A Pot in House 54 at Lepenski Vir I

Article excerpt

The site of Lepenski Vir in eastern Serbia was discovered and explored in the 1960s as part of the project of rescue excavations undertaken due to the creation of an artificial lake upstream of the exit of the Danube from the Iron Gates gorges. Apart from Lepenski Vir, about 20 other sites belonging to the Mesolithic were uncovered in the Iron Gates region, roughly covering a period between the 8th and 6th millennia cal BC.(1)

Pottery in the Iron Gates Mesolithic

The presence of Early Neolithic pottery within the complex stratigraphy of Lepenski Vir and some other settlements of the Iron Gates Mesolithic have been explained in various ways by many of scholars. Our contribution here is an attempt to clarify that problem beginning with the rather elementary question -- is there any pottery recorded in situ in the site's Mesolithic settlements? Apart from `enigmatic' fragments of dark or red pottery in houses mentioned by Srejovic (1968: 86; 1972a: 134) and explained as `intrusive', there are `monochrome' potsherds between superimposed floors of houses 36 and 35 (Srejovic 1968: 86) or embedded into the floor of house 28 (Boric 1999: 52). There are also two previously unpublished photographs of Lepenski Vir houses containing pottery. One of the photographs shows the pottery vessel in house 54 (LV I/2) in situ (FIGURES 1-3).(2)


House 54 at Lepenski Vir in the Iron Gates gorges of the Danube is dated by five [sup.14]C dates (Radovanovic 1996: 363; Boric 1999: 49, figure 7) (TABLE 1) and is amongst the largest and best preserved (FIGURE 2) (Srejovic & Babovic 1983: 119-20, 191-2, cat. 106-107, 109). The shape of the vessel from house 54 is globular, similar to forms recorded in the Balkan-Anatolian Early Neolithic (Garasanin 1979: 104, plate XVI, 2; Tasic 1998: 48 ff, 457, figure 26). It is manufactured of red fired, fine-tempered clay, and decorated with two plastic spirals placed on the two opposing sides of its belly.(3) The question arises: did pottery appear in the Mesolithic layers as a result of stratigraphic disturbance or can we consider the Early Neolithic and Mesolithic as contemporaneous in the Iron Gates? D. Srejovic stood firmly by the first assumption. However in one of his later papers he allowed a possibility of contemporaneity of the finds from Padina (Padina B, horizon III) with the Early Neolithic (Srejovic 1969; 1979: 36, figure 3; Jovanovic 1987: 1ff). B. Jovanovic was of a different opinion based upon the reliable stratigraphic observations at Padina (1987: 12) and we also shared that opinion (Radovanovic 1996: 280ff; Garasanin 1997: 11ff). An interpretation of the process of neolithization also depends on these explanations. According to Srejovic it was a gradual, spontaneous transition to the classic Neolithic. A model of the emergence of the Neolithic due to the arrival of a new population could also be accepted, followed by gradual assimilation and fusion of the older Mesolithic and the new Neolithic elements (Garasanin 1987).

TABLE 1. [sup.14]C dates from House 54 at Lepenski Vir.

lab. no.   dates BP            calibrated dates BC at 1 [Sigma]

Z-143      7300 [+ or -] 124   6250 BC (65.2%) 6010 BC
KN-407     7280 [+ or -] 160   6260 BC (61.2%) 5980 BC
Bln-738    7225 [+ or -] 100   6220 BC (68.2%) 5990 BC
Bln-653    7040 [+ or -] 100   6010 BC (68.2%) 5800 BC
Z-115      6984 [+ or -] 94    5920 BC (55.2%) 5770 BC

All measurements apart from Bln-653 derive from the same sample of charcoal (Boric 1999: 49, figure 7).

Early Neolithic pottery in the central Balkans

Which early Neolithic culture came into contact with the Lepenski Vir Mesolithic community? There were two more or less contemporaneous Neolithic cultures in the Central Balkans: one related to the Balkan-Anatolian complex of the Early Neolithic of the south and southeast of the Balkan peninsula, represented in the Central Balkans and Lower Danube Valley by the Gura Baciului group (present in phase I at Circea in Oltenia and in the material from Donja Branjevina). …