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Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu (Southeast Romania)

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The Eneolithic cemetery of Sultana-Malu Roşu is located in the southeast of Romania, Sultana village, in the commune of Mânăstirea, Călăraşi County. From a cultural point of view it was used by two communities belonging to the Boian and the Gumelniţa cultures. Between 2006 and 2011 50 inhumation graves have been discovered there. Most of the graves are similar to each other and, in terms of basic elements of the rite and funerary rules, they reflect common burial traditions characteristic to the Eneolithic sequence. Most of the skeletons were found in normal anatomical position. Most of them had been laid in a foetal position (lateral, dorsal or ventral) on their left side. Only in three cases were the skeletons lying in foetal positions on their right side. There is no relationship between the age or sex of the individuals and the position of the skeletons. Re-burials represent a special situation. We consider these situations as representing the result of accidental or exceptional circumstances that did not allow for normal conduction of funerary rites. This paper will try to present the traditions, rules and exceptions identified in the cemetery from Sultana- Malu Roşu based on the archaeological evidence.
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BAR International Series 2410
2012
Homines, Funera, Astra
Proceedings of the International Symposium on
Funerary Anthropology
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Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
107
Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
(Southeast Romania)
Cătălin Lazăr
Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României, Bucureşti, Romania
Mădălina Voicu
Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României, Bucureşti, Romania
Gabriel Vasile
Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României, Bucureşti, Romania
Abstract
The Eneolithic cemetery of Sultana-Malu Roşu is
located in the southeast of Romania, Sultana village, in
the commune of Mânăstirea, lăraşi County. From a
cultural point of view it was used by two communities
belonging to the Boian and the Gumelniţa cultures.
Between 2006 and 2011 50 inhumation graves have
been discovered there. Most of the graves are similar to
each other and, in terms of basic elements of the rite
and funerary rules, they reflect common burial
traditions characteristic to the Eneolithic sequence.
Most of the skeletons were found in normal anatomical
position. Most of them had been laid in a foetal
position (lateral, dorsal or ventral) on their left side.
Only in three cases were the skeletons lying in foetal
positions on their right side. There is no relationship
between the age or sex of the individuals and the
position of the skeletons. Re-burials represent a special
situation. We consider these situations as representing
the result of accidental or exceptional circumstances
that did not allow for normal conduction of funerary
rites. This paper will try to present the traditions, rules
and exceptions identified in the cemetery from Sultana-
Malu Roşu based on the archaeological evidence.
Key words
Cemetery, graves, primary and secondary burials,
Eneolithic, Romania, Southeastern Europe
Generally, the study of funerary practices represents an
important source of information about the life of
prehistoric communities. Burials offer an unique
perspective about the past, regarding the funerary rites,
habits, spiritual beliefs and social organization of a
particular society, traditions and innovations, similarities
and differences between cultures, and the presence or
absence of interactions between the people of
neighboring and distant cultures (Nikolova 2002). That
is why burials have continually exercised a special
attraction for anthropologists and archaeologists.
In this context cemeteries are a special case, because
they represent an association of several graves
belonging to one or more communities, contemporary
or not, constituting an exceptional source of
information, throwing light on many aspects of life and
death in prehistoric societies (Todorova 1978, 74).
Also, cemeteries can provide evidence of specific
funerary traditions, the evolution of funerary space,
changes to burial behavior, variability and many
particular customs of past communities.
In this paper we will try to explore the particular case
of one of the most recent cemeteries discovered in
Romania, Sultana-Malu Roşu, because it has been the
subject of complex interdisciplinary research that
allowed us to record some original data on specific
funerary behaviors of the Eneolithic communities in
Romania.
Geographical and geological setting
The Eneolithic cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu is
located in the northern area of the Balkan region, in the
southeast of Romania, on the right bank of the old
Mostiştea River (which has been converted into several
artificial lakes), about 7 km from the Danube river,
near the border with Bulgaria (Figure 1). From an
administrative point of view the site is located in
Sultana village, Călărași County.
The Mostiştea Valley (about 92 km long) is located in
the southeast of the Romanian Plain and runs into the
Danube from the north. A succession of lakes has
formed along the valley either by natural processes or
as a result of anthropogenic interventions (Gâşteanu
1963; Ghiţă 2008). On the right side of the valley lies
the high plain of the Bărăgan Cornulesei Mostiştea
Plain that ends south, at the Danube, with large terraces
fragmented by valleys formed by the northern
tributaries of the Mostiştea River. The right side of the
valley makes the transition to the Bărăgan itself
through a fragmented valley plain (Mihăilescu 1925;
Coteţ 1976; Ghiţă 2008).
In terms of the geomorphological setting, the site of
Sultana-Malu Roşu is positioned at the intersecting area
of the Vlăsiei, Mostiştea and Bărăganul Lehliului
Plains (Figure 1), an area characterized by the extent of
loess and saucer fields (Coteţ 1973; Ghiţă 2008).The
soil formed on loess deposits and in some areas there
are small sand hills. The great thickness of the loess
deposits (>20 m), the depth of the water table and the
great density of saucers and suffusion gullies had
favored the repartition of specific soil classes
Cătălin Lazăr, Mădălina Voicu, Gabriel Vasile
108
(Mihăilescu 1969; Ghiţă 2008). The underground water
table may be found at a low depth. The altitude for this area is between 4 and 80 m above Black Sea level
(Mihăilescu 1925, 1969; Gâşteanu 1963; Ghiţă 2008).
Figure 1. Map of Romania and the location of the Sultana-Malu Roşu site.
Table 1 contains the geographic coordinates of the
cemetery area. The corresponding absolute altitude of
this area is at least 45.021 m and maximum 46.740 m.
All data are reported in the STEREO-70 projecting
system of coordinates and 1975 Black Sea elevation
system reference.
North Latitude
East Longitude
44° 15' 40.3292"
26° 52' 2.6103"
44° 15' 40.3577"
26° 52' 2.8609"
44° 15' 39.4114"
26° 52' 3.0610"
44° 15' 39.1235"
26° 52' 1.3720"
44° 15' 39.7711"
26° 52' 1.2342"
44° 15' 39.9275"
26° 52' 2.6986"
Table 1. The geographical coordinates (latitude / longitude)
of the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery.
The chronological and cultural framework
From the cultural point of view, the cemetery of
Sultana-Malu Roşu was used by two communities
belonging to the Boian and the Gumelniţa cultures.
Both cultures belong to large Eneolithic cultural
complexes, Boian-Maritsa-Karanovo V and
Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI respectively
(Table 2), which cover almost all the Balkan area
(Todorova 1978; 1986; Dumitrescu, Bolomey and
Mogoşanu 1983; Bojadjiev, Dimov and Todorova
1993; Comşa 1993; Petrescu-Dâmboviţa 2001a; 2001b;
Popovici 2010).
Most archaeologists consider that the Kodjadermen-
Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI cultural aggregate originated
from the evolution of the Boian-Maritsa-Karanovo V
cultural complex (in the case of the Boian culture only
the final phases, as the earliest phases belong to the
Middle Neolithic). This phenomenon occurred so
rapidly that from its origin it can be referred to as a
unique culture with regional attributes (Dumitrescu,
Bolomey and Mogoşanu 1983; Petrescu-Dâmboviţa
2001b; Popovici 2010).
Generally, Romanian researchers use the terms Boian
and Gumelniţa cultures. The general chronology of these
two cultures is presented in Table 2 and covers the end
of the 6th millennium BC, the whole 5th millennium BC
and the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.
Culture Phase
General
Chronology
Boian
Vidra
5000-4500 BC
Spanţov
Gumelniţa
A1
4500-3700 BC
A2
B1
Table 2. The Eneolithic chronological and cultural sequence
in Southeastern Romania.
Based on AMS radiocarbon dating obtained for Sultana-
Malu Roşu cemetery (n = 5) we can estimate that the
graves belong to the probable chronological interval
Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
109
range of 5071 - 4450 cal BC (91.8% - 95.4%
probability). From a cultural point of view, this means
that the graves can be included in the Vidra and Spanţov
phases of the Boian culture, corresponding to the A1 -
A2 phases of the Gumelniţa culture. However, if we
consider the cultural sequence represented in the tell
settlement of Sultana-Malu Roşu, then in the future it
may also be possible to find graves belonging to the B1
phase of the Gumelniţa culture. On the other hand, these
radiocarbon data indicate that Sultana-Malu Roşu
cemetery was in use for approximately 600 years.
Obviously, this is just a preliminary observation; future
excavations and the new radiocarbon data will bring
supplementary explanations about the chronological
range of the use of this cemetery.
Archaeological background
The Eneolithic site of Sultana-Malu Roşu was the first
Gumelniţa site submitted to scientific research at the
beginning of twentieth century (Andrieşescu 1924). At
that moment research on the tell settlement began, and
this process continued until the '80s (Isăcescu 1984a;
1984b). The flat settlement from the Boian culture was
discovered in the '70s after a survey of the area, and it has
never been excavated (Şerbănescu and Trohani 1978).
The cemetery was found many years later by the
authors, in 2006, based on an interdisciplinary research
program (Trohani et al. 2007; Andreescu and Lazăr
2008). The archaeological research in the necropolis of
Sultana-Malu Roşu is an ongoing project, with 50
graves so far discovered.
From a methodological point of view, our research of
the cemetery involved a series of geo-magnetic
prospects, a cartographical platform managed through a
Geographic Information System (GIS), aerial research
to investigate the evolution of the landscape,
microstratigraphic methods used to record the
stratigraphic data, and sampling for
paleoparasitological, paleodietary, DNA, and 14C
analysis (Lazăr et al. 2008; 2009).
Figure 2. The 3D reconstruction model of the Sultana-Malu Roşu site.
Traditions and rules
Generally, tradition is defined as what is preserved
from the past and retained in the present, being
accepted by those who receive and who in turn transmit
it across generations. This involves the perpetuation of
certain practices and customs deemed to be necessary
and worthy of being preserved and passed on (Pouillon
1999, 673).
In the case of funerary customs we are dealing with a
projection of the collective identity of the communities
through conservative rules. They are reflected by the
location of cemeteries in relation to the settlement, the
organization of the graves in the funerary area, the
treatment given to the dead, gestures performed by the
participants at the funerary ceremony, etc.
On the other hand, in the case of prehistoric burials
things are more complicated due to the lack of
complementary information sources (historical or
literary texts, inscriptions, oral sources, direct
observations, etc.). Under these conditions, the data
provided by archaeological excavations remain the
only evidence able to help us in identifying the process
of funerary traditions and rules characteristic to the past
communities.
The cemetery and its relationship with the settlements
The main funerary form for the Eneolithic communities
from Romania and the Balkans are extramural
cemeteries, although there are also other forms of
treatment of the deceased (e.g. intramural necropolises,
Cătălin Lazăr, Mădălina Voicu, Gabriel Vasile
110
burials inside the settlement). During the Eneolithic
period cemeteries become an authentic funerary
standard, a special kind of use of space involving a
separation of the domestic area from the funerary area,
a spatial and conceptual delimitation of the living from
the dead (Lazăr 2011).
Most probably, burial in cemeteries away from
settlements indicates a parallel and a deeper decoupling
of ritual practices through the creation of more public
performance space to express the individual and group
identities (Bailey 2000, 208; Chapman et al. 2006,
171). Generally, the cemeteries were probably located
in affordable, manageable areas unused for economic
activities. The area separating the cemeteries from the
settlements also seems to have been easily accessible
(flat or sloping) and at a short distance (with a few
exceptions - see below) allowing transport of the
deceased to the necropolis.
In the case of Sultana-Malu Roşu two settlements
belonging to two different communities used the same
cemetery (Figure 2). The cemetery is located on the
high terrace of the Mostiştea Lake, at 150 m (±1 m)
west from the Gumelniţa tell settlement (from Sultana-
Malu Roşu) and 320 m (±1 m) east from the Boian flat
settlement (Sultana-Gheţărie). The Sultana-Malu Roşu
cemetery is in the middle-distance visibility range
according to Higuchi’s visibility indices (Higuchi
1983), which shows again that the necropolis and the
settlement are always inter-visible (Lazăr 2011).
Most of the Eneolithic cemeteries from the Balkans are
associated with a single settlement (Comşa 1974a;
1974b; Todorova 1978; 1982, 1986; Lazăr 2011). Only
in a few cases is a single cemetery associated with
multiple settlements, as in the case of our cemetery. In
three of those situations we have an association with
two settlements (Căscioarele, Durankulak and probably
Cernica), and only in one case probably more than two
settlements (Varna I), demonstrating that the Sultana-
Malu Roşu case is not a exception (Margos 1961, 128-
129; 1978, 146-148; Şerbănescu 1996a; 1998; I. Ivanov
1993, 20; Cantemir and Bălteanu 1993, 3; Şerbănescu
and Şandric 1999; Marinescu-Bîlcu 2000, 115; Lazăr
2001a; Comşa and Cantacuzino 2001; Dimov 2002, 28;
Boyadžiev 2008, 85-87; Slavchev 2010).
Based on the archaeological information and
radiocarbon data it is clear that these communities were
not contemporary, and therefore there is continuity in
the use of cemeteries, which reflects a tradition in the
funerary rules of those people and perhaps even
descendant communities.
Internal structure and organization of the cemetery
The graves from Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery are
grouped on the terrace edge and slopes. In terms of
planimetry, the graves are placed at variable distances.
In some cases they are placed at distances of under 1
m, forming apparent groups (e.g. graves 4 and 5;
graves 8 and 12; graves 9 and 11, graves 14 and 24,
graves 25 and 22), whereas in other instances graves
are more distanced from each other (Figure 3).
Generally, with few exceptions, the graves seem to be
aligned into parallel rows oriented to the direction east-
northeast (Figure 3).
The same organization of the graves was identified in
other Eneolithic cemeteries in the Balkans: Goljamo
Delčevo, Targovište, Vărăşti-Grădiştea Ulmilor and
probably Devnja (Todorova-Simeonova 1971;
Todorova et al. 1975; Angelova 1986; 1991; Comşa
1995).
Besides the graves found in the perimeter of the
cemetery, some pits, which are connected with the
funerary process, were also discovered (Figure 3). Four
pits have so far been discovered (C6/2007, C1/2009,
C1/2011 and C2/2011). They had a circular shape,
variable dimensions, and contained pottery fragments,
charcoal, burnt clay fragments, stones, animal bones,
shells, etc. In our opinion the presence of such
complexes in the area of the cemeteries may be related
to certain stages of the funerary ceremony (possibly
remains of the funerary banquet), or may reflect some
commemorating ceremonies. Materials from the pits
could be the result of dedicated deposition of the
deceased. Similar cases have also been identified in
other Eneolithic cemeteries from the Balkan area (e.g.
Vinica and Măriuţa-La Movilă) (Radunčeva 1976, 75-
77, 80-81; Parnic et al. 2007, 231).
Grave structures
The burials presented here are individual. They consist
of ordinary pits devoid of plaster lining or any traces of
related constructions. Based on the data collected so
far, the graves from the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery
were not marked on the surface, or the markings that
were potentially used were made of materials that did
not preserve.
The altitudes for the base of the pits are between -1.03
m and -2.20 m, some in the layer considered to
represent a palaeosoil from the prehistoric period (s.u.
T1003) and others in the loess layer (s.u. T1004). The
elevations of the tops of the grave pits vary between
0.65 m and 1.90 m and the levels from which the pits
were dug were between -0.70 m and -1.80 m beneath
the prehistoric layer (s.u. T1003).
In most of the cases the shape of the pits was
predominantly oval and irregular, except for some
secondary burials (graves 16, 19, 20 and 37) when the
pits were circular (Figure 3). In the case of primary
burials, considering the burials that contained
articulated skeletons, the size of the pits was close to
the size of the bodies. In the case of secondary burials
some of the pits are larger than necessary (graves 3, 10,
20, 23 and 37), whereas others have a smaller size to fit
the skeletal parts placed in them (grave 16).
The situation from Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery falls
within the series of cases known from other Eneolithic
cemeteries, where the funerary pits had irregular oval
shape, of varying sizes, depending on the size of the
Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
111
dead bodies (e.g. Devnja, Durankulak, Vinica,
Chirnogi-Şuviţa Iorgulescu, Vărăşti-Grădiştea Ulmilor,
Sultana-Valea Orbului, Goljamo Delčevo, Măriuţa-La
Movilă, etc.) (Todorova-Simeonova 1971; Todorova et
al. 1975; Radunčeva 1976; Bălteanu and Cantemir
1990; Comşa 1995; Şerbănescu 2002; Boyadžiev 2006;
Lazăr and Parnic 2007).
Figure 3. The general plan of the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery.
Figure 4. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygrave 35.
Figure 5. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygeneral view.
The orientation of the pits from Sultana-Malu Roşu
cemetery was very consistent, along an east - west axis
(Figure 7). Even some of the reburials (graves 20, 23,
27, 28) seem to have had the same orientation (Figure
3). Only a few cases (graves 2, 3, 26 and 43) had a
different orientation, which was closer to a north -
south axis.
The orientation along an east - west axis is also known
in other necropolises belonging to Eneolithic period
(Goljamo Delčevo, Căscioarele-D’aia parte, Curăteşti,
Radingrad, etc.) (Todorova et al. 1975; T.G. Ivanov
1982; Şerbănescu 1996a; Şerbănescu and Soficaru
2006). This way of positioning the funerary pits may
reflect a rule turned into a tradition, transmitted from
generation to generation, from Boian communities to
the Gumelniţa communities.
The treatment of the dead – primary burials
Most of the graves followed the same pattern (Figure
6). The majority of individuals were laid out in a foetal
position (laterally, dorsal or ventral), on the left side, in
normal anatomical order (Figures 5 and 6). There were
a few graves with the skeleton in other positions. From
a total of 50 graves, a number of 31 deceased were
placed crouched on the left side and only four (graves
22, 24, 26 and 41) on the right side. Also, there was
one case with the skeleton in ventral extended position
(grave 35 – Figure 4).
Cătălin Lazăr, Mădălina Voicu, Gabriel Vasile
112
Figure 6. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterybody position ratio
(n = 36).
The deposition of the dead in a foetal position on the
left side is also characteristic for other Eneolithic
necropolises from the Balkans. It is very interesting
that this type of deposition of the deceased is
characteristic both to cemeteries belonging to the
Boian culture (e.g. Andolina, Curăteşti, Popeşti-
Vasilaţi, Sultana-Valea Orbului), and also for the
Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI cultural
complex (e.g. Vărăşti-Grădiştea Ulmilor, Targovište,
Kubrat, Chirnogi-Terasa Rudarilor, Chirnogi-Şuviţa
Iorgulescu, Măriuţa-La Movilă, Vinica, Goljamo
Delčevo, Gumelniţa) (Mikov 1927; Comşa 1974a;
1974b; 1995; Todorova et al. 1975; Radunčeva 1976;
Şerbănescu 1985; 1999; 2002; 2007; Angelova 1986;
1991; Bălteanu and Cantemir 1990; Şerbănescu and
Soficaru 2006; Lazăr and Parnic 2007). Most of these
cemeteries also contained individuals deposited in a
crouched position on the right side, but in a very small
percentage. We also know some cemeteries, especially
in the Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI cultural
complex, where individuals deposited in a crouched
position on the right side represent the majority (e.g.
Durankulak). However, these cases probably represent
exceptions (Dimov, Boyadžiev, Todorova 1984;
Todorova and Dimov 1989; Todorova 2002).
The deposition of the bodies in a crouched position on
the left side can be considered as another funerary rule
transmitted by the Boian communities and inherited by
the Gumelniţa communities. Obviously this process of
transmitting rules was not total and absolute, as there
are many cases which show other preferences or other
funerary rules.
A special case in terms of position is the individual
from Grave 35 from the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery
(Figure 4). It was deposited in an extended position on
the back. The legs are crossed and the upper part of the
body was twisted towards the right. From the cultural
point of view this grave can be assigned to the Boian
culture, based on AMS radiocarbon data (6020 ± 40
BP). For this case some elements of similarity can be
found in the Boian cemetery from Cernica, where there
have been found many skeletons in the extended
position, in nine graves skeletons having their lower legs
crossed (Comşa and Cantacuzino 2001), as in the case of
Grave 35 from the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery.
Figure 7: Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeteryorientation of the
funerary pits (n = 49).
The orientation of the individuals from the Sultana-
Malu Roşu cemetery was determined by the orientation
of the funerary pits. In most cases (92%) they were
placed with the head close to the eastern direction, in
the range between 65° ENE and 88° E (Lazăr et al.
2008, 2009). There is no relationship between the
position of the individuals and their orientation.
The preferential eastwards orientation of the dead has
also been observed in other Eneolithic cemeteries from
the Balkan region: Chirnogi-Terasa Rudarilor,
Chirnogi-Şuviţa Iorgulescu, Kubrat, Vărăşti-Grădiştea
Ulmilor, Tărgovište, Radingrad, Vinica, riuţa-La
Movilă, scioarele-D’aia parte, Curăteşti, Popeşti-
Vasilaţi, Gumelniţa, etc. (Mikov 1927; Comşa 1974a;
1974b; 1995; Radunčeva 1976; T.G. Ivanov 1982;
Şerbănescu 1985; 1988; 1996a, 1996b; 1998; 1999;
Angelova 1986; 1991; Bălteanu and Cantemir 1990;
Lazăr 2001b; Şerbănescu and Soficaru 2006; Lazăr and
Parnic 2007).
The orientation of the bodies seems to be another
important funerary rule for these prehistoric
communities. In this case, again, we are dealing with
strong traditions which are perpetuated by the people
of the Boian culture to those of the Gumelna culture.
Treatment of the dead – secondary burials
Secondary burials represent a special situation. We use
the termreburial” in a very inclusive sense since some
of the complexes exhibit features that make the
tenability of this interpretation delicate.
So far, we have identified nine such cases in the
Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygraves 3, 10, 16, 19, 20,
23, 27, 28 and 37 (Figure 14). Generally, they all
Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
113
contain human bones from a single individual. Only in
Grave 28 have the long bones from two individuals
been found. Usually these graves contained the same
skeletal elements (long bones, skulls, ribs, vertebrae
etc.). Except for Grave 23, they all contained
disarticulated skeletal elements without anatomical
connection.
Figure 8. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygrave 16.
The reburials can be divided in two categories: graves
containing skeletal remains that were apparently
selectively grouped (graves 10, 16, 23 and 28) (Figure
8), and graves containing random skeletal elements
(graves 19, 20, 27 and 37).
These characteristics, as well as the stratigraphic
relationships of these complexes recorded in the field,
seem to indicate the intentional deposition of the
osteological remains in pits, and on the basis of
archaeological data we exclude the possibility of later
intervention. We consider these situations as
representing the result of accidental or special
circumstances that did not allow for the normal
conduction of funerary rites. Alternatively, these
complexes may reflect differential treatment of certain
individuals of the community, exclusive practices, or
occasional habits.
Similar situations are also known in the Eneolithic
necropolis of Varna I (burials type 1.D, as catalogued
by the author of the excavations), Vărăşti-Grădiştea
Ulmilor, Vinica and Devnja (Todorova-Simeonova
1971; I. Ivanov 1978; Radunčeva 1976; Comşa 1995;
Chapman 2010).
We do not exclude the possibility that these cases
could be more numerous in the Balkans, but the
evidence for secondary burials may be confused by the
archaeologist with the disturbance of the graves.
Grave goods and funerary offerings
Only a few graves from the Sultana-Malu Roşu
cemetery contained a funerary inventory, and in most
of the cases it was modest. The percentage of graves
with inventory represents 16% (Figure 9). On the other
hand, for the graves without any materials, we do not
exclude the possibility that they had possessed
perishable grave goods, made of wood, leather, coat,
vegetal fibers etc.
Figure 9. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygrave goods and
offerings distribution.
The grave goods are divided into three categories:
ceramic artifacts, lithic artifacts and adornments.
Only Grave 6 had pots as grave goods, placed by the
head of the dead. Potsherds were found in several other
graves (graves 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 40),
but they cannot be considered grave goods as they
could have arrived in the grave pit as the result of post-
depositional processes.
The second category of grave goods, lithic artifacts, is
represented by flint blades (graves 1, 11, 12, 13, 16, 20,
34 and 45) and a polished stone axe made of limestone
(grave 1). It must be mentioned that the lithic artifacts
were found exclusively in adult male graves. Their
position in the grave varied: near the left arm (the axe,
blade in grave 34, blade in grave 45), near the right
shoulder (the blade in Grave 1), near the arms (the
blade in Grave 11), and under the skull (the blade in
Grave 12), on the hip bones (flint tool in grave 13).
Their location in the grave confirms that they were
personal attributes of the deceased.
The adornments were found only in a few graves (1,
13, 14 and 48) and they consisted of beads made of
shells of Spondylus gaederopus or Dentalium, bone,
marble and malachite. In most cases the shape of the
beads is cylindrical and tubular, followed by prismatic,
biconvex and bitruncated. Generally, the beads were
found near the neck, hands or hip bones.
In Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery some of the graves (2,
12, 19, 28, 31, 33, and 34) and complexes (C6/2007,
C1/2009, C1/2010 and C4/2011) contained animal
bones (Figure 9). These remains were probably placed
as offerings. Regarding the animal species Ovis aries is
represented by a metatarsus found in the grave 2; Bos
taurus was represented by a diaphysis fragment of a
humerus, an almost complete right horn core with a
part of the frontal bone attached at the base (C1/2009)
and a neurocranium including a left horn core (grave
28). The last two pieces come from the same animal,
Cătălin Lazăr, Mădălina Voicu, Gabriel Vasile
114
demonstrating that the two complexes were
contemporaneous. Three right upper molars of the
same species were found in C6/2007 together with a
lower left jaw of Sus domesticus and two Unio sp.
shells. Cervus elaphus was represented by a fragment
of an un-fused lumbar vertebra found in C1/2009. The
same complex contained two other fragments of
lumbar vertebrae and two diaphyses of long bones
which could not be identified taxonomically. Grave 12
contained a river shell and grave 19 an unidentifiable
bone fragment. The presence of animal bones within
these complexes suggests the practice of a funerary
ritual.
Similar situations were encountered in other Eneolithic
necropolises from the Balkans (Durankulak, Vinica,
Gumelniţa, Goljamo Delčevo, Măriuţa-La Movilă etc.)
(Todorova et al. 1975; Radunčeva 1976; Lazăr 2001b;
Avramova 2002; Spassov and Iliev 2002; Lazăr and
Parnic 2007).
Sex and age ratios
The anthropological analyses made so far on 35
skeletons showed that most of them belonged to adults
and only two to Infans (grave 2 and a mandible
fragment from grave 21). To it we can also add the
three children’s graves discovered in 2011 (graves 38,
42 and 43) (Figure 10).
Figure 10. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeteryage ratio (n = 49).
Figure 11: Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterysex ratio (n = 39).
There is a higher number of female subjects (n = 22)
compared with the number of male subjects (n = 12)
(Figure 11). We must mention that some of the skeletons
(graves 36 - 50) have not yet been anthropologically
determined.
In the reburial cases no preference for male or female
subjects was observed, the percentages of the
representation being equal. From the point of view of
the age, all individuals belong to the adult category.
The burial customs do not reflect any sex or age
differences among the deceased also.
Other exceptions
Besides these normal burialsfrom the Sultana-Malu
Roşu cemetery, we also identified some particular
cases illustrated by the removal of skeletal material
(Figure 14). We have identified nine such cases so far
graves no. 7, 14, 25, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 49 (Figure
13). In six cases (graves no. 7, 31, 33, 34, 35 and 49)
we found complete skeletons, articulated but without
skulls. In our opinion these situations reflect post-
burial intervention in the graves with the aim to
retrieve selected anatomical elements. This assumption
is proved by the archaeological data, because in five
cases (graves no. 7, 31, 33, 34 and 49) we identified
extraction/intervention pits.
In other four cases (graves 14, 25, 32 and 42) the
skeletons are without skulls and also missing other
body parts:
Grave 14 only the lower body bones articulated;
removal of entire superior part (except the left
humerus) (Figure 12).
Grave 25 near-complete skeleton; removal of
skull and entire left arm bones.
Grave 32 – only leg bones and a part of the hip
bone articulated; removal of entire superior part.
Grave 42 – complete skeleton; removal of tibias
and fibulas.
Figure 12. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygrave 14.
In the case of graves 14 and 32 the identification of the
intervention/extraction pits was possible. These cases
do not reflect any sex or age differences among the
deceased, all of them belonging to the adult category;
the percentage of male and female subjects is equal.
Traditions, Rules and Exceptions in the Eneolithic Cemetery from Sultana-Malu Roşu
115
Figure 13. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterygrave 33.
Probably the most challenging question is where are
the missing parts? Based on archaeological data we can
partially answer to this question, at least for the
Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery. An important part of the
missing bones can still be found in the cemetery. We
refer to the secondary burials which reflect the process
of removal of the bone and, after that, of reburial.
Another part of the missing bones from the graves
could also be found in the cemetery but in other
contexts. In the case of the Grave 21 a right mandible
fragment of a child had been associated with an adult
skeleton in anatomical connection. This situation
reflects a different type of reburial, but also proves the
manipulation process.
Figure 14. Sultana-Malu Roşu cemeterytype of burial ratio
(n = 49).
Similar cases are attested in the Eneolithic necropolises
of Varna I, Devnja and Vinica (Chapman 2010).
Also, an important part of the missing bones from the
graves can be found in the settlement. For example, in
Sultana-Malu Roşu tell settlement, as in other
Eneolithic settlements, many scattered human bones
(skulls, long bones etc.) were documented, discovered
in different contexts (foundation trenches, waste areas,
abandonment levels etc.).
This situation reflects a complex process of
manipulation of human bones (grave interventions;
extraction and sorting of the bones; preservation of
some anatomical elements; re-deposition of certain
bones in the cemeteries or in the settlements).
Conclusions
Based on the available information we can conclude
that the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery corroborates
many of the characteristics documented in other
cemeteries belonging to the Eneolithic period. This
situation is very similar to the cemeteries of
Durankulak and Căscioarele-D’aia parte.
Generally, the cemeteries used by different
communities, both culturally and chronologically, are
best suited for a complex analysis to identify
perpetuated traditions and preserved funerary practices.
In our case, specific information on grave size,
location, orientation and grouping, as well as on grave
inventory, recorded in this cemetery, indicate to us the
perpetuation of certain funerary rules from the Boian
communities to the Gumelniţa communities. This
process of perpetuation is not complete and there are
also new elements or particular customs. This is a
normal situation, especially if we consider that any
culture is traditionally seeking to promote their
ancestorsrules and knowledge, but also the new ones
defined by the coevals (Pouillon 1999).
From the point of view of the traditions, funerary practices
are probably most likely conservative, representing
reflections of the eschatological concepts of a particular
community accumulated along several generations. On
the other hand, they represent an extended form of
identities, both personal and collective.
Probably during prehistory, as in the present,
cemeteries were a public space, which made them an
ideal place where traditions can be built and rebuilt by
the living through the dead. Also, this metaphorical
reconstruction allows the living to express individual
and group identities. All this demonstrates the
existence of some social strategies as social adaptations
in the Eneolithic period.
Acknowledgements
We thank Ciprian Astaloș (University College London)
for improving the English translation of this paper.
The work of dr. C. Lazăr was supported by CNCSIS-
UEFISCSU, project number 2/03.08.2010 PN II-RU
code 16/2010.
The work of M. Voicu and G. Vasile was supported by
a grant of the Romanian National Authority for
Scientific Research, CNCSIS UEFISCDI, project
number PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-1015.
Cătălin Lazăr, Mădălina Voicu, Gabriel Vasile
116
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... In some of the previous articles dedicated to the Sultana – Malu Roșu cemetery (Lazar et al. 2008;Lazăr, Voicu and Vasile 2012), we mentioned animal bones in some other graves (no. 12, 31, 33 and 34). ...
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Most archaeologists agree that funerary practices are directly connected with beliefs in the existence of an afterlife, and that objects placed in graves are sometimes extremely helpful in reconstructing past social systems or other types of identities (economic, cultural, ethnic, racial, etc.). However, this assertion is only partially valid, because the archaeological context offers only a slice of past realities. The aim of this paper is to explore the significance of the grave goods associated with human skeletons from Sultana – Malu Roşu cemetery, in relation to the archaeological contexts and various post-depositional processes that affected them over time. Originally published in Homines, Funera, Astra 2 Life Beyond Death in Ancient Times (Romanian Case Studies) (ed. Kogălniceanu et al.) ISBN 9781784912062, Archaeopress 2015. This version published in Archaeopress Open Access 2015, available here. For more information regarding Archaeopress Open Access please visit the Archaeopress website.
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The ornaments played a significant role in the life of human communities during the Holocene. This paper explores various aspects (with reference to malacology, technology, function, use-wear, art and symbolism) of the perforated shells made of Lithoglyphus naticoides across Europe during prehistory, with a particular focus on the site of Sultana-Malu Roşu (Romania). The assemblages discussed here are dated during the Copper Age (Gumelniţa culture), in terms of absolute chronology the period between 4500 and 3900 cal. BC. The site of Sultana represents an ideal archaeological situation, primarily due to the existence of the pair settlement – cemetery and clear archaeological contexts, but also because it comprises one of the largest amounts of prehistoric L. naticoides ornaments recorded in Europe. Our analysis allowed us to document the collecting techniques, methodology of perforating the shells, type of use, and to evaluate the costs invested in manufacturing these items, based on experimental replication. This enabled us to reconstruct the social expression and symbolism of L. naticoides utilized by past communities in domestic activities or in funeral contexts as part of the construction, affirmation and maintenance of their identity. When these results are compared with data from other sites containing L. naticoides ornaments across Europe, Sultana-Malu Roşu appears unique in its significance as procurement and processing centre for this type of organic raw material.
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This paper focuses on Eneolithic child burials discovered in the Sultana-Malu Roşu cemetery, southeastern Romania (c. 5000–4000 cal. BC). The associated burial practices may implicitly re ect, through the inclusion of grave goods or other features such as the treatment of the body and the position of the burial within the funerary area, the potential symbolic signi cance of children and their connection to the household and social groups. Each of these characteristics is a potential active representation of special treatment that may have been applied to children and could therefore be interpreted as a message not so much about the individual identity of the child, but more probably the collective identity of the family or community. Thus, deceased children display evidence of an ‘arti cial’ identity created by adults. The graves will be discussed from the viewpoint of their symbolic potential and their position within society. In addition, possible reasons for the paucity of grave goods and their potential signi cance when they do exist in the burials will be discussed. Di erentiation between children and adults, relating to the impact that their deaths may have had on the community and how this is re ected in the funerary ritual, will also be explored.
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Abstract: This paper presents a synthesis of metal jewellery from the neo-Eneolithic period in South-Eastern Romania. It considers technological, typological, morphological and functional aspects, as well as the mineral ores used by prehistoric communities. Furthermore, the paper discusses the frequency and distribution of metal jewellery finds in the area between the Carpathians and the Balkans, the differences in archaeological contexts, and their importance in understanding the meaning of the new materials used, the colour symbolism and the use of the objects.
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The current paper aims to present and discuss a series of funerary discoveries which indicate specific mortuary practices by the communities of the Transylvanian Neolithic and Eneolithic, both older and more recent. A special attention was given to the cremation rite, still considered an unusual practice for the period and area under research. We believe that these new funerary discoveries confirm the practice of cremation of the N-W Romanian Neolithic communities.
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The new discoveries from the Eneolithic site of Sultana-Malu Roșu made possible to obtaining new data about vegetal species used by prehistoric communities from here, but also to understand the paleoenvironment. By using and studying the plant remains from House no. 2 and House no. 5, we could identified the species as Chenopodium album (fat hen), Lithospermum arvense (field gromwell), Polygonum lapathifolium (pale persicaria), Corylus avellana (hazelnut) or Rosa sp. (dog-rose). A part of these species can demonstrate that this group of people knew and were able to farm. For instance, at some species like Triticum monococcum (wheat) or Hordeum sativum (green barley), althought with not so many descovered seeds, the findings of spikelet forks or base glumes may suggest processing the cereals before their consumption. Nevertheless, we mentioned the Vitis vinifera (grape vine) seeds for the first time in Sultana-Malu Roşu site. Rezumat: Noile descoperiri arheobotanice în situl eneolitic Sultana-Malu Roșu au permis obținerea de noi date despre speciile vegetale utilizate de către comunitățile preistorice de aici, dar și o imagine de ansamblu a mediului vegetal. Folosind macroresturile vegetale din locuințele L2 și L5 din tell-ul în discuție s-au putut identifica prezența speciilor de Chenopodium album (spanac sălbatic), Lithospermum arvense (mărgeluşe), Polygonum lapathifolium (iarbă roșie), Corylus avellana (alun) sau Rosa sp. (măceș). O parte din aceste specii pot dovedi că aceste populații eneolitice cunoșteau și practicau agricultura. În ceea ce priveşte descoperirile de cereale precum Triticum monococcum (grâu) sau Hordeum sativum (orz verde), deși slab repezentate prin cariopse, au fost identificate părți din spicul acestora precum spiculețul sau rahisul, ce pot sugera o pregătire în prealabil a cerealelor, înainte de a fi procesate. Nu în ultimul rând, au fost descoperite, pentru prima oară în acest sit, semințe de Vitis vinifera (viță de vie).
Article
Full-text available
The new discoveries from the Eneolithic site of Sultana-Malu Roșu made possible to obtaining new data about vegetal species used by prehistoric communities from here, but also to understand the paleoenvironment. By using and studying the plant remains from House no. 2 and House no. 5, we could identified the species as Chenopodium album (fat hen), Lithospermum arvense (field gromwell), Polygonum lapathifolium (pale persicaria), Corylus avellana (hazelnut) or Rosa sp. (dog-rose). A part of these species can demonstrate that this group of people knew and were able to farm. For instance, at some species like Triticum monococcum (wheat) or Hordeum sativum (green barley), althought with not so many descovered seeds, the findings of spikelet forks or base glumes may suggest processing the cereals before their consumption. Nevertheless, we mentioned the Vitis vinifera (grape vine) seeds for the first time in Sultana-Malu Roşu site.
Article
Full-text available
The new discoveries from the Eneolithic site of Sultana-Malu Roșu made possible to obtaining new data about vegetal species used by prehistoric communities from here, but also to understand the paleoenvironment. By using and studying the plant remains from House no. 2 and House no. 5, we could identified the species as Chenopodium album (fat hen), Lithospermum arvense (field gromwell), Polygonum lapathifolium (pale persicaria), Corylus avellana (hazelnut) or Rosa sp. (dog-rose). A part of these species can demonstrate that this group of people knew and were able to farm. For instance, at some species like Triticum monococcum (wheat) or Hordeum sativum (green barley), althought with not so many descovered seeds, the findings of spikelet forks or base glumes may suggest processing the cereals before their consumption. Nevertheless, we mentioned the Vitis vinifera (grape vine) seeds for the first time in Sultana-Malu Roşu site. Rezumat: Noile descoperiri arheobotanice în situl eneolitic Sultana-Malu Roșu au permis obținerea de noi date despre speciile vegetale utilizate de către comunitățile preistorice de aici, dar și o imagine de ansamblu a mediului vegetal. Folosind macroresturile vegetale din locuințele L2 și L5 din tell-ul în discuție s-au putut identifica prezența speciilor de Chenopodium album (spanac sălbatic), Lithospermum arvense (mărgeluşe), Polygonum lapathifolium (iarbă roșie), Corylus avellana (alun) sau Rosa sp. (măceș). O parte din aceste specii pot dovedi că aceste populații eneolitice cunoșteau și practicau agricultura. În ceea ce priveşte descoperirile de cereale precum Triticum monococcum (grâu) sau Hordeum sativum (orz verde), deși slab repezentate prin cariopse, au fost identificate părți din spicul acestora precum spiculețul sau rahisul, ce pot sugera o pregătire în prealabil a cerealelor, înainte de a fi procesate. Nu în ultimul rând, au fost descoperite, pentru prima oară în acest sit, semințe de Vitis vinifera (viță de vie). Studiile arheobotanice reprezintă un instrument important în cadrul demersului arheologic, ce ajută la dezvoltarea unor ipoteze de lucru privind comunitățile umane din vechime și interacțiunea acestora cu mediul înconjurător. Resturile vegetale provenite din situri arheologice preistorice de pe teritorul României au fost analizate în diverse lucrări de specialitate (M. Cârciumaru 1996; B. Ciută 2008), fără însă ca acestea să fie suficiente. De asemenea, precizăm că respectivele abordări s-au realizat mai ales din punct de vedere taxonomic, fără a se prezenta explicit legătura dintre mediu și societățile umane. Acest articol își propune o prezentare exhaustivă a principalelor resturi arheobotanice descoperite în așezarea de tip tell de la Sultana-Malu Roșu, jud. Călărași (R. Andreescu, C. Lazăr 2008), prin integrarea datelor carpologice în cadrul mai larg al mediului specific perioadei eneolitice. ² Geografia și istoricul sitului
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In this article we will analyze several human remains from sites of Căscioarele-Ostrovel, Coşereni-Măgura de la Comana, Cuneşti-Măgura Cuneşti, Glina-La Nuci and Radovanu-La Muscalu, that assigned to Eneolithic sequence (Boian and Gumelniţa cultures). These bones come from a series of old excavations (1925-1982) and have been recently identified in the collections of the Institute of Archaeology "Vasile Pârvan" in Bucharest. Our analysis will focus on a critical review of archaeological contexts from which these materials were discovered, an anthropological expertise of human bones and an evaluation of radiocarbon data obtained for these findings.
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The study of funerary rites and rituals used by different prehistoric communities is one of the most difficult issues of the scientific research, because of the complexity of the phenomenon itself and the so-called "opacity" of the archaeological discovery. Given these conditions, the subject needs careful attention, both from the perspective of the structure of the existing data but also of the different types of possible interpretations.
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The eneolithic tell Măriuţa-La Movilă is situated at 200 m north-west by Măriuţa village in the Călăraşi County. This is a settlement from second half of the fifth millennium (Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI complex). The first research of the tell was started in the period 1984-1990 by Mihai Şimon. In the year 2000 the excavations were resumed by The Lower Danube Museum Călăraşi. In the year 2004 new excavations were started on the terrace, near the tell. The goal of this new excavations, was to detect the cemetery of the tell. It was very complex and complicated, because at this moment we don’t have a concrete method for identification of cemeteries. The only dates we have are from Bulgaria, where we have some examples of cemeteries. Eleven extramural eneolithic (Vinica, Goljamo Delčevo, Durankulak, Devnja, Varna I, Tărgovište, Liljak, Radingrad, Omurtag, Demir Baba Teke - Sboryanovo, Pomoštica) and three intramural (Kubrat, Ruse, Junacite) cemeteries on the territory of Bulgaria have been partially or completely studied. In Romania are known just ten extramural cemeteries (Vărăşti-Grădiştea Ulmilor, Gumelniţa, Gumelniţa-Valea Mare, Chirnogi-Terasa Rudarilor, Cetatea Veche-Grădiştea, Chirnogi-Şuviţa Iorgulescu, Căscioarele-D’aia Parte, Radovanu, Dridu, Sultana-Malu Roşu) belonging to this culture. As it would now appear, the location of extramural cemeteries was generally established within a range of 300 m of the settlement, on the high places (especially terraces), non-floodable. In most cases the cemetery was situated to the west (Goljamo Delčevo, Radingrad, Demir Baba Teke - Sboryanovo, Tărgovište, Radovanu, Sultana-Malu Roşu etc.), north-west (Pomoštica, Căscioarele-D’aia Parte, Vărăşti-Grădiştea Ulmilor), south-west (Durankulak), south-east (Vinica) or east (Gumelniţa) of the settlement. Pointing out these examples we started our research on the high terrace of Mostiştea River near the settlement. The terrace is at 100 m north-east range of the tell. The area of terrace was divided in a grid of twenty-one 20 x 20 m units for a better management of the excavation. Excavation methodology consist in sondages of different dimensions (3 x 1 m, 9 x 1 m or 8 x 2 m) situated at 10-15 m range one of the other, in order to cover a wider surface. During the period 2004-2006 we accomplish 22 sondages, and we researched a surface of 134 m2 of the terrace. In this sondages we found five inhumations graves. Four of this graves (M1, M3, M4, M5) are from Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI period and last one (M2) is a sarmatic burial. The eneolithic graves contain skeletal in contracted position on left side (M3, M4, M5) and on right side (M1). The legs were moderately or strongly flexed. Orientation was ESE 109° – VNV 239° (M1), E 99°– V 279° (M3), ENE 65°– VSV 245°(M4) and E 95°– V 275° (M5). Funerary gifts were found in just two graves: M4 – a stone chisel, a cooper tool and a flint blade; M5 – a fragmentary flint blade. In grave M1, near the skull, we found a funerary offering (one animal vertebra). In grave M4 it was discovered red ochre, on the left hand. The burials from Măriuţa-La Movilă cemetery and the elements of funerary treatment identified here confirm similitude to the same standard mortuary practices of the Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI complex.
Conference Paper
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Currently more than 30 Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI culture necropolises are known in Bulgaria and Romania. Most of them are extramural necropolises with just 3 intramural necropolises (Kubrat, Ruse, Yunatsite). This article aims to establish ways of locating necropolises areas in relation to settlements, the factors underlying the choice of these areas, rules of spatial organization and the existence of a possible pattern used by Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI communities. Although, apparently, ways of organizing funerary areas near settlements appears to be similar for the entire area of this culture, in fact there are many particular aspects (e.g. two tell settlements and just one cemetery - Căscioarele ‘D’aia Parte’ and ‘Ostrovel’; or two cemeteries for a single tell settlement - Gumelniţa I and II etc.). The issue of spatial location and spatial organization of cemeteries is very complex and there are still many questions awaiting answers.
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The studied area was overlapping the eastern part of Romanian Plain, the Mostiştea drainage basin. The detailed analyse was applied to the south of Ciornuleasa Plain region, on the common terraces of the Danube river, between Arges and Mostiştea rivers. The great thickness of loess deposits (>20 m), the depth water table and the great density of saucers and suffosion gullies had favoured the repartion of specific soil classes. The relation between soil and morphological factors may constitute an important variable for the identification of evolution degree, the age and actual dynamics of the plain relief. The comparison of soils maps with geomorphological and hydrogeological maps may distinguish interconditioning relations and can reverbelate a certain evolution degree. Human activities can insert or amplify substantial changes in morphohydropedological system. In this way, it was taken Mostistea-Ulmeni region, to analyse and measure anthropic interventions (irrigations), between years 1976-1988. The water table surfaces less than 5 m grow up in accordance with topographical characteristics, micro-depressions (saucers or loess hollows) and the valleys had fragmentized the scarp of the terraces. In this way, it is necessary a special attention to those regions, in connection with oropedophreatic conditions, in order to maintain the proper characteristics for a proper practise of agriculture.