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PREHISTORIC MAN IN BULGARIA. PART II: AGE OF METALS

Author: Rafail Popov

 

Introduction article I

What sort of life did these prehistoric Aryans lead, these Nordic Aryans who were the chief ancestors of most Europeans and most white Americans and European colonists of to-day, as well as of the Persians and high-caste Hindus ? They may also have been the ancestors of the Armenians, but these were more probably a non-Aryan, it may be a Hittite, people who learnt an Aryan speech.

In answering that question, we have a new source of knowledge, in addition to the dug-up remains and vestiges upon which we have had to rely in the case of the predecessors of the Aryans. We have language. By a careful study of the Aryan languages it has been found possible to deduce a number of conclusions about the life of these peoples 5,000 or 4,000 years ago.

All these languages have a common resemblance; each, as we have already explained, rings the changes upon a number of common roots. When we find the same root word running through all or most of these tongues, it seems reasonable to conclude that the thing that root word signifies must have been known to the common ancestors. Of course, if they have exactly the same word in their languages, this may not be the case; it may be the new name of a new thing or of a new idea that has spread over the world quite recently. We know, for example, that the words for wagon and wheel run in this fashion through the Aryan tongues, and so we are able to conclude that the primitive Aryans, the more purely Nordic Aryans had wagons, though it would seem from the absence of any common roots for spokes, rim, or axle that their wheels were not wheelwright's wheels with spokes, but made of the trunks of trees shaped out with an axe between the ends.

These primitive wagons were drawn by oxen. The early Aryans did not ride or drive horses; they had very little to do with horses. The Neolithic Mongols were a horse-people, but the Neolithic Aryans were a cow-people. They ate beef, not horse; and after many ages they began this use of draught cattle. They reckoned wealth by cows. They wandered, following pasture, and "trekking" their goods, as the South African Boers do, in ox-wagons, though of course their wagons were much clumsier than any to be found in the world to-day. They probably ranged over very wide areas. They were migratory, but not in the strict sense of the word "nomadic"; they moved in a slower, clumsier fashion than did the later, more specialized nomadic peoples. They were forest and parkland people without horses. They were developing a migratory life out of the more settled "forest clearing" life of the earlier Neolithic period. Changes of climate which were replacing forest by pasture, and the accidental burning of forests by fire, may have assisted this development.

We have already described the sort of home the primitive Aryan occupied and his household life, so far as the remains of the Swiss pile-dwellings enable us to describe these things. Mostly his houses were of too flimsy a sort, probably of wattle and mud to have survived, and possibly he left them and trekked on for very slight reasons. The Aryan peoples burnt their dead, a custom they still preserve in India, but their predecessors, the long-barrow people, the Iberians, buried their dead lying on the side in a sitting position. In some ancient Aryan burial mounds (round barrows) the urns containing the ashes of the departed are shaped like houses, and these represent rounded huts with thatched roofs. The grazing of the primitive Aryan was far more important to him than his agriculture. At first he cultivated with a rough wooden hoe; then, after he had found out the use of cattle for draught purposes, he began real ploughing with oxen, using at first a suitably bent tree bough as his plough. His first cultivation before that came about must have been rather in the form of garden patches near the house buildings than of fields. Most of the land his tribe occupied was common land on which the cattle grazed together.

He never used stone for building house walls until upon the very verge of history. He used stone for hearths (e.g., at Glastonbury), and sometimes stone sub-structures. He did, however, make a sort of stone house in the centre of the great mounds in which he buried the ashes of his illustrious dead. He may have learnt this custom from his Iberian neighbours and predecessors. It was these dark whites of the megalithic culture, and not the primitive Aryans, who were responsible for such temples as Stonehenge in Wiltshire or Carnac in Brittany.

These Aryans were congregated not in cities but in districts of pasturage, as clans and tribal communities. They formed loose leagues of mutual help under chosen leaders, they had centres where they could come together with their cattle in times of danger, and they made camps with walls of earth and palisades, many of which are still to be traced in the history-worn contours of the European scenery. The leaders under whom men fought in war were often the same men as the sacrificial purifiers who were their early priests.

The knowledge of bronze spread late in Europe. The Nordic European had been making his slow advances age by age for 7,000 or 8,000 years before the metals came. By that time his social life had developed so that there were men of various occupations and men and women of different ranks in the community. There were men who worked wood and leather, potters and carvers. The women span and wove and embroidered. There were chiefs and families that were distinguished as leader and noble.

The Aryan tribesman varied the monotony of his herding and wandering; he consecrated undertakings and celebrated triumphs, held funeral assemblies, and distinguished the traditional seasons of the year by feasts. He eat meats we have already glanced at, and he was an eager user of intoxicating drinks. He made these of honey, of barley, and as the Aryan-speaking tribes spread southward, of grape. And he got merry and drunken. Whether he first used yeast to make his bread light or to ferment his drink we do not know.

At his feasts there were individuals with a gift for "playing the fool," who did so no doubt to win the laughter of their friends, but there was also another sort of men of great importance in their time and still more important to the historian, certain singers of songs and stories, the bards or rhapsodists. These bards existed among all the Aryan-speaking peoples; they were a consequence of and a further factor in that development of spoken language which was the chief of all the human advances made in Neolithic times. They chanted or recited stories of the past, or stories of the living chief and his people; they told other stories that they invented; they memorized jokes and catches. They found and seized upon and improved the rhythms, rhymes, alliterations, and such-like possibilities latent in a language; they probably did much to elaborate and fix grammatical forms. They were perhaps the first great artists of the ear, as the later Aurignacian rock painters were the first great artists of the eye. No doubt they used much gesture; probably they learnt appropriate gestures when they learnt their songs; but the order and sweetness and power of language was their primary concern.

These bards mark a new step forward in the power and range of the human mind. They sustained and developed in men's minds a sense of a greater something than themselves, the tribe, and of a life that extended back into the past. They not only recalled old hatreds and battles, they recalled old alliances and common inheritance. The feats of dead heroes lived again. The Aryans began to live in thought before they were born and after they were dead. Like most human beings, this bardic tradition grew first slowly and then more rapidly. By the time bronze was coming into Europe there was not an Aryan people that had not a profession and training of bards. In their hands language became as beautiful as it is ever likely to be. These bards were living books, man-histories, guardians and makers of a new and more powerful tradition in human life. Every Aryan people had its long poetical records thus handed down, its sagas (Teutonic), its epics (Greek), its vedantic narrative poems (Sanskrit). The earliest Aryan people were essentially a people of the voice. The recitation seems to have predominated even in those ceremonial and dramatic dances and that "dressing up" which among most human races have also served for the transmission of tradition.

At that time there was no writing, and when first the art of writing crept into Europe, as we shall tell later, it must have seemed far too slow, clumsy, and lifeless a method of record for men to trouble very much about writing down these glowing and beautiful treasures of the memory. Writing was at first kept for accounts and matters of fact. The bards and rhapsodists flourished for long after the introduction of writing. They survived, indeed, in Europe as the minstrels into the Middle Ages.

Unhappily their tradition had not the fixity of a written record. They amended and reconstructed, they had their fashions and their phases of negligence. Accordingly we have now only the very much altered and revised vestiges of that spoken literature of prehistoric times. One of the most interesting and informing of these prehistoric compositions of the Aryans survives in the Greek Iliad. An early form of Iliad was probably recited by 1,000 B.C., but it was not written down until perhaps 700 or 600 B.C. Many men must have had to do with it as authors and improvers, but later Greek tradition attributed it to a blind bard named Homer, to whom also is ascribed the Odyssey, a composition of a very different spirit and outlook. It is possible that many of the Aryan bards were blind men. According to some authors, the bards were blinded to prevent their straying from the tribe.

The original recited version of the Iliad was older than that of the Odyssey. "The Iliad as a complete poem is older than the Odyssey," says Professor Gilbert Murray, "though the material of the Odyssey, being largely undated folklore, is older than any of the historical material in the Iliad." Both epics were probably written over and rewritten at a later date, in much the same manner that Lord Tennyson, the poet laureate of Queen Victoria, in his Idylls of the King wrote over the Morte d'Arthur (which was itself a writing over by Sir Thomas Malory, circ. 1450, of pre-existing legends), making the speeches and sentiments and the characters more in accordance with those of his own time. But the events of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the way of living they describe, the spirit of the acts recorded, belong to the closing centuries of the prehistoric age. These sagas, epics, and vedas do supply, in addition to archaeology and philology, a third source of information about those vanished times. Here, for example, is the concluding passage of the Iliad, describing very exactly the making of a prehistoric barrow:

"... Thus oxen, mules, in wagons straight they put, Went forth, and an unmeasured pile of sylvan matter cut; Nine days employed in carriage, but when the tenth morn shine on wretched mortals, then they brought the bravest of his kind forth to be burned. Troy swam in tears. Upon the pile's most height They laid the body, and gave fire. All day it burned, all night. But when the eleventh morn let on earth her rosy fingers shine, The people flocked about the pile, and first with gleaming wine Quenched all the flames. His brothers then, and friends, the snowy bones Gathered into an urn of gold, still pouring out their moans. Then wrapped they in soft purple veils the rich urn, dig a pit, Graved it, built up the grave with stones, and quickly piled on it ..."

There remains also an old English saga, Beowulf, made long before the English had crossed from Germany into England, which winds up with a similar burial. The preparation of a pyre is first described. It is hung round with shields and coats of mail. The body is brought and the pyre fired, and then for ten days the warriors built a mighty mound to be seen afar by the traveler on sea or land. Beowulf, which is at least a thousand years later than the Iliad, is also interesting because one of the main adventures in it is the looting of the treasures of a barrow already ancient in those days.

The Greek epics reveal the early Greeks with no knowledge of iron, without writing, and before any Greek-founded cities existed in the land into which they had evidently come quite recently as conquerors. They were spreading southward from the Aryan region of origin. They seem to have been a fair people, newcomers in Greece, newcomers to a land that had been held hitherto by the Mediterranean or Iberian peoples.

Let us, at the risk of a slight repetition, be perfectly clear upon one point. The Iliad does not give us the primitive Neolithic life of that Aryan region of origin; it gives us that life already well on the move towards a new state of affairs. Between 15,000 and 6000 B.C. the Neolithic way of living had spread with the forests and abundant vegetation of the Diluvial Period, over the greater part of the old world, from the Niger to the Hwang-ho and from Ireland to the south of India. Now, as the climate of great portions of the earth was swinging towards drier and more open conditions again, the earlier simpler Neolithic life was developing along two
divergent directions. One was leading to a more wandering life, towards at last a constantly migratory life between summer and winter pasture, which is called NOMADISM; the other, in certain sunlit river valleys, was towards a water-treasuring life of irrigation, in which men gathered into the first towns and made the first CIVILIZATION. We have already described the first civilizations and their liability to recurrent inquests by nomadic peoples. We have already noted that for many thousands of years there has been almost rhythmic recurrence of conquests of the civilizations by the nomads.

Here, we have to note that the Greeks, as the Iliad presents them, are neither simple Neolithic nomads, innocent of civilization, nor are they civilized men. They are nomads in an excited state, because they have just come upon civilization, and regard it as an opportunity for war and loot. These early Greeks of the Iliad are sturdy fighters but without discipline, their battles are a confusion of single combats. They have horses but no cavalry; they use the horse, which is a comparatively recent addition to Aryan resources, to drag a rude lighting chariot into battle. The horse is still novel enough to be something of a terror in itself. For ordinary draught purposes, as in the quotation from the Iliad we have just made, oxen were employed.

The only priests of these Aryans are the keepers of shrines and sacred places. There are chiefs, who are heads of families and who also perform sacrifices, but there does not seem to be much mystery or sacramental feeling in their religion. When the Greeks go to war, these heads and elders meet in council and appoint a king, whose powers are very loosely defined. There are no laws, but only customs; and no exact standards to conduct.

The social life of the early Greeks centre about the households of these leading men. There were, no doubt, huts for herds and the like and outlying farm buildings; but the hall of the chief was a comprehensive centre, to which everyone went to feast, to hear the bards, to take part in games and exercises. The primitive craftsmen were gathered there. About it were cowsheds and stabling and such-like offices. Unimportant people slept about anywhere as retainers did in the mediaeval castles and as people still do in Indian households. Except for quite personal possessions, there was still an air of patriarchal communism about the tribe. The tribe or the chief as the head of the tribe owned the grazing lands; forest and rivers were the wild.

The Aryan social organization seems, and indeed all early communities seem, to have been without the little separate households that make up the mass of the population in Western Europe or America to-day. The tribe was a big family; the nation a group of tribal families; a household often contained hundreds of people. Human society began, just as herds and droves begin among animals by the family delaying its breaking up. Nowadays the lions in East Africa are apparently becoming social animals in this way, by the young keeping with the mother after they are fully grown and hunting in a group. Hitherto the lion has been much more of a solitary beast. If men and women do not cling to their families nowadays as much as they did, it is because the state and the community supply now safety and help and facilities that were once only possible in the family group.

In the Hindu community of to-day these great households of the earlier stages of human society are still to be found. It is an Aryan household refined and made gentle by thousands of years of civilization, but its social structure is the same as that of the households of which the Aryan epics tell. The joint family system has descended to us from time immemorial, the Aryan patriarchal system of old still holding sway in India. The structure, though ancient, remains full of life. The joint family is a co-operative corporation, in which men and women have a veil-defined place. At the head of the corporation is the senior member of the family, generally the eldest male member, but in his absence the senior female member often assumes control.

All able-bodied members must contribute their labour and earnings, whether of personal skill or agriculture and trade, to the common stock; weaker members, widows, orphans, and destitute relations, all must be maintained and supported; sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, all must be treated equally, for any undue preference is apt to break up the family. We have no word for cousins, they are either brothers or sisters, and we do not know what are cousins two degrees removed. The children of a first cousin are your nephews and nieces, just the same as the children of your brothers and sisters. A man can no more marry a cousin, however removed, than he can marry his own sister, except in certain parts of Madras, where a man may marry his maternal uncle's daughter. The family affections, the family ties, are always very strong, and therefore the maintenance of an equal standard among so many members is not so difficult as it may appear at first sight. Moreover, life is very simple. Until recently shoes were not in general use at home, but sandals without any leather fastenings. Well-to-do middle-class family of several brothers and cousins had two or three pairs of leather shoes between them, these shoes being only used when they had occasion to go out, and the same practice is still followed in the case of the more expensive garments, like shawls, which last for generations, and with their age are treated with loving care, as having been used by ancestors of revered memory.

We have been tempted to describe the Hindu community at some length, because here we do get to something like a living understanding (if the type of household which has prevailed in human communities since Neolithic days, which still prevails to-day in India, China, and the Middle East, but which in the West is rapidly giving ground before a state and municipal organization of education and a large-scale industrialism within which an amount of individual detachment and freedom is possible, such as these great households never knew.

But let us return now to the history preserved for us in the Aryan epics. The Sanskrit epics tell a very similar story to that underlying the Iliad, the story of a fair, beef-eating people coming down from Persia into the plain of North India and conquering their way slowly towards the Indus. From the Indus they spread over India, but as they spread they acquired much from the dark Dravidians they conquered, and they seem to have lost their bardic tradition.

The oral literature of the Celtic peoples who pressed westward has not been preserved so completely as that of the Greeks or Indians; it was written down many centuries later, and so, like the barbaric, primitive English Beowulf, has lost any clear evidence of a period of migration into the lands of an antecedent people. If the pre-Aryans figure in it at all, it is as the fairy folk of the Irish stories.

Ireland, most cut off of all the Celtic-speaking communities, retained to the latest date its primitive life; and the Tain, the Irish Iliad, describes a cattle-keeping life in which war chariots are still used, and war dogs also, and the heads of the slain are carried off slung round the horses' necks. The Tain is the story of a cattle raid. Here, too, the same social order appears as in the Iliad; the chiefs sit and feast in great halls, they build halls for themselves, there is singing and story-telling by the bards, and drinking and intoxication. Priests are not very much in evidence, but there is a sort of medicine man who deals in spells and prophecy.

The Greeks appear in the dim light before the dawn of history (1,500 B.C.) as one of the wandering imperfectly nomadic Aryan peoples who were gradually extending the range of their pasturage southward into the Balkan peninsula and coming into conflict and mixing with that preceding Aegean civilization of which Cnossos was the crown.

In the Homeric poems these Greek tribes speak one common language, and a common tradition upheld by the epic poems keeps them together in a loose unity; they call their various tribes by a common name, Hellenes. They probably came in successive waves. Three main variations of the ancient Greek speech are distinguished: Ionic, Aeolic, and Doric. There was a great variety of dialects. The Ionians seem to have preceded the other Greeks and to have mixed very intimately with the civilized peoples they overwhelmed. Racially the people of such cities as Athens and Miletus may have been less Nordic than Mediterranean. The Doric apparently constituted the last, most powerful and least civilized wave of the migration. These Hellenic tribes conquered and largely destroyed the Aegean civilization that had preceded their arrival; upon its ashes they built up a civilization of their own. They took to the sea and crossed by way of the islands to Asia Minor; and, sailing through the Dardanelles and Bosporus, spread their settlements along the south, and presently along the north borders of the Black Sea. They spread also over the south of Italy, which was called at last Magna Grecia, and round the northern coast of the Mediterranean. They founded the town of Marseilles on the site of an earlier Phoenician colony. They began settlements in Sicily in rivalry with the Carthaginians as early as 735 B.C.

In the rear of the Greeks proper came the kindred Macedonians and Thracians: on their left wing the Phrygians crossed by the Bosporus into Asia Minor. We find all this distribution of the Greeks effected before the beginnings of written history. By the seventh century B.C., that is to say, by the time of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, the landmarks of the ancient world of the pre-Hellenic civilization in Europe have been obliterated. Tiryns and Cnossos are unimportant sites; Mycenae and Troy survive in legend; the great cities of this new Greek world are Athens, Sparta (capital of Lacedemon), Corinth, Thebes, Samos, Miletus. The world our grandfathers called "Ancient Greece" had arisen on the forgotten ruins of a still more Ancient Greece, in many ways as civilized and artistic.

But the newer Ancient Greece, of which we are now telling, still lives vividly in the imaginations and institutions of men because it spoke a beautiful and most expressive Aryan tongue akin to our own, and because it had taken over the Mediterranean alphabet and perfected it by the addition of vowels, so that reading and writing were now easy arts to learn and practice, and great numbers of people could master them and make a record for later ages.

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Introduction article II

West of the “Prediluvian” cultural domain began a province, centred in Anatolia and once perhaps embracing Crete, characterized by dark-faced carboniferous pots imitating gourd vessels. Round about 3000 B.C. the secrets of metallurgy began to reach this area rich in ores, probably from Mesopotamia. About the same time the local potter commenced producing a red ware by baking his pots over a clear fire in an oxidizing atmosphere. One branch of this culture then occupied Cyprus, attracted no doubt by the metal wealth of the island that has given its name to copper. Another branch pushed into Thrace and Macedonia. The most interesting, however, developed a higher civilization on the hill of Hissarlik, a point on the Dardanelles that commanded at once the sea ways from the Aegean to the Black Sea, the Danube and the Caucasus and the terminus of the land route from Mesopotamia across Asia Minor with its transmarine extensions into Thrace, Macedonia and Central Europe. Out of a large village (known as Troy I) at this strategic point there arose during the third millennium an important town termed Troy II on whose ruins the Homeric Troy (Troy VI) was later to rise.

The citadel of Troy II was girt with a strong wall of stone surmounted by brick battlements. Within stood palatial buildings of the so-called “megaron” type. (A “megaron” is essentially a long hall with a central hearth, preceded by a pillared porch on the short side). The citadel and its encircling walls were rebuilt twice so that three structural phases are recognizable. The last of these probably belongs already to Middle Aegean times. Shortly after 2000 B.C. the city was razed to the ground, but its defenders had found time to bury many of their treasures. The latter escaped the eyes of the invaders and were first rediscovered by H. Schliemann between 1873 and 1879. Our knowledge of Trojan metallurgy is almost entirely derived from these hoards, which should belong to what is called the Middle Aegean Period. After the sack the site was occupied only by minor villages till, towards the middle of the sixteenth century B.C., a new and larger city arose, the Homeric Troy that the Achaeans sacked about 1200 B.C.

Metal-using civilization impinged upon Crete and the Aegean islands from two quarters, Anatolia-Syria and Egypt. Crete had already been occupied in Neolithic times by people of Anatolian affinities. The metal-using civilization termed Minoan begins rather before 3300 B.C. with the advent of Nilotic immigrants, possibly refugees flying from Menes when he conquered the Delta. At the same time powerful influences and very possibly immigrants from the East reached the island, and Cretan metallurgy is largely based upon Asiatic traditions. The life of the Minoan civilization is divided into three main periods, termed Early, Middle and Late Minoan (abbreviated E.M., M.M. and L.M. respectively) each in turn subdivided into three phases distinguished by the Roman numerals I, II, or III. (Numbering of the phases according to contemporary Cretan periods is courtesy Messrs Wace and Blegen).

Already in Early Minoan times Crete enjoyed a genuine urban civilization. The people lived largely by maritime trade, even building their towns on barren islets or headlands, quite unsuited to farmers but affording excellent harbours. During the same period the stony little islands of the Aegean (Cyclades), that had offered no sustenance to Neolithic peasants but were rich in copper, emery, marble, or obsidian, and afforded convenient halting-places on voyages across the Aegean, were occupied by prospectors from Anatolia. On them grew up a flourishing maritime culture termed Early Cycladic. Its monuments, strongholds girt with walls of stone and graves of varied form, suggest a less refined and less pacific civilization than the Minoan, but one in which metallurgy flourished and where distinctive metal types were created. The islanders were in regular commercial contact with Crete, Troy and mainland Greece.

In the latter area an older layer of Neolithic peasants was overlaid by groups of more industrial and mercantile immigrants, allied to the islanders and to the Macedonian wing of the Anatolians. These new-comers occupied principally seaports and sites on land trade routes extending as far west as Levkas. Their culture is known as Early Helladic and in respect of metallurgy was mainly dependent upon Troy and the Cyclades, though the use of a glazed paint was probably derived from Crete.

The Minoan, Cycladic and Helladic cultures, sharing in a common trade, were all in constant intercommunication. Hence it is possible to correlate the several stages of culture in each area and to extend the Minoan system to the whole Aegean world. Crete in particular, being in regular touch with Egypt, the phases of Aegean culture may be approximately dated in terms of solar years. The period just surveyed, termed Early Aegean, extends from about 3100 to 2100 B.C. On the islands and in mainland Greece the beginning of the Middle Aegean period is not very well defined, since no radical changes took place before Middle Aegean II times.

The Middle Minoan period in Crete, on the contrary, witnessed the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of princes ruling in the centre of the island commanding the great road that linked the sea-routes from Egypt with those to Greece and the Black Sea. By M.M. II, Knossos, near the northern terminal of the road, was the undisputed capital of the island. Here rose frescoed palaces, often destroyed by seismic or political cataclysms, but continually resuscitated down to L.M. III. Sir Arthur Evans has rediscovered Homer’s broad Knossos, the seat of Minos, and the “dancing-ground” laid out by Daedalus. And frescoes on the palace walls depict the ritual games of bull- grappling that inspired the legend of the Minotaur.

Towards M.M. II times Crete had so far monopolized Aegean trade that the Cyclades’ prosperity declined and many islands were deserted. At the same time, Middle Helladic II, a new folk, conveniently termed Minyans, gained the upper hand on the Greek mainland and adjacent islands from Aegina to Levkas. They were more martial and less industrial than their Early Helladic predecessors, but far from barbarians.

Then towards 1600 B.C. a Minoan prince gained a footing at Mycenae on the Peloponnese. His remains and those of his family were found by H. Schliemann in the famous Shaft Graves, dug on the slope of the acropolis and included within the city walls. Sir Arthur Evans has, however, adduced convincing grounds for believing that the prince’s body had originally reposed in the great beehive tomb, built into the hillside outside the walls and known since the days of Pausanias as the Treasury of Atreus, a tomb that Mr Wace dates some three centuries later (L.H. III) and attributes to the last monarch of a different dynasty.

In L.M. I and II Crete attained the zenith of her power, the most grandiose phase of the palace of Knossos belonging to L.M. II. During the same period the Minoan civilization was extended to the mainland. A whole series of stately beehive tombs along the western coasts and at the head of gulfs facing south as far as Yolo in Thessaly and palaces adorned with frescoes in Minoan style mark the seats of the Cretan dynasts.

This imperialist expansion overtaxed the island’s strength. At the beginning of L.M. III Knossos and the other palaces were sacked and not rebuilt, though the towns continued to flourish. The mainland, however, progressed. Mycenae was now the capital of the Aegean world as in Homer’s days. It was girt with a megalithic wall of “Cyclopean” masonry as were Tiryns, Athens and other citadels within which rose palaces of the megaron plan, very different architecturally from the Cretan, though decked with frescoes of Minoan technique. A provincial variant of the Minoan culture, termed Late Mycenaean, ruled all over the mainland and extended to many of the islands and even Cyprus. Trade was more extensive than ever, and even Mycenaean vases were exported to Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Sicily. But about 1250 B.C., when the Egyptian records are already preoccupied with “unrest among the Isles of the Sea”, these peaceful relations were broken off. The Mycenaean culture in a decadent form, L.M. III, however, persisted for a couple of centuries and even spread to Macedonia. During this period we find northern types of sword and other indications of influences from beyond the Balkans. In Macedonia even a barbaric pottery, apparently of Hungarian antecedents, intrudes in and above the last ruins of the plundered Mycenaean settlements.

The Iron Age in the Aegean begins about this point without any complete break with late Mycenaean traditions, at least in Southern Greece and Crete. The metal that now replaced bronze in the manufacture of cutting implements had been used occasionally for that purpose even in the fourteenth century. The Hittite records show that it was then being manufactured in Kizwadana, an unidentified locality under the control of the Cappadocian Hittites. By L.M. III times there are traces of iron-working in Macedonia, and soon after 1200 B.C. it was generally practiced in Asia Minor and then in Crete and Greece.

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Addendum: We begin our commentary on this express topic with a short excerpt from Prof. G. Katzarov's article on Thrace, written in 1930 for "Cambridge Medieval HIstory":

"Among the peoples who came into immediate contact with the Mediterranean powers the Thracians may claim more attention than is due only to their direct effect on the main course of political history. It is true that scholars have usually adopted a very unfavourable view of their capacity for any high degree of cultural development. Such a judgment, founded chiefly on the evidence of the writers of antiquity, by whom the Thracians are represented as in many respects a primitive people, seems, however, to be too sweeping. Although archaeological exploration of the regions inhabited by the Thracians is still in its infancy, it is already clear that by the middle of the second millennium B.C., the tribes there had developed a flourishing Bronze Age civilization. The political and social life of the people at this period must have corresponded to that of the Achaeans as represented in the Iliad. Indeed, we find the South Thracians appearing in the Iliad with the same weapons and methods of fighting as the Achaeans. Homer expressly mentions Thracian swords, and it is worthy of note that two swords and a lance-head of Mycenaean form and workmanship, as well as a small bronze votive double-axe have been found in the district of Philippopolis in Southern Bulgaria. The well-known tholos-tomb near Kirk-Kilisse (Lozengrad), dating from the fourth century B.C., the gold diadems and other ornaments found in Thracian burial mounds, furnish evidence for the survival of Mycenaean influence even down into the Classical period. In view of these facts, and of the circumstance that the Thraco-Phrygians exercised, at any rate in religious matters, a considerable influence upon the Greeks, Thracian civilization must have its place in any account of the development of European culture ...".

Though Katzarov suggested that "by the middle of the second millennium B.C., the tribes there had developed a flourishing Bronze Age civilization" — untowardly, no one after him in Bulgaria developed further on his suggestions. Katzarov himself was a busy man, he travelled a lot in Bosnia, Germany, etc. and he couldn't finish his project on Bronze Age archaeology by the end of World War II. Then he got into retirement, but we should remind the inquisitive scholar that his interest in Mycenae, Achaeans and their Homeric world date from as early as 1906 when he (Katzarov) wrote an article on the ethnicon Pelasgian published by the "Spisanie na Bulgarskata Academia na Naukite".

The efforts of Katzarov on Bronze Age archaeology were propagated also by two other scholars, both died in untimely deaths — Prof. Rafail Popov (d. 1940) and Prof. Bogdan Filov (d. 1946). We first say few words on the latter. Filov was the bad child of Bulgarian archaeology, a man with enormous talent and many enemies in concurrence, whosoever left a solid heritage of exploration to the upcoming generations. Despite his many-sided interests, including a premiership from 1940-1943, Filov's objective was to write a "Textbook of Archaeology" for his university course. This he managed to accomplish only fragmentary since we have obtained a litto-print of his book (1943). It contain two parts: 1) Introduction to archaeological methods; and, 2) Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Part 2 is very interesting, where along with a narrative on pre-Greek civilization, Creto-Mycenaean culture, etc. there are reflections on Thracian archaeology. Filov says that it is speculative to attribute Bronze Age to Thrace since there are not existent crude finds (tombs, tumulus or fortifications) from that epoch. Then he comments on the earliest Greek colonies on Black Sea coast, Apolonia (Sozopol) and Odesus (Varna) from ca. VIII century B.C.; those provided a massive amount of bronze objects (plus glassware) coming by way of trade and merchants from the South. Finally Filov gives account on his most important finds, the necropolises from Trebenishte (near Ochrid) and Duvanli (near Plovdiv). Here his estimates are more than modest and he attributes the artifacts not earlier from VI century B.C., while some objects (gold masks and breastplates) are definitely late Mycenaean to 1300-700 B.C.

We come back to the book from Prof. R. Popov, titular of the Prehistory section at the National Museum of Archaeology. Some information was given beforehand on this classical monograph, "Culture and Life of Prehistoric Man in Bulgaria. Part II: Age of Metals" (1930), which appeared in print with funds from foundation "Ivan D. Burov". Popov's main interests were in earlier phases of history — flint industry, clay and terracotta pottery, domestication of animals and other. His research on Bronze and Iron objects was so called on the fringe, insofar as his vestige was to find trans-cultural patterns and influences from abroad on the Bulgarian lands. Popov achieved to excavate most of the prehistoric sites on our territories in the period between the World Wars. He had excellent drawing skills and made "in situ" sketches in many instances when photography was not available. His stratification schemes were up-to-date with modern knowledge and the only of its kind in Bulgarian language. He was a unity figure for Bulgarian archaeology who unsuccessfully died without being able to finish even half of his enormous tasks.

The addendum should be expanded further but right now we preclude here. The two introduction articles on Bronze Age culture are written by best authorities of the time, Herbert G. Wells (engineer) and V. Gordon Childe (classical philology), ditto.

 

Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.

(i). Two bronze swords from app. 1300-700 B.C. — left, from Oryahovo, Macedonia, (hilt is of Central European type); right, from Panagyrishte, Plovdiv district, (hilt is of Mycenaean type).

 

(ii). Bronze axe-shaped cult object (unknown find at Archaeology Museum, Sofia) — probably, Luristan type of Eastern Anatolia, with horny animals goat, ram and bull (left to right).

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by the author.