Printer Friendly

New perspectives on the Varna cemetery (Bulgaria)--AMS dates and social implications.

The research team of this new project has begun the precision radiocarbon dating of the superimportant Copper Age cemetery at Varna. These first dates show the cemetery in use from 4560-4450 BC, with the possibility that the richer burials are earlier and the poor burials later in the sequence. The limited number of lavish graves at Varna, representing no more than a handful of paramount chiefs, buried over 50-60 years, suggests a stabilisation of the new social structure by the early part of the Late Copper Age.

Keywords: Copper Age, Eneolithic, Bulgaria, Varna, mortuary practice


The Varna cemetery was discovered by accident in 1972 in the Black Sea coastal city of the same name. An area of 7500 [m.sup.2] yielded 294 graves (Figure 1) dating to the Eneolithic (Copper Age) period. What marked the site as truly significant for world prehistory was the large accumulation of gold objects recovered. Over 3000 objects of a wide range of design and weighing more than 6kg were excavated. The excavator of the site, Ivan Ivanov (1975) claimed the material dated to the fifth millennium BC, and was therefore the earliest evidence for goldwork in the world (Ivanov 1975). In addition to the goldwork, the grave goods included 160 copper objects, more than 230 flint artefacts, about 90 stone objects, and more than 650 clay products, as well as over 12 000 Dentalium shells and about 1100 imported Spondylus shell ornaments (bracelets, necklaces and appliques). Amongst the burials were 43 graves with no human remains. Some of these so-called 'cenotaph' graves contained clay masks with gold objects placed strategically on the location of eyes, mouth, nose and ears. Although the specific social structure underpinning the Varna cemetery is disputed--from early state formation (Todorova 1976; Ivanov 1988; 1991) to chiefdom (Renfrew 1978)--there can be little doubt about the hierarchical nature of the social relations that resulted in such a massive accumulation of exotic prestige objects (Renfrew 1986; Chapman 2000).


The excavations of the Varna cemetery continued into the 1990s but a full publication of the site and its archaeological finds is still awaited. One of the major gaps in our understanding of the cemetery is its absolute chronology. Typological dating of many of the artefacts flora Varna have suggested a date in the last (III) phase of the Varna culture, viz., the second hall of the fifth millennium cal BC. Diagnostic Varna objects (Figure 2) showed close stylistic parallels with other artifacts in North East Bulgarian sites such as the cemeteries at Devnya (5), Goljamo Delchevo (6) and Durankulak (7), as well as the tells at Goljamo Delchevo (e.g., Levei XV: Todorova et al. 1975: 207) and Ovcharovo (particularly Leveis XI-XIII: Todorova et al. 1983, t. 78: 17; t. 80: 8, 13). However, typological dating is not particularly fine-grained and cannot provide estimates of the length of the use of the cemetery, nor whether graves with large or small numbers of grave goods are earlier in the sequence, nor even a sense of spatial differentiation in the dates of the graves. Some of these questions may be addressed with a large enough sample of AMS dates, which could provide valuable new information on the dynamics and external relations of the Varna cemetery. It was with these questions in mind that we began a project to date the Varna cemetery. In this article, we examine the results of the first group of AMS dates produced by that project.


The new AMS dates

Samples of human and animal bone were collected in late 2003 and again in mid-2004 from the Institute of Experimental Morphology and Anthropology, Sofia. The initial choice of samples for dating was based upon three principles: first, the availability of well-preserved human long bones; second, the investigation of graves in different zones of the cemetery; and, third, the dating of graves with a wide variety of quantities of grave goods (Table 1; Figure 2). In this dating programme, samples from graves in the eastern, central and northern parts of the cemetery are represented (Figure 1), as well as so-called 'rich' and 'poor' graves, the former including samples from the core cemetery.

Bones were prepared using the method outlined in Bronk Ramsey et al. (2004) and processed according to the standard Oxford Laboratory method (Bronk Ramsey & Hedges 1997; Bronk Ramsey et al. 2000). [[delta].sup.13] C values in this paper are reported with reference to VPDB (Vienna Pee Dee Belumnite) and [[delta.sup.15]N results are reported with reference to MR (Ambient Inhalable Reservoir)(Coplen 1994). AMS measurements were determined on either C[O.sub.2] or graphite, depending upon sample size. In general, the bone we dated from Varna was of poor preservation, with much less than 10 per cent of the original collagen. Bone which is < 1wt. per cent collagen is not usually dated at Oxford. In the case of Varna, the bone preservation ranged from 0.5 to 8.2wt. per cent collagen. C:N atomic ratios ranging from 2.9-3.5 are acceptable for radiocarbon and stable isotope analysis. The bones we initially dated had CNs that ranged from 3.0 to 3.2, which are all acceptable.

The AMS results are shown in Tables 2 and 3. Calibration using the INTCAL04 dataset (Reimer et al. 2004) and the OxCal 4.0.1 computer programme (Bronk Ramsey 1995; 2001) produced calendar ages ranging between 4600-4400 BC (Figure 3). One question that arises over the accuracy of these human bone dates is the possibility of a marine reservoir effect from the Black Sea or, indeed, the uptake of depleted (14) C from aquatic or freshwater fish (see Cook et al. 2001; Bonsall et al. 2004 in the Iron Gates region of the Balkans). The uptake of marine protein by humans can result in offsets from 'true age' since the concentration of radioactive carbon in oceanic reservoirs is not in equilibrium with the atmosphere. Indications are that the reservoir effect in the Black Sea is of the order of 380 years (Reimer & Reimer 2001), although the dataset is not extensive. Freshwater and aquatic fish can also contribute depleted (14) C in certain contexts, embracing errors of a similar magnitude. This is often linked with an enrichment in [[delta].sup.15]N values in bone. Honch et al. (2006) published a large (n = 55) dataset of nitrogen and carbon isotope values from Varna human bone which showed a predominant diet of [C.sub.3]-based terrestrial animal protein. There was some evidence, however, for a contribution to the diet of marine foods amongst a minority of individuals but the potential problems in precisely quantifying low marine uptake in human diets ought to be acknowledged (see Hedges 2004).

We dated three pairs of terrestrial animal and human bones excavated from within the same burial contexts to determine the extent of offsets between the two which could further indicate reservoir effects (burials 111, 117 and 143: Table 3). The data are few, owing to the limited availability of animal bones in safe contexts. In two instances the results from the animal and human are statistically different, with the human result older. This would be expected if there was a marine protein contribution in diet. OxA-13811, however, was a potentially problematic determination because of its very low collagen yield. The [[delta].sup.13]C value for OxA-13865 was the most enriched of the dated samples. Further work is needed and one of us (NVH) is currently working on using single amino acid stable isotopes to investigate this question further. Taken together, the possibility of small reservoir offsets amongst a minority of individuals must be entertained.

A Bayesian analysis (Buck et al. 1991; 1996) of the Varna radiocarbon determinations using OxCal 4.0.1 suggested an overall span of cemetery use of 83-178 years (Figure 4c: 68.2 per cent probability with a highest probability at 125 years); since there are no inter-cutting graves, all samples were treated as stratigraphically comparable. The probability distribution representing the boundary date prior to the use of the site as a cemetery (equivalent to the terminus post quem) was 4608-4551 BC (68.2 per cent probability) with the highest probability associated with 4560 BC. The distribution representing the boundary for the end of the use of the cemetery (ie. a terminus ante quem) was 4480-4430 BC (again at 68 per cent probability), with the highest probability of 4450 BC (Figure 4a; b).

However, the ceramic and metal grave goods at Varna point clearly to a typological date in the late phase of the Late Eneolithic. The absence of fit between the AMS dates and the typological determination of the material culture could be resolved by accepting the notion that material culture is not adopted monolithically across a region or regions but its adoption can be dated to different centuries in different regions. The acceptance of spatially variable transmission of material culture has been documented for the Vinca group in the West Balkans (Chapman 1981) and may well solve Boyadzhiev's (1995) supposed 'problem' of the overlap between dates for the Middle and Late phases of the Eneolithic.


The wider social significance of the new dates

The new Varna I dates have many important consequences, not least for the start, the duration and the end of the burials. The key implication is that the Varna Lakes area was a centre of social and cultural innovation within the Black Sea zone, with their enchained social relations transmitting innovations in ceramics and metal objects at different rates to other parts of the East Balkans. The development of a settlement network on the shores of the Varna Lakes at the start of the local Late Eneolithic stands in total contrast to the apparent absence of Middle Eneolithic settlement discard on those sites (pers. comm. I. Ivanov 1996) and may represent a colonisation of the Varna Lakes area over what is, on an archaeological time-scale, a relatively short period. One trajectory worth investigation is the possibility of diverse points of origin for the settlers, for example from both the coastal zone and inland North East Bulgaria, producing a melting-pot of cultural traditions leading to a regional centre of innovations. This would consolidate the links of the Varna Lakes area to several regional settlement networks in a novel way for East Balkan prehistory--what the late Andrew Sherratt called 'network linkage' (Sherratt 1972).



However, coeval with the major extension of this social network, the mortuary space at its centre at Varna was conceptually and spatially separated from any place of dwelling. The use of extramural cemeteries was already present in the Hamangia mortuary tradition of the Black Sea coast (viz., Late Neolithic and Earlier Eneolithic) (Todorova 2002)--a practice that spread inland at the start of the Late Eneolithic. This greater distancing of the mortuary from the domestic domain indicates a parallel and deeper decoupling of ritual practices, leading to the more intense ritualisation of mortuary practices than was evident in household mortuary ritual. But this separation denied preferential local or regional access to the core cemetery, constituting Varna I as a place with the possibility of becoming a supra-regional focus.


The absence of a linear or zonal spread of early graves to late graves across the cemetery is still a tentative finding, based upon only 16 human bone AMS dates. However, if confirmed, the spatial distribution of dates indicates the likelihood that all areas of the cemetery were receiving burials from the outset. This suggests that several communities were burying clusters of burials in different areas of the cemetery from an early stage of its use. If so, their links to a widespread social network of communities would have required the negotiation of their identities both within their own communities and between groups with recently developed exchange relations. The very establishment of a focal cemetery for the ancestors of this widespread network led to a strong development of place-value at Varna, in turn strengthening the network as an emergent and significant socio-political force.

Not surprisingly, the greatest emphasis in studies of Varna has been placed on the variability in grave good deposition. Three categories of graves may be identified with their social correlates: lavish graves, representing paramount chiefs, with grave goods made from a wide range of materials, including gold, copper and shell and with special mortuary insignia; rich graves, representing patrons, with more than six grave goods, including some objects made of copper or shell or gold; and poor graves, representing clients, with up to five grave goods but with no copper, gold or shell artefacts (for full details of the argument, see Chapman & Gaydarska 2006: Chapter 8). We modelled the radiocarbon likelihoods of graves with 'lavish + rich' grave goods compared with those with 'poor' graves. Both phases showed higher agreement indices for the groups separated into these categories than they did for all burials modelled as a single phase (Figure 5). The burials containing the widest range of grave goods also yielded the widest span (26-157 years at 68.2 per cent probability) while those containing smaller numbers or, indeed, no grave goods at all, produced a range of 0-71 years (68.2 per cent), with a highest probability of ~5 years. In addition, the 'poorer' burials all dated to after 4500 BC, whereas the 'wealthier' burials commenced slightly earlier (terminus post quem: 4632-4552 BC (68.2 per cent probability)). If validated, this tentative conclusion of 'poorer' graves coming later in the sequence would reinforce the significance of Varna as a centre of innovation at the beginning of the Late Eneolithic in terms of the massive accumulation of prestige mortuary exotica, with early elite graves creating the momentum for a successful inter-regional social network. Since many of the lavish graves are cenotaphs, without human skeletal remains, only one lavish grave has been dated--Grave 43 (Ox-13685), falling in the middle of the earlier group of dates. Clearly, further chronometric evidence, both in the form of additional radiocarbon dates and more detailed analyses, is required.


This Childean scenario confirms the alignment of the most striking grave assemblages with periods of intense social change--those periods where new status positions were under negotiation (Childe 1945). Given the overall duration of burial practices for just over a century, it may mean that the most spectacular graves were constructed over a period of less than 50 years--perhaps only one or two prehistoric generations. Continuing with the Childean analogy, the absence of the superordinate dimension in the later graves at Varna I would suggest a more stable social structure, with a reduced level of competition for elite roles (Childe 1945). The 'rich' and 'poor' graves may be categorised as patrons and clients, in a system that emerged in the Late Eneolithic once there was a sufficient number of prestige metal and shell goods in the exchange network. This phase also may well not have lasted much more than 50-60 years--two or three generations.

The new AMS dates suggest that the highest probability of the duration of Varna I is just over a century--or four prehistoric generations. Considering the number of graves, which would certainly have amounted to over 300 and perhaps exceeded 350 graves, this is a short timespan of use--probably shorter than most archaeologists would have supposed. This represents a time/place concentration of burial, with an average of three to four burials per annum--much higher than most other prehistoric cemeteries (cf. Branc: an estimated 3-6 burials in 4 years: Shennan 1975; Tiszapolgar-Basatanya: an estimated 1 burial every 3-6 years: Forenbaher 1993; Mokrin: an estimated 3-4 burials in 4 years: Rega 19978). While this concentrated period limited the time-depth of the ancestral presence at Varna to four generations, the frequency of burial acts would have enhanced the abilities of the communities to compare and contrast the quantities of grave goods buried with the newly-dead, as well as deepening the personal, emotional and kinship links between mourners at successive funerals. It would be important to estimate the spatial range of the Varna social network, in terms of the range of communities having the right to bury their dead at Varna I. A large number of medium-sized communities, each suffering one or two bereavements per annum, may well have buried only a fraction of their newly-dead at Varna I, representing a prior selection of individuals with rights to be buried at Varna I.

The limited number of lavish graves at Varna, representing no more than a handful of paramount chiefs, buried over 50-60 years, suggests a stabilisation of the new social structure by the early part of the Late Copper Age. The presence of both rich and poor graves in other smaller cemeteries (Lichardus 1988; Chapman 1996) suggests that the patron-client system had become integrated into the social structure as an unproblematic part of everyday practice. However, the structural implications of hierarchical relationships for fractal personhood were severe, leading to increasing tensions in the later part of the Climax Copper Age.

One serious result of these social tensions was the end of the burial tradition at Varna. However, even though the sacred place was abandoned, with minimal signs of re-use or re-occupation at any rime in prehistory, the communities whose dead found their final resting-place at Varna continued in existence. According to the calibrated radiocarbon timescale calculated by Boyadzhiev (1995: Table 4), the Late Eneolithic period in Eastern Bulgaria lasted until the end of the fifth millenium cal BC, leaving a long period of time perhaps 20 generations--during which 'Late Eneolithic' material culture continued to be made, exchanged and consumed elsewhere. It is likely that the caesura in burial tradition at Varna I signalled the diminution of the supra-regional enchained network underpinning the provision of elite goods. Nonetheless, objects were moved from region to region in some quantity (Pernicka et al. 1993; 1997; Gale et al. 2000), suggesting the long-term survival of the inter-regional network.


The new radiocarbon series we have obtained from the Varna I cemetery fits at the early end of the wide limits of the chronology proposed by the late Ivan Ivanov and Maya Avramova (2000: 12) for the cemetery (4600-4200 BC). Our determinations date Late Eneolithic graves from the Varna cemetery to ~4560-4450 BC. This is a period coeval with the Middle Copper Age on other sites and in other regions, as defined by Boyadzhiev (1995: 179 & Table 4). The Varna dates have two important consequences. First, they advance by one or two centuries the beginning of the Late Copper Age in the Black Sea zone. Secondly, they demonstrate that the start of burial practices at Varna dates to the very beginning of the Late Eneolithic and not as late as some Bulgarian colleagues have thought. The third implication is that the adoption of similar ceramic styles and metal objects may have occurred at different rates in different parts of the East Balkans, with more rapid developments in a centre of social and cultural innovation such as the Black Sea zone.

Our results suggest that the highest probability of use of the cemetery is just over a century (a range of 83-178 years at 68.2 per cent probability). Considering the number of graves (almost 300), this is a short timespan of use--probably shorter than most archaeologists would have supposed. This time-span has implications for the range of communities having the right to bury their dead at Varna. Moreover, we could detect no spatial distribution of dates, indicating the likelihood that all areas of the cemetery were receiving burials from the same time, i.e. there was no linear or zonal spread of early graves to late graves across the cemetery. This is perhaps a sign that several communities were burying clusters of burials in different areas of the cemetery from an early stage of its use. We investigated whether or not there was any significant difference between the age of the dated burials that contained few grave goods, and those that contained more significant mortuary offerings. We found that burials containing few deposited artefacts tended towards the later phase of use of the cemetery. If validated, this tentative conclusion could reinforce the significance of Varna as a centre of innovation in terms of the massive accumulation of prestige mortuary exotica.

It should be emphasised, of course, that, since the new dates from Varna represent only a fraction of the total of 294 burials (just over 5 per cent), our conclusions are preliminary at this stage. These analyses are only the beginning of what we hope will be a long collaborative research programme in which further dates are obtained from human bone remains from this, and other sites, to provide the secure chronology that is merited by such an important region in prehistoric Europe.


This project could not have been initiated without the friendly co-operation of the Varna Archaeological Museum and its staff, and the BAN Institute for Experimental Morphology & Anthropology, Sofia, and its staff. The staff of the ORAU, University of Oxford are also thanked. Prof. C. Bronk Ramsey (ORAU) made useful comments on the script.


BONSALL, C., G.T. COOK, R.E.M. HEDGES, T.F.G. HIGHAM & C. PICKARD. 2002. Radiocarbon and Stable Isotope Evidence of Dietary Change from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages in the Iron Gates: New Results from Lepenski Vir. Radiocarbon 46: 293-300.

BOYADZHIEV, Y. 1995. Chronology of prehistoric cultures in Bulgaria, in D. Bailey & I. Panayotov (ed.) Prehistoric Bulgaria: 149-92. Madison, Wisc: Prehistory Press.

BRONK RAMSEY, C. 1995. Radiocarbon calibration and analysis of stratigraphy: The OxCal program. Radiocarbon 37: 425-30.

--2001. Development of the radiocarbon calibration program OxCal. Radiocarbon 43: 355-63.

BRONK RAMSEY, C. & R.E.M. HEDGES. 1997. Hybrid ion sources: Radiocarbon measurements from microgram to milligram. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 123: 539-45.

BRONK RAMSEY, C., P.B. PETTITT, R.E.M. HEDGES, G.W.L. HODGINS & D.C. OWEN. 2000. Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system: Archaeometry Datelist 30. Archaeometry 42(2): 459-79.

BRONK RAMSEY, C., T.F.G. HIGHAM, A. BOWLES & R.E.M. HEDGES. 2004. Improvements to the pretreatment of bone at Oxford. Radiocarbon 46: 155-63.

BUCK, C.E., W.G. CAVANAGH & C.D. LITTON. 1996. Bayesian approach to interpreting archaeological data. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

BUCK, C.E., J. KENWORTHY, C.D. LITTON & A.F.M. SMITH. 1991. Combining archaeological and radiocarbon information: a Bayesian approach to calibration. Antiquity 65: 808-21.

CHAVMAN, J. 1981. The Vinca culture of south east Europe. Studies in chronology, economy and society (British Archaeological Reports International Series 117). I-117. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

--1996. Enchainment, commodification and gender in the Balkan Neolithic and Copper Age. Journal of European Archaeology 4: 203-42.

--2000. Fragmentation in archaeology. People, places and broken objects in the prehistory of south-eastern Europe. London: Routledge.

--2000a. Tensions at funerals. Mortuary archaeology in later Hungarian prehistory. Budapest: Archaeolingua.

CHAPMAN, J. & B. GAYDARSKA. 2006. Parts and wholes. Fragmentation in prehistoric context. Oxford: Oxbow.

CHILDE, V.G. 1945. Directional changes in funerary practices during 50,000 years. Man 4: 13-9.

COOK, G.T., C. BONSALL, R.E.M. HEDGES, K. MCSWEENEY, V. BORONEANT & P.B. PETTITT. 2001. A freshwater diet-derived 14C reservoir effect at the Stone Age sites in the Iron Gates gorge. Radiocarbon 43(2A): 453-60.

COPLEN, T.B. 1994. Reporting of stable hydrogen, carbon and oxygen isotopic adundances. Pure and Applied Chemistry 66: 273-6.

FORENBAHER, S. 1993. Radiocarbon dates and absolute chronology of the central European Early Bronze Age. Antiquity 67:218-20 & 235-56.

GALE, N., S. STOS-GALE, RADOUNTCHEVA, I. IVANOV, P. LILOV, T. TODOROV & I. PANAYOTOV. 2000. Early metallurgy in Bulgaria. Godishnik Nov Bulgarski Universitet, IV-V: 102-68.

HEDGES, R.E.M. 2004. Isotopes and red herrings: comments on Milner et al. and Liden et al. Antiquity 78: 34-7.

HONCH, N.V., T.F.G. HIGHAM, J. CHAPMAN, B. GAYDARSKA & R.E.M. HEDGES. 2006. A palaeodietary investigation of carbon (14C/14C) and nitrogen (14C/14C) in human and animal bones from the Copper Age necropoleis of Varna and Durankulak, Bulgaria. Journal of Archaeological Science 33 (11): 1493-504.

IVANOV, I. 1975. Razkopki na Varnenskiya eneoliten nekropol prez 1972 g. Izvestia na Narodniya Muzej Varna 11: 1-16.

--1988. Die Ausgrabungen des Graberfeldes von Varna, in A. Fol & J. Lichardus (ed.) Macht, Herrschaft und Gold: 49-66. Saarbrucken: Moderne-Galerie des Saarlands-Museum.

--1991. Der Bestattungsritus in der chalkolitischen Nekropole von Varna (mit einem Katalog der wichstigsten Graber), in J. Lichardus (ed.) Die Kupferzeit als historische Epoche (Saarbrucker Beitrage zum Altertumskunde 55): 125-50. Saarbrucken: Saarland Museum.

IVANOV, I. & AVRAMOVA, M. 2000. Varna necropolis. The dawn of European civilization. Sofia: Agato.

LICHARDUS, J. 1988. Der Westpontische Raum und die Anfange der kupferzeitlichen Zivilisation, in A. Fol & J. Lichardus (ed.) Macht, Herrschaft und Gold: 79-130. Saarbrucken: Moderne-Galerie des Saarlands-Museum.

PERNICKA, E., F. BEGEMANN, S. SCHMITT-STRECKER & A. WAGNER. 1993. Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age copper artefacts from the Balkans and their relation to Serbian copper ores. Praehistorische Zeitschrift 68/1:1-54.

PERNICKA, E., F. BEGEMANN, S. SCHMITT-STRECKER, H. TODOROVA & I. KULEFF. 1997. Prehistoric copper in Bulgaria. Eurasia Antiqua 3:41-180.

REGA, E. 1997. Age, gender and biological reality in the Early Bronze Age cemetery at Mokrin, in J. Moore & E. Scott (ed.) Invisible people and processes. Women and children into European archaeology: 229-47. Leicester: Leicester University Press.


REIMER, P.J. & R.W. REIMER. 2001. A marine reservoir correction database and on-line interface. Radiocarbon 43:461-3.

RENFREW, C. 1978. Varna and the social context of early metallurgy. Antiquity 52: 199-203.

--1986. Varna and the emergence of wealth, in A. Appadurai (ed.) The social life of things: 141-68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

SHENNAN, S.E. 1975. The social organization at Branc. Antiquity 49: 279-88.

SHERRATT, A. 1972. Socio-economic and demographic models for the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Europe, in D.L. Clarke (ed.) Models in archaeology: 477-542. London: Methuen.

TODOROVA, H. 1976. Eneolit Bolgarii. Moskow: Nauka. --(ed.) 2002. Durankulak, Bd. II. Die prahistorischen Graberfelder. Sofia: Anubis.

TODOROVA, H., S. IVANOV, V. VASILEV, M. HOPF, G. KOHL & H. QUITTA. 1975. Selishnata mogila pri Goljamo Delchevo. Razkopki i Prouchvaniya 5. Sofia: BAN.

TODOROVA, H., VASILEV, V., Z. JANUSHEVICH, M. KOVACHEVA & P. VALEV. 1983. Ovcharovo. Razkopki i Prouchvaniya 9. Sofia: BAN.

TODOROVA-SIMEONOVA, H. 1971. Kasnoeneolitnijat nekropol kraj grad Devnya--Varnensko. Izvestia na Narodniya Muzej Varna 7:3-40.

(1) Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Dyson Perrins

(2) Building, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK

(3) Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

(4) Regional Museum of History--Varna, 41 Maria Louiza Blvd., 9000 Varna, Bulgaria Institute of Experimental Morphology and Anthropology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, bl. 25, Acad. Bonchev

(5) For example, grave 4, see Todorova-Simeonova 1971, t. XL: 17; grave 18--Todorova--Simeonova 1971, t. XIII: 33; grave 24--Todorova--Simeonova 1971, table XIII: 25).

(6) See grave 31 (Todorova et al. 1975: 241, table 129: 2).

(7) For example, graves 7, 612, 620, 868, 1104, 1165 and 1175 (Todorova 2002).

(8) There are no radiocarbon dates for Branc and estimates for the duration of the cemetery with its 308 graves range from 200 to 400 years (Shennan 1975). The radiocarbon dates for Basatanya of 4500-3600 cal BC suggest a duration of 900 years for the 154 graves but critics suggest this duration is far too long (Forenbaher 1993; Chapman 2000a). The dates of 2100-1500 cal BC for Mokrin combine with the estimate that the 312 excavated graves form 1/2 to 2/3 of the total cemetery (Rega 1997).

Tom Higham (1), John Chapman (2), Vladimir Slavchev (3), Bisserka Gaydarska (2), Noah Honch1, Yordan Yordanov (4) & Branimira Dimitrova (4)
Table 1. Grave information and descriptions of associated grave goods
of samples dated at ORAU(for selected finds, see Figures 2-3).

Grave No. Description
Grave 10 The depth of the burial pit is 1.80m. Contracted
 inhumation of a 25-30-year-old male, placed on the
 left side, oriented to 70[degrees]. Grave
 goods--fragments of a clay vessel and a flint blade.
Grave 11 The depth of the burial pit is 1.11-1.26m. Contracted
 inhumation of a young female, placed on the right
 side, oriented to 38 [degrees]. Grave goods--lumps of
 red ochre, two clay lids and three clay vessels,
 copper and bone rings, a copper needle, a flint blade
 and a necklace of cylindrical lignite beads.
Grave 43 The depth of the burial pit is 2.20m. Extended
 inhumation of a 40-50-year-old male, with a height of
 c. 1.70m, oriented to 24-. The rich grave goods
 comprise: gold earrings and circular appliques used
 for the ornaments of a head-dress. Two gold bracelets
 on both forearms, with a Spondylus bracelet on the
 left forearm, broken in two pieces and repaired with
 gold plates. Gold-ring bracelets on both wrists. The
 deceased was buried in clothes trimmed with gold and
 carnelian beads and circular gold appliques. On the
 thorax, there was a large circular gold applique.
 Above the left side of the pelvis, there were two
 rectangular gold plates. On the right side of pelvis,
 there was a gold penis sheath. Above each patella was
 one circular gold applique.
 West of the skull, there was a clay bowl. East of the
 skull there were golden fittings for a quiver and a
 clay pedestal. On the left side of the skeleton was a
 bow, with its gold fittings, and two spears, one with
 a flint point, the other with a copper point. On the
 left forearm, there were two bone needles. In his
 right hand, the deceased held a stone axe-sceptre,
 whose handle had been inserted into gold tubes and
 with a lid. On the right side, there was a flint
 blade above his pelvis. One more flint blade was
 placed on the pelvis, with a third on the left side,
 by the left femur. Between the knee joints, there were
 copper and stone axes and a stone adze. Left of the
 left patella, there was a copper adze, awl and needle
 and a stone adze. The remains of a clay vessel was
 placed in the grave-fill.
 It is the richest inhumation grave in the whole
 cemetery. This fact, together with the axe-sceptre
 and gold penis sheath, suggests that the leader-priest
 of the Varna community was buried here.
Grave 44 Heavily damaged by agricultural works. The depth of the
 burial pit is 0.95-1.03m. Extended inhumation without
 grave goods.
Grave 94 The depth of the burial pit is 0.69-0.84m. Extended
 inhumation, oriented to 43 [degrees], with the head
 facing North. Grave goods-a decomposed clay vessel.
Grave 111 The depth of the burial pit is 1.50-1.68m. Extended
 a 30-35-year-old male, oriented to 39[degrees].
 Grave goods two antler hammer-axes, unidentified
 antler tool, stone adze, five clay vessels and lumps
 of yellow ochre.
Grave 112 The depth of the burial pit is 1.12-1.30m. Extended
 inhumation, oriented to 20[degrees]. Grave goods-a
 copper needle polished limestone adze (Fig. 2: 2),
 a heavily destroyed deer antler tool, a necklace of 3
 beads from metamorphosed ultrabasite (Fig. 2: 6) and 11
 Spondylus beads (Fig. 2: 7), five clay vessels, only
 two of them complete (Figs. 2: 3, 5) and small
 fragments of a ceramic sieve.

Grave 117 The depth of the burial pit is 1.30-1.40m. Extended
 inhumation of an adult male, oriented to 29[degrees].
 Grave goods-copper awl, flint blade, an antler
 hammer-axe, two Spondylus bracelets and four clay
Grave 121 The depth of the burial pit is 1.05-1.17m. Contracted
 inhumation on the right side, oriented to
 35[degrees]. Grave goods--two decomposed clay vessels.
Grave 125 The depth of the grave pit is 0.81-0.89m. Extended
 position, oriented to 23[degrees]. Grave goods--a
 decomposed clay vessel.
Grave 137 The depth of the grave pit is 1.45-1.60m. Extended
 inhumation, oriented to 45[degrees]. Grave goods--one
 clay vessel.
Grave 143 The depth of the burial pit is 2.60m. Extended
 inhumation of a young male (16-20 years), oriented to
 28--flint. Grave goods a gold crescentic plate, a
 copper axe and an awl, a blade and a scraper, stone
 adze, an antler hammer-axe, a necklace of carnelian,
 lignite and Spondylus beads, two Spondylus bracelets,
 six clay vessels and lumps of red ochre.

Grave 158 The depth of the burial pit is 1.20-1.30m. Contracted
 inhumation of an infant, placed on the right side,
 oriented to 3[degrees]. Grave goods--marble necklace,
 Spondylus and metamorphosed ultrabasite beads, four
 Spondylus bracelets and three clay vessels. The
 deceased has been buried in clothes trimmed with
 Spondylus appliques.

Grave 215 The depth of the burial pit is 0.89-0.96m. Extended
 inhumation of a young adult of uncertain sex, oriented
 to 34[degrees]. Grave goods--two flint blades, an
 antler tool (? awl) and two clay vessels.
Grave 225 The depth of the burial pit is 0.39-0.42m. Extended
 inhumation of an adult, probably female, buried with
 sherds from one vessel.
Grave 255 The depth of the grave pit is 0.65-0.93m. Extended
 inhumation of an adult, probably female, oriented
 to 352-. Grave goods--a gold pendant (Fig. 2: 12),
 a copper axe-hammer of the Coka-Varna type
 (Fig. 2: 9), a copper needle (Fig. 2: 11), a flint
 scraper (Fig. 2: 10) and a polished stone adze
 (Fig. 2: 8) were found.

Table 2. Human bone AMS dates from the Varna necropolis. The first
five dates were sampled in Varna in late 2003 and dated in 2004 at
ORAU, the remainder were collected in May 2004 from a wider range
of burials from previously unsampled areas (Figure 1).Burial no.

Burial no. OxA no. age BP

94 13250 5626 [+ or -] 31
112 13251 5702 [+ or -] 32
121 13252 5672 [+ or -] 34
125 13253 5685 [+ or -] 33
255 13254 5732 [+ or -] 33

43 13685 5720 [+ or -] 29
11 13686 5639 [+ or -] 32
10 13687 5569 [+ or -] 32
158 13688 5787 [+ or -] 30
215 13691 5668 [+ or -] 32
44 13692 5657 [+ or -] 30
225 13693 5660 [+ or -] 29
137 13694 5654 [+ or -] 36

Burial no. [delta.sup.13] [delta.sup.15] C:N ratio
 [per thousand] [per thousand]

94 -19.3 10.0 3.2
112 -18.6 10.5 3.1
121 -18.9 9.7 3.2
125 -18.6 9.9 3.0
255 -18.6 10.4 3.2

43 -18.5 11.0 3.2
11 -19.3 10.4 3.2
10 -19.1 11.4 3.2
158 -18.9 9.8 3.3
215 -19.8 10.8 3.2
44 -19.1 10.8 3.2
225 -19.8 9.1 3.2
137 -19.8 10.9 3.2

Burial no. Wt. % coll yld (mg) % carbon

94 3.7 26.1 42.8
112 1.2 9.4 39.9
121 1.4 7.6 36.1
125 3.0 19.6 43.0
255 2.5 14.2 44.3

43 5.0 31.6 44.7
11 2.5 13.1 44.9
10 0.9 5.0 41.9
158 2.0 11.0 42.7
215 1.0 6.5 42.9
44 4.0 23.6 43.6
225 5.5 30.0 43.8
137 5.8 35.1 44.8

Table 3. Dated human/animal pairs, measured to determine possible
reservoir offsets in human bone from the Varna site. The animal bone
 from B143 may derive from a fragment of human bone, given its
isotopic values which mirror those from the human individual. Stable
isotope values from Burial 111 (human) are duplicate analyses,
whilst those from burial 143 (animal) and 117 (human) are measured
in triplicate. Burial 143 (human) results are single measurements.
Animal collagen from burials 111 and 117 were not analysed for
nitrogen isotopes.

Burial no. OxA no. Bone age BP

111 13865 Human 5855 [+ or -] 34
111 13846 Animal 5757 [+ or -] 34
117 13848 Human 5766 [+ or -] 36
117 13811 Animal 5530 [+ or -] 36
143 13689 Human 5690 [+ or -] 32
143 13690 Animal 5700 [+ or -] 30

Burial no. [delta.sup.13]C [delta.sup.15]C CN
 [per thousand] [per thousand]
111 -18.3 11.3 3.2
111 -19.4 n.d. 3.2
117 -19 10.2 3.2
117 -20.2 n.d. 3.3
143 -19.7 9.7 3.2
143 -19.7 10.1 3.2

Burial no. Wt% coil yld (mg) % carbon

111 8.2 58.9 43.8
111 2.4 16.5 42.8
117 2.7 18.6 42.4
117 0.5 3.2 41.8
143 1.0 6.5 43.0
143 2.6 17.9 43.1
COPYRIGHT 2007 Antiquity Publications, Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Research
Author:Higham, Tom; Chapman, John; Slavchev, Vladimir; Gaydarska, Bisserka; Honch, Noah; Yordanov, Yordan;
Geographic Code:4EXBU
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Previous Article:The age of Stonehenge.
Next Article:Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar.

Related Articles
The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Ukraine: new radiocarbon determinations for the cemeteries of the Dnieper Rapids Region.
Henrieta Todorova (ed.). Die prahistorischen Graberfelder (Durankulak II; 2 volumes).
DECISION DELAYED ON MICHAEL APPEAL; Verdict hope within 4 weeks.
IRISH DAILY Mirror PROPERTY IRELAND: HOME ABROAD - McMullens Village, Black Sea Bulgaria; investment and holiday properties overseas.
Cez Bulgaria.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters