A New Neolithic Site in Thessaly (Greece): The Belitsi Magoula

By Vouzaxakis, Konstantinos | Antiquity, March 2001 | Go to article overview

A New Neolithic Site in Thessaly (Greece): The Belitsi Magoula


Vouzaxakis, Konstantinos, Antiquity


The Neolithic period in Thessaly (Greece) was first studied at the beginning of the 20th century by Tsountas (1908). Since then many scholars (Wace & Thompson (1912) and Theocharis (1967; 1973) are the most significant) have worked on the subject, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. During the last 20 years research has not been so intense. Recently, however, public works (i.e. construction of new highways) have caused new large-scale archaeological excavations.

The Neolithic settlement under study is situated about 35 km southwest of the city of Volos, in the lower part of low hills on the north edge of the plain of Almyros, in Thessaly, central Greece. It is a tell (in Thessaly magoula) with a height of no more than 3 m and an area of about 25,000 sq. m.

Although we are still at the beginning of our study some basic points about the settlement are already clear. Finds, especially the pottery and its decoration, date the occupation period to the Middle and Late Neolithic period (about 6000-4500 BC). Unfortunately there is not evidence so far to help us understand if the settlement was occupied uninterruptedly or if there were phases of abandonment as well.

Neolithic people in the area had the opportunity to exploit a varied ecosystem, which offered different economic possibilities including farming and stockbreeding. The local environment during that period is known only by some restricted research in two adjacent lakes, Xenias and Viviis (Bottema 1974; 1978). Finally, the sea, although close to the settlement (about 5 km), does not seem to have played an important role in everyday life.

There were many amorphous daub lumps from the whole excavation area. Only a few could be interpreted as remains of clay walls. Several preserved prints of the branches or the reeds, which were used for the construction of the houses' wooden frame.

The majority of the artefacts we found are handmade pottery, of which only 10% is decorated (painted or incised). The most representative motives are the Middle Neolithic flame patterns of the so-called `Sesklo' period and the Late Neolithic brown coloured patterns of the so-called `Classical Dimini' period.

Chipped-stone industry seems to have been a very important component of everyday life. Generally, there were two kinds of raw material: flint (82%) and obsidian (18%). We found several kinds of flint, which obviously came from different places around the settlement. Research during the 1970s has indicated that all Thessalian obsidian tools were made from the raw material of the island of Melos (Theocharis 1973; 180), the only Aegean source of this volcanic glass.

In the light of these data we can assess the economic activities of the inhabitants. Agriculture and stockbreeding should have been the major subsistence practices of the community. …

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