Analyzing the Cutting Edge: Stylistic and Functional Study of Lithic and Bronze Tools from later Prehistory in the Eastern Balkans

The Cutting Edge project is an international, interdisciplinary study of lithic tools from museums in Bulgaria and builds from similar research in Romania and the Levant. The proposed investigation considers the economic and social function of lithic artifacts in the Chalcolithic (Karanovo V and Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI-Varna cultures) and Bronze Age. Despite what now seems to be a linear technological shift away from stone technology and its replacement by copper and bronze metallurgy, the reality is far more subtle and complex. Lithic prismatic blade technology continues throughout the Chalcoltihic and, if only selectively, the Bronze Age in the lower Danube River valley region of Bulgaria and Romania. There are two crucial steps to this project. Step 1 is to develop a geographic model of flint sources in relation to the prehistoric archaeology. We must identify and attempt to differentiate among Chalcolithic and Bronze Age flint sources commonly found in the archaeological investigations.  This requires petrographic characterization of flint sources from known locations in the region and in comparison to the artifacts.  Step 2 is to refine the Pietrele model of early agriculture prismatic blade technology and extend it from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age, and employs both morphological assessments of tool form and microscopic use-wear analysis of tool function. Our focus on sickles and axes sheds light on the transition from lithic to metal tools, one of the main desiderata in Balkan prehistory, and places it in its proper social setting of agriculture village economies. Thus, in examining historical processes of technological change, the research objectives are two-fold: first, to assess continuity between the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age due to similarities of agriculture village life; and second, to delineate technological disparities whenever the engineering design of bronze tools actually conveyed either greater tool efficiency and/or a substantial lowering of tool maintenance costs.

Year: 
2011
Amount: 
$50,000
Project proposal Pi: 
Marvin Kay, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and Ivan Gatsov, New Bulgarian University