The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia
of this project is to understand the emergence of metallurgy in the Balkans
during the 6th-5th millennia BC. It is unprecedented
three year collaboration (mid 2012- mid 2015) between British, Serbian and
German archaeological institutions and is generously funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
This is the largest international archaeological project currently working in Serbia and the largest project currently investigating early metallurgy in the world. The project involves survey and excavation at the sites of Jarmovac, Belovode, Pločnik in Serbia and post-excavation at Gornja Tuzla in Bosnia.
The recent application of modern archaeometallurgical techniques on technological debris from Belovode has transformed our understanding of early metallurgy and yielded the world-wide earliest known evidence for copper smelting, at c. 5000 BC (Radivojević et al. 2010)
of the copper smelting slags at Belovode provided the core of Dr Radivojević’s
MSc thesis which subsequently led on to a PhD thesis (2008-2012)
incorporating metallurgical remains from the Vinča culture sites of Pločnik, Gornja Tuzla, Vinča, Gomolava and the Early
Neolithic sites of Lepenski Vir, Vlasac and Kolubara-Jaričište.
The project builds on two decades of excavations at Jarmovac, Belovode and Pločnik conducted by the National Museum, Belgrade; the Museum of Toplica, Prokuplje and Homeland Museum of Priboj all of which were, and continue to be, funded by the Serbian Ministry of Culture.
Archaeological Background-Vinča Culture
The origins, chronological phasing, and coherency of Vinča culture have been disputed for over a century. It is currently conventionally dated to c. 5300-4600 BC. The Vinča culture is distinguished primarily by large tell villages which range up to 100 ha in size, thus exceeding many contemporary Near Eastern settlements, and also by its distinctive pottery. If these two are taken as diagnostic, then the extent of the Vinča culture would be up to c. 190,000 km2.
No Vinča site has been sufficiently excavated to provide good enough
data for estimating its population size but estimates have been made of 50-200
for smaller sites (c. 1-1.9 ha) and 1000-2500 people for large sites (>29
ha), all under the assumption that the entire site area was used simultaneously
(Chapman 1981: 51).
Early metallurgy in the Balkans has attracted scholarly attention for almost a century and is closely associated with Vinča culture sites, from the discovery of metal artefacts at the Vinča culture settlement of Pločnik (Grbić 1929) and the excavation of Vinča culture pottery in copper mining shafts at Jarmovac (Davies 1937), both in Serbia. The region became a major focus for early mining and metallurgy with the excavation of the copper mining sites Rudna Glava and Ai Bunar (Jovanović 1980; Chernykh 1978).
While pioneering provenance studies demonstrated these mines were exploited by local communities to make large copper tools during the 5th millennium BC (Pernicka et al. 1993; Pernicka et al. 1997), the recent political situation has meant that the quantity and scale of excavations and surveys decreased dramatically since 1990 due to political instability. Thus, despite this mining evidence and c.4.7 tonnes of contemporary copper objects recovered in the region, there was little evidence for actual metal production until the recent findings at Belovode (Radivojević et al. 2010).
The project focuses on
the sites of Jarmovac, Belovode, Gornja Tuzla and Pločnik.
The importance of
these sites lies in the quality and quantity of evidence for mining at
Jarmovac, metal production from Belovode and Gornja Tuzla, and metal processing
and consumption at Pločnik together covering the full chaîne opératoire of metallurgy.
Jarmovac consists of mining shafts
and an associated settlement containing early 5th millennium BC
Belovode and Pločnik comprise 3-5m of well-preserved occupation
deposits covering c. 80-100ha, 14C-dated from c. 5400-4600 BC (Borić, 2009). Both are close to ore sources and on
important route-ways through the Balkans, and existed at the centre of large
exchange networks. Belovode metal production can be linked to massive copper
artefacts found across the Balkans, while the typologically homogenous Pločnik
hammer-axes have been demonstrated to come from at least five different copper
sources (Pernicka et
al., 1997, Radivojević et al., 2010).
Gornja Tuzla has a well-dated mid 5th millennium BC Vinča culture sequence with a smelting hearth and copper smelting evidence (Čović, 1961).
Together, these four sites provide an unparalleled opportunity to comprehensively study the early development, evolution and spread of metallurgy. The project will combine two seasons of surveys and excavations at Belovode, Pločnik and Jarmovac with laboratory analysis of already existing finds, and new ones. Gornja Tuzla will be the subjected to post-excavation analysis only.
Page last modified on 24 jun 13 10:04