An overview of the knapped stone economy at the Tărtăria site (Romania)


This study focused on sourcing the lithic artefacts from the Tărtăria site in the Transylvanian Basin. The objective was to establish a model of the procurement patterns of the population at the settlement. This site is located along the middle region of the Mureș River and has several habitation levels belonging to the Vinča A, Vinča B, Vinča-Turdaș (or Vinča C), Petrești and Coțofeni cultures (Middle Neolithic to Chalcolithic). Most of the results of this study are based on analysis of the artefacts from Iuliu Paul’s excavation in 1989. This knapped artefacts from the Tărtăria site were categorised by tool type, signs of usage and retouch, and probably geographic origin. The sources of the artefact materials were predicted based on macroscopic and petrographic analyses (polarized light optical microscopy).

The lithics appear to be made from the same types of materials found at other contemporary sites in the area. As with other sites, the most common imported material is obsidian, followed by Moldavian flint. Balkan flints represent only a small part of the assemblage. Of the local material, the vast majority is chert, likely local Trascău Mts. chert, which represents over half of the pieces in the assemblage. Although the site is closer to sources of jasper in the Metaliferi Mts. than some other Neotlihic and Chalcolithic sites down river, very few of the artefacts were made from jasper. (This may be due to an economic connection with nearby and contemporary, quarrying activity at the Piatra Tomii site.)

Obsidian is used almost exclusively for blades and flakes. The same is true for Moldavian flint, although scrapers were not uncommon. Cores and scrapers are more common among local material than among imported material. The percentages of each artefact type seem to remain relatively similar for each culture (i.e. with the progress of time). This shows that people were still using the same general types of tools.

The percentages of the different materials varies over time though. During the Vinča A and Vinča B phrases, local materials represent approximately 30% of the assemblage and imported materials represent c. 70%. After the Vinča B phase (i.e. entering into the Chalcolithic), the emphasis switches to local sources (representing c. 87%) while imported drop to c. 13%.

Two important observations can be made from this study. Firstly, with the possible exception of Balkan flint, the imported materials came from outside of the territories of the cultures at this site. This indicates that areas of similar artistic style (the main characteristic used to define culture areas) do not in fact match areas of economic interaction. This further supports the need for a redefining of cultures and cultural territories. Secondly, although the inhabitants during the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic used imported materials (especially obsidian), local materials became more and more predominant over time, possibly due to the introduction and continually increasing value of copper or increased self-sufficiency. The fact that this shift in material usage occurs most drastically during the transition to the Chalcolithic supports this idea.

Author Biography

Otis Crandell, Babes-Bolyai University

Babes-Bolyai University
Geology Department

How to Cite
Crandell, O. (2016). An overview of the knapped stone economy at the Tărtăria site (Romania). Journal of Lithic Studies, 3(2), 181-207.