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7.1 Tell life in southern Romania

Tells appear in southern Romania some time after 5,000 BC. From the few radiocarbon dates we have from local contexts (Dumitrescu 1986; Boyadziev 1995), it appears people were beginning to augment and develop existing occupation zones some time in the first half of the fifth millennium BC. The Gumelniţa phase of the local culture-history model, traditionally associated with tell-based living, begins around the middle of the fifth millennium BC (Mantu 1995; Bailey 2000).

Many of the major river valleys of the Romanian Plain contain regular distributions of tells along their lengths (Şerbănescu and Trohani 1978; Parnic et al. 2001; Bem et al. 2001; Andreescu et al. 2001). Most occur in proximity to river terraces although some are located on islands in lakes. Tells go out of use at the end of the fifth millennium BC, although some are reoccupied in a less orderly fashion in the Bronze Age and later periods.

Tell villages consisted of aggregated house clusters. Houses had floors of beaten clay, and walls of vertical posts dressed with daub material. Many houses were multi-roomed affairs and had internal fittings such as ovens and benches (Popovici and Railland 1996). Characteristic of this period is the technologically accomplished and visually expressive nature of the material culture. Fine pottery was made featuring painted designs, or excised zones filled with white paste. Some had designs in graphite, while others were embellished with gold leaf. Distinctive of the Gumelniţa period are figurines in both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms. The modelled faces of figurines suggest that body piercing was common and that people expressed themselves through personal adornment (Bailey 2000).

People grew a variety of cereal crops, and herded cattle, sheep and pigs. Faunal remains suggest that a diet based around the products of domestication were supplemented by foodstuffs procured through hunting and fishing (Cârciumaru 1996; Popovici and Railland 1996).

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