The Lepenski Vir Conundrum: Reinterpretation of the Mesolithic and Neolithic Sequences in the Danube Gorges

By Boric, Dusan | Antiquity, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Lepenski Vir Conundrum: Reinterpretation of the Mesolithic and Neolithic Sequences in the Danube Gorges


Boric, Dusan, Antiquity


Introduction

The Danube Gorges provide the richest archaeological dataset for the study of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in southeast Europe: the transformation of complex hunter-gatherers; the first houses and the development of sedentism; indigenous domestication of animals; mechanisms of culture change in forager-farmer interactions; the development of social and symbolic complexity. Interpretation of the archaeological record at the type site of Lepenski Vir has fuelled intensive debate over dating and the context of Neolithic pottery (Boric 1999; Tringham 2000; Garasanin & Radovanovic 2001).

Landscape setting

The Lepenski Vir culture sites are in a geologically complex area of the Danube/Iron Gate gorges (FIGURE 1). The Danube cuts a 130--km route through the southern fringes of the Carpathians, passing the intermittently steep cliffs of four gorges (Atlas 1972; Markovic-Marjanovic 1978) and cataracts, whirlpools and large `cauldrons' formed by intensive erosion of the Danube riverbed. In pre-modern times, there was good fishing supplied by migratory sturgeon, catfish, carp and other species. Rock-shelters and lower terraces of the Danube were the foci of human settlement. The paper addresses the Upper Gorge sites of Lepenski Vir, Padina and Vlasac, although other sites are both downstream and outside the gorges (FIGURE 1). The landscape is critical for frontier models between the foraging populations in the gorges and the surrounding farming communities.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Early Neolithic material culture, buildings and the dating of Lepenski Vir

The key sites of Lepenski Vir and Padina share a number of similar features: trapezoidal dwelling floors with rectangular hearths made of vertical stone slabs placed in the centre of each dwelling. At Padina, the excavator Jovanovic identified the architectural features of trapezoidal dug-in buildings as Early Neolithic (pottery, yellow-spotted/Balkan flint and ground polished stone axes) (Jovanovic 1969; 1987; Boric 1999). By contrast, at Lepenski Vir, Srejovic identified similar architectural features as Mesolithic, by a different interpretation of depositional processes and contexts (Srejovic 1969; 1972; Garasanin & Radovanovic 2001: n 2). Several authors (Jovanovic 1969; Gimbutas 1976; Milisauskas 1978; Tringham 2000) have suggested that the Early Neolithic pottery associated with trapezoidal buildings at Lepenski Vir is not solely intrusive, but stratigraphically and contextually associated with these architectural units. I examined the existing evidence from Lepenski Vir in relation to the neighbouring site of Padina (Boric 1999: 47-55). At Padina, abundant Early Neolithic pottery is clearly associated with trapezoidal buildings in a number of published photographs (FIGURE 2; Jovanovic 1969; 1987). At Lepenski Vir, Srejovic reports that the Early Neolithic pottery found in situ on building floors or between the overlapping floors is intrusive (1968: 86; 1969: 153-4; 1971: 5; 1972: 134).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

I argue that reinterpretation of Lepenski Vir's phasing, and hence deposition of material culture, can only be achieved by reference to topography and construction. Both at Padina (at Sector III) and at Lepenski Vir the dwellings were dug in sandy loess terraced slopes, facing the Danube. On most of the photos, these dwellings seem decontextualized by appearing as pedestalled features (FIGURE 3). At Padina, sections show the stratification of deposits above floors (Jovanovic 1969; Boric 1999), indicating that these buildings were dug 1-1.5 m into the sloping terrace. Similarly section drawings and photos from Lepenski Vir (Srejovic 1967b: profile 1; 1972: Radovanovic 1996a: figures 3.27, 3.17)--such as the section above the floor of House 27 (FIGURE 4)--show the cultural debris infill of a semi-subterranean dwelling. Hence Early Neolithic material culture excavated at Lepenski Vir was deposited in the infill of many trapezoidal buildings during what the excavator considers the `Mesolithic' phases Ia-e and II (Boric 1999: 52). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Lepenski Vir Conundrum: Reinterpretation of the Mesolithic and Neolithic Sequences in the Danube Gorges
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.