Neolithic, Copper Age

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During its millenary development, humanity has known, like every human being, periods of intense progress alternating with stagnation. Such concentrated, even “revolutionary” development was the Neolithic period, when humanity rose from the slow life of Paleolithic, when the man was only a hunter-gatherer whose only concern was the survival. During the period between 6500 and 3500 B.C., prehistoric man took over new economic, social and spiritual habits that have determined the further development of the humanity.
    The new economy was based on farming and breeding animals, while the previopus activities, like fishing, hunting and gathering, became complementary. The consequence of these two main activities changed the socio–cultural habits and made this period truly revolutionary. Cultivating plants and breeding animals determined the prehistoric communities to become sedentary, in addition, the pottery was developed, in order to prepare the cereals and other the technical innovations were implemented in house-construction and tool-craft. New resources, like salt were used by humans starting with this period.
    An archaeological collection was formed in the region of Ciumeşti–Berea, called Kovács-collection, in the 1960’s. The Calvinist priest of Berea, Gyula Kovács started to collect archaeological finds, advised by the doctor Ernő Andrássy, from the region of Ciumeşti, Foieni and Sanislău. The information provided by Kovács collection, led to the systematic researches were carried out at the sites Ciumeşti II–Păşune, Berea I, Berea IX, Berea X–XI, between 1962 and 1965. Further researches were made by Eugen Comşa and János Németi at the region of Carei, Dindeşti, Moftinu Mic, Tiream, Văşad, an the sites of Pişcolt–Nisipărie, –Lutărie, –Cărămidărie, between 1970 and 1982. Most of these was rescue excavation. The issue of the early Neolithic in the North-Western Romania was somehow clarified by the results of the excavations at Homorodu de Sus, Homorodu de Mijloc and Dumbrava in the 1970’s and 80’s. During the last two decades, important discoveries were made at the sites of Tăşnad–Sere (where the late Neţa Iercoşan worked for over a decade) and Călineşti-Oaş–Dâmbul Sfintei Mării, the northernmost point of the Starčevo–Criş culture from Romania. The researches of the last two decades were rescue excavation, only one systematic research was made at Pişcolt, by János Németi, strating from 1995. The results, however, remained unpublished. In addition, two excavations were started at the sites Halmeu–Vama and Urziceni–Vama, during the last five years.
    Prehistoric communities preferred to set their dwellings alongside rivers, on heights with the aspect of small hills or banks, dominating the surroundings. These island-like points were safe place against the floods. In this sense, on the territory of Satu Mare County, the edge of the Ecedea Swamp, situated on the line of Berveni, Cămin, Căpleni, Domăneşti, Moftinu Mare, Ghilvaci, Doba, Boghiş, continuing beyond the border, is the richest in Neolithic settlements.
    Generally, the settlements were small, covering about 2–3 hectares with the average number of the population of 60-85 inhabitants. These type of settlements were put around a central settlement covering about 50 hectares. This type of settlement-network can be documented all researched cultural horizons. Large settlements of this type were discovered in Tăşnad, Tăşnad–Sere, Pişcolt, Urziceni, Halmeu, Moftinu Mic, Homorodu de Sus, Carei, Berea, etc.
    Dwellings were either dug in the soil, either built on the surface. The subterranean houses were found in Tăşnad–Sere, Pişcolt, Urziceni, Halmeu, Moftinu Mic, Homorodu de Sus, Carei, Berea, etc., and they had among many inconveniences, the advantage of keeping cool in summer and warming up easier during winter. At the entrance was a sunken step on one side of the house, usually positioned to south. The heating was made with portable fire places in form of vessels. Surface dwellings were found in Tăsnad–Sere, Moftinu Mic–Pescărie B, la Căpleni–Canton CFR, la Căpleni–Aşezare neolitică, Urziceni–Vamă, Halmeu–Vamă, etc., they were built of wood and clay. Wood was used sparsely, prehistoric communities integrated in the constructions with wicker-net and clay or just with earth with straws and chaff. Usually the annexes had one of the walls against the wall of the house for practical purposes, this way the houses were loosing less warm during winter. These dwellings were not provided always with a source of heat inside, probably because the majority of the activities were outside, therefore, the houses were mostly used for sleeping. The roof was made of straws, reed, and had a tent-like shape. The houses were short and thus protected from wind. Usually prehistoric people built their houses facing south, because the lack of light and warmth, the verandah became the place for different house activities like spinning and weaving clothing articles. The houses used to have only one room.
    During this period, several cultures were present on the territory of Satu Mare County: Starčevo–Criş culture, the Pişcolt group (or Ciumeşti culture), and Herpály culture (or Salca–Herpály). These archaeological cultures can be differenced through the technique of making and decorating pottery: incision, pinching, barbotinated, paint, applications etc.
    The pottery is the most frequent find at Neolithic settlements. Besides of them, however, the chopped stone-tools of the previous period and a new artifact type, the polished stone-axes, are present. These axes were in later phases perforated allowing to introduce a handle for a better efficiency in use.
    The religious belief of the period is reflected through special finds, like the anthropomorphic (fig. no.), and zoomorphic statues, small shrines, seals (fig. no.) etc., (Tăşnad, Homorodu de Sus, Carei, Pişcolt, Căpleni, Moftinu Mic, Berea, Ciumeşti, Urziceni, Dumbrava, Halmeu). These artifacts show the cult of the earth that gives life, explained with the importance of the agriculture in Neolithic societies. The feminine statues depicts pronounced feminine features: prominent breasts and hips marking womanhood and fertility. A great number of such statues were discovered at Tasnad–Sere and Homorodu de Sus–Ograda Borzului.
    The burials are preponderant inhumations, the body being laid in crouching position on a “bed” of pottery fragments originating from large vessels, and it is also “covered” with pot-sherds. The deposition and the covering of the body are related to the idea of the cosmic genesis of man. This concept can be found in many mythologies about the creation of man from earth and his final turning to dust. Lines of the myths kept such formulation, like “he turned to pots and small pots” in good concordance with the rite of breaking vessels at the burial. The crouching position of the body is interpreted in some practices as an attempt to prevent the death to come back among the living. Other interpretations are also possible, the crouching position being linked to the fetal position, therefore, the whole rite represents a rebirth to the after life.

    The period between years 3500 and 2300 B.C., called as Eneolithic or Copper Age, is a rather troubled and complex stage in history, due to the new economic and social phenomena, generated by the discovering of copper metallurgy. In addition, new ethno-cultural influences manifested from south and east. As a consequence, instead of the great agricultural and steady communities specific to the late Neolithic, a number of culturally and regionally fragmented societies emerged, covering large territories. This phenomenon, in fact, marks the beginning of the Indo-Europeanization. It is an era when beside the stone tools, the use of copper is started. On the territory of the county, this period is marked by the cultures of Tiszapolgár and Bodrogkeresztúr, as parts of the great civilizations of the Copper Age in the Upper Tisa Basin.
    The first Eneolithic materials are present in the Kovacs collection, and, basing on them, a series of research in Ciumeşti–Berea were started during the 1960’s. In addition, Tiberiu Bader carried out a number of excavations in the area of Homoroade finding an important settlement of Tiszapolgár culture, in 1968. Furthermore, Neţa Iercoşan made archaeological research in Carei–Cozard, Dumbrava–La Cosma, Vezendiu–Drumul Tireamului in the 1990’s.
    During this period, the body of deceased was buried in a crouching position, laid on the left or right side, along an axe of east–vest, the head facing east or west. 40 of such graves were discovered in Urziceni–Vama, being the greatest Bodrogkeresztúr necropolis of Romania at this time. Nine further Eneolithic burials were discovered at Cămin–Podul Crasnei. It seems, that the side where the body is laid is determined by the sex, the women were laid on the left side and the men on the right side. The differences between the sexes can be remarked furthermore in the inventory of the graves. Women had 6–7 vessels put around the body, and often on the hips area are laid strings of shell beads, probably used for decorating the apparel. The graves of man contain only 1 or 2 vessels, put near the legs, and the inventory is completed with stone or copper tools, like arrow points, knifes, rasper and borers.
    The number and the correlation of the graves inside the necropolis are significant for the social status and for the place of the individual within society. The cemeteries usually have medium sizes, about 50 graves. The graveyards were positioned in low swampy places or on low heights, protected from floods. The body was buried about 50 cm depth. The graves are arranged in rows without overlapping or meeting, which show that the burials were made in a short period of time, and the graves were marked by signs for the contemporaries.
    During this period, the copper metallurgy knew a great flourishing. Because it was a rare metal, the copper was used mostly to manufacture objects with decorative prestige value. The number of tools is less. Among them, the axes are the most frequent. They are of various types: chisel-axe, knives. These kinds of finds are present in the cemeteries from Urziceni–Vama, Cămin–Podul Crasnei, Ciumeşti, Hotoan, as the inventory of the graves. The burials contain also needles, borers, ornaments, and beads made of copper. The use of gold at this time is represented by objects found on the territory of our county in two women graves. The first object is a richly decorated hair-ornament, found in M6 from Cămin–Podul Crasnei. The second piece is conical-shaped hair-ornament also, found in M29 from Urziceni–Vama. Both objects are made with pounding the thin, 24K golden plate.


County Museum of Satu Mare
Bd. Vasile Lucaciu, Nr. 21
440031, Satu Mare
Email:[email protected]

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