View from the trenches: Serbia II
9 October 2013
Institute staff, with colleagues from the UK, Germany, Canada, Russia, China, Thailand, Spain and Serbia recently completed the final season of excavations at Pločnik, Serbia for the AHRC-funded Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia project
Dig Diary 2013
In 2012, Miljana Radivojević and Benjamin Roberts (University of Durham) began excavations in collaboration with Julka Kuzmanović-Cvetković (Museum in Toplica, Prokuplje), Miroslav Marić (Institute of Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Belgrade) and Duško Šljivar (National Museum of Belgrade, Serbia) at the Vinča culture site of Pločnik, Serbia.
This site is most famous for more than 40 heavy copper metal implements discovered in the Vinča culture occupation of this site and dated to the early 5th millennium BC. The 2012 season revealed a house structure (6 x 7 m) and an associated copper metal earring.
The 2013 season continued work from the previous year, starting with the lifting of the dwelling structure. During the first few days of the dig, the team discovered a copper metal ring, metal bead and a few metal sheets. Under the dwelling structure, several kilns were uncovered as well as pits which were densely packed with pottery, figurines, animal bone, flint and polished stone tools, obsidian and dozens of malachite and other green rocks. The natural soil was reached at 4m in depth, revealing a remarkable stratigraphic sequence of the Vinča culture occupation only at this site.
In addition to the field excavations at Pločnik, Silvia Amicone sampled pottery sherds together with the pottery processing team; the team went through c. 32,000 sherds in total over the 5 weeks of excavations and just managed to finish their work in time! Elmira Ibragimova (Moscow State Museum) spent 2 weeks with the excavation team studying flint, while Loic Boscher spent 3 weeks at the site and helped to prepare the copper smelting experiment that was held on 3-4 September 2013.
Experimental copper smelting
The copper smelting experiment was the highlight of the season, gathering more than 30 people together, mostly specialists in archaeometallurgy and extractive metallurgy, but also members of the excavation team and the local community. The UCL-based team (Loic Boscher, Siran Liu, Pira Venunan, and David Larreina), as well as Kunlong Chen, Simon Timberlake and Bastian Asmus joined the excavation team for two days to conduct smelting experiments.
The team ran 12 smelts in 12 different smelting installation designs under controlled conditions. The ores for experiments came from ancient mines in Serbia (Rudna Glava, Zdrelo, Majdanpek and Jarmovac) and the team successfully produced copper metal and slag and reproduced some of the features encountered during the excavations of both Belovode and Pločnik. The smelting debris will be further studied at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and compared to archaeological examples in more detail.
This event attracted interest from local and state media (see links below) but also from colleagues and friends of the Pločnik excavations.
Project activities in Serbia will end with the excavation of Jarmovac, the ancient mine in southwest Serbia, which is currently underway.