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Map of European Neolithic at the apogee of Danubian expansion, c. 4,500-4,000 BC.
Europe in ca. 4000-3500 BC
Simple map of the major late 4th millennium BC "Old European" cultures. Green is the Funnelbeaker culture (TRB). Blue is the Linear Ceramic culture (LBK). Orange is the Lengyel culture, purple the Vincha culture, red the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture and yellow the western part of the Yamna culture.

The Vinča culture was an early culture of neolithic Europe between the 6th and the 3rd millennium BC, stretching around the course of Danube in what today is Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia, although traces of it can be found all around the Balkans, parts of Central Europe and Asia Minor.

In Romania this culture is known as Turdaş culture, in Bulgaria as Gradeshnitsa culture, although these two are just local versions of the same culture.

Contents

Discovery

The Vinča Culture derives its name from the village of Vinča, located on the banks of the Danube, 14 km downstream from Belgrade (at the 1145th nautical kilometer), where one of the largest and most significant prehistoric Neolithic settlements in Eastern Europe was discovered in 1908 by an archaeological excavation team led by Miloje M. Vasić, the first schooled archeologist in Serbia.

Owing to Vasić's energy and efforts, the central and at the same time most important part of prehistoric Vinča was excavated between 1918 and 1934. Interrupted by wars and financial troubles, but also aided by the Archeological Institute of Imperial Russia, as well by the British patron Sir Charles Hyde, Vasić excavated a large collection of prehistoric objects of art which are located today in the collections of museums and universities throughout the world. The excavation was visited by numerous prominent scholars of the time: Veselin Čajkanović, Charles Hyde, k. o. Myres, W. A. Hurtley, Bogdan Popović and Gordon Childe.

At that time it was believed by both Yugoslav and Romanian archaeologists that the Vinča culture began around 2700 BC. However carbon dating pushed the date of the civilization back to before 4000 BC cal.

New works, under auspices of Serbian Academy of Sciences, began in 1978, directed by Nikola Tasic, Gordana Vujovic, Milutin Garasanin and Dragoslav Srejovic.

In the sixth millennium B.C., the Vinča culture covered the area of the Central Balkans which is bordered by the Carpathian Mountains in the north, by Bosnia in the west, by the Sofia Plain in the east and the Skopje Valley in the south.

The village's population increased when Romans settled.

Architecture

In the older Starčevo settlement, located in the deepest layers of Vinča, mud huts with tent roofs were discovered in which the settlers of the Starčevo-culture lived and were also buried. During the period of the Vinča Culture, houses were erected above ground with complex architectural layouts and several rooms, built of wood that was covered in mud. The houses in the settlement are facing northeast - southwest, with streets between them. Other settlements include Divostin, Potporanj, Selevac, Pločnik, Predionica Liobcova and Ujvar.

Economy

Beside agriculture and the breeding of domestic animals, the Neolithic settlers of Vinča also went hunting and fishing. The most frequent domestic animals were cattle, although smaller goats, sheep and pigs were also bred. The settlers of Vinča cultivated grain (einkorn and emmer, some barley). A surplus of products led to the development of trade with neighboring regions which supplied salt, obsidian, or ornamental shells (spondylus). The local production of ceramics reached a high artistic and technological level. Objects fashioned out of bones, horns and stone indicate great skill and dexterity of the craftsmen who produced tools for all branches of Vinča economy. At Bele Vode and Rudna Glava in Eastern Serbia copper ore was mined which they began fashioning with fire, initially only for ornamental objects (beads and bracelets).

Culture

Lady of Vinča, the best example of traditional Vinča art.

Recent excavations by the Prokuplje and National museums at the 120 hectare site of the Pločnik settlement have shed considerable light on the Vinča culture. The Pločnik settlement flourished from 5500 BC until it was destroyed by a fire in 4700 BC. The findings suggest an advanced division of labour and organization.

Vinča houses had stoves and special holes specifically for rubbish, and the dead were buried in cemeteries. People slept on woollen mats and fur and made clothes of wool, flax and leather. The figurines found not only represent deities but many show the daily life of the inhabitants while crude pottery finds appear to have been made by children. Women are depicted in short tops and skirt wearing jewellery. A thermal well found near the settlement might be evidence of Europe's oldest spa.

The preliminary dating of a Pločnik metal workshop with a furnace and copper tools to 5,500 BC, if correct, indicates the Copper Age could have started in Europe 500 years or more earlier than previously thought. The sophisticated furnace and smelter featured earthen pipe-like air vents with hundreds of tiny holes in them and a chimney to ensure air goes into the furnace to feed the fire and smoke comes out away from the workers. Copper workshops from later periods thought to indicate the beginning of the Copper Age were less advanced, didn't have chimneys and workers blew air on the fire with bellows. [1]

Spiritual life

The Neolithic settlers of Vinča ascribed great importance to spiritual life as is reflected by the enormous number of cult objects (figurines, sacrificial dishes, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic dishes). Their artistic and stylistic development was conditioned by the teachings of old settlers, as well as by contacts with neighboring peoples and their beliefs. Anthropomorphic figurines have a characteristic dignified stance and their number (over 1000 examples at Vinča alone) exceeds the total number of figurines discovered in the Greek Aegean. Shrines were discovered in Parṭa Transylvania with complex architectural designs. Some figurines and ceramic dishes discovered in the broad region spanning from Gornja Tuzla to Tǎrtǎria bear signs which some scholars suppose to be primitive forms of writing (see Old European Script). Indeed, if the inscriptions on the Tărtăria tablets are pictograms, as Vlassa argued, they would be the earliest known writing in the world. This claim however remains controversial; most experts consider the Tǎrtǎria finds to be an example of proto-writing rather than a full writing system.

Decline

During the middle of the fourth millennium, the entire region of the Vinča Culture underwent stagnation, followed by deep crises and a decline in cultural and economic development. The people, are likely I2a1 in Haplogroup I, who may also formed the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, were conquered and kurganized by the horse riding Indo-European tribes thousand years ago and are still in living there today, reaching its peak in the Western Balkans, most notably in Dalmatia (50-60%) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (up to 75%),especially in the Croat population of Bosnia and Herzegovina [2]

See also

Bibliography

  • John Chapman, The Vinča culture of South-east Europe: studies in chronology, economy and society. Oxford: British archaeological reports , BAR international series 117, 1981.

Gimbutas, Marija A. (ed.) "Neolithic Macedonia as reflected by excavation at Anza, southeast Yugoslavia." Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1976. OCLC# 3073058

  • Prehistoriska Vinca I, Industrija Cinabarita i Kosmetika u Vinci: Two Appendices; I. The Bound Deity in Prehistoric Religion. by Miloje M. Vasic
  • Prehistoriska Vinca I, Industrija Cinabarita i Kosmetika u Vinci: II. Vinca and the Hyperborean Myth. by Miloje M. Vasic (last two per reviewed by Ellis H. Minns # Man, Vol. 33, (Nov., 1933), pp. 183-183 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland)

References

External links

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