Category Archives: Croatia

Paleolithic ceramic animal figurines of Croatia

One of the ceramic figurine fragments (C1)
While utilitarian pottery wares are now quite clearly determined to be a Chinese invention first of all (c. 20 Ka. ago), Europeans were toying with clay and cooking it even earlier, with terracotta art known to have existed in Dolní Věstonice and other places since the Gravettian period.
The site discussed in this new research is not as old but nevertheless it is interesting to mention because, as the authors say, it is becoming more and more clear that pottery was not a single punctual invention but that it was invented and maybe forgotten once and again in the course of human prehistory.
Rebecca Farbstein et al., First Epigravettian Ceramic Figurines from Europe (Vela Spila, Croatia). PLoS ONE 2012. Open access ··> LINK [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041437]
Vela Spila is just one of several Paleolithic sites with ceramic scattered through the geography of Europe and North Africa, as reflected in fig. 1:

The Croatian site’s ceramics begin only c. 17,350 years ago (cal.), even if the occupation of the site is some two millennia older, and continues until some 14,400 years ago, when a tephra layer from the second Campanian Ignibrite eruption seems to mark a major hiatus in human habitation (the cave was later repopulated in the Epipaleolithic, c. 7400 BCE).
The authors think that the Vela Spina figurines are similar to those from Pavlov and Dolní Věstonice in the creation process and most conceptual notions. However there are also some differences like stylized foots, lack of anthropomorphic figures and no direct correlation with hearths, as happens in Gravettian Moravia.

See also: University of Cambridge press release. Hat tip to Pileta.


Neolithic village and ship found underwater in Croatia

The finding has been made offshore the town of Umag-Umago (Istria). The village, established on wooden pillars (probably on shallow water) is dated between the Late Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age. 
The ship, measuring 6m long and 2.4m wide, was made with the technique of plank-sewing (or stitching), known to have been used also in Atlantic Europe. It has been carbon-dated to the first millennium BCE (latest Chalcolithic or early Bronze Age).
Lots of animal bones and pottery fragments have also been found.
Ref. La Vanguardia[es], Parentium[hr].

Dalmatia as a central hub for South European Neolithic

I cannot find the relevant paper and I am not sure how this news item is different from what we already knew, though it is true that the Eastern Adriatic region, at the origin of Cardium Pottery Neolithic is often ignored and misunderstood, with the focus often being in Central and East Balcanic Neolithic and its derived variant in Central Europe: the Danubian Neolithic (Linear Pottery culture, LBK).
Yet at least as important as these was the Mediterranean Neolithic and, for this, it all began in Dalmatia and nearby areas (Bosnia, Montenegro, coastal Albania), soon spreading to Italy and beyond, to SE France, the coasts of Iberia and some coastal enclaves in North Africa. 
The news item I am referring to is at Science News today and it has some interesting paragraphs, obtained from archaeologist Marko Mendušic and his US colleague Andrew Moore:

Their discoveries support the idea that agricultural newcomers to southern Europe built villages without encountering local nomadic groups, Moore asserts. Earlier excavations at Neolithic sites in Germany and France raise the possibility that hunter-gatherers clashed with incoming villagers in northern Europe, he notes.

Surprisingly, Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj residents grew the same plants and raised the same animals, in the same proportions, as today’s Dalmatian farmers do, Moore says. Excavated seeds and plant parts show that ancient villagers grew nine different domestic plants — including emmer, oats and lentils — and gathered blackberries and other wild fruits.

Animal bones found at the two villages indicate that residents primarily herded sheep and goats, along with some cattle and a small number of pigs.

This dominance of sheep and goat herding, along with all the classical array of Neolithic domesticates in the wider region, is a characteristic of Mediterranean Neolithic.

Aside from farming, Neolithic villagers in Dalmatia were “oriented toward the sea, and enjoyed extensive long-distance contacts,” Moore adds. Chemical analyses of obsidian chunks found at Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj, directed by archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa, trace most of them to Lipari, an island off Sicily’s north coast.

This seafaring inclination, not fearing even the high seas, is another characteristic of Cardium Pottery Neolithic. 

Of course, the third trait is their unique pottery (left: an example from Catalonia), not painted but imprinted, often with the shell of what used to be the genus Cardium, now superfamily Cardidae (cockles in English, berberechos in Spanish and Galician, escopinyas in Catalan, berbigoes in Portuguese, cocques and bucardes in French). 
However both in the original area of the Western Balcans and in the extended area of Italy and the West Mediterranean, soon the pottery styles evolved into other forms known as a whole as Epi-Cardial. 
There is also some presence of this pottery in at least one of the earliest Greek Neolithic sites, Otzaki, and later also in Lebanon and coastal Syria (Byblos facies of the Amuq-Byblos culture), where it must have arrived from Europe (because of the rather late time frame).
The expansion of this Neolithic culture is, with some exceptions, characterized by the assimilation of earlier populations, something evident in the continuity of local Epipaleolithic toolkits. 

Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Croatia, European prehistory, Neolithic