Sunday, November 16, 2008

Podgoritsa is an eneolithic tell in northeastern Bulgaria on a plain in the foothills of the Preslavska Stara mountains. The tell is 4.5 meters tall and has a diameter of 80 meters. There is clear evidence for use of the land surrounding the tell as well, including linear features (boundary ditches?), midden deposits and perhaps some residential or farming hamlets.

The community grew and stored large quantities of wheat and barley, raised sheep, goats and cattle, and made a variety of distinctive pots and figurines in the shapes of animals.

Excavated in the 1990s by an international team led by Ruth Tringham and Douglass Bailey, Podgoritsa's primary occupation is associated with the Polyanitsa culture of 4600-4400 BC. A multi-year study was begun at Podgoritsa in 1995, but political events in the region caused a halt after the first year and much of the scientific samples were destroyed.



Ruth Tringham and Julie Near

The 1995 season of the Podgoritsa Archaeological Project was the culmination of over three years of preparations for the excavation of the Eneolithic tell site of Podgoritsa (4300 - 3700 BC), in Northeast Bulgaria. A team of US and British archaeologists led by Dr. Ruth Tringham of UC Berkeley and Dr. Douglas Bailey of University of Wales at Cardiff, collaborated with a team of Bulgarian archaeologists from Sofia and Turgovishte led by Dr. Ana Raduncheva of the Institute of Archaeology, Sofia and Dr. Ilke Angelova, Director of the Turgovishte Museum in a third field season of intensive research at the site in July 1995.

In previous seasons, the research at Podgoritsa had been funded by the Stahl Fund of the ARF. The research this season was funded by a research grant from the National Science Foundation. While much information and many new questions were produced during this season's excavation of Podgoritsa's upper (humus) levels and off-site reconnaissance surveying, this first season of excavation turned out also to be its last. Despite the unexpectedly short tenure of the project we feel some exciting windows into the Eneolithic of Northeast Bulgaria were opened this summer. A full report of the excavations and reconnaissance is being submitted to the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The goals of the Podgoritsa project were threefold, comprising landscape observations, sub-surface geophysical reconnaissance of the tell and its immediate environs, and excavation of the tell itself. Each goal was geared towards investigating the project's main question: Why and how were tell settlements formed during Northeast Bulgaria's Eneolithic?

The tell itself is located 18 km from the city of Turgovishte, and 1 km from the village of Podgoritsa from which the tell derives its name. It is relatively small (60-80 meters diameter, and ca. 5.5 meters high) in comparison to its Southeast Bulgarian counterparts, yet quite average in comparison to other local tells. On the basis of surface ceramics, it is suggested that the site represents approximately 500 years of settlement debris, thus making it a perfect place for an intensive but temporally specific excavation.

The 1995 project team included - in addition to the co-directors - from North America: a post-doctoral researcher (Dr. Nerissa Russell: fauna), 6 graduate students (Mirjana Stevanovic: architecture; Jason Bass: GIS and lithics; Julie Near: paleoethnobotany; Leola LeBlanc: microfauna; Thalia Gray and Douglas Molineu), and Michael Ashley for photography and database development, from UK: a post-doctoral researcher (Dr. Heike Neumann: soil micromorphology), a graduate student (Michael Walker: Geophysical survey), and 13 undergraduates, and from Bulgaria: 3 archaeologists and 2 students.

The first of the three goals of the project was to begin a regional and micro-regional investigation of the environment and landscape around Podgoritsa using data from satellite imagery and ground "truthing" integrated into a GIS program. Jason Bass directed this research, leading a group of students on ground-truthing expeditions in the region directly surrounding Podgoritsa for 12 days prior to excavation. Using public domain LANDSAT imagery the small teams attempted to match areas from the satellite maps generated in 1986 to the current landscape. In this way teams could identify patterns of land cover such as surface water, rock outcrops, and vegetation zones as represented by the images false color. Over 75 sq. km of land was surveyed, the data providing the fundamental information for the GIS investigation of resources, such as water, cultivable land and pasture land that would have been available to the inhabitants of Podgoritsa some 6000 years ago.


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