Растителни останки от светилища и некрополи

Plants remains of sanctuary and necropolis

  • Tzvetana Popova Department of Interdisciplinary Research and archaeological map of Bulgaria, National institute of archaeology with мuseum in Bulgarian academy of sciences, 2 Saborna Str., 1000 Sofia
Keywords: use of plants, Bronze Age, Iron Age, ritual practices, Bulgaria


The use of plants in variety of rituals is common practice in the Antiquity. Numerous archaeobotanical remains from different archeological sites presented evidences that some plants were particularly introduced to the religious rituals. The goal of the present study is to identify specific plants and food that was subject of ritual practices. The paper will discuss similarities and differences between different plant remains in the archaeological contexts and will identify which plants were in use as a ritual food. The study is based on a comparative archaeobotanical analysis of several Bronze Age –Iron Age sanctuaries in the therritory of Bulgaria and gives a clear indication of certain similarities and differences between the different regions, which will be discussed as well. The current paper attempts to summarize and make a synthesis of archaeobotanical data, provided from 12 sanctuaries.

On the basis of the evidence currently available, there are several main differences in regard to the cultivated plants that are established. The recorded variety of plant species used in ritual context – cereals, pulses, fruits, etc., mainly depends on the location of the sacred place and the ecological characteristics of the region. In pit sanctuaries einkorn was more frequently used in rituals, as in mountaintop and rock sanctuaries free threshing wheat is dominant along with barley and millet that also occur in the studied samples. Barley is also recorded in archaeobotanical material, collected at the site of Nessebar „Kindergarten“ / site „Detska gradina“, Kabyle and Krepost.

Presence of millet in some Late Iron Age sites like Koprivlen and Svilengrad, indicates that it was among the cultivated cereals in the region and was used even in ritual practices.

Although most of the botanical remains found in sanctuaries are quite common, they evidence diversity in characteristics of the floristic assemblages.

Analyzed material includes numerous findings of four types of wheat: einkorn, emmer, spelt wheat and free threshing wheat.

Millet, naked and hulled barley, rye, oat also occur, along with some Leguminous plants presented by: pea, lentil, bitter vetch, chickpea and grass pea (Lathyrus sativus). A wide range of fruits and nuts that grow wild in the vicinity of forest habitats is also represented – such as wild grape, blueberry, raspberry, wild cherry, plums, acorn, walnut, etc.

A matter of interest are the plant remains from jujube (Zizyphus vulgaris), pink rockrose (Cistus incanus), European nettle tree or the so called Mediterranean hackberry (Celtis australis), that were recorded for the first time and were probably used with purpose in ritual practices.

Some of the studied archaeological structures can be interpreted as special sacred places, while other, according to the analyzed material, cannot be defined with certainty. That means plant remains in these contexts may be used as offerings, other could be part of food storage.

The current overview provides evidence that cultivated plants, even in small amounts, were common element of ritual practices. Big amounts of grass pea and chickpea, recorded in samples from Ovtschartzi and grass pea in Debrashtitza evidence their use with ritual purpose.

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