„Fenomenul Cernavoda III-boleráz”:după 30 de ani

Cercetări Arheologice 12, 2003, 109-138

„Fenomenul” Cernavoda III-boleráz:după 30 de ani

Authors: Sorin Oanță-Marghitu

Keywords: -


The issue in the year 2001 of the volume “Cernavodă III-Boleráz. Ein vorgeschichtliches Phänomen zwischen dem Oberrhein und der unteren Donau”, which comprises communications presented at a workshop from 1999, by the possibility to compare it to the communications on the same topic presented at Nitra in the year 1969 and reunited in a volume published in 1973 provides me the opportunity to ask this question: do we actually know today the „Cernavoda III-Boleráz phenomenon” better than 30 years ago? I have tried to answer this question in the present article by taking a critical look at the archaeological document, especially the one from the lower basin of the Danube, referring also to other areas. Both volumes are characterized by a descriptive discourse (research stages, repertoires, descriptions of the types of settlements, dwellings, graves, pottery typologies, relative and absolute chronology) and by a low number of interpretations. The defining mechanism of the Cernavoda IIIBoleráz phenomenon is a traditional one: firstly, the spread area of a pottery style is delimited by formal analogies, by an inherent selection process retaining only the “culturally” or chronologically relevant types; then, within the area defined this way, the contexts in which the pottery occurs are mapped (settlements, funerary contexts, isolated finds) and other categories of discovered objects (for instance anthropomorphic figurines). This theoretical construction cannot be interpreted; one can only describe components included in it (types of settlements, burial patterns, etc.). The discussion is confined to the typology of the pieces, especially the pottery, from the whole spread area („pottery repertoire” of the „culture”). Thus one can define new „phases” (Proto-Cernavoda) or „cultural facies” (Radovanu and Renie II). The discussions focus on the relative and absolute chronology, the conclusions are general, referring especially to the „trades” (agricultural “works”, animal breeding and other trades). This approach leads to a poor understanding of the social organization and structure from the past: the cultures are just even areas on maps concealing the different dynamics of the pieces, the goods or ideas exchange network, as the archaeological material become passive realities that can be only described. The linking elements between the Boleráz and Cernavoda III styles are the formal resemblance of some vessel types (the biconical bowl sometimes decorated with channellings on the inside), the channelled decoration, the incised decoration in the Bratislava style, some incised motifs. The differences are great, however. The pottery repertoire is much more varied, having a wide typological range of forms (cups, bowls, large vessels), most of them without analogies in the lower basin of the Danube. There is more balance relation between the incised decoration and the channelled one. Only in the middle basin of the Danube there are some special forms. The diversity of the pottery contexts is wider in the area of Boleráz type finds (settlements, funerary finds, vessel deposits). Within the very Boleráz style there are regional variations of the pottery distribution. We should take into account, however, the different stage of the research in the areas of this space; we should define the pottery production technique: whether each station produces its own pottery, as potters share the same tradition, or whether there are workshops where each potter produces a restricted vessel repertoire, the association of certain forms in settlements being fortuitous, depending on the exchange mechanisms and local tastes. The „Cernavodă III-Boleráz phenomenon” is far from reflecting a „cultural unity”. Behind these evenness there is a diversity of potter’s workshops and traditions. The vessels we include in various „types” are made by potters, some more innovating, others more conservative. The same type of vessel has various patterns depending on the potter’s expertise and the manufacturing technique. There are more pottery styles conventionally called „Cernavoda III”, „Boleráz”, „Coţofeni I”, „Celei” or „Orlea-Sadovec”, but including a wide range of pottery forms and motifs sometimes differing from one station to another. As a matter of fact, what resemblance can one find between the material from Cernavoda and the one from Mödling? Or between the pottery from Slobozia and the vessels in the Donnerskirchen deposit? In conclusion, after a 30 years’ time, do we know the „Cernavoda III-Boleráz phenomenon” better? If the aim of archaeology is to gather material and establish chronological and cultural coordinates for it, to describe the features of an archaeological culture, then the answer is yes. One we are determined to find out who used the artifacts and in which social context, who produced and „consumed” the pottery, its workshops and exchange mechanisms, then the answer is no. A vessel can be regarded just as a cultural or chronological diagnosis element, but it can also mean something provided we do not ignore its context. If we see material culture as a text with a meaning and significance pattern that should be read, then the few hundred vessels and pottery fragments known from publications, diagnosed „Cernavoda III”, lacking a context, make up an amount of words conveying nothing. They are put together only due to their similar pronunciation. Romanian archaeological research is marked by the belief that the archaeologist’s duty is to gather information “objectively”, order them and only then can they be interpreted. From that point of view the direct contact with the archaeological material could be crucial; the theoretical debate is missing: truth is what seems well understood. However, information and theory depend on each other. We excavate material, but dig for ideas too. We perceive, record, classify and publish the archaeological data according to criteria that are theoretically settled. Theoretical approaches to the notion of culture begin to emerge also in Romania, regarding either the material ethnic-cultural relation, or alternative definitions, from the procesualist or post-procesualist perspectives. Unfortunately, in Romanian archaeology pottery still means chronology, culture, and more often than not, ethnicity.

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How to cite: Sorin Oanță-Marghitu, „Fenomenul” Cernavoda III-boleráz:după 30 de ani, Cercetări Arheologice, Vol. 12, pag. 109-138, 2003, doi: https://doi.org/10.46535/ca.12.15

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