by Bogdan Athanassov, Raiko Krauß and Vladimir Slavčev
(26 March 2012)
A sword of Aegean type, until now the best parallel of the Aššuwa-sword, was given to the Archaeological Museum in Varna, Bulgaria. The following text deals with the chronological and typological position of the new find. The question of its origin evokes reflections about the possible forms of exchange between Northwestern Anatolia and the Balkans during the second millennium BC.
The search for the northern frontier of the Mycenaean world has a long history in Mycenaean studies. The starting point for my present investigation was offered by my study of Mycenaean seals and sealings. Seals made of various materials come from all over of Mycenaean Greece. Apart from the core areas of the Argolid, Messenia and Boeotia they have been found also in the area of western, central and northern Greece up to the mountain Olympos. These include golden signet rings with figural illustrations and hard stone seals which were made of semi-precious stones; glass was either engraved or pressed in moulds to produce seals, and finally seals were made of less valuable materials such as soft stones like steatite. Material, style and shapes link all those different categories of seals from all parts of the Greek mainland.
The study of similarities and dissimilarities in material culture is the essential basis upon which the Culture-Historical approach to archaeology rests. In Central and Eastern European Archaeology concepts derived from this tradition are still very dominant, while it has been largely abandoned in Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. Yet alternatives for the study of the spatial stylistic variation in material culture have not been properly developed, despite the promising start made by D. L. Clarke in his work “Analytical Archaeology”. In consequence, we still have to live with spatial archaeological units of classification – our traditional “Archaeological Cultures”, which are poorly defined and heavily biased by outdated concepts about ethnicity.
In a wide diachronic perspective the Bell Beakers are the end of a sequence of cultural phenomena that can be termed as supra-regional systems of expansion, being interpreted as ideologically motivated. Starting from the central and northern part of the European continent they gradually spread to its West and the fringes. This particular chapter of Europe's history begins in the middle of the fourth millennium BC in shape of the Cernavoda III-Boleráz and subsequent Baden sequence, proceeding – temporarily slightly offset – north of the Carpathians represented by the Globular Amphora culture, to reach its first height around 2800/2700 BC with the emergence of the Corded Ware / Single Grave cultures. The appearance of the latter is embedded in a trans-European process of transformation that from 2900 BC on shatters the previous existing material, social and economical foundations.
In the last decades the research interest in the study of pre-Mycenaean contacts of the Aegean region with the geographical zones to the north and west has considerably diminished. While until the early 1970ies there was still much debate going on about aspects like the northern links of cord-decorated pottery or of the origin of the tumuli in Greece, already ten years later such subjects and the whole problem of possible Balkan connections of the earlier parts of the Aegean Bronze Age had almost disappeared as research topics of Aegean Archaeology. The question arises why this was the case.