Communal Consumption At Late Neolithic Sarnevo: Faunal Evidence From A Pit Site In Central Bulgaria.
Rescue excavations carried out near the present day village of Sarnevo, Radnevsko district, Bulgaria have uncovered a large site with dozens of pit features, some larger and more elaborate than others. This site is one of a newly recognized type in Bulgaria and elsewhere in SE Europe, commonly referred to as a pit "sanctuary" or pit site. The features have yielded an astounding number of animal bones and explanations have been sought to explain the presence of both the pits and the large amounts of animal r emains. Recent work (Karastoyanova 2011) on the largest and most elaborate of these features (Feature 9) has argued for a ritual interpretation, where the animal bones were rapidly deposited by communities perhaps participating in large scale feasts. This thesis seeks to explore a greater number of pits from the western portion of the site, known as "Sector Central", by investigating the breakdown of taxa, both wild and domestic, body part representation, age and sex-based cull patterns, and metrical analysis where appropriate. Feasting has been identified archaeologically by a number of material correlates, both faunal and non-faunal, and these are evaluated for the material at Sarnevo. It seeks to answer two fundamental questions about the faunal remains fr om these pits. First, is the feasting interpretation plausible for the remaining pits on the western side of the site (the majority of the Neolithic features)? Second, by examining the faunal remains on a pit by pit basis, and comparing them to the scant material recovered from outside the pits, can any patterns in the deposition of certain species or body parts be indentified? This is aimed at saying something about the nature of feasting at a Late Neolithic pit site. Discussions of social organization in the late Neolithic usually stress either community cohesion or increasing differentiation through wealth accumulation and prestige building. Often the two are considered to be at odds with one another and create tensions which must be resolved. In many cases, commensal politics offer a means of establishing, negotiating and maintaining social relationships both of cohesion and differentiation. Feasting is still poorly understood in this part of the world during the Neolithic. The results from this work show that while alternative explanations still exist for the animal remains from Sarnevo, a feasting interpretation, based on both faunal and non-faunal correlates, is quite plausible. Though it is difficult from the available data to make any concrete conclusions on the nature of commensal politics during the Late Neolithic, the data from Sarnevo show that there was relatively equal access to all types of taxa, both wild and domestic, and to the same body portions from all size classes. This equitable distri bution of meat might suggest that a more trans-egalitarian ethos was still very strong in Neolithic Thrace.
Archaeology; zooarchaeology; feasting; Southeastern Europe; Neolithic
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis