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Author Topic: Sarcophagus, Unique Gold Jewellery Unearthed in Bulgaria  (Read 196 times)
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« on: July 01, 2007, 07:16:13 AM »

There is an obvious question here that begs an answer... why would grave goods be placed with cremated remains? What were they thinking? And were they the only culture to do that?


Sarcophagus, Unique Gold Jewellery Unearthed in Bulgaria

28 June 2007, Thursday

   Bulgarian archaeologists have found Thursday a stone sarcophagus full of unique gold jewlry and ceramic and glass utensils in a mound near the village of Stroyno.

   The cremated bones of a woman, who was buried in 1st - 2nd century, were placed in the sarcophagus. The archaeologist Daniela Agre claims that was a unreal typical for the richest families in the Roman Era.

   The team of Professor Agre, who are doing excavation works in the area, stumbled upon the unique artefacts while researching the so called Raykova mound.

   They hope the relics of the eminent person the mound was made for will be discovered in few days.


Learning is a treasure which accompanies its owner everywhere.
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2007, 08:23:45 AM »

Roman, Dokimeion, Phrygia, Asia Minor, about 140 - 170 CE. Marble 36 x 89 in.
On a broken section from the front panel of a Roman sarcophagus, Cupids hold up garlands of oak leaves while standing on hybrid sea monsters. Nikai, just visible at the broken edges, hold the far ends of the garlands. A Medusa head and two tragic masks fill the spaces above the garlands. Elaborate, detailed decoration including flying ribbons, acorns on the garlands, and birds eating clusters of grapes covers the surface of the sarcophagus.

Sarcophagi decorated with garlands were very popular in the Roman world; the majority of surviving Roman sarcophagi are carved in this style. With the shift from cremation to interment that took place in the 100s A.D., the garland motif that had decorated funerary altars was adopted for the decoration of sarcophagi.

A workshop of sculptors at Dokimeion in Phrygia in modern Turkey made this sarcophagus, which was sent to Rome in antiquity. These garland sarcophagi were more elaborate than those made in the city of Rome, but they were very popular and were widely exported.

Bart, various cultures have burials of cremation urns and associated grave goods. They are quite common to the early Saxon period (450 - 600 CE) in England. This was also an ocassional Viking practice. I know of examples as early as the Neolithic.

Mention of the Raykova mound, for which I know nothing, suggests to me a Neolithic tumulus.

For Bulgaria, here is a book review on the subject:
Neolitni pogrebalni obredi. Intramuralni grobove ot Bulgarskite zemi v konteksta na Jugoiztochna Evropa i Anatolia (Neolithic Mortuary Practices. Intramural burials in Bulgaria in their southeast European and Anatolian context) by KRUM BUCHVAROV

The major symbolic pattern proposed is a biographical movement:- Earth-Fertility-Birth-Death. Buchvarov cites numerous examples and different kinds of evidence within the study area to support such a hypothesis. The process of burying was divided into two major groups of actions � preliminary ritual acts, consisting of body preparation, preparation of grave goods, grave feature preparation; and concluding ritual acts � the actual laying-out of the body or bones. Both groups of actions are discussed for three major categories of skeletal remains which Buchvarov defines on the basis of the structural analysis � articulated skeletons, disarticulated skeletons (or/and single bones) and cremated skeletons. Positioning the body was the most important part of the preparation of the articulated skeleton and this is widely discussed with respect to the variety of body positions (see Chapter 3) and their respective symbolic interpretation. From the activities connected with the preparation of grave goods � the deposition of ornaments, food and drink and lithics - special attention was paid to the semantic link between the shells and the bone tools and their symbolic meaning, which was called �Charon�s obol� in later periods. The preparation of the grave feature is discussed in the context of the debate concerning the social meaning of pits � for rubbish dumps or as places of deliberate deposition. Here, the author infers a semantic link between pits and the womb of mother Earth. The same meaning was claimed for burials in vessels. So far, there is no convincing evidence for intentional purification of the graves though fire. The completion of the ritual acts consists of the orientation of the body, the spreading of red ochre and the ritual breakage of objects. The only post-burial activity was the scattering of shells, most probably as a result of a feast.

The body preparation of disarticulated skeletal remains is discussed in the context of practices of excarnation and corpse dismemberment. Using comparative evidence from �atalh�y�k in Central Anatolia, Buchvarov argues that the most probable practice in Bulgarian Neolithic was excarnation, rather than decarnation or dismembering. There is no evidence for the creation of a grave feature for the disarticulated remains. The concluding ritual act is called �secondary burial�, since it concludes a two-stage process of post-mortem body treatment. Buried skulls, mandibles, long bones and a combination of them are put in a wider context, which leads Buchvarov to suggest that the secondary burials are based on some kind of rite of initiation. So far, there is only one registered case of cremation in the Bulgarian Neolithic, so relevant burial actions were discussed in general, summarising evidence and concepts for the practice of cremation.

The sarcophagus is of the Roman period and without further information, I would suppose it is Roman.

Marble sarcophagus fragment
late 2nd Century CE
from Italy. 0.41 m. high x 1.83 meters long
This website looks at Roman cremation: Cremation in a Roman Port Town.

Quick facts about Village of Stroyno
Other transcriptions: Stroino
In Bulgarian Aplhabets: Стройно
Location: South-East Bulgaria
Distance to capital city: 276.192 km from Sofia
Latitude: 42.25N
Longitude: 26.633E
Altitude: 100 - 199m above sea level
Province: Yambol District
Municipality: Elhovo Municipality
Area size of Village of Stroyno: 11.051km2
Population of Village of Stroyno: 70 inhabitants (to 01/01/2006)
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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2007, 04:48:07 PM »

Thank you Solomon, I could recall no other example at the time. The carvings are magnificent, I appreciate the skill and effort that goes into such work. I see that red ochre is mentioned, and I want to look at that a little closer as it seems to have been common in Amerindian burials also.


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« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2007, 05:12:02 PM »

Red ochre - Fascinating stuff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

   Red ochre and yellow ochre (pronounced /'əʊk.ə/, from the Greek ochros, yellow) are pigments made from naturally tinted clay. It has been used worldwide since prehistoric times. Chemically, it is hydrated iron (III) oxide.

   Ochres are non-toxic, and can be used to make an oil paint that dries quickly and covers surfaces thoroughly. Many people believe that the best ochre comes from the area of Roussillon, France.

   To manufacture ground ochre, ochre clay is first mined from the ground. It is then washed in order to separate sand from ochre, which can be done by hand. The remaining ochre is then dried in the sun and sometimes burned to enhance the natural color.

Prehistoric and Early Historic Period

   Ochre was one of the first pigments to be used by human beings. Pieces of hematite, worn down as though they had been used as crayons, have been found at 300,000 year old Homo heidelbergensis sites in France and Czechoslovakia. Neandertal burial sites sometimes include ochre as a grave good. The oldest evidence of mining activity, at the "Lion Cave" in Swaziland, is a 43,000 year old ochre mine. In Germanic rune lore, red ochre was often used in place of blood to redden, or tint, the runes and thereby instilling the spirit of life into the rune, enabling it to be used for magical purposes.

   The clay used to produce red ochre is thought to be the "red earth" from which God created Adam in the Book of Genesis. In fact, the etymology of the name "Adam" is ancient Hebrew for "man of red earth." Red ochre can be found in great quantities in the mountains rimming the river basin where archeologists place the biblical Garden of Eden, now in modern day Iraq. For the early writers of the Christian Bible, one can imagine the vibrant red color of this natural clay evoking the color of human blood.

   Ochre was commonly used as a pigment by many native peoples. In Newfoundland its use is most often associated with the Beothuk whereby they were referred to as the Red Indians by the first Europeans to Newfoundland. It was also used by the Maritime Archaic as evidenced by its discovery in the graves of over 100 individuals during an archeological excavation at Port au Choix.

Historic Period

   Ochre was a popular coloring in France during the time of the French Empire, and many French citizens living in foreign colonies would import a great deal of ochre clay from France to make their new lands feel like home. As a result, after the period of French colonization ended ochre became associated with repression and fell out of favour. With the advent of synthetic dyes, ochre mining nearly stopped altogether. Recently, however, natural ochre paint has seen something of a comeback as an upscale housepaint option.
   Exterior view of the John Quinton Limited Fish Store, Red Cliff, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, painted with traditional seal oil red ochre paint.In Newfoundland, red ochre was the pigment of choice for use in vernacular outbuildings and work buildings associated with the cod fishery. Deposits of ochre are found throughout Newfoundland, notably near Fortune Harbour and at Ochre Pit Cove. While earliest settlers may have used locally collected ochre, people were later able to purchase pre-ground ochre through local merchants, largely imported from England.

   The dry ingredient, ochre, was mixed with some type of liquid raw material to create a rough paint. The liquid material was usually seal oil or cod liver oil in Newfoundland and Labrador, while Scandinavian recipes sometimes called for linseed oil. Red ochre paint was sometimes prepared months in advance and allowed to sit, and the smell of ochre paint being prepared is still remembered by many today.

   Variations in local recipes, shades of ore, and type of oil used resulted in regional variations in colour. Because of this, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact shade or hue or red that would be considered the traditional �fishing stage red.� Oral tradition in the Bonavista Bay area maintains that seal oil would give a purer red colour, while cod liver oil would give a �foxy� colour, browner in hue.


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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2007, 05:37:29 PM »

The Blombos Cave project, South Africa
More than 8500 pieces of ochre (red haematite of varying hardness) have been recovered from the BBC MSA levels and is most prolific in the M3 phase dated at 100 000 - 140 000 years. Most pieces show evidence of scraping to produce powder. Unusually, more than 25 pieces have single or multiple holes that were drilled by mussels (bivalves) when the ochre source was covered by the ocean during a previous high sea level. Crustacean growth is also visible on some ochre specimens. for example the piece shown at left.

Yes, it is interesting, Bart. I mentioned in the Chilton Farm thread that on the dig was a woman whose uncle was a famous archaeologist in South Africa. There, his finding red ochre was a key clue to understanding scratchings on stone, which proved to be very early examples of human art.

Klasies River
The Klasies river and cave sites are located on of South Africa and Swaziland. At the Klasies River, foot print fossils were found, dating back 100,000 years. In addition, Homo sapiens fossils were found at the Klasies River cave, dating 115,000 years ago. Archeologists believe that there may be fossils that date as far back as 200,000 years ago. Red ochre has been found, which was used to decorate men before going on a hunt or for tribal rituals. There was evidence that the Klasies River cave people fished and harvested shellfish from the sea using some type of a boat. This scene was depicted in pictorials and impressions embedded in the rocks and sand. The Klasies River cave people, also, hunted the giant buffalo, a species now extinct. Archeologist determined that the Klasies River cave people slept on grass mats. After tens of thousands of years, a lot of the caves on the Klasies River have been filled in with sediment, causing most of the fossils to covered or ruined.

Written By: Aaron Schlingmann

Singer, R. & Wymer, J.J. The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1982
Klein, R The archaeology of modern human origins. Evolutionary anthropology. 1992
Burkitt, M.C. South Africa's past in stone and paint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1928

Mankind travelled from Africa into Eyurope via the Near East.

A Study in Scarlet: Israel cave symbols

The discovery of 71 pieces of red ochre in the oldest section of a burial cave in Israel has prompted researchers to suggest that the symbolic thinking that marked the beginning of modern-day human thought arose deep in the Stone Age. The received wisdom has been that the assignment of symbolic meaning to specific items and colours emerged no earlier than 50,000 years ago. But the association of red ochre with skeletons found in the oldest section of the Qafzeh Cave has been taken to indicate that symbolic burial rites were being performed more than 90,000 years ago.

The controversial theory that modern thought did not emerge with the appearance of Upper Paleolithic cultures has been put forward by Erella Hovers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who directed the Qafzeh project. She argues that in the Middle East and Eurasia "many symbolic behaviours that are considered modern existed for a time [before the Upper Paleolithic] and then disappeared, to be reinvented time and again". The 'continual reinvention' proposal stems from the fact that similar ochre use does not appear again in the Qafzeh Cave until 12,700 years ago.

Red ochre is a form of iron oxide which yields a pigment when heated. The precise meaning of the use of ochre is unknown, but it was widely used in primitive societies and even today the colour red is used in non-industrial cultures as a symbol of fertility or vitality. The ochre at Qafzeh was brought to the cave from nearby sources. Large hearths and ochre-stained tools in the same sediment levels that contain the oldest human remains show that the ochre was worked on-site. Hovers and her co-workers say that the pigment was used with the shells of inedible molluscs found in the cave, possibly in symbolic activities related to burying the dead. Prehistoric symbolic expressions most commonly occurred in large populations that stayed for extended periods in resource-rich locations, says Hovers. But in the small nomadic groups typical of Stone Age Middle East symbolic behaviour would have surfaced for special activities at special sites, such as interment of the dead at Qafzeh Cave.

A report published in the August-October Current Anthropology has had a mixed reception. Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut believes that Qafzeh adds to the evidence of the great antiquity of the colour red as a symbolic category, pointing out that engraved ochre dates to 77,000 years ago in South Africa. On the other hand, Richard G. Klein of Stanford University holds that ochre use was merely a step towards advanced symbolic culture, which he places at around 50,000 years ago.
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