Landscape, material culture and society in South East Bulgaria
The PhD study focuses on long-term settlement histories in the late prehistory of South East Bulgaria, based upon three contrasting microregions. Two of them have been destroyed by intensive coal mining, which has necessitated the application of GIS as a rescue tool to reconstruct the landscape. The third, undestroyed microregion was included in the study to enable the comparison of settlement patterns in three neighbouring valleys. The main research aims are the social and economic aspects of the human/landscape interrelation, as well as the patterns of change and continuity from the initial occupation at the beginning of the Neolithic until the end of the Late Bronze Age. Along with the GIS technique, which proved to be a relevant analytical tool, a set of modern interpretative modes in archaeology was applied to achieve the research targets. The general and specific approaches in the study are prompted by the state of the primary data, which but rarely allows precise contextual analysis.As a result of the introduction of the concepts of landscape archaeology and social practices in the studies of Bulgarian late prehistory, it was possible to establish crucial links between the identity of people, places and objects. The identification of a suite of social practices has integrated the Bulgarian evidence in a broader context of human development and has contributed to the radical re-interpretation of most of the current explanations of the evidence at the study area. The reconstruction of past landscapes in the three microregions, together with the newly reconciled concepts of landscape and environment, have facilitated the reconstruction of past settlement patterns, resource potential and inter-site transport networks. Through the evaluation and re-interpretation of site evidence for all settlements and burials, it was possible to make a comparative interpretation of diachronic changes in settlement, society, material culture and landscapes.