Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads

 1997 Excavations at Tartaruca Noua (Northern Moldova)

by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

 During the 1997 summer season the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads (CSEN) collaborated with the Rudi-Maetonium Scientific-Research Public Fund (RMSRPF), Chisinau, Moldova, and the Institute of Archaeology, Moldova Academy of Sciences. Excavations were conducted during July and August at two sites along the Dniester River in northern Moldava. The excavations were led by Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball (CSEN) and Dr. Mark Tkachuk (RMSRPF). Attending the international field school held in conjunction with the excavations, in addition to twelve American students, were three participants from England, Belgium, and Germany and more than forty Moldovan high school seniors. Archaeologists included Julia Goncharova, Maria Kachemko, Dr. Sergei Kurchatov, Galina Zasipkina, and Maria Pavlova from St. Petersburg, Dr. Ilya Palaguta from Moscow, and from Moldova Dr. Roman Rabinovitch and Alexei Romanchuk. Additional Russian staff included Olga Zhuravleova, Alexei Lepatov, Maxim Tychkov, Svetlana Riabsela, and Katya Emlyanenko. Dr. Peter Biehl, post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, reviewed the Cucuteni-Tripolye archaeological material at Rudi-Maetonium.
The American students were Martha Makris (University of Utah), Ann Lehr(San Francisco), Guiniviere Curfman (California State University, Hayward), Sarah Probst (Franklin Pierce College, New Hampshire), Evelyn Warren (University of California, Berkeley), Noah Hale (Portland State University), Janis Turner (Livermore, CA), Candace Nelson (Denver), and Thomas Johnson (San Francisco), and Lois Hale, (Portland). From Europe Annette Boschen (Frere Universitat) came from Berlin, Nicholas Heath (Kingsway College) from England, and Carlo Jengember from Brussels.

 Historical Background of the Region

The archaeological sites under discussion are along the Dneister River approximately 200 kilometers north of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. In the vicinity of the town Rudi, (Dondushan rayon) and some 45 kilometers northwest of Soroka, eight historical monuments have been given national preservation status. Included in this group is the site known as Maetonium and the so-designated Hallstat Cemetery site. Maetonium, about three kilometers NE of Rudi, is situated on a promotory defined by two steep canyons with streams that flow into the Dnieper River. The so-called Hallstat Cemetery lies on the first terrace above the river approximately two kilometers east of Maetonium.

The So-Called "Hallstat Cemetery"

During the 1997 season an area 4 x 16 m, squares 1-8 and Y-Z, was opened and excavated to a depth of about 75 cm below the current ground level. Below the sandy black sod the entire cultural level contained sherds of black burnished pottery, some of which were decorated with incised lines, and embellished triangles, and occasional bone fragments.

 These were identified as Early Hallstat period ceramics; however, subsequent research indicates otherwise (see below, "Pit 5"). At this level a mound of river rocks which appeared to define a "burial" were encountered in squares 6YZ and 3-4YX. In addition, a scattering of river rock were also encountered at this level .  
Burial 1.
The skeleton of a child, lying in supine position, was encountered in square Z8. The bones of the lower extremities extended into the eastern balk. In order to complete the excavate of the skeleton, the area was enlarged by two additional meters on the east and north sides for a total excavation area comprised of squares 1-9 and X-Z (Fig. 3). The upper layer of the child's skeleton in squares 8-9Z was destroyed by the local inhabitants. Further excavations of the skeleton revealed additional bone fragments including that of the mandible and some teeth which indicated that the child was approximately 7-9 years of age at the time of death. A fragment of pottery with the burial indicated that the child may have belonged to the 3rd-4th centuries AD Chernogorova culture. No other sherds of this pottery type were found in the 1-9, X-Z squares.
Pit 2.
About 75 cm below the current ground surface an oval pile of stones were found diagonally occupying a portion of squares Y7 and Y8.


 These stones were removed and excavations continued in the pit which was well defined by large stone slabs placed vertically. The slabs were interspaced with river stones for approximaely 50 cm, c. to 1.25 cm depth from the current ground level. The bottom of the pit was defined by a layer of river stones. The only cultural materials found during the excavation of the pit were a small number of extremely fragmented animal bones which were deliberately cracked to suck out the marrow. In the eastern corner of the pit a hearth was defined by stone slabs. Remains of a large blackware pot was found on the hearth. Ash, carbon, and burned clay were in the immediate vicinity of the hearth.
The wall slabs were removed. Upon removing the stones which formed the bottom of the pit an area of red burned clay was found immediately below the hearth. Walls beyond the stone slabs were not identified. Subsequently, the pit was enlarged laterally and approximately 50 cm deeper. With the exception of a secondary pit of gray mixed soil on the western end in square 7Y, only the same cultural materials, Early Hallstat pottery sherds and bone fragments, were found in the area between 75 cm and 125 cm below the current ground level.
Excavations in the enlarged pit were continued to a depth of 125 cm below the current ground level at which time fired red clay deposits were revealed in two areas. These proved to be at the same level as the top of the Cucuteni-Tripolye red burned clay walls excavated in Trench 1.
Burial 3.
In square 6X, approximately 70 cm below the current ground level a partial cranium was revealed. A small amount of the same cultural material, burnished Hallstat pottery and fragmented animal bones, were found at this level in the immediate vicinity of the cranium. No other material culture or human bones were encountered in this burial.
Pit 4.
Approximately 50 m to the north of area 1-9, X-Z, along the vertical embankment of the Dnieper River approximately 3 meters below the current ground level, a circular pit was identified and opened. The only cultural remains found in the partially excavated pit were evidence of buring: bits of carbon, ash, and burned red clay. No burned or unburned bones or pottery sherds were found.
Pit 5.
At approximately 75 cm below the current ground beneath a deposit of river stones a diamond shaped pit in squares 4-5Y was opened. At a level of 85 cm an intact The distincitive black-fired vessel encountered among many river stones is identical to one excavated from Thracian territory further to the east.
 At a level of 95 cm large sherds of Early Hallstat (Thracian type) pottery were found below the beaker and, in addition, several large river stones were in found in the wall of the pit. Excavations were continued to a depth of 100 cm at which time a second nearly inact Early Hallstat beaker was found among river stones. To the west several bones from a large animal had been deposied. Excavations were continued to a depth of approximately 115 cm below the current ground level. Additional animal bones (ribs) and many larger stones were encountered, several of which now extended into the wall of the pit. It was apparent that the wall of the pit were not defined and lateral excavations of the pit were undertaken in an attempt to find the walls. At the close of the excavations no wall had been encountered. Hallstat (Thracian type) pottery sherds and fragmented animal bones along with river stones were encountered and excavated at this lower level.

Trench 1.
At approximately a depth of 75 cm long the eastern side of squares 6X and 6YZ, two groups of river stones was encountered. Excavation of what was presumed to be possibly two pits, one in each of the two noted squares, was begun. However, after a depth of 20cm it was apparent that there were no identifable pits and the excavated area was extended throughout the eastern half of squares 6XYZ and designated Trench 1. Excavation of the trench continued. At a level of 90 cm below the current ground level a change in soil was noted indicating that the Early Iron Age level had been completely excavated and the Chalcolithic level had now reached.

Note: there is no recorded Bronze Age in this region along the Dneister River.

At approximately 105 cm below the current ground level a single animal bone and three pieces of antler were encountered. Excavations were continued for approximately another 25 cm when a large deposit of red clay was noted along the eastern edge of the trench in square 6X. Further excavations in the trench revealed the foundation or wall of a Cucuteni-Tripolye settlement house, many Cucuteni-Tripolye pottery sherds and worked marble slabs in square 6Y.
Trench 2.
At approximately 75 cm below the current ground level a trench along the eastern half of squares 5XYZ was opened where a deposit of scattered river stones had been revealed. Only Hallstat cultural material, i.e., pottery sherds and fragmented bones, were encountered to a depth of 100 cm below the current ground level.

The So-Called "Hallstat" - Tatarauca Noua (Novaya Tatarovka) XIV Conclusions.

Although originally identified as a Hallstat Cemetery based upon ash, burned clay, pottery sherds, and animal bones found along the exposed embankment above the Dneister River, no Hallstat burials, either inhumation or cremation, were encountered in the excavated area designated squares 1-9 and X-Z nor in Pit 4 excavated along the Dneister embankment some 50 meters to the west. One later dated child burial was excavated. No Hallstat foundations were uncovered to indicate that this had been a habitation site. Pit 2 witnessed a cultic ceremony as the large pot held meat which was cooked for a ritual feast. In the remaining squares, from the amount of debris in the form of cracked animal bones and pottery sherds, the area may have been used for a midden or garbage disposal. Pit 5 was undoubtedly used as a culti-offering site with some sherds and stones. The major offering was a complete black-fired and incised vessel of Thracian type indicating that this region along the right bank of the Dneister River had been encroached upon by apparently nomadic Thracian types. From this Early Iron Age content, Neolithic soil was encountered in Trench 1, revealing foundations from a Cucuteni-Tripolye early farming settlement along with typical associated pottery sherd.

There was no evidence of Scythian or Sarmatian occupation in this forest-steppe region of Moldova.

 Cucuteni Chronology
Tripolye Chronology
3500 B.C. 3500 B.C
Cucuteni B 3 Tripolye C 1
Cucuteni B 2 Tripolye C 1
Cucuteni B 1 Tripolye C 1
 3570 B.C.  3570 B.C.
 Cucuteni A3 Tripolye B 1c
 Cucueni A 2 Tripolye B 1b
 Cucueni A 1 Tripolye B 1a
 4500 B.C.
 4500 B.C.
 Pre-Cucuteni III  
 Pre-Cucuteni II Tripolye Ab
 Pre-Cucuteni I Tripolye Aa
5000 B.C.

 Ethnographic Postscript

A live pig was purchased from one of the villagers, loaded into a vehicle, and taken to another village where it was butchered for meat for the camp. The first step in this process was to singe the carcass to remove the rather long hair. Coincidentally, this was done along toward midnight.


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