Environmental Archaeology


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Outer wall masonry blockwork, Histria, Romania. @ C.Michael Hogan

Situated near the Black Sea in the Dobrogea region, Histria is the oldest town in present day Romania,  With clear Neolithic roots, the first substantial permanent  continuous settlement occurred when Greeks from Milet established a colony at Histria. This coastal settlement was thence continuously occupied first by Greeks, then Romans and finally Christians for a span exceeding thirteen centuries. The Greek settlement of Histria, as well as Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age precursors by native Thracians and Getians commenced close to the edge of the Black Sea; however, hydrological coastal evolution had altered that marine body into a lake by sometime about the time of Christ. In any case the abundance of marine resources coupled with fertile terrestrial agriculture during the mid to late Holocene mad Histria a logical place for an extended period of productive use. The old city of Histria is presently inhabited by a handful of scattered denizens outwith the original city walls, with a newer village having grown up somewhat to the northeast.


Archaeological evidence  in the vicinity of Histria evinces human habitation as early as the Middle Paleolithic, 120,000 to 35,000 years before present. The period 4200 to 3700 BC throughout the Dobrogean region is characterised by the Hamangia culture. Excavations at Histria as well as Baia-Hamangia, Ceamuria and Golovita evince rich ceramic materials as well as sophisticated sonte tools. Ceramics recovered during the Hamangia period include globe-shaped  vessels, bitronic vases, marble idols and a rich array of glasswares. Among the stone tool finds are blades, grinding tools, axes and grain mills. Research into the flora of this era indicate that the Neolithic Period at Histria involved complex agriculture and advances in crop productivity for these early farmers. At the end of the Neolithic period (3700 to 3200 BC), tool advances were made with increasing occurrence of piercing capability, as well as spatulas, antler ploughs and silex blades. Polychrome ceramics were first observed in the region within this climax of the Neolithic.

Bronze Age

caption Histria Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age stela. @ C.Michael Hogan

The transition period to the Bronze Age at Histria is represented by Cernavoda cultures I, II and III, spanning the period 3200 to 2500 BC; moreover, the finds of this passage period to the Bronze Age are mirrored elsewhere in the Dobrogea region, as defined by the geography constrained beween the Danube River and the Black Sea.Besides a spectrum of increasingly developed ceramics, there are more advanced tools such as fish net apparati and associated pierced stone weights.. In this passage period, the ceramic vessels acquire features of the Cernovoda cultures including characteristic grooving and other markings. On display a the Histria Archaeological Museum is a magnificent  fecundity figure menhir; although excavated in Baia, this massive idol is well representative of the passage period to the Bronze Age characteristic of the region as a whole.  The Bronze Age at Histria (2000 to 1200 BC)  saw the commencement of the Thracian culture, and the Getian culture toward the end of the Bronze Age, the end of which began the Hallstatt culture in this region[1]). These two cultures developed successively throuhgout the Dobrogean within the period.

Iron Age

The early Iron Age at Histria is represented by the Babadag cultures I, II and III, spanning the time period 1200 to 700 BC. Within this horizon, the indigenous Thracians developed a unique and dominant culture not only throughout the Dobrogea, but also northward across the Danube. Some of the Babadag II ceramic products are decorated with small circle designs and imprinted strips sometimes termed torques. The groove designs and are associated with the later Babadag III culture. Overall, the degree of native artisanry had reache a sophisticated native style by the end of the 7th century BC, suvh that when the harbinger Greek colonists arrived, the indigenous elite well understood and appreciated the merits of Greek advanced technology and art..

Greek Archaic Period

In the final quarter of the 7th century BC, Greek traders and colonists began arriving from Milet. Some of the earliest Greek materials deposited in the archaeological layer of this epoch were luxury items brought by the Miletans, which goods weem to have been welcomed by the Babadag III elite. A similar pattern of high-end goods absorption is noted in the cotemporaneous archaeological record from other Dobrogean coastal towns such as Tariverde, Corbul de Sus and Nuntasi. 

The original Greek layout of Histria emulated a pattern of colonial town development seen elsewhere with Archaic Greek colonists. An eastern rectangle was established for public usage, incorporating an agora and prominent temples to Zeus, Aphrodite an an unexplained deity. A correspondent western rectangular area of approximately  60 hectares with a stongly fortified western wall was constructed for chiefly residential use. This residential area was extended in the 6th century BC mainly for artisan work areas at a slihgtly depressed topographic elevation relative to the earlier residential habitation.. In its first century as a Greek colony Histria held extensive trade relations with the southerly Greek cities of Rhodos, Athens, Corinth, Aamos and Clazomene; moreover, with the onset of the 6th century BC, such trade only intensified and diversified as to wares.The population of Histria in the Greek Archaic period may have attained a level of 15,000, with ample grain supplied from the rich inland cereal producing areas.[2]


  1. ^ Constantin Daicoviciu and Emil Condurachi. 1971. Romania. 250 pages
  2. ^ Paul Lachlan MacKendrick. 2000. The Dacian Stones Speak. 272 pages. University of North Carolina Press


Hogan, C. (2011). Histria. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbee077896bb431f69596a


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