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PhD theses in architecture

Katia Moldoveanu, 2012: Prehistoric Architecture. 7th-4th millennia BC at the Lower Danube

Since the beginning of archaeological research in the inter-war period, evidence of several thousand year old buildings, mainly made of clay and wood, has been found in Neolithic sites and generally interpreted as dwellings. As research progressed, more and more details of Neolithic dwellings and settlements were uncovered in terms of construction techniques, layouts or internal organisation.

At first, archaeologists dealt with these constructions in the context of Neolithic civilisation, the priority being to define the new archaeological cultures, arranged in a chronological scheme in the absence of written records. Thus, at an early stage, the dwellings were not analysed in detail from an architectural point of view, the archaeologists' attention usually focusing on the mobile inventory (ceramics in particular). Subsequently, various attempts were made to reconstruct these dwellings, largely inspired by traditional architecture. Some of them, few in number, are the result of collaboration between architects and archaeologists.

The image of Neo-Neolithic architecture has thus suffered, often being associated with 'primitive architecture'. However, research carried out in recent decades has proved the existence of complex architecture in the 7th-4th millennia BC, with a rigorous organisation of settlements according to a predetermined plan and with multi-room or even multi-storey buildings. Some functional differentiations have also been identified, i.e. defensive architecture (fortification systems) or cult architecture (sanctuaries).

The main objective of the work is to systematise the existing information on Neolithic architecture, completed with a spatial analysis of the settlements and a detailed architectural analysis of the Neolithic constructions discovered so far in the Lower Danube. This analysis covers several levels, starting from the level of the settlements (typology, spatial organisation, delimitation and protection systems), to that of the buildings (types, techniques and building materials) and finally to that of the interior design.

The area on which we have focused our attention is the Lower Danube, which broadly covers southern Romania and northern Bulgaria, where an original Neolithic civilisation developed. In an attempt to gain an overview of Neo-Neolithic architecture, we have also drawn on information from several geographical areas for comparison, starting from the Near East, which is considered to be the Neolithic's area of origin, to eastern Ukraine and the Middle Danube.

For each level of analysis we were also able to benefit from the direct experience of field research carried out in archaeological sites in southern Romania, in counties such as Teleorman, Calarasi, Olt, Buzau, etc. For example, the experience gained during the research in the tell settlement of Vitănești, jud. Teleorman, where the research of the last level of habitation was recently completed, proved to be of real use in understanding some aspects related to the organization of the interior space of the settlement or the way of construction and conservation of the houses.

The field research also meant recording for certain areas (Teleorman county, Calarasi) examples of traditional architecture, which may constitute analogies for Neolithic architecture. At the same time, visits to village museums in Bucharest, Sibiu, Golești, Rm. Vâlcea, etc. aimed to deepen the knowledge of traditional building materials and techniques.

The examples chosen, both in the case of settlements and constructions, generally refer to cases where complete sets of information have been published. Thus, in the case of settlements, those that have been fully researched and for which plans have been published have been chosen first, in order to allow an analysis of the organisation of the interior space. Also, in the case of buildings, those examples were chosen that provided complete data on type, construction method and function.

A major difficulty in the realisation of this thesis was the unevenness of information on Neolithic constructions, due both to the generally poor preservation conditions (we are talking about clay and wood architecture, up to 8000 years old) and to the often sketchy publication of architectural details.

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