DigIt Volume 2, Issue 1 Journal of the Flinders Archaeological Society

DigIt Volume 2, Issue 1 Journal of the Flinders Archaeological Society
Volume 2, Issue 1
Journal of the
Flinders Archaeological Society
June 2014
ISSN 2203-1898
Original research articles
The Dead Beneath the Floor: The use of space for burial in the Dominican Blackfriary, Trim, Co. Meath, Ireland
Emma M. Lagan
The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain: An introduction to the site and the importance of awareness raising towards
successful preservation
Melanie Münzner
New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process
Claire Filet
Yup’ik Eskimo Kayak Miniatures: Preliminary notes on kayaks from the Nunalleq site
Celeste Jordan
The Contribution of Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük to Notions of Territory and Group Mobility in
Prehistoric Central Anatolia
Sonia Ostaptchouk
Figuring Out the Figurines: Towards the interpretation of Neolithic corporeality in the Republic of Macedonia
Goce Naumov
Research essay
Inert, Inanimate, Invaluable: How stone artefact analyses have informed of Australia’s past
Simon Munt
Field reports
Kani Shaie Archaeological Project: New fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan
Steve Rennette
A Tale of Two Cities
Ilona Bartsch
An Interview with Brian Fagan
Jordan Ralph
Spencer and Gillen: A journey through Aboriginal Australia
Gary Jackson
The Future’s as Bright as the Smiles: National Archaeology Student Conference 2014
Chelsea Colwell-Pasch
ArchSoc news
Journal profile: Chronika
President’s Address
What an exciting and transformative 6 months for Dig It! Our
Journal simultaneously became peer-reviewed, international,
and larger – including more pages and including more people
into the editorial process.
I would firstly like to say welcome to our new and continuing
members for 2014. We look forward to delivering an outstanding
service of both professional development and social networking
to our Society’s members. I would like to thank the 2013
committee for their efforts in providing a great network for both
students and professionals. ArchSoc continues to be the largest
and most active student archaeological society in Australia, a
feat that has been recognised by other institutions around the
It has been an ever rewarding experience, and I look forward to
holding in my hands the printed Journal with 7 research papers
from authors in 5 countries; 2 field reports; 2 conference and
website reviews; 1 interview with a veteran of archaeology; and
a friendly ‘hello’ from a fellow archaeology student journal from
Buffalo, US.
A number of ArchSoc and Departmental events have kept our
Society busy throughout the start of the year. These events
include the Digger’s Shield cricket match against the Paleontology
Society, the National Archaeology Student Conference (NASC)
hosted at Flinders University, the Ruth and Vincent Megaw
Annual Lecture in Archaeology and Art, presented by Professor
Emeritus Brian Fagan, and recently, the maritime-themed
annual pub crawl. We are hoping to run a field exercise later in
the year, details to be advised. ArchSoc activities are displayed on
the notice board outside HUMN 112 and details are sent out via
our mailing list <[email protected]> so keep an eye out
for future events.
I would like to extend the warmest ‘thank you’ to my three
congenial fellow editors Jordan Ralph, Antoinette Hennessey
and Matthew Ebbs for their drive, motivation, ingenious ideas
and hard work. To the authors for trusting us with their papers
and spending days and nights improving them. To the permanent
review panel consisting of Rhiannon Agutter, Amy Batchelor,
Robert DeWet-Jones, Anna Foroozani, Simon Munt, Dianne
Riley, Zoe Robinson, Fiona Shanahan, Rhiannon Stammers,
Isabel Wheeler for their gentle language editing. To the
anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback. To ArchSoc
for their financial, organisational and emotional support.
As some of our returning members may notice, Dig It has
now become a peer-reviewed journal. As our membership has
grown this year, we are also gaining a number of international
readers and contributors. The editorial team welcomes your
contributions for future issues of Dig It. I would encourage our
members to publish here where many of your fellow peers can
read up on what other members are conducting research on.
Dig It intends to provide opportunities for professional
development to young researchers who wish to familiarise
themselves with the different roles in the publishing process,
from writing over editing and layouting through to reviewing.
As it turns out, the greatest learning experience was probably had
by us editors, after all – and we would like to thank everybody
else involved in the Journal for allowing us to transform an idea
sketched in December 2013, through trial and error and hard
work, into something to be proud of. With the mouse still dizzy
from the final layouting work, we are looking forward to the next
challenge that will be Dig It Volume 2, Issue 2.
Now in our 22nd year of existence, the Flinders Archaeological
Society will continue to flourish, bringing out the best in our
members for the industry of tomorrow. Get involved when you
can! We are always looking for volunteers to lend a hand, generate
new ideas, help run social events and professional development
opportunities, or simply come along and show some support. I
hope to see all of you around some time on campus or at one
of our many events. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@
FlindersArchSoc), like our Facebook page, and follow our blog
Jana Rogasch
Editor, Dig It: The Journal of the Flinders Archaeological Society
<[email protected]>
Bradley Guadagnin
President, Flinders Archaeological Society 2014
<[email protected]>
Adelaide city at dusk. Photograph: Andrew Wilkinson, 2014
The Dead Beneath the Floor:
The use of space for burial in the Dominican Blackfriary, Trim, Co.
Meath, Ireland
Emma M. Lagan1,2
Specifically, this paper will focus on the use of space for burial
within the nave of the friary. These burials are not currently marked
with any of the identifiers listed above, so it is up to archaeology
and historical research to determine the significance of their
presence. With the data, I will: situate the burials with respect
to the internal structures of the church; discuss the relationship
of the burials to their space; and attempt to understand any
patterns (if present). In order to establish context, this paper
provides a background of the town; excavation history of the
site; information regarding church archaeology; social attitudes
of the time period towards death; and finally, comparative data.
M.A. student in Human Skeletal Biology, New York
University, <[email protected]>
Irish Archaeological Field School
This paper examines the results of archaeological excavations
within Irish Dominican Priories, specifically evidence for burial
practice. It focuses on the use of space for burial within the Medieval
Dominican Blackfriary in Trim, Co. Meath, using preliminary
data accumulated over four field seasons (2010–2013), excavated
by the Irish Archaeological Field School (IAFS).
This essay represents one of the few reports concerning
excavations within Irish Dominican Priories. As this is an
ongoing project, the emphasis of this paper is on: a basic
understanding of the intricacies surrounding the politics of
burial practices in Medieval Trim, to offer hypotheses to explain
potential burial trends, and to provide areas of focus for the
upcoming 2014 season so that we can continue to improve upon
concepts discussed here.
Sixty-six burials have been identified at Blackfriary in the nave
and cloisters of the church. Within a relatively confined area of the
nave, two apparently discreet zones of use have been identified,
characterized by varying burial patterns. To the west, burials
consist of fully articulated, extended inhumations moderately
spaced out. Less than a meter to the east, fully articulated extended
inhumations are tightly packed, overlapping, and overlain by a
dense deposit (30–50cm) of disarticulated human bone. This paper
examines the skeletal remains in the context of their location and
associations, considering the location of the burial in relation to the
friaries layout, evidence of standing structures, and other burials.
Data from other Dominican friaries is used as a comparison.
Finally, the paper discusses contemporary social contexts which
may explain the variations observed.
Understanding Trim
Located 40km to the northwest of Dublin, on the banks of the
river Boyne, Trim has been described as a dual-purpose town,
serving both as “caput of a rich and extensive lordship and as
a fortified market town with extensive mercantile connections
and its own independent administration” (Potterton 2005:67).
Although archaeological evidence shows that there was preNorman activity, including a monastery founded by St. Loman
beneath the medieval St. Patrick’s Church, it was established as
an Anglo-Norman town in 1172 by Hugh de Lacy. During its
peak, Trim was a major center of activity. The town itself was
walled, with five gates controlling traffic in and out of the city. A
medieval bridge still spans the Boyne, connecting the two halves
of the town. Other features of Trim included a mint within the
castle, at least two fortified houses, a medieval suburb, a leper
hospital (outside of the town walls), a frankhouse, a guildhouse,
a water mill, three religious institutions, and two religious houses
and the Cathedral in Newtown Trim, 2km to the east along the
Every time we walk across the floor of a church, it is unlikely
that we are thinking about the bodies beneath it. In areas with
a medieval past, however, chances are very likely that they are
there. Sometimes, attention is drawn to them by way of a slab on
the floor, a tomb in the wall, or the presence of a crypt beneath
the church, but sometimes the presence of the resting dead is
more subtle. As time goes on, the dead can be forgotten, leaving
it to archaeology to rediscover the individuals who were buried
beneath the church and attempt to reconstruct their history.
This paper will focus on burial data from the site of the Dominican
Blackfriary in Trim, Ireland. This archaeological site is a research
excavation conducted by the Irish Archaeological Field School
(IAFS) and key members Finola O’Carroll (principle investigator
and head of the excavation) and Dr. Rachel Scott (principle
bioarchaeologist, of DePaul University). Excavations have run
consecutively since 2010, and the author has been present at each
field season, initially as the field school’s first student in 2010,
then as a trainee supervisor during the 2011–2013 field seasons.
The project outlined in this paper was initially conducted based
on the excavation work through 2012 as part of the author’s
undergraduate thesis, and has been expanded to include material
from the 2013 field season. All research has been conducted with
the permission of IAFS, Finola O’Carroll, and Dr. Rachel Scott.
Photographs and documents, where not the author’s own, have
been reproduced with the same permission.
Of the three religious institutes – Franciscan, Dominican, and
Augustinian – only the Dominican house was located outside of
the town walls. It is this house which is the focus of this paper.
The Blackfriary, as it is now known, was founded in 1263 by the
Lord of Trim at the time, Geoffrey de Geneville, who retired
to the order in his later life. This particular institution was the
seventeenth Dominican house established in Ireland, and the
third largest overall. Following the general practice of the order
in Ireland, it was located immediately outside of the town walls,
near the Athboy gate just north of the town. The friars at Trim
held seventy-two acres at the time of the Dissolution, and the
friary was said to have contained the following features: a belfry,
a chapter house, a dormitory, a hall, three chambers, a kitchen,
a pantry, a stable, cloisters, gardens, an orchard, and a cemetery
(Potterton 2005:325). During the height of its occupancy in
Original research paper
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Blackfriary was
a site of importance, both generally for the town and for the
ecclesiastical history of Ireland. Potterton (2005:354) notes that
this, along with the Augustinian and Franciscan friars, “played
a highly significant role in the medieval town, treating the sick,
looking after the poor and attending to the spiritual needs of the
townspeople”. Apart from these daily tasks, the Blackfriary in
Trim held three meetings of the Dominican chapter, in the years
1285, 1300, and 1315.
seems to be a rounded arch, and this may have been part of a
spiral staircase”. This is how the site remained until the start of
excavations in 2010.
Excavation history
Initial survey work was conducted in June and July 1988 by
Professor William J. Kennedy of Florida Atlantic University.
Kennedy conducted a geophysical survey consisting of soil
resistivity, proton magnetometry surveys, and low altitude, infrared aerial photography. The survey results showed subsurface
features, identified and outlined by Kennedy as foundations of
the kitchen, cloisters, living quarters, refractory, tower, chancel
and entrance. While excavations were proposed, they were not
undertaken due to logistical reasons, and the site was left as it
was. (Potterton 2005:331; Seaver et al. 2009:295).
Activities at the church declined, however, in the fifteenth
century as Trim began to go through a period of economic
loss, probably as a result of other major cities, such as Dublin,
increasing as economic centers. Potterton (2005) notes that the
decline continued at the friary over the following centuries.
During the eighteenth century, the Blackfriary entered its
ultimate descent into disrepair. Bishop Burke, writing in 1756,
noted “a few years before that the walls of the house and chapel
gave evidence of their original magnificence” but on his return,
he had found that “the stones were sold and carried away to
other buildings, so that on visiting the place he found scarcely
any ruins” (Conwell 1878:141). By 1795, the ruins had been
recorded as “a few remaining heaps of old wall … of a castle or
some other building” (Potterton 2005:330). This destruction was
the result of a housing boom in Trim, and stones were sold and
quarried from the derelict Blackfriary, far easier than quarrying
new stone. In 1837 the OS map showed the location of the friary
as a small section of ruins. The site remained unoccupied, and
in 2005, Potterton (2005:330) recorded that “six small mounds
of masonry are all that remain above ground of the original
structure. One of the chunks of masonry incorporates what
In 2008, resurfacing and drainage works exposed human remains
along a back lane that abuts the Blackfriary site. This event led to
the excavation of a circular well, four burials in various stages
of completion, and disarticulated human remains representing
at least 12 individuals. The two nearly complete burials (1 and
2) both showed indications of trauma. The excavated area,
lying to the southwest corner of the Blackfriary site, is thought
to be within the limits of the friary’s cemetery, and possibly
represent its expansion. Further monitoring of the pavement
construction showed that the graveyard cemetery most likely
extended as far south as the town wall, but did not extend to the
west and northwest of the friary buildings. The eastern extent of
the graveyard cemetery is unknown and unexcavated. Because
this excavation was only undertaken due to the supervision
of construction, no further explorations were made, and this
Figure 1: A map of site showing the cuttings and various structures (IAFS 2014)
Emma M. Lagan, The Dead Beneath the Floor | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
section of the site was paved over (Seaver et al. 2009:295).
or subsequent construction periods, medieval builders were
not likely to obtain perfection; walls may not be a consistent
thickness, or even meet at right angles. Floors – which were
often compacted earth, gravel, or mortar – may slope across the
length or width of the church anywhere from a few centimeters
to half a meter in height difference due to the uneven ground
on which the church was built. These continuity differences,
when unknown to the archaeologist, can prove challenging and
frustrating; therefore, they are important to keep in mind during
an excavation (Rodwell 2005).
In 2010, the site was opened for fieldwork under the supervision
of archaeologist Finola O’Carroll, director of the Irish
Archaeological Field School (IAFS). A geophysical survey and
topographical survey were conducted in conjunction with
excavations in order to reveal the subsurface structures. The
results of the topographical survey showed a greater degree of
detail than the survey conducted in 1988 (see Figure 2 in the
data section). To date, a total of 10 cuttings have been opened,
exposing features pertaining to various elements of the cloister,
church, and domestic ranges. A majority of the findings have been
in relation to the western portion of the church (the nave) and
the cloister, cloister garth, and ambulatory. Architectural features
are both in situ1 structures and fragmentary as rubble. Burials
and disarticulated human bones (DHB2) have been exposed in
the nave of the church, the cloister, and the ambulatory of the
cloister. Ongoing excavations are expected to continue to reveal
these features.
Medieval attitude toward death
Why did the townspeople bury their dead beneath the church in
the first place? In practice, many of the attitudes towards death
in Medieval Europe stemmed from Catholic Christian beliefs
towards death. The Christian teachings, which put death and
heaven as the ultimate salvation and goal, strongly influenced
attitudes towards the body and soul. The Christian view of the
afterlife held a ‘covenant’ between the living and the dead – the
living, by praying for the souls of the dead, could help advance
their way through Purgatory to salvation. Thus, individuals
arranged to have their physical bodies and meta-physical souls
cared for after their death in an effort to guarantee their reunion
at some point in the afterlife. This meant they were willing to pay
a fee for the security of this promise. Often times, this was done
through the practice of almsgiving. Almsgiving was essentially
an obligation – giving the friars money was an indirect way
to ensure that their souls would be prayed for and their time
in Purgatory would be short. This established an “abiding link
between the friars and their patrons”, which, according to Ó
Clabaigh (2012:107) was the “most valued service that the friars
performed for their benefactors”. Therefore, in a sense, death
became marketable.
Church archaeology
When excavating a church, especially one that has no surviving
above-ground structures, knowing the various features and
components of a church is important. The layouts of medieval
churches in Ireland are known from existing churches and
previous archaeological studies of medieval British and European
religious architecture. The interior of the medieval church is
divided into two separate sections: the chancel (the eastern end
of the church which seats the clergy and the choir and contains
the altar) and the nave (the western end of the church for the
laity). In some churches, there is an additional feature separating
the two sections: the transept. When present, this feature is a
north-south aisle which gives the church the impression of a
cross. The two spaces formed by the transept on the north and
south side of the church often contained other alters or places of
prayer. Dominican churches tended to be linear, sometimes with
the later additions of a side aisle to the nave and a transept on one
side only of the crossing tower.
In effect, death became strategic. The position of an individual’s
final interment had to be both one of humility (as was only
Christian) and one of accessibility. Over time, it became a way
to assert specific loyalties; for instance: familial, territorial, or
imperial. Where the body was placed expressed something of
importance. Burial inside churches originated with the interment
saints, whose position within the church would help the laity
in life. As time progressed, from around the beginning of the
thirteenth century, the more privileged laity began being interred
inside of churches, in imitation of the practices associated with
saints. Monastic and cathedral churches were the first to bury
the privileged laity within their walls once they realized that they
could benefit “materially from the possession of an influential
church” (Binski 1996:57).
Associated with the church, when it is part of a conventional
setting, is the cloister. Located towards the center of the
monastery, with the buildings planned around it, the cloister
garth was an open area used for various activities by the monks,
including education, traveling between buildings, and reflective
walking. Typically, the center of the cloister was ringed by a
covered walkway or ambulatory which allowed activities to
continue with protection from weather. In some traditions,
the cloister was used to separate the kitchen – with its various
aromas – from the church, placing them directly across the open
courtyard from one another.
Further, Binski (1996:57) states that “burial was in effect tied up
with various forms of endowment. As a result…an important
and competitive economy grew up around bodies, extending that
which had previously grown up around relics of saints”. Rodwell
(2005) similarly notes that before the later medieval period, there
were few graves dug within the churches. Any graves that did
exist “occupied the most favoured positions” within the chapel,
as close to the altar as was possible (Rodwell 2005:174). Often,
these burials, when excavated, show evidence of intercutting one
another through various levels of usage. As the churches learned
they could profit from charging wealthy parishioners for burial
within their walls, they fueled the ‘business’ of death, increasing
the demand for high-status church burials. This privilege had
first been granted to the Benedictines, closely followed by the
Churches, throughout the course of their usage, went through
periodic modifications. They expanded, they were renovated,
and most importantly, they changed with the times. Most
churches, according to Rodwell (2005), started as a single
or two-celled building consisting of the nave and chancel.
Over time, as funding increases, the building was added to or
expanded, usually by extending the chancel eastwards or the
nave westwards. It is important to remember that during initial
In situ refers to the discovery of an artefact or ecofact in its originally
deposited position. Tumbled stones, for instance, are not considered to be
‘in situ’.
The term ‘disarticulated human burial’ and its abbreviation DHB will
be used interchangeably.
Original research paper
Cistercians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and finally
the Dominicans and Franciscans who dominated the burial
‘industry’. Originally, the Dominican General Chapter of 1250
in London made the decision that their churches were not
to be used for burials, but according to Binski (1996:58), this
“restriction was short lived: by the fourteenth century…the friars
had become notoriously greedy in their pursuit of the bodies of
the new urban elite”.
England, and because both sites are Dominican in nature, it is
argued that comparison is logical, although any differences may
reflect different community practices.
The Dominican friary in Guildford, Surrey, was established in
1275 and operational until 1538. Two separate excavations took
place, the first in 1973 and again the second in 1978. These
excavations uncovered “walls and floors from several periods”
(Poulton and Woods 1984:micro fiche p.17). Skeletal remains
were found during both seasons, but more heavily encountered
in the 1978 season, which focused on the nave of the church.
In total, 113 burials were retrieved from the friary: 42 in the
cemetery, 41 in the nave, and 30 listed as “residual”. Within the
nave, the graves mostly conformed to a standard pattern. Each
had a visible grave cut, and the average size of the burial was
0.75m in depth and width, and 2m in length. Typically, “the
interment was placed on the bottom of the grave-cut which was
then backfilled with fairly clean sand. This sand [was] mixed
with variable quantities of stones, floor tiles and bones from
earlier burials” (Poulton and Woods 1984: micro fiche p.61). The
burials were then broken down into five subsections: Group A
conformed to the above description; Group B conformed, with
the addition of a wooden coffin; Group C had a slight difference
in composition; Group D was similar to B, with the exception
that the coffin had collapsed and introduced a new fill; and Group
E had distinctive, similar backfills differing from the standard
backfill by having higher quantities of mortar, chalk lumps and
clay mixed in with the sand.
Thus, death in the medieval period became a contract between
wealthy individuals who wanted to demonstrate their status
by being buried within the church and churches who received
status and money by having the bodies of wealthy individuals
buried within their walls. Prior to the eighteenth century, burial
within the church was “a privilege enjoyed by the clergy and a
few notable lay folk, mainly gentry, but pressure for indoor burial
subsequently became intense” Rodwell (2005:174). Eventually,
merchants, farmers, physicians and many others – whole
families, including babies – were able to buy their way into burial
within the churches. In order to accommodate the various levels
of wealth within society, the clergy charged for burials based on
their location within the church. Ó Clabaigh (2012:109) notes
that “in death as in life, a strict social hierarchy reigned and
governed the positioning of graves within friary churches and
precincts”. This meant that the ‘favored’ positions by the altar
were more expensive, and those on the fringes cheaper. This
is recorded in a witty epitaph from the time period, cited by
Rodwell (1996:174): “Here lie I by the chancel door,/Here lie I
because I’m poor./The further in, the more you’ll pay,/Here lie I,
as warm as they”. Aristocratic patrons received favorable burial
positions by the altar, like the saints, and non-aristocratic patrons
were usually buried in the nave and transept of the church (Ó
Clabaigh 2012:109).
Only five graves at Guildford were listed as “exceptional” for not
conforming to the above subsections. One of these exceptions
included burial within a lead coffin (which could denote a high
status burial), while the other four were variations of disturbed
graves, most likely robbed due to the presence of a lead coffin.
Overall, there was a “remarkable degree of homogeneity
throughout the site” (Poulton and Woods 1984: micro fiche
p.119). The majority of the individuals were identified as male
or probably male, and the burials identified as female were
mostly restricted to the nave. Some unique skeletal traits were
discovered, such as the 25th vertebrae present in Burial 24;
however, evidence for trauma and disease was low. Regarding the
position of burials, the authors note that “interment within the
conventional church is likely to have been more desirable than
burial in the cemetery. There is a strong supposition that this
was the prerogative of the richer and more influential members
of society” (Poulton and Woods 1984:68). The archaeological
evidence supporting this lies in the more elaborate detail of those
burials located in the nave of the church. Also, burials within the
church were more likely to be interred with a coffin, which has
been suggested as an additional sign of wealth. Burials within
the cemetery are thought to be ‘less distinguished’. Graves in the
cloister, being predominantly male, are thought to have been the
final resting place for the monks.
During the course of burial, it was not uncommon to disturb a
burial already occupying that space, especially since earlier burials
were not typically interred within a coffin. Binski (1996:55) notes
that “once a body had been buried and had decomposed to the
point of defleshing, it was normal to exhume it and to store the
bones in a charnel house”. Byrne (2006:91) suggests that the
charnel vault itself was sometimes located beneath the church,
much like the burials. Rodwell (2005) remarks that investigations
can sometimes reveal a significant number of interments in one
location. In these instances, the disarticulated bones – which can
comprise up to 50% of the archaeological record (Rodwell 2005)
– were often placed on top of the fresh burial, thus establishing
a cyclical burial pattern. Current research is being undertaken
by PhD student Jenny Crangle (Sheffield University) examining
the post-depositional practice and treatment of medieval human
remains which may highlight these and other practices; it is
hoped this research will provide more information useful to the
Blackfriary project in the future.
Comparative data
The Dominican friary in Beverly, Yorkshire, was established in
1240 and dissolved in 1539. Archaeological investigations in
1963 and 1989 indicated the overall dimensions of the original
church nave to be approximately 6.6 meters wide and 25 meters
long (internally). This was considered by the authors to be an
average size. A south aisle was added later. The choir, to the east,
was 21 meters long and 7 meters wide. While the south wall of
the choir lined up directly with the nave, the north wall extended
one meter to the north beyond the northern wall of the nave.
Whether this was intentional or was the result of expansion is
Out of the 41 Medieval Dominican Friaries in Ireland, only
thirteen (including the Blackfriary in Trim) have been excavated.
Of the twelve friaries (excluding Trim), two were reported to
have not fully exposed or excavated any discovered burials;
two focused on burials within the cemetery; and reports for
the final eight were requested but unavailable. For this reason,
two excavation reports from Medieval Dominican Friaries in
England – Guildford and Beverely – were used, and are briefly
summarized here. As the Order most likely originated from
Emma M. Lagan, The Dead Beneath the Floor | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Data from the Blackfriary
Burials within the choir included a brick lined tomb for what
is suspected to be one individual, and a possible grave slab. The
brick lined tomb appeared to have been disturbed, possibly for the
retrieval of a lead coffin. Four unlined grave cuts were identified
within the choir. A second, larger tomb (larger than 0.88m) was
partially exposed in an area suspected to be a chantry chapel,
and likely belonged to either a family or a wealthy individual.
Several other burials had been located and identified in the east
end of the church, but were not excavated because they were
not threatened by on-going development. The author reports
that “previous limited investigations of the west end of the nave
have shown burials in coffins within the church [fifteen total],
and burials apparently without coffins in the cloister” (Foreman
The topographical survey conducted in 2010 revealed subsurface
structures in the plot of ground known to contain the Blackfriary
in Trim, Ireland. The basic image, when examined in conjunction
with plans of other known Dominican friaries hints at the
location of the church and cloister (Figure 2).
Excavations have thus far corroborated the initial assumptions
of the church layout based on the topographical survey. The
northeast, northwest, and southwest corners of the cloister have
all been exposed with in situ architecture (see Cuttings 5, 6, and
7 in Figure 1). A portion of the southern (Cuttings 3, 4, 5) and
western (Cuttings 5, 8) walls of the cloister has also been exposed,
along with repurposed arches from the cloister arcade used as a
pathway along the western boundary of the cloister (Cutting 8).
Fragments of architectural columns and column bases have been
discovered near the remains of the walls.
Records from the previous excavation show that the twelve
burials excavated included a mix of adult males and females,
juveniles, and one infant. The small sample records little
indication of disease, with the exception of periodontal disease
in the more elderly individuals. The report states that “the
density of the burials and clear indications of new graves cutting
into old demonstrate the overcrowding of the area as a burial
ground”. Foreman (1996) notes that “bequests to the friars, some
specifically linked to burial within the church are recorded from
1311 and reached a peak c.1391–1410”. Some of these names
include John de Holme who desired to be buried within the
church in 1421, and Thomas Hilton, who specifically requested
to be buried “just inside the south door” by the stoup.
Four large plinth supports/buttresses have been exposed
(Cuttings 2, 10), giving evidence for the southern boundary of the
church. The southern door was located between the two westernmost plinths, as seen through the still-remaining sandstone door
stoop. The space between the middle two buttresses contained a
secondary deposit of human remains neatly arranged, suggesting
intentional use of the space as an ossuary. Evidence for northern
wall of the church is provided in the form of two parallel in situ
walls (Cutting 1) which would have run perpendicular to the
northern wall, forming the base or plinths of an archway. Along
the same line, to the west, the foundation trench of the wall has
been exposed (Cutting 3), as well as a line of in situ architectural
remains along what is considered to be a wall-tomb or ossuary
Figure 2: This image shows the results of the 2010 topographical survey overlain by the current salient features on site (IAFS 2014)
Original research paper
(Cutting 3). Several large pieces of collapsed architecture have
been exposed (Cuttings 1, 2) and have architectural features
suggesting that they were part of a wall, archway, and staircase,
likely forming portions of the bell tower.
the cloister itself. Due to the dense amount of material in grid
H, this grid was subsequently broken down into six quadrants,
labeled 1-6. The burials will be discussed in relationship to their
grids, and specific burials will be highlighted where they are
considered either typical examples, or ‘outstanding’.
Human burials3 have been found in all cuttings excepting 4 and
6, however, this section will focus primarily on the data from
Cutting 3, which contains the bulk of the burials (72%, 48 of the
66 burials on site) on the site. Data from other cuttings will be
briefly discussed in this section and the next in order to indicate
types of burials or deposition of remains and burial patterns.
Burials in Grids A, B, G and H were all located beneath a thick
layer of tumbled stones. Any fully articulated burials were
oriented east-west with the skull located to the west. Burials are
classified as infant, juvenile, sub-adult, adult, and unknown. A
rudimentary sexing of the skeletons was completed on site, but a
full examination of the bones will be undertaken by Dr. Rachel
Scott. Levels (measurement indicating meters above sea level)
were taken on the skull, pelvis, and feet (where possible) for each
burial in order to compare the depth at which they were interred.
For organizational purposes, Cutting 3 was divided into eight
grids, labeled A–H. Grids A, B, G, and H are all located within
what is considered to be the nave of the church, which contains a
majority (88%, 42 burials) of the burials. This section of the nave
lies close to the chancel arch as indicated by the remains of the
crossing tower in Cutting 1. Grids C, D, E, and F are all located
within the ambulatory (walkway surrounding the cloister) and
For the purposes of this excavation, a burial is denoted by the presence
of a skull, whether the skull contains an articulated body or not.
Figure 3: This image shows a general layout of the burials and salient features in Cutting 3, along with a generalized cross section of Grid G/H.
Some burials are not shown; 1, 8, 9, and 15 are not visible due to location; 6, 10, 11, 30 and 31 do not have enough provenience information for this
Emma M. Lagan, The Dead Beneath the Floor | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Grid A:
Located at the southwest corner of the cutting, this grid
contained nine burials: 3, 11, 12, 17, 19, 20, 28, 48, and 49. Of
these burials, three (burials 3, 48 (infant) and 12 (sub-adult))
were fully articulated and excavated. Burial 17 was a skull which
was removed for preservation, but showed indications being fully
articulated. The other three burials were disarticulated skulls with
no indications of other bones. There were few instances of DHB
throughout the grid. The soil was mostly dark brown and slightly
sandy with inclusions of yellow clay in strips running west-east
bordering burial 12 (upcast subsoil which formed the edge of
the grave cut). Also, there was a change in soil approximately 75
centimeters wide, running north-south along the full length of
the intersection of grids A/H and B/G.
The arms were crossed low over the abdomen. A series of nails
were discovered around the burial at equivalent depths, possibly
suggesting the outline of a coffin. In the same area, approximately
twenty centimeters above the burial, a coin was found dating to
c. 1494. This skeleton was found in proximity to the anticipated
northern wall of the church. The wall, however, had been
dismantled to foundation level in the eighteenth century. A
second burial is anticipated to be beneath Burial 24 due to the
presence of bones located beneath the skeleton. Exploratory
excavations have not taken place to confirm this (see drawing
3.42 in the IAFS records. Not provided.)
Grids C, D, E, and F:
These grids are located in the area making up the ambulatory
and cloister. Some disarticulated human bones were found in the
ambulatory mixed with animal bones. The human bones found
mostly belonged to infants or toddlers. A total of six burials have
been recorded in these grids (Burials 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 30), all of which
were subadults (two juveniles, four infants). The burials in the
cloister were located under several inches of soil with no rubble
tumble on top. For the purposes of this paper, where the focus
is on the use of space for burials in the nave, these ambulatory/
cloister burials will not be discussed in greater detail in this
Burial 12 (Figure 4) was a fully extended, supine burial, with
its arms crossed across the chest. There was a distinct grave cut
for this burial, which was bordered to the north and south by
thick yellow clay. Epiphysial fusion was incomplete, indicating
the individual was a sub-adult. This particular individual had 25
vertebrae instead of the more usual 24. A sondage dug towards
the lower limbs revealed a humerus of a possibly articulated
skeleton beneath. The humerus was removed, but the potential
burial was not excavated (see drawing 3.38, sheet 38 in the IAFS
records. Not provided).
Grid G:
This grid is located to the east of grid B, separated by the
apparent physical difference in soil that separates both A/H and
B/G. At the northern end of the grid there is a line of in situ
stones running on an east-west axis, anticipated to represent
the northern wall of the nave (based on the fact that they fall
in line with the in situ walls in Cutting 1). A smaller stretch of
in situ stones at the eastern end of the grid (and cutting) abuts
these stones a perpendicular angle. Another small line of stones
– not suspected to be in situ – were found towards the western
extent of the grid, also running perpendicular to the north
wall. Another tumbled long stone was found running east-west
immediately from the western line. These four lines of stones
gave the appearance of a rectangular enclosure, although no true
southern boundary has yet been excavated (see Figure 5).
Grid B:
This grid is located directly to the north of Grid A. Compositionally,
the grid is the same in soil structure and presence of bones.
There is limited DHB, and five burials (24, 31, 45, 51, and 55)
with only two articulated skeletons – Burials 24 and 51. Burial 24
represents a fully articulated skeleton which was fully excavated.
The skeleton was fully extended and supine. The epiphyses and
pelvis had barely begun fusing, suggesting a juvenile individual.
A large amount of DHB was found principally within these stone
boundaries, but also in the immediate vicinity. The contained
space was interpreted initially as an ‘ossuary’. The dense DHB
layer contained remains from multiple individuals, as observed
by the multiple bones of the same type/side. Seven burials were
located within grid G: OSB14, OSB2, OSB3, OSB4, Burial 4, Burial
5, and Burial 6. This set of burials included two fully articulated
and excavated burials, the remainder were represented by intact
OSB 3 was a fully articulated, extended, supine burial located
directly within and at the base of the ossuary. The skull was
damaged from soil compression and weather conditions. The
hands were positioned over the pelvis. Epiphysial fusion was
complete, suggesting an adult. DHB covered the burial in its
entirety and is located in bulk to the south of the burial as well
as beneath the burial (minor inclusions). This burial is shown
partially excavated in Figure 5. The soil beneath OSB3 was
mostly sterile.
Burial 4, consisting of a complete skull and scapula, showed
several indicators of trauma on the skull. Burial 5 was a fully
Figure 4: Burial 12 situated in a grave cut. Note that skull was removed
prior to complete exposure due to vandalism (IAFS 2012)
The abbreviation OSB is used to denote an ‘Ossuary burial’ in which the
burial was located in the remains of the ossuary in Grid G.
Original research paper
Figure 6: This image shows two burials (25 to the south, 21 to the north),
surrounded by quantities of DHB. The lower limbs of Burial 16 can be seen
to the north of Burial 21 (IAFS 2012)
and 59 (see Figure 7). Burial 32, located in quadrant three,
immediately to the south of burial 5 in Grid G, was a fully
articulated, fully extended, supine burial. The arms were placed
alongside the body, as opposed to being crossed over it. The
mandible of this individual showed evidence for sharp force
The rest of the site:
As mentioned previously, human remains have been found in
a majority of the other cuttings, totaling 66 burials exposed
over three field seasons. A summary follows. Cutting 1: two
burials, both infant (27, 18). Cutting 2: four burials, three infant
(40, 44, 52) and one adult cranium (50). Cutting 4: no burials
identified. Cutting 5: One burial (42). Cutting 6: no burials
identified. Cutting 7: one burial (33). Cutting 8: one burial, infant
(34). Cutting 9: three burials (41, 43, 56). Cutting 10, uniquely,
contained a secondary deposit of human remains laid out in
an organized fashion between two of the foundation plinths
(Figure 8). These remains were commingled DHB of multiple
individuals, consisting of a variety of bone elements, including
five skulls. One fully articulated burial (54) was present.
Figure 5: Burials OSB3 (right) and 5 (left) in partial stages of excavation.
Note the amount of DHB surrounding both burials, as well as the line of
stones to the north and east (IAFS 2012)
articulated and fully excavated burial located immediately south
of OSB3/the ossuary. The body was supine and fully extended,
although the right tibia, fibula and foot were not present. The
arms were crossed at the pelvis. Epiphysial fusion suggests this
burial was an adult. A shroud pin and stained glass fragments
were found in association with this burial. DHB surrounded the
burial in all directions. This burial is shown alongside OSB3 in
Figure 5.
Situating the burials
Excavations in Cutting 3 show a distinct difference of burial
types within the church. The starkest difference is in the sharp
change between the fully extended, articulated, uncrowded
burials of Grids A/B to the dense, cluttered, overlapping burials
buried beneath layers of DHB in Grids G/H. Both areas are
dimensionally equal and have been excavated to the same level,
but the A/B grids have, combined, exposed and excavated
14 burials (only five of which are articulated/expected to be
articulated) as compared to grids G/H which have exposed 28
burials (12 of which were articulated/expected to be articulated).
While the individual patterns seen in each grid group are not
uncommon, comparative data has yet to reveal a combination of
these methods in a way similar to the Blackfriary. Guilford Friary,
for instance, demonstrated a uniformity of burial not seen at the
Blackfriary. Further research will continue to be undertaken,
and future excavations of the nave will hopefully reveal more
burials that continue current trends, as well as potential
architectural structures which could provide an explanation for
the differentiation seen currently. Some questions to consider
are: Is there a physical barrier limiting the burials such as a
rood screen (a current theory)? Was the church expanded to
Grid H:
Located in the south east corner of the cutting (directly to the
east of Grid A) this grid uncovered an abundance of DHB
immediately to the east of the soil division between grids A and
H. The remains were very compact with a high frequency of bone.
Approximately twenty centimeters of DHB were removed from
underneath the rubble layer. The uppermost portion had mixed
human and animal bones. Similar to Grid G, the DHB contains
remains from many individuals, as seen through the repetition of
bones. To date, 21 burials have been identified, composing 44%
of the total number of burials in Cutting 3 (Figure 6): Burials
10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 32, 46, 47, 53, 57, 58, 59,
60, 61, and 62. Of these, ten were articulated or expected to be
articulated (due to time limits and complexity of the area, not all
burials were fully excavated during the 2013 season).
The burials present contain a mix of adult and sub-adult remains,
although a majority of the burials appear to be adult. The fully
articulated burials in this area directly overlapped one another in
many cases; for instance, the skull of Burial 29 being immediately
below the right leg of Burial 16, or the ‘stacked’ burials 58, 13,
Emma M. Lagan, The Dead Beneath the Floor | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
the west? Was a wall tomb or family tomb present? Ó Clabaigh
(2012:234) notes that within the nave, it was not uncommon to
have “niches recessed into the walls with the burial vaults set into
the foundation”. This could be the feature seen bordering OSB3.
likely continued to consider the grounds as sacred and use them
for discreet burials even post dissolution or destruction. The
possible ossuary in Cutting 10 has no date associated with it,
but it is thought to have resulted from the dismantling of tombs
by those quarrying the church and the need to dispose of the
interred humans remains with a modicum of respect.
Burials in the four grids composing the nave (A/B/G/H) were
all located under a thick rubble layer. According to Potterton
(2005), the friary had been reduced to only slightly identifiable
ruins in the late 1700s and complete ruins by the 1800s. Because
of this, it is likely that all of the burials within the nave took place
before this time period. The coin found approximately 20cm
above burial 24 dated to c. 1494, suggesting that this particular
burial was interred before that date. A shard of medieval pottery
at a similar level gives further credence to this assumption.
Unfortunately, no further dateable objects were discovered in
these areas. It is likely that a majority of these burials are medieval
in date and occurred before the monastery transferred to Donore
in 1713, and some of them (such as burial 24) are more likely to
have been interred before the first dissolution of the monastery
in 1540.
The continuation of the site as a burial ground, possibly up until
the 19th or even the 20th centuries is a theme that is anticipated
to be explored further in future field seasons.
Social status
One of the questions we must ask of the data is: who were the
people buried at the Blackfriary? And why were they buried
in such a differentiated manner? Poulton and Woods (1984)
state that burials within the church at the Dominican priory of
Guildford would have been more desirable than burials in the
cemetery. According to Binski (1996:57), these practices would
have started in the thirteenth century, around the time of the
foundation of the Blackfriary, and would have been reserved for
the more privileged laity. Over time, as burials within the church
became slightly more common, status was indicated through the
location within the church, use of coffins, and tombs. This being
said, it is likely that any of the burials within the friary indicate
some form of wealth on the part of the deceased, or their family,
or indicated membership within the friary. The burials within
Cutting 3 are likely to have been located at least ten meters from
the altar area. Does this mean that they were less wealthy than
other members of the community? Is there a change in wealth
or status between the burials of Grids A/B versus Grids G/H?
Unfortunately, we do not yet have any indication of the exact
location of the altar, let alone burials surrounding the area.
Perhaps with further excavations, we will be able to answer this
Evidence from the 2013 field season shows that it is likely that
the local community continued to use the grounds for burial in
the periods during which the friary was not in use. To date, two
infant burials – one in Cutting 1, the second in Cutting 2 – have
been found above the rubble layer. Burial 44 (the infant in Cutting
2) was discovered with a lead shot in its cranium. Whether
these are victims of infanticide – a practice not uncommon in
eighteenth century Ireland (Kelly 1992) – is unknown, but their
burial above the rubble layer does indicate that the community
Possible evidence for wooden coffins has been found in the
form of nails located in a similar context as burials. It is possible
that these burials could represent wealthier individuals who
were able to obtain a coffin. So far, no lead coffins have been
found, although other priories, both Dominican and other, have
been known to contain such burials. These may not have been
available, affordable, or practical for residents of Trim; however,
further excavations may yet reveal such coffins. As excavations
progress, a comparison of the use and location of coffin-based
interments may provide more information about the individuals
buried; for instance, Foreman (1996) noticed that cloister burials
Figure 8: This image shows students working on the ossuary in Cutting 10,
situated directly between two foundation buttresses (plinths) (IAFS 2013,
photograph by Emma Lagan)
Figure 7: These burials, located in Grid H, demonstrate overlapping burial
depositions as well as DHB (IAFS 2013)
Original research paper
at Beverly did not use coffins and may have been the burials of
interesting area of study. These remains will help paint a picture
of the medieval and possibly post-medieval community of Trim,
Ireland. As over a hundred previous excavations have taken place
within Trim, results from this current excavation can add to
existing knowledge and potentially fill in gaps in the information
about the community and individuals who were an integral part
of its daily life.
The burial of OSB3 was clearly within a stone lined tomb, and, due
to burial depth and lack of bones beneath it, is thought to be the
original occupant. Based on the location of the tomb in regards to
other architectural remains, it is thought that this tomb was built
into the wall of the church. The stones making up the northern
boundary of the tomb are therefore in part, the original wall of
the church, whereas the stones forming the eastern boundary of
the tomb would have been inserted specifically to line the tomb
itself. This burial is very likely to have belonged to a wealthy
individual. No grave goods were found in association with this
burial (which is not unusual in the context of a Christian burial),
so the assumption of wealth is based solely on the tomb type.
Rodwell (2005:38) stated that the history of most churches
“may be compared to an iceberg: only the tip shows, and there
is far more concealed from view”. This is indeed the case for the
Blackfriary, which now lies in ruins beneath the soil. Its entire
story is in the process of being learned by the archaeologists
who diligently excavate it, exposing new sections and adding to
the story every year. The burials, and specifically their strategic
placement within the church, help to restore a human presence
to the site, painting a picture of the community of Trim.
At least two burials – Burials 4 and 32, interred in relatively
close proximity – are known to have trauma to the skull. Both
burials have been analyzed by osteoarchaeologist Dr. Rachel
Scott and determined to be male. Burial 4 displayed healed blunt
force trauma and unhealed sharp force trauma to the cranium.
Burial 5 displayed sharp force trauma, likely from a blade, on
the mandible. Could these be warriors or soldiers? We know
that one of the burials in the cemetery as uncovered in 2008 also
displayed sharp and blunt force trauma; is there a reason Burials
4 and 32 were interred in the church as opposed to the cemetery
with the other wounded skeleton?
IAFS and the community
The excavations at Blackfriary are conducted by the Irish
Archaeological Field School, but are also considered to be part
of the Blackfriary Community Archaeological Project. In this
situation, we consider it important to involve the current, living
community of Trim and keep them informed. Community
members are welcome to visit site at any point, and Open Days
and other public events are hosted over the summer. For more
information, visit <www.iafs.ie>.
While indication of status is present in the data set available, it is
only available in generalizations. Clearly the individuals buried
within the church had enough money to be placed there, but
other information about them is extraordinarily limited. Does
the ‘charnel pit’ making up most of Grids G/H represent a family
tomb where multiple members of the same wealthy family were
interred over time? Were the male burials with trauma warriors
who died around the same time? Unfortunately, the lack of
floor tiles, grave markers, or boundaries to date make these
assumptions difficult to validate.
The author would like to thank CRDs/IAFS for their continual
support, especially Finola O’Carroll, Stephen Mandal, Rachel
Scott, Bairbre Mullee, and Caroline Henry who have all been
instrumental in the success of this project, as well as Trim County
Council and the community of Trim. Also, Kirsten Morrison for
taking time out of her busy schedule to review the final draft.
Finally, the author would like to thank the diligent editors and
reviewers at Dig It for their time and energy!
This paper set out to analyze the burials excavated in the nave
of the Dominican Blackfriary in Trim, Ireland during the 20102013 field seasons. By examining the data set, comparing it to
other known data sets, and analyzing it in the context of societal
attitudes at the time period, I attempted to understand the
burials present. The easiest, most viable conclusion to draw is
that, because of their burial within the church, it is likely that
these individuals had some form of wealth or status.
1886 Trim: Its Ecclesiastical Ruins, Its Castle, Etc. Dublin: The Irish
Binski, P. 1996 Medieval Death. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Byrne, J.P. 2006 Daily Life During the Black Death. Westport: Greenwood
Conwell, E.A. 1878 A Ramble Around Trim. Dublin.
Foreman, M. 1996 Further Excavations at the Dominican Priory, Beverly,
1986-89. Sheffield Excavation Reports 4.
Kelly, J. 1992 Infanticide in Eighteenth Century Ireland. Irish Economic
and Society History 19:5-26.
Ó Clabaigh, C. 2012 The Friars in Ireland 1224–1540. Dublin: Four
Courts Press.
Potterton, M. 2005 Medieval Trim. Dublin: Four Courts Press.
Poulton, R. and H. Woods 1984. Excavations on the Site of the
Dominican Friary at Guildford in 1974 and 1978. Guildford: Surrey
Archaeological Society.
Rodwell, W. 2005 The Archaeology of Churches. Glouchestershire:
Tempus Publishing Limited.
Seaver, M., M. Kelly, and C. Travers 2009 Burials at the well: excavations
at the Black Friary, Trim. In M. Potterton and M. Seaver (eds),
Uncovering Medieval Trim, pp.293–332. Dublin: Four Courts.
Explanations for the distinct division of burial types between
A/B and G/H have been postulated, but remain inconclusive.
Similarly, the burials were unable to be accurately dated due to
a lack of grave goods, with the exception of one coin, making it
difficult to determine the order of events that would have caused
these burials to be interred. Their interment would have taken
place prior to the collapse of the architecture, and potentially
before the dissolution of the priory in 1540.
This paper represents one of the few studies regarding burials
within a Dominican priory, and therefore offers the unique
opportunity to learn more about burial practices—both
standard and unique patterns, and will further knowledge
about medieval burial practices. Further, between past and
anticipated excavations, which are guaranteed to uncover more
remains, there is a large sample size, making this a viable and
The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain:
An introduction to the site and the importance of awareness
raising towards successful preservation
Melanie Münzner1
Archaeological Heritage Specialist at Think Heritage!,
Muharraq, Bahrain, <[email protected]>
This article aims to provide an introduction to the history and
development of the extensive Bronze Age burial mound cemeteries
of Bahrain. In addition, the paper discusses the aftermath of
centennial excavations executed without community involvement
and how awareness raising measures could be applied to counteract
the resultant negative effects.
Although the amount of the four millennia old Dilmun Burial
Mounds has diminished considerably over the last decades due to
modern development, the number and density of the remaining
burial mounds as well as their construction technique is still
unrivalled in the world. It is therefore intended that these Dilmun
Burial Mounds be nominated as a United Nations Scientific,
Educational and Cultural Organisation (henceforth UNESCO)
World Heritage Site. Such a nomination, however, requires a high
level of commitment by all stakeholders involved, and therefore,
awareness-raising measures should be introduced among the local
community to increase knowledge and appreciation of it, as this is
a prerequisite for the successful preservation of their outstanding
Figure 1: Hamad Town 2 Burial Mound Field (near Karzakkan), looking
south-west (photograph by author, 12th October 2013)
throughout the last decades shows the low level of appreciation
and awareness of the mounds’ exceptional value among the
local community. The reason for that seems to be mainly rooted
in a lack of knowledge. Dozens of researchers bear part of the
responsibility, as they omitted to properly involve and inform the
local community in the past. However, a first change in mind-set
can be recognised. Yet, more efforts need to be exerted to boost
people’s awareness of the need for preservation of their unique
This paper aims to provide an overview of the unique history
of the Dilmun Burial Mounds and the interaction between the
people and their heritage. At the same time it intends to highlight
some awareness raising measures and their capacity to improve
the preservation process.
The 4000-year old Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain are unique
in the world. Albeit burial mounds occur globally, no burial
mound construction technique is alike to the one presented by
the Dilmun mounds. Although only 15,000 tumuli remain from
a number that once exceeded 75,000, their number and density is
outstanding and cannot be found elsewhere. Yet, the still existing
burial mounds are extraordinary and therefore foreseen to be
nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rise of Dilmun
The Dilmun Burial Mounds were constructed during the Early
Dilmun period, a period of approximately 450 years that lasted
from 2200 till 1750 BCE. During that time Bahrain became the
political centre of a unified region encompassing Failaka Island,
Bahrain and the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Dilmun
grew in prosperity, as its capital became an important trade hub
in the Arabian Gulf. Its strategic location in the centre of the Gulf
contributed to Dilmun’s importance in the international maritime
trade that took place mainly between Dilmun, Mesopotamia, the
Indus Valley, and the Land of Magan which is today’s Oman. The
traded goods associated with Dilmun included copper, both as
raw material as well as diverse finished forms, pearls, beads of
carnelian, lapis lazuli, coral, turtle shells, ivory, antimony, and
timber. Whereas pearls and turtles are native to Bahrain, the
other goods needed to be imported (Larsen 1983:40-41).
The ‘vast see of sepulchral mounds’ (Bent, quoted in Rice
1983:80) attracted the attention of passers-by ever since their
construction. In antiquity it was mainly grave robbers who
targeted them. Later, at least since the 19th century, the mounds
shifted more and more into the focus of European travellers and
The first recorded research is from the year 1878 when the young
British Officer Captain E. L. Durand came to Bahrain and could
not resist his curiosity. He conducted the very first excavations
of the Dilmun mounds (Rice 1983:112). Since then, several
archaeological expeditions landed in Bahrain all with the same
objective – to reveal the mounds’ secrets. Almost 140 years
of research brought to light astonishing new insights and an
extensive stock of information that until today serves researchers
to reconstruct the history of the Early Dilmun civilization.
The remarkable affluence of the island is also reflected in
extensive settlement activities (Roaf 2003:25). Besides the
sepulchral remains, the island possesses few settlement and
worship sites that are related to the Early Dilmun civilization.
Besides many other prerequisites, a nomination for a World
Heritage Site requires a high level of commitment by all the
stakeholders involved. However, the extensive destruction
Original research paper
The Outstanding Universal Value of the site of Qal’at al-Bahrain:
Ancient Capital and Harbour of Dilmun was already recognized
by the global community when it was inscribed on the UNESCO
World Heritage List in 2005 (UNESCO 2014b). Further sites are
Barbar Temples, consisting of three temples succeeding each
other with architectural features that resemble Sumerian temples
(Rice 1994:156), Diraz Temple (Roaf 2003:25), Ain Umm asSujur, once the largest fresh water spring in Bahrain (Rice
1994:172), and Saar, a heritage complex that consists of temple,
settlement, and cemetery (Killick 2003:13).
Bahrain’s fertility, one of the key factors for its wealth in the past,
derives from yet another geological peculiarity. For millions of
years powerful fossil aquifers evolved from precipitation that
was absorbed from massive limestone layers. Thanks to Bahrain’s
anticlinal structure above a basement with faults, fresh water
resurfaces in the form of artesian springs. These wells occur on
land as well as underwater, but are limited to the northern part
of the island. They assured abundant irrigation and drinking
water supply. Today the fresh water springs are mostly dried out
despite a small number still remaining and reminiscent of the
past’s richness (Dalongeville 2000:28-32).
Non-sepulchral sites related to the Early Dilmun Period are
scarce and the one site that possesses the highest amount of
information, Qal’at al-Bahrain, hides the Dilmun time remains
under several meters of younger settlement layers. The Dilmun
Burial Mounds are hence the best accessible and most obvious
Early Dilmun remains. They tell us about the Early Dilmun
people’s life style, their age, and their diseases. The mounds
represent tens of thousands of private tragedies and life stories.
As a result of the limited fresh water supply, agriculture was
narrowed to the northern and western portions of Bahrain.
Naturally, settlement activities are associated to fertile areas.
And, as burial sites are related to settlements, the burial mound
cemeteries occur solely in the northern and western parts of the
island. It must have been important to the ancient inhabitants of
Bahrain to bury their deceased at a reachable distance, yet without
wasting the scarce fertile land. As a matter of fact ‘bedrock lies
just below the surface. Thus, areas with burial mounds were not
‘wasted’ space because these zones were in fact of no use for
gardening’ (Daems et al. 2001:175).
The Dilmun burial mounds
A total of 75,000 Dilmun burial mounds once covered an area of
circa 26 km2. That is a remarkable expanse taking into account
the rather small size of the island of Bahrain extending over an
area of 765.3 km2 (Kingdom of Bahrain, Central Informatics
Organisation 2012). The location for constructing the tumuli
was carefully chosen and followed an elaborate land use concept.
Therefore it is important to understand the geological condition
of Bahrain.
The evolution of the Early Dilmun civilization is best reflected in
changing burial practices and the design of the burial mounds.
The different types of tumuli illustrate the increasing wealth
and importance of the ancient inhabitants of Bahrain. They also
reflect upon the rising complexity of the Early Dilmun society.
There are two main types: the Early Type burial mounds (22002050 BCE), and the Late Type burial mounds (2050-1750 BCE).
Geologically, Bahrain has certain interesting characteristics.
‘Barren limestone slopes rise gently inland away from the coastal
plains until they reach the rim rocks of the central depression.
Cultivatable soils are found both within the central depression
and on the surrounding coastal plains’ (Larsen 1983:6-7).
Cornwall (quoted in Rice 1983:200), one of the earliest
excavators, describes the Early Type burial mounds as ‘small
and compact rock tumuli’. Their average diameter is noted as
2.5 meters. Their average height does not exceed 1.5 meters,
although larger mounds occasionally occur (Laursen 2008:157).
Laursen (2008:157-158) identifies a variety of burial chamber
layouts; the one of the smaller mounds normally being oval,
while larger mounds show ‘chambers with several recesses or
alcoves that give the chambers a distinctive L-, T-, or H-shape,
or an even more complex shape’. The Early Type burial mounds
are primarily situated on the slopes of the limestone formation
in central Bahrain. They normally appear scattered rather than
clustered, and follow the splintered topography of the wadi
banks. There is also a geographical connection to the Late Type
mounds. Of approximately 17,000 Early Type burial mounds
that once covered the island (Laursen 2008:159), merely 2,000
Figure 2: The original distribution of the Dilmun Burial Mounds (Laursen
Figure 3: Examples of the Early Type burial mound (a) and the Late Type
burial mound (b) (Laursen 2010:116)
Melanie Münzner, The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain | Dig It 2(1):2-71 (2014)
Figure 4: Section through a burial mound, right side in its present
condition, left side reconstructed (Højlund 2007:35)
The Late Type burial mounds are generally larger and appear in
a higher density compared to the Early Type mounds. Another
distinctive feature is the immense conical layer of soil that
covers the grave chamber. The average burial mounds are about
2-3 meters in height and 6-11 meters in diameter. However,
there are formidable larger exceptions (Laursen 2008:159).
These variations suggest a more diversified and hierarchical
society. Consequently, a group of extraordinary large mounds
are referred to as Royal Mounds. They are up to 12 meters in
height and 50 meters in diameter (Højlund 2007:26). The Late
Type tumuli consist of regular stone-built grave chambers with
capstone slaps. Similar to the Early Type mounds the shapes of
the chambers vary between L-, T-, and H-shape. More complex
shapes also occur (Laursen 2008:159). The Royal Mounds
usually demonstrate two-storey burial chambers as well as four
or six niches with plastered walls. In contrast to the ordinary
mounds, the Royal Mounds are accessible either through a shaft
or a passage (Højlund 2007:29). The tumuli normally appear
in crowded cemeteries along the western side of Bahrain’s
limestone dome (Laursen 2008:159). Rice (1994:198-199) even
argues that the Late Type tumuli cemeteries have been built on
an industrial basis. He reasoned that the tumuli are laid out in
‘funerary estates’ (Rice 1994:199) rather than in scattered zones.
The industrialized construction could also explain why several
mounds have been found without human remains; they were
built speculatively and remained untenanted. Some 58,000 Late
Type mounds were recorded by the Danish-Bahraini mapping
project (Laursen 2008:159). About 13,000 of them still exist.
Figure 5: Partially excavated burial mound in Janabiyah cemetery that
displays lower and upper ring wall, looking north (photograph by author,
2nd February 2014)
corner. Deceased usually lay in a foetal position on the right
side, occasionally left, facing north or south respectively. The
hands are placed before the face (Soweileh 1995:197). There is
no archaeological evidence of any coffin-like container, nor the
body being covered with soil. Men, women and children seem
to have been treated equitably, as no differentiation in burial
costume can be observed (Breuil 2000:51).
Unfortunately most of the graves are not found in their original
archaeological context, since the intrusion of grave robbers in
antiquity (Rice 1994:178). However, the elaborate architectural
quality of the burial mounds might indicate that likewise rich
grave furniture was deposited with the dead (Breuil 2000:51). It
can also be assumed that grave robbers stole the most valuable
objects such as bronze items, jewellery or high quality pottery,
while smaller, less visible items as well as less valuable pottery
were neglected. In any case, all the items found in the burial
mounds correspond to the findings made in Qal’at al-Bahrain, the
ancient harbour and capital of Dilmun (Larsen 1983:34). Among
the excavated grave furniture is a great variety of pottery, both of
local and foreign origin, various copper and bronze items such
as daggers, jewellery and dress ornaments, a few number of seals,
diverse ivory objects, beads made of carnelian, agate and paste;
and various objects of shells including beads, pendants, discs,
ear studs, and stamp seals (Mughal 1983:68-69; Rice 1994:179,
196). Remains of ovicaprids and fish are also occasionally found
in the burials. Since the uncovered animal remains are limited to
eatable species, they may be regarded as part of a funeral meal
(Breuil 2000:51).
Although the burial mounds are referred to as mounds owed
to their today’s appearance, they were in fact not constructed
as such. Archaeological evidence shows that they were built as
cylindrical stone towers (Højlund 1992, 2007; Velde 1994). The
most crucial indicator for the latter is the presence of the stone
wall surrounding the grave chamber. As a result of limited space,
the ring walls of a few of the mounds were constructed right
next to each other, which provided mutual support and, at the
same time, hindered them from decay. Over the course of time
several examples of standing ‘double-walls’ have been found,
clearly testifying to the idea of towers (Velde 1994:64-66). Where
neighbouring mounds did not stabilize the ring-wall, it was
exposed to natural erosion and, as a result, collapsed. Drifting
soil and sand then covered the subsided stones forming the
mound as we see it today (Højlund 2007:33). The Royal Mounds
possess an additional smaller ring wall situated higher in the
mound. Højlund (2007:33) consequently suggests that these
mounds “had the shape of a terraced building, or ziggurat”. This
terraced design is widely known from Mesopotamia but also
from the local Barbar Temples (Højlund 2007:33).
The centennial research history of the burial
It can be assumed that the massive burial mound fields, “perhaps
the most interesting feature of Bahrain” (Mackay, quoted in Rice
1983:133), have attracted the attention of many explorers and
travellers who visited Bahrain throughout the last centuries. The
sheer density of the tumuli fields paired with their inaccessibility
must have awoken the urge to uncover the mounds’ mysterious
interior in numerous of its beholders. A few inquisitive explorers
might have opened one or more mounds out of curiosity, yet
without sharing the finds with the rest of the world. Subsequently,
Even though burials were heavily looted during antiquity,
human remains mainly persist untouched, at times however
the skeletal remains are found disordered or clustered in one
Original research paper
there is no record of these early investigations that most likely
have taken place. First available records date to the late 18th
valuable information that he published later on (Rice 1983:103104). In 1906, when Prideaux started his fieldwork, his major aim
was to answer the question of the origin of the burial mounds.
He not only examined a formidable number of 67 tumuli but also
was the first person to document the pottery in and around the
mounds (Prideaux, quoted in Rice 1983:105).
British Officer Captain E. L. Durand, based in Bahrain, was the
first person to not only conduct excavations at the burial mounds,
but to record his finds. In the late 1880s he started by opening
two mounds in the village of Aali. Even though one can attest
him best intentions, the excavation methods he used cannot be
acknowledged as professional in today’s society. First, he tested
his skills at a smaller tumulus. Consequently he started to work
on one of the largest Royal Mounds, where he encountered
considerable difficulties due to his lack of archaeological skills.
As a result, the roof of the main chamber had fallen inside and
destroyed any significant finding contexts (Rice 1983:112).
Though Durand’s excavations were not of professional standards,
he provided the world a first idea of the mounds’ interior.
Ernest Mackay, a young archaeologist sent to Bahrain by Sir
Flinders Petri in 1925, was the first person to analyse the different
construction techniques of the mounds. He opened a total of 34
mounds, of which 21 comprised human remains and various
artefacts. Among the most sensational findings are a fragmented
ivory figurine of a girl, and various bronze objects (Mackay,
quoted in Rice 1983:130). The technical report of his findings
is outstanding, comprising valuable maps and sketches. His
observations however led him to draw the wrong conclusion that
Bahrain is not Dilmun and that the island could not have hosted a
population as large as the number of burial mounds would imply.
The latter was disproved by several studies (Rice 1994:176.). Yet
another contradicting factor to Mackay’s theory is the absence of
any evidence which would allow the assumption that deceased
were brought to the island for burial (Rice 1994:176).
In 1889 Mr. and Mrs. J. Theodore Bent opened yet another Royal
Mound in Aali. They found a two-storey tomb with rich grave
furniture including ivory, circular boxes, fragments of various
statues, pottery, ostrich shells, and pieces of oxidised metal. The
Bents started excavating one further mound but did not remove
the debris that had filled up the tomb. Consequently, they could
not gain more information about burial rite and grave furniture
(Rice 1983:114).
In 1940-41, another young scholar, Peter Bruce Cornwall,
visited the island of Bahrain and conducted extensive fieldwork
on the island in addition to some minor investigations on the
eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Beside various other
archaeological sites he excavated 30 burial mounds in Bahrain
(Cornwall, quoted in Rice 1983:192-194). Cornwall was the first
to distinguish between two types of burial mounds – ‘small and
compact rock tumuli’ and ‘mounds that are gravel-covered and
contain at least one well-made tomb chamber’ (Cornwall, quoted
in Rice 1983:200).
Only four years later, in 1903, M. A. Jouannin obtained the
permission to conduct further investigations. He selected a
comparatively small tumulus. He tunnelled into the interior
of the mound, where he found only a few bones and some
pottery. The results did not appeal to him, so he stopped further
examination (Rice 1983:115).
Colonel F. B. Prideaux, who travelled to Bahrain under the
auspices of the Archaeological Department of the Government
of India, was the first person to conduct what can be called
scientific excavations in Bahrain. Like others, Prideaux
reproduced observations from Durand, but he also added
Since the early 1950s the Danish Archaeological Expedition
has been committed to drawing a holistic picture of the ancient
civilization of Dilmun. With the discovery of Qal’at al-Bahrain,
the ancient capital and harbour of Dilmun, and the Barbar
Temples the Danish were able to provide valuable information
on the life of the mound builders. During the last years the
Danish Mission dedicated their research to the burial mounds.
The Moesgaard Museum in co-operation with the Bahrain
Directorate of Culture & National Heritage launched the Bahrain
Burial Mound Project that intends to digitally map the burial
mounds from aerial photos in a Geographical Information
System, in order to provide an efficient tool for future research.
Figure 7: Excavated Late Type burial mound in Hamad Town 2 Burial
Mound Field (near Karzakkan), looking west (photograph by author, 12th
February 2014)
Figure 6: Grave chamber and blocked entrance of one of the Royal Mounds
in Aali (photograph by author, 2nd February 2014)
Melanie Münzner, The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain | Dig It 2(1):2-71 (2014)
Besides that, the Danish are conducting excavations at the Royal
Mounds in Aali where they have discovered several new details
that shed light on the architectural finesse of these impressive
mounds (Bibby 1970; Højlund 2007; Laursen 2008).
to them. Resultant, the burial mounds are widely depreciated,
which is mainly expressed in their destruction and removal.
Urban development is the major reason for such interference.
Bahrain, an archipelago of over thirty islands and islets, has
limited space to offer to its increasing population. With 1,701
inhabitants per km2 it is the fifth most densely populated nation
in the world (World Bank 2014). The growth of population is
remarkable; its number of inhabitants increased from ca. 360,000
in 1980 to almost 1.3 million in 2010 (UN 2011). The necessity
for additional infrastructure and housing has always been the
thriving factor for the removal and destruction of the ancient
sepulchral structures. However, thousands of mounds have
been removed without developing the empty space afterwards.
Although this is an exception, it exemplifies unjustified
In the 1980s numerous other international teams were engaged
in the exploration of the Dilmun Burial Mounds. Among them
were the Australian expedition led by Lowe (Lowe 1986), an
Indian team (Srivastastava 1991), a British team (Roaf 2003), and
the French Archaeological Mission (Cleuziou 1981).
A great amount of mounds were excavated by the Bahrain
National Museum, especially since 1960s, when the progressing
urban development enforced the need for rescue excavations.
Despite few exceptions (Ibrahim 1982; Mughal 1983), most of
the findings are not published.
Current challenges and the need for preservation
Approximately 80% of the ancient tumuli have been removed
since the 1960s. Yet an outstanding number of about 15,000
Dilmun burial mounds keep on existing and are now protected
by the National Heritage Law. However, development pressure
does not only remain a serious threat but seems to be supported
by parts of the local community. The area counsellor of Hamad
Town for instance stated ‘we are not saying remove them all, but
hundreds could go’ (Gulf Daily News 2013). Hamad Town, a
town that was developed from scratch in the 1980s, embeds the
remains of three major burial mound cemeteries that together
comprise almost 6,500 ancient tumuli to date.
For more than a century, researchers have been collecting a
huge amount of information about the Dilmun Burial Mounds.
The scientific community highly benefited from numerous
archaeological reports that not only draw a picture about the
Early Dilmun sepulchral traditions but provide insights in the
structure, hierarchy and life of the Dilmun society. Since Bahrain
was part of a great maritime trading network, the island was
not only influenced by other civilizations but also had a great
impact on its neighbours. The discoveries in Bahrain are hence
internationally important. The Dilmun Burial Mounds are
significant not only because they are directly related to other
ancient regions and archaeological disciplines, but especially
because their amount, density, and construction technique is
unique in the world.
The most recurring argument is that the needs of the living
should be given priority over those of the dead. This reasoning
best reflects the lack of awareness by the people. Experience
shows that people change their point of view whenever they are
provided with more information. In almost all the cases locals
started to appreciate their heritage once they learned about the
extraordinariness of the burial mounds. They begin to become
proud of it (Atalay 2012).
Although the burial mounds receive appreciation from the
international archaeological community, locally they are widely
neglected. This is also reflected in the long research history. Travel
reports of former researchers tell about interactions with the elite
but very little about interactions with the remaining population
(Durand, quoted in Rice 1983:18; Bent, quoted in Rice 1983:73,
75; Bibby 1970:8, 39, 95). Of course, good relations with decision
makers ensure the continuation of excavations and in older
times archaeologists also had little conscience of the need for
preservation. In the rare cases of researchers interacting with
locals, the main intention was to acquire information and hints
to advance the success of archaeological surveys and excavations
(Durand, quoted in Rice 1983). Consequently, very little about
the burial mounds’ value and uniqueness has been shared with
the local community. In fact, most of the people living in Bahrain
have very little or no knowledge about the mounds. They might
be aware that the mounds are ancient structures, but details about
their history and importance has never been communicated
Besides the very important factor of forming identity, heritage
sites also become an increasingly valuable economic driver
throughout the Gulf countries. Currently, the number of tourists
visiting the ancient tumuli amounts close to zero, although the
burial mounds are listed among the Top Ten Must-Do’s presented
on the Ministry of Culture’s website (Kingdom of Bahrain,
Ministry of Culture 2014). At TripAdvisor, for instance, one of
the biggest international travel websites where people comment
and review worldwide attractions, the burial mounds received
only one single review (TripAdvisor 2014b). In comparison,
more than 200 people commented on the Bahrain National
Figure 9: Potter preparing clay in a workshop in Aali (photograph by
author, 2nd February 2014)
Figure 8: New houses next to Hamad Town 1 Burial Mound Field near
Buri (photograph by author, 12th October 2013)
Original research paper
Museum (TripAdvisor 2014a). The differential numbers reflect
to what extent the national and international community neglect
the Dilmun tumuli.
The burial mound fields are mainly located in villages, of which
some are fairly new and purely residential areas and others
originate in traditional settlements with a long history. Especially
the village of Aali could financially benefit from increasing
visitor numbers, as it is one of Bahrain’s main handicraft centres.
Throughout the region Aali is famous for its pottery products.
Since a long time local artisans have passed on their knowledge
from generation to generation. The potters established their
workshops in between the huge Royal Mounds of Aali and
transformed some of the ancient grave chambers into kilns. It
can be assumed that already in ancient times Aali was the place
of pottery production due to the village’s close vicinity to natural
clay sources.
Figure 10: Royal Mound embedded in the urban fabric of Aali village
(photograph by author, 2nd February 2014)
It is not only people who would benefit from an increase in
tourism. Provided, of course, that a tourism strategy is carried out
in a cautious way, also the archaeological remains would benefit.
At the moment very little is done in terms of conservation,
protection, or maintenance. A wider attention would also require
an increased level of presentation and interpretation, crucial
transmitters to convey information and to raise awareness. In
addition, presentation includes the maintenance of the heritage
site that does not only include a proper fencing and clearing
out of litter, but also proper conservation and consolidation
of the archaeological remains. Occasional heavy rainfalls and
strong storms accelerate erosion processes. Especially excavated
mounds suffer from fragile excavation slopes and sliding material.
As a result, awareness raising and sustainable tourism strategies
benefit the heritage asset as well as the local community itself.
provoked feelings of exclusion and might have fostered the idea
of foreign intruders. Today, a change in mind-set can be observed
and the question of heritage preservation and presentation gains
more and more attention in the archaeological community. As
stated earlier, community involvement and awareness raising are
significant components of heritage preservation.
Archaeologists have the ability to provide locals with first hand
information. In the rarest of cases, especially in countries like
Bahrain where privacy is of highest value, will locals approach
researchers by themselves. Open days, for instance, would
provide an ideal platform to convey the site’s value to the people.
The possibility to visit the site should however be communicated
adequately, either orally or through other mediums. Another
great possibility that has been implemented by the Danish
Archaeological Mission in 2013 is to invite volunteers to do
hands-on excavation work. Therefore, the team collaborated with
a local school and invited pupils and other interested persons
every Saturday to the excavation site.
The power of awareness raising in the preservation
The government already made a first big move when it recognised
the burial mounds’ importance and listed them on the UNESCO
Tentative List (UNESCO 2014a). This is the first step for a future
inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List that guarantees
not only the international recognition of the site’s Outstanding
Universal Value but also the auspices of its protection and
adequate conservation.
Schools possess a power that goes far beyond the occasional
involvement of the local community. It is an institution with
greatest potential to leave a long-term impression. It is highly
recommended to enforce lessons of ancient history in the school
curricula, so children gain a holistic picture of the history of the
country they are living in. This, of course, can only be achieved
through the effort of local stakeholders. However, international
and local archaeologists can work hand in hand to develop
educational resource material for teachers and students. Lecture
series in schools and universities are yet another method to
spread information about the burial mounds and their need
for protection. In addition, regular school visits to the sites
should be encouraged. Excursions however only make sense if
a knowledgeable person guides them when, like it is the case for
the Dilmun Burial Mounds, on-site interpretation facilities are
yet to be implemented.
However, in order to successfully list a site certain requirements
must be fulfilled. Besides legal protection, effective administrative
structures, facilitation of research, adequate conservation, and
the presentation and interpretation of the site, awareness raising
is one of the crucial factors. Enhancing public awareness of the
significance of the Dilmun Burial Mounds and their inherent
historical value aims to foster the appreciation of the site as well as
the willingness to contribute to its preservation. In the following
paragraphs some methods are presented that may contribute
to awareness raising and could be easily implemented by the
respective responsible. As a general rule, the local community
should never be neglected or underestimated, neither during
excavations nor later when it comes to the presentation of the
There are other approaches that help boost awareness such
as events or exhibitions that target the asset. A public photo
competition, for example, would have three positive effects.
Firstly, people are encouraged to discover the heritage site and,
by doing so, learn about it. Secondly, the contributions could
become valuable resources for the site’s administrative body
as well as for researchers. And finally, selected photos could
be assembled for a small travelling exhibition that could be
presented in public institutions, community centres, or schools.
By doing so, huge numbers of different people could be reached.
The involvement of local people should always start when
excavations begin (Atalay 2012). For many years the maximum
level of local participation was the people’s temporary employment
as labourers in order to assist the foreign archaeological teams
in accomplishing their research objectives. Such behaviour
Melanie Münzner, The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain | Dig It 2(1):2-71 (2014)
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The Dilmun Burial Mounds of Bahrain are unique in the world
and should therefore be treated with an appropriate level of
attention. The mound cemeteries have been harmed and have
diminished in number in the past five decades, yet they still
constitute an outstanding heritage asset that is targeted to be
nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in the near future.
Although the burial mounds and their inherent historic value
find wide recognition in the scientific community, local people
show little appreciation for their own heritage which seems to
be mainly rooted in a lack of knowledge. Considering the latter,
it is not surprising that mounds are demolished and vandalised.
Awareness raising campaigns have the power to counteract
ignorance and neglect, and should be promptly implemented to
avoid further disturbances.
Spreading information and knowledge of the burial mounds’
importance and singularity is the main tool to boost awareness
and, as a result, increase appreciation of the asset. Only if the local
community values its heritage it will treat it with appropriate care
and will be willing to support its long-term preservation.
The Dilmun Burial Mounds are not only among the earliest
traces of the island’s long history, future generations will also
benefit from their successful preservation. Besides having the
potential to attract tourists interested in history and to boost
cultural tourism, the burial mounds still possess secrets to
uncover. Future researchers may contribute to provide a more
complete picture of Bahrain and the wider Gulf region during
the Bronze Age.
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Kingdom of Bahrain, Central Informatics Organisation 2012 Area
of Bahrain expands to 765.3 square kilometres. Retrieved 9
New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process
Clara Filet1
differentiation of the sites and deliver a new perspective on
greater diversity of Celtic agglomerations, which cannot be
simply divided between open and fortified sites. These processes
will also be examined in the broader context of long-term
transformation of a territory. This approach will bring new
opportunities for studies, particularly analysis of the evolution of
social networks of sites in relation to the appearance of the city
and the state.
UMR 8546 ‘AOROC, Celtes et Etrusques’ and UMR 7041
‘ArScAn, Archéologies Environnementales’, University of
Paris 1, <[email protected]>.
During the last four centuries BC, non-Mediterranean Europe
undergoes deep economic and social transformations exemplified
by the appearance of large agglomerations that already had urban
characteristics is one of the most important landmarks. The
development of such urbanisation process in this area, beginning
four centuries before the Roman conquest, has raised questions to
protohistorian archaeologists for a long period of time.
Current view of the research: Emergence of the
urban phenomenon in the Transalpine Celtic
Within the Celtic-speaking area (Figure 1), defined through
assessment of toponymy and texts (Cunliffe 2006:34),
archaeological research shows a variety of different cultural
forms. This article focuses on urbanisation processes in the
transalpine Celtic world, which affected a large region from the
Atlantic coast of present day France to Slovakia (Figure 1). By
consequence, it excludes the Iberian Celtic world and the south
of Gaul, where the phenomenon seems to have started earlier
(Cunliffe 2006:145-157; Garcia 2004:5), and the British Islands,
which are affected later (Cunliffe 2006:183-186).
A better understanding of this phenomenon requires two main
revaluations. The first is to reconsider the extent of agglomeration
diversity, not in the light of morphological (open vs fortified
settlements) but in a functional sense. Secondly, the urbanisation
process needs to be perceived not only through the agglomerations
themselves, but as a long-term territorial phenomenon, which
affects the entire range of settlements. Rhythms of creation,
networks and functions of those sites have to be studied in aim to
follow the development of the urbanisation in Central and Western
Europe. It will also highlight the close ties of this process with the
emergence of the first state structures in this area.
Although inhabited by many peoples, each with their own
authority, this vast continental region shared not only important
aspects of material culture and artistic expression, but also an
almost similar response to the upheavals of the last few centuries
BC (Moscati et al. 1991:51). From the end of the 4th century
BC, archaeologists highlight that strong population growth,
seen in the multiplication of sites and colonisation of plateaus,
was accompanied by an unprecedented economic boom, greatly
increasing both agricultural and artisanal production (Malrain
et al. 2002). At that time new products (iron tools, wheel-made
pottery etc.), mass-produced and more complex technically,
circulated widely across Europe and sometimes well beyond the
Celtic territories (Brun and Ruby 2008:112-131). The settlements
were still scattered over the countryside, but the territories were
becoming structured. This was particularly due to the apparition
of a dense network of farms, which were increasingly organised
by hierarchy (Malrain et al. 2002; Cony 2011; Menez 2008:431468).
Over a relatively short period between the end of the 4th and the
middle of the 1st century BC, an unprecedented phenomenon
of complexification of modality of habitation developed in
non-Mediterranean Europe. This was the emergence of large
agglomerations with had urban characteristics. The fact that we no
longer consider those sites as pale copies of their Mediterranean
neighbours, but as part of an urbanisation process characteristic
to the Celtic society, is a recent achievement of sharp debates
between researchers in the protohistorical domain.
The urban character of these agglomerations, suggested by
processualist researchers (Collis 1984) and contested then by
postprocessualists (Woolf 1993), is now well accepted. Since the
publication of Fichtl (2000), most protohistorical archaeologists
finally accept that these agglomerations are cities, in the full sense
of the term. A similar reversal occurred simultaneously for the
categorisation of the first Iron Age Princely centres. The current
view is now to consider that, after the fall of those centres, some
agglomerations became cities by at least at the end of the 2nd
century BC. However, now the tendency seems to go further, by
applying the term of ‘city’ to older and older agglomerations, in
particular to the open settlements of the 3rd century BC (e.g.
Fichtl 2013).
This context formed the ideal setting for the development of
the urban phenomenon. The 3rd and 2nd century BC saw a
This ambiguity results from negligence for the definition of the
concept of city. The aim of this paper is to develop an original
and more rigorous overview of this urbanisation process.
Starting from a general definition of the city, based on functional
rather than morphological criteria, archaeological evidence
is used to measure the density, diversity and the centrality of
those agglomerations. These three notions will allow for better
Figure 1: Transalpine Celtic world (created by author)
Clara Filet, New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
gradual concentration of habitations, with the appearance of
agglomerations, that could stretch over 7-15 ha on average, and
much further in some instances (eg. Lovosice measuring approx.
60 ha; Augstein 2006:207). The agglomerations were often
characterised by their proximity to major communication routes
and the importance of commercial and craft activities that were
undertaken in the settlements.
cannot yet be described as fully urbanised (e.g. in Sievers and
Schönfelder 2012). This ambiguity is mainly due to negligence in
the definition of the city, which is nevertheless an essential phase
of urbanisation’s studies.
Celtic agglomerations: Another model of urbanism?
To consider the Celtic agglomerations as cities is to face a
major obstacle: their planning does not correspond to what has
been considered a city. The buildings in these agglomerations
were made of earth and wood. Due to this, for several decades
researchers did not accept that these sites could, in fact, have had
monumental architecture. The scarcity of their planning left large,
empty areas. In some cases it has been argued that these spaces
were used for farming, as shown at the site of Manching (Maier
et al. 1992) and Staré Hradisko (Danielisová and Hajnalová
2014). The basic housing unit did not consist of densely packed
buildings, but rather of dwellings standing alone or organised
in groups of households. It also included storage structures and
annexes for craft production that were dispersed in an enclosed
courtyard (Figure 3). By consequence, it can be assumed that
these units served both as dwellings and as workplaces.
During the second half of the 2nd century BC, large sites
gradually developed (e.g. Bibracte – 200 ha, Manching – 380
ha), alongside, or in place of, these first agglomerations (Fichtl
2000:141). They were usually fortified and in modern literature
are often referred to as oppida. This stems from Caesar’s usage of
this word in his ‘De Bello Gallico’. The major point of difference
between these new sites and the old sites is the presence of a
strong political power capable of anchoring and gathering a large
population around a common task, such as the construction
of a monumental fortification. Indications of contact between
those sites highlight their organisation into networks. Evidence
for these contacts was initially noted by Déchelette (19081914) through the diffusion of similar artefacts from known
settlements. Thus, at least in the western part of the transalpine
Celtic world, these sites are structured in a well understood
political and territorial entity, referred to as ‘civitates’ by Julius
Caesar (Caesar ‘De Bello Gallico; Fichtl 2012). Civitates were the
first archaic states in this area.
This image takes us far from our way of imagining the urban
centres inherited from Greeks and Romans. The diversity of
forms of urban centres across the world, however, disproves
the idea of the existence of a unique model of the city. A lot of
studies on urbanisation renounced to define the city, i.e. what
their research was all about (Damgaard Andersen et al. 1997).
However, this diversity of urban sites should not prevent the
construction of a general definition of the city. The forms of the
city are multiple, but its nature, i.e. urban function, is not.
However, this episode of centralisation (Figure 2) was shortlived. The eastern area, of the transalpine world, underwent
a crisis in 80-70 BC leading to the disappearance of most
of the agglomerations. The origins of this event are difficult
to determine (Salač 2012:338), but could have been related
to untenable economic strategies under population growth
(Danielisová et al. 2013:236). In the Western Celtic world, the
Roman conquest in the 50s BC and the reorganization of Gaul
by the emperor Augustus brought a fatal blow to the major Celtic
cities (Ouzoulias and Tranoy 2010).
Celtic agglomerations and urbanisation: An abuse
of language?
These large agglomerations have been studied since the late
19th century and the question of their place in the European
urbanisation process has been the subject of debate for a long
time (Kaenel 2006:22-23). The terms of ‘city’, ‘town’, ‘ville’ or
‘Stadt’ have been constrained, relativised and even left out to
qualify those settlements (e.g. Woolf 1993). This is especially so
in French and Germany literature, where the term ’proto-urban‘
has been used to describe them, suggesting that these centres
Figure 3: Examples of Celtic urbanism, some enclosures from Villeneuvest-Germain, France (created by author, adapted from Ruby and Auxiette
Defining the city
Addressing these problems, the definition of the city has to be
based not on morphological, but on functional criteria. Unlike
definitions based only on the presence of remarkable buildings
(such as shrine, palace or market) and a certain view of how a
city should be organised (e.g. in Fichtl 2013), Brun and Ruby
(2008:70) define a city as follows:
Figure 2: Distribution of the most well-known Celtic agglomerations in
relation to main communication roads (created by author)
Original research paper
A city is defined as a permanent agglomeration of
various populations and activities, aimed at promoting
the local and regional development of social relations.
At the local level, such a site promotes proximity in
terms of policy control, economic efficiency, cultural
contact and social reproduction by allowing so-called
“agglomeration” economies. At the regional level and
beyond, a city promotes a situation in a network, i.e. a
relative position in a complex hierarchy of productive,
social, territorial functions, so both utility and in mental
and to facilitate comparisons led to the adoption of only a very
small number of criteria, taken usually from among the most
immediately visible features. The clearest criterion, much easier
to grasp than the size of the town or the wealth of its inhabitants,
was the presence of a rampart. It has been argued that the
presence of a rampart indicates a special status of the settlement
(Kaenel 2006:28) and allows researchers to distinguish sites
without the need for thorough excavations. The rampart was a
particularly useful benchmark for the development of spatial
analysis of territory (e.g. Féliu 2008). However, it is illusory to
deduce information about the urbanisation process solely from
this classification on the basis of the most visible features.
The definition of the city given by Brun and Ruby (2008:70)
follows the work of geographers (as Lussault 2003:144), by
pointing out three notions as basis of the city: density, diversity
(of people, of activities etc.), and centrality. This definition, based
on the functional characteristics of the city, is deliberately broad.
It renounces the consideration of a city as a set of criteria that have
to be ‘ticked’ or ‘crossed out’ on a list. It is not by the presence of
a rampart, public buildings, a temple etc. that the city is defined,
nor does a larger number of features from an arbitrary list bring
a given site ‘closer’ to being a city. This definition, thus, breaks
with the ultimate criterion tradition that attempts to create the
differentiation between a large village and a city.
Currently, the most frequently used classification of
agglomeration differentiates between open and fortified sites,
the latter being called oppida (Féliu 2008:96). This Latin term
is easy to use and researchers tend to justify its use by the
designation given to certain sites by Caesar, who in ‘De Bello
Gallico’ distinguished between oppidum, vicus and aedificia (e.g.
Caesar, De Bello Gallico, I: 5, 2). These terms, oppidum, fortified
site, and vicus, open site, are often translated respectively as ‘city’
and ‘village’. The term aedificia does not refer to agglomerated
sites and therefore has tended to not be utilised in the study of
Furthermore, this definition is applicable to all types of urban
sites throughout the world, unlike the definitions based on
morphological criteria. In order to utilise the functional
definition in the archaeological analysis of unevenly preserved
urban sites, it is necessary to examine the corpus available
in the light of this definition. This questioning has to be done
in conjunction with a number of indicators dependent on
the agglomeration and culture studied, as well as the type of
information and sources available. Additionally, the city is not
an entirely unique and hermetic category. There are different
degrees of urbanity; there is not a binary opposition between
the city and non-city. A city never exists alone. Its own urban
character is not a fundamental feature of a site, but is inferred
from the relationships, attractiveness and polarisation of spaces
that surround it. A city relies on a hinterland, and is most often
connected with other cities in what is called ‘an urban network’.
These types of sites are subject of separate analyses and syntheses
(e.g. Fichtl 2000, 2012 for fortified sites, Augstein 2006 for open
sites). The problem, however, is that from a morphological
difference (the presence or absence of a rampart), two categories
of sites were deduced, referring to functional (power centre for
the oppida, trading centre for open sites), chronological (open
sites precede the oppida) and hierarchical (village and city)
distinctions. However, this is a methodological bias. The model of
Manching (Germany; Sievers 2003) demonstrates that a site does
not change its nature once it acquires a rampart. This distinction
works as a practical tool for the archaeologist; although, other
criteria must be taken into account when studying the diversity
of Celtic agglomerations.
A functional typology of settlements
Accordingly, this study focuses on developing a new typology,
based on morphological and functional information (Filet
2013:61-70) with the aim to observe the diversity of these sites.
Particularly the diversity of the sites across time will help to
develop an understanding of the genesis, evolution, and regional
specificities of these agglomerations.
Understanding the urban phenomenon: The
utility of functional information
Usual classification: One single morphological criterion
The persistent ambiguity on when to apply the term ’city‘ to a
site results from two general problems in archaeology: first, that
archaeological evidence is subject to bias during the research
process, depending on its state of preservation and visibility and
also on the fact that excavation usually researches only a sample
of a site. And second, archaeological data only correspond to
the result of an action but not to the action itself. In fact, any
archaeological study operates on consequences. We do not have
access to the processes leading to these consequences, so all the
work of the archaeologist is to interpret the implications in order
to understand the processes themselves. However, the risk is to
assume that the most visible consequences, i.e. the most visible
archaeological remains, are the most important elements of the
process in question.
As defined by Brun and Ruby (2008:70), the notion of ‘city’ is
based on three criteria: density, diversity and centrality. Those
three criteria are applied to build a typology from a restricted
corpus of sites.
An estimation of population is problematic in Celtic settlement
studies. Reliable demographic data, based on studies of
settlements or necropolises, do not exist for the majority of sites.
Therefore, the notion of density is only used here for the corpus
definition, as all sites in this study are agglomerations. Density is
implied in the rural vs urban distinction.
Research on Celtic agglomerations has suffered from this amalgam
for a long time. The need to quickly develop classifications and
typologies in order to make the data more easily understandable
Diversity was interpreted through the occurrence and
combination of three main features; economy, political cohesion
Clara Filet, New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
and religious function. The economic status of each settlement is
defined through both agricultural production (which is present
at every site, including vast and fortified sites; Danielisová and
Hajnalová 2014) and craft production. The political stature
of each site is interpreted though the existence of a coercive
power, or at least of a collective structure and organisation of the
community. Evidence of such collective structure can be found
in the preplanning of a settlement (Filet 2012), monumental
architecture, the edification of a rampart, coins production
or the existence of public places, in particular gathering areas.
Finally, religious function is addressed; primarily identified by
the presence of a shrine. However, the imbrication of politics and
religion is a feature of ancient societies; and the Celtic society is
no exception. It is, therefore, difficult to disentangle the political
and religious stature of a site, as features of a settlement can
belong to either category.
Centrality C4:
Centrality C5:
Craft production diffusion was studied through two lines of
evidence. First, is craft production one of the main functions
of a settlement? (e.g., half of the pottery ovens in Bohemia
were found in Lovosice, and they were not solely intended for
the inhabitants’ use; Salač 2012:324), and second, does the site
possessed highly specialised craft facilities (e.g. a goldsmiths)?
Coin diffusion was defined as the distance from the sources
of monetary types: local to regional, supra-regional and intercultural radiation.
An ideal-typology of agglomerations
The notion of centrality concerns the insertion of the sites in
a network of contacts and interaction between settlements.
The different sizes of these networks, defied by the differences
in the attractiveness and redistribution strength of the site,
will distinguish between agglomerations. These differences
are highlighted by three forms of evidence: importations, craft
production and coins diffusion.
Diversity and centrality were then used in order to find similarities
inside a corpus of twenty-seven well-studied agglomerations and
develop an ideal-typology (to use Max Weber’s term; CoenenHuther 2003:531).
In view of a complex situation, involving a multitude of factors,
the ideal-type acts as a simplification thereof, reduced to the
features that seem most essential to the researcher. This stylised
(or ‘ideal’) version of reality has no descriptive value, but
allows making complex phenomena comprehensible. It is not a
transcription of reality, but a mental construction, a tool with
only logical value (Coenen-Huther 2003:532). The aim here is not
to create a definitive and fixed typology of Celtic agglomeration.
The ideal-types – in our case, ideal-types of agglomeration – are
considered to be tools of intelligibility, which help to understand
the process of urbanisation. I do not claim to provide a fixed
image of the diversity of grouped settlements. I intend instead to
obtain a new vision of this diversity, and to see how it was set up
across time and space.
Using these three criteria, six categories of centrality were
Centrality C1:
no importations or only raw materials imported
craft production poorly distributed
coins from local to regional sources
Centrality C2:
diversified importations, one source
craft production poorly distributed
coins from local to regional sources
Centrality C3:
diversified importations, diversified sources
craft production highly distributed
coins from inter-cultural sources
Importations were classified by two elements; diversity of
imported objects and diversity of the sources of the objects.
Unfortunately, not enough studies about circulation of goods
inside the transalpine Celtic world have been carried out
(except e.g. Pierrevelcin 2010). Therefore only goods from the
Mediterranean, German and Baltic worlds were considered in
this study. Additionally, amphorae and campanian wares were
excluded, as they are present in almost all the agglomerations
taken into account in this study. The geographical location of
each site was also considered. As, for example, sites situated next
to the Germanic boarder had better access to Germanic goods,
the presence of Germanic goods would therefore not assist in the
question of centrality.
diversified importations, diversified sources
craft production highly distributed
coins from supra-regional sources
Centrality C6:
The presence of only some of those functions is, however, not
enough to qualify the functional diversity of a settlement. One or
the other function will be found at many settlements. The crucial
factor is the intensity of the presence of those characteristics.
I therefore suggest that the more different functions, the
more places associated with these functions, and the more
archaeological evidence for these functions is observed, the
more we can consider that functional diversity is significant.
For example, when the agricultural and craft production is
considerable, but is not associated with significant evidence for
a political function, functional diversity would be low. When
however craft production is low, agricultural production is
presumed to be sizable, and there are some clues for the presence
of a political function, I define a medium functional diversity.
The category of large functional diversity is finally used to define
sites where craft and agricultural production is considerable, and
which possess numerous evidence for the presence of a political
power. The diversity of status and wealth of residents was not
taken into account in this study, as evidence for the presence of
an elite can be found in all the sites studied.
no importations or only raw materials imported
craft production highly distributed
coins from supra-regional sources
The analysis of functional diversity and centrality of
agglomerations depends on the degree of knowledge available on
each site. Twenty-seven settlements were analysed for this study
(from more than 200 counted in the transalpine Celtic world;
Filet 2013). These were chosen as they have been extensively
no importations or only raw materials imported
craft production highly distributed
coins from local to regional sources
Original research paper
type 1 to 2 is linked to the intensification of exchange and
monetisation of economy during the 2nd century BC.
There are a few particularities in the body of sites. First of all,
we can immediately notice the special status of two Czech
agglomerations: Staré Hradisko and České Lhotice. It is not yet
possible to determine if these differences in centrality are linked
to the singularities of money use in Bohemia, where there is no
production of low value coins, contrary to their high circulation
in Western Europe (Pierrevelcin 2008:104) or rather to the
effective differences between East and West in the functioning of
agglomerations. Some agglomerations taken into account cannot
be classified. As the table (Figure 4) shows, the site of Němčice
(also located in Bohemia) could be either an intermediary type
between types 2 and 6 or a new one. It might be related to the
Austrian site of Roseldorf, which seems to possess some of the
same characteristics (Salač 2012:328). For now, we do not have
sufficient data to compare the centrality and functional diversity
of these two sites. Finally, Roanne (France) stands apart due to
the very high centrality compared to its functional diversity.
This particularity could perhaps be explained by its early
commercial role – notably it served as a transshipment station
between the rivers of the Rhône/Saône axis and the Loire River.
The agglomeration of Chalon-sur-Saône could have played the
same role for the river Saône. For now, both of these assumptions
remain hypothetical.
Figure 4: Ideal-typology of Celtic agglomerations (created by author)
studied and published. Another important limitation of my
method comes with the fact that I consider each site as a single
chronological point, not as an object evolving in time. However,
the data on the periodisation of functions and interactions in each
site are not yet large enough to take into account this temporal
factor. The data which my research is based on are probably
linked to the moment where the site interacted the most with the
others. This is the reason why I indicated the climax period on
my chart (Figure 5).
For all these reasons, I cannot claim to be able to extend this
frame to the study of all known Celtic settlements, as a definitive
and fixed image of the Celtic agglomerations diversity in Europe.
Once again, I consider this framework as an ideal-typology,
which will evolve with future excavations on new sites.
This typology highlights that the functions and the centrality
of the Celtic agglomerations are relevant for the task of
distinguishing between them in a more helpful way, much more
constructive than the former examination of presence or absence
of a fortification. Even though an important part of sites from
types 4, 5 and 6 possessed a rampart, some of them were probably
open settlements (e.g. Nanterre or Corent) and settlements from
other types are found with a rampart. Furthermore, this typology
allows us to expose a bigger part of the array of the settlements
diversity and it brings many new prospects to the analysis of the
Celtic urbanisation process.
Starting from measurements of the functional diversity and the
centrality of the 27 sites, six different ideal-types were observed
and divided into three groups (Figure 4).
Group C, formed by ideal-types 4 and 5, differentiates itself
by high functional diversity and high centrality. Archaeology
and texts show that those agglomerations were often capitals
of their civitates (as Nanterre, Villeneuve-st-Germain,
Bibracte, Titelberg, and probably Corent and Orléans)
or the main agglomeration of their region (Manching,
Altenburg-Rheinau and Stradonice), especially in presentday Germany and the Czech Republic, where there is no
evidence of the existence of such archaic states (Fichtl
2012:109). The difference between types 4 and 5 results from
a distinction of centrality (C5 and C6). Since the sites are
contemporaneous, this difference can probably be linked
to the location of the sites from important communication
roads and the influence of their civitas. The sites of the type 6
belong to the most powerful civitates, those that are we know
the best from literary sources, such as Arverni (Corent),
Aedui (Bibracte), and Carnutes (Orleans) (Fichtl 2012).
Group A, formed by ideal agglomeration types 3 and 6,
differentiates itself by medium functional diversity and
low centrality. Those two types are however distributed in
time in two distinct waves of sites creation (Figure 5) and
are contemporaneous at the beginning of the 1st century
BC. This is the reason why, although these two types have
some similar characteristics, they do not belong to the same
A new perspective about Celtic urbanisation process
Group B, formed by the ideal-types 1 and 2, differentiates
itself by low functional diversity and medium centrality.
Contrary to group A, we can perceive continuous
developments of sites from type 1 to 2. Since the distinction
between these two types is related to the passage from
Centrality C3 to C4, we can assume that the evolution from
Classically, the Celtic urbanisation process has been understood
in a binary way, with the appearance of open settlements from
the end of the 3rd century BC, replaced by fortified ones starting
100 years later. The site of Levroux (France) was considered as
model, through the contemporary disappearance of the open
settlement in the plains and the construction of a fortified one
Clara Filet, New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
a new type of sites (type 3). Contrary to the sites seen before,
Acy-Romance, Ymonville, Trégueux and Paule (all in France)
were not major hubs in craft production and they seem to have
played a rather minor role in the exchange networks. It appears,
however, that these sites centralised agricultural production,
in large barns as in Paule (Menez 2008) or in a considerable
number of granaries and/or silos like in Acy-Romance, Trégueux
and Ymonville (Lambot 1999; Allen et al. 2012; Inrap 2010).
Nevertheless, the particularity of those sites compared to the
contemporary settlements is the very early organisation and
rationalisation of the space: dense networks of ditches and
fences (Ymonville, Trégueux), the organisation of households
around rectangular squares (Acy-Romance), existence of closed
public squares (Paule, Ymonville, Acy-Romance) or communal
buildings (Trégueux) that gathered a small community. Some
studies (Lambot 2005) suggest that these squares or buildings
could accommodate a number of persons exceeding the
population of the agglomeration itself. Everything indicates that
these sites were seats of a landed power, based on land ownership
and in control of its people and its resources. The long occupation
length of these grouped settlements supports the idea that they
were the focal points of local authority, sustainably maintained
through gradual setting up of hierarchy of settlements and the
emergence of Celtic civitates.
The major transition seems to occur during the second third of
the 2nd century BC. At that time, the number of agglomerations
increased considerably, they diversified and became more
hierarchised than ever. New cities (from that moment they are
called that), such as Corent, Orléans, Besançon or Nanterre,
centralised and intensified all the functions seen before (types 4
and 5). They were very active in the production and circulation
of goods, and they were seats of more powerful authorities (as
demonstrated by texts, rampart edification, planed urbanism or
coins production), whose range was higher than what existed
before. Essentially, they possessed all the criteria that allow us to
see these sites as true ‘centres’, and as real cities.
Figure 5: Chronology of studied sites (created by author)
on the close hill (Kaenel 2006:28). From the 2000s onwards,
some researchers started to nuance this model (Féliu 2008:206),
arguing in particular with the archaeological evidence of a
contemporary occupation phase between the open and fortified
sites of Basel in Switzerland (Féliu 2008:206). To go further,
not only the links between the types of settlements have to be
reconsidered, but we have to rethink the whole diversity of
settlements. The ideal-typology I tried to build is thus helpful to
reassess the Celtic urbanisation process.
At the same time, the appearance of a series of secondary towns
(type 6) added a new level of hierarchy. They were probably used
for the relay of authority or, the smallest ones, as seats thereof
(as Boviolles or Essey-lès-Nancy in France). Individually they
seem to play an essentially regional role, even though they were
certainly highly hierarchised. Their continued appearance until
the middle of the 1st century BC means that they played an
important role in the process of structuring the territory into
Gradually, during the 3rd century, we witness growth and
amalgamation of some habitation nuclei, which will form first
agglomerated settlements (type 1, Figure 4). In the present state
of knowledge this seems to affect particularly the east of the
Celtic world, with a number of examples in the Czech Republic
(Lovosice) and Hungary (Sajopetri). The archaeological site
of Aulnat (France) stands out as the most western, but was
probably not the only one. From the outset, craft activities are
well established in those sites which are also related to medium
or long distance exchange networks.
The last visible change is the gradual strengthening and
enrichment of the central sites, whose attractiveness, influence
and authority became increasingly important (e.g. Bibracte,
Villeneuve-St-Germain or Stradonice). The construction of
ramparts and deeper insertion into the networks of international
trade should be seen as symptoms of strengthening of a central
power. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that Caesar
names each site of this group as capital of a civitas.
Between the late 3rd and early 2nd century BC, these sites seem
to grow in number. The increasing of production structures in
each of them supports the perception of a certain intensification
of craft production. New sites appeared (as Levroux in France,
Basel Gasfabrik in Switzerland etc.; type 2), but it seems that there
was not a new wave of creation. There appears to have been a
gradual evolution, during which the concentration of the habitat
became more common and craft activities were strengthened.
Apparently, the population was ’learning agglomeration‘, which
entailed the adaptation to a new way of life, based on new values
and a new mentality. For example, the dead from each centre
are buried outside of the agglomeration and no longer in small
groups near the households.
These processes were relatively homogeneous across the Celtic
world at the beginning of the period taken into account. As
highlighted by the typology, from the 2nd century however east
and west parted their ways. The fate of the eastern cities is a
special case that will be discussed in another publication.
A little bit later and towards the northwest, settlements of the
Celtic world underwent a parallel phenomenon of emergence of
Original research paper
Two movements of creation: from territories to networks, from
networks to territories
(2013) of rural settlements in the northern half of France has
provided accurate information on the rhythms of creation and
abandonment of habitats between the 5th century BC and the
1st century AD. For the period in question (between the 4th
and the 1st century BC), they show an initially slow and gradual
densification of rural sites from 400 BC and an unprecedented
acceleration from the second half of the 3rd century BC. Site
density peaks around 150-100 BC, when the number of known
rural sites is in some regions multiplied by five compared to
the beginning of the sequence (Malrain et al. 2013:257). The
comparison of these data with those from other parts of the
Celtic world is still to be done.
By eliminating the reductive distinction between open and
fortified sites, this brief overview highlights a much greater
diversification, which is more in line with the complexity of
Celtic society itself. It also helps to underline the confrontation
of two dynamics in the creation of these sites. The first one is
an external process, with an intention to participate heavily in
long-distance trade by being sites of production, distribution
and export (Group B). Without neglecting their undeniable
local role, we should note that this was the preferred type of
function in the creation of these settlements. In contrast, the
second dynamic is the internal stratification of the territory and
progressive constitution of networks structuring it (Group A).
Organisation into a hierarchy
Starting from the 3rd century, we observe an increase of
hierarchical disparities between settlements. Some of the sites
gradually distanced themselves from the others through their size,
their monumental architecture and the diversity and quality of
their goods. These archaeological differences bring our attention
to discrepancies of wealth and status of the given place and of
its inhabitants, related to diversification of functions of these
sites (for example as local authority seats). For some particularly
monumental examples as the farm of Batilly-en-Gatinais (in the
department of Loiret) or the complex of Paule (Côtes d’Armor),
the researchers now tend to use the term “aristocratic farms”.
Many regional typologies are being established so as to classify
the hierarchical levels of these farms (e.g. Malrain 2010:43;
Menez 2008).
Naturally, these two movements are quite related. Large
commercial sites played a role in the organisation of territories
(where they generally occupy the highest ranks in the hierarchy),
while sites of the second category are part of these trade networks
and spread their influence at a local level. This difference seems
however symptomatic of two opposing movements within the
urbanisation process: an upward movement that starts at the
local level and gets involved in higher networks, and a downward
movement that originates from the network organization and
joins the territorial structuring. The confrontation between these
two movements can be seen in the settlements of Group C.
The perspective this paper tried to develop shows that we
are not dealing with a linear phenomenon in which the open
agglomerations developed into cities. The urbanisation process
rather took the shape of a gradual diversification of sites from the
earliest agglomerations (type 3) into a range of new settlements,
which had different functions and levels inside the sites networks.
Concentration of settlements
From the middle of the 3rd century, at the same time the large
farming settlements characterised by considerable population
concentration appeared, the expansion and the amalgamation
of several settlement nuclei formed the first agglomerated sites.
From the first examples known in northern Gaul, such as Aulnat
(Puy de Dôme), to the large cities of the 1st century BC, these
sites increase considerably in number, in surface and in intra-site
density (Filet 2012).
Urbanisation as a process
The interplay of four main phenomena
The gradual diversification of sites shows that urbanisation must
be seen as a process in development, that is to say as a series of
transformations that lead or can lead to emergence of the city.
This notion has several implications. On the one hand, we have
to bear in mind that urbanisation, as a process, begins before the
appearance of the city itself, which is only its late aftermath. As a
result, researchers have already paid attention to the ’open craft
agglomerations‘ in particular, where economic dynamism and
development of communal facilities can already be considered
as urban features (Fichtl 2013; Salač 2012). The case of princely
centres of the 6th and 5th centuries BC, called “the incompletely
urbanised sites” or “atelo-urban sites” by Chaume and Brun
(2013) is also quite informative. An urbanisation process can
exist without leading to the appearance of cities. On the other
hand, it should be noted that this series of mutations does not
only affect the agglomerations but also has consequences for
all the types of settlements. The gradual diversification of the
types of sites, accompanied by a functional and hierarchical
redistribution, has consequences in the rhythms of creation for
rural sites as well, and for the interactions between these sites.
All those modifications participate in the evolution of a territory
over the long term. These observations highlight that four
different phenomena were at play during the Celtic urbanisation.
Structuring the territory
This last phenomenon underlies the entire studied period. It may
be visible since the end of the 4th century, with the development
of constructed shrines (Fichtl et al. 2000). Shrines played an
important role in “political and social cohesion” (as described by
Fichtl 2013:153) and in stabilising territories by uniting groups
of people under their influence. The progressive stabilisation and
ranking of habitat clusters further accentuate this hierarchically
structuring, which leads to the formation of the first archaic
states in Gaul, the Celtic civitates, whose the largest could stretch
over more than 20,000km² (Brun in press). They were already
well established when Caesar started his conquest in 58 BC. The
boundaries of these autonomous political entities were widely
adopted in the Roman reorganisation of Gaul (Ouzoulias et
Tranoy 2010).
These four phenomena are obviously interconnected. Their
consequences were the basis of the gradual initiation of the
city and the state. This is not to say that they affected all parts
of the Celtic world to the same intensity or at the same pace.
For example the study of Malrain, Blancquaert and Lorho
(2013:225), which is based on comparisons of the number of
rural settlements between each northern region of northern
France, pointed out time-lags and regional rhythms. The most
The densification of settlements
The census directed by Malrain, Blancquaert and Lorho
Clara Filet, New Approaches to the Celtic Urbanisation Process | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
important peaks of creation or abandonment of settlements were
not always contemporary and settlement densification started
earlier in some areas. The same interpretation could be deduced
from the work of Pion (2007:37), who studied the territories of
north-eastern France (“Belgic Gaul”). He analysed the federation
process of composition of new civitates from small territorial
entities (called “pagi”) to compose the new civitates. His work
shows that at the moment of the conquest of Gaul, this process
was not at the same stage in each area. Indeed the constitution of
the state and the urbanisation were more advanced in the eastern
civitates of Belgic Gaul than in the west.
territory transformation dynamics. These major transformations
were completely new in this area and they contributed to general
complexification of Celtic society during the last four centuries
of European protohistory.
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Perspectives: Social networks of settlements
Following up on this work on urbanisation processes and
territorial surveys, a more dynamic study of territories has to be
pursued, in particular through the organisation of interactions
between sites. As Metzler (1995) had already shown for the
agglomeration of Titelberg (Luxemburg), large agglomerations
concentrated a number of products before redistributing them,
going thus above the local scale to intercultural and the other
way round. Agricultural products and raw materials from farms
were passed to the agglomeration through a number of relay
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influences, political control or diplomatic relations between
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contacts between sites. As the functions of each of them were
distributed, no site was self-sufficient, but it owed its continuing
existence to a system. Studying this system, its implementation
and its evolution will refine this overview and will allow seeing
how the organisation of networks accompanied the four
phenomena discussed above.
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more or less extensive networks of farms, whereas four centuries
later at the time of Caesar’s invasion, territories seemed to be
much more structured and to involve a variety of much larger
settlements. These changes had implications for the evolution
of networks that connect them, including a multiplication of
types of relations on which they were based. The challenge lies
in understanding how this intensification of contacts developed
during those four centuries. Was it done gradually and locally,
or immediately and on a supra-regional scale? Can we perceive
collapse? What was the longevity of nodal points in the networks?
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consider the urbanisation as a set of dynamics inside a territory
and no longer as a gradual evolution of one type of sites from
open to fortified settlement.
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these processes manifest themselves first in an increasing
diversification of the types of sites, especially agglomerations –
their variety went far beyond the traditional distinction between
open and fortified settlements. The appearance of this new
diversity implies increasing hierarchical distinctions between
settlements and redistribution of functions they played. These
changes transformed significantly the way settlements interacted
with each other and thus participated actively to long-term
Original research paper
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Yup’ik Eskimo Kayak Miniatures:
Preliminary notes on kayaks from the Nunalleq site
Celeste Jordan1
Master of Maritime Archaeology Student, Department
of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,
<[email protected]>.
There is currently no evidence of pre-historic Yup’ik kayaks or
kayak models that have survived post-contact. This paper examines
three kayak models recovered during archaeological excavations in
a pre-contact Yup’ik Eskimo site in Quinhagak, Alaska in 2013.
The paper compares these representations of Nunalleq kayaks with
other Yup’ik kayaks in the region and speculates about their use as
elements of traditional knowledge transfer and teaching in Yup’ik
Figure 1: Map of Alaska with Quinhagak indicated (City-Data 2011)
Quinhagak in southwest Alaska (Figure 1), United States, is a
village of approximately 700 people (City-Data 2011), almost
all of whom are Yup’ik-speaking Eskimos of the Bering Sea
region. The rich prehistory of the area was little understood until
recently, when excavations by Richard Knecht, University of
Aberdeen in Scotland, began to shed light on the prehistory of a
Yup’ik settlement located near the current village (Rick Knecht,
personal communication, August 2013). This site became known
as Nunalleq or ‘old village’ in Yup’ik (or Yupitt). A small sample
of three kayak miniatures found during the 2013 field season
is discussed in this paper. The different forms of kayaks and
their importance as integral elements of subsistence practices
for Yup’ik (and other) people are well documented in northern
studies (Zimmerley 1986; Adney and Chapelle 1964). There
is also information regarding traditional knowledge transfer
about kayak use and construction being passed down from
father to son (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982; Rick Knecht, personal
communication, August 2013) and it is speculated in the paper
that this may have been one function of the pre-contact Nunalleq
models found in 2013. It is hoped that a larger sample size from
field seasons extending through to 2017, and oral history work
commencing in 2014, will provide more information.
by being a skilled kayaker and hunter, and having a good kayak
was part of a man’s success (Zimmerly 1986:40). This sharing
of consumable goods is still practised today in most villages in
Alaska (Warren Jones, personal communication, August 2013).
During the 2013 excavation season by University of Aberdeen
archaeologists, three miniature kayaks were recovered which
may provide broad information on the Yup’ik kayaks from
Nunalleq’s occupation. These miniatures are assumed to be
representations of a local subtype of the Bering Sea kayak style.
This paper aims to compare the form of the Nunalleq miniatures
with other regional Yup’ik kayak forms known from Nunivak
Island and Hooper Bay and the region along the south coastal
portion of Norton Sound, (Figure 1). For the purposes of this
paper, Nunivak and Hooper Bay have been categorised into one
group, as the differences between the two subtypes are minimal,
as noted by Zimmerly (1986:39).
Location of the Nunalleq site
Currently, the Central Yup’ik Region (Figure 2) has a population
of over 23,000 Yup’ik Eskimos in over 60 villages (FienupRiordan 2005:xiv; Marlow 2009:1). Transport and access to the
majority of villages is limited to plane, boat, and snowmobile.
As can be seen in Figure 1, Quinhagak and the Nunalleq site are
situated almost in the middle of the Central Yup’ik Region, along
the coast of the Bering Sea.
Yup’ik kayaks are known from the earliest ethnographic reports,
but there are currently no surviving full-size Yup’ik kayaks from
the pre-contact period. Early ethnographic collections and
photographs from southwest Alaska by Edward Nelson (1899)
and George Gordon (1917) are valuable sources of data about
kayaks from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Ethnographic work from the mid-twentieth century by Margaret
Lantis (1946, 1960) and more recent work, notably by Ann
Fienup Riordan and David Zimmerley from the 1980s onward,
provides information about the social and cultural meanings
associated with kayaks. Kayaks were not only functional but were
an important symbol for all Eskimos as well. Not only did the
watercraft represent the ability to exploit the oceans for food and
useful animal parts, trade, and exploration, it was also a hunter’s
most prized possession and a symbol of manhood (Fitzhugh and
Kaplan 1982:60). In Eskimo culture, to be able to give food and
other goods away to the less fortunate of your village also granted
wealth, prestige, and access to women; this was brought about
The Nunalleq archaeological site is located on the coast of, about
3km from the present day village of Quinhagak (Figure 1). The
site was occupied between 1350 AD and 1650 AD, before contact
with Europeans (Knecht 2012:21). This occupation period ended
abruptly when the village was attacked in what is known as the
Bow and Arrow War (Knecht 2012:23). During the Bow and
Arrow War, it is clear that the village was burned as evidenced by
the stratigraphic layers of charcoal and burned orange clay levels
representing collapsed roofing sods. The site, in its entirety, is
under serious threat from coastal erosion and could easily slide
into the sea with a single major storm (Rick Knecht, personal
communication, August 2013). Fortunately, the preservation of
artefacts is aided by permafrost. Although permafrost is extremely
inconvenient for excavating it does help to greatly preserve
Original research paper
of umiaks has been discovered at the Nunalleq site. Kayaks or
qayaq (in Yup’ik) (Kuntz 1998:19) were used by all Eskimos for
hunting fish, large sea mammals, and sometimes land mammals.
Kayaks were fast and relatively easy to silently manoeuvre to get
close to mammals that were then killed using a variety of means
including darts (Boyd and Richerson 2005:57), harpoons, spears,
clubs, and bolas for waterfowl. Kayaks were an adaptive solution
to the environment because of their slim and efficient hull
designs, which allowed for sustainable and fast paddling. There
have been several accounts of European sailors on whaling ships
who were shocked to realise that even under full sail, Eskimos in
kayaks, riding the surf, were passing them (Kuntz 1998:18).
Kayaks were not only used in Alaska. Skin-covered kayaks
were also used by Eskimos of Canada and Greenland as well
as in northern Europe, Asia, and other parts of North America
(Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60). It is believed that Eskimo kayaks
are the most evolved forms of kayak, with Bering Sea kayak
designs being the most complex and sophisticated (Fitzhugh and
Kaplan 1982:60). Where Eskimo kayaks originated is unknown
but they could have developed, more than ten thousand years
ago, along the southern rim of the Bering Land Bridge, where
people were learning to hunt large sea mammals in freezing
waters (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60). Their lightweight, strong,
and seaworthy capabilities were perfect for navigating over ice
and through the rough and freezing northern waters. Kayak
construction was taught to young men by older men through the
generations. This might have been done at the outset through
trial and error, by evaluating alternatives, judging whose boats
were better constructed and more efficient, and exploring how
to combine differences in design to develop the best kayak
possible (Boyd and Richerson 2005:57). In the environment of
shared learning in a group, there is also the possibility that a
young person might think of an alternative that could better the
construction. Boyd and Richerson (2005:54) note that adaptation
results from information processing capacities wired into the
brain by natural selection operating on genes and collective
knowledge. Therefore, each generation of kayak builders had
the possibility to make a more efficient and effective seagoing
vessel. Nevertheless, only small modifications to overall design
and structure could be anticipated because individuals were not
exposed to vastly different watercraft designs in the pre-contact
Figure 2: Alaskan map divided into Eskimo regions (after Marlow 2009:1)
artefacts. As a consequence of global warming, permafrost is
thawing earlier and freezing later in the year. This winter, for
instance, there has been little snow in Alaska and the soil of the
Nunalleq site has not been fully frozen in the uppermost levels
(Warren Jones, personal communication, January 2014). This
means that due to changing environmental conditions, which
have negative impact on the site, recovering the artefacts and
information from the Nunalleq site is imperative to contribute to
our understanding of pre-contact Yup’ik Eskimo culture.
Yup’ik Eskimo culture and subsistence
Pre-contact knowledge transfer and learning among Yup’ik
people traditionally was through oral culture, with no written
history or transcribed language. Children were taught about
subsistence practices, culture and social systems through stories,
toys, legends, and examples of behaviour. Boyd and Richerson
(2005:24-26) have persuasively written about the collective
knowledge shared with each child through social learning,
which forms an accumulated pool of information over numerous
generations. The accumulation of generational learning produces
a body of cultural knowledge that is highly adaptive, particularly
about appropriate technologies for subsistence practices. This
set of cultural intuitive resources allowed Yup’ik Eskimos, like
other oral cultures, to adapt swiftly to changes in their local
environment and teach each child about their social and cultural
roles in village life.
The functional needs, design, and construction parameters of
a kayak were clear. The driftwood frame made it lightweight
so that a single male hunter could haul it over land and ice.
Driftwood had to be used as the Bering Sea region is located
above the tree line, i.e. the region is too far north for the growth
of forests, meaning that all wood used in the prehistoric period
was driftwood collected on shore. The seal skin covering was
tough, did not add much to the weight, and meant that the hull
could not be torn by newly formed, sharp ice, and would not
freeze. Finally, with a paddler wearing a gutskin skirt parka,
which was lashed to, and sealed, around the cockpit, the kayak
was practically unsinkable (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60).
Kayaks would have been used to hunt fish including salmon,
halibut, tom cod, flounder, whitefish, blackfish, capelin, smelt,
needlefish, and pike. Seal, walrus, beluga whale, moose, caribou,
bear, fox, otter, Arctic hare, muskrat, beaver, and waterfowl were
also hunted from kayaks (Fienup-Riordan 2005:xv; Zimmerly
1986:43). The hunting of land mammals was initiated from the
water and finished by using the kayak to make landfall near the
water’s edge to collect the kill.
Although coastal Yup’ik, like those of Nunalleq, were seasonally
nomadic, the abundance of terrestrial plant and animal life, in
addition to marine foods, allowed them to have a comparatively
settled life in a fixed geographical area (Fienup-Riordan 2005:vx)
compared to other hunter and gatherers who follow a more
active seasonal year of subsistence activities. Certainly for the
Yup’ik, fish and marine mammals such as seal, small whale, and
walrus were, and continue to be, a significant part of their diet
(Nash et al. 2013:161). Zagoskin, an early explorer in what was
formerly Russian America, referred to salmon as the “bread of
all coastal dwellers of the Eastern Ocean and Bering Sea” in the
Early Historic and Historic Eras (Knudson et al 2003:445).
Eskimo kayak use
Sea mammal hunting and fishing in the Bering Sea region took
place from both kayaks and larger open boats called umiaks.
It is known that Eskimos of the Bering Sea region, particularly
Siberian Eskimos, used umiaks, a large open craft capable of
carrying multiple people and cargo. Currently, no evidence
Celeste Jordan, Yup’ik Eskimo Kayak Miniatures | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
The construction of a kayak was a deeply important rite of
passage for men and was steeped in ritual. A man started kayak
construction by recycling parts of his previous kayak and adding
new pieces of driftwood, sometimes using naturally bent pieces
of stumpwood saved specifically for this purpose (Fitzhugh and
Kaplan 1982:60). The measurements of each piece of the wooden
frame were calculated using different parts or a combination of
parts of the maker’s body – for example, the span of a hand. The
frame was built up in pieces and fastened with pegs and lashings
made of rawhide (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60, 61; Zimmerly
1986:40). The hunter’s wife provided the sewn bearded seal skin
that was used to cover the frame (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60,
61). Zimmerly (1986:40) suggests that the kayak required
three sealskins for the hull and two sealskins for the decks. The
provision of the sealskin cover by the hunter’s wife reflects the
fundamental separation in Yup’ik culture of the types of tasks,
spaces, and roles that men and women played in society (Frink
2006:111). On Nunivak Island, women could enter the men’s
house to aid in the construction of kayak using skins but there
were restrictions on both sex’s behaviour while in the same space.
It is also very likely that men also knew how to sew the skins and
took part in kayak sewing and repair (Frink 2009:22).
Nunalleq village was situated (Figure 2). Although the need for
kayaks was critical to subsistence hunting, their design differed
from region to region and from community to community.
Bering Sea kayaks had broad and deep hulls with a flattened but
not fully flat bottom and rounded bilges (Zimmerly 1986:41).
This flattened bottom can be clearly seen in the excavated
miniatures - Kayaks One, Two, and Three (Figures 4, 6, and 8).
The broad and deep hull is represented in all the Nunalleq kayak
miniatures (Figures 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8). The wide cockpits in Yup’ik
kayaks were mainly for the storage of game, but also allowed for
two people to sit back to back, which allowed for a ‘tail gunner’
during a war raid on a neighbouring village (Zimmerly 1986:41).
This wide kayak cockpit form appears to be the case for Kayaks
One, Two and Three (Figures 3, 6, and 7).
Turning our attention to the bow of the miniatures, these
examples make drawing conclusions difficult. There is some
suggestion that the Nunivak Island kayak bow design tapered to a
point, then flared out again to a smaller point and that this might
have been for towing or tethering the kayak (Kuntz 1998:64).
Zimmerly makes no mention of this design feature for Nunivak
Island (Figure 9), Hooper Bay, or Norton Sound kayaks (Figure
10). There is loose evidence of this bow design with Kayak One
(Figure 3) but it is not a very convincing example if this is, in fact,
what it represents. The stern of Kayak One (Figure 3) might be
a better example of this design feature, but again, it is not fully
The final touches made to a kayak were in the form of
carvings, paintings, and symbology. The kayak would be given
mythological markings and symbols for luck, for protection,
as thanks to the hunted animals, and for hunter identification.
The bow or stern shape could be modified and symbols would
be painted on the hunter’s paddles to further communicate
cultural ideals (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60, 61). Protection
from dangerous sea spirits came in the form of inogo or charm
iconography painted on the inside of the kayak by a shaman,
and possibly the dried head of a loon or carving of a sea creature
that the hunter had been threatened by previously (Fitzhugh and
Kaplan 1982:60, 61). Finally, two carved faces, one of a frowning
female and another of a smiling male, would be secured on the
underside of the cockpit rim, on either side of the hunter’s seat.
These spirit helpers were found on all kayaks in the YukonKuskokwim region (the geographical region where Quinhagak
and the Nunalleq site are situated) and would keep the hunter
husband connected to his wife (Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60,
61). The hunter may also have face charms on the handles of his
paddle along with personal markings and sexual iconography
(Fitzhugh and Kaplan 1982:60, 61). Each kayak would have had
different markings, and so too did each local community’s kayak
design differ from those of other villages and/or regions.
There is certainly a similarity in the bow design of Nunivak/
Hooper Bay kayaks and the miniatures from Nunalleq, but
there appears to be a difference between the miniatures and the
Norton Sound kayaks. As can be seen with all three miniature
kayaks from the Nunalleq site (Figures 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8) and the
kayak from Nunivak (Figure 9), the bow narrows to a point both
upwardly and forward. The Nunivak kayak frame (Figure 9) and
Kayak One (Figure 5) both show one and two holes, respectively,
in the bow. Conversely, the bow of the Norton Sound kayaks
(Figure 10) flattens on top and ends with an incomplete hole at
the top of the sphere, pincer-like and almost like a crab claw.
The stern of the Norton Sound kayak (Figure 10) echoes that of
the Nunivak kayak (Figure 9), but these stern designs differ from
the Nunalleq miniatures. The stern of the Norton Sound kayaks
has an obvious tapering along the port and starboard sides and
this can be seen on all kayaks in all figures. There is, however, a
notch on the stern’s topside, which appears flush with the end
of the kayak (Figure 10). This notch is more pronounced on
both the Nunivak kayaks (Figure 9) and, as mentioned before,
Zimmerly (1982:41) suggests that this is a representation of an
animal tail and this notch or tail on the Nunivak kayaks plainly
continues beyond the main end of the kayaks. There is no
mention of whether the notch or tail has any structural purpose
other than representational. None of the miniatures from the
Nunalleq site (Figures 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8) show this notch in any
form. In fact, Kayak One’s stern (Figure 4) actually slants back
toward the bow rather than being a continuation of the vessel.
Kayak Two (Figure 5) and Kayak Three (Figure 8) all show the
stern ending in a considerable point. Kayak Three’s stern looks to
be broken, but this may just be damage from being in the ground
for centuries and not a deliberate feature or ending.
Yup’ik kayak design elements
The only known examples of the Nunalleq kayak subtype are
the miniatures excavated in 2012 and 2013; three examples from
2013 are examined here. Presented in this paper is a cursory
comparison based on visual inspection of the bow, stern, and
hull form of the 2013 excavated examples. This information is
compared to bow, stern, and hull form of ethnographic examples
from Nunivak Island/Hooper Bay and South Norton Sound
subtypes. It is assumed that these miniatures are not to any
particular scale and cannot be used for a definitive comparison.
An answer to further questions is likely to only be possible
when full size examples are excavated and measurements can be
These miniatures do not definitively indicate that the Nunalleq
kayaks did not have the notched or tailed stern. It is also
important to remember that all Nunalleq kayak miniatures were
fairly simply made, without the fine detail known from examples
Bering Sea kayak designs were found from Bristol Bay to Norton
Sound (Zimmerly 1986:39), the major region in which the old
Original research paper
collected after contact. Miniatures known from Nunivak and
Norton Sound, on the other hand, were made after contact and
using metal tools. In the absence of any metal at the Nunalleq
site, it is assumed these miniatures were made using traditional
methods and stone and animal tooth carving tools.
whether the hole in the bow may be the opening through which
the sea mammal can slip, to give himself symbolically to the
hunter. The symbolic passage between underwater space and
time and the world above, the hole in the creator’s hand, and the
hole in sea ice used for winter hunting could all be represented in
some symbolic manner by the hole in the bow.
Kayaks One and Two (Figures 3, 4, and 6), visually, look more
similar to each other than Kayak Three (Figures 7 and 8). Kayak
One is narrower (as seen in Table 1), and both Kayak One
and Two are made of a darker wood, and have flatter bottoms
than Kayak Three. Kayak Two (Figures 6) is the only miniature
without a wooden peg (thought to represent the hunter or be the
place where a more elaborate miniature hunter might be place
on top) in the cockpit. This does not mean that it did not exist.
Kayak Two was found in the processing screen rather that in situ
so a peg could have snapped off. Kayak Two is also the smallest
of the miniatures and the peg may not have existed to begin with.
It could be difficult to carve out, or place, a small peg in a 6.5cm
kayak cockpit (Figures 6) rather than a 11cm-24.5cm kayak
miniature (Figures 3 and 7).
Length (cm)
Kayak Paddle
Figure 3: Miniature Kayak One from Nunalleq site 2013 (photograph by
Rick Knecht)
Width (cm)
Kayak One
Kayak Two
Information could
not be obtained
Kayak Three
1.4 (blade)
Figure 4: Close up of miniature Kayak One from Nunalleq site 2013
(photograph by Rick Knecht)
Fitzhugh and Kaplan (1982:64) suggest that the variations of
Table 1: Approximate measurements of miniatures
kayak style, along with kayak decoration, identified local social
groups or allowed recognition of the individuality of the hunter at
a distance. Norton Sound and Yukon River kayaks were narrower
and lighter because they were used in less turbulent waters rather
than those that were used in the open ocean around Nunivak
Island and Hooper Bay. Fitzhugh and Kaplan (1982:64) further
make mention that the farther south one travelled from Nunivak
Island, the shallower kayaks became, as well as longer and
narrower. This may explain the Nunalleq miniatures’ structural
differences compared to the Nunivak/Hooper Bay, and Norton
Sound miniatures.
Figure 5: Close up of bow of Kayak One from Nunalleq site 2013
(photograph by author)
Elements of bow design
Two holes appear in Kayak One’s bow (Figure 5) but they do
not go all the way through. There is no definitive reference on
what bow designs represent in kayak construction. Zimmerly
(1986:41) notes that the bow and stern shapes may represent the
head and tail of the hunter’s helper spirit, based on Figure 8. The
hole within an otherwise solid shape is also a consistent theme in
Eskimo mythology and cosmology (Fienup-Riordan 1988:266).
Animals fell to Earth, to be of use to man, through a hole in
the Creator’s hand, symbolised by the pierced thumbless hand
(Fienup-Riordan 1988:266). Another interpretation of the open
hole put forward by Fitzhugh and Kaplan (1982:109) is that the
perforated hand belongs to a compassionate spirit who allows
some hunted sea mammals to slip through the hole and return
safely to their underwater homes. In reading these sources, one
can think of other possible interpretations. During August 2014,
oral history interviews with elders will take place and will explore
the symbolic elements of Nunalleq kayak design including the
hole in the bow. One possible explanation to be explored is
Figure 6: Miniature Kayak Two from Nunalleq site 2013 (photograph by
Rick Knecht)
Figure 7: Miniature Kayak Three from Nunalleq site 2013 (photograph by
Rick Knecht)
Celeste Jordan, Yup’ik Eskimo Kayak Miniatures | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
A good indication that these miniatures are a close representation
of Yup’ik kayaks is the miniature kayak paddle (Figure 11)
recovered from the Nunalleq site. Zimmerly (1986:41) makes
note of the Nunivak/Hooper Bay kayakers using a single bladed
paddle, rather than a double bladed paddle. It is obvious from
Figure 11 and Zimmerly’s (1986:41) detailing of paddle form that
both are similar. The kayaks could be paddled from a kneeling
or standing position and a short paddle could be used to silently
scull the kayak with one hand to within harpooning distance of a
sea mammal. Miniature paddles can also been seen in association
with the Norton Sound miniature (Figure 10). It has been noted
that some Eskimo graves were marked by driftwood kayaks and
paddles (Kuntz 1998:22).
Figure 11. Miniature kayak paddle from Nunalleq site 2013 (photograph
by author)
as shown in photos and drawings from a variety of sources such as
Adney and Chapelle (1964), Zimmerly (1986) and Fitzhugh and
Kaplan (1982). An obvious difference between kayaks depicted
in these sources and the Nunalleq archaeological specimens
is seen in the form of the stern. It will require a larger sample
size to determine whether the stern is a definitive aspect of the
Nunalleq subtype, and whether the sterns of these miniatures are
an accurate representation of Nunalleq’s local design variation of
Yup’ik kayaks before contact.
Figure 8: Miniature Kayak Three from Nunalleq site 2013 (photograph by
Rick Knecht)
Figure 9: Wooden kayak frame from Nunivak Island (Zimmerly 1986:42)
Adney, E.T., and H. I. Chapelle 1964 The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of
North America. Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
Boyd, R., and P.J. Richerson 2005 Culture, adaptation, and innateness.
In P. Carruthers, S. Laurence and S. P. Stich (eds), The Innate Mind:
Culture and Cognition, pp.23-38. New York, NY: Oxford University
City-Data 2011 Quinhagak, Alaska. Retrieved 8 August 2013 from
Fienup-Riordan, A. 1988 Eye of the dance: Spiritual life of the Bering
Sea Eskimo. In W. Fitzhugh and A. Crow (eds), Crossroads of
Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, pp.256-270. Washington,
D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Fienup-Riordan, A. 2005 Wise Words of the Yup’ik People: We Talk to
You Because We Love You. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
Fitzhugh, W., and S. Kaplan 1982 Inua: Spirit World of the Bering Sea
Eskimo. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press.
Frink, L. 2006 Social identity and the Yup’ik Eskimo village tunnel system
in pre-colonial and colonial western coastal Alaska. Archaeological
Papers of the American Anthropological Association 16:109–125.
Frink, L. 2009 The identity Division of Labor in Native Alaska. American
Anthropologist 111(1):21–29.
Gordon, G. B. 1917 In the Alaskan Wilderness. Philadelphia: John C.
Winston Co.
Knecht, Rick 2012 Introduction to the Nunalleq Site. Presentation to
Incoming Archaeological Field Crew 3:1–36
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Chemical characterization of Arctic soils: activity area analysis
in contemporary Yup’ik fish camps using ICP-AES. Journal of
Archaeological Science 31:443–456.
Kuntz, B.C. 1998 Hunters in the Garden: Yup’ik Subsistence and
the Agricultural Myths of Eden. Unpublished Masters thesis,
Department of Humanities, University of Montana, Missoula.
Lantis, M. 1946 The social culture of the Nunivak Eskimo. Transactions
Figure 10: Kayak miniature from Norton Sound (Fitzhugh and Kaplan
Bering Sea kayaks, considered to be the most sophisticated in
Alaska, shared attributes with all kayaks. They were typically
made of driftwood frames covered in seal skin, and were
lightweight, strong, and seaworthy, perfect for navigating over
ice and through the rough seas in northern regions, and for
skilful hunting. Kayaks were not only important for survival
and subsistence, but for the social roles of men in Yup’ik Eskimo
society, and it is known that older men taught younger hunters
and boys about kayak construction. In the absence of full size
examples of pre-contact Yup’ik kayaks, the well-preserved
miniature kayak models recovered at the Nunalleq site, close
to Quinhagak in Alaska, offer opportunities for a preliminary
comparison of regional subtypes. Based on the assumption that
the Nunalleq miniatures are close representations of full-scale
watercraft, they are compared to other ethnographic Yup’ik
kayaks from Nunivak Island/Hooper Bay and Norton Sound
subregions. The Nunalleq kayak miniatures are consistent with
the Central Yup’ik kayak designs from the ethnographic period,
Original research paper
of the American Philosophical Society 35(2):153–323.
Lantis, M. 1960 Eskimo Childhood and Interpersonal Relationships.
Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Marlow, P. 2009 Strengthening Immersion Education Through PostGraduate Studies: An Alaskan Example. The ACIE Newsletter, Vol.
12, No. 2. Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
2012. Retrieved 15 December 2013 http://www.carla.umn.edu/
Nash, S., A.R. Kristal, A. Bersamin, S.E. Hopkins, B.B. Boyer, and D.M.
O’Brien 2013 Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio predict
intake of sweeteners in a Yup’ik study population. The Journal of
Nutrition 143(2):161–166.
Nelson, E.W. 1899 The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Bureau of American
Ethnography Annual Report 1:1¬–518.
Zimmerly, D.W. 1986 Qajaq: Kayaks of Siberia and Alaska. Juneau:
Alaska State Museum.
The Contribution of Chert Knapped Stone Studies
at Çatalhöyük to Notions of Territory and Group
Mobility in Prehistoric Central Anatolia
Sonia Ostaptchouk1
Muséum national d’Histoire
<[email protected]>
“chert” hiding a much greater mineralogical diversity. Over the
past 50 years, obsidian sourcing in this region, and in Anatolia in
general, has become a well-established method of reconstructing
source exploitation and raw material distribution for discussing
social and economic networks of exchange. Time and energy
have been dedicated to sourcing Çatalhöyük’s obsidian since
the characterisation program led by Tristan Carter was created
(Carter et al. 2006b). The results from the past decade of obsidian
chemical analyses demonstrate clear changes through time of the
relative proportion of the southern Cappadocian sources of Göllü
Dağ and Nenezi Dağ, some 190km to the north-east of the site,
found in the knapped stone at Çatalhöyük during the Neolithic
(Carter and Milić 2013; Carter et al. 2006b; Carter and Shackley
2007; Poupeau et al. 2010): “Göllü Dağ products are dominant
during the Aceramic and early Pottery Neolithic, followed by a
major shift to Nenezi Dağ obsidian in the later Pottery Neolithic
(i.e. post 6500 BC)” (Carter and Milić 2013:496).
Over the past 50 years, obsidian sourcing in Anatolia has become a
well-established method of reconstructing source exploitation and
raw material distribution for discussing social network systems of
exchange at a large scale. Other raw materials of knapped stone
have been ignored. Over the last 3 years, however, new PhD projects
developed at Çatalhöyük (Konya Plain, Turkey) demonstrate the
major contribution of chert knapped stone studies to the discussion
of local territory and group mobility, and underline a complexity
in raw materials procurement.
The typo-technology studies of knapped stone in Çatalhöyük West
assemblages from the Early Chalcolithic (6000-5500 cal. BC)
highlight a domestic production which includes both local bad
quality flint and the exogenous good quality flint, which probably
came from eastern Anatolia.
Regarding the question of raw materials provenance, Cessford
and Carter (2005) propose a scenario of obsidian procurement
around seasonality of expeditions, quantity of obsidian
transported, the number of people necessary for transportation,
and quality of the road, using typo-technological studies and
an evaluation of the quantity of obsidian consumption per year.
The authors note that although this kind of reconstitution is
challenging and involves contested concepts, it does offer a global
view, an indication of obsidian consumption and quantitative
data for synchronic or diachronic comparison.
This paper reviews recent contributions of flint studies in Central
Anatolia and presents new field work data about chert sources.
Thus it proposes a synthesis of our knowledge on locally available
chert resources in the region. Combining dynamic local geological
patterns, geomorphological considerations and typo-technological
studies, this paper proposes an overview of the chert raw material
procurement in Central Anatolia through a case study of
Çatalhöyük West assemblages.
The study of Early Chalcolithic assemblages is recent (Carter et
al. 2006, 2009; Ostaptchouk 2011, 2012; Raszick 2001, 2004).
The Çatalhöyük West Mound is located around 300m west of the
larger Neolithic East Mound separated by the ancient riverbed of
the Çarşamba River (Figure 1). The transition from the 7th-6th
millennia cal. BC at Çatalhöyük is marked by a shift of settlement
from the Late Neolithic East Mound to the Early Chalcolithic
West Mound (Biehl et al. 2012). Until recently it was believed that
Over the last decade, studies of raw material have considerably
enriched the understanding of the chaîne opératoire of knapped
stone production. The mobility of people and products is
informed by studies of raw material provenance. Through
reconstructing the spectrum and diversity of raw materials
exploited on a site, and understanding whether or how
different materials were curated and recycled, it is possible to
see the modalities of exploitation of territories, and whether
management of territories and their resources existed (Binford
1979, 1980, 1982; Flébot-Augustin 1997; Geneste 1985). This
allows discussion of the degree of mobility of the group, enriched
by ethnographic studies (Binford 1980, 1982; Shott 1986). The
diversity of raw materials and the distance from site to source
indicate the nature of the procurement, whether it is oriented or
opportunist (realised during activity other than lithic acquisition
expeditions). The extent of local raw materials can also inform
discussion on the expansion of the exploited territory by a wellestablished community, and it can contributte, along with faunal
or botanical remains, to the documentation of the local territory
exploited by the group for its subsistence.
In Central Anatolia, knapped stone assemblages from Neolithic
and Early Chalcolithic sites are composed of around 90%
obsidian and 10% or less of other raw material (Bezić 2007). This
material was often classified under the general term “flint” or
Figure 1: Çatalhöyük chronology and area of excavation (after Hodder
Original research paper
occupation on the West Mound took place up to 300 years after
the abandonment of the Neolithic site (Mellaart 1967; Schoop
2005). However, new excavations on the latest Neolithic periods
on the top of the East Mound, by the team from the University
of Poznań (Marciniak and Czerniak 2007), and on the Early
Chalcolithic West Mound, by the team from Buffalo University
and Berlin Free University (Biehl et al. 2012), have been closing
this gap. Results are expected to demonstrate a gradual transition
(Biehl et al. 2012). At this transitional period, the results of the
Konya Plain Survey Project, conducted by Douglas Baird (Baird
2002) from Liverpool University, indicate a proliferation of
smaller sites in the region during the Early Chalcolithic ending
with a general decline of the settlements on the Konya Plain
during the Middle Chalcolithic. Thus changes revealing deep
social and economic transformations (Biehl and Rosenstock 2012;
Marciniak and Czerniak 2007), occurred during this period, and
is indicated by changes within the settlement patterns previously
mentioned. These transformations are indicated also by changes
in relationships between contemporaneous settlements and
smaller sites; spatial organisation of settlement; internal plans of
houses; burial practices; art; exploitation of resources; subsistence
practices; and pottery production, amongst others. Changes are
also observed in raw material procurement for knapped stone
production. Concerning obsidian, during the Early Chalcolithic,
the two Cappadocian sources are represented more or less in the
same proportions with a preference in some contexts (Trench
1, Figure 1) for Göllü Dağ obsidian (Ostaptchouk 2012). This is
the opposite of what was observed for the Neolithic assemblages.
So changes in obsidian procurement are observed from the
Neolithic to the Early Chalcolithic period. The question asked in
this paper is whether the same changes are observed for the other
knapped stone raw materials through time and to understand
what these changes imply in terms of mobility of people and
product circulation.
in Central Anatolia during the Early Chalcolithic (Özbaşaran
and Buitenhuis 2002). The studies refer to the assemblages from
Trenches 5 and 7 (Buffalo-Berlin Team excavations led by Biehl,
Rogasch and Rosenstock) and present a new study of Trench
1 (Gibson/ Last excavations; Figure 1). The studies illustrate
complex management of the different raw materials on site,
and show different behavioural (consumption) practices, which
probably relate to these resources’ knapping qualities (Biehl et al.
2012; Ostaptchouk 2012).
Regardless, our knowledge of chert is limited and this remains,
for archaeologists, an object of frustration. Firstly, concerning
these non-obsidian raw materials, terminology, and therefore
the definition of the raw materials, is often unclear or general.
The term chert in the English literature, and in this context of
study, is often used as “the general term for all sedimentary rocks
composed primarily of microcrystalline quartz, including flint,
chalcedony, agate, jasper, hornstone, novaculite, and several
varieties of semiprecious gems” (Luedtke 1992:5). In this paper,
chert will be used as a generic term including materials like flint,
chert, jasper or chalcedony. To obtain provenance information,
however, it is important to establish a precise characterisation
of the raw material, and to use appropriate terminology.
Geologists and archaeologists have used the words flint and
chert interchangeably (Spielbauer 1976), or flint as a variety
of chert (Blatt 1972), or chert as a variety of flint (Wray 1948).
Also the term chalcedony is used differently by archaeologists,
petrologists and mineralogists (Luedtke 1992:6). In this paper,
raw material definition is based on mineralogical proprieties.
Infrared spectroscopy has made it possible to distinguish the
main silica phases (opal-CT, chalcedony, quartz, amorphous
silica) for characterising raw materials with precision (Fröhlich
1993; Fröhlich and Gendron-Badou 2002), establishing a clear
terminology to obtain diagenetic process information and thus
determine geological provenance. The term chalcedony rock
will refer to hydrothermal silicates formation (micro-quartz
structure well-organised as fiber) associated with, for example,
basalt rocks or volcanic context.
Recent typo-technological lithic studies of Çatalhöyük West
Mound knapped stone (Ostaptchouk 2012) demonstrate
the importance of considering all the raw materials used for
knapped stone as a ‘cluster’, that is, a system answering needs
(Perlès 1987), to correctly understand consumption patterns
Flint is a mono-mineral raw material composed of chalcedony
(Fröhlich 1981, 1996, 2006). In flint, the chalcedony is not well
Figure 2: Potential sources of chert for Çatalhöyük knapped stone. The square refers to the area of geological survey by Ostaptchouk, Erturaç and Fröhlich
(created by author; see Figure 3)
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
organised. The term flint will refer to microcrystalline silicates
(composed of chalcedony mineral) from Cretaceous formation,
that is to say, limestone, as it was first defined by the French
geologist Cayeux (1929).
This paper has multiple aims: it will present a statement of
knowledge about local available chert resources in the region
developed through the description of sources located by the
Anatolian Archaeological Raw Material survey (AARMs) project,
and field work conducted in May 2011 by Ostaptchouk, Erturaç
and Fröhlich. The ultimate aim is to combine the geological
and geomorphological data obtained during field work with
observations on archaeological material. Using these new and
recent projects and publications (Doherty et al. 2007; Nazaroff
et al. 2013; Ostaptchouk 2012), we will be able to discuss, for the
first time, chert consumption in a diachronic perspective from
the Neolithic to the Early Chalcolithic.
Generally archaeologists call all red-, brown-, and caramelcoloured cherts jasper (Luedtke 1992) whereas geologists use the
term to refer to cherts with high iron content. The term jasper
refers to the microquartz structure of some silicates associated,
generally, with ophiolite formations. The term radiolarite is
used to describe some varieties of jaspers containing radiolarian
fossils. Again, this term is often used in an inappropriate way
to describe burgundy-coloured jaspers without observing
radiolarian but in this paper this term will be reserved for jaspers
in which fossils are identified.
Background to chert studies at Çatalhöyük
The first pilot study of non-obsidian chipped stone (NOCs)
Speculations about sources and provenance of non-obsidian raw
materials in Central Anatolia are diverse but are rarely supported
by surveys. Concerning geological literature, some authors, such
as Blumenthal (1956) mention some cretaceous formations with
flint nodules in the western region of Karaman (see Figure 3).
In the north of Konya, in the carboniferous formations of the
Konya Complex, Robertson and Ustaömer (2009) report black
cherts. Ophiolite formations, as potential sources of jasper,
are often only mentioned with regard to general issues related
to geodynamic patterns, tectonics and metamorphism of the
region (Aral 2008; Okay 2008; Okay and Tüysüz 1999; Parlak
and Robertson 2004; Pasquarè et al. 1988; Tekin 2002; Waldron
1984). However, surveys show that these formations do not often
prove to provide suitable raw materials for knapping.
A first pilot study on the Çatalhöyük NOCs characterisation
and sourcing problem was undertaken in 2006 by Doherty,
Milić and Carter (Carter et al. 2006a; Doherty and Milić 2007;
Doherty et al. 2007). The study focused on material from the
Aceramic Neolithic levels at Çatalhöyük East (level Pre-XII
sequence, ca. 7400-7000 cal. BC). Their aim was to document the
consumption of these various siliceous resources through time
(and synchronically on an intra-site level) by using an analytical
framework that integrated visual, archaeometric, technological
and typological modes of artefact characterisation (Carter et al.
2006a; Doherty and Milić 2007; Doherty et al. 2007). In essence
their work followed the melded chaîne opératoire analytical
framework outlined in the obsidian characterisation studies
undertaken at the site (Carter et al. 2006b). The work commenced
with a visual distinction of the artefacts’ raw material. The validity
of the resultant 24 groups was then tested through chemical
analysis, using techniques that targeted both major and trace
elemental analysis, specifically scanning electron microscopy
combined with wavelength dispersive spectroscopy (SEMWDS) and inductively coupled plasma mass-spectroscopy (ICPMS). The study’s final aim was to assign a possible provenance
to various siliceous resources and understand the modalities
of exploitation of their raw material. While certain difficulties
existed in correlating macroscopic visual groups with chemical
groups, a range of raw material was clearly defined and sources
were tentatively assigned for a sub-set of the material (Doherty
et al. in prep.).
As geological data is almost nonexistent, or at least not
comprehensive enough to answer the question of prehistoric
sourcing, archaeologists have reported various possible chert
sources throughout Anatolia as possible sources of prehistoric
artefacts (Figure 2). Mellaart (1967) provides the earliest mention
of the western Taurus Mountains as a source of radiolarites at
the nearby Çatalhöyük site (Figure 2.8). Doherty et al. (2007)
indicate potential sources of radiolarites in the Antalya region
(Figure 2.9), around Mersin (Figure 2.11) and south of Beyşehir
Lake (Figure 2.7). Bezić (2007) also recently reported potential
sources of chert west of Beyşehir Lake (Figure 2.6) and southeastern Anatolia. Balkan Atlı (1994) notes the presence of chert
around Ankara. Reynolds (2007) mentions silica formations
observed in the Göksu Valley (Figure 2.10), road access to which
is from Çatalhöyük/Can Hasan to Cilicia, and especially from
the site of Mersin-Yumuktepe (French 1970).
Despite this pilot study, no geological and systematic surveys
were done to develop this topic. First surveys were conducted
by Ostaptchouk, Erturaç and Fröhlich in Central Anatolia, in
May 2011, as part of the author’s PhD, to understand chert raw
material consumption during the Early Chalcolithic. Following
this, AARMs, in the continuation of the pilot study, developed a
parallel project on Neolithic assemblages.
Regarding flint sensus stricto, microcrystalline silica composed
of chalcedony mineral, few potential sources of good quality
material, with block-sizes permitting blade débitage, are
advanced by the aforementioned authors. The few sites noted
are all located in south-eastern Anatolia where we know that
industries are composed of almost 90% flint and that there are,
therefore, widely available local sources. The Kahramanmaraş
region (Figure 2.4) and Gaziantep (Figure 2.14) are the most
commonly mentioned in the literature (Bezić 2007; Carter et al.
2005; Doherty et al. 2007; Mellaart 1967). There are also sources
throughout the Urfa region, to the east of Gaziantep. These
regions are known for the production of long regular flint blades
(Canaanean blades) used as sickles or threshing sledge elements
(Anderson et al. 2004; Anderson and Inizan 1994; Edens
2000; Hartenberger et al. 1999), which are present on several
archaeological sites (Figure 2), and for the exploitation of sources
from prehistory until the 1960-1970s (Bordaz and Bordaz 1970).
The Anatolian Archaeological Raw Material Survey (AARMS)
Surveys were conducted in June 2011 by Nazaroff, Baysal and
Çiftçi (Nazaroff et al. 2013). The objective of this field work was
to locate, map and characterise chert sources. The
AARM surveys were focused around the Afyon region and
Eskişehir (Figure 2.2 and 3), the ophiolite formations in the
western part of the Konya Basin (Figure 2.4) and the alluvial
secondary deposits of the Çarşamba River near Çatalhöyük
(Figure 2.5). Three main potential prehistoric source areas, with
raw materials suitable for knapping, were located and described:
the Afyon region, Akdere and Konya radiolarite.
Original research paper
Back to field work: location and evaluation of
locally available chert resources
In the Afyon-Eskişehir region (Figure 2.2 and 3), two sources
were described: a source near Şuhut presents white translucent to
opaque, pale pink to orange, and red violet to deep red chert. For
many of these blocks, black ‘cracks’ are noted spreading across the
material surface. According to Nazaroff et al. (2013:347), these
cracks do not affect the properties of the rock and its knappability.
The other source in the south of Şuhut (5km south of the town) is
described as having small nodules, with a maximum diameter of
approximately 5cm, in a secondary position.
Survey methodology
This survey project predates that of AARMS, so the results of the
AARM survey did not guide the team’s choice in terms of survey
area. Due to the dearth of chert sourcing studies when the survey
was prepared, it was decided to focus the field work on ophiolite
and cretaceous formations, as a first examination of Çatalhöyük
raw materials had determined that flint and jasper are the most
represented material after obsidian.
Nazaroff et al. (2013) describe the sources of Akdere as containing
the best quality chert observed during their surveys. This source
is located to the north of the village of the same name. They
describe a translucid milky white chalcedony from limestone
with large black inclusions, referred to as “black snowflakes”
(Nazaroff et al. 2013:348). The description provided by Nazaroff
et al. (2013:348) suggests that these inclusions are probably
dendrites of manganese. Locally, some small nodules of orange
and green jaspers are also available, but are considered to be of
poor quality.
Field work was focused on silica rocks mentioned in the literature
but also cretaceous (Senonian) limestone exposures (Mineral
Research and Exploration General Directorate (MTA) geological
map of Turkey, 1/500.000), which fall inside a large circle of
100km in radius around the archaeological site of Çatalhöyük
(Figure 3). Ophiolitic formation was surveyed north of Konya in
order to look for associated silica rocks (that is, radiolarite) and
to evaluate their knappability. The Konya Complex (northwest of
Konya) is described as a tectonic melange where Robertson and
Ustaömer (2009) described the occurrence of black chert (lydite)
in carboniferous limestones (Figure 3).
Finally, Nazaroff et al. (2013) mention radiolarites in the Konya
region: “Standard red and orange color for Anatolian radiolarites
with some instances of green” (Nazaroff et al. 2013:345). Three
sources are located: (1) around Gedik Tepe north of Konya,
(2) ophiolitic formations near Hatip, west of Konya, and (3)
radiolarites found in secondary position on the banks of the
Çarşamba river. Only the two latter sources have provided
suitable material for knapping (Nazaroff et al. 2013). The Hatip
radiolarites (Figure 2.4) are located in the ophiolite formations.
They are more or less translucent orange and orange opaque
with numerous dendrites of manganese. This data is reported
as specific to Hatip raw materials. Thus, the AARMs project has
recently located three primary sources in the region of Afyon
and Konya and a secondary source (Çarşamba River).
Outcrops of cretaceous formations, especially senonian
limestones, were tracked using the MTA geological map of
the region (1/500.000). Exposures along the road cuts were
systematically sampled. To the south, cretaceous formations in
the region between Karaman and Akören were surveyed, where
Blumenthal (1956) mentioned the presence of flint nodules
(Figure 3). The lack of data on raw material sources led to the
extension of the survey through the large Cretaceous formations
around the Beycesultan-Akseki area which is approximately
100km away from Çatalhöyük (Figure 3). Thus, the survey of
primary sources was carried out to the west of the site in a semicircle with a radius of 115km.
Figure 3: Map of western part of Central Anatolia showing geological formations sampled during the survey project by Ostaptchouk, Erturaç and
Fröhlich in May 2011 (created by author)
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
The study of secondary sources was difficult and results were
unsatisfactory because of the management of the hydraulic
network in Anatolia (successive dams, channels and concrete
banks rendered sites often inaccessible) and intensive agriculture
in the Konya Plain. Different parts of the Çarşamba River along
the Beyşehir Kanak gorge between Aydınkışla and Alibeyhüyüğü
were surveyed, and only one sample was found (Figure 3). The
topic of fluvial terraces as potential secondary sources should be
developed in future geological surveys.
the macroscopic study in this paper because it is the only dataset
that could be compared with the Neolithic assemblages. Indeed,
Nazaroff et al. (2013) used chemical analysis to characterise
Neolithic chert. This paper presents the main macroscopic criteria
that allow visual groups to be defined. Thus the terminology is
fixed as raw materials are described by macroscopic classification
and infrared spectroscopy allows for precise characterisation.
The typo-technological studies permit the author to surmise
how the materials circulated and to evaluate the know-how of
the knappers and their investment in the transformation of the
raw materials for the débitage.
Field work during the 10 days resulted in the collection of 34
geological hand samples that were exported to France for
mineralogical (infrared spectroscopy analyses) and petrographic
studies (Ostaptchouk 2012). A reference collection of these
samples was also sent to the Department of Prehistory at Istanbul
University. The purpose of this study was to describe and
characterise, in detail, geological samples using field observations
and laboratory analysis. For this paper, sample numbers and
descriptions are summarised in Table 1.
Raw materials
Different kinds of silicate formations were observed during field
work (Figure 4). Flint, as a bed of nodules (Figure 4.C) with or
without cortex, was observed in softer fine-grained limestone
(micrite) marked by tectonics (fracture and fault).Tabular flint,
without cortex, comes from fine grained limestone (micrite)
marked by tectonics (fractures and fault: see Figure 4.B) and
metamorphism (flint-like powder) in an ancient quarry near
Akseki. Tables were a maximum of 10cm of thickness (Figure
4.D). Some green tabular flints were sampled in the Karaman
region (Table 1). Massive jasper blocks (reddish or light brown:
Figures 4.F and 4.G) were observed in ophiolite formations and
were present on the surface of some fields. Blocks were heavily
marked by tectonics and re-crystallised. The tectonised marks
and field observations allow us to distinguish two kinds of raw
material: poor quality (+) and very bad quality (-) for knapping
(see Table 1). Globally, the raw material observed in the area
of study can be qualified as poor quality because of regional
geodynamic patterns.
Several criteria were used to evaluate the knappability of raw
materials: field observations such as the accessibility of sources
and raw material, the size of nodules or thickness of table,
the degree of fracturing/tectonised marks (listed in Table 1 as
fractures, chalcedony or calcite veins) and of metamorphism
(noted in Table 1 as re-crystallisation or flint-like powder). Some
of these criteria are reported in Table 1.
From artefact to provenance information: raw material study
Surveys allow some potential sources for knapped stone raw
material to be located, many of them, however, are not yet
located. In raw material studies, provenance information
is generally obtained by comparison with geological data.
So without this geological data, it was necessary to ‘extract’
the provenance information from the artefact raw material
itself. Precise characterisation of the raw material allows the
identification of the raw material and thus the information about
its geological context of formation can be obtained. In turn, this
allows discussion about the raw material potential provenance
by using geological maps. The typo-technological study also
informs modalities of raw material procurement (size of blocks
or nature of the production).
Regional geodynamics patterns and their implication in terms
of raw material resources
On the one hand, field observations confirm that typical flint
was observed in Central Anatolia (flint sensus stricto with
chalcedony matrix) as described by Fröhlich (2006) and Cayeux
The first step of the study was to describe the raw materials for a
visual classification (Table 2). Criteria used included the colour,
as a subjective term, but also by using spectrometry of colour
giving three coordinates to locate the sample in the CIEL*a*b*
colour space, and its distribution (mottled, banded). The grain,
the opacity, the texture, the luster and the inclusions were also
reported, as in Nazaroff et al. (2013), which permits establishing
correlations of types between Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic
chert. Natural surfaces as cortex or altered surfaces were also
observed to obtain information in terms of position of raw
material acquisition (primary or secondary position).
Infrared spectroscopy for the characterisation of chert raw
material has not been used much in archaeology (Fröhlich and
Gendron-Badou 2002; Parish 2011; Parish et al. 2013). Rapid
and cheap, infrared spectroscopy allows access to a vibrational
system of raw material molecules, offering a complete fingerprint
with a quantification of the mineralogical components of the
material. The mineralogical study of Çatalhöyük West raw
material is presented in the author’s PhD (Ostaptchouk 2012)
and in an article in preparation. It was decided to present only
Figure 4: Silicate formations. A: nodule, west Konya. B: Tabular flint,
Karaman. C: bed of small nodules. D: Tabular black flint affected by
tectonics. E-G: Jaspers, north of Konya (photographs by author, May
Original research paper
(1929): flint is included in fine grained limestone (micrite,
foraminifer rich) and more or less dissociated from it by cortex.
However, two phenomena observed in the field, tectonics and
metamorphism, have modified the characteristics of flint itself:
the tectonics fractured the rock without altering the facies while
Konya N-W
005, 006
orange jaspers, re-crystallised
the metamorphism modified the nature of flint itself (from
chalcedony to microquartz structure, Ostaptchouk 2012). At
the scale of one source, nodules can show tectonic marks and
different degrees of metamorphism. Jaspers are essentially altered
by tectonics and re-crystallised with pseudo-chalcedonite veins.
Geological context
(rare + to
Carboniferous rocks (carbonate/clastic rocks)
+++ / ++
Middle Trias-Jurassic (neritic
+++ / ++
black lydite
Konya S-W
black lydite
fine-grained grey flint,
partially altered by metamorphism
orange jaspers, re-crystallised
Upper Senonian (carbonate/
clastic rocks)
002, 004
silicified volcanic ashes, green; big blocks are
Upper Senonian (carbonate/
clastic rocks)
+++/ ++
fine-grained pinkish grey
Upper Senonian (carbonate/
clastic rocks)
nodule to bedded
light burgundy-coloured
Upper Cretaceous (neritic
light grey flint (small nodules); partially altered by
Upper Senonian (pelagic
bedded nodules
pinkish grey flint; small
nodules and tabular flint
Upper Cretaceous (neritic
light grey flint; small
Upper Senonian (pelagic
Lakes Region,
003, 004,
dark grey flint, tectonised
Upper Senonian (carbonate/
clastic rocks)
++/ +
deep red jasper, small
blocks; very tectonised
Ophiolites (near BEY004/005)
grey flint (KARA011, 012)
Upper Cretaceous
Upper Cretaceous
Upper Senonian (neritic
pinkish flint; small tabular
flint fragments
bank of the river
dark grey to black flint
Upper Cretaceous (neritic
BEY015 ,
grey flint, small nodule (KARA011,012 and
BEY007-013); also one
dark grey flint (like
Upper Cretaceous (neritic
++/ +
grey flint, small nodules (KARA011,012 and
Karaman - E of
Özyurt Dağı
Seydişehir/ Ak- BEY007,
seki/ Ibradi
008, 009,
010, 011
River from
Balıklava to
Near Aydınkışla BEY014
Terrace near
Table 1: Geological samples and their description
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Tectonics and metamorphism are clearly two phenomena that
must be considered during chert-sourcing studies in Central
Anatolia because of the geological setting of the region. The
region was marked by metamorphism episodes, notably during
the Late Cretaceous (Burg et al. 1990; Okay 2008). Regional
geodynamic settings in Central Anatolia are complex and marked
by successive metamorphism episodes (Burg et al. 1990). Indeed,
the eastern Mediterranean region has been an active margin
since at least Mesozoic times as a result of the closure of the NeoTethyan ocean, and the convergence between Africa and Eurasia
since the Cretaceous (Barrier and Vrielynck 2008; Dercourt et
al. 2000; Stampfli and Borel 2004; Torsvik et al. 2008). Central
Anatolia has endured intense regional deformation leading to
the formation of high-relief topography (for example the Taurus
and Pontide ranges) and volcanism for the last 10 million years
(Aydar 1992; Dhont et al. 1998; Pasquarè et al. 1988; Sengör et al.
1985). High-relief topography (for example, the Taurus range) is
associated with collision while the internal part of the Anatolian
micro-plate, Central Anatolia, appears as a flat plateau of about
1000 meters. This plateau hosts large depressions such as the
Tuz Gölü and Konya Plain, and is marked with two distinct
stratovolcanoes (Erciyes and Hasandağı), and strike-slip faults
such as the Tuz Gölü and Central Anatolia faults. These two
phenomena explain how modifications to the physical properties
of flint and some jaspers made them unsuitable for knapping.
sources mentioned in archaeological publications (Figure 2) and
sources observed during field work to conclude the presentation
of the geological data.
Close to Çatalhöyük, three potential sources have been identified
to the north and west of Konya: orange and burgundy-coloured
jaspers (designation ‘radiolarites’, Nazaroff et al. 2013). In the
north of Konya (Figure 3), these were sampled as blocks with
a maximum diameter of 10cm. They show a high degree of
re-crystallisation affecting the homogeneity of material and
therefore its knappability. Jasper blocks, from the western part
of Konya, whilst having the same macroscopic criteria, are less
altered by tectonics and therefore have less re-crystallisation.
The blocks, however, are small and rarely exceed 10cm in
diameter. These data are supported by observations from the
AARM surveys. Nazaroff et al. (2013) also report the presence
of some artefacts on the ground supporting the exploitation of
this source. Finally, another potential source of local burgundycoloured ophiolites is documented by the AARMS project, in
the alluvium of the Çarşamba River. Like the author, however,
AARMS was disappointed by the low quantity of raw material
sampled in the river.
A potential source in the southwest of Karaman, in the area of
Başkışla (Figure 3), was identified during the surveys. The green
raw material is a silicification of volcanic ashes. This source offers
the advantage of providing blocks in primary position but also in
sub-primary position (slope deposits transported by a stream): it
was possible to select non-tectonised blocks around a maximum
of 25-30cm in diameter. These blocks are some of the largest
observed during the surveys.
On the other hand, the geological surveys confirm the hypothesis
based on detailed study of Çatalhöyük West Mound knapped
stone: bad quality raw material is locally present as small
nodules. It generally comes from ophiolitic formations (jasper).
For some rare better-quality sources, nodules are too small and
not suitable for big blade production, such as the glossy blades
observed at Çatalhöyük. Regional geodynamic patterns have an
impact on raw materials and implications of their procurement.
To summarise, the quality of the raw materials is poor, full of
‘cracks’ and often unsuitable for knapping. The only blocks
suitable for knapping are small, limiting the range of sizes in
lithic production. Bladelet production could have been realised
with this size of block but this kind of production is not present
at Çatalhöyük during the Early Chalcolithic. Nevertheless these
poor quality raw materials were considered suitable enough by
the Early Chalcolithic people, for percussion or scraper-like tools
that are tool types with poor technical investment. It is anticipated
that this is an opportunist collection during acquisition of other
raw materials or other activities. A survey in the region between
Çatalhöyük and Akören has already illustrated the potential of
this area for ground-stone and pigments raw material sources
(Baysal 1998, 2004).
At a larger scale, raw material procurement in the Taurus
Mountains area is quite problematic. The impact of tectonics
and metamorphism is already very noticeable in margins of this
area. It is unlikely that the area can provide significant amounts
of quality raw materials or sufficiently sized blocks to allow a
laminar débitage. Whilst the Taurus seems to be tectonised in
Central Anatolia south of Karaman, Juteau (1968) argues that
this is not the case for the Lycian Taurus, which was noted as a
potential source by Doherty et al. (2007; Figure 2.9). The Taurus,
in its southernmost part, around the Antalya Bay, appears to be
rich in ophiolitic and cretaceous formations (MTA 2002). Juteau
(1968) noted flint nodules in the important Alakir Çay formation
(Figure 2.9). This information should, however, be considered
with caution as although Juteau (1968) noted flint nodules in
the region of Karaman, field work has shown that these were
tectonised and metamorphosed.
Chert sources were pointed out east of Lake Beyşehir by Bezić
(2007; Figure 2.6) and in the southern part by Doherty et al.
(2007; Figure 2.7). Indeed, the presence of flint and ophiolites
has been observed in this region. The formations are, however,
very altered by tectonics and have therefore not been attributed
as potential sources in this paper. Therefore, the only potential
local sources reported today are in the northern and western
parts of Konya. The sources west of Afyon are considered as
extra-regional sources.
Potential sources of flint and other silicifications in Central
Anatolia and neighbouring regions
An exploitable raw material source has to fulfill some basic
criteria. Firstly, it must be accessible. This accessibility is based on
visibility in the landscape but also on transportation effort (relief,
distance from site to source). The facility or not for extraction of
materials at the source is also a parameter to consider, as some
big blocks of flint in metamorphosed limestone were found to be
impossible to extract. Finally, the raw material from these sources
must be available in sufficient quantities, but must also offer block
sizes appropriate for the intention of the production (especially
for big blade production). The raw material must, obviously, be
of good quality (not tectonised or fractured with many cavities).
Each of these aspects will, therefore, be discussed for the different
Changes in raw material procurement at
Çatalhöyük from the Neolithic to Early Chalcolithic
Mineralogical diversity during the Early Chalcolithic
Chert studies of Çatalhöyük West assemblages reveal much
more visual and mineralogical diversity during the Early
Original research paper
Chalcolithic than during the preceding Neolithic. For the East
Mound/ Neolithic assemblages, 23 types were described for 686
pieces (Nazaroff et al. 2013) whereas for the West Mound/ Early
Chalcolithic, 45 macroscopic types (Table 2) were determined
for a total of 280 pieces (Ostaptchouk 2012).
difficult to discuss. Recent results published by Nazaroff et al.
(2013) allows the presentation of the first diachronic overview of
chert procurement through time at Çatalhöyük and suggestions
concerning the changes in terms of mobility, exploited territories,
resources and raw material procurement.
Mineralogical study using Fourier-transformed infrared
spectroscopy allows precise characterisation of the raw materials
exploited. Methods and results of analysis are not presented
in this paper but in unpublished PhD work (Ostaptchouk
2012). Various silica rocks were identified (Figure 5). The lithic
assemblage of the West Mound is composed of 3.2% flint, 0.75%
chalcedony and 0.54% jasper (essentially caramel and burgundycoloured). Other raw materials are anecdotic: 0.16% opaleCT and partially silicified limestone, 0.06% basalt and 0.01%
sandstone and lydite.
Chert raw material consumption: diachronic perspectives
It is difficult to compare the visual macroscopic types
(Ostaptchouk 2012) to the types described by Nazaroff et al.
(2013) mainly because the two different visual classifications were
elaborated separately, by different people and by using different
macroscopic criteria to describe the raw material. Nevertheless,
some visual groups present clearly identifiable features, allowing
us to align the types from both studies. Thus we will focus on
the “snow-flake” chert and radiolarite/ophiolite described by
Nazaroff et al. (2013:348).
Each of these raw materials refers to a specific geological context
of procurement. Jasper (microquartz structure) is associated
with ophiolite formation. Flint comes from upper cretaceous
formations. Basalt refers to volcanic context. Lydite was observed
in carboniferous formations north of Konya. Finally chalcedony,
hydrothermal formation, and opale-CT can be associated with
volcanic raw materials procurement. Thus the characterisation
of the raw materials permits putting forward the first hypothesis,
in terms of geological provenance. Note that a study of natural
surfaces, still present on some artefacts, and their alterations,
allows the author to also surmise various positions of
procurement of raw materials; that is in primary and secondary
positions. This study of chert emphasises a complexity and
diversity in terms of material procurement that were not observe
for obsidian at Çatalhöyük during the Early Chalcolithic. Visual
and mineralogical diversity, various positions of acquisition
and the typo-technological studies show different degrees of
technical investment in the transformation of raw materials and
their débitage.
The first main difference concerning the Neolithic and Early
Chalcolithic raw material is that for less material we have a higher
visual and mineralogical diversity during the Early Chalcolithic
(that is, 45 groups are present, see Table 2). Three major types
predominate during the Neolithic representing 64% of the
material studied: light brown chert (type 1), white translucent
chalcedony transparent with black snow-flake inclusions (type
20), and several radiolarites orange / green / red and brown
(type 21) interpreted as belonging at the Central Anatolian
sphere (Nazaroff et al. 2013). We will focus the comparison on
types 20 and 21 (Figure 6). These two groups represent 53%
of the Neolithic assemblage studied. The authors attribute the
macroscopic group 20 to the Akdere source and group 21 to
local sources in Konya region (Nazaroff et al. 2013). For the Early
Chalcolithic assemblage, on the basis of macroscopic criteria
of colour, texture and inclusions, the Neolithic radiolarites
general group are linked to the author’s jasper type 3 (jasper
burgundy), type 4 (jasper brown) , type 26 (grey chert) and 37
(green jasper) (Table 2). These four types represent 13% of the
chert assemblage. Thus, the proportion of ophiolites, local raw
materials, continues to be well represented from the Neolithic to
the Early Chalcolithic (Figure 6).
Many publications about obsidian point out changes over
time in the exploitation of Cappadocian obsidian sources for
knapping. Diachronic changes about flint, however, are more
Figure 5: Frequencies of raw materials of Çatalhöyük West Mound knapped stone (Ostaptchouk 2012)
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
fine-grained cream flint showing white
filament as inclusions (dolomit rich)
compact, calcitic
irregular blade production
fine-grained cream flint
big blade production
(glossy blades), some cores
(opportunist debitage)
fine-grained burgundy-coloured jasper.
natural surfaces showing secondary
(radiolarite) position
altered natural
surface, transport
tools, flakes, retouched pebble and small blades
fine-grained caramel-coloured flint.
Presence of compact cortex on some
compact, calcitic
flakes and debris
grainy (like sandstone) and mottled flint.
Grey, light pinkish or light burgundycoloured with calcitic inclusions (circle)
big retouched blades (some
glossy blades)
retouched flakes
fine-grained waxy brown opale-CT.
Inclusions of fragment of manganese
retouched flakes
fine-grained waxy cream opale-CT.
Inclusions of fragment of manganese
fine-grained waxy grey obsidian. Was
classified as chert but identified as
obsidian thanks to FTIR analysis
retouched flake and
possible debris of small core
fine-grained white flint. Some pieces
present yellow patina
big blade production (some
glossy blades), big retouched
white/yellow translucide chalcedony with
manganese dendrite inclusions
white with
chalcedony signature
retouched flakes
fine-grained bi-colour flint (brown
fine-grained brown flint
brown flint (a little mottled) with many
clacitic inclusions
compact, calcitic
retouched flakes and flakes
divers partially silicified limestone.
Yellow, grey and cream
fine-grained cream flint. Raw material
pick up for its tablet form
tool for polishing (usewear:
polished edges and surfaces)
rough white and opaque chalcedony
thin calcitic
concretion on surface
retouched flakes and flakes
fine-grained cream greyish flint, little
retouched flakes and flakes
fine-grained flint with white/cream/brown
zone. Inclusions of fragment of
very thin cortex,
retouched flakes
retouched blades
fine-grained chocolate flint
retouched flakes, retouched
blades (fragment)
brown bi-coloured jasper
irregular blade with glossy
General description
Typo-techological comments
grained brown flint
brown flint regularly mottled
Table 2: Chert macroscopic groups of Çatalhöyük West assemblage (after Ostaptchouk 2012)
Original research paper
mottled and dappled brown flint
retouched flake
fine-grained cream flint. A little translucid
waxy brown flint
cortex and white zone flakes
under-cortex, comirregular retouched blade
pact, and silifified
fine-grained cream flint. One river pebble
natural surface
percussion tool
waxy grey jasper. Natural surface showing a secondary position of procurement
of the raw material
brown altered surface
cream fine-grained limestone
grained orange/white chalcedony. Mottled absent
grained black and white lydite as
observed in north of Konya
cream flint with darker stripes
fine-grained basalt
grained cream greyish flint
burnt flints
flakes, retouched flakes,
fragment of retouched blades
grained orange/white chalcedony. Mottled
and with manganese inclusions
grained brown flint. Calcitic inclusions
(micro-fossils rich)
compact, calcitic
retouched flakes, flakes
grained flint. Dappled white and grey
grey greenish jasper
flake and small blade fragment
grained flint. Dappled brown and reddish
grained flint. Dappled light grey to dark
grey. Calcitic inclusions
fine-grained mottled flint. Brown to black
flakes and opportunist flake
coarse grained mottled flint. Light brown
to dark.
irregular small flake core
fine-grained translucid orange
chalcedony. Some calcitic inclusions
altered surface
retouched flakes and flakes
coarse grained white and brown/orange
chalcedony. Little mottled. Calcitic
retouched flakes and flakes
grained mottled flint.
fragment of irregular blade
fine-grained/grained flint. White zonation
and brown. Trace of fossils and fragments
of manganese
thin, print of fossils
in cortex
cores and flakes
Table 2 (continued): Chert macroscopic groups of Çatalhöyük West assemblage (after Ostaptchouk 2012)
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Figure 6: Diachronic changes of proportions of radiolarites and Akdere
source chert from Neolithic to Early Chalcolithic (after Nazaroff et al.
2013, created by author)
It is still difficult, with the current state of knowledge, to correlate
these data from East and West on the basis of macroscopic
groups. Therefore, another important point must be discussed:
the scarcity of the Akdere source in the Early Chalcolithic
assemblage. The Akdere source (type 20, Nazaroff et al. 2013)
represents 33% of the Neolithic assemblage compared to 6%
during the Early Chalcolithic (Figure 6). This observation leads
the author to question the reason for this lack of evidence of the
Akdere source during the Early Chalcolithic. Nazaroff et al. (2013)
suggest that the strong presence of the Akdere source during the
Neolithic could be linked to social relationships between the
regions. Thissen (2002) suggests relationships existed between
Çatalhöyük and populations in the northwest of Anatolia during
the site’s later Neolithic occupation. The occurrence of Akdere
chert (located in between these two regions) in Çatalhöyük’s
earlier levels indicates that interactions between the regions
mentioned might have occurred earlier than Thissen proposed.
Figure 7: Flint production at Çatalhöyük West. 1: core; 2-4: glossy blades;
5: percussion tool on pebble (photographs and drawings by author)
exploitation of raw materials is clearly observed in the following
pattern: approximately half is local, bad quality raw material
collected opportunistically during other activities such as agropastoral activities, with the importation of products using good
quality flint also being undertaken (Figure 7). Twenty-two
per cent of chert raw material during the Early Chalcolithic,
essentially flint, is considered as an extra-regional material.
The typo-technological study allows the authors to enrich these
observations: different spheres of procurement (local, regional,
extra-regional) are highlighted and each of these spheres refers
to different modes of raw material procurement, and illustrates
the circulation of people or products across Anatolia (Figure 8).
This hypothesis is problematic for the Early Chalcolithic context
in terms of raw material consumption behaviour. The site-tosource distance of the Akdere raw material and the technical
investment in this raw material during the Early Chalcolithic
suggest a closer source of this kind of translucid chalcedony.
Indeed the exploitation of this raw material is quite anecdotal
at this period (Figure 6). Concerning its production, it is a
rough, opportunistic and expedient one (irregular retouched
flakes and flakes). This technical behaviour is not consistent
with the transportation effort implied by procurement at such
a distant source. Indeed, the idea that the investment (time /
distance / human) needed to acquire the raw material gives value
to the material itself is advocated by the author. A distant raw
material would, therefore, be the subject of special care related
to these difficulties or investment in its acquisition. In contrast,
a raw material that does not show technical investment in its
exploitation, with a coarse débitage, would be acquired through
a process of ‘least effort’.
Spheres of raw material procurement
Binford was one of the first to look at raw material procurement
to define territories and mobility of groups enriched by
ethnographic observations (Binford 1965, 1979, 1980, 1982). He
attempted to demonstrate that “there are important consequences
for site patterning arising from the interaction between economic
zonation, which is always relative to specific places, and tactical
mobility, which is the accommodation of a system to its broader
environmental geography” (Binford 1982:6). He distinguished:
1 - the domestic zone, or “play radius” (Binford 1982:8), around
the site; 2 - beyond the play radius, “the foraging radius”, which
rarely extends beyond 6 miles (around 9-10km) of the residential
camp: “this is an area searched and exploited by work parties
who leave the camp to exploit the environment and return home
in a single day” (Binford 1982:7); 3 - beyond the foraging radius
is the “logistical radius”: “this is the zone which is exploited by
task groups who stay away from the residential camp at least
one night before returning. In many cases groups may remain
away from residential camps for considerable periods of time”
(Binford 1982: 7); 4 - beyond the logistical zone we find “the
Chalcedony hydrothermal formation is associated with volcanic
formations. The author suggests some sources might have existed
closer to the site, around the Karadağ complex, approximately
30km to south, compared to 220km to the northwest for Akdere.
More and more, however, recycling behavior by the West Mound
people becomes probable; they could potentially have re-used
some raw materials from the East Mound.
There are still many unanswered questions about chert
raw material procurement. During the Early Chalcolithic,
Original research paper
visiting zone”: “this is the area contemporaneously occupied
by relatives, trading partners, wife-sharing partners, etc., and
hence within the foraging radius or logistical zone of another
subsistence unit” (Binford 1982:8).
the site of Çatalhöyük and that of Can Hasan, around 73km to
the southeast, during the Early Chalcolithic and before (French
1998). Thus, important changes in settlement patterns and in the
‘local’ zonation network system seem to have taken place during
the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic in the Konya Plain.
Knapped stone contributes to the understanding of changes in
terms of raw material procurement. This large sector includes
potential sources of basalt, andesite and other rocks reported
for the production of ground-stone during Neolithic and Early
Chalcolithic (Baysal 2004; Brady 2013) between Çatalhöyük
and Seydişehir Lake (see Figure 3). Thus, it is envisaged that the
chert raw material procurement in this sphere, for domestic and
opportunistic production, was embedded in the procurement
of other resources. There is not yet enough data for the Early
Chalcolithic to develop the point in this paper.
Raw material studies combined with typo-technological studies
considerably enrich our overview of consumption of knapped
stone raw materials and exploited territories through time at
Çatalhöyük. At this time, the author’s recent work emphasises
different spheres of raw material procurement (Ostaptchouk
2012): local, regional and extra-regional (Figure 8). The local
sphere refers to the exploitation of local bad quality raw material
(Figure 8, Sphere I). Considering parameters as diverse as
block size, mineralogical diversity and investment in débitage/
transformation of blanks, this industry reveals a direct and
opportunistic acquisition. This product is an expedient débitage
of flakes (e.g. from core Figure 7.1). Some blocks or pebbles are
directly used as tools for percussion work (Figure 7.5). The raw
materials exploited are mainly jaspers from ophiolite and flint.
The regional sphere refers to the exploitation of the Cappadocian
obsidian sources (Figure 8, Sphere II). Obsidian from the sources
of eastern Anatolia are not discussed here, as during the Early
Chalcolithic its occurrence is anecdotal and generally comes from
insecure archaeological contexts. Thus obsidian is transported at
the Central Anatolia scale, from over 180km northeast of the
site. The production of obsidian blades on the site has already
been discussed by the author in a separate paper (Ostaptchouk
2012). In this second sphere, it is preformed nuclei that circulate.
Blade circulation is not excluded (especially for some products
such as big blades). Obsidian consumption on site is estimated
between 57-70kg per year following the same calculation used
by Cessford and Carter (2005). Moreover the typo-technological
study emphasises the fact that Early Chalcolithic Çatalhöyük is
clearly a village where obsidian seems to have lost its importance
in the group’s economic system that it held during the Neolithic.
Lithics are present in much smaller quantities and indicate
behaviour of re-using or re-cycling blocks. It seems that a
direct acquisition from sources or sites neighbouring sources
is no longer an option as hypothesis of procurement. Exchange
networks could be powered by a new population mobility linked
to pastoral activities. This change, or decline, of lithic production
The local sphere is also defined by a minimum radius of 50km
around the site. Considering Binford’s economic zonation
(Binford 1982), this local sphere considers the logistical radius,
a familiar zonation, and the visiting zone. Binford (1982)
mentions that a procurement of raw material in this logistical
area and beyond implies comfort accommodations (water,
transportation) and a social network or relationship between
groups: “Exploitation of resources in such a zone generally is
dependent upon establishing temporary residence at the camp
of other persons. Once this is done the ‘visitor’ frequently
participates in the exploitative strategies of the host group,
joining foraging units and participating on special work groups
penetrating the logistical zone for specific reasons” (Binford
1982:8). Around Çatalhöyük, during the Late Neolithic and Early
Chalcolithic, Baird (2012) mentions the appearance of several
small sites in the Konya Plain, creating a new periphery-center
network system. Moreover, a camp site, Pınarbaşı (Figure 3), is
known around 30km to the south-east of the site (Baird 2012).
Some authors also mention contact and relationship between
Figure 8: Spheres of raw materials procurement at Çatalhöyük West during the Early Chalcolithic (photographs by author, 5.5.2011; created by author)
Sonia Ostaptchouk, Chert Knapped Stone Studies at Çatalhöyük | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
is not peculiar to Çatalhöyük. Indeed, at this transitional period
between the Late Neolithic and the Early Chalcolithic, the turn
of the 7th-6th millennium cal. BC, there are many references
in the literature about a break from the Neolithic obsidian
production. French (1965) wrote of the Chalcolithic production
as being poorer and less beautiful than during the Neolithic. At
Mersin-Yumuktepe, Caneva (2012) discusses the collapse of a
network system beginning at the final Neolithic (Level XXIV/
5800 cal. BC). Caneva (2012) notes “an important change in raw
material year acquisition strategies with a possible reduction in
the obsidian distribution network [...] Changes in raw material
acquisition, as well as in technical complexity and production
scale, suggest that deeper socio-political changes were ongoing
in the site at the very beginning of the Halaf influence in this
region” (Caneva 2012:11-13).
Çatalhöyük West Mound people (Peter F. Biehl, Eva Rosenstock
and Jana Rogasch) and my colleagues on the Chipped Stone
team: Nurcan Kayacan, Marcin Waş, Danica Mihailović, Adam
Nazaroff, Marina Milić, Tristan Carter and Lilian Dogiama. I
would like to acknowledge also the Society of Amis du Museum
for funding support during my PhD and Korhan Erturaç for his
support during field work.
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Parallel to the obsidian exchange network, or as an integrated
part of it, high quality flint products circulate in a third sphere,
at the extra-regional scale, over a distance of more than 200km
(Figure 8, Sphere III). This sphere reflects circulation of big
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This paper would have been impossible without the support and
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and the Museum National d’Histoire naturelle. In particular I
acknowledge the support of my PhD director François Fröhlich,
my tutor Aïcha Badou, Prof. Ian Hodder and Shahina Farid, the
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Figuring Out the Figurines:
Towards the interpretation of Neolithic corporeality in the
Republic of Macedonia
Goce Naumov1
On the one hand there were ‘traditionalists’ trying to ‘deify’
the figurines, including them in pantheons which had their
own deities and epiphanies, manifested through the Neolithic
figurines (Figure 1). Thus, figurines were gradually classified
according to interpretations such as Great Mother, Mother
Earth, Bear Mother, Birth-giving Mother, Bird Goddess, and
Snake Goddess (Gimbutas 1982, 1989; Golan 2003; James 1959;
Mellaart 1967; Neumann 1963). Moreover, this concept started
to be generalised, so that all feminine representations were
generally identified with goddesses or Great Mothers without
examination, or consideration of the possibility that they could
belong to other supernatural beings or individuals.
Ss. Cyril and Methodius University (University of Skopje,
Macedonia), <[email protected]>
Neolithic figurines are often subject of keen discussions and debates
between two main theoretical standpoints. The one side tends
towards deification of the anthropomorphic figurines, whilst the
other determines these artefacts as mediators in social relation
among individuals and communities. Thus, the first group of
researchers idolises the figurines as fertility symbols, whereas the
others considerably profane their social function. This paper aims
to explore these breaking points and from there on to develop multirelational interpretations towards the character of some Neolithic
figurines. In this context figurines found in the settlements from
the Republic of Macedonia will be used for further observations.
Particular cases associated with medieval and contemporary visual
culture, as well as recent gender ritual issues will be proposed for
thorough understanding of the body representations.
This foundation led to all figurines from the Palaeolithic
to the Bronze Age being included within the same context
of interpretations, proposing that they were forerunner
representations of the classical feminine goddesses. An
uninterrupted divine link was thus created and remained
unchanged for 35,000 years, existing in a certain form through
the Classical Period until the Middle Ages, using the characters
of Gaea, Hera, Demeter, Cybele or the Virgin Mary. This
academic identification of prehistoric female representation was
established in the 19th century when miniature figurines were
considered visual and cognitive announcements for the later
Near Eastern and Mediterranean goddesses. Soon afterwards,
an additional theoretical milieu was proposed which explained
the Neolithic as a matriarchal society and provided a justification
for the large production of female figurines (Gimbutas 1982;
James 1959). One of the first proponents for the so called
‘mother right’ or matriarchate in prehistory was Johann Jacob
Bachofen, who had a significant influence on sociologists,
psychologists, historians and archaeologists (Bemberdjer 2003;
Georgudi 2011). His theoretical platform was overwhelmingly
employed in the 20th century among various academicians who
proposed different methods of support. The social theories and
archaeological data stimulated Erich Neumann, one of the most
influential psychologists of the mid-20th century, to develop his
idea of The Great Mother as the universal deity worshiped among
various cultures from prehistory until modern times (Neumann
1963). This work in turn impacted a newly established feministic
wave which was in quest of multidisciplinary arguments for a
social domination of women in the past. This branch of feminists
and those of the ‘goddess movement’ believed that societies
worshiping the Great Mother were practicing matriarchate
and that figurines represent this social system. Considering the
enormous quantity of archaeological data interpreted in favour of
these hypotheses, such academic movement stirred speculative
interpretations and promoted its proponents.
Research on prehistoric figurines followed various approaches
and methods, and suggested various interpretations for their
function and meaning. Some are associated with traditional
elaboration of body representations while others propose
more thorough anthropological consideration of social and
symbolic components incorporated within figurines. This
paper will include several methodological directions, and will
attempt to make the subject more tangible through emphasis
of certain features and use of these complex objects. On one
hand, the domination of female figurines and accentuation
of particular body parts will be addressed, while on the other,
more anthropological observations will be proposed regarding
their corporeality, gender and fragmentation. For more detailed
observation, several case studies from the Republic of Macedonia
(Macedonia) will be used. These studies consider Neolithic
figurines from Pelagonia, Ovče Pole and the Skopje Valley,
together with ethnographic and historical data from these and
neighbouring areas.
A History of collision
Neolithic figurines have always raised particular interest and
attention among archaeologists and researchers of the Neolithic
visual culture, corporeality and religious forms. In an attempt to
understand their appearance and significance, there have been,
in recent decades, many hypotheses concentrating on what
and whom the figurines represented, as well as on motives for
their use. In addition, there were numerous analogies which
relate these objects to approachable ethnographic material,
psychological background and the cognitive basis of ancient
people, or even with the contemporary perception of the human
body and its aesthetics. Consequently, in trying to interpret the
figurines from their own perspective, two basic academic groups
One of the most prominent apostles of second wave feminism,
endorsing figurines as Mother Goddesses, was Maria Gimbutas,
a name which simultaneously evokes adoration and harshness
among feminists and archaeologists. As one of the loudest
proponents of the ‘goddesses’ academic stream, her hypotheses
were followed by numerous archaeologists trying to adjust her
models to their case studies. Additionally, due to her popularity
Goce Naumov, Figuring out the Figurines | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Gimbutas was often referenced during disputes regarding the
‘goddesses’ approach in archaeology, and her work frequently
criticised. Although previously Gordon W. Childe, Arthur Evans
and James Mellaart had a similar approach when interpreting
figurines as Mother Goddesses, no one was so rigorously
observed as Gimbutas. Her name frequently appeared in the titles
and text of papers of other archaeologists who were concerned by
her archaeological approach and its effects (Biehl 1997; Meskell
1995;Talalay 1994). As a reaction to the interpretations of
Neolithic figurines as goddesses, numerous researchers emerged
and attempted to respond with a more systematic approach, as
well as adding their own observations on the significance of
the figurines. These archaeologists pushed aside any possibility
that the figurines were related to deities, and almost completely
denied all the attributes previously applied, especially those
associated with fertility. Consequently, the academic perception
of the figurines started again from the beginning, completely
ignored the earlier attempts of their definition and concentrated
on new details which offered a completely different source of
information (Bailey 2005; Biehl 1996; Handsman 1991; Hansen
2007; Hardie 2007; Talalay 1993).
Figure 1: The two directions of figurines interpretations (created by
One of the first to oppose the ‘divine’ elements of prehistoric
figurines was Peter Ucko who proposed new perspectives for
observing and understanding figurines. Besides his criticism of
Mother Goddess hypotheses, he presented various models for
a systematic approach towards figurines including concerning
more thorough analysis of their look, context, and also of the
ethnographic and historic information associated with similar
material culture (Ucko 1962, 1968). Although he was against
direct analogies of ethnographic evidence to archaeological
context, he found various examples with human body
representations as motivation for the broader understanding of
prehistoric figurines. The Neolithic anthropomorphic miniatures
were not only seen as religious devices, but also as dolls which
can have didactic features or can be employed in various rituals
in connection with initiation or magic. However, aside from
Andrew Fleming’s (1969) paper his ideas were not supported
by the archaeologists focused on figurines in the following
1970s and 1980s, the majority of whom still explained them as
goddesses or idols.
of the Neolithic visual dynamics and as agents in the complex
symbolic communication among individuals and between the
communities of one or several regions. In this case, the accent
was on corporeality which transmits messages and ideas among
social groups, and where figurines are involved as a medium.
The spectrum of figurine understanding was significantly
broadened from 1990 and various observations were proposed
regarding their significance or use. No longer were figurines
interpreted as goddesses or idols, but as individuals, ancestors,
dolls, toys, effigies, sex objects or contract devices. Regarding
the ethnographic cases, such wide employment of miniature
human representations is possible and therefore upheld, but
the ethnographic analogies are still questioned and not always
accepted. Nevertheless, these works raised new issues not
previously considered in regards to the figurines, such as gender,
identity, agency, personhood, fragmentation or corporeality
(Bailey 2005; Chapman 2000; Hamilton et al. 1996; Hansen 2007;
Joyce 2000; Robb 2008). The anthropological oriented research
of figurines stimulated broadening of horizons and incorporated
various social and symbolic components associated with the
human body. However, besides the progressive and thought
provoking approach, there were not many convincing arguments
on the figurines’ meaning and significance. Although these
important and scientifically restrained interpretations attempted
to define the proper significance of the Neolithic corporeal
representations, they still did not offer the most elementary
answers to: (i) what and whom the figurines represent; (ii)
what was the motive for them to be modelled with definite
iconographic features; and finally (iii) what was their actual use?
In some way, although profound and tenable, recent theories are
not more convincing than those endorsing deities and idols, as
while the so-called ‘traditionalists’ could not offer substantive
arguments for Neolithic figurines as religious devices promoting
fertility neither could the post-processualists confirm that they
were strictly associated with personhood and individualism.
The first loud reaction against the traditional interpretation of
figurines occurred immediately after the death of Gimbutas in
1994. In the same and following year a number of papers by
Lauren Talalay (1994), Lynn Meskell (1995), Margaret Conkey
and Ruth Tringham (1995) and Randi and Gunar Haaland (1995)
appeared criticising both Gimbutas and the ‘goddesses’. In the
following decades, more papers were published addressing the
same problem and promoting new directions of figurine research
(Biehl 1997; Joyce 2003; Knapp and Meskell 1997; Lesure 2002;
Meskell 1998; Tringham and Conkey 1998; Ucko 1996). From
today’s perspective, the period from the middle of 1990s until
the first half of 2000s was most crucial for significant changes
to archaeologists’ approaches towards figurines. As early as the
1990s there were new perspectives in figurine research (Bailey
1994; Joyce 1993; Skeates 1994; Talalay 1993), however these
only received more attention and support after the publication of
the aforementioned works criticising the ‘goddesses’ movement
in archaeology and figurine interpretation. Gradually, new
theories were developed claiming that Neolithic figurines
instead embodied ideas of ‘people for the people’, suggesting
they explain the way individuals perceived themselves and their
own bodies (Figure 1). These theories include figurines as part
Both theoretical groups attempted to assert the significance and
exceptional character of the figurines. In their own periods when
such totally different approaches were proposed, they were in line
with the current anthropological and social theoretical processes,
however, from our perspective nowadays it is easy to be critical
Original research paper
towards previous theoretical streams in archaeology without
understanding the primary context of their emergence and era.
The essence of each theoretical course can be extracted and tested
or modified through recent data and epistemological concepts.
Therefore two main perspectives will be addressed concerning
the prevalence of female figurines and body accentuations,
as well as anthropological aspects of corporeality, gender and
fragmentation. They will be further supported with case studies
from Macedonia including figurines from particular Neolithic
settlements, but also medieval frescoes and contemporary rural
present in female figurines (Lesure 2011; Naumov 2009a). In
the Balkans there are almost no male representations with such
features. The male figurines from various Neolithic settlements
mainly consist of upright or seated bodies without breasts, large
buttocks, bulged abdomens, hands positioned on torso or traits
of deliberate fragmentation of the head and legs. As it will be
explained below, various case studies confirm these ratios and
propose more thorough observation within Neolithic gender
It can be suggested for the Balkans that female figurines prevail
whenever there are sexually determined human representations.
It should be also considered that for the majority of sites
figurines are indeed sexless, displaying no primary or secondary
sexual features. Such ratio opens the discussion as to whether
these figurines actually represent sexless bodies or rather were
portrayals of female or male characters without asserting their
sex or gender. Anthropological approaches in figurine research
introduce a wide range of possibilities for such representations
regarding the third gender or uninitiated children (Hollimon
1997; Meskell 2001; Naumov 2014). Although thoughtprovoking, these observations are difficult to prove. Therefore,
figurines with apparent primary or secondary sexual features are
more suitable for gender determination and the vast majority
of them are female representations. Therefore, it should be
reconsidered why there is a prevalence of female representations
in the Balkan Neolithic. This question stimulated a variety
of controversial answers supporting the grand narrative and
universalistic approach, as well as a stream of archaeologists who
tried to deny that female figurines outnumbered the male.
Why are there so many female figurines?
Besides agriculture, husbandry, stockbreeding, pottery and solid
dwellings, the Neolithic in the Balkans introduced figurines
as well. Although figurines on the European continent were
produced in the Upper Palaeolithic, they were not part of the
symbolic engagement of communities inhabiting the Balkan
Peninsula (McDermott 1996; Soffer et al. 2000; White 2006). In
fact, Palaeolithic figurines were common in the area comprising
Austria, Slovakia, Italy, France and Germany, which area later in
the Neolithic would be associated with the absence or scarcity
of human representations in clay. With the introduction of
farming, southeast Europe became a focal point for the symbolic
incorporation of body images with thousands of figurines and
various anthropomorphic artefacts produced since the Early
Neolithic. The body appeared to be important for the first
agricultural communities in the Balkans and besides numerous
miniature figurines entire human bodies or particular parts
were represented on, or integrated within, vessels, house and
oven models, ‘altars’ or stamps. Such variety of mediums for
incorporation of human representations suggests that more
complex processes were associated with the body than mere
portrayal. Anthropomorphism and the hybrid relationship of
bodies with dwellings and households were essential visual and
symbolic principles involving corporeality as a major metaphor
for explaining the new Neolithic man-made environment
(Naumov 2010a). Typically, such symbolic bodies were mainly
The mixture of ideas, statements and hypotheses associated
with figurines’ meanings stimulated many archaeologists to
approach with their own understanding of this prehistoric visual
phenomenon. One of these archaeologists was Noel Morss who
dealt with female figurines in the American southwest, but who
attempted to apply the universalist model to all prehistoric
figurines in the world. Moss considered that female figurines
equated with fertility and they appeared with the introduction
of agriculture and the human use of clay (Morss 1954). Although
his observations were based on the more modest data available
in the period of his work, there are numerous arguments not
supporting his thesis. Namely, female figurines are also common
for communities which do not practice agriculture such as those
of the European Upper Palaeolithic or the Early Jomon period
in Japan (Figure 2). In both cases clay was used for modelling
human representations among foragers and the images
represented both corpulent females and asexual stylised bodies
with reduced corporal features. After Ucko’s paper and book
(1962, 1968), many archaeologists found ethnographic evidence
that female figurines are not always associated with fertility, but
often engaged in didactic processes, initiation rituals and magic
(Lesure 2011; Talalay 1993). Although progressive in its own
time, from today’s perspective Morss’ thesis can no longer be
applied to all female figurines as they can have various meanings
and employment.
There are many discussions on the representation of sex among
Neolithic figurines and other anthropomorphic objects. The
majority of archaeologists agree that most of the figurines with
determined sex are female. There are, however, also a number
of those archaeologists who question the methods of sex
determination and propose that Neolithic societies preferred
sexless body representations (Nakamura and Meskell 2009;
Nanoglou 2006; Ucko 1962). There is constant discussion
on gender issues regarding prehistoric figurines and the
determination of their sex (Bailey 1994, 2005; Biehl 1999;
Bolger 2003; Handsman 1991; Hardie 2007; Joyce 2003; Knapp
and Meskell 1997; Lesure 2002; Meskell 2001; Nakamura and
Meskell 2009). These observations are worth considering and
should be incorporated within future research, but the statistics
and ratios of Balkan figurines still confirm the prevalence of
female representations. Various case studies associated with
figurines verify that sexless figurines outnumber those with
apparent male or female genitalia. Besides the genitals there
are further attributes which designate sex among Neolithic
figurines. Several authors propose the presence of secondary
gender features consisting of breasts, buttocks, belly, hand
position and deliberate fragmentation which only appear to be
Consequently, many authors proposed alternative theories on
the prevalence of female figurines. Although more thorough than
Morss’ approach they are not much more convincing, yet still
provide new horizons in figurine research and understanding
of particular gender phenomena. Some suggest more social
background for asserted femaleness in the Neolithic, such as the
relationship of particular female individuals with (re)productive
Goce Naumov, Figuring out the Figurines | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Figure 2: The distribution of prehistoric figurines (after Lesure 2011: Figure 4)
labour and political contests over power, while others consider
corporal factors, climatic condition and constant exposure of
the female body to biological threat in periods of pregnancy
or harsh seasons (Bailey 2005; Bolger 2003; Joyce 2003; Lesure
2011; Voigt 2000). One of the recent interpretations for the
large quantity of female figurines was inspired by the author’s
observation of self-representation among the Upper Palaeolithic
figurines (McDermott 1996). According to McDermott, women
in Palaeolithic societies produced images of themselves which
represent the point of view of those who modelled or carved
them. Even though his interpretation was critically questioned in
the meticulous comments following the paper, it had significant
influence on archaeologists focused on female representations
in the Neolithic. They also considered such figurines as selfrepresentation of women, but incorporated more social aspects
within, associated with silenced and oppressed groups in the
Neolithic societies (Bailey 2005).Apart from the interesting
standpoints of these theoretical perspectives, none of them
were compelling and grasped as major episteme for the figurine
current practitioners. Although such an idea is today mainly
abandoned, it is worth further academic attention in order to
be more thoroughly reconsidered or entirely ignored. At present
there is not one solid argument that the Neolithic figurines are
not representations of deities, except for the ethnographic cases
regarding the multifunctional character of human images and
the abstract theoretical alternatives associated with identity,
gender, sexuality, embodiment or politics. On the other hand,
not a single fact was contributed confirming the employment
of figurines as goddesses or their association with religion and
eventual pantheon.
Further examination is therefore necessary in order to provide
a more thorough insight into figurine relationship with beliefs,
religion or any other social and symbolic processes within
Neolithic communities. In this paper two main connections
between figurines, femaleness and corporeality are proposed.
Primarily, this is a more anthropological approach considering
three various asynchronous cases regarding female images, visual
propaganda and ritual acts involving women, but not associated
with female images. Additionally, several case studies of figurines
from Neolithic settlements in Macedonia are discussed in order
to assert that femaleness could be a local manifestation not
promoted or practiced by all societies, even in neighbouring
Probably the most influential hypothesis, although currently
rejected by many, was that proposed by Etiene Renaud who
suggested that all female figurines were goddesses (Renaud
1929).Similar to Morss’ practice, he explored figurines from
the American southwest and afterwards promoted his idea
of the divine character of prehistoric femaleness. Along with
the Bachofen matriarchy model (Bemberdjer 2003), his idea
had an explosive worldwide effect and attracted numerous
archaeologists who started to identify figurines in their
contexts as divinities. In line with Renaud’s interpretation, if
the Neolithic was a matriarchal society it was rational that its
pantheon consisted of female deities and the numerous female
figurines therefore represented these deities. Followed by
highly esteemed scholars such as Evans, James, Mellaart and
Gimbutas, this universalist perspective had enormous impact
in archaeology and its effects are easy to notice even among
Asynchronous consideration of female images
Archaeologists often incorporate ethnographical cases in order
to better understand the significance and meaning of figurines.
Since the approach of directed analogies was considered
problematic, many criticised the relevance of interpretative
relationships between prehistoric and 20th century tribal societies
(Ucko 1962). In the 1990s a new generation of archaeologists
became more oriented towards anthropological and social
theory and attempted to interpret the figurines through gender
issues, corporeality, embodiment, agency, identity or sexuality
(Bailey 1994; Joyce 2005; Marcus 1996; Meskell 1998; Robb
Original research paper
currently the most employed static visual media, in some way
they become contemporary material culture in which the human
body is displayed as an image. If such material culture is analysed,
an anthropologist or future archaeologist would have a glimpse
into a desired and partly manipulated female body very different
to one which is symbolically incorporated in rituals or religion.
On the contrary, the actual and real symbolic engagement of the
body in 21st century Macedonia is quite different – indeed even
almost unregistered in the above-mentioned media. Namely,
a huge number of women are engaged in activities that do not
have any visual manifestations in the popular media, and, due
to their uniqueness, sometimes even acquire a partly esoteric
character. In line with the aforementioned relationship between
figurines and fertility, of special interest are rituals concerned
with women who could not have children. These individuals,
by visiting particular sacred locations (most often rocks, caves,
stones, waterfalls), perform certain activities in the hope that
conception might result for the participants (Vražinovski 1999,
2000). These rituals are practiced by many generations and still
involve women from both villages and cities. On particular days
in the year they visit the event locations far from settlements,
along with their husbands or relatives. During these apparent
fertility rituals there is no single female image or item (material
culture) present which asserts the fertility or a deity associated
with the ritual. These two examples of advertising visual culture
and esoteric female ritual indicates that prevailing images of
women can be promotional and that fertility rituals do not always
require the support of female images. Even though not related to
Neolithic social context, these contemporary cases support the
idea that the female body can be employed in various modes and
settings in a single society.
Figure 3: Map of the Balkans with indicated position of the Republic of
Macedonia (created by author)
2007). Although this approach did not provide exact answers as
to whom the figurines represented, it broadened the directions
of exploring the human representations in the past. Soon it
became apparent that the body is a much more complex platform
for social and symbolic processes and that it can be observed
through various perspectives. Therefore, in this paper three
different cases of female body representations and engagements,
including contemporary commercial visual culture, medieval
frescoes and traditional rural rituals in Macedonia (Figure 3),
are discussed in order to assert that femaleness could be both a
manipulated and an invisible concept associated with propaganda
or intimate rituals. These cases are related with different periods
and consider diverse mediums and scenes in the exposition of
the female body. In such contexts, the bodies of profane or sacred
individuals confirm that representations could be associated
with a range of engagements and meanings in the same period
and even on the same image. Such asynchronous cases are set in
relationship with the aforementioned discussions on Neolithic
female representations and their prevalence, visualisation,
ambiguity and particularity of context. It becomes apparent
that goddesses and housemaids or priestesses and photo models
could be represented and involved in the same social structure
promoted or invisible within material culture.
Medieval frescoes
The next case study describes the symbolic engagement of female
body within a religious unit which involves various represented
characters of women. Such visual representations are painted
on the frescoes of numerous medieval churches in Macedonia,
where on certain fresco zones and particular areas of the church,
women (saints) and ktitors (sponsors)are both represented
(Miljković-Pepek 1971; Radojčić 1964). These painted scenes
are mainly of: (i) Virgin Mary – as the ‘supreme’ mother; (ii)
an accompanying women painted in the secular scenes who
represents the life of some saint to whom the church is dedicated;
Contemporary advertising visual culture
Within Macedonia, and indeed through the whole of Europe,
advertising occupies a huge percentage of modern media space.
Furthermore, regardless of the media type (including television,
radio, magazines, posters or shop windows), the female body
is dominantly present. In the context of this paper, static visual
media would be of special interest, in which the images are not
movable but mostly concentrated on just one fixed ‘portrayal’, such
as with Neolithic figurines. Thus, if the most popular magazines
or billboards in cities were analysed, it could be determined that
attractive female bodies are placed mainly in the foreground –
the choreography suggesting the quality of the product or the
idea being promoted. These images also attest to the aesthetical
parameters of how the media believes a 21st century woman
should look and the ideals which can be suggested through the
female body. Considering that billboards and magazines are
Figure 4: Medieval fresco with female saints at St. George, Kurbinovo
(Grozdanov and Haderman Misguich 1992: Figure 27)
Goce Naumov, Figuring out the Figurines | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
(iii) women-martyrs who are credited for helping to preserve
Christianity, and (iv) ktitors (sponsors), wealthy women who,
together with their husbands, financed the building and fresco
paintings of the church (Figure 4). It is important to note that
most of the represented women have visual similarities and that
they do not significantly differ except by the clothes or their
presence in particular scenes.
in relation to pelvis or uterus, the regenerative area, or signified
certain feminine social categories (Chausidis and Nikolov 2006;
Naumov 2008a). Even when bread was ritually prepared the
objects used for its decoration were named as ‘sister-in-law’,
while the loaf was referred to as dolls or grandmothers (Krstevska
2005; Naumov 2008b; Petrović 1996).
The majority of female corporeal concepts, however, are
preserved at the level of ritual choreography and numerous
activities related to weddings – often concentrated on the bride
and especially on the mother-in-law (Malešević 1995; Petreska
2001). Everything that symbolically enhanced the female body
was focused in the domain of domestic rituals without leaving
noticeable traces in the material culture. Referring back again to
Neolithic societies, miniature figurines could be only a portion
of the entire symbolic mechanism involving the female body.
Besides its incorporation into acts not tangible to us, the body
(especially that of women) was a central metaphor among first
agricultural communities inhabiting Macedonia and the Balkans
in general. Vessels, house and oven models, ‘altars’ and stamps
were modelled with apparent female features (genitalia, breasts,
pregnant belly or enlarged buttocks), although the majority were
sexless (Naumov 2009a). The prevalence of the female body,
associated not only with figurines, but with various embodied
items as well, could be a result of the significant ritual status of
the women or their engagement in the household activities. In
that context, material culture with human representations is not
always connected with deities, but can also be associated with
common people and their needs, struggles, negotiations and
If it is considered that a church comprises one spatial and
religious unit, most of the represented characters are associated
with a particular visual and symbolic narrative. Most of the
characters are related to the New Testament, some are historical
individuals related with Christianity and there are also imaginary
people who are set within scenes in order to support the
dramatic and descriptive character of the painted scenes. Such
visual units indicate that various characters with quite similar
outlook could belong to different categories of individuals or
saints. Although painted on a single wall, some of these women
are servants, peasants, mistresses, royals, martyrs, saints or a
supreme religious character such as Virgin Mary. Most of them
are represented once in the entire church, but some are repeated
on various scenes within fresco paintings (Djurić 1974; Grabar
1982). If compared with Neolithic figurines, such a case confirms
that similarly represented female individuals in a single visual
micro-unit can depict different characters with diverse historical
or religious functions and significance. From that perspective the
female figurines with unified features unearthed in particular
local context, could be associated with goddesses and other
mythical characters, or equally as easily with actual women.
Material culture in recent rural settlements
The three asynchronous cases from one region, the Republic of
Macedonia, support the idea that there is no single interpretation
of anthropomorphic images, neither in a particular area, nor in a
specific time. In various settings within a single community the
body can be employed in diverse modes, as it can have different
associations in one visual unit. The images of bodies can be
both representation of deities that people worshiped, but also of
women they respected. Therefore is not whom these figurines
represented, but what they represent that is significant. Their
meanings can be solid or vary even in a single community, but
their appearance and context provide much more information
on how they were used and what their purpose was in both
the social and symbolic spheres. In order to understand such
characteristics of embodied material culture, a short overview of
figurine production in particular local settings is necessary and
especially of those unearthed from several Neolithic settlements
in Macedonia.
Besides the tangible religious units where the female body
is variously incorporated, there are also other domains of
social and symbolic engagement where the female body had a
significant role, which is not visible or asserted through actual
portrayals. Some of the most interesting cases for anthropological
research by Balkan ethnologists are villages from the 19th and
20th century across the whole territory of Macedonia. From
the numerous ethnographic data it could be concluded that
populations inhabiting the villages in this period did not produce
explicit, detailed representations of the female body, in contrast
with the Neolithic figurines or medieval saints (Naumov 2006).
It is important to stress that these villages were Christianised
and maintained this tradition, but they simultaneously practiced
their ancient traditional rites which were different from the
church standards and official religious ethics.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Macedonians and other
Balkan populations used a huge quantity of pottery for everyday
purposes, and also for rituals associated with wedding, burials
and agriculture. They did not produce any figurines of clay except
on extremely rare occasions (Chausidis and Nikolov 2006).
Everything within the domain of figurative body representation
was under the auspice and control of the Christian church, so
that the families in their homes had few icons. Still, the symbolic
corporeal components were transposed onto utilitarian material
culture and rites that do not employ human representations.
Thus, the language and ritual choreography should be asserted as
being the most suitable media for manifestation of the symbolic
corporeal aspects – especially the ones which include female
bodies. Namely, numerous vessels and objects which were partly
involved in rituals were referred to with terms related to certain
parts of the female body or with women who were high-ranked
in the hierarchy within families. Thus, some vessels were named
Neolithic corporeality
Figurines are found in almost all Neolithic sites in Macedonia
(Figure 5). Compared with pottery findings their number is quite
small, but they are still able to provide information for particular
visual and symbolic principles associated with the human body.
How many figurines are recovered from an excavation, and also
how many of these are published, depends on the modes, methods
and scale of excavated sites and the extent of publications related
with these sites (Naumov 2014). For that reason, the majority of
the figurines remains unpublished in museums depots and is not
familiar to anyone other than the excavators. There are, however,
several recent case studies that introduce these artefacts into the
archaeological discourse (Naumov and Chausidis 2011; Naumov
Original research paper
Figure 6: The total number of published figurines and their gender ratio
(diagram by author)
1996; Chapman 2000; Gaydarska et al. 2007; Gheorghiu 2001;
Talalay 2004).
These visual features reflect the figurines’ purpose, but are
also associated with the characters represented by them. The
specific modelling and repetition of particular features suggests
a tradition in figurine production which is associated with
their possible function or the characters they represent. Small
breasts, big buttocks, hands positioned on the torso, as well as
their fragmentation is common for the figurines from many
Neolithic sites from the Early to Late Neolithic. These features
can be considered as general regional characteristics constantly
associated with female figurines, although there are cases where
only some of these features are present (Naumov 2009a). As
will be more thoroughly discussed below, only a few figurines
from Pelagonia and only one from Skopje Valley have a bulged
belly with the hands positioned on it, a form which clearly
indicates pregnancy (Figure 7). All the others do not have hands
associated with the torso or an accented abdomen. Of particular
importance are small breasts which suggest that represented
characters are not pregnant women, but probably female
individuals who already had children. It could be proposed
that these were representations of young or mature individuals;
women whose biological changes as well as their position in the
community were altering their social status. In that context the
figurines were probably broken and deliberately fragmented
during the rites of passage, when a woman passes from one
social category to another (Naumov 2009a). Despite numerous
figurines which do not share the same features, these could be
associated with womanhood, sexuality, birth giving and other
biological processes common for the female individuals.
Figure 5: Map of the Republic of Macedonia with the sites and regions
mentioned in text (created by author)
2014, in press). This allows for a more balanced study that is
not subject to the bias of publication practices, which favour
gendered figurines.
Neolithic figurines in Macedonia rarely attract particular
attention for detailed study, although they were constantly
promoted in short excavation reports and museum catalogues as
some of the most outstanding artefacts in Macedonia (Garašanin
et al. 1976; Kolištrkoska Nasteva 2005; Simoska and Sanev 1976).
There were only few authors partially focusing their work on
Macedonian figurines (Gimbutas 1976a; Korošec 1954; Srejović
1968), although the interest is significantly changed in the last
decades (Karpuzova 2007; Naumov 2009a, 2009b, 2010, 2011,
2014, in press; Sanev 2006; Temelkoski and Mitkoski 2001).
Recent publications provide new data for the Neolithic figurines
which were unearthed from 1950s to 2000s in the Skopje Valley,
Pelagonia, Ovče Pole and Polog, all of which are regions in
Macedonia (Figure 5). The remaining part of the paper will be
focused on both general overview and case studies in order to
explore two main and not always common directions of figurine
General overview
Regarding the Neolithic figurines, certain visual and typological
features should be noted in order to define corporeality.
Considering the figurines found in Macedonia, it should be
pointed out that most of those with determined sexual features
are figurines of female individuals (Figure 6). From 289
published figurines from this region, for 137 the gender was
determined; this includes 128 figurines with feminine genitalia,
nine with those of a male and three that bear genitalia of both
sexes (Naumov 2014). Therefore, the dominant presence of the
female figurines in Neolithic Macedonia should be considered,
as well as certain important details modelled on their bodies;
namely that most of the female figurines have small applied
breasts and wide modelled buttocks (Figure 7). The position of
the hands is often directed on the breast, abdomen and genitalia
or hips. On the majority of the miniatures, the face almost
never has details. It is also worth emphasising that numerous
examples are intentionally modelled in order to be fragmented,
mostly where the head is attached or the legs are joined (Naumov
2009a).It might seem unusual, but the deliberate fragmentation
of figurines is common practice for the Neolithic Balkans and
several discussions and hypotheses have been proposed (Biehl
Crucial changes in women’s bodies are frequently manifested
in the aforementioned rural ritual practices, although they
cannot be used as direct evidence for the functions and
Figure 7: Neolithic figurines from: 1. Velushka Tumba – height 6.0cm
(Kolištrkoska Nasteva 2005: Figure 3); 2.Madjari – height 6.8cm (Sanev
2006: Figure 11); 3. Grgur Tumba – height 5.5cm (Kolištrkoska Nasteva
2005: Figure 3)
Goce Naumov, Figuring out the Figurines | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
purposes of Neolithic figurines. In some parts of Macedonia,
the mature woman changing her status into mother-in-law
has an especially important role in the rituals that follow this
shift of status. In addition, control over essential segments
of the house is accentuated, as well as the finalisation of the
regenerative potential and confirmation of the realised birthgiving functions, which are manifested by providing descendants
in the family. During the performance of these rites, the motherin-law transposes her regenerative potential to the bride, but also
emphasises her domination over certain members of the small
community. This ritual choreography is followed by the symbolic
imitation, such as the ‘decapitation’ of the mother-in-law or with
asserting the genital area and buttocks as crucial parts confirming
reproduction (Malešević 1995; Petreska 2001, 2002). The acts
within this ritual, as well as its significance for rural societies,
resemble the features and practices associated with figurine
appearance and fragmentation. Surely, such ethnographic
examples can be used only to broaden horizons of possible
symbolic women engagements in the Neolithic, although the
figurines could be employed and understood entirely differently
by those who produced, used or only perceived them.
Figure 8: The total number of published figurines from Amzabegovo
and Porodin, and the number of figurines unearthed in Govrlevo and
of half of the figurines cannot be determined, most (19) of the
remainder are sexless representations, seven are female and there
is not a single artefact with apparent male features. Statistical
data therefore indicate that the sexless figurines outnumber
those of female and male, which is opposite to the general scale
of figurines from Macedonia. Also it is worth noting that most
of the figurines in Amzabegovo appear when the intramural
burials, especially of infants and young individuals, decrease
(Naumov 2013; Nemeskéry and Lengyel 1976). This suggests
that the majority of figurines emerge as exchange to Early
Neolithic burial practices, so that the focus on the symbolic
human body was transformed from ritual to representative in
the Middle Neolithic. It could, therefore, be proposed that the
sexless figurines are most likely in relationship with buried
children, that is individuals who were not sexually determined
until their initiation (Naumov 2014).These figurines could be
also associated with ancestors, sexless human like beings or with
those that represent third gendered characters. However, for this
particular case the funerary data and deposition of figurines in
pits supports the idea for their relationship with buried children.
Therefore, despite the general observation and interpretation of
figurines from Macedonia, more thorough insight into their local
features is proposed in order to confirm that figurines did not
have singular functions, meanings and purposes. The case studies
from several sites in Pelagonia, the Skopje Valley and Ovče Pole
are discussed which clearly indicate various preferences towards
human representations in the Neolithic. Such cases would be
further used to propose more complex social incorporation of
figurines within the visual manifestation of local identities of
communities inhabiting particular regions.
Local preferences
Although figurine production in Macedonia is often seen in
a wider geographical framework, case studies of particular
areas and sites provides a much better understanding of the
local preferences. Although some of the visual and symbolic
principles employed throughout the human body are the same as
those implied within general perspectives, the figurine analysis
of each site asserts variations which significantly differ from the
previous research approach towards Neolithic corporeality in
Macedonia. Four case studies are considered to assert this point
and based on published (the Amzabegovo and Porodin case
studies) and unpublished data (Govrlevo and Zelenikovo). They
consist of sites from three different regions (Pelagonia, Ovče
Pole and Skopje Valley), with Govrlevo and Zelenikovo being
neighbouring settlements (Figure 8).
The figurines from Porodin are entirely opposite to those from
Amzabegovo. Podrin is not published in detail (Grbićet al. 1960),
but the monograph shows 32 figurines of which 20 are female
representation. There are also three sexless figurines, one male,
one hermaphrodite and the rest are small fragments whose sex
cannot be determined (Figure 8). Although there is the possibility
that only certain figurines were selected for the publications, it is
evident that the majority of figurines with represented sex are
female and are closely associated with formal characteristics
observed on figurines from other Neolithic sites in Pelagonia. In
Porodin, as well as in Veluška Tumba, Mogila, Optičari, Grgur
and other Pelagonian settlements, the figurines have corpulent
Amzabegovo is probably one of the best known and published
Neolithic sites in Macedonia. Excavated by several teams in the
1960s, it provided significant information on the establishment of
the first agricultural settlements in Ovče Pole and their existence
throughout the remaining Neolithic phases (Gimbutas 1976b;
Korošec and Korošec 1973; Sanev 2009). There are speculative
interpretations of the Amzabegovo figurines, and they are
properly documented, so that a well-grounded elaboration of
body representations could be performed (Gimbutas 1976a).
According to the excavators of the site, 54 figurines in total have
been are excavated during several research seasons – both the
Korošec and Gimbutas excavations–, but only 43 are documented
in detail (Figure 8).Only two figurines were found in the earliest
levels of the settlement (Early Neolithic) while the majority date
from the Middle and Late Neolithic (Figure 9). Although the sex
Figure 9: Anthropomorphic figurines from: 1. Amzabegovo – height
10.0cm (Korošec and Korošec 1973); 2. Porodin – height12.4 cm (Garašanin 1979)
Original research paper
manifest different individuals, characters or corporeal principles.
The communities in Ovče Pole tended to represent sexless
bodies more frequently, which is confirmed among the figurines
from Gorobinci and Tarinci, but published only partially in
the excavation reports (Garašanin and Garašanin 1961; Sanev
1975). In spite of that, it appears that the Pelagonian inhabitants
of Neolithic settlements concentrated on female bodies with
enlarged buttocks, bellies, visible or covered genitalia, as well as
on hands which are often positioned on the torso. In the Skopje
Valley, the majority of produced figurines also were of female
bodies, but with the exclusion of one figurine from Madjari,
none of them display gestures and they rarely depict enlarged
buttocks and genitalia. Surely, further case studies from other
sites are necessary in order to have a much better insight into
gender preferences within figurines. The current results do
provide a new glimpse into corporeal variety in the Neolithic
of Macedonia and largely contrast with the previous general
overviews of female figurines from this region (Karpuzova 2007;
Kolištrkoska Nasteva 2005; Sanev 2006).
Figure 10: Anthropomorphic figurines from: 1. Zelenikovo – height3.8cm
(photo by author); 2. Govrlevo – height 8.4cm (photograph by author)
Even in the domain of female body the Pelagonian and Skopje
Valley cases point out the apparent differences in accentuation
of particular features and in the modes of their employment.
Namely, many of the female figurines in Zelenikovo are modelled
in order to be easily fragmented, which is also confirmed on
some miniatures from Govrlevo (Naumov in press). Although
indication for fragmentation is noticed among Pelagonian
figurines, a further in-depth analysis is necessary to understand
their involvement in such symbolic practices. As previously
mentioned, the fragmentation is currently confirmed only on
female figurines which raises the question of the infrequency
of male bodies among human representations. Both the general
overview and the case studies confirmed the minimal presence
of male figurines in Macedonia with only nine such artefacts
known so far. It is unclear why male bodies are neglected even
if interpretations for religious or social aspects of figurines
are considered. Many cultures incorporate male gods in their
religion, and many societies involve male individuals within
visual processes and portrayed them as figurines, sculptures or
monuments. The male population was surely as significant as
the female in the Neolithic economy and social spheres, so that
it remains to be determined why they are not more frequently
present in visual culture.
Figure 11: Anthropomorphic house models from: 1. Madjari – height
39.0cm (Kolištrkoska Nasteva 2005: Figure 42); 2. Porodin – height
25.5cm (Kolištrkoska Nasteva 2005: Figure 43); 3. Govrlevo – height
35.0cm (Chausidis 1995: Figure 6)
bodies which consist of large buttocks, bulged bellies and hands
positioned on abdomen or genitalia (Figure 9). The figurine
production in this region confirms that communities preferred
the representation of sexuality, obesity and probably fertility
among women which is contrary to the preferences in other
regions, such as Ovče Pole and Skopje Valley (Naumov 2014).
The Neolithic settlements in the Skopje Valley provided numerous
figurines embodying women or girls, but without accentuation
of their sexuality, obesity and fertility as was the case in Pelagonia
(Figure 10). Several excavations in Zelenikovo (Galović 1964;
Garašanin and Bilbija 1988; Garašanin and Spasovska 1976;
Grbić 1954), provided 83 mostly unpublished figurines of which
42 are female, three male, 13 sexless (Figure 8),while the rest
are fragments whose sex cannot be determined (Naumov in
press). The gender ratio in Govrlevo is similar, seven female, one
male and three sexless (Figure 8), although the total number of
unearthed figurines is significantly smaller, 13 in total (Naumov
in press). It is surprising that the community at Govrlevo,
neighbouring and contemporary to Zelenikovo, produced such
a small amount of figurines. Bias in data acquisition is excluded,
since excavations in Govrlevo were very detailed (Bilbija 1986;
Fidanoski 2011, 2012; Fidanoski and Tomaž 2010; Georgiev
and Bilbija 1984).It will be discussed below why such diverse
practiced occurred in neighbouring communities, but it is
noteworthy that both were focused on the female body. Of all
figurines unearthed from Zelenikovo and Govrlevo, there are
only two which have more corpulent buttocks, while there are
none with indicated genitalia or hands positioned on the torso.
Although the Neolithic figurines from the Skopje Valley could
comprise similar concepts as those in Pelagonia these miniatures
have a much reduced exposure of the sexual or gender features.
In spite of that, male representations are significantly
outnumbered by the female or sexless anthropomorphic objects.
This practice does not involve only figurines, but also other
artefacts that represent the entire human body or of only some
body parts, such as vessels, house and oven models, or ‘altars’ and
stamps (Chausidis 2007, 2008, 2010; Naumov 2009a; Naumov
and Chausidis 2011; Sanev 1988, 2006). These anthropomorphic
hybrids rarely depict primary sexual features, yet frequently have
breasts, protuberant stomachs or hands positioned on torso,
which among the miniatures are considered as secondary female
features (Figure 11). Therefore, it is more consistent to observe
figurines in relation to these anthropomorphic hybrids as they are
not only providing further information on represented gender,
but also on the complex notion of the Neolithic corporeality.
These specific artefacts further indicate variety in human body
representation and highlight the embodiment as crucial concept
associated with anthropomorphs. That is to say, not all Neolithic
communities in Macedonia were equally concentrated on the
production of hybrids and miniatures. Recent research confirms
that in some settlements anthropomorphic house models are
The cases discussed confirm that the human representations
do not always share the same preferences and most probably
Goce Naumov, Figuring out the Figurines | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
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communities almost ignored hybrids, with only 12 artefacts
found compared to the numerous miniatures, totalling 83, which
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Inert, Inanimate, Invaluable:
How stone artefact analyses have informed of Australia’s past
Simon Munt1
Australia, stone artefact studies like those of the Northern
Territory’s (NT) Malakunanja II, have contributed valuable
indications. Malakunanja II has been put forth as the likely
oldest date in Australia, at 50,000 years before present (bp)–
60,000 bp (Flood 2010:86, 91; Geneste et al. 2012:3; Roberts et
al. 1990:153–156; Zazula 2000/2001:116,119). This was based
primarily on dating the stone artefacts from the lowest level of
the 260 cm deep trench and asserting the stratigraphic integrity
along with support from thermoluminescence dating. Critics
such as Roberts (1997:856), however, contend that these artefacts
may have been subject to downward movement, thus discrediting
their stratigraphic integrity, and a degree of imprecision also
always exists (Bowdler 1996:38; Hiscock 2008:42–44) in
thermoluminescence and other dating techniques which are
subject to calibration resulting in potential deviations of several
millennia. Malakunanja II has, however, a minimum antiquity
of 45,000 bp, a date accepted by ‘all archaeologists’ (Hiscock
2008:44; supported by Flood 2010:91), so in any case has
provided a solid update to earlier twentieth century notions such
as of colonisation occurring at 35,000 bp to 40,000 bp (Zazula
Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student, Department
of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,
<[email protected]>
This paper analyses the contribution of stone artefact studies, or
‘lithic analyses,’ to understandings about the Indigenous occupation
of Australia. It explores their significance in informing about both
the timing of initial colonisation and the nature of the subsequent
spread of settlement. Lithic analyses are discussed as having been
central in providing evidence for spatial and temporal occupation
of regions around the country. A case study from the mid-Holocene
is examined for its value in demonstrating a manner of response
by Indigenous people to changing environmental conditions. Stone
artefact studies are seen to inform valuably about past Indigenous
lifestyles and an example from north Queensland outlines much
about the nature of trade and exchange between groups. Specific
approaches to the study of stone artefacts are examined, such
as use-wear and residue analyses and a more anthropological
perspective known as the chaîne opératoire.
Stone artefacts from NT’s Nauwalabila rockshelter also provide
dates which may indicate the oldest Indigenous settlement in
Australia. Support exists (Flood 2010:92) for the integrity of
the stratigraphy in which the lowest artefacts were found and
as such the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dates of
55,000 bp–60,000 bp. While some vertical movement may have
occurred with artefacts above (Hiscock 2008:42), the lowest level
at Nauwalabila was thick rubble and bedrock (Hiscock 2008:42;
O’Connell and Allen 2004:843), which may have been much
harder for any downward moving artefacts to have penetrated.
Dates from this rubble layer were, however, based on what some
(eg. O’Connell and Allen 2004:843–846) regard as inconsistencies
in the association between the artefacts, rubble and charcoal
samples from it. Reluctance in accepting Nauwalabila’s antiquity
also exists due to the possibility of post-depositional termite
activity leading to downward artefact movement (O’Connell and
Allen 2004).
Stone artefact studies have provided a vast amount of invaluable
information about an extensive variety of aspects of the
Indigenous occupation of Australia. This paper examines seven
key contributions. Firstly, these studies have valuably informed
the central and continuing debate about the initial colonisation
of Australia. Secondly, they have helped to demonstrate a vast
range of temporal and spatial occupation of Indigenous groups,
assisting understandings of related issues such as concerning the
nature and spread of Indigenous occupation. Thirdly, analyses of
stone artefacts (or ‘lithics’) have contributed to understandings
about Indigenous Australians’ responses to changes in the
environment and been central in correcting earlier notions of
Indigenous culture as having been static. Fourthly, they have
informed about aspects of Indigenous Australians’ lifestyles such
as methods of food procurement. Fifthly, analysis of fracture
mechanics has helped archaeologists to develop increasingly
sophisticated knowledge of and hypotheses regarding attributes
of artefacts. Sixthly, lithic studies have provided understandings
about the nature of movement, trade and exchange between
Indigenous groups, a case study herein involving Queensland
and southern areas. Seventhly, this paper discusses some
approaches themselves that have been used in the study of lithics
because these have been largely determinative of the value and
type of information able to be yielded. In particular it focusses
on ‘use-wear’ and residue analyses of stone tools, along with a
framework known as the chaîne opératoire.
Temporal and spatial occupation
Despite dating difficulties, lithic studies have helped to
demonstrate antiquities of occupation in regions across the
continent, which has assisted in understandings of related
issues. At Cuddie Springs in NSW stone artefacts were dated to
around 36,000 bp (Field et al. 2008:101), which complemented
studies of bones of megafaunal species to demonstrate at least
several millennia of coexistence there. Combined with the lack
of evidence for human hunting or butchery at the site over this
period (Fillios et al. 2010:127), this helped to cast doubt on
notions, in the intense debate, that humans hunted megafauna to
extinction. The relatively quick spread of Indigenous occupation
around Australia (Bowdler 1996:38) and that it occurred through
inland regions in contrast to earlier coastal models (Bowdler
1977) has also been indicated by lithic analyses. At Devil’s Lair
Initial colonisation of Australia
Malakunanja II
While not yet being able to provide unequivocal answers
concerning the precise timing of the human colonisation of
Simon Munt, Inert, Inanimate, Invaluable | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
Figure 2: An example of how an invasively backed blade may appear
(created by author)
greatly to our understanding of the Indigenous occupation
of Australia by testing the veracity of arguments made. White
(2011:67) cast doubt on the precision of the timing of the
proliferation of backed blades and whether they were in fact
more economical than the previous form of multifunctional
tool, unretouched flakes (White 2011:68). This is a strong
consideration, particularly given that a number of factors affect
extents of reliability, such as availability and quality of raw
materials in different regions. Blades, for example, were more
effectively made from stone of greater quality but that was less
abundant in Australia than quartz (Hallam 1985:228), whose
flaking value, particularly in the form of effective conchoidal
fracturing, is generally poor (Dickson 1977:97). More specific
archaeological evidence inclusive of such considerations than
that provided by Hiscock is needed to demonstrate that backed
artefacts were more reliable than unretouched flakes. White
also questions the legitimacy of the assumption that the midHolocene climate changes represented increased risk, noting
that the opposite has at times been the case (White 2011:68). He
produces, however, no supporting archaeological evidence for
the Australian situation.
Figure 1: Map of Australia showing some locations mentioned in the text
(created by author)
Map constructed by S. Munt
in the far south-west of Western Australia (WA), despite a
small number of artefacts existing, occupation is indicated at
41,000 bp–46,000 bp (O’Connell and Allen 2004:840–841) and
stone artefacts and sediment at Allen’s Cave, in SA, provide a
luminescence date reliably correspondent with the calibrated 14C
date of approximately 40,000 bp (Roberts et al. 1996:7, 14–15).
In NSW, Lake Mungo’s stone artefacts and other archaeological
evidence ‘unambiguously demonstrated a human presence at
least 43,000–45,000 years ago’ (Hiscock 2008:43, supported
by Zazula 2000/2001:114), even if pre 45,000 bp is uncertain
(O’Connell and Allen 2004:843). Central Australia’s Puritjarra
rockshelter contained stone artefacts demonstrating first
occupation, followed by periodical visitation, at approximately
35,000 bp and perhaps older (Smith et al. 1997:319).
Human-environment interaction: A midHolocene case study
After stone artefacts had not until the 1960s and 1970s
been considered particularly useful for contributing to an
understanding of the nature of Indigenous people’s interactions
with their environment (Holdaway and Stern 2004:294), studies
such as Hiscock’s (1994) proved highly valuable. His examination
of stone artefacts used in the mid-Holocene period of relatively
dramatic environmental change indicated that one of the main
strategies of Indigenous people was to minimise risk by modifying
their toolkit (Hiscock 1994:267–268, 283). As sea levels rose and
the climate ameliorated (Mulvaney and Kamminga 1999:226)
Indigenous people also managed risk by becoming more mobile
and seeking previously unsettled and unknown regions (Hiscock
1994:267). Hiscock (1994:277) contended that as such they
needed their tools to be more portable, reliable, multi-functional
and longer lasting and that this took the form of a proliferation
of bifacial points and backed blades (Fig. 2) with an emphasis
on hafting. This received support from some subsequent finds
and analyses, such as of backed blades from Mussel Shelter in
NSW (Slack et al. 2004:135). Hiscock argued that the subsequent
reduction in Indigenous people’s production of these tools in the
late Holocene supported his contention in that it was a reflection
of Indigenous people’s adaptation to the new environmental
conditions and resultant lessening of risk (Hiscock 1994:281),
aided by the climate stabilising (White 2011:69).
Lithic analyses have informed about fundamental aspects of
Indigenous Australians’ lifestyles over time. Before around the
1930s very little (McCarthy 1976:94) was known about the way
Indigenous Australians had lived. Dogmatic notions of a largely
primitive and static culture prevailed until recent decades, when
studies revealed many changes in uses of stone tools over time
(Hiscock and Veth 1991). Colley (2002), for one, highlighted
how Bondi points and pirri points were used at different times
depending on environmental and economic circumstances.
Recent studies have informed how stone artefacts were ‘intimately
linked’ to Indigenous people’s survival (Hiscock and Mitchell
1993:5). They demonstrate, for example, that raw materials were
selectively sourced to make stone tools for different purposes
(Dickson 1981:15–17; Fullagar 1994:67), that tools like spears
and spear throwers were used for hunting and adzes, tulas and
scrapers were generally for woodworking (Holdaway and Stern
2004:230; McCarthy 1976:32). Axes ground to a sharp edge
(Dickson 1981:39) were used for chopping and butchering.
Grindstone technology was implemented for sharpening axes
(Dickson 1981:43) and spears (Hiscock and Mitchell 1993:31)
and for processing material such as seeds (Fullagar 1994:65),
to extract their carbohydrate value, and ochre, for pigment
production (Dickson 1981:39). Experimental studies such as
Criticisms of such conclusions as Hiscock’s have also contributed
Research essay
ideas’ (Mulvaney 1975:110).
Approaches to analysis
Use-wear and residue studies
Various methods of stone artefact analysis have provided
significant insights into Indigenous people’s lives. ‘Use-wear’ and
residue analyses (Fullagar 1994:66–67), where the working edges
of stone artefacts are microscopically examined for traces of
plant or animal material (eg Lombard and Wadley 2007; Fullagar
1994:66–67), have been effective in informing about functions of
artefacts across the continent (Dickson 1981:180; Holdaway and
Stern 2004:221). Field and Fullagar (1997:300–302), for example,
analysed grindstones from Cuddie Springs to demonstrate
antiquity of a seed-grinding economy there of around 30,000
bp. Such results have then been used to support theories such as
that seed grinding was, in certain regions, a response to climatic
changes (Field and Fullagar 1997:302). Slack et al. (2004:132)
found, from north-western Qld, one particular artefact
having residue of ‘dark smears and small starch granules’ that
indicated possible hafting. Use-wear and residue examination
can also assist in the accurate identification of artefacts, such
as in distinguishing between cores and core tools, which is
particularly challenging with small stone artefacts (Fullagar
1994:66). Experimental studies of stone heat treatment have also
revealed characteristics of the use of heat, such as an ‘increased,
greasy lustre on flaked surfaces’ (Domanski and Webb 1992:612),
which archaeologists have subsequently used to determine that
Indigenous people at times pre-heated stone in order to improve
its flaking abilities, such as at Burrill Lake (Hiscock 2008:121).
‘Refitting studies’ have also helped to understand the stone
tool reduction process by attempting to reconstruct it through
rejoining flakes and flaking debris to a biface or core (Laughlin
and Kelly 2010).
Figure 3: A ‘typical’ (if there is such a thing) flake showing some
characteristics mentioned in the text (created by author)
Dickson’s (1981:39) over fifteen years even demonstrated the
typical dimensions of grooves in rock that resulted from uses
such as axe grinding and ochre processing.
Understanding of production techniques
Resulting from a range of lithic studies, archaeologists’ increasing
knowledge of techniques used by Indigenous Australians in
stone tool production has led to greater accuracy in artefact
identification and interpretation. McCarthy (1976) developed
one of the first classification schemes, establishing an effective
foundation of common terminology and understandings.
Seminal studies such as that by Cotterell and Kamminga (1987)
contributed greatly to archaeologists’ understandings of fracture
mechanics and general flake formation. This provided further
fundamental knowledge of how Indigenous people flaked raw
material and of resultant characteristics such as ring cracks,
eraillure scars and various termination types (Fig. 3). Earlier
misinterpretations have been corrected, such as that eraillure
scars, a product of conchoidal fracture, were ‘thumb grips’
(Hiscock 1998:260–261).
The chaîne opératoire approach
Cultural practices have also been revealed by lithic analysis using
the chaîne opératoire approach. Although caution is needed
(Andrefsky 2009:68), perhaps best in the form of corroborating
evidence from specialist disciplines, this also has potential
for indicating levels of human cognition (Moore 2011:702).
The framework seeks to inform about cultural influences and
circumstances acting on the decisions made by the maker
of an artefact at each step of production (Close 1978:223;
Dobres 2010:106; Holdaway and Douglass 2012:127). McBryde
(1987:252–273; also in Torrence 2005:357) demonstrated that
Indigenous people transported stone artefacts over long distances
for symbolic and ceremonial purposes and Mulvaney (1985:211)
noted similar evidence. This provided valuable understandings of
the importance of symbolism and ceremony in the social systems
of Indigenous Australians and that this, not solely function,
was often reflected in their artefacts. This evidence of symbolic
behaviour in turn supports generally accepted views that such
cognitive ability was a continuation of that which had already
existed in anatomically modern humans at the time of their
exodus from Africa some 65,000 to 85,000 years ago. Although
a range of methods is most effective (Gould et al. 1971:167), had
McBryde, even though she was not specifically adopting the
entirety of the chaîne opératoire approach, solely studied the
artefacts’ functions or attributes she may have misunderstood
the ‘more anthropological context’ (Tolstevin 2011:363).
Trade: A north Queensland case study
Pioneering ethnographic work by Roth (1897), supported by
several subsequent researchers of north Queensland (Qld)
Indigenous people, revealed much about the existence and
nature of trade and exchange from there with people further
south. Knives, spears and axes were among items traded along
networks stretching hundreds of kilometres south to New South
Wales (NSW) and South Australia’s (SA) Lake Eyre basin, with
McBryde (1987:252–273) and McCarthy (1977:253) finding
evidence of an axe trade from north Qld to Lake Eyre. Hiscock
(2005:287) and Tibbett (2006:30) also both concluded that axes in
north Qld were produced for the purposes of trade. The existence
of a large number of axe grinding groove sites in the region
(there are currently 220 known sites in all of Qld; DATSIMA
2013), containing thousands of axe grinding grooves, further
attests to the significance of north Qld for the manufacture of
edge ground axes. These axes themselves often being found
significant distances from their raw material sources (Dickson
1981:15–17) supports notions of trade. At Rocks Crossing in
north Qld 423 axe grinding grooves were found but no edge
ground axes (Wallis 2004). McCarthy (1977:253–254) found
evidence of detailed trade networks of grindstones themselves,
throughout vast distances across regions in Qld, NSW, SA and
Victoria. Such trade was not always solely for economic reasons
but also for ceremonial exchange, indicating a broad ‘diffusion of
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Stone artefact studies have not been able to answer every
question about the Indigenous occupation of Australia. They
have, however, provided a number of highly informed, evidence
based conclusions and indications about a range of important
issues. Well accepted dates from inland and southern sites have
demonstrated both a relatively rapid spread of colonisation
of Australia and that this occurred not exclusively in coastal
regions. Despite a lack of universal agreement, sites such as
Malakunanja II and Nauwalabila provide some evidence for
the arrival of Indigenous people in Australia at pre 45,000 bp
and perhaps between 50,000 bp and 60,000 bp. This supports
arguments for the timing of the original exodus of anatomically
modern humans from Africa and their subsequent speed and
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such as that concerning the role played by Indigenous people in
the extinction of the megafauna. Use-wear and residue analyses
have helped to demonstrate important aspects of Indigenous
people’s lives, such as the manner in which they procured
food. Experimental studies have demonstrated that at times
Indigenous people pre-heated cores in order to improve their
flaking quality. Lithic studies have demonstrated trade networks
stretching over vast distances, provided insights into the ways
that Indigenous people may have responded to environmental
changes and helped to disp el early notions of Indigenous culture
as having been static. The chaîne opératoire approach has helped
to focus on anthropological reasons for an artefact being made
in a certain way. Many methods can be employed to learn about
the past but the contribution of stone artefact studies has been
particularly valuable for helping to understand the nature of the
Indigenous occupation of Australia.
Andrefsky, W. 2009 The analysis of stone tool procurement, production
and maintenance. Journal of Archaeological Research 17:65–103.
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Academic Press.
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and behavioural considerations. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific
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Australia: Archaeology, Indigenous People and the Public, pp.1–21.
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Antiquity 52(4):675–708.
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Database and Reports Catalogue: http://www.datsima.qld.gov.au/
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as Cultural Markers, pp.97–103. Canberra: Australian Institute of
Aboriginal Studies.
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Dynamics. Sydney: Academic Press.
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Economics 34:103–114.
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rocks used in prehistoric lithic technology. Journal of Archaeological
Science 19:601–614.
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Research essay
cognitive evolution. World Archaeology 43(4):702–715.
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Mulvaney, D.J. 1985 Australian backed blade industries in perspective.
In V. Misra and P. Bellwood (eds), Recent Advances in Indo-Pacific
Prehistory, pp.211–217. New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co.
Mulvaney, D.J., and J. Kamminga 1999 Prehistory of Australia.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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(Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea): A review of recent research.
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origins to optical. Radiation Measurements 27(5/6):819–892.
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dating of a 50,000 year-old human occupation site in northern
Australia. Nature 354:153–156.
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Queensland Aborigines. Brisbane: Government Printer.
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and luminescence chronologies at Puritjarra rockshelter, central
Australia. Quaternary Science Reviews 16:299–320.
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boundary for leilira blade production. Australian Archaeology
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Operatoire, and Other Methods: The Epistemologies of Different
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Exchanges: archaeology, history, community and the work of Isobel
McBryde, pp.357–372. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc.
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on Middle Park Station, northwest Queensland. Australian
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A re-examination. Nexus 14:109–123.
Kani Shaie Archaeological Project:
New fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan
Steve Renette1
history is impossible. To achieve this goal in an efficient and
timely manner, we decided to start excavations at Kani Shaie
(http://kanishaie.org). This site is rather small – only 2 ha in its
largest extent – but contains at least 11m of occupation spanning
the Late Chalcolithic and Bronze Age (ca. 4000 – 1500 BCE),
with a small later occupation during Parthian (ca. 250 BCE – 250
CE) and early Islamic times (ca. 8th – 10th century). Kani Shaie is
located within the small Bazyan Valley, on the route connecting
northern Mesopotamia and the Zagros Mountains (Figure 1).
University of Pennsylvania, <[email protected]>
The autonomous northeastern Kurdistan region of Iraq
consists of fertile plains, luscious hills, and daunting mountain
chains, in stark contrast to the rest of the country marked by
the flat, alluvial lowlands of Mesopotamia. Despite 150 years
of archaeological expeditions to Iraq, the Kurdish region has
received very little attention by archaeologists. To some extent
this lack of archaeological research is due to general political
instability and the brutal oppression of Kurdish demands for
recognition and autonomy. Nevertheless, despite the impressive
and unexpected results of a handful of excavations and surveys in
this mountainous region (e.g. Shanidar cave, Jarmo, Shemshara),
the luring call of the large cities and empires in the plains of
Babylonia and Assyria in other parts of Iraq was too tempting for
archaeologists to resist. Developments and events in recent years
have changed this situation drastically. The autonomous Kurdish
Region of Iraq (KRG) has been politically stable and economically
prosperous, while military conflicts, popular uprisings, and
armed resistance groups have rendered Mesopotamia proper (in
Syria and Iraq) inaccessible. As a result, archaeological fieldwork
in Iraqi Kurdistan has exploded with dozens of new excavation
and survey projects.
During September 2013 we conducted a first season of excavations
by setting out two step trenches on the northern and southern
slopes of the site. This work confirmed the great potential of
Kani Shaie and the need to retrieve a local stratigraphic sequence
before conducting surface survey in the region and attempting
to reconstruct historical patterns. Large parts of Iraqi Kurdistan
are part of the Zagros Mountains, which is reflected in the
material culture. The well-established Mesopotamian sequence
is not particularly useful here, and archaeological exploration in
the Zagros region has demonstrated its great heterogeneity and
localised patterns of the material culture.
Based on the work in 2013, we can now reconstruct the
settlement history of Kani Shaie and determine research goals
for future seasons. Five sherds collected from the surface indicate
that the site was first occupied in the final phases of the so-called
Ubaid period, toward the end of the 5th millennium BCE. Likely
Together with André Tomé and Ricardo Cabral from the
University of Coimbra in Portugal, we decided to seize the
opportunity to set up a new excavation project in Iraqi Kurdistan
and to contribute to the archaeological exploration of this
unknown and poorly understood region. In March 2012 we
visited the province of Sulaimaniyah for the first time courtesy
of the gracious invitation of Kamal Rasheed, Director of the
Sulaimaniyah Department of Antiquities, and Hashim Hama,
Director of the Sulaimaniyah Museum. We set our project
mission to establish a stratigraphic sequence of local material
culture, without which a regional survey and study of settlement
Figure 2: Location of Kani Shaie and the Bazyan Valley (adapted from
Google Earth)
Figure 3: Kani Shaie, view from north (photograph by Steve Rennette,
March 2012)
Figure 1: Location of Kani Shaie, highlighted in red (created by author)
Field report
the site remained occupied throughout the 4th millennium
BCE, providing an opportunity to retrieve new information on
this still poorly understood period. The lowest levels reached
so far can be dated to the Late Uruk period (ca. 3500 – 3200
BCE). At this time in the ancient Near East, a vast network had
been established in which southern Mesopotamian material
(ceramics, administrative technology, and architecture) spread
and was adopted widely. Kani Shaie is the first site in the region
to be excavated that was part of this Uruk network; perhaps
another “Uruk colony”. The limited exposure in the step trenches
revealed remains of what must have been a very large building
that was destroyed by fire. Between thick walls there is a 2m thick,
partially burned deposit of collapsed bricks, smashed pottery,
and animal bones. All the ceramics are southern Mesopotamian
in type without any trace so far of local material. Associated
with this destruction layer, albeit out of context, is a clay tablet
that was impressed with a numerical mark and on which a
cylinder seal was impressed several times. The seal impression
is of typical Late Uruk style, but it depicts a highly unusual and
unique scene of a boat containing five horned quadrupeds and
steered by two rowers, being sent off by an overseer with another
horned quadruped (Figure 6). The unusual depiction of a boat
and the shipment of horned animals suggest a local economic
exploitation of mountain faunal resources.
The destruction level is followed by a drastic reorganisation of
the site. The period immediately following the Late Chalcolithic
is one of the least known in the ancient Near Eastern historical
sequence. At Kani Shaie we encountered a long sequence dating
to this time. Two seal impressions from these levels indicate that
the site still functioned as a local administrative centre, however,
the ceramics indicate interaction with regions to the west, east,
and south. In Syria, Iraq, and Iran, several traditions of painted
pottery have been documented to appear at the end of the 4th
millennium and into the 3rd millennium BCE. At Kani Shaie
several of these traditions have been found together, along with a
purely local style never encountered elsewhere. This material will
allow us in future seasons to explore the nature of interregional
The next season is planned in September 2014 when we will
focus on horizontal exposure of the early 3rd millennium levels.
Detailed excavation of secure archaeological contexts will greatly
contribute to elucidating developments during this period,
which is currently not recognised in surveys being conducted in
the wider region. With our work we then hope to demonstrate
the potential of archaeological exploration of small sites and on a
smaller scale with a detailed focus.
Figure 4: Landscape with Kani Shaie in the foreground (photograph by
Ricardo Cabral, September 2013)
Figure 7: Sample of painted pottery found at Kani Shaie (photograph
courtesy of KSAP)
Figure 5: North step trench (photograph by Steve Rennette, September
Figure 8: Sample of painted pottery found at Kani Shaie (photograph
courtesy of KSAP)
Figure 6: 3D scan of Uruk period sealed tablet (image courtesy of KSAP)
A Tale of Two Cities
Ilona Bartsch1
closer to Papua New Guinea than to any other Australian town.
Towards the end of my three months in Weipa I was offered an
internship with UNESCO. This was very exciting. The only catch
was that it was in Paris, France, and I had to be there in a little
over four weeks.
Graduate Archaeologist, <[email protected]>
Capital of France
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. It is situated
on the Seine River, in the north of the country, at the heart of the
Île-de-France region.
Area: 105.4 km²
Weather: 9°C, Wind W at 8 km/h, 61% Humidity
Population: 2.211 million (2008)
Since these graduate jobs are about as different as they are
possible to get, I thought you all might like to know a bit about
what it’s like to be a recent graduate in these parts of the heritage
When taking a job in a small town like Weipa, the most important
thing to remember is that it is a very small town. Everyone you
meet will work for, or be connected with, the company in some
way, and there is a limited number of activities unless you enjoy
fishing and four wheel driving. That said, working for a company
like Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) was a fantastic experience. RTA
has an excellent Indigenous Land Use Agreement, and a great
deal of the heritage work that happens in Weipa is community
As you know archaeology in Australia is frequently the study of a
living culture. Engaging with the representatives of that culture is
a vital aspect of understanding and managing the archaeological
landscape in areas like Cape York. This engagement with
traditional owners was both the most challenging and the most
rewarding aspect of my work in Weipa. I learned that it is vital for
archaeologists in this field to be excellent communicators above
all else.
Less than two weeks after flying home from Weipa I was on a
plane to Paris. This was an overwhelming experience, but luckily
I had a friend I could stay with until I sorted out a place to live.
This is not something I ever thought I would be dealing with
in my professional life, which just goes to show how varied the
experience of working in this industry can be.
I arrived a week ago and have now started work in UNESCO’s
internship programme. Mostly my job consists of preparing
documentation to aid the World Heritage Committee (WHC)
in making decisions about the status and management of World
Heritage Properties. This seemed daunting at first, but it is really
a matter of gathering information and processing it into a form
that the committee members will find easy to access – a bit like
writing an essay.
Largest Town on the Gulf of Carpenteria coast
The largest community on Northern Cape York Peninsula.
Area: 10.9 km²
Weather: 35°C, 95% Humidity
Population: 2,830
The WHC has a mainly administrative role in the management
of World Heritage. They administer and manage the sites on the
list according to the advice given by the International Council on
Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union
for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). That said the people who
work for the WHC have to be heritage experts to correctly and
concisely summarise this advice. One challenge for me has been
working on natural properties, like the Great Barrier Reef. I know
very little about nature conservation so I have had to expand the
principles we learn in heritage management, stabilisation and
minimal intervention, to suit very different forms of heritage.
Since graduating at the end of 2013 I have been fortunate enough
to work in two graduate positions…on opposite sides of the
Six months ago I could never have imagined living and working
in Paris or, to be honest, Weipa. What my experiences since
graduating have really reinforced for me is the great variety of
work available for archaeology graduates. In the current economy
the task of finding work can seem intimidating, but you just need
to be creative, and persistent, in your applications.
In November 2013 I applied for the Vacation programme with
Rio Tinto Alcan in Weipa, Queensland. If you don’t know where
that is: don’t worry, neither did I. Suffice it to say that the town is
An Interview with Brian Fagan
Brian: [thinks] Don’t do it [laughs]. No. It is much harder than
when I was young. There are many more archaeologists, but on the
other side of the coin, although the academic side of archaeology
is shrinking all over the world, there are more and more very
diverse opportunities in cultural resource management, in
administering and preserving heritage. And my advice to anyone
becoming an archaeologist, now whether MA or PhD, is a) get
as general and as sound training as you can; b) maintain broad
interests and if you’re going to teach: teach them; and above
all, don’t get over-specialised. There’s a disease in archaeology
globally now: we’re all embracing science and we’re all becoming
very, very narrow. And the reality is that isn’t where a lot of the
opportunities are. And I would say: keep it broad, and make sure
you’re well-trained. And learn one other language, at least.
During the recent National Archaeology Student Conference at
Flinders University, Dig It co-editor Jordan Ralph caught up with
keynote speaker Brian Fagan to get his perspective on careers,
archaeology, archaeologists and what to expect in the future.
Jordan: Alright, Brian…how, when and why did you first decide
to become an archaeologist?
Brian: I had never ever thought about archaeology at all until I
got into Cambridge University in England and chose archaeology
and anthropology as a major on the recommendation of my
tutor. And my first lecturer was a man called Miles Burkitt who’d
been teaching there since 1921. He was out of date and a very
conservative archaeologist, but he was a wonderful storyteller.
His stories got me interested in the past. And then, in my second
year, by chance I met a gentleman called Desmond Clark who
was a very, very famous Stone Age archaeologist who offered
me a job in what was then the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum it’s now the Livingstone Museum - in Zambia, by the Victoria
Falls. And I went out there and spent 6 years in Africa. Clark got
me working on the Iron Age cultures of the southern part of the
country. These societies were an integral part of the history of
Black Africa, and this became a multidisciplinary field – I was
exposed to multidisciplinary archaeology very early on. In my
late twenties I was one of the small group of people who kind of
basically got the field off the ground. So it was fascinating.
Jordan: That kind of links to this next question, which is: what
would you like us, as the archaeologists of the future to do, to say,
and to research?
Brian: Well first thing is, you’re going to be in a very different
landscape. And the landscape of archaeology is changing
radically already. I think academic archaeology as we know it is
going to continue to shrink and at some point will stabilise. The
danger is that it will all become very provincial, very narrow, very
closed, very ivory tower. The real action in archaeology in the
next 50 years is going to be in various areas. The biggest priority is
preventing looting, the destruction of the past, which means that
cultural resource management done intelligently is enormously
important. And I think there are some very interesting long-term
careers in that, some of which will be in quite big companies, I
Jordan: So did you ever regret becoming an archaeologist?
Brian: Yes, there have been times when I have. I did seven years
of very intense excavation and field work in Africa. I discovered
that – and I was rather hard on myself, maybe – that I was a very
good second-rate excavator, and I didn’t have the personality for
the detail and that sort of thing. And I decided that I was going to
leave archaeology, until I had lunch with Sir Mortimer Wheeler,
whom I knew very well. He encouraged me to start working on
writing archaeology for the general public, which nobody was
really doing. And I got offered a job as a visiting professor at the
University of Illinois, did that for a year and was given a job at the
University of California and basically became a generalist. Ever
since then my primary audience has been the general public and
The other area that is huge is the whole area of cultural tourism
and heritage. Cultural tourism is becoming one of the fastest
growing areas of international tourism, and some of the visitor
figures are frightening. Your generation is going to have to face
issues of crowding, of sheer numbers loving sites like, for the
sake of argument, Stonehenge or the Pyramids to death. What
are we going to do about it, especially in the context of traditional
sacred places, like for instance Uluru? I think a huge amount of
effort is going to go into these issues. And I think there will be
careers in it.
So I kind of changed, you know…
The other final area which I think is where archaeologists have
a voice – well, I talked about this last night, but there’s much
more to it – is in areas which are of huge concern to everybody.
Climate change, sustainability, water…topics like this that we’ve
studied as archaeologists. Also irrigation – very few people have
thought about using traditional water systems which are most
interesting and useful. A lot of research will be in these areas
research, but it’s going to be very multidisciplinary. I don’t think
archaeology in 50 years’ time is going to be an island. I think
archaeologists have got to be very deeply involved in community,
very deeply involved in the environment, very deeply involved
in the archaeological record as such. As far as basic research is
concerned, the biggest priority is not to turn out more experts on
the Maya or Angkor Wat; it’s to research the areas that we don’t
know anything about. And that’s not happening.
Jordan: What did your parents say about you becoming an
Brian: They were very excited. My father was a publisher,
oddly enough, in London. He was Managing Director of a very
respectable, very high-end publisher of non-fiction and fiction.
His company’s biggest claim to fame was that they published
the novelist E.M. Forster, who was very famous. My father was
into books and learning and was terribly pleased with what I
did, and my mother was too. I think my mother had ambitions
that I would settle down and live in a small town in England and
become a lawyer and marry a nice English girl [laughs]. I did
none of those things, but she accepted it. They weren’t very happy
that I went so far away, and I regret I didn’t see more of them in
their old age, but that’s the name of the game in archaeology’s
remote places.
Jordan: Can you comment about the changing approaches, or if
they have changed, to ethical practices in archaeology?
Jordan: What’s your advice for archaeology students or
junior archaeologists who want to have a successful career in
Brian: There’s been an increasing debate about ethics in
archaeology. And I vividly remember sitting on a committee of
Dig It dialogue: An interview with Brian Fagan
Brian: No.
the Society of American Archaeology…oh, must have been 10 or
15 years ago, when there was this huge debate about repatriation
and reburial of human remains of Native Americans. And one of
the people who talked to us was the Secretary of the Smithsonian,
who at the time was an archaeologist. And a couple of people
there, “What about science, this, that and the other?” And he just
cut them short and said, “You must understand: this is an ethical
issue.” He was absolutely correct. Reburial and repatriation
among other things have made archaeologists, certainly in the
States, much more aware of the ethical consequences of their
work. At the same time, there have been efforts made to tighten
policies, particularly in the context of an explosion of cultural
resource management about publication, ethical behaviour and
so on.
Jordan: So do you have any closing things you’d like to say for
future archaeologists?
Brian: Don’t do it unless you’ve got fire in your belly…and if you
are told – which, if you have good instructors, you should be –
“Look, I don’t think this is for you”: listen to it. Because of the
nature of what I do, I meet a lot of archaeologists around the
world, and I’ve met a hell of a lot of people in their forties who
are very nice, and are basically competent, who realise they’re
never going to go anywhere with it. And they were at a dead end.
And it isn’t a question of ambition, it’s a question of what your
talents are, and I think you really need to evaluate yourself very
carefully. I did, and it was very painful giving up fieldwork, which
I love – but I gave it up. I still visit a lot of sites and so on, but I’m
now in retrospect, many years later, terribly glad I did it. Because
I was honest with myself. And actually Mortimer Wheeler told
me I was honest and that was good.
Then you have the whole area of working with traditional people,
which you obviously know much more about than I do. And this
to me is a very challenging, very exciting area. There’s no way
we’re going to be able to, let’s say, go into Mongolia and not worry
about the local people. This is a form of cultural imperialism
and that’s unacceptable. One of the big problems for example in
Andean archaeology, or Maya research is involving the locals.
And increasingly locally trained scholars in the Andes and in
Mexico are more and more becoming the leaders of the research.
There’s more and more teamwork and this is good, because what
all of this is about, isn’t you developing a career. It’s preserving the
past for their future, and respecting all the different stakeholders,
and we haven’t really thought about that until the last ten years.
I hope that’s helpful.
But evaluate yourself. You’ll have a blast, there are a lot of nice
people in it, but if it’s not for you: give it up before it’s too late.
Some of the people who I was talking about…we would drink
beer and talk, and they would say in their cups, “I should have
moved on.” And they’re deeply unhappy about it, but there’s
nothing they can do; they’re stuck, they have children, they have
families, they have mortgages. What a family friend once called
“the reality sandwich: bite it.” Having said that, I wouldn’t dream
of discouraging anyone from becoming an archaeologist, but it is
a matter of being very self-aware.
And it’s not easy to be a professor and say to a student, “John” or
“Kathy, I hate to tell you this, but this isn’t you”. And there were
tears and upset, but in the long run…you’re comfortable with
yourself because you’re being honest.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s great. What do you think is the best thing
about being an archaeologist, and what is the worst?
Brian: This may seem a rather strange reply: archaeology is
traditionally thought of as a romance, à la Indiana Jones, all that
crap. The days when it was an adventure are long gone. And the
days of what I would call ‘great archaeologists’; Leonard Woolley,
Howard Carter, Mortimer Wheeler, are gone. We are now in the
era of very deliberate, slow moving, careful multidisciplinary
research. And I think the big attraction of archaeology now is,
on the one hand, the chance for people to go out to remote areas
they’d never otherwise see and be exposed to other peoples. The
other thing that’s very exciting is being able to interface with the
public and make people excited, and become a kind of partner in
helping people better appreciate and understand the past.
Jordan: That’s great.
Brian: This is a people business. It’s not a technology business.
Jordan: Alright, that’s really good.
Brian: Oh, thank you, Jordan.
Jordan: Thanks a lot, Brian.
Field work tends to be something that you ease out of in your
forties and fifties – not invariably; I know people who went
on to their eighties! But it really is a young person’s game, in
many respects, particularly if one’s working in tough, remote
areas. And I think the role of older archaeologists like me is
communication, training, making sure people understand why
archaeology is important. I think the big attraction in it as a
field is that it’s fascinating, you’re dealing with cultural diversity,
it’s adventuresome sometimes – it’s not adventure, but it’s
adventuresome – and it really teaches you how to stand on your
own feet. And these are exciting things in a world that’s getting
more and more urbanised, and more and more crowded. It is not
a field for anybody, and I think the most important thing about it
– actually I’m going to talk about it this afternoon – is that you’re
passionate about it.
. . . I have no regrets.
Jordan: Yeah?
Spencer and Gillen:
A journey through Aboriginal Australia
Gary Jackson1
research is unfortunately incomplete.
Spencer and Gillen were researching in the period between 1894
and 1912; a time when the study of Indigenous cultures was in its
founding stage. The site informs us that their research influenced
and inspired foundational studies, such as Emile Durkheim’s
publication, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915) and
Sigmund Freud’s Totem and Taboo (1918). This highlights the
vast importance of their work to the font of human knowledge.
Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide,
Australia, <[email protected]>.
Review of the website spencerandgillen.net
Gary Jackson is an anthropologist and an adjunct researcher at
Flinders University. He has worked with a range of Aboriginal
peoples in the Northern Territory and in the mid-north of South
Australia for the past 25 years.
What a pleasure to delve into the results of their endeavours
without having to suffer the heat, dust and flies that must
have plagued these men and their Aboriginal teachers. Their
sacrifices were great and probably not recorded in depth. I think
this collection does give us clues to what must have happened on
the ground and we can well imagine the rest. They were brave
men doing great work and the fruit is here for us to consume.
Spencer and Gillen are among the most revered Australian
anthropologists. Their pioneering work (e.g. Spencer and Gillen
1899; Spencer and Gillen 1904) influenced generations of
subsequent researchers.
The web site, Spencer and Gillen – A journey through Aboriginal
Australia, is produced with the academic researcher in mind. It is
a largely successful attempt to break down the ‘silos’ of knowledge
that form over the years surrounding many enterprises. We
know that a ‘silo’ represents a built mountain of knowledge that
becomes accessible only to a few protectors of the knowledge.
Breaching these ‘silos’ can only be a good thing.
The site’s handling of restricted material is interesting:
Spencer and Gillen took photographs of ceremonies,
and collected ceremonial objects which are traditionally
only accessible to senior initiated men. These
ceremonies, or objects, are treated reverently and
revealed to trusted, initiated men only. Many of the
photographs, films, sound recordings and objects are
therefore not accessible on this site but you will be able
to read some of the information collected about the
object (spencerandgillen.net:2013).
Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer was a biologist by training and
Professor at the University of Melbourne. In his travels through
Australia’s centre he met with Francis James Gillen, a public
servant in charge of the telegraph station at Alice Springs
(Mulvaney 1990). These two researchers formed a mutually
agreeable working relationship at a time when research into
Aboriginal customs was not fashionable. Insights into their
personal relationship can be obtained through letters from Gillen
to Spencer, edited by Mulvaney, Morphy and Petch (1997). The
vast amount of materials they collected is represented on this site.
There is nothing so tempting to human curiosity than a well kept
secret. Therefore, it is pleasing to see that care has been taken
to restrict access to secret/sacred information on the site. This
was done after a series of consultations over a three year period,
culminating with discussions with the old men and women of
the Central and Eastern Arrernte Elders Group at the Institute
for Aboriginal Development in Alice Springs and at the Nyinkka
Nyunyu Cultural Centre in Tennant Creek.
The site is easily journeyed through with good photography
that makes the journey pleasant. If you want to know about an
Aboriginal person or collected knowledge and artefacts, they are
here and easily accessible.
Senior Aboriginal men and women were able to
determine whether certain material – be it manuscript,
photographic, film or artefacts - were restricted or not
and we have worked diligently to ensure this material is
not freely accessible via this website (spencerandgillen.
It is refreshing to see this collaboration of institutions who hold
information on Spencer and Gillen joining together to establish
such a rich repository of knowledge. It is obviously not a cheap
exercise as it took an Australian Research Council grant to make
it happen. Its success, and the experience gained, may prompt
others to self-fund similar endeavours. But, I am not holding my
This is a daunting task as we know that women’s and men’s secret
knowledge was kept strictly to each gender group. Women who
happened upon secret men’s knowledge were often in fear of
being killed in order to protect the knowledge. So how the same
knowledge was communicated to both men and women to assess
its sacredness bewilders me. It would be curious to know how
this seemingly impossible task was undertaken without causing
any cultural damage.
On the site you will read of the twenty-six institutions and private
collections that collaborated to make this enterprise successful.
These range from those in Canberra to those in Italy and the
United Kingdom which is a wide and largely encompassing
Reading through the site does inspire the reader towards
examining the lives of these men more closely. For example,
Spencer’s biographer, John Mulvaney, has noted that Spencer
headed the first university department to appoint female lecturers
and eventually all his departmental colleagues were women
(Mulvaney 1990). How good was that? This first employment
of women in the academy shows another facet to Spencer’s
progressive thinking.
For a site that is constructed to expand openness and information
sharing I find it strange that the Australian Research Council
recipients are coy about whom they are. To find out you have to
be granted access and a password to the site.
A notable omission to the list of contributing institutions is the
AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies) in Canberra. This omission suggests that the
tearing down of knowledge silos regarding Spencer and Gillen’s
Gary Jackson, Spencer & Gillen | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
I came away from reading this site feeling happily enriched and
I would recommend it to the serious researcher and others as a
great resource for which we should be thankful.
Durkheim, E. 1915 The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. London: G.
Allan & Unwin, New York, Macmillan.
Freud, S. 1918 Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Psychic
lives of Savages and Neurotics. New York: Moffat, Yard & Co.
Mulvaney, D.J. 1990 Spencer, Sir Walter Baldwin 1860–1929. In J.
Ritchie (ed.), Australian dictionary of biography Volume 12, pp.3336. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
Mulvaney, J,. H. Morphy, and A. Petch, (eds) 1997 ‘My Dear Spencer’:
The Letters Of F.J. Gillen To Baldwin Spencer. Melbourne: Hyland
Reconstructing the Spencer and Gillen Collection Project 2013 Spencer
& Gillen. A Journey Through Aboriginal Australia. Retrieved 8th
March 2014 from <spencerandgillen.net>.
Spencer, W.B. and F.J. Gillen 1899 The Native Tribes of Central Australia.
London: Macmillan and Co.
Spencer, W.B. and F.J. Gillen 1904 The Northern Tribes of Central
Australia. London: Macmillan and Co.
The Future’s as Bright as the Smiles:
National Archaeology Student Conference 2014
Chelsea Colwell-Pasch1
Master of Maritime Archaeology Student, Department
of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,
<[email protected]>
The 2014 National Archaeology Student Conference (NASC)
was held at Flinders University, in Adelaide, South Australia
on 11th-13th of April. The conference was first run in 1998 and
was last run in 2004. The conferences main aims are to provide
a supportive and enlightened forum for all tertiary students to
present and discuss their recent research and ideas. Open to all
universities around Australia, some participants this year hailed
all the way from North America, Europe and Asia. NASC is also
interdisciplinary, allowing any discipline to participate as long
as it has inferences back to archaeology and research from many
geographical focuses are encouraged. This past conference saw
presentations and posters on Celtic identity, Romanian GIS,
and the Australian pearling industry to name a few, and was
considered to be a successful relaunch of the conference by both
the organising committee and attendees.
NASC keynote Q&A panel with Dr Annie Clarke and Professor Emeritus
Brian Fagan at the Function Centre, Flinders University (photo by Mike
publishing, grant writing and postdocs. This workshop was
invaluable to all university students in attendance, regardless of
degree, to receive inside information about pursuing archaeology
as a career in academia. Both workshops were full and very
well received by attendees. The workshops were followed by a
keynote speaker Q&A panel with Dr Annie Clarke of University
of Sydney and creator of NASC back in 1998, and Professor
Emeritus Brian Fagan of University of California. The panel
provided students the rare opportunity to ask questions of these
two iconic archaeologists, ranging from career advice to “what’s
the best artefact you ever found?” The panel proved to be a
highlight of the opening day of the conference and its jovial, laid
back atmosphere set the tone for the entire weekend.
Close to 100 students participated in the four day conference
that began on Friday the 11th of April with two pre-conference
workshops on offer. The morning workshop was presented by
Dr Bob Stone of Flinders University entitled: Archaeological
excavations overseas: logistics, procedures, techniques and
cataloguing. Business as usual? This gave students access to
information that could aid them in conducting research in
a foreign country, and an opportunity to ask questions from
a seasoned and well-travelled archaeologist. The afternoon
workshop was presented by Dr Jillian Garvey of La Trobe
University and Professor Claire Smith of Flinders University:
Pursuing an academic career in archaeology: volunteering,
The pre-conference events continued with the launch of the
Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology edited by Flinders’ own
NASC 2014 attendees in the Humanities courtyard at Flinders University (photograph by Mike Pasch)
Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, The Future’s as Bright as the Smiles | Dig It 2(1):2-78 (2014)
networking, lively debates, and warm reunions.
The first day of presentations began early on Saturday, the 12th of
April. North Theatre 1 was set up with sponsorship signs and a
registration table flanked the theatre’s antechamber. The weather
was cooperative over the course of the entire conference weekend
and gave visiting attendees a warmer welcome to Adelaide.
Four sessions were run over the course of the day, broken up by
a morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea. All meals during the
conference were provided in the registration fee (except Saturday
night’s dinner) and volunteers were integral to ensuring that the
breaks ran smoothly. Session one was chaired by Liesel Gentelli
from University of Western Australia and six presenters, from
PhDs to undergraduates on various topics, presented ten minute
presentations followed by five minute Q&As. Session two was
chaired by Rhiannon Agutter from Flinders and consisted of six
honours presentations. Session three was chaired by Rebekah
Hawkins from University of Sydney and consisted of three
honours and three graduate diploma presentations. The final
session of the day was chaired by Catherine Bland of Flinders
and consisted of five international PhD level presentations with
presenters from Romania, Scotland and Japan. The presentations
were being evaluated by a panel of judges with awards for best
presentation (per academic level) and poster awarded at the
closing conference dinner. The judges were Dr Jillian Garvey (La
Trobe University), Michael Lever (Andrew Long and Associates,
Melbourne), Professor Emeritus Vincent Megaw (Flinders
University), Professor Claire Smith (Flinders University), and Dr
Bob Stone (Flinders University).
Dr. Annie Clarke’s (pictured) entertaining opening keynote presentation
at the Function Centre (photograph by Mike Pasch)
Professor Claire Smith. A formal launch took place followed by
a reception catered by the Flinders Archaeological Society. Many
post-graduate students at Flinders were authors or reviewers
of the eleven-volume set, and the launch was a celebration in
its completion and a source of pride for Flinders University. A
Welcome to Country and welcome to NASC opening speeches
were then given followed immediately by the opening keynote
presentation by Dr Annie Clarke, Telling Stories: narrative
and multi-disciplinary approaches to archaeology. Dr Clarke’s
enthusiasm for the field and passion for education were
evident in her Cindy Lauper sound tracked presentation, and
her contagious light-hearted attitude was welcomed over the
entire conference. The Welcome Dinner afterwards consisted
of a barbeque put on by the NASC organising committee and
provided an informal forum for initial introductions, conference
The poster session was held at the Function Centre at Flinders,
following session four, and was again catered by the Flinders
Archaeological Society. Thirteen posters were submitted for
Flinders University PhD candidate Jana Rogasch as the first presenter at NASC 2014 in North Theatre 1 (photograph by Mike Pasch)
Conference review
judging and the authors stood by their work in order to answer
questions from conference attendees and judges. The posters,
again, ranged in academic levels, geographic locations, and
nationalities of authors highlighting the variety of research
and researchers in attendance. After a short dinner break,
the Inaugural Ruth and Vincent Megaw Annual Lecture in
Archaeology and Art was to commence. The purpose of this
lecture series is to honour the lifetime commitments of Emeritus
Professor Vincent Megaw and his wife Dr Ruth Megaw to
archaeology at Flinders University and to the Flinders University
Art Museum. The Inaugural Ruth and Vincent Megaw Award
for Outstanding Collaboration in Archaeological Research
and Practice award was presented prior to the lecture and was
awarded to Kurt Bennet, Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, Lauren Davison,
Celeste Jordan, Josh Russ, Jeffery Schaeffer, Vanessa Sullivan,
and Andrew Wilkinson (all from Flinders University) for their
work on a poster series presented at the Australasian Institute of
Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) conference in Canberra in 2013.
cautionary commentary on archaeology today and for the future
leaving all those who witnessed his presentation with a sense of
duty and purpose for humanity through archaeology. He ended
his session with his commendations about professionalism of the
conference, the quality of the presentations and the participation
of the attendees in the audience. The NASC 2014 organising
committee, volunteers and judges were applauded for their
efforts and a flower arrangement was given to Leah Puletama,
NASC 2014 executive chair, by Professor Megaw.
The conference dinner was held at the Earl of Leicester Hotel
where the awards for best presentations (by level of study) and
poster were awarded. Certificates of appreciation were also given
to the judges and the keynote speakers. NASC came to an end
in much the same way it began on the Friday before: informally
with laughs, networking and smiles all-round. NASC offered
two post-conference workshops on Monday the 14th of April,
namely for those from out of town (or country). The workshops
were held, not far from Flinders University, at The Living Kaurna
Cultural Centre in Warriparinga. Workshop one was entitled
Native Plant, Bushtucker, Kaurna Culture and Music Workshop
whilst the second was an Art Workshop.
The lecture was presented by Professor Emeritus Brian Fagan
and titled: Come, let me tell you a tale: Archaeology, Storytelling,
and the Underperformed Play of the Past. Brian commented
on his long career as both an African archaeologist and an
archaeological writer and provided an inspiring commentary
on archaeology today and where the future lies. This lecture was
free to the public and the function centre was standing room
only. Delegates from the conference, students and staff from the
university, and the public poured into the venue for the lecture
by this seminal archaeologist. Drinks and finger foods were also
provided afterwards.
The conference was successful in fulfilling its aims and feedback
from judges, attendees, volunteers, presenters and the organising
committee have all been positive. Several universities have
also expressed interest in running the next instalment (or
the one after) ensuring that the relaunch has reanimated the
conference and the momentum continues. Students will have the
opportunity to publish their presentations in a special edition
World Archaeological Congress (WAC) journal in the future,
thus promoting the conference and the quality of research
students can provide to the field of archaeology.
Sunday, 13th of April, began early again as the final day of
presentations commenced. Another three student sessions
were slotted for the day followed by the final session which was
the closing keynote presentation by Professor Fagan. The first
session of the day, session five, was chaired by Sharna Katzeff
from University of Sydney and consisted of six Master students
presentations. After morning tea, session six was chaired by
Rebecca Williams of University of Queensland and six PhDs
presented their research. The final student session followed
lunch, where the final four PhD students presented, and was
chaired by Jana Rogasch of Flinders University. After afternoon
tea the final session of the conference, chaired by Chelsea
Colwell-Pasch of Flinders, was the closing keynote presentation
by Professor Fagan. He closed NASC with an inspiring and
Professor Emeritus Brian Fagan presenting the Inaugural Ruth and
Vincent Megaw Annual Lecture in Archaeology and Art to a full house at
the Function Centre, Flinders University (photograph by Mike Pasch)
Professor Emeritus Brian Fagan presenting the final keynote presentation
at NASC 2014 (photograph by Mike Pasch)
Flinders Archaeological Society’s 21st Anniversary
In late 2013, the Flinders Archaeological Society celebrated its 21st
‘Birthday’. Invited guests Professor Diana Glenn and Professor
Emeritus Vincent Megaw delivered remarkable speeches to help
celebrate the ocsasion. All photographs by Christopher Hutchinson.
Program; public seminars; organising participation at National
Archaeology Week and as volunteers for field work; and even
facilitating activities such as student attendance at conferences.
ArchSoc members also hold their own public outreach events
such as ‘Meet the Archaeologists Night’ and Quiz nights. They
promote Flinders University and the Department of Archaeology
in a terrific way, and it is our belief that over the years the Society
has generated a commendable level of interest in studying at
Speech by Professor Diana Glenn, Dean, School
of Humanities.
This could not be achieved without the selflessness and dedication
of the ArchSoc Committee and the general membership. I can
tell you that other departments in the School of Humanities
would love to have a society like yours.
We believe that the engagement and opportunities that have
been created by ArchSoc in the past 21 years have provided very
strong support for students.
It is wonderful to see the diverse activity of the Society continue
to flourish and the School looks forward to the creation of new
directions and pathways for furthering the relationship with
the Department of Archaeology and with the archaeology
community at large.
I’m delighted to be here to celebrate with you the 21st anniversary
and outstanding achievements of the Flinders Archaeological
Society. My husband and I thank you for the kind invitation and
for your generosity and warm hospitality. A particular thanks
to Andrew Wilkinson, Jordan Ralph and the members of the
ArchSoc Committee.
To the ArchSoc membership: congratulations to you all and I
commend you on your achievement. We are very proud of you
and we wish you all the best for the journey ahead. Enjoy this
celebration! You’ve earned it! To ArchSoc members past and
present – I dig it!!
The Flinders Archaeological Society constitutes a truly unique
society (unique in Australia, I’m reliably told) whose longevity and
sustained success are made possible by the expertise, enthusiasm
and whole-hearted commitment of so many wonderful people.
Since the Inaugural AGM held on 10 March 1992, ArchSoc has
been a source of dynamic energy, dedicated work, and great fun,
judging by the photos I’ve seen on your facebook page. I’ve also
experienced first-hand the buzz and vitality generated by your
membership at School and Departmental events, and you are
truly an exceptional group!
Speech by Vincent Megaw, Professor Emeritus of
Archaeology, Flinders University.
After dinner speeches are a curious animal, sitting awkwardly as
they often do between various courses of a meal and interrupting
all but the most surreptitious of hard drinkers. Etiquette demands
that one often has to suffer in silence as the speaker drones on
and on . . . and on. What one feels one often needs is someone,
like the friend of Lucky Jim in the novel of the same name, who
is primed to make a signal should one be overstaying their time
at the lectern. Alas, on that occasion Jim was so fortified with
strong drink that he ignored the signal. The rest of course was
total disaster.
On this memorable occasion I wish to emphasise the importance
of the role that student clubs and societies play in the daily life
of the University. Flinders University recognises the significant
and lasting contribution that societies such as yours make to the
professional development of students, not only regarding the
benefits of extra-curricular activity, but also in the development
of leadership and social skills.
And for some reason at this point the horrible image pushes
itself into my memory, the image of a wintery night in Moravia
when I was hopelessly, horribly drunk. Together with another
former Edinburgh student I was on my first trip to the then
Czechoslovakia in 1964 visiting the Upper Palaeolithic
mammoth hunters site of Dolní Věstonice close to Brno. After
walking around in minus 15 degrees Celsius we were invited
by the manager of the local vineyard cooperative to warm up
in the cellars carved out of the limestone and we proceeded to
sample a range of Moravian wines. Then for some reason which
now totally escapes me, we started to sing French part songs, the
children of the manager, perched on the wine barrels watching
these strange foreign animals at play. I remember thinking that
if I stopped drinking at this point I might be OK but no — from
his hip pocket the manager took out a medicine bottle full of
a clear liquid — home-made slivovice or plum brandy distilled
just the previous week. By now the temperature inside the
cellars was a cosy 20 degrees, so imagine what happened when
The School of Humanities is extremely pleased and proud to
have a Society whose sustained commitment and long-standing
activity provide a range of significant benefits, not only in
academic terms, but in the widening of participant perspectives
and the positive gains for students in terms of personal growth,
identity formation, cohort and confidence building, and skills
At Flinders we genuinely value our students and we’re committed
to the enhancement of the student experience. The relationship
that ArchSoc has fostered with the Department of Archaeology
is one of true community.
ArchSoc offers valuable support at all Departmental and School
events such as Open Days; the secondary school Enrichment
ArchSoc news
a maximum of 25 Honorary Fellows at any one time; currently
first on the list is the Duke of Rothesay, the name given to Charles
when in Scotland — no way could he be Prince of Wales north
of the Border. Actually Charlie boy did read for the first part of
the Cambridge Archaeology and Anthrolopology Tripos before
switching to History and getting a not totally disgraceful Second
Class Honours degree.
The position of the various officers in any society often follows
a fairly regular gradus ad Parnassum, starting in some lowly
but important role running excursions or arranging the sale
of merchandise. At Edinburgh I started in our ArchSoc as tea
convenor, the first male ever to take on the highly important job
of organising post-lecture refreshments — tea and coffee only;
this was Scotland in the 1950s after all. While my Presidency was
to follow, I was soon supervising excavations on windswept Iron
Age fortifications whose common factor was their inaccessibility
and almost total lack of artefactual remains.
Flinders ArchSoc and I share a common date —1992. This not
only saw what seems to have been the birth of the society but on
April Fool’s Day I was operated on for rectal cancer. The good
news, well for me the good news, is that apart from occasional
cold steal up ‘em I have been clear ever since. So I can take this
as a good omen not only for my own future — and my current
motto is ‘I have no time for being dead’ — but for the Society.
May the next 21 years be as good as the first!
we staggered out into the snow and a temperature drop of more
than 40 degrees. . . I will spare you the details of the drive back
to Brno or how I managed to navigate my way to my hotel room.
The following morning my hosts showed little sympathy for my
plight but then it is said that while Czechs are heavy drinkers,
Moravians really know how to hit the bottle and Slovaks are just
permanently drunk.
Well, the bad news is that on this occasion I haven’t drunk that
much but still by force of habit could go on a bit. But don’t panic,
don’t panic, I intend to speak for only a few more minutes, not
a few hours.
Student societies are delicate flowers and if not tended carefully
can whither but they can also flourish and any organisation that
can attract more than 150 members is not doing badly. And here
I must acknowledge that the honour you gave me in 2001 by
bestowing the first honorary life membership is only equalled by
the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland founded in 1780 — just a
bit before our own dear ArchSoc — which elected me last year an
Honorary Fellow. The rules of the game are that there can only be
Journal Profile: Chronika
Darren Poltorak1
students tangible results of their research at an early stage and
an opportunity to network with established scholars, months or
even years before they receive their Ph.D. The providing for these
experiences goes on both sides of the publishing process. The
entire editorial board and all external reviewers are also graduate
students. The ability to critique and improve others works is a
skill that is hard to pick up early in an academic career, but can
prove invaluable in discussing with more established academic
their work and can improve ones own.
Editor-in-Chief of Chronika
Each year, Chronika has shown tremendous growth, increasing
in its distribution, number of submissions, and the rigor of its
review process. Graduate students produce new and exciting
work, often trying new directions of inquiry, and it is Chronika’s
mission to share this discovery with a scholarly audience.
Interested in seeing Chronika and the work being done?
Current and back issues of Chronika can be found at:
Chronika is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed graduate
student journal for the art and archaeology of Europe and the
Mediterranean world that is produced with support from the
Institute of European and Mediterranean Archaeology (IEMA)
at SUNY Buffalo, and the departments of Anthropology, Classics
and Visual Studies. Over the past four years, Chronika has
established itself as a great resource for scholars interested in
following current trends in academic research in Europe and
the Mediterranean, for SUNY Buffalo students to gain firsthand
experience with the peer-review process from both sides of the
experience, and for encouraging interdisciplinary dialogues
between Anthropology, Classics and Visual Studies students at
SUNY Buffalo, as well as those from outside universities.
Chronika was conceived of as a journal for students working at
the M.A. to Ph.D. level, offering students at this level a chance
to submit to a journal targeted to this academic niche. While
designed for junior scholars, Chronika maintains a high quality
of work. Articles are accepted on a selective basis, subjected
to a rigorous peer-review process lasting several months, and
published in print and online within one academic year. Each
volume is launched at the IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference in
April of every year, offering students who attend the conference
an opportunity to network with visiting scholars, who each
receive a copy of the journal. In this way, Chronika gives graduate
Dig It is a student-run journal and the official newsletter of the Flinders
Archaeological Society. The publication began in 1997 and after a hiatus
of at least five years, it was relaunched in 2012. The new series began
in 2013. The purpose of Dig It is to provide students, from undergrad
through to postgrad and recent graduates, with the opportunity to
practise and familiarise themselves with writing, publishing, editing
and the reviewing process involved in professional publications. It
aims to offer emerging young academics with an avenue to engage
with archaeological dialogues and discourse. In addition, it aims to
keep aspiring archaeologists connected and informed about what is
happening in the archaeological community.
Dig It is published twice a year and is printed at Flinders Press. Dig It
considers a range of contributions, including research articles, essays,
personal accounts/opinion pieces, book reviews and thesis abstracts
for publication. We welcome contributions from local, interstate and
international undergrad and postgrad students and recent graduates.
The guidelines for contributors can be found here:
Dig It is an open access journal. The journal and the individual articles
can be freely distributed; however, individual authors and Dig It must
always be cited and acknowledged correctly. The intellectual ownership
remains with the individual authors. Articles, figures and other content
cannot be altered without the prior permission of the author.
Correspondence to the Editor should be addressed to:
The Editor, Dig It c/o ArchSoc
Department of Archaeology
Flinders University
GPO Box 2100
Adelaide, 5001
or email <[email protected]>
Editor: Jana Rogasch
Co-editors: Matthew Ebbs (academic reviews), Antoinette Hennessy
(social reviews) and Jordan Ralph (layout and interviews)
Permanent review panel: Rhiannon Agutter, Amy Batchelor, Robert
DeWet-Jones, Anna Foroozani, Simon Munt, Dianne Riley, Zoe
Robinson, Fiona Shanahan, Rhiannon Stammers and Isabel Wheeler
Email: [email protected]
Web: flindersarchsoc.org
Twitter: @FlindersArchSoc
Join our free mailing list: [email protected]
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