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21 September 2010
Sălcuţa-Telish vs Galatin; defining a culture

In the 1970's, discoveries of Copper Age pottery in Oltenia (Romania) led to the definition of the Sălcuţa Culture (Sălcuţa IV-II). The earliest artifacts date to approximately 6,000 years BCE. In the 1990's excavations in Telish and Galatin (Bulgaria) uncovered pottery shards very similar to those found in Oltenia.
     A doctoral student at the Galatin dig used the pottery to define the "Galatin Culture". Other shcholarly publications included Galatin in the cultural timeline of the Balkans. This has lead to a controvery about how archaeological cultures are defined.
     The case has been made that Galatin is only ancillary to the Sălcuţa Culture and that the primary site for this development of this society was in Romania.
     The interpretation of prehistoric artifacts is not an exact science. It is not as conclusive as DNA. The definition of the timeline for the cultural evolution of a region is subject to the professional expertise and prejudices of the author. But, there are best practices for making such a definition. Each branch in the chain must be supported by solid, tangible evidence and each branch must be linked to the next. But, this too is subject to intrepretation.
     The critics of the Galatin definition argue that the evidence supports Romania as the site of origin. Evidence from Balkan sites show interactions with Central Europe that might explain the artifacts found in Bulgaria. More reserach will be required to resolve the controversy.
Edited from The Examiner (10 September 2010)

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