Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture

By Yosef Garfinkel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
NEOLITHIC SOUTHEAST EUROPE
This group represents the western and northern extremes of the distribution area of the dancing motif (Fig. 10.1). The sites are discussed in the following geographical order: Greece (four sites, nos. 90–93; for further examples, see Sampson 1992:80–83), Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia (five sites, nos. 94–98), Romania and the Dniester Basin (seventeen sites, nos. 99–115), and Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (fourteen sites, nos. 116–129). This is the geographical area commonly designated in the archaeological literature as “southeast Europe” (Tringham 1971; Hodder 1990) and dubbed “Old Europe” by Gimbutas (1982:17–35). The regions of central Europe (Bogucki and Crygiel 1993) are not included in this study, since dancing figures are not a characteristic feature in sites from that area (though for some extremely rare examples, see Nitu 1970, Fig. 5:3; Müller-Karpe 1968, Pls. 199:G, 222:6–7, 223:1; Von Rimute 1994, Fig. 41, Pl. 52:1–2).
STYLISTIC ANALYSIS
The early agricultural communities of southeast Europe in the sixth, fifth, and fourth millennia BC produced large quantities of art and cult objects: figurines, statues, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic jars, architectural models, and decorated pottery vessels (Dumitrescu 1974; Gimbutas 1982, 1989, 1992; Lazarovici 1981; Coleman 1992; Ehrich and Bankoff 1992). Dancing figures are a common motif on decorated pottery vessels and have been reported from quite a number of sites (Gulder 1960–1962; Müller-Karpe 1968:307; Nitu 1970; Dumitrescu 1974; Marinescu-Bilcu 1974a; Mantu 1993). From a technical point of view, most of the items from southeast Europe were decorated with plastic applications (see Table 6.2). Only a few items were incised (Figs. 10.5:a– b; 10.9:b–c; 10.13:c, f; 10.18:b–c), and still fewer, painted (Figs. 79:1, 80:1–2). Usually excavators have reported broken sherds with only one figure. However, the complete vessels that have been discovered bear the following characteristics (Figs. 10.2–10.8):
1. More than one figure is depicted on the item’s perimeter.
2. The figures on a particular vessel are usually identical.

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