Papers of BAS. Humanities and Social Sciences

Vol. 8, 2021, No. 1

Late Neolithic pit sanctuaries

as a structural element of community life

Vassil Nikolov

Abstract. Pits with deposits are negative features, usually round, irregular or oval-shaped and not very large-sized, cut into the ground, and intentionally filled up. It is the purpose of the depositional act that has been a subject of discussion. I support the view that at least because of the specific mentality of early humans in the later prehistory, the role of pits was necessarily linked with the sacred, i.e., that these are ritual features.

The appearance of ritual pit fields (pit sanctuaries) in the Late Neolithic (i.e., after mid-6th millennium BC) was both the result and the motor of a heterogeneous increase of social and economic complexity. The operation of these sanctuaries without doubt changed the pattern in which humans conceptualized the need of a more close-knit community in the area they occupied and within the activities they carried out there, including ritualized activities taking place away from the houses. The emergence of pit fields portended and accompanied the acceleration of social and economic transformations which occurred in the last phases of the Late Neolithic and during the transition to the Copper Age. They proceeded hand in hand and were interrelated.

The cosmos of early farmers expanded, included new topoi and was restructured. Seen from this perspective, pit sanctuaries grew into religious centres of newly emerging proto-political alliances.

Keywords: ritual, ritual pit, deposit, pit sanctuary, anthropomorphic pottery, proto-political alliances



Papers of BAS. Humanities and Social Sciences

Vol. 6, 2019, No. 1

Methodological issues in the exploration

of prehistoric settlement sites and houses

Vassil Nikolov

Abstract. The reconstruction of the prehistoric past requires methodologically correct field research that provides opportunities for systemic interpretations. Three methodological issues are raised here. The first one addresses the ‘building horizon’ - as it is labelled in the specialized literature - as a stratigraphic unit. This is the concept of the simultaneous creation, destruction, and reconstruction at the same place of each settlement in the late prehistory. A new model is proposed, according to which the ‘regeneration’ of the settlement occurred gradually and continuously, and not in discontinuous stages. The second issue is related to the character and provability of archaeological field observations done during the excavation of a prehistoric house that allow the excavator to define it as a two-storey structure. The third issue concerns a paradigm change in the archaeological concepts of the way in which the life of a Neolithic house came to an end. I propose a model of deliberate ‘cremation’ of the house and the ‘burial’ of its remains in a ritual pit.

Keywords: prehistory, ‘building horizon’, two-storey houses, domithanasia