Burial practice and aspects of social structure in the late Chalcolithic of north-east Bulgaria
The study considers archaeological evidence for burials and other mortuary practices from the Late Chalcolithic period in north-east Bulgaria. The Late Chalcolithic is defined (circa 4500-4000 B.C.) and around 900 burials are attributed to two cultural groups within the region in this period. It is argued that previous studies of the evidence can be rejected for assuming a straightforward equivalence between burial forms and social structures. An alternative model of social organization is proposed based on the 'structuration' and 'habitus' models of Giddens and Bourdieu which emphasize the role of the individual in the reproduction of social institutions. This framework is used to examine the importance of (mortuary) rituals and the symbolic use of material culture in strategies intended to maintain or alter the distribution of power and resources. The data is examined using quantitative measures of spatial and temporal variability and statistical measures of association between variables. It is argued that two basic patterns can be discerned and which correspond to the defined cultures. The inland cultural pattern is further divided into two 'types' based on the location and forms of burials. Burial forms and grave goods are also examined qualitatively and the values attributed to artefacts, materials and the processes of burial are addressed. From this it is argued that meanings are fundamentally mediated through processes of reciprocation between kinship groups and with ancestors. Social structures based on gender and age, the settlement community and residence are proposed. 'Codes' of the use of material culture within mortuary rituals are described and evaluated through a consideration of assemblages and performance. Changes within and between cemeteries over time are used to reconstruct patterns of competition and emulation. The interpretations of social interaction in burial practices are related to other forms of evidence from the Late Chalcolithic in north-east Bulgaria and suggestions made for a new understanding of social organization in both cultures. The conclusions are placed in a wider spatial and temporal perspective and conclusions presented relating to both the data studied and the theoretical models adopted.