Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-65d66dc8c9-nxpqk Total loading time: 0.4 Render date: 2021-09-29T00:01:35.898Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Article contents

The Tartaria Tablets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015


The inscribed clay tablets (PL. XVIa) found in a 'Neolithic' context at Tartaria (FIG. 1) in Romania in 1961 have already aroused a certain amount of interest here. The signs on the tablets are comparable with those of the script of the Late Predynastic (Uruk III Jemdet Nasr) period in Mesopotamia, as Dr Vlassa who excavated them has noted. It seems unlikely however that the tablets were drafted by a Sumerian hand or in the Sumerian language of early Mesopotamia. The shapes of the tablets and some of the signs are paralleled in the Minoan scripts of Crete, but the tablets do not seem to be Cretan. There are indications that a similar use of signs, if not actual writing, was practised in the rest of the Aegean and in Western Anatolia before the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. A knowledge of writing, or the use of signs derived from it, may have spread to these regions and to the Balkans from Mesopotamia through Syria. This was perhaps one aspect of a common inheritance of religious or magical beliefs and practices.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 1967

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


[1] E.g. The Times, 2nd December 1966.

[2] Vlassa, N., ‘Chronology of the Neolithic in Transylvania, in the Light of the Tartaria Settlement’s Stratigraphy’, Dacia, VII, 1963, 48594.Google Scholar Cf. Milojčić, V., ‘Die Tontafeln von Tartaria (Sieben- biirgen) und die absolute Chronologie des mittel-europäischen Neolithikums’,Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261.Google Scholar Popovitch, V., ‘Une Civilisation égéo-orientale sur le moyen Danube’, Rev. Arch.]], 1965:2, 1.Google Scholar Renfrew, C., Nestor, 1st December 1966, 469–70Google Scholar.

[3] antiquity, 1927, 83 and 88e.

[4] See the map in Peake, H. J. E. and Fleure, H. J., The Corridors of Time, IV (1927), 139 Google Scholar, fig. 87.

[5] For Vinča see in, Milojčić B.S.A., XLIV, 1949, 266 Google Scholar; a key in English to the monumental publication in Yugoslav, Vassits, M. M., Vinca, I-IV, 1932–6Google Scholar.

[6] Roska, M., Die Sammlung Zsófia von Torma (1941), 11Google Scholar.

[7] Ibid., 306–17, pls. 131–6. H. Schmidt, , Zettschr. für Ethnologie, 1903, 457Google Scholar.


[8] Schmidt, , Schl. Sammlung (1902)Google Scholar, index p. 352: ‘Schriftzeichen (Marken)’. The long ‘inscriptions’ on two pyxides (ibid. Nos. 2444–5) appear to be just carelessly incised decoration.


[9] See P. Smith’s Appendix to the English edition of Schliemann, , Troy and its Remains (1875), 363Google Scholar.

[10] See Grumach, E., Bibliographie der kretisch- mykenischen Epigraphik (1963), 146Google Scholar, for references until 1961.

[11] E.g. Zeitschr. fur Ethnologie, 1903, 458Google Scholar.

[12] E.g. Petrie, W. M. F., Royal Tombs, 1 (1900), 32 Google Scholar and passim.

[13] Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos, Soc. for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, Suppl. Paper No. 4, 1904.

[14] For the earliest of these so-called ‘masons’ marks’ at Knossos see Evans, Sir A., Palace of Minos, I (1921), 133 Google Scholar, fig. 99. These Cretan signs on stone were compared with the Tordos signs by Mosso, The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization (1910), 12, 34 Google Scholar.

[15] Sir Evans, A., Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909), 6.Google Scholar Tordos appears by the name Broos, which lies to the east.

[16] Childe, V. G., The Danube (1929), 31Google Scholar, under the heading: ‘Script’, and 33.

[17] Schmidt, , Schl. Sammlung (1902), nos. 2030–4 (vases); pl. vi Google Scholar, p. 218, nos. 5209–24 (whorls). A. H. Sayce in Schliemann, , Ilios (1890), 25 Google Scholar, read one of these (no. 5214) as Greek!

[18] E.g. Blegen, C. W., Troy, 11 (1951)Google Scholar, fig. 169 (lid from Troy IV); fig. 237, 35–498 (whorl from Troy V).

[19] Roska, , Die Sammlung Zsófia von Torma (1941)Google Scholar.

[20] Dacia, VII, 1963, 485 Google Scholar.

[21] Milojðic, , B.S.A., XLIV, 1949, 266.Google Scholar But see Childe, , The Dawn of European Civilisation (1957), 84, 89.Google Scholar Milojčic’s phases are A, Bi, B2, C, D. There is a major break between B2 and C.

[22] Milojðic, , Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261 Google Scholar.

[23] Estimating from the sections in Dacia, VII, 1963, 486 Google Scholar, fig. 2.

[24] For evidence of cannibalism in related Neolithic and later Bronze Age cultures in Europe, e.g. Childe, , Danube (1929), 170, 344 Google Scholar; Dawn (1957), 102, 115, 290Google ScholarPubMed.

[25] A. Falkenstein, Archaische Texte aus Uruk (Ausgrabungen in Uruk-Warka 2) (1936). Langdon, S. L., Pictographic Inscs. from Jemdet Nasr {Oxford Ed. of Cuneiform Texts, VII) (1928)Google Scholar, where pi. V, 15, and pi. XXI, 73, are those illustrated in Dacia, VII, 1963, 493 Google Scholar, fig. 10, 1 and 2.

[26] Germania, XLIII, 1965, 269 Google Scholar.

[27] Langdon, loc. cit., iv.

[28] Diringer, D., Writing (1962), 21, 36 Google Scholar.

[29] Evans, , Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909), 144 Google Scholar.

[30] E.g. ibid., 166. Chapouthier, F., Les Écritures Minoennes au Palais de Mallia (Ét. Crétoises, 11) (1930), 20Google Scholar.


[31] F. Chapouthier, loc. cit., 12; Caratelli, P., Annuario Sc. Arch, di Atene, 35–6 (n.s. 19/20), 1957/8, 363 f Google Scholar.

[32] Langdon, loc. cit., vi.

[33] Frankfort, H., The Birth of Civilization in the Near East (1951), 106Google Scholar.

[34] See Ehrich, R. W., Chronologies in Old World Archaeology (1965), 441–2Google Scholar for S.E. Europe, 125 for the Trojan culture. The dates for Beycesultan levels 36 and 28 (where levels 19–17 are equated with Troy I) are rejected by the excavators as likely to be 1,500 and 1,250 years too late! ( Lloyd, S. and Mellaart, J., Beycesultan, I (1962), 19, 25.Google Scholar) P-273 for a level equated with Troy I in Chios was 2183 b.c. (calculated on a half life of 5,800 years as against 5,730 years for the dates in Ehrich) ( A.J.A., LXV, 1961, 367 Google Scholar).

[35] Childe, , Dawn (1957), 91.Google Scholar Popovitch, , Rev. Arch.]], 1965:2, 41 f.Google Scholar*

[36] E.g. Makkay, J., ‘Early Near Eastern and South East European Gods’, Acta Arch. Hungarica, xvi, 1964, 364 Google Scholar.

[37] Clark, J. G. D. and Piggott, S., Prehistoric Societies (1965), 215Google Scholar.

[38] Vassits, ‘The Excavations at Vinca, 1929’, reprinted from The Birmingham Post, 27th & 28th November 1929.

[39] Evans, , ‘Primitive Pictographs and a Prae- Phoenician Script, from Crete and the Peloponnese’, J.H.S., XIV, 1894, 270372 Google Scholar.

[40] E.g. Evans, , ‘Further Discoveries of the Cretan and Aegean Script’, J.H.S., XVII, 1897, 32795.Google Scholar Cf. Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909)Google Scholar.

[41] E.g. Sundwall, J., ‘Der Ursprung der Kretischen Schrift’,Acta Acad. Aboensis: Humaniora, I, 1920, 125 Google Scholar.

[42] Chapouthier, , Les Écritures Minoennes (Ét. Crit., 11), 1930, 9 Google Scholar.

[43] Evans, , Scripta Minoa, 11 (1952), 1 Google Scholar.

[44] As early as Phase A (6th millennium b.c.?) ( Braidwood, R., Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, I (1960), 63 Google Scholar).

[45] Frankfort, Studies in Early Pottery of the Near East, II (1927), 122 Google Scholar.

[46] Dunand, M., Byblia Grammata (Beirut, 1945), xviii, 40 Google Scholar, esp. no. 30 (FIG. 15). For the succession of phases at Byblos see Dunand, , Revue Biblique, LVII, 1950. 583603 Google Scholar.

[47] Braidwood, , Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, I (1960), 291 Google Scholar, fig. 231>, 2 and 3, 292, fig. 232, i, 2 and 5. Described as potters’ marks. Similar marks occur at Tarsus in E.B. I—II (Goldman, Tarsus, 11, fig. 235, 4s; 256, 291, 292, 248a). Cilician E.B. I may correspond to Syrian Phase G, E.B. II to Phase H in Syria and to Troy I (M. J. Mellink, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965), 109Google Scholar).

[48] E.g. E. Porada, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965)Google Scholar, Chart p. 176, between c. 3100–2900 b.c.; Braidwood, ibid., Chart p. 82, rather after 3000 b.c.


[49] Moorey, P. R. S., Iraq, XXVIII, 1966, 40 Google Scholar.

[50] E.g. Astrom, P., Kretika Khronika, 1961–2, 143Google Scholar, suggests that M.M. I began at earliest c. 1800 b.c.!

[51] Yeivin, S., Israel Exploration Journal, x, 1960, 193203.Google Scholar Oriens Antiquus, 2, 1963, 205 f. But the idea of a destruction is now questioned (ibid., 3, 1964, 5).


[52] S. S. Weinberg, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965), Chart p. 13Google Scholar, makes a very long E.M. II period starting shortly after 3000 b.c. But the development of the pottery suggests that E.M. I was a long phase compared with E.M. II.

[53] Annuario Sc. Arch, di Atene, 35–6 (n.s. 19–20), 363.

[54] Evans, , Palace of Minos, 1 (1921), 272 Google Scholar and note 2.

[55] M.M. III according to Chapouthier, Les Ecritures Minoennes (Ét Crét., 11), 1930, 7 Google Scholar.

[56] Dacia, VII, 1963, 487 Google Scholar, fig. 3, 4 and fig. 2, 1 at top (section).

[57] Starinar, n.s. VII-VIII, 1956–7, 34 Google Scholar.

[58] E.g. most recently in Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261 Google Scholar.

[59] V Int. Kongress für Vor-u.Fruhgesch. Hamburg, 1958 (Berlin, 1961), 398403 Google Scholar.

[60] Moorey, , Iraq, XXVIII, 1966, 40 Google Scholar.

[61] See note [33] above.

[62] E.g. Vermeule, E., Greece in the Bronze Age (1961), 41Google Scholar, fig. 6.

[63] Wace, A. J. B. and Thompson, M. S., Prehistoric Thessaly (1912), 90Google Scholar, fig. 43 (signs), fig. 42d (footed dish).

[64] Mellink, M. J., Kadmos, in, 1964, 1–7Google Scholar.

[65] University of Edinburgh, Symposium on Mycenaean Writing, IV, 1966, 7 Google Scholar.

[66] Diringer, , Writing (1962), 17Google Scholar.

[67] Cf. Popovitch, , Rev. Arch., 1965:2, 31.Google Scholar*

[68] Mellink, in Ehrich, Chronologies (1965), 115Google Scholar.

[69] Cf. Popovitch, , Rev. Arch., 1957:1, 141.Google Scholar*

Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Tartaria Tablets
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Tartaria Tablets
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Tartaria Tablets
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *