Brînzeni: a multidisciplinary study of an Upper Palaeolithic site in Moldova. P. Allsworth-Jones1, I.A. Borziac2, N.A. Chetraru3, C.A.I. French4, S.I Medyanik5 1 Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4ET. 2 formerly, Institute of Archaeology and Ancient History, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova, Chișinău. 3 formerly, National Museum of the History of Moldova, Chișinău. 4 Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3ER. 5 formerly, Institute of Geography, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova, Chișinău. Abstract Brînzeni cave occupies an important place in the Palaeolithic of Moldova. Its significance is reconsidered in the light of work carried out at the site in 1992-1993 and subsequently, and the opportunity is taken to bring together both published and previously unpublished reports about it, to shed light on its environmental history and archaeological characterisation. The principal occupation layer likely occupies a chronologically intermediate position between the Aurignacian and the Gravettian in the region, and the archaeological assemblage is certainly distinctive, although probably not “transitional” in the sense previously claimed. Introduction In 1992-1993 a programme supported by the British Academy and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research was initiated, the primary objective of which was to obtain samples for dating at the Oxford Radiocarbon Laboratory, from three countries, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, with particular reference to the early Upper Palaeolithic and the late Middle Palaeolithic in those countries. 44 radiocarbon dates from 10 sites, and the results of the programme as a whole, have been published (Hedges et al. 1996; Allsworth-Jones 2000). So far as Moldova is concerned, a full account of the work done at Ciuntu has also been published (Borziac et al. 1997). Unfortunately the same does not apply to Brînzeni and Buzdujeni, the other two sites investigated in Moldova, despite the fact that, as stated in the report on Ciuntu, the results from that site did to some extent “throw into doubt the real existence” of the Brînzeni culture. The objective of this report is to remedy that omission in respect of Brînzeni, not only by documenting the work done at that time and arising directly from it, but by reconsidering all the evidence available for the site as recorded before and since. 1. Discovery and excavation The archaeological site of Brînzeni was discovered by N.A. Chetraru and V.N. Verina in 1960, and was first published by Chetraru in 1973 (Chetraru 1973, Verina 1980). It is situated 1.5 km south-west of the village of Brînzeni in the Edineţ region of north-western Moldova, its approximate geographical coordinates being 48° 05’ N and 27° 15’ East. Its position, together with that of a number of other Palaeolithic sites, is indicated in Figure 1. This region is sometimes referred to as a kind of miniDordogne on account of the many occupied caves situated in adjacent river valleys in a relatively restricted area. The cave referred to as Brînzeni I faces north-north-west, near the top of a karstic limestone ridge on the eastern bank of the river Racovăț, about 62 metres above the present course of the river, and 8 km from its confluence with the Pruth (Fig. 2). The ridge was a reef in Miocene times, one of a number of such formations known as Toltry. Originally the cave will have been larger, but the dripline has receded, such that its present dimensions are about 9 x 18 metres. The roof varies in height from about 0.5 to 4 metres. Before the beginning of the excavations, the surface of the cave including the terrace was uneven, and fallen limestone blocks could be seen in various places (Fig.3). The surface was slightly inclined, at an angle of 3-5° to the north, i.e. towards the valley. Beneath the terrace, the land slopes away quite steeply, and it is considered that in the past it was probably quite difficult to enter the cave except from the side. In the year the site was discovered, Chetraru carried out an initial excavation in the form of two trial trenches, each 2 x 1 metres in size, the first in the central part of the cave, the second on the eastern side practically on the terrace. A plan of the site showing the excavated squares is at Figure 4. It should be noted that here and elsewhere the original numbering plus Cyrillic lettering system for the site has been retained. Chetraru cond

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