments on deliberate patterns of deposition cannot be made. Conclusive claims for the site catchment are also not possible to make but the Cardium shell points to exchange relations with the Black Sea or other marine areas.

6.10 Tcherniova mogila

6.10.1 General information and earlier studies

The barrow was excavated in 1996, when the edge of mining operations lay 40m from the site. At that time, the barrow was 3m in height and 45 x 50m in diameter. Almost in the centre of the mound, there was a robber pit that seemed not to have destroyed any archaeological features. Two paths crossed the Eastern part of the barrow, but without doing serious damage to the mound. The results of the excavation are being prepared for publication. Preliminary reports date the site to the EBA1/2 and relate it to the Pit Grave culture (Panayotov et al., n.d.). The following summary is based on the data from the site diary.

Archaeological evidence

The evidence from the barrow are summarized in Table 6.10.1:

Table 6.10.1 Evidence from Tcherniova mogila
Grave number Stratigraphic position Body position Objects in the grave Red ochre Grave feature
1 In the mound Crouched on back No Powder No feature; organic lining under the deceased
2 In the mound Crouched on back No Powder No feature; organic lining under and above the deceased
3 In the mound N/A Flint tool Powder No feature; more than one type of organic lining under the deceased
4 In the mound Crouched on back Flint tool Powder pit
5 In the mound and the sterile Crouched on back 1m North of the grave- round object made of limestone Powder Pit; organic lining under the deceased with apsidal shape to the West
6 In the sterile Crouched on back 85 silver beads, 2 gold and 2 silver pendants Powder Pit; organic lining under and above the deceased, stretcher or couch

In addition to the data from the Table, it should not be forgotten that the skeleton in grave 4 was missing the hand bones and the phalanx of the right hand. Charcoal has been found in the fill of the grave pit of the same burial.

Four nails were found under the right arm of the body in grave 6. It was suggested that they were used to attach leather to a wooden frame or solid lining. Such kind of grave equipment was interpreted as a stretcher or a couch.

A pit of irregular shape and 60cm depth was found in the mound. It was filled with black-gray soil and small pieces of red ochre. Another shallow pit was found in the sterile. It was of oval shape, filled with black-gray soil but containing no finds.

As a sign of later re-use of a prehistoric monument, it should be noted that Roman pottery was also discovered in the mound, 60cm below the surface.

6.10.2 The site and its surrounding according to GIS analysis

The barrow is located on a terrace at 91- 115 masl (CDFig.369), on a 1-2° slope (CDFig.370) with a North Western aspect (CDFig.371). The general visibility from the site is low and scattered over the valley and Eastern hills (CDFig.372). Five barrows, one EBA flat site and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the barrow. It is important to point out that, despite the general limited visibility over the landscape, a relatively high number of sites is visible from the site. Therefore, it is likely that the Tcherniova barrow location was at least partly determined by the location of any or all of these seven sites.

The viewshed with an additional 3m improves visibility in all previous directions but it remains low and scattered (CDFig.373). The same sites are visible again. Generally the same is the panorama from an additional 4m barrow height, which means that, even if some later destructions have happened, that did not affect the visibility from the barrow (CDFig.374).

Three alternative places were randomly chosen in the same locality (CDFig.369) and viewshed analyses have been conducted. The four points are in different cells, which means that the panoramas have been performed from at least 4ha within the possible location area of Tcherniova mogila. Cost surface analyses have not been repeated for the alternative places, as the outcome cost surface grids are very similar. All four points share one and same altitude, two of them are on a flat surface, the other two on a 1-2° slope (CDFig.370). The aspect falls within a range of West to North West (CDFig.371).

The viewshed analyses showed the same pattern of general low and scattered visibility (CDFig.375), (CDFig.376), (CDFig.377), (CDFig.378), (CDFig.379), (CDFig.380), (CDFig.381), (CDFig.382), (CDFig.383). The four variants of visibility from the site share similar views, with minor differences in visible areas. It is important to emphasize that, despite the differences in landscape panorama, the sites visible from the four locations are one and the same. There is only one exception that concerns the Southeasternmost location of Taniokoleva mogila (one of the four possible locations), which was most probably in an area invisible from Tcherniova mogila (in two cases the point was on the edge of an visible/invisible area, while in the other two it is not visible at all). This is a confirmation of the above-stated hypothesis that the location of Tcherniova mogila was related to the seven sites visible from the barrow. The lack of precise coordinates for Tcherniova mogila does not affect the general conclusion about the location of the barrow, since all the possible locations show a very similar landscape and the same site visibility characteristics.

Cost surface analysis results (CDFig.384) shown on Table 6.10.2 are very similar to Goliama Detelina case study.

Table 6.10.2 Site distribution around Tcherniova mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Goliama Detelina flat site
1 Malkata, Goliamata, Manchova and Ovchartsi barrows
2 Barrow 4, Taniokoleva mogila – all locations
3 Galabovo tell, Kurdova mogila
4 Atanasivanova mogila, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site, MIBC, Polski Gradets tell, Aldinova barrow
5 Obrutchishte flat site, Mednikarovo tell, Gudgova and Klisselika tells, Ovcharitsa I and II, Polski Gradets pit site, Gonova barrow
6 KMBC

In summary, Tcherniova mogila was located in an area of immediate accessibility to EBA settlement, followed by two cost zones of barrow distribution. Only one of the surrounding six barrows is not visible from the site (Barrow 4).

The logistical network is a mixture of the Galabovo and Gonova mogila networks (CDFig.385). The main South and North routes follow the Galabovo case, while the routes through the mines to the sites in the Sokolitsa valley and to MIBC echo the Gonova mogila case. Special attention was paid to the paths and their views towards the six neighbouring sites (five barrows and one settlement3) in order to test the pattern of inter-site visibility observed in the GIS analyses of the very same sites.

The route to Manchova mogila crosses the valley for 2.3km (CDFig.386). There is good visibility from this path over the Ovcharitsa valley, as well as over the hills and gullies to the South East and central parts of the study area (CDFig.387). There are scattered visible spots to the East and North East of the region and a tiny visible strip to the South of the path. Five barrows, one EBA flat site and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path.

The path to Taniokoleva mogila also crosses the valley (CDFig.388). Initially, the route heads due South for 1.5km, then it follows a gully for 1.2km to the South East, finally ascending for 670m to the South. The visibility from the path is generally the same as the one from the previous path but more restricted to the East and the North East and lacks the visible strip to the South (CDFig.389). The same set of sites is visible again, except that Manchova mogila replaces Taniokoleva mogila.

The route to Kurdova mogila crosses the valley, first heading North West and then South West for a total of 1.7 km (CDFig.390). The path continues following a gully to the South East for 2.9 km, finally ascending to the South West for 350 m until Kurdova mogila is reached. The panorama from the path is strip-like towards the central part of the study area, patchy to the East and with a more consistent view over the Northern part of the Ovcharitsa valley (CDFig.391). The same five barrows, one EBA flat site and Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path.

The last path leads to Goliamata (and Malkata) barrows (CDFig.392). It crosses the valley (winding across and along it) for 3.4 km and ascends the hill for 300m. General visibility from the path is good over the valley and there are some scattered visible spots over the Eastern hills and the Northeasternmost part of the study area (CDFig.393). Also visible are three tiny strips South of the path. In addition to the previously visible sites, Barrow 4 is now in sight.

The comparison of the visibility pattern between the Tcherniova mogila case study and the Goliama Detelina case study highlights some differences. The better landscape panorama from the Tcherniova mogila logistical network to the Northern and Eastern parts of the study area, which provides visibility over at least two more sites, is probably due to the location of the barrow. However, the Tcherniova mogila case study confirmed the already observed and discussed pattern of very high site intervisibility from the paths, despite the differences in landscape visibility.

Tcherniova mogila is not published yet but I had the opportunity to see some of the grave goods from Grave six. The shape and material of the gold and silver pendants resemble the ornaments of another barrow in Maritsa Iztok – Kamenna mogila (Stone barrow)(Boyukliev 1964).

The barrow was excavated in the early 1960s and soon after the area was totally destroyed by the mines. The earliest maps of the region that were suitable for digitizing were from the mid-1970s. I was not able to locate either the locality or the place of the barrow on any of the presently available maps of the study area; this excluded Kamenna mogila from the GIS analyses. However, the barrow contains important evidence for burial practices in Maritsa Iztok and is therefore included in the archaeological discussion.

Kamenna mogila was located 2.5 km South of village Troyanovo (now destroyed). Three more small barrows were situated in the same locality. The four mounds were related to the settlement located 400m East of Kamenna mogila.

The barrow was 4m in height and 42m in diameter. The initial grave was almost in the centre of the mound and dug into the sterile. The body was crouched on the back. Above and under the bones, there were traces of red ochre – powder and small pieces. Silver earrings, forming a pair, were found on each side of the skull. A mound was build above the grave.

A second burial was dug into the mound when it was 1.20m high. The grave lay 2.5m South East of the first burial. The body was extended on the back and laid in a pit. There was red ochre under and above the bones as well. There was also a large quantity of ash and charcoal under the body. The soil had no traces of burning, which made the excavator conclude that the fire was not lit in the grave pit. A pair of gold pendants – identical to the silver ones from grave 1 - was also found. In the first publication, the two graves were dated to the 8th-7th c. BC (Boyukliev 1964) but later were re-dated to the EBA and assigned to the Pit Grave culture (Panayotov 1989).

Fifteen later graves were excavated in the mound, none of which contained grave goods. Traces of wooden coffins were found around the bodies. One or two sandstone rocks were discovered on the heads or legs of the deceased. The villagers relate that stones used to be removed from the mound – a tradition that established the name of the barrow. The lack of dating material left the 15 graves without a reliable chronology.

The evidence from Kamenna mogila is important, as it confirms burial practices in Maritsa Iztok which have already been commented in previous case studies the type of head ornaments, the deposition of red ochre and the use of fire/fire products in the mound.

6.10.3 Summary and discussion

The lack of plans and sections makes the reconstruction of the burial sequence very difficult. My own analysis based on the feature description, however, has shown a certain pattern. At least four phases of barrow formation could be observed at Tcherniova mogila. Most probably the first grave was grave 6, which was covered by the initial mound. Two graves (Nos 4 & 5) were dug into the mound, as the base of grave 5 reached the sterile as well. All the three burials were in pits, which underlines the practice of deliberate digging into the virgin soil or the ancestral mound. Some unevenness of the terrain is likely to be present, as in the case of Goliamata mogila, since grave 4 has a depth of 250cm but does not reach the sterile. Most probably, graves 4 and 5 had one common mound or two separate mounds that contributed to both the vertical and horizontal expansion of the barrow. The latter is assumed on the basis of graves 1 and 2, which are 3 to 6 m East of graves 4 and 5 and within the mound. The last phase of barrow formation (grave 3) did not expand the barrow size since it was 5cm below the site datum. The last three burials do not have traces of pits, which probably means that the bodies were laid on the surface. Extra earth was later added in the case of graves 1 and 2, while in grave 3 the body was only covered by a thin layer of soil.

The barrow evidence shows a consistent pattern of the wrapping of the bodies (except grave 4) in organic shrouds, which is not very common in Maritsa Iztok but which is well attested in the Pit-Grave culture (Panayotov 1989). There is a consistency in red ochre deposition in contrast to the variability of grave goods. Some memorialising practices accompanying the burial are suggested by the presence of the two pits.

6.11 Manchova mogila

6.11.1 General information and earlier studies

Manchova mogila was excavated in 1976 and has only one short publication (Kunchev 1991). Thirteen graves all together were discovered in the barrow (AFig. 6.11.1a), five of which were dated to the LBA on the basis of the pottery found in them. Another six burials were dated to the EBA in general. An attempt to establish a more precise grave sequence was made through relating the barrow to the Goliama Detelina flat site dated in EBA2/3 (Dimitrov 2000). Secure evidence for the chronology of the early graves in the barrow is, however, still missing.

Another settlement with which the barrow was suggested to be associated was located 150-200m East of the barrow (Maritsa Iztok Catalogue of sites, Dimitrov 2000). The site was not excavated and currently it is under a spoil-tip. It was dated to the EBA in general, on the basis of pottery found during field survey. The head orientation of some of the deceased pointed towards the possible settlement location, which was used to support the hypothesis for the barrow/settlement link (Dimitrov 2000). Given the present state of the data, such speculation can neither be supported nor opposed.

Finally, the barrow was related to several adjacent barrows, following the Bulgarian interpretative pattern in which neighbouring mortuary monuments are united in one necropolis that is subsequently related to a settlement. In this particular case, there are a few problems with the possible barrow cemetery that merit some comments.

The first problem is the number of the barrows. In some of the references, four barrows are mentioned (Dimitrov 2000), while, in others, the number is six (Kunchev n.d.). The second problem concerns the location of the barrows. They are said to be located on the hill ridge South South West of the village of Malka Detelina (now destroyed). An exact location was not specified and the contour map shows at least 10 natural hills in the above-mentioned direction. Last but not least are the names of the separate barrows in respect to their inter-location. Two more burial mounds have been excavated (Taniokoleva and Kurdova) and one was destroyed by the mines. Which is which, however, on the 10 possible hills is not clear. These three problems create difficulties for GIS analyses and comments on landscape and inter-site relations but discussions on archaeological evidence are still possible. Taniokoleva and Kurdova mogila are going to be discussed later (see below p. 302-303) but the general pattern of inter-barrows and barrow/settlement location is not possible to reconstruct given the present state of the data.

Archaeological evidence

The data for the burials in Manchova mogila is summarized in Table 6.11.1. Graves 7 and 8 are dated to the Roman period and are not included in the Table. The primary burial was considered to be grave 13, which was followed by grave 12.

Table 6.11.1 Evidence from Manchova mogila
No Stratigraphic position Body position Object in the grave Red ochre Grave feature Depth Date
1 In the mound Crouched Kantharos (AFig. 6.11.1A) No No 150 LBA
2 In the mound Crouched No Powder No 140 LBA
3 In the sterile Crouched Restorable cup with missing handle (AFig. 6.11.1C) Powder No 260 LBA
4 In the sterile Crouched Fragmented cup (AFig. 6.11.1B) No Pit; spot of ash in the North part 200 LBA
5 In the sterile Crouched Kantharos (AFig. 6.11.1D) No Pit 621 LBA
6 In the sterile Crouched No No Pit 300 EBA
9 In the sterile Crouched No No No 225 EBA
10 In the sterile Crouched No Powder No 250 EBA
11 In the sterile Crouched No No No 250 EBA
12 In the sterile Stretched on back No Powder Pit 260 EBA
13 In the sterile Crouched on back No Powder Pit 310 EBA

There is some discrepancy in the data sources (published text, illustrations and catalogue: (Kunchev 1991)). The graves in the mound were claimed to be four in the text, the illustration has five graves and the catalogue mentions only two graves present in the mound. Apart from graves 1 and 2, for which the information is consistent, I would assume that graves 9, 10 and 11 were also in the mound because a) their remains are illustrated and b) their depth is insufficient to reach the sterile. However, it remains unclear how graves of similar depth (Nos. 3, 4 and 12) were in the sterile, if, as stated, the burial mound was 3m in height. The only possible explanation is that the initial burial surface was uneven and the graves had their own small mounds later incorporated into one common heap. Such an explanation gains further support from the presence of LBA burials in the sterile, while there were EBA graves in the mound. In other words, the LBA burials in the sterile (Nos. 3 - 5) were made next to the earlier barrow, which was small and compact.

6.11.2 The site and its surrounding according to GIS analysis

Manchova mogila was the only barrow in Malka Detelina lands that has its name on the maps digitized for the purposes of the current study. This has made the GIS analysis of Manchova mogila possible.

The barrow was located on a hill at 140-164 masl (CDFig.394), with a North East aspect (CDFig.395) and a 4-5° slope (CDFig.396). The visibility from the site is good over the valley and with a consistent strip-like panorama over a gully and a hill South East of the site (CDFig.397). There are also three tiny visible strips to the South of Manchova mogila, as well as scattered spots over the Eastern hills and the Northeasternmost part of the study area. Goliamata and Malkata mogila, Kurdova barrow, Tcherniova mogila (all four locations) and the Goliama Detelina flat site are all visible from the barrow. One of the possible locations of Taniokoleva mogila is on the edge of a visible/invisible cell, while the other three are not visible at all.

The viewshed with an additional 3m that correspond to the height of the barrow is generally the same with one curious difference – the previously visible areas at the central part of the study region have become less visible (CDFig.398). Few visible spots to the North East part of the study area have appeared. The same five sites remained visible.

The pattern of diminishing visibility over the central part is repeated in the viewshed with an additional 4m-barrow height (CDFig.399) (see p.97-98).

The cost distance analysis results (CDFig.400) are summarized in Table 6.11.2:-

Table 6.11.2 Site distribution around Manchova mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Taniokoleva mogila 1
1 Goliama Detelina flat site, Taniokoleva mogila 2-4, Tcherniova mogila – all locations
2 Malkata, Goliamata, Ovchartsi and Kurdova barrows, Barrow 4
3 MIBC
4 Galabovo tell, Polski Gradets tell, Aldinova barrow
5 Atanasivanova mogila, Iskritsa pit site, Iskritsa dwelling site, Gudgova and Klisselika tells, Ovcharitsa I and II, Gonova barrow
6 Obrutchishte flat site, KMBC, Mednikarovo tell, Polski Gradets pit site

In summary, at the time of construction, the barrow was surrounded by two barrows and one settlement, though it is possible that the settlement appeared later than Manchova. The barrow distribution dominates the first four cost strips, where the next settlements appeared. The pattern is more dispersed during the LBA, when the closest contemporary sites were two barrows in the second cost strip. The next possibly contemporary sites were in the most distant accessibility zones (one or two settlements in the 5th cost strip, two mortuary sites in the last cost strip).

The logistical network represents a combination of the Gonova and Galabovo sites networks (CDFig.401). Another matching track is the path that crosses the study area straight to the South East from the barrow towards the sites in the Sokolitsa valley. The routes to Atanasivanova mogila (CDFig.82) (hence both the Iskritsa sites) and Gudgova mogila (CDFig.163) (hence the Klisselika tell) were discussed in sections 5.3.2 and 5.8.3. The same direct South East route is used to reach MIBC. As observed in previous case studies, one branch leads to MIBC1 (CDFig.402) and MIBC2 (CDFig.403) and another to MIBC3 (CDFig.404) and MIBC4 (CDFig.405). The general landscape visibility from the paths to the four barrows is similar – a good panorama over the Northern part of the Ovcharitsa valley, a consistent strip-like view over the central part of the study area and visible spots towards the North Eastern, Eastern and Southern parts of the study area (CDFig.406), (CDFig.407), (CDFig.408). All the paths share the same site visibility – six barrows and two settlements. The path to MIBC2 (CDFig.409) provides good visibility over the Sokolitsa valley, therefore over two more sites – the Iskritsa pit site and the Klisselika tell. Intervisibility between the barrows from the cemetery is very high – only MIBC1 is not seen from any of the paths to the other three barrows.

The path to Kurdova mogila matches (CDFig.410) to great extent the one from Goliama Detelina, so both paths share the same landscape and site visibility (CDFig.411).

The last path to be discussed is to Taniokoleva mogila, which follows the ridge of the hill for 1.2 km to the South East until the barrow is reached (CDFig.412). The panorama from the path and the site visibility is better than from the Goliama Detelina path (CDFig.413).

In summary, the combination of different although related landscape visibility with recurrent site visibility is valid for the viewsheds of the Manchova mogila logistical network.

6.11.3 Summary and discussion

All but one of the LBA burials contained ceramic grave goods, in contrast to the EBA burials that had no grave goods at all. Both fragmented and whole vessels were deposited in the graves and other forms of deposition (pits, scatters) were not mentioned. There is only one case of the use of fire products in LBA grave 4. Half of the EBA graves (10,12 and 13) had red ochre, as well as two of the LBA graves (2 and 3). Such diverse use of red ochre is observed only in this particular barrow.

The EBA graves in the sterile are in pits, while the ones in the mound are on the surface. The same pattern (with one exception) is also valid for the LBA burials.

In summary, the reconstruction of the barrow formation has determined four stages of vertical and horizontal expansion. The initial graves (6, 12 and 13) were dug into the sterile. It is not possible to establish their sequence and hence the nature of the mound (common or separate). The next EBA burials were on the mound surface and most probably had their own small mounds. The later LBA burials were dug into the sterile (graves 4 and 5) or laid on the surface (grave 3) next to the existing mound that, at a certain moment, was covered by a common mound (viz., covering all the EBA and the three LBA graves). Finally two more burials have taken place on the surface of the expanded mound that had contributed to the ultimate growth of Manchova mogila.

6.12 Taniokoleva mogila

6.12.1 General information and earlier studies

The barrow was excavated in 1977 and shares the summary publication of the barrows in the Maritsa Iztok region (Kunchev 1991). Altogether, nine burials have been excavated – seven inhumations and two cremations. Graves 6 and 9 were dated to the EBA (AFig. 6.4.1C); grave 4 to the Hellenistic period and the rest were from the Roman period. An additional mound was made after the Hellenistic burial.

Archaeological evidence

Grave 6 was a pit dug into the sterile at 230cm. The deceased was in a crouched position, with no red ochre or grave goods.

Grave 9 has the same stratigraphic parameters (pit - 230cm in the sterile) and was considered as the initial burial in the barrow. The deceased is crouched on the left side. There were no traces of red ochre. According to Kunchev (1991), a fragmentary urn with a tongue handle in this grave has parallels in tell Ezero. On this basis, the initial burial was dated to the EBA2 period.

The head orientation of the deceased points towards the Goliama Detelina flat site, on which basis it was suggested that the barrow is related to the settlement (Dimitrov 2000).

6.12.2 The site and its surrounding according to GIS analysis

Taniokoleva mogila is one of the barrows with a problematic location (see above p. 298). Four different locations are consistent with the only locational information – 200m West of the village of Malka Detelina. All of them are located on a hill at 140-164 masl (CDFig.414). Two of the possible locations are on a 4-5° slope, the other two on a 1-2° slope (CDFig.415). Three of the places have a North Easterly aspect, the fourth a Southern aspect (CDFig.416). GIS analysis was performed for all four locations. There are differences in both landscape and site visibility in these viewsheds. Taniokoleva 1 (which represents the barrow in the other GIS analysis) has a good panorama over the areas up to 5 km to the North West and up to 2.5 km to the South East of the site, which provides visibility over four barrows and one EBA settlement (CDFig.417). The panorama with an additional 2m (the actual height of the barrow) (CDFig.418) and 3m (if the barrow suffered some destruction) (CDFig.419) has the same site visibility, while the landscape to the South East is not visible any more (diminishing visibility is discussed in section 6.11.2). Taniokoleva 2 and 3 share similar visibility (CDFig.420), (CDFig.421), which is good over a gully and a hill in the central study area, patchy to the Eastern hills and with visible spots from 2.5 to 5 km North West of the site. Two barrows and one EBA settlement are visible from these two possible locations. The viewsheds with 2m and 3m additional height do not differ significantly from the viewsheds conducted from the surface (CDFig.422), (CDFig.423), (CDFig.424), (CDFig.425). It was not possible to perform visibility analysis for Taniokoleva 4, probably due again to the already mentioned landscape particularities4.

In summary, the exact location of Taniokoleva mogila was important for both its landscape and site visibility. The presence of Tcherniova mogila (all locations), Kurdova mogila and Goliama Detelina flat site in all the tested viewsheds may be interpreted as a deliberate pattern of barrow location, which provides a panorama over the three adjacent sites.

A cost surface analysis was made only for Taniokoleva 1 (CDFig.426) since, in previous cases (e.g., both Iskritsa sites), it was observed that adjacent sites have very similar cost distance results. The Taniokoleva 1 results are summarized in Table 6.12.1.

Table 6.12.1 Site distribution around Taniokoleva mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
0 Manchova mogila
1 Goliama Detelina flat site, Kurdova mogila, Tcherniova mogila 2/3
2 Malkata, Goliamata, Ovchartsi barrows, Barrow 4, Tcherniova mogila 1 and 4, MIBC
3 Iskritsa dwelling site
4 Galabovo Gudgova and Klisselika tells, Atanasivanova mogila, Iskritsa pit site,
5 Mednikarovo tell, Obrutchishte flat site, Aldinova barrow, Ovcharitsa I and II, Polski Gradets tell, KMBC
6 Gonova barrow, Polski Gradets pit site

In summary, Taniokoleva mogila was surrounded by barrows, the closest of which (in terms of cost) were visible from the site (mostly from Taniokoleva 1). The Goliama Detelina settlement is both visible and with easy access from the barrow, which may be interpreted as indicative of a possible link between the two sites.

The logistical network of Taniokoleva mogila (CDFig.427) consists of two main South and North routes, two paths that cross the study area from North to South, and four short individual tracks to adjacent sites. Apart from the path to Kurdova mogila (see p.307), all of the over tracks were discussed in previous case studies.

6.12.3 Summary and discussion

It important to point out that no red ochre was found and the deposited pottery was fragmented. Taniokoleva mogila is more likely to be connected with Goliama Detelina flat site, as both sites appear to be coeval within the EBA2 period. Such a claim is supported by the visual and accessibility connection between the two sites.

6.13 Kurdova mogila

6.13.1 General information and earlier studies

A barrow with the name of Kurdova mogila was excavated in 1977 (AFig. 6.4.1D). Apart from the difficulties in identifying the barrows in the village territory of Malka Detelina, there is an additional problem with this particular barrow. There is one burial mound with the same name (or with the consonant d is replaced by t) in the village territory of Ovchartsi. The latter is marked on the maps as a reliable toponym, while the barrow near Malka Detelina has no certain location. After detailed cartographic investigations, I can suggest that there were two barrows with a similar, or one and the same, name. The excavated barrow is not the one marked as a toponym and its exact location is not possible to establish. The barrow location was mentioned as 2 km South West of the village of Malka Detelina, while at the same time considered to belong to the barrow cemetery immediately West of the same village. As in the case of Taniokoleva mogila, the lack of location data affects the GIS part of the analysis but the archaeological evidence is still available for discussion.

However, in the case of Kurdova mogila, there is a huge discrepancy between the publication and the site diary. A recent detailed investigation has reconciled the data (Dimitrov 2000). The following description is a summary of this latest study.

Archaeological evidence

The burial evidence from Kurdova mogila is summarized in Table 6.13.1. All the graves are generally dated to the EBA but no arguments were presented. I assume that such a chronology was based on the common parallels of the burials in the Pit Grave culture.

Table 6.13.1 Burial evidence from Kurdova mogila
Grave No No of individuals Stratigraphic position Position of the body Grave feature Red ochre Grave particularities
5 5 Initial Crouched Pit N/A Two individuals on the pit base, the other three above them
4 1 Secondary Crouched Pit N/A Three flint tools in the chest area
3 1 Secondary Crouched Pit N/A A dog skeleton near the head
2 1 Secondary Crouched Pit N/A -

The mound was said to be created in one single episode, which most probably means that, after the initial mound, no more vertical expansion has occurred. The secondary graves most probably were dug into the mound and the pits were covered with only a thin layer of soil. A domed oven and two pits were also found in the mound. A part of the dome has been preserved up to 10cm in height. A large quantity of ash and charcoal was discovered in the oven. In front of the oven, there was one of the pits, which contained no archaeological material at all. The other pit was 150cm East of grave 5 and also contained a large quantity of ash and charcoal. It was interpreted as related to the collective grave either by purifying activities prior to the burial or by some kind of memorial practice. According to Dimitrov (2000), the evidence from grave 5 and the associated pit) is accepted to be a result of some kind of outbreak of disease, in which the rapid disposal of the deceased and their purification was very important. However, this is an over-specific interpretation, since material reference to the distinction between purity and pollution can take many forms (Douglas 1984).

The oven is claimed to be used for the preparation of ritual meat. The dog presence was discussed in terms of the dog as mediator between the world of living and the world of the dead, the dog as a property and/or the dog as a close friend of the deceased; however, no final canine conclusion was presented (Dimitrov 2000).

6.13.2 The site and its surroundings according to GIS analysis

Given the present state of the data, the barrow location cannot be established. Two points were chosen to present the possible location. One of the points was 1.5 - 2km South West of the village of Malka Detelina and a full set of GIS analyses was performed for it. The reason for this choice is a) the distance and direction mentioned in the publication and b) on the topographic map used for digitalization, there is a sign of a feature on that particular place, which in other cases marks the presence of a barrow. The second point could be any of the four possible locations of Taniokoleva mogila; that is why no special analyses were conducted but the results presented above were taken into account. The purpose of this cross-referenced GIS analysis (which was done for Tcherniova and Taniokoleva barrows, as well) is to establish to what extent the location of the barrow may affect its a) landscape characteristics and b) site interrelation.

According to the first possible location, Kurdova mogila is on a 2 - 3° slope (CDFig.428) with a North Easterly aspect (CDFig.429) and at an altitude of 164 – 189 masl (CDFig.430).

The panorama from the site is good over the Eastern hills, as well as over the hilly ridges in the central part of the study area. Manchova (CDFig.431), Goliamata mogila, Malkata mogila, Taniokoleva 2 and 3 and the Polski Gradets tell are all visible from the barrow. The line of sight between Kurdova mogila and Polski Gradets site is more than 10 km in length and I would suggest that most probably the tell itself was not clearly visible. The important result here is that the area in which the tell was located (hence the tell) was visible from the barrow in general. The visibility from 2m higher, which was the actual height during the excavations, added very few new visible areas and only one extra site – MIBC1 (CDFig.432). Generally, the same visibility is yielded by an additional 3m height (if the barrow was destroyed), which means that, while the barrow was growing, there was little improvement in landscape visibility and almost none in terms of site visibility (CDFig. 433).

The cost distance analysis results (CDFig.434) are summarized in Table 6.13.2:-

Table 6.13.2 Site distribution around Kurdova mogila
N of cost strip Sites located in the cost strip
1 MIBC, Taniokoleva mogila – all locations, Manchova mogila
2 Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Goliama Detelina flat site, Iskritsa dwelling site
3 Iskritsa pit site, Goliamata, Malkata, Ovchartsi barrows, Atanasivanova mogila, Klisselika, Gudgova and Mednikarovo tells
4 Galabovo tell, Obrutchishte flat site, KMBC
5 Aldinova, Polski Gradets tell
6 Ovcharitsa I and II, Gonova barrow, Polski Gradets pit site

Table 6.13.2 shows that the sites with easiest access from Kurdova mogila were mainly barrows. The biggest concentration of sites is in the third cost strip that unites sites from both river valleys. This means that the barrow was located in an area with equal accessibility from the Southern and the Northern part of the study region. A similar pattern was observed in the case of Barrow 4 and Ovchartsi barrow, which puts these three barrows in a special spatial location as a) link between the two microregions and b) interrelating the three barrows as landscape mediators. It is important to point out that, from the seven barrows, which surround Kurdova mogila in the1st and 2nd cost strips, only one or two are actually visible from the site. There seems here to be a contrast between ready accessibility and poor site inter-visibility.

If the barrow was located close to the former village of Malka Detelina, its landscape and sites visibility should have been much more restricted, as demonstrated by the previous analysis. It also should not have this specific landscape role of a mediator. Therefore, the precise location of Kurdova mogila was important for a) its landscape characteristics in terms of visibility and as a landmark, and b) its inter-site relation in terms again of visibility and site accessibility.

The logistical network repeats the track of the main North and South routes (CDFig.435). The only difference is the direction of the movement. There is one main path to the South of Kurdova mogila, which splits, 3 km after the barrow, into many individual paths leading to the sites in the Sokolitsa valley. Once the valley is reached, however, the tracks follow the main South route. There is a similar situation with the movement to the North. Most of the paths between Kurdova mogila and the other sites were discussed in previous case studies, with the exception of the paths to MIBC, Iskritsa and Taniokoleva mogila.

The path to the South of Kurdova mogila splits into several tracks after a 3-km route on the ridge to the South East. The Western branch continues to follow the ridge, first 300 m to the South West and then 1.2 km to the South East until it reaches MIBC1 (CDFig.436). The Eastern branch ascends for 1.1 km, when two parallel segments due South appear –one to MIBC3 (CDFig.437) and 4 (400m long) (CDFig.438), the other to MIBC2 (500m long) (CDFig.439). After the forks to MIBC2-4, the Eastern branch continues to ascend Southeastwards for 900m, when it turns South. The path descends for 2.5 km and then bifurcates – one to the South, to the dwelling part of Iskritsa (200m long) (CDFig.440) and the other to the West/ South West to the pit part of the Iskritsa site (400m long) (CDFig.441). Since the path is common almost to the point where it reaches the MIBC, it has similar landscape and site visibility. The panorama is good over the central and Eastern parts of the study area, with visible spots to the North of the Ovcharitsa valley and to the South of the Sokolitsa valley (CDFig.442). The paths to MIBC3 and 4 (CDFig.443) have better visibility to the South. The path to MIBC2 has a view over the South part of the Sokolitsa valley (CDFig.444). Three barrows and Polski Gradets pit site are visible from the paths. In addition to these sites, the Klisselika tell and the pit part of the Iskritsa site are visible from the path to MIBC2. There is an interesting intervisibility pattern between the barrows of the MIBC. From the path to MIBC1 (CDFig.445), none of the other three barrows are visible, while all four are visible from the paths to MIBC2-4. The continuation of the path that leads to both parts of the Iskritsa site shows good visibility over the Sokolitsa valley and all the sites located there, as well as to some areas South of it. MIBC3 and 4 are, however, not visible from the path, once again confirming the specific visual status of the MIBC.

The path to Taniokoleva mogila descends and ascends low ridges several times to the North East, over a total distance of 1.5 km (CDFig.446). The panorama from the path is good over the central and Eastern parts of the study area, with some visible spots to the North of the Ovcharitsa valley (CDFig.447). Four barrows, one EBA settlement and the Polski Gradets tell are visible from the path.

6.13.3 Summary and discussion

Kurdova mogila contains evidence for rare or unique practices in the Balkan EBA. Prior to this excavation, no more than two individuals had been found in a common grave. The domed oven is the first one to be discovered in a barrow and there are only two more cases of combined dog and human burials known in Bulgaria (Dimitrov 2000).

At the same time, Kurdova mogila shows traces of burial practices more typical of MI, such as the use of fire products (cf. the bonfires at Goliamata mogila, the hearths in MIBC), pit digging in the mound (e.g. Tcherniova mogila), crouched inhumation, and the creation of small burial mounds.

If the lack of information about red ochre is to be interpreted as the absence of this mineral, then it is very important to point out the total lack of red ochre. If this really was the case, it confirms the evidence from Tanoikoleva mogila and creates a pattern in which certain barrows are deliberately not furnished with red ochre – a deliberate rejection of a common EBA mortuary practice.

In summary, Kurdova mogila displays a combination of burial traits specific to Maritsa Iztok burial practices with traits which are rarely paralleled outside the region. This is found not only on the level of individual burials but also at the barrow level and probably relates to the negotiation of different forms of identity.

If a suggestion should be made for the possible location of the barrow, on the basis of the GIS results, I should accept the point at 1.5-2 km South of the former village of Malka Detelina as the most probable candidate.

6.14. Mednikarovo-Iskritsa barrow cemetery (MIBC)

6.14.1 General information and earlier studies

MIBC is located in the hilly area between the two valleys in the study region. It is discussed in Chapter 6, because the type and chronology of the site are more appropriately considered after a discussion of the sites in the Ovcharitsa valley.

The MIBC was excavated in 1992-93, when four out of the five known barrows have been investigated. The fifth barrow was completely destroyed by mining works (AFig. 6.14.1a). One more barrow located 2km to the East of MIBC2 (barrow 2) was considered to belong to the same cemetery but was not surveyed or excavated. All the four barrows suffered from intensive cultivation, which most probably resulted in a reduction of their height. Additionally, the mounds have been damaged by road construction and looting activities (AFig.6.14.2). On the basis of ceramic grave goods, the cemetery was dated to the EBA2/3 period. For the initial grave in barrow 4, it was suggested that it may have been made at the end of the EBA1 period, on the basis of parallels with graves with silver beads in North Bulgaria. The cemetery was assigned to the Lower Danube variant of the Pit Grave culture. The site has two publications that are summarized here in the following section (Panayotov and Alexandrov 1995; Alexandrov 1994).  

Archaeological evidence

At the time of the excavations, barrows 1 and 3 were 50cm in height, barrow 2 - 120cm and barrow - 480cm. The evidence from the graves and the features in the mounds is summarized in Tables 6.14.1 - 6.14.2:

Table 6.14.1. Burial evidence from MIBC  
N of barrow and N of grave N of individuals Stratigraphic position Body position Red ochre Objects in the grave Grave feature
Barrow1/grave1 (AFig. 6.14.1b) 1 In the sterile Crouched on back powder No Pit, 600 pebbles for mound/cairn
Barrow1/grave2 (AFig. 6.14.3 J-K) 2 In the mound and pebbles Crouched on back and Crouched on left Powder A jug, three middle size broken stones Pit
Barrow1/grave3 1 Secondary Crouched on left No No Pit, three rows of pebbles, soil mound
Barrow2/grave1 (AFig. 6.14.4a) 1 In the sterile Crouched on back Powder No Pit
Barrow2/grave2 1 Above grave 1 Powder No Pit
Barrow3/grave1 (AFig. 6.14.5b) 1 Above grave 2 Crouched on back No No Pit
Barrow3/grave2 (AFig. 6.14.3 A-H) 1 In the sterile Crouched on back powder Two dishes, two jugs, an amphorae, silver pendant Pit
Barrow4/grave1 (AFig. 6.14.4b) 1 In the sterile Crouched on back Powder 14 silver beads, two animal teeth (Afig.6.14.3 I) Pit
Barrow4/grave2 1 In the sterile and in the mound Crouched on back no no Pit
Table 6.14.2. Feature evidence from MIBC
N of barrow/n of feature Type of feature Stratigraphic position Related objects
Barrow 2/ feature 1 A hearth In the mound -
Barrow 2/feature 2 A hearth In the mound -
Barrow 3/feature 2 (AFig. 6.14.5a) A pit In the sterile and in the mound On the base dish and jug at the short northwest side; small jug and piece of red ochre at the long northeast side

6.14.2. The site and its surroundings according to GIS analysis

The data for the location of the barrows (CDFig.448), (CDFig.449), (CDFig.450) and their visibility is summarized in Tables 6.14.3 - 4. The different height figures correspond to a) the initial surface of the barrow; b) the actual height of the barrow, as discovered during the excavations; and c) the possible height in case of subsequent damage to the barrow.

Table 6.14.3 Landscape characteristics of each of the barrows of MIBC
Location MIBC1 MIBC2 MIBC3 MIBC4
Aspect West South Southwest Southwest
Slope 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2
Masl 164 – 179 179 – 194 164 – 179 164 - 179
Table 6.14.4 Sites visibility from the each of the barrows of MIBC
Barrow number Visibility from the surface Visibility from the actual height Visibility from 1m in addition
MIBC1 None (CDFig.451) None [(CDFig.452)](https://be-ja.or g/public/journals/2/assets/new-images/mibc5.jpg) MIBC2 [(CDFig.453)](https://be-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/new-ima ges/mibc6.jpg)
MIBC2 MIBC3, both Iskritsa sites, Klisselika tell (CDFig.454) MIBC1 and 3, both Iskritsa sites, K lisselika tell (CDFig.455) MIBC1, 3 and 4, both Iskritsa sites, Klisselika tell [(CDFig.456)](htt ps://be-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/new-images/mibc9.jpg)
MIBC3 MIBC2 and 4 (CDFig.457) MIBC2 and 4 [(CDFig.458)](https://b e-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/new-images/mibc11.jpg) MIBC2 and 4 [(CDFig.459)](https://be-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/n ew-images/mibc12.jpg)
MIBC4 MIBC2 and 3 (CDFig.460) MIBC2 and 3 [(CDFig.461)](https://b e-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/new-images/mibc14.jpg) MIBC2 and 3 [(CDFig.462)](https://be-ja.org/public/journals/2/assets/n ew-images/mibc15.jpg)

Table 6.14.4 shows that, for barrows 3 and 4, there is a recurrent pattern of sites visibility in all three stages of barrow development. MIBC3 is the only barrow in the cemetery with complete intervisibility with all other mounds. MIBC4 shares intervisibility with MIBC3 but becomes fully intervisible with barrow 2 only when the height of the latter is not reduced by later destruction.

Barrow 1 changes its visibility at the last stage of growth, at which point intervisibility appears with barrow 2. This means that the site was located in an area initially without any intervisibility with the other barrow places. Subsequently, when the barrow was already formed, intervisibility with barrow 2 was achieved.

The most complicated visibility pattern is observed for barrow 2, which has the best panorama among the barrows of this cemetery. Initially, the place where the barrow was created has visibility over three sites in the Sokolitsa valley and only one barrow in the cemetery. All the sites from the valley were earlier than the MIBC, which means that unidirectional visibility rather than true intervisibility was an issue. – with the later sites having visual contact with the earlier sites. And indeed there was not complete intervisibility between the sites in the valley and the MIBC2 – only between the dwelling part of the Iskritsa site and MIBC2. While the barrow was growing, one more barrow from the cemetery became visible (barrow 1) and, in the final stage of barrow formation (if we accept that there was a reduction of the height because of intensive cultivation), it has a panorama over all the three remaining barrows in the cemetery.

The cost distance analysis results (CDFig.463) are summarized in Table 6.14.5:-

Table 6.14.5 Site distribution around MIBC1
N of cost strip Site located in the cost strip
0 MIBC
1 Kurdova and Taniokoleva 2-4 barrows, Atanasivanova mogila, both Iskritsa sites, Klisselika and Gudgova tells
2 Obrutchishte flat site, Mednikarovo tell, KMBC, Manchova and Taniokoleva1 barrows
3 Galabovo tell, Tcherniova mogila – all locations, Goliama Detelina flat site, Barrow4, Goliamata and Malkata barrows
4 Ovchartsi barrow
5 Polski Gradets tell
6 Ovcharitsa I and II, Polski Gradets pit site, Aldinova
7 Gonova barrow

There are minor differences in the cost distance and hence the site distributions conducted for the four barrows. The site distribution for MIBC1 is given in Table 6.14.5. In the cost surface analysis for MIBC2 (CDFig.464), the Gudgova tell falls in the 2nd cost strip, Obrutchishte flat site and Ovchartsi barrow in the third cost strip and Gonova mogila in the sixth cost strip. MIBC3 (CDFig.465) and MIBC4 (CDFig.466) share very similar cost surfaces, with one and the same site distribution. It differs from the cost distance of MIBC2 only in the location of the KMBC, which is now in the third cost strip.

As already mentioned (see above, p.94-95), the delineation of the cost strips is flexible and it is meant to put the sites into a relative spatial relation. That means that the minor differences between the four barrows are not of crucial significance for the overall spatial relation of the MIBC to other sites. In the area of easiest access (1st and 2nd cost strips), there are sites of diverse type and chronology. Only three sites, all of which earlier than the cemetery, were visible from one of the barrows. Since the same barrow is the only one visible from all the remaining barrows, it is possible that the visual link between MIBC1, 3, 4 and MIBC2 transmitted the panorama over the Sokolitsa valley and the three sites.

In summary, the MIBC seems to present a locational pattern in which the different sites were visually integrated and settlements, pit-sites and barrows are evenly spread around the site. The cemetery location deviates from the previous pattern of barrow clustering far from any settlement and, together with the Goliama Detelina flat site, marks an important breakthrough in the spatial patterning of the Maritsa Iztok study region.

Most of the paths from the MIBC logistical network (CDFig.467), (CDFig.468), (CDFig.469), (CDFig.470) have already been discussed in Chapters 5 and 6. The paths that are going to be discussed in brief here are the tracks from MIBC to the Iskritsa site. There are two main routes to the dwelling and the pit part of Iskritsa site – one starting from MIBC1 (CDFig.471) and MIBC2 (CDFig.472), the other – from MIBC3 (CDFig.473) and MIBC4 (CDFig.474). The path from each individual barrow eventually splits to reach the two parts of Iskritsa site. Similar tracks lead to similar visibility – one pattern from the paths to the Iskritsa pit site (CDFig.476), (CDFig.480), (CDFig.482), another from the paths to the Iskritsa dwelling site (CDFig.475), (CDFig.479), (CDFig.481). The best landscape and site visibility is from the paths MIBC2 – Iskritsa site (pit part (CDFig.478), and dwelling part (CDFig.477)). The panorama from all the eight paths is mainly towards the Sokolitsa valley, which means that moving site locales to the South of the Ovcharitsa valley assures a view to the South - over the ancient, traditional settlement area. The spatial distinction from the initial BA occupation area of the Ovcharitsa valley is reinforced by the visual characteristics of the MIBC location, from which the Ovcharitsa valley is not visible at all. The gradual resettling of the old settlement area within the Sokolitsa valley was initiated first with the visual connection, later to be followed by the re-occupation of the LCA tells.

The central position of the site imposed a different direction of movement but the two main routes are the same. A very interesting pattern of inter-barrow visibility was observed from the paths to and from the cemetery. This occurs whichever approach route to MIBC is taken, but with different combinations of visible barrows. The arrival at the cemetery of MIBC is perhaps a culmination of impressions of a number of individual barrows, with their embedded personal identities

6.14.3 Summary and discussion

MIBC is the only documented case of a clustered mortuary monuments in the Maritsa Iztok study region (the claimed cemetery close to the village of Malka Detelina is not supported by any documented evidence). The cemetery as a whole presents the pattern of specific and more general mortuary practices, just as in the other barrows in the area. Barrow 1 comprises stone mounds/cairns, as in Gonova mogila (see above, p.250). Pottery, red ochre deposition and the use of fire/fire products are common feature in Maritsa Iztok burial places (see above, p.269). The body position, grave features and the burial and memorial practices also match observed mortuary patterns elsewhere in Maritsa Iztok (see above, p. 277 -278).

What appears to be specific for MIBC is the overlapping of graves in barrows 2 and 3. I would assume that such a practice was deliberate rather than occasional, since pit-digging of later graves would have disturbed any earlier burials – something that could easily have been avoided by burial elsewhere on the barrow. Instead, it may be inferred that deliberate digging into an earlier grave meant the establishment of interrelations between the ancestor and the newly-dead. Further evidence for structured links between the dead and the living is the missing hands in grave 1 in barrow 2. As with other cases of missing bones (e.g., the skull in Aldinova mogila: see above, p. 267), it is possible that the body parts were disarticulated from the deceased during post-mortem activities for retention among the living.

More complicated memorial activities were conducted in grave 2 in barrow 3, where, together with the removal of the hand, a fire was lit that burnt part of the skull and the left arm, as well as the animal bone found in one of the dishes deposited in the South East part of the grave. This particular use of fire is unique to the EBA in the Maritsa Iztok region and provides a close link between ancestor worship (removal of body parts) and the use of fire, not to destroy but to provide a link to other practices involving burning.


  1. There are two gaps in grave numbers since two of the collective burials were given successive numbers.↩︎

  2. the object are mentioned to be found in the square/ sondage↩︎

  3. The path to the Goliama Detelina settlement has already been discussed in section 6.9.2↩︎

  4. Constant error messages used to appear in each viewshed performed from the surface. When 1m and more were added to the surface, the visibility from the site was similar in direction but lesser in extent than the visibility from Taniokoleva 2 and 3. Due to time restrictions, the attempts to solve the problematic surface visibility of Taniokoleva 4 were abandoned.↩︎