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Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the Eastern Adriatic site of Velištak (5th millennium cal BC)



The archaeobotanical remains from Velištak are the first evidence of plant economies from an open-air settlement dating to the late Neolithic Hvar culture in Croatia (c. 4900–4000 cal BC). The results presented here are from the 2007–2013 field seasons. Based on an examination of carbonised macro-remains, it is suggested that emmer, einkorn, and barley were the main crops at Velištak, along with lentils, bitter vetch, and possibly peas and flax. Wild plants were also exploited, with evidence of wild fruits, such as cornelian cherry. Similarities with archaeobotanical finds from the early/middle Neolithic (c. 6000–4900 cal BC) also suggest that plant economies remained relatively unchanged during the Neolithic.
Documenta Praehistorica XLIII (2016)
Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the
Eastern Adriatic site of Veli[tak (5th millennium cal BC)
Kelly Reed 1, Emil Podrug 2
1 School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, UK
2 {ibenik City Museum, {ibenik, HR
Archaeological research into the plant economies of
the late Neolithic Hvar culture in the Eastern Adriatic
is rare. So the discovery of the late Neolithic settle-
ment of Veli∏tak (formerly known as ∞ista Mala –
Veli∏tak) in 2007 presented a unique opportunity to
examine the development of farming in the East-
ern Adriatic, as well as providing the first archaeo-
botanical results from an open-air Hvar culture vil-
lage in Croatia (Fig. 1). Hitherto, only two cave sites,
Grap≠eva (Borojevi≤ et al. 2008) and Turska Pe≤
(Reed 2015) in Croatia, and a few grain impressions
from daub collected at Lisi≠i≤i, Herzegovina (Benac
1958.84; Hopf 1958), had provided archaeobotani-
cal evidence of the plant economies of the Hvar cul-
ture. However, the social role of caves and the range
of activities conducted in them are probably very
different from those of open-air settlements (e.g.,
Bonsall, Tolan Smith 1997; Sampson 2008; Tranta-
lidou et al. 2010). Therefore, this paper presents the
archaeobotanical results from the 2007–2013 field
seasons at Veli∏tak in order to explore plant exploi-
tation at the settlement more fully, which is impor-
tant for understanding the development of farming
communities in the Eastern Adriatic.
The Eastern Adriatic during the Late Neolithic
The division of the Neolithic is based on three ma-
jor pottery stylistic traditions or cultures; Early (Im-
presso culture, c. 6000–5400 cal BC), Middle (Dani-
lo culture, c. 5400–4900 cal BC) and Late Neolithic
(Hvar culture, c. 4900–4000 cal BC). Hvar-style pot-
ABSTRACT – The archaeobotanical remains from Veli∏tak are the first evidence of plant economies
from an open-air settlement dating to the late Neolithic Hvar culture in Croatia (c. 4900–4000 cal BC).
The results presented here are from the 2007–2013 field seasons. Based on an examination of carbo-
nised macro-remains, it is suggested that emmer, einkorn, and barley were the main crops at Veli∏-
tak, along with lentils, bitter vetch, and possibly peas and flax. Wild plants were also exploited, with
evidence of wild fruits, such as cornelian cherry. Similarities with archaeobotanical finds from the
early/middle Neolithic (c. 6000–4900 cal BC) also suggest that plant economies remained relatively
unchanged during the Neolithic.
IZVLE∞EK – Arheobotani≠ni ostanki z najdi∏≠a Veli∏tak predstavljajo prve dokaze o rastlinski ekono-
miji iz naselbine na prostem, ki datira v pozni neolitik hvarske kulture na Hrva∏kem (ok. 4900–
4000 cal BC). Predstavljeni rezultati so iz podatkov, pridobljenih med izkopavanji med letoma 2007
in 2013. Na podlagi preiskave karboniziranih makroostankov ugotavljamo, da so dvozrnica, enozr-
nica in je≠men predstavljali glavna ∫ita na Veli∏taku, navzo≠i pa so tudi ostanki le≠e, le≠nata gra∏i-
ca ter morda grah in lan. Nabirali so tudi divje rastline, saj so ohranjeni ostanki divjega sadja kot je
rumeni dren. Podobnosti z arheobotani≠nimi ostanki iz ≠asa zgodnjega in srednjega neolitika (ok.
6000–4900 cal BC) ka∫ejo, da je rastlinska ekonomija na tem obmo≠ju ostala relativno nespreme-
njena v celotnem obdobju neolitika.
KEY WORDS – charred macro-remains; cereal cultivation; archaeobotany; Croatia
DOI> 10.4312\dp.43.19
Kelly Reed, Emil Podrug
tery is decorated with a rich variety of incised and
painted designs and is best known from Grap≠eva
Cave on the island of Hvar (Novak 1955; Forenba-
her, Kaiser 2008; Forenbaher et al. 2010). Traces of
paint, which would have been applied after firing,
indicate that several pigments were used, including
red ochre and cinnabar (Forenbaher et al. 2010). So
far some 30 Hvar culture sites have been identified,
showing that this cultural tradition extended through-
out Dalmatia (Croatia) and the hinterlands (Herce-
govina). Most of these sites are caves, probably be-
cause they are easier to locate than flat open-air set-
Research on the Neolithic in the Eastern Adriatic has
largely focused around these stylistic and technolo-
gical changes (e.g., Chapman 1988; Spataro 2002;
McClure et al. 2014), while in comparison very lit-
tle is known about possible underlying socio-econo-
mic and cultural shifts.
Evidence of farming in Neolithic Dalmatia
The first domestic crops and animals, originating
from south-west Asia, spread by sea along the coast,
reaching Dalmatia at c. 6000 cal BC (Chapman,
Müller 1990; Bogucki 1996; Forenbaher, Miracle
2005; Davison et al. 2006; Forenbaher et al. 2013).
Evidence of early farming is limited
in Dalmatia, but once established, it
would have been an intrinsic part of
everyday life during the Neolithic.
The earliest indications we have of
early Neolithic (c. 6000–5400 cal BC)
plant economies in coastal Croatia
come from Crno vrilo (πo∏tari≤
2009), Kargadur (Kom∏o 2005.212–
14), Kr≤ina cave (Müller 1994.64),
Pokrovnik (Legge, Moore 2011), and
Tinj-Podlivade (Huntley 1996). Ein-
korn (Triticum monococcum ssp.
monococcum), emmer (Triticum
turgidum ssp. dicoccum), and bar-
ley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulga-
re) were the most common cereals
identified, along with flax (Linum
usitatissimum), grass pea (Lathyrus
sativus), and a range of wild fruits
and weed type species. Similar ar-
chaeobotanical evidence has also
been recorded for the middle Neoli-
thic (c. 5400–4900 cal BC) sites of
Danilo-Bitinj (Hopf 1964; Reed 2006;
Legge, Moore 2011), Pokrovnik
(Karg, Müller 1990), and Groma≠e –
Brijuni (Gnirs 1925.24–25). Although limited, these
finds suggest that the plant economies did not
change drastically in the Eastern Adriatic from the
early to the middle Neolithic.
For the late Neolithic (c. 4900–4000 cal BC), plant
remains are equally rare, having only been identi-
fied from two cave sites in coastal Croatia: Grap≠e-
va (Borojevi≤ et al. 2008) and Turska Pe≤ (Reed
2015). At Grap≠eva, the evidence consists of a few
grains of emmer, einkorn, naked wheat (Triticum cf.
aestivum), and lentil (Lens culinaris), as well as shell
fragments of almond (Amygdalus communis), acorns
(Quercus sp.), and juniper (Juniperus sp.). The naked
wheat grain from Grap≠eva was also securely radio-
carbon dated to 4838–4712 cal BC, confirming its
presence during the late Neolithic (Borojevi≤ et al.
2008). From Turska Pe≤, emmer, einkorn, barley,
naked wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum/Tri-
ticum aestivum ssp. aestivum), possible spelt (Tri-
ticum cf. aestivum ssp. spelta), and broomcorn mil-
let (Panicum miliaceum) were identified (Reed
2015). In addition, a large number of weed species
were also recovered and are thought to have been
associated with episodes of dung burning, possibly to
clear the cave of excess waste during seasonal habi-
tation of the cave by herders and livestock (ibid.).
Fig. 1. Late Neolithic sites mentioned in the text: 1Veli∏tak, 2Tur-
ska Pe≤, 3Grap≠eva, 4Lisi≠i≤i.
Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the Eastern Adriatic site of Veli[tak (5th millennium cal BC)
The only exclusively Hvar cul-
ture settlement excavated prior
to Veli∏tak was at Lisi≠i≤i (Her-
cegovina) in the 1950s, where
the only evidence of plant re-
mains came from grain impres-
sions found in daub fragments.
These were only briefly listed as
wheat, barley, and rye (Benac
1958.84; Hopf 1958), although
it is likely that the rye was a
weed, as evidence suggests that rye was not grown
as a crop until at least the Iron Age (Behre 1992).
Zooarchaeological studies of Neolithic assemblages
in the Eastern Adriatic have also demonstrated the
predominance of domesticated species such as cat-
tle, ovicaprids, and pig (Miracle, Forenbaher 2005;
Moore et al. 2007a; 2007b; Legge, Moore 2011).
Sites such as Pokrovnik and Danilo-Bitinj suggest
that hunting played a minor role in subsistence dur-
ing the early and middle Neolithic (Moore et al.
2007a; 2007b; Legge, Moore 2011), while stable iso-
tope studies of early Neolithic human remains sug-
gest that marine resources were also consumed by
some individuals during this time (Lightfoot et al.
2011). Stable isotope studies on animal remains
have also provided information about animal man-
agement strategies, suggesting that pig management
changed during the Neolithic, possibly through dif-
ferent foddering practices, while in contrast, cattle
and ovicaprid management remained unchanged
(Zavodny et al. 2014).
The case study
The archaeological site of Veli∏tak is situated in the
Velim Valley to the north of Vodice in northern Dal-
matia, Croatia (Fig. 1). The site was discovered in
2007 during agricultural work, and excavations sub-
sequently were begun in the same year by Emil Po-
drug of πibenik Municipal Museum (Podrug 2010;
2014). The excavations are continuing, but after
nine excavation campaigns (2007–2015), an area of
335m2has been opened. A large quantity of classic
Hvar culture pottery has been recovered (Fig. 2),
along with tools made of animal bone, knapped and
polished stone, as well as jewellery and polished
shells (Spondylus gaederopus) (Podrug 2010;
2013). The Veli∏tak pottery corresponds to the ini-
tial ‘Outlined’ decorative stage (e.g., sub-phase 1.1
of Grap≠eva –‘bordered’ classic Hvar) (Forenbaher,
Kaiser 2008.51–52). This is supported by six radio-
carbon dates that show the settlement was founded
sometime after 5000 cal BC and lasted until 4700
cal BC (McClure et al. 2014.1027, T.1), making Veli∏-
tak the earliest known Hvar culture site.
At the subsoil level, numerous pits and other dug-
out features have been revealed, often intersecting
each other, suggesting that they were not all dug
and used at the same time (Fig. 3). Most of the pits
are round or oval in plan and cylindrical or spheri-
cal in shape, and it is suggested that some were pro-
bably used for grain storage (Podrug 2013). The pits
were usually filled with pottery and animal bones,
which, along with numerous layers of soot and ash,
Fig. 2. Pottery of the ‘Outlined’ Hvar style from Veli∏tak.
Fig. 3. Plan of the excavated area at the subsoil
level and the eastern profile at Veli∏tak.
Kelly Reed, Emil Podrug
suggest that the pits were eventually used as dis-
posal places for household refuse and other com-
munal waste (ibid.). Several fragments of house
floors, fireplaces and hearths are also present in
undisturbed general cultural layers (in the northern
part of the excavation area, these layers are pre-
served up to 60cm in thickness). Overall, the strati-
graphy at Veli∏tak shows continuous successive occu-
pation at the settlement over several generations.
Material and methods
During 2007–2013, 52 samples were collected from
24 contexts relating to house floors, pits and fire-
places from trenches A to F (Tab. 1). A total of 52
samples were collected, totalling 571.5 litres of sedi-
ment, and processed through bucket flotation using
1mm and 250μm mesh sizes.
The plant taxa were established with a low resolu-
tion (7–40x) binocular microscope and comparisons
made from the modern reference collections at the
School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the
University of Leicester. The nomenclature of scien-
tific plant names for cultivars follows Daniel Zohary
et alii (2012) and for wild plants Tom G. Tutin et
alii (1964–1980). All floats were 100% sorted and
the charcoal volumes recorded. A standardised
counting method was used, whereby each grain
counts as one and the whole grain equivalent (WGE)
was estimated for fragments of grains. Glume base
fragments were counted as one unless clearly repre-
senting part of another fragment, while whole spike-
let forks were counted as two glume bases. The fruit
and weed seeds were counted as one, even when
only a fragment was found, except when large seeds
were broken and the parts were clearly from the
same seed (e.g., Cornus mas).
Carbonised plant remains were recovered from 45
of the 52 samples, as well as two mineralised seeds
of Buglossoides from samples 34 and 62. A total of
3491 seeds were identified, with a further 973 in-
determinate plant items. Seed density was particu-
larly low, with 37 samples having a density of less
than 1 seed per litre of sediment (Tab. 1, Fig. 4). The
two samples with the highest density were 184 and
185, both from the same lower half of a pit fill, with
a seed density of 16.7 and 93.5, respectively. Char-
coal density was also low, with all the samples hav-
ing less than 2.0cm3per litre.
Cereals were the most commonly recovered plant
remains at the site, accounting for 94% of the iden-
tified assemblage, not including cereal fragments
and indeterminate remains (Fig. 5). Of the cereal
grains, 93% of the remains were of barley (Hor-
deum vulgare ssp. vulgare), totalling 879 grains,
although 838 of these were recovered from samples
184 and 185 (Fig. 6).
In addition, 19 grains of emmer (Triticum turgidum
L. ssp. dicoccum), 18 grains of 1-grained einkorn
(Triticum monococcum L. ssp. monococcum), 1
grain of 2-grained einkorn (for identification crite-
ria see Kroll 1992; Kreuz, Boenke 2002) and 1 grain
of naked wheat (similar to Triticum aestivum L.
ssp. compactum) (Tab. 2) were recovered. A large
Fig. 4. Seed density (n/l) per sample per context
type at Veli∏tak.
Fig. 5. Composition of the carbonised plant assem-
blage per plant category at Veli∏tak. *Not includ-
ing cerealia fragments.
Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the Eastern Adriatic site of Veli[tak (5th millennium cal BC)
number of fragmented cereal re-
mains were also recovered from sam-
ples 179, 184 and 185, which are all
from the same pit feature, totalling
approx. 1 225 grain fragments (Tabs.
Cereal chaff (cereal husk separated
by winnowing and/or threshing),
which accounts for 16% of the as-
semblage, is dominated by glume
wheat glume bases. Preservation was
particularly poor, but where possi-
ble, einkorn, emmer and the ‘new-
type’ glume wheat were identified,
although in low numbers (Tab. 2).
The identification of the ‘new type’
of glume wheat glume base was
based on observations made by Gly-
nis Jones et alii (2000) and Marian-
ne Kohler-Schneider (2003) and
stood out, as they were more ‘robust’
than the emmer and einkorn glume
A small number of other crops were
also identified from pit samples, in-
cluding four lentils (Lens culinaris),
two possible peas (Pisum sp.), one
bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia) and two
possible flax seeds (Linum sp.) (Tab.
Wild plants
Wild plants make up 5% of the as-
semblage, and consist of fruit re-
mains, possible weed species and
other wild plants (Fig. 4; Tab. 3). Of
the fruits, only one cornelian cherry
(Cornus mas), one rose hip (Rosa
canina), and one bramble fruit seed
(Rubus sp.), as well as two acorn
fragments (Quercus sp.) were iden-
tified within four samples taken
from pits (Tabs. 1, 3). Due to poor
preservation, the vast majority of
the wild plant remains are identified
only to family or genus, with the
highest number of remains being
identified as either large-seeded le-
gumes (Fabacaeae) or large- and
small-seeded grasses (Poaceae) (Tab.
Sample Trench Stratigraphic Feature Sample Seed Charcoal
no. unit type vol. density density
(SJ) (l) (n\l) (cm3\l)
16 A 3 General layer 9 0.6 1.1
19 A 3 General layer 6.5 0.5 1.5
22 A 3 General layer 7 0.4
25 A 19-1 Pit Fill 5 0.6 1.0
26 A 3 & 14 Fireplace 6 0.0 0.5
30 A 17-1 Pit Fill 7 0.7 0.3
34 A 18-1 Pit Fill 6.5 3.1 2.0
37 A 23-1 Pit Fill 5 0.2 0.8
41 A 3 General layer 5.5 0.2 1.1
44 A 14 Fireplace 8 0.2 0.4
48 A 20 Fireplace 5 0.1 0.2
49 A 23-1 & 23-2 Pit Fill 5 11.0 2.0
50 A 24-1 Fireplace 4 0.2 0.1
61 A 24-2 Pit Fill 7 0.3 0.9
62 A 24-3 Fireplace in a pit 5 0.1 0.2
63 B 3 General layer 7 0.4 0.7
70 A 24-4 Pit Fill 3.5 1.7
72 B 3 General layer 5 2.4 2.0
84 B 24-4 Pot fill in pit 2.5 0.0 0.2
90 C 46-1 Fireplace in pit 6 0.1
91 C 46-3 Fireplace in pit 7 0.2 0.1
92 C 46-3 Fireplace in pit 7 0.4 0.1
93 C 45-1 Pit fill 7 0.2 0.3
94 C 45-1 Pit fill 10 0.3 0.2
97 C 46-6 Pit fill 8 0.3 0.4
98 C 46-6 Pit fill 6 0.3 0.1
110 D 57-1 Pit fill 13 0.1 0.2
111 D 57-1 Pit fill 10 0.1 0.1
112 D 41-2 to 41-8 Fireplaces 10 – 0.1
in pit
117 D 41-2 to 41-4 Fireplaces 16 0.5 0.2
in pit
118 D 41-9 Pit fill 13 0.6 1.2
119 D 41-9 Pit fill 19 0.7 0.4
121 D 41-10 Pit fill 14 0.1 0.1
122 D 41-10 Pit fill 12 0.3 0.1
177 F 3-1 General layer 17 0.5 0.2
178 F 3-1 General layer 19 0.5 0.3
179 F 73-1 Pit (upper half of fill) 21 7.6 0.6
180 F 73-1 Pit (upper half of fill) 17 3.2 0.4
184 F 73-1 Pit (lower half of fill) 18 16.7 0.9
185 F 73-1 Pit (lower half of fill) 19 93.5 1.1
193 F 74-1 Pit fill 20 0.4 0.8
194 F 74-1 Pit fill 19 0.2 0.4
216 B-E 84-1 Pit fill 13 0.7 0.2
218 B-E 3-1 General layer 17 0.1 0.1
219 B-E 3-1 General layer 16 0.0
221 B-E 85-1 Pit fill 13 0.3 0.1
238 B-E 3-1 General layer 17 0.0
239 B-E 3-1 General layer 15 0.0
249 B-E 3-1 & 106 General layer + 18 0.2 0.0
house floor
250 B-E 3-1 & 106 General layer + 18 0.2 0.0
house floor
258 B-E 105-6 Pit fill 13 5.4 0.8
259 B-E 105-6 Pit fill 14 0.8 0.4
Tab. 1. Summary table of charcoal and seed densities/l for each
sample at Veli∏tak.
Kelly Reed, Emil Podrug
Tab. 2. The total number of cereal items (inc. whole grain equivalents, WGE) per sample at Veli∏tak.
(n) = cf; * Naked wheat = Triticum turgidum ssp. durum/Triticum aestivum.
Sample no. 16 19 25 26 30 34 37 41 44 48 49 50 61 62 63 72 84 91 92 93 94 97 98 110 111 117 118
Hordeum vulgare 111 1
ssp. vulgare
Hordeum sp.
Triticum turgidum 1 2 (1)
L. ssp. dicoccum
Triticum monococcum L. 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 (1)
ssp. monococcum (1-grain)
Triticum monococcum
ssp. monococcum (2-grain)
Triticum monococcum\11
turgidum L. ssp. dicoccum
Naked wheat *
Triticum sp.
Cerealia indet. fragment 2 3 7 1 5 1 9 2 2 2 5
Hordeum vulgare
ssp. vulgare
Triticum turgidum
L. ssp. dicoccum
Triticum monococcum 16
L. ssp. monococcum
Triticum sp., "new-type" 1
glume wheat
Triticum monococcum\
turgidum ssp. dicoccum 11 1 41 5
“new-type” glume wheat
Triticum sp. 9 1 1
Sample no. 119 121 122 177 178 179 180 184 185 193 194 216 218 221 249 250 258 259 TOTAL
Hordeum vulgare 31 31213
76 752 1 2 1 1 869
ssp. vulgare (10) (10)
Hordeum sp. 1 1 2
Triticum turgidum (2) 1 9 1 1 1 16 (3)
L. ssp. dicoccum
Triticum monococcum L. 11 22 1 15 (3)
ssp. monococcum (1-grain) (2)
Triticum monococcum 11
ssp. monococcum (2-grain)
Triticum monococcum\125
turgidum L. ssp. dicoccum
Naked wheat * 1 1
Triticum sp. 3 1 1 1 5 11
Cerealia indet. fragment 3 1 3 69 17 156 1000 2 5 4 2 2 1 3 6 1322
Hordeum vulgare 11
ssp. vulgare
Triticum turgidum 31 4
L. ssp. dicoccum
Triticum monococcum 22 11
L. ssp. monococcum
Triticum sp., "new-type" (1) 1 (1)
glume wheat
Triticum monococcum\
turgidum ssp. dicoccum 49
“new-type” glume wheat
Triticum sp. 5 1 27 4 72 120
Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the Eastern Adriatic site of Veli[tak (5th millennium cal BC)
Formation processes
In order to understand the archaeobotanical results,
it is important to explore the formation processes
at the site in order to identify any possible bias in
the samples that may influence interpretations. The
most common form of preservation at Veli∏tak was
carbonisation or charring, which results from orga-
nic material being exposed to heat either acciden-
tally or deliberately, such as cooking, burning rub-
bish or fuel (Hillman 1984; Miller, Smart 1984;
Charles 1998; Valamoti, Charles 2005; Van der
Veen 2007). Thus, carbonised plant remains will be
heavily biased towards items that come into con-
tact with fire more frequently and survive the char-
ring process (Dennell 1972; Hillman 1981; Jones
1981; Boardman, Jones 1990; Van der Veen 2007).
The deposition of these remains within the archaeo-
logical record also needs to be considered. For exam-
ple, Richard N. L. B. Hubbard and Alan J. Clapham
(1992) suggested that charred assemblages can be
divided into three groups: Class A, where remains
have been burnt within the context within which
they are recovered; Class B, where an assemblage
derives from one burning event that was subse-
quently moved to the context (secondary deposi-
tion); and Class C, where the assemblage derives
from different charring events that were subse-
quently deposited within the same context. Seed
density has also been used to reflect the rate of de-
position, whereby a low density of plant remains in-
dicates slow accumulation, while high densities sug-
gest rapid deposition (Jones 1991).
At Veli∏tak, seed density was particularly low, with
37 samples having a density of less than 1 seed per
litre of sediment (Fig. 4). In addition, only ten sam-
ples were collected from a fireplace or area where
burning occurred and only a few seeds were recov-
ered. The remaining contexts and the overall low
seed and charcoal densities of the samples suggests
that the remains probably reflect Class C assem-
blages, which derive from different charring events
that were subsequently deposited within a second-
ary or even tertiary context. The only exceptions to
this are the two samples with particularly high den-
sities, 184 and 185, which were both from the same
lower half of a pit fill. Both are dominated by bar-
ley grains, although poor preservation led to a high
number of grains being identified as ‘cerealia’ frag-
ments. The samples also contain a small number of
wheat grains and chaff, a few pulses and a handful
of weeds. In contrast, samples 179 and 180 from the
upper half of the same pit contain only a small num-
ber of barley grains (<13). These differences may
suggest that the charred plant remains at the bot-
tom of the pit were deposited more intensively, as
part of one activity, or more rapidly, from a number
of activities, than at the top of the pit.
But what activities might these plant remains rep-
resent at Veli∏tak? Since the 1970s researchers have
determined that carbonised remains are more like-
ly to result from food production processing, e.g.,
crop processing, rather than food consumption
(Knörzer 1971; Dennell 1972; 1974; 1976; Hillman
1984; Jones 1984). Predictive models have since
been created to identify which stage of the crop pro-
cessing sequence an assemblage represents, based
on the assumption that each stage produces a cha-
racteristically different ratio of cereal, chaff and
weeds within the sample (Hillman 1984; Jones 1984;
Van der Veen 1992; Van der Veen, Jones 2006).
The general uniform composition of the assemblage
at Veli∏tak of cereal grains, chaff and weeds would
suggest that the remains represent harvested cere-
als. Overall, the low seed density makes it difficult
to apply any of the predictive models, as over 50
seeds per sample are required for a meaningful re-
sult (e.g., Bogaard 2004.63). Only four samples (nos.
179, 184, 185, 258) have over 50 plant items, al-
though sample no. 179 is dominated by cereal frag-
ments. The dominance of barley grain within sam-
ple nos. 184 and 185 and their high density within
the context may suggest that these samples repre-
sent a deposit of a barley crop. In contrast, sample
no. 258, which is from a pit a few metres away, has
a high proportion of glume wheat glume bases and
Fig. 6. Barley grains (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vul-
gare), sample no. 185.
Kelly Reed, Emil Podrug
Sample no. 16 19 25 26 30 34 37 41 44 48 49 50 61 62 63 72 84 91 92 93 94 97 98 110 111 117 118
Lens culinaris 1 (1)
Pisum sp.
Vicia ervilia
Linum sp.
Asteraceae 1
cf. Avena sp. 1
Buglossoides (mineralised) 1 1
Chenopodium album
Chenopodium sp.
Cornus mas
Fabaceae (large) 1 1
Fabaceae (small)
Galium sp. 1
Lolium sp.
Lolium temulentum
Phleum sp.
Poaceae (large) 2 1
Poaceae (small) 1
cf. Polygonum sp.
Quercus sp.
Rosa canina
Rubus sp.
Rumex sp. 1
Sambucus ebulus
Teucrium sp.
Verbascum sp.
Indeterminate fruit
Indeterminate 26 10 12 3 1 18 3 9 5 56 4 3 71 3
no weed remains. This sample may therefore repre-
sent the dehusking of cleaned glume wheats (Reed
2015). Some suggest that the daily processing of stor-
ed glume wheats occurred within the household,
where the waste (cereal chaff) was then swept into
fires and carbonised (cf. Hillman 1984; Gregg 1989;
Meurers-Balke, Lüning 1992; Bogaard 2004.68;
Kreuz 2012). The waste from these fires may have
then been deposited outside the house, and so sam-
ple no. 258 may indicate the secondary or tertiary
deposition of discarded wheat chaff. Archaeological
finds of querns and flint sickle blades also attest to
crop processing activities at Veli∏tak. However, the
recovery of only one barley rachis at the site may
suggest that either barley was mainly processed
away from the settlement or that the more fragile
barley rachis did not survive the carbonisation pro-
cess (cf. Dennell 1976; Hillman 1981; Boardman,
Jones 1990).
The importance of barley
Barley is one of the principle crops that spread with
farming and as such is found in varying quantities
throughout the Neolithic in south-east Europe. In
Albania (e.g., Xhuveli, Schultze-Motel 1995; Gjipa-
li, Allen 2013), Bosnia and Herzegovina (e.g., Hopf
1958; 1966/7; Renfrew 1979; Ku≠an 2009), Serbia
(Filipovi≤, Obradovi≤ 2013 for summary), Slovenia
(e.g., Tolar et al. 2011), and Italy (e.g., Robb 2007.
129–131; Rottoli, Pessina 2007; Rottoli, Castiglioni
2009) hulled and naked six-rowed varieties have
been recovered along with emmer and einkorn. In
Hungary, the late Neolithic settlement of Battonya-
Parázstanya has the largest number of naked barley
grains, totalling 2792 (Gyulai 2010).
There are advantages and disadvantages to grow-
ing both naked and hulled barley. In terms of crop
processing, naked barley is easier to process, as the
grain is looser in the spikelets and can be easily
threshed, while hulled barley requires an extra crop
processing stage to release the grain from the tighter
chaff. On the other hand, it has been suggested that
hulled barley has a greater tolerance to adverse en-
vironmental conditions (e.g., soil salinity, parasites)
(Ceccarelli et al. 2001; Lister, Jones 2013), while it
has been suggested that naked barley grains are
Tab. 3. The total number of other crops and wild plants per sample at Veli∏tak. (n) = cf.
Reconstructing late Neolithic plant economies at the Eastern Adriatic site of Veli[tak (5th millennium cal BC)
more susceptible to increased moisture in the atmo-
sphere and to fungal attack (Van der Veen 1992.74).
In the archaeobotanical results at Veli∏tak, barley
dominates the crop remains, accounting for 94% of
the cereals. As already discussed, sample no. 185
(lower half of a pit fill) contained 752 barley grains,
but very few other plant remains, although over
1000 cereal grain fragments were also identified.
Due to poor preservation, most of the grains could
not be identified as either hulled or naked varie-
ties, but many did have the more rounded shape of
naked barley, while a couple were more angular,
characteristic of hulled barley. A few grains also had
the characteristic lateral twist of six-rowed barley
(Zohary et al. 2012.56). Thus, poor preservation
prevents further discussion as to the preference for
hulled or naked barley growing at Veli∏tak from the
current assemblage.
Apart from this pit feature (samples nos. 179, 180,
184, 185), the quantity of barley, emmer and ein-
korn grains is the same, suggesting that barley may
not have been the main ‘preferred’ crop at the site.
This is further supported by the relatively high num-
ber of glume wheat glume bases seen in samples nos.
49 and 258. The ratio of cereal species may therefore
indicate differences in preservation rather than the
predominance of barley at the site.
Plant economies of the Hvar culture
The entire area of the Eastern Adriatic, from the Tri-
este Karst in the north to the Gulf of Kotor in the
south, is characterised by alternating dry barren
karst landscapes, sunken karst fields and ridges,
limestone plateaus and fertile valleys filled with
springs, underground streams and gorges (Maga∏
1998.195). Within this landscape, early Neolithic
occupation seems to have clustered in three main
areas: one cluster of cave and open-air settlements
in coastal Istria and the Kvarner islands, a second
cluster of open-air settlements in the Zadar and πi-
benik area, and a third cluster of cave sites to the
south in the Pelje∏ac peninsula and within the hin-
terlands of Herzegovina (Marijanovi≤ 2007). The
fertile valleys of the Zadar/πibenik area, and the fact
that most of the archaeobotanical evidence has been
Sample no. 119 121 122 177 178 179 180 184 185 193 194 216 218 221 249 250 258 259 TOTAL
Lens culinaris 21 4 (1)
Pisum sp. 2 2
Vicia ervilia 1 (3) 1 (3)
Linum sp. 1 (1) 1 (1)
Asteraceae 1
cf. Avena sp. 1
Buglossoides (mineralised) 2
Chenopodium album 11
Chenopodium sp. 1 1
Cornus mas 11
Fabaceae (large) 3 2 2 3 2 14
Fabaceae (small) 1 1
Galium sp. 1
Lolium sp. 11
Lolium temulentum 11
Phleum sp. 1 1
Poaceae (large) 5 2 10
Poaceae (small) 1 4 1 4 11
cf. Polygonum sp. 1 1
Quercus sp. 1 (1) 1 (1)
Rosa canina 11
Rubus sp. 1 1
Rumex sp. 1 1 3
Sambucus ebulus 11
Teucrium sp. 1 1
Verbascum sp. 1 1
Indeterminate fruit 3 3
Indeterminate 9 11 113 19 180 300 26 22 4 1 2 2 48 12 973
Tab. 3. continued
Kelly Reed, Emil Podrug
recovered from this region, has led researchers to
believe that this area provided the best conditions
for Neolithic crop agriculture (e.g., Brusi≤ 2008.63–
64). In contrast, the cave sites are located in moun-
tainous areas away from land suitable for agricul-
ture, and are usually interpreted as seasonal herd-
ing camps, marked by low density pottery and ani-
mal bone finds (e.g., Miracle, Forenbaher 2005;
Mleku∫ 2005). This is probably the case at Turska
Pe≤, where the archaeobotanical remains identified
an area resulting from human activities (where ce-
real remains were recovered) and an area that was
probably subject to the periodic burning of animal
dung (where wild, weed species were recovered)
(Reed 2015). An exception to this is Grap≠eva, where
the large number of animal remains, artefacts and
scattered human remains suggests ritual activities,
where feasts, offerings and secondary burials took
place (Forenbaher, Kaiser 2008; Forenbaher et al.
Therefore, the three late Neolithic sites present ar-
chaeobotanical remains from a ritual context, a pos-
sible herding camp and a valley settlement. Although
they cannot be directly compared, as bias in the
range of plant remains found in such locations will
be present, we can begin, if only tentatively, to re-
construct the plant economies of the late Neolithic
period in the Eastern Adriatic. For example, emmer,
einkorn, and barley are the most common cereals
identified from the three sites. This corresponds
with archaeobotanical evidence from northern Italy
(Rottoli 2014.76), Slovenia (Tolar et al. 2011), and
continental Croatia (Reed 2015) and would suggest
that these were the main cereals grown at the time.
Evidence of naked wheat, spelt, rye, and millet is
sporadic, so it is unlikely that they were grown as
part of the crop package during the late Neolithic in
this region. Unfortunately, the general low density
of plant remains at Veli∏tak also means that the ana-
lysis of samples in relation to cultivation methods
(i.e. whether crops were manured, weeded, etc.) is
not possible at present. Other crops were also pro-
bably grown, including pulses, such as lentil, pea
and flax. The recovery of cornelian cherry seeds
(Cornus mas), brambles (Rubus sp.), oak (Quercus
sp.), dog rose (Rosa canina), and dwarf elder (Sam-
bucus ebulus) suggests that local woodland and
woodland fringes were exploited by the inhabitants
of Veli∏tak to supplement the diet.
Compared to the earlier Neolithic, the plant spectra
in coastal Croatia does not seem to change, with the
main founder crops – emmer, einkorn, barley, lentil,
pea, and flax – being found throughout the Neolithic
(Reed 2015). Although naked wheat (Triticum du-
rum/turgidum/aestivum) has also been discovered
at the early Neolithic site of Tinj-Podlivade (Hunt-
ley 1996), the middle Neolithic site of Danilo-Bitinj
(Reed 2006), and late Neolithic levels at Grap≠eva
cave (Borojevi≤ et al. 2008), it is unlikely that the
few grains recovered, as well as the single grain
from Veli∏tak, means it was cultivated during the
Neolithic in the Eastern Adriatic.
The analysis of carbonised plant remains from Ve-
li∏tak presents the first archaeobotanical evidence
from an open-air settlement dating to the late Neo-
lithic Hvar culture in the Eastern Adriatic. The forma-
tion processes inferred from the plant remains sug-
gest that they probably resulted from a number of
charring events that were then discarded as second-
ary or tertiary deposits. The only possible exception
to this was the recovery of a relatively large deposit
of barley grains in the bottom of a pit feature. The
remains are probably from a barley crop that were
carbonised and, as there was very little sign of burn-
ing in the pit, dumped as waste. The remains of a
relatively high number of glume wheat (Triticum
monococcum/turgidum ssp. dicoccum/’new-type’
glume wheat) glume bases within a pit a few metres
away also suggests that crop processing of glume
wheats occurred at the site, probably within the
home where the by-products could be easily thrown
into the hearth and then re-deposited within the pit
as waste. Thus the results from the 2007 to 2013
field seasons suggest that emmer, einkorn and bar-
ley were grown as the main crops at Veli∏tak, along
with lentil, bitter vetch and possibly pea and flax.
However, further work is clearly needed in recover-
ing archaeobotanical remains from late Neolithic sites
in order to understand more fully the development
of subsistence economies in the Eastern Adriatic.
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... A large quantity of classic Hvar culture pottery has been recovered, along with tools made of animal bone, knapped and polished stone, as well as jewellery and polished shells (Spondylus gaederopus) (Podrug 2010;. Archaeobotanical remains were collected during excavations from a range of features, including occupations layers, fireplaces and pit fills (Reed and Podrug 2016). Overall, seed density was low, and preservation was generally poor. ...
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This paper presents a detailed examination of finds of ‘new glume wheat’ (NGW), recognised as a member of the Triticum timopheevii wheat group, at Late Neolithic sites in Croatia. Increasing evidence of this morphotype from prehistoric sites across Europe, as well as comparative studies of modern Timopheev's wheat, provide a range of comparative material. Using morphometrics this study re-examines grains and spikelet bases previously identified as NGW within the late Neolithic settlements of Velištak (Dalmatia), Sopot, and Ravnjaš (Slavonia), and late Neolithic/Eneolithic Slavča (Slovenia) [All data linked to this report can be found at
... Our knowledge of Dalmatian farming practices is still basic. Publications of more detailed carpological analyses are forthcoming; however, the published results suggest a varied but limited record, both in terms of number of finds and preservation of grains, especially for Impressed Ware phases (Reed and Podrug 2016). Some insights into farming practices have recently been gained on the basis of stable isotope analysis. ...
... Our knowledge of Dalmatian farming practices is still basic. Publications of more detailed carpological analyses are forthcoming; however, the published results suggest a varied but limited record, both in terms of number of finds and preservation of grains, especially for Impressed Ware phases (Reed and Podrug 2016). Some insights into farming practices have recently been gained on the basis of stable isotope analysis. ...
The Dalmatian coast has been occupied by Neolithic seafaring communities since the beginning of the 6th millennium BC. On the basis of pottery styles, a transition between the Impressed Ware and Danilo culture is defined, around 5300 cal BC. Nevertheless, bioarchaeological and archaeological data indicate general continuity between the two periods. In the current paper, we present an integrated technological and use-wear study of a large selection of lithics from several sites of both inland and insular Dalmatia. The results provide strong evidence for a change in harvesting techniques between the Impressed Ware and Danilo cultural phases. This change can be related to the pursuit of better performing inserts that could be used for longer periods and would be quicker to resharpen. Such a switch may have been associated with an initial increase in agricultural production during the Middle Neolithic.
‘New glume wheat’ (NGW) is an archaeobotanical type increasingly recognised at Neolithic–Bronze Age sites across Europe and Western Asia. NGW has been recognised via aDNA and morphological analyses of chaff remains as a member of the Triticum timopheevii wheat group, recent cultivation of which is known only from western Georgia. This study combines geometric morphometric (GMM) analysis of NGW grains with updated results from a parallel study of chaff dehiscence, to assess the taxonomic classification and domestication status of NGW from the Neolithic East Mound at Çatalhöyük (central Anatolia). Results confirm close comparability of NGW with modern wheats from the group T. timopheevii, in a form which has remained remarkably similar over thousands of years. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that NGW was undergoing selection for domestication traits in terms of shattering behaviour and grain form during the 1150-year East Mound sequence. These findings are interpreted in the context of substantial archaeobotanical evidence for a broad-spectrum plant strategy at Çatalhöyük which mitigated the risk of resource failure and supported experimentation in cropping. Possible cultural and practical incentives are considered for investment in the crop, made despite the availability of a fully-domesticated glume wheat (emmer) with similar growing and processing requirements. Alongside this, the study demonstrates the sensitivity of GMM to differences between and within wheat species, with methodological findings that can inform future studies.
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We synthesise reported stable isotope values for domesticates and wild herbivores from sites spanning the Neolithic in coastal Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy (6000-3500 calBC). Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values are analyzed as proxies of diet and environment, with differences between species possibly indicating anthropogenic influence. Results are used to characterise diets and address questions of the origin and development of husbandry strategies, especially transhumance, in early farming communities. Changes in pig carbon and nitrogen isotope values through time suggest alterations in practices, whereas values remain relatively constant for cattle and ovicaprids during most of the Neolithic, despite assumptions of seasonal mobility.
The authors present a new, two-stage model of the spread of farming along the eastern Adriatic coast based on the first appearance of pottery. The initial stage was a very rapid dispersal, perhaps by ‘leapfrog colonisation’, associated with cave sites in southern Dalmatia. The second stage was a slower agropastoral expansion associated with cave and open-air sites along the northern coast. Migration was a significant factor in the process. The mountainous hinterland formed an agricultural frontier zone, where farming was adopted piecemeal by indigenous groups.
The Dalmatian province of Yugoslavia is an important zone for early European agriculture. New information on the nature and chronology of first Dalmation farming is presented. The evaluation of models for the development of farming in the Mediterranean Basin is predicted on the availability of high-quality social, settlement, subsistence and chronological information. Until recently, the archaeological data base in the eastern Adriatic zone of western Yugoslavia has been deficient in all of these respects. In the last two years, some 16 new radiocarbon dates have appeared, which enable the dating of important associated subsistence and ceramic assemblages. It is now possible to attempt a rigorous assessment of hypotheses for the spread of farming into this area. -from Authors
What was daily life like in Italy between 6000 and 3500 BC? In this book, John Robb brings together the archaeological evidence on a wide range of aspects of life in Neolithic Italy and surrounding regions (Sicily and Malta). Exploring how the routines of daily life structured social relations and human experience during this period, Robb provides a detailed analysis of how people built houses, buried their dead, made and shared a distinctive cuisine, and made the pots and stone tools that archaeologists find. He also addresses questions of regional variation and long-term change, showing how the sweeping changes at the end of the Neolithic were rooted in and transformed the daily practices of earlier periods. Robb links the agency of daily life and the reproduction of social relations with long-term patterns in European prehistory.