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Tărtăria tablets

Neolithic clay amulet (retouched), part of the Tărtăria tablets set, dated to 5500-5300 BC and associated with the Turdaş-Vinča culture. The Vinča symbols on it predate the proto-Sumerian pictographic script. Discovered in 1961 at Tărtăria (Hungarian: Alsótatárlaka) by the archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa.

The Tărtăria tablets are three tablets, discovered in 1961 by archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa at a Neolithic site in the village of Tărtăria (about 30 km (19 mi) from Alba Iulia), in Romania. [1] The tablets, dated to around 5300 BC, [2] bear incised symbols – the Vinča symbols -and have been the subject of considerable controversy among archaeologists, some of whom claim that the symbols represent the earliest known form of writing in the world.

In 1961, members of a team led by Nicolae Vlassa, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Transylvanian History, Cluj-Napoca in charge of the site excavations, unearthed three inscribed but unbaked clay tablets, together with 26 clay and stone figurines and a shell bracelet, accompanied by the burnt, broken, and disarticulated bones of an adult male. [3][4]

Two of the tablets are rectangular and the third is round. [5] They are all small, the round one being only 6 cm (2 1 ⁄ 2 in) across, and two — one round and one rectangular — have holes drilled through them.

All three have symbols inscribed only on one face. [5] The unpierced rectangular tablet depicts a horned animal, an unclear figure, and a vegetal motif, a branch or tree. The others have a variety of mainly abstract symbols. The purpose of the burial is unclear, but it has been suggested that the body was, if not that of a shaman or spirit-medium, that of a local most respected wise person. [3]

This group of artefacts, including the tablets, have some relation with the culture developed in the Black Sea -Aegean area. Similar artefacts are found in Bulgaria and northern Greece, e.g. the Gradeshnitsa tablets and the Dispilio Tablet, respectively. The material and the style used for the Tartaria artefacts show some similarities to the ones used in the Cyclades area, as two of the statuettes are made of alabaster.

The Vinča symbols have been known since the late 19th century excavation by Zsófia Torma [6] at the Neolithic site of Turdaș (Hungarian: Tordos) in Transylvania, at the time part of Austria-Hungary.


In its later phase the centre of the Vinča network shifted from Vinča-Belo Brdo to Vršac, and the long-distance exchange of obsidian and Spondylus artefacts from modern-day Hungary and the Aegean respectively became more important than that of Vinča figurines. Eventually the network lost its cohesion altogether and fell into decline. It is likely that, after two millennia of intensive farming, economic stresses caused by decreasing soil fertility were partly responsible for this decline. [13]

According to Marija Gimbutas, the Vinča culture was part of Old Europe – a relatively homogeneous, peaceful and matrifocal culture that occupied Europe during the Neolithic. According to this hypothesis its period of decline was followed by an invasion of warlike, horse-riding Proto-Indo-European tribes from the Pontic-Caspian step



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