The Karanovo Culture was a prominent Neolithic and Chalcolithic civilization in southeastern Bulgaria from around 6200 to 2000 BC. It played a significant role in shaping the region’s early history and interacted with neighboring cultures.
The Karanovo Culture is well-known for its pottery, agriculture, and settlement planning advancements. It developed distinct and sophisticated pottery styles with intricate decorations, which evolved through different phases. This culture also made considerable progress in agriculture, with evidence of crop cultivation and animal husbandry. The settlements were typically well-organized, with rectangular houses made of mud bricks and wood. Furthermore, the Karanovo Culture exhibited a well-developed social structure and demonstrated early metalworking techniques during the Chalcolithic period.
Archeological Findings in Bulgaria
Many archaeological sites in Bulgaria have revealed evidence of the Karanovo Culture. The most famous site is Karanovo, where the culture was first identified. Excavations at this site and others, such as Nova Zagora, Stara Zagora, and Yabalkovo, have uncovered many artifacts. These include pottery, figurines, tools, and remains of buildings that provide essential insights into the daily life, art, and technologies of the Karanovo people.
Intricate decorations with geometric patterns and motifs characterize pottery discovered from the Karanovo Culture. The artifacts include everyday items and ceremonial objects, such as cult figurines made from clay, bone, and stone.
Interactions With Other Cultures
The Karanovo Culture interacted with several neighboring cultures in present-day Bulgaria. For example, there is evidence of connections between the Vinca Culture from the West and the Hamangia Culture from the East. These interactions are visible through similarities in pottery styles, technologies, and artistic expressions. Moreover, the Karanovo Culture was part of Southeast Europe’s more comprehensive network of Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures. Its influence can be seen in neighboring regions, such as present-day Romania, Serbia, and Greece.
Specifics of Karanovo Culture Stages
The Karanovo Culture is a complex of Temperate Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures in present-day Bulgaria. It is divided into seven phases, each representing different periods and characteristics. Here is an overview of each stage, as classified according to Karanovo System:
- Karanovo I (c. 6200–5800 BC): This phase is part of the Early Neolithic period and is primarily located in northeastern Bulgaria. The culture is known for its unique pottery, which includes vessels decorated with incised, painted, or impressed designs. At this time, society shifted from hunter-gatherers to settled farming communities. This phase parallels the Starčevo–Kőrös–Criş culture, known for its early farming societies. Archaeological findings include settlements with rectangular houses made of wattle and daub. Karanovo I interacted with other early Neolithic cultures in the region, such as the Starcevo Culture.
- Karanovo II (c. 5800–5300 BC): The culture during this phase evolved from Karanovo I and is associated with the Middle Neolithic period. The pottery from this phase is characterized by more intricate designs and the use of white paint. Settlements featured larger rectangular houses. Karanovo II carries forward the early Neolithic flame, characterized by the same farming culture but with slightly more complex societal structures. Interactions with other cultures, such as the Vinca Culture, were prominent during this phase.
- Karanovo III (c. 5300–4800 BC): This phase is part of the Late Neolithic period and is characterized by an increasing complexity of pottery decoration, including spiral motifs and painted decorations. Settlements during this phase featured more substantial houses, often with stone foundations. The Karanovo III culture interacted with the contemporary Cucuteni-Trypillian and Hamangia cultures.
- Karanovo IV (c. 4800–4500 BC): The culture during this phase reflects the transition from the Late Neolithic to the Early Chalcolithic period. Pottery decoration became more elaborate, featuring dark geometric patterns on light backgrounds. Karanovo IV is a testament to human ingenuity with the advent of copper tools and advanced pottery techniques. Settlements grew in size, indicating a more complex social structure. Interactions with the Gumelnița Culture and other regional Chalcolithic cultures were significant during this phase.
- Karanovo V (c. 4500–4000 BC): This phase is associated with the Middle Chalcolithic period. Karanovo V brings us to the cusp of the Early Bronze Age, associated with the Varna Culture’s rise, showcasing early metalworking and signs of urbanization. Pottery decoration became even more intricate, and metalworking began to emerge, with copper artifacts such as axes, chisels, and awls found in archaeological sites. Trade networks expanded, and interactions with the Varna Culture, known for its rich burials and advanced metallurgy, played a crucial role in developing the Karanovo V culture.
- Karanovo VI (c. 4000–3500 BC): This phase corresponds to the Late Chalcolithic period and is characterized by increased social stratification and the construction of fortified settlements. With Karanovo VI, we enter a time of fortified settlements and increasingly advanced bronze items. Pottery styles became more diverse, and metalworking became more advanced. The Karanovo VI culture significantly interacted with the Gumelnita and Cernavoda cultures. Karanovo VI Culture can also be found in the literature as Kodjadermen-Gumelnitsa-Karanovo VI Culture.
- Karanovo VII (c. 3500–2000 BC): The final phase of the Karanovo Culture is associated with transitioning from the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Karanovo VII signifies a cultural transition with influences from northern cultures, marking this chronology’s end. Pottery styles became more uncomplicated, and metalworking expanded to include bronze artifacts. The Karanovo VII culture interacted with the region’s Ezero Culture and other Early Bronze Age cultures.