Friday, September 4, 2015

Beginnings of the Neolithic in Southeast Europe: the Early Neolithic sequence and absolute dates from Dzhulyunitsa-Smardes (Bulgaria)

    Site of Dzhulyunitsa, Bulgaria, discussed in this paper.

Raiko Krauß, Nedko Elenski, Bernhard WeningerLee ClareCanan Çakırlar and Petar Zidarov

Investigations of a balk in the centre of the prehistoric settlement of Dzhulyunitsa-Smardes comprised a sequence of archaeological deposits from the very onset of Neolithisation in South-eastern Europe throughout the end of the Early Neolithic. The arrival of Neolithic lifeways in the region coincides with the end of a period for which palaeoclimate proxies attest to considerable climate fluctuation. In connection with these investigations, the zoological finds were examined, which provide insight into the economy of this key settlement for the entire Balkan region.

A few excerpts from this paper:

Early Neolithic animal remains from Dzuljunica-Smardes
The dispersal of animal husbandry technologies from western Anatolia into Southeastern Europe is a poorly understood process. Recent studies in western and central Anatolia indicate that animal husbandry evolved in diverse forms in this intervening area between the Fertile Crescent and Southeast Europe (Çakırlar 2012). In other words, no single animal husbandry package was introduced to Southeast Europe from Southwest Asia. Instead various kinds of evolving animal husbandries would have been moving across a wide frontier until they eventually reached this region. How were animal husbandry technologies transmitted further west, across the Aegean and into the temperate regions of the Balkan Peninsula? And how were they further transformed there? Zooarchaeological assemblages from well-stratified, radiocarbon-dated deposits representing early Neolithic settlements like Dzuljunica are crucial to under-standing the integration of herding during the transition to sedentary life in Europe. We studied 900 specimens from the stratigraphic balk excavated in 2010, which covers the entire Neolithic sequence, and 1264 specimens from the horizontal exposures representing the earliest (Dz–I) Neolithic phases. The assemblages from the balk were recovered through 2mm mesh and for the most part (approx. 89%) include unidentifiable mammal remains.

The Dz–I assemblage from horizontal ex-cavations yielded a larger proportion of identifiable specimens (c. 45%). The sample size is thus small, and the study of archaeofaunal assemblages from the younger Neolithic layers of Dzhulyunitsa continues. For these reasons, here we refrain from speculating about how animal exploitation developed during thecourse of Early Neolithic occupation in Dzhulyunitsa and focus on the character of animal husbandry as it emerged in Dz–I.

The assemblage was studied in the archaeological laboratory of the New Bulgarian University in Sofia and at the Regional Historical Museum of Veliko Tarnovo. Domesticated pig and cattle (i.e. domesticated animals whose wild ancestors are known to have occurred in Bulgaria in prehistory) were identified based on their morphology, specifically by comparing them with standard wild specimens of known sex and provenance (Degerbøl, Fredskild 1970; Hon- go, Meadow 2000; Payne, Bull 1988). Osteometricmeasurements followed Angela von den Driesch (1976). NISP (= Number of Identified Specimens) is the basic quantification unit used to calculate the proportions of the represented taxa. A more detailed presentation of the material will follow in future publications.

Results and discussion
Sheep, goat, and domestic cattle are present in Dz–I. The domestic status of the sheep and goats in Dz–I is clear, because Dzhulyunitsa falls well out of the natural distribution area of their wild progenitors (Uerpmann 1987). Sheep and goat comprise approx. 50% of the vertebrate material from the horizontal exposures and approx. 65% of the material from the balk (Tab. 3). The most likely cause of this dissimilarity is the difference in the recovery techniques used in the two excavations. It is well known that sieving mitigates bias causing a low turnout of smaller animals (Payne 1972; Clason, Prummel 1977). Regardless of artificial differences in proportions, both assemblages demonstrate the important place of imported ovicaprid herds in domestic herd compositionin Dz–I. Cattle comprise approx. 30–35% of the identified mammalian specimens in Dz–I. The presence of domestic cattle in Dz–I is attested by the relatively small sizes of the Bos specimens (Fig. 30). Measurements indicate that aurochs (Bos primigenius) are also present in small amounts. This indication fits expectations based on earlier studies from Koprivec near Dzhulyunitsa (Manhart 1998) and Fikirtepe further to the southeast (Boessneck, Von den Driesch 1979).

The investigations undertaken at Dzhulyunitsa-Smardes in 2010 focused on the excavation of the balk separating trenches 18 and 21. The systematic excavation and documentation of this balk, which comprised a sequence of archaeological deposits beginning in the Early Neolithic, provided us with the unique opportunity to study developments for the eastern Balkan region from the Pre-Karanovo I phase through Karanovo II. The lowermost settlement deposits (Dz–I) can be assigned to a phase which coincided with the Neolithisation of the region, for which there are currently no older Neolithic finds. From a typological perspective, material from this level corresponds to finds made at Koprivec and from Poljanica-Platoto. Additionally, finds from Dz–I attest to clear affinities with material from West Anatolia. This context is also confirmed by radiocarbon data. While the larger figurine discovered at Dzhulyunitsa (Fig. 23) already indicates independent Balkan traditions from the outset of Neolithisation, the smaller figurine (Fig. 24) still displays typical Anatolian features.

This trend is also reflected in the results of our investigations into the faunal assemblage from the site. While the earliest Neolithic communities arrived in the region with herds of sheep and goat, and domesticated cattle, pig was either domesticated locally or imported into theregion later. Certainly, it cannot be ruled out that the Neolithisation of the Central Balkans did not occur a few generations prior to the earliest occupation deposits from Dzhulyunitsa. Data from Thessaly indicate that Neolithisation occurred slightly earlier in Greece, and the river valleys of the Vardar/Axios, Struma/Strymon and Morava would have provided natural routes for the dispersal of the new form of subsistence. Furthermore, it is not insignificant that the arrival of Neolithic lifeways in the region coincided with the end of a period for which palaeoclimate proxies attest to considerable climate fluctuation. From the middle of the 7th millennium calBC until its final century, a Rapid Climate Change (RCC) interval – with the same mechanism as the recent Little Ice Age-prevailed. RCC conditions are synonymous, for example, with harsh winters, but also with severe droughts. Additionally, in the century directly preceding the Neolithisation of the Central Balkans, these climate perturbations would have been intensified by the effects of the 8.2ka calBP Hudson Bay event. Causal relationships between climate change and the Neolithisation of Southeast Europe in the late 7th millennium calBC are an area of considerable interest which should be pursued in the future.  By the Dz–II and Dz–III phases, Neolithic communities had dispersed over the entire region, from the Aegean coast to the Carpathian Basin. The widely occurring white-on-red painted pottery (especially with white dots) testifies to a large communication sphere stretching from central West Anatolia (Ulu-cak and Çukuriçi) to Gura Baciului, at the centre of the Carpathian Basin.  From Dz–IV/Ovcarovo-Gorata (Karanovo II) there is a distinctive trend to regionalisation. In the Eastern Balkans, this trend is expressed in the near disappearance of painted decoration and the introduction of vessels with canellated/fluted surfaces. The smooth transition from this period to the subsequent Middle Neolithic, not identified at Dzhulyunitsa, heralds the period of tell development in Southeast Europe.

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