The Cetina Group and the Transition from Copper to Bronze Age in Dalmatia

By Casa, Philippe Della | Antiquity, September 1995 | Go to article overview
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The Cetina Group and the Transition from Copper to Bronze Age in Dalmatia

Casa, Philippe Della, Antiquity

Dalmatia, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, is a region of contact between the several worlds of the early metal ages - the Danube region inland, the Adriatic coasts and beyond towards the sea. New finds from caves and burial mounds, and new radiocarbon dates help tease out complexities in the region's cultural order.

In the Balkan regions, the later periods of the Copper Age (Eneolithic) and the beginning of the Bronze Age are intensely discussed topics for both terminology and chronology (cf. Tasic 1984; Acta Prag 1989; Forenbaher 1993). In the debate, the Dalmatian coastland represents an important zone of contact between the Adriatic, the Danube region and the Eastern Mediterranean (Marovic 1976; Maran 1987; Govedarica 1989). This paper reassesses the archaeological bases of the cultural groups involved in the Copper to Bronze Age transition in Dalmatia and presents recent issues concerning absolute chronology.

Pottery finds from the Velika Gruda burial mound

In the years 1988-90, the Department of Prehistory of the University of Zurich and the Opstinski zavod za zastitu spomenika kulture in Kotor collaborated in an excavation on the burial mound Velika Gruda in the Boka Kotorska, Montenegro. The tumulus is situated in the wide coastal plain of Tivat (FIGURE 2), only a few hundred metres distant from the well-known Mala Gruda with its rich Late Copper Age (LCA) central grave (Parovic-Pesikan & Trbuhovic 1971). The plain is a traditionally agricultural area nowadays in part occupied by Tivat airport and the expanding industrial zone of Kotor.

The well-preserved Velika Gruda tumulus, 6 m high with a diameter of 26 m and a volume of nearly 1600 cu. m, consists of a multi-layered clay mound with a top stone covering up to 1 m thick. The simplified stratigraphy (FIGURE 3) illustrates the sequence of clay and stone tips in the mound: the primary central grave 1 - a slab cist - goes together with the first clay mound (A). Much later, grave 2 was set in a pit on top of the existing tumulus and covered with a heap of stones (B). The mound was then twice enlarged by substantial tips of clay (C1, C2) and more graves added, the ones on top of layer C2 subsequently covered by a massive stone tip (D) with again more graves placed in it.

The different periods are dated by both archaeological finds and radiocarbon. The central grave and first tumulus belong to the Mala Gruda LCA phase (Primas 1992; in press). The subsequent graves and mound tips (B-D) together form a cultural and chronological unity, a necropolis dated to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (LBA) - Reinecke's Bz D (Della Casa forthcoming). The mound was re-used for a burial in the Early Iron Age and again probably in the Middle Ages.

I focus here on a few finds of pottery discovered in the clay strata C1-C2 outside the context of the LBA graves. A total of 638 sherds were collected in these layers together with some flint flakes. The pottery is always heavily weathered and fragmented with an average weight of 4.9 g; the sherds show random spread over the surface [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED]. Analyses of the clay sediment in strata C1-C2 resulted in sub-soil material. It is most probable that displaced soil containing occupation material was used for tipping the mound; the pottery in these strata cannot be considered in the stratigraphical and chronological discussion.

This view is supported by the archaeological evaluation of the ceramics, of which only 30 fragments display characteristic elements. These include flaring rims of beakers and small jars [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 5: 1-5 OMITTED], thickened bowl rims decorated with impressed triangles [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 5: 11-13 OMITTED] as well as sherds with ornaments of indents, grooves and rippled applications [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 5: 15-20, 23-24 OMITTED]. Some of the pottery can be paralleled with material of the 'Cetina' group, such as bowl rims with impressed triangles in the tumuli Sparevine 2, Rudine 26, Ljubomir 11 and Mala Glavica (Marovic 1959: figures 2-3; 1976: plate 3; PJZ IV: plate 20; Batovic 1989: figures 16-19), the latter assemblage bearing also indented rims, grooved ornaments and rippled applications.

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