Enclosing the Neolithic World: A Vinča Culture Enclosed and Fortified Settlement in the Balkans

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DOI: 10.1086/697534
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Abstract
Interpretations of prehistoric enclosures worldwide have varied from those that see the primary role of enclosures as defensive features to others that explore the symbolic, ritual, social, and ideological dimensions of separating space into an inside, an outside, and an in-between. Such evidence and interpretative accounts are inevitably linked to wider anthropological discussions on modes of social interaction and reproduction in the past, whether altruistic or predatory, and evolutionary narratives regarding changes in the level of intergroup violence over the course of human history. Growing evidence indicates that many Neolithic settlements in Europe were enclosed by a complex system of ditches, ramparts, and palisades. We present a case study from the central Balkans at the Neolithic Vinča culture site of Oreškovica-Selište in Serbia, dated to the last centuries of the sixth millennium BC, where recent geophysical surveys, stratigraphic excavation, and accelerator mass spectrometry dating document the existence of an early enclosed settlement with multiple enclosure features. We interpret these features as defensive and discuss the social dynamics that led to the founding and abandonment of this short-lived occupation in the context of other contemporaneous settlements in the Balkans. © 2018, by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
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Enclosing the Neolithic World
A Vinča Culture Enclosed and Fortied Settlement
in the Balkans
Dušan Borić, Bryan Hanks, Duško Šljivar, Miroslav Kočić,
Jelena Bulatović, Seren Grifths, Roger Doonan,
and Dragan Jacanović
Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia
University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York
10027, USA (db2128@columbia.edu) (Borić)/Department
of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, #3113 WWPH,
230 South Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260,
USA (Hanks and Kočić)/National Museum Belgrade, Trg
Republike 1, 11000 Belgrade, Republic of Serbia (Šljivar)/
Laboratory for Bioarchaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, Uni-
versity of Belgrade, Čika Ljubina 1820, 11000 Belgrade,
Republic of Serbia (Bulatović)/School of Forensic and Ap-
plied Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston,
Lancashire PR1 2HE, United Kingdom (Grifths)/Depart-
ment of Archaeology, University of Shefeld, Minalloy
House, 1016 Regent Street, Shefeld S1 3NJ, United King-
dom (Doonan)/National Museum in Požarevac, Dr Voje
Dulića1012, 12000 Požarevac, Republic of Serbia
(Jacanović). This paper was submitted 29 I 17, accepted
10 X 17, and electronically published 3 IV 18.
Online enhancements: supplementary material
Interpretations of prehistoric enclosures worldwide have var-
ied from those that see the primary role of enclosures as de-
fensive features to others that explore the symbolic, ritual,
social, and ideological dimensions of separating space into an
inside, an outside, and an in-between. Such evidence and in-
terpretative accounts are inevitably linked to wider anthro-
pological discussions on modes of social interaction and re-
production in the past, whether altruistic or predatory, and
evolutionary narratives regarding changes in the level of in-
tergroup violence over the course of human history. Growing
evidence indicates that many Neolithic settlements in Europe
were enclosed by a complex system of ditches, ramparts, and
palisades. We present a case study from the central Balkans at
the Neolithic Vinča culture site of Oreškovica-Selište in Serbia,
dated to the last centuries of the sixth millennium BC, where
recent geophysical surveys, stratigraphic excavation, and ac-
celerator mass spectrometry dating document the existence of
an early enclosed settlement with multiple enclosure features.
We interpret these features as defensive and discuss the social
dynamics that led to the founding and abandonment of this
short-lived occupation in the context of other contempora-
neous settlements in the Balkans.
Up to the 1990s, a pervasive view was that Neolithic com-
munities in Europe and farther aeld were peaceful and sed-
entary. This narrative was especially argued for by Marija
Gimbutas (e.g., Gimbutas 1991), who starkly contrasted this
matriarchalworld of Old Europe,dominated by Mother
Goddessworship (with overt New Age sentiments) to the
subsequent arrival of mobile, warrior-like, horse-riding com-
munities from the east, which Gimbutas equated with waves of
Indo-Europeans and their largely patriarchalsocial struc-
ture. This narrative of a peaceful Neolithic existence began to
be questioned on the basis of two kinds of evidence. First, there
were mounting indications of both fatal and healed traumas
caused by violent interpersonal conict, including mass burial
sites of massacred victims (e.g., in Talheim, Germany [Wahl and
Trautmann 2012]; Schöneck-Kilianstädten, Germany [Meyer
et al. 2015]; and Esztergályhorváti, Hungary [Barna 1996]).
Second, evidence of enclosed Neolithic-period settlements with
possible defensive features also became widely documented
(e.g., Ivanova 2008; Keely, Fontana, and Quick 2007; Parkinson
and Duffy 2007). While systematic and extensive geophysical
surveys were not common in the past, routine geophysical
prospection work over the past decade at many sites across
southeastern Europe has produced robust evidence that forti-
cation features were an almost common element in most, if
not all, Late Neolithic settlements (e.g., Müller et al. 2013; Par-
kinson et al. 2010). The same is true of the recent work on the
Vinča culture taxonomic unit found in the north-central Bal-
kans, which covers a period of more than 800 years (ca. 5,300
4,500 cal BC) in the central and northern areas of the peninsula
(e.g., Borić2009, 2015; Chapman 1981; Chapman, Gaydarska,
and Hardy 2006; Crnobrnja 2012; Medovićet al. 2014; Perić
et al. 2016; Schier 2008).
Enclosed settlements, with their origins in southeastern Eu-
rope, became an important feature in the layout of Neolithic
settlements across Europe and endured for much of Late Eu-
ropean Prehistory (e.g., Müller 2014; Parkinson and Duffy
2007). Based on their review of the evidence for fortications
and enclosures during the European Neolithic and Bronze Age,
Parkinson and Duffy (2007:100) suggest that the appearance of
enclosures and fortications was associated with the formal-
ized representation of segmentary social units on the land-
scape,also reecting intergroup dynamics. It also has been
argued that, in a presumed dominantly egalitarian context of
agricultural Neolithic groups in Europe, large communal
workssuch as those involved in the digging of deep ditches
and building of palisades, or even in intentional and simulta-
q2018 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2018/5903-0007$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/697534
336 Current Anthropology Volume 59, Number 3, June 2018
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neous burning of building structures within settlements
brought community members together and acted to create
solidarity, cohesive social bonds, and the sense of belonging to
a particular community (Borić2015).
There has been an extensive debate in different regional
contexts as to whether, on the one hand, ditches, palisades, and
various combinations of different types of enclosure features
were parts of defensive fortications that directly reect pe-
riods characterized by heightened levels of violence (e.g., Ar-
kush and Stanish 2005; Keely 1996; Keely, Fontana, and Quick
2007) or whether, on the other hand, the existence of such
features should predominantly be seen as having symbolic,
ritual, or ideological purposes in delineating an inside versus
an outside and epitomizing a liminal space (e.g., Andersen
1997; Coudart 1991; Whittle 1996). This debate also mirrors
debates regarding whether the phenomenon of house burning
in southeastern Europe was intentional, structured, and ritual
or the consequence of violent raids (e.g., Stevanović1997).
Hence the question has been asked regarding the existence of
ritual battlesand ritual combatas opposed to real war.
These differences or preferences in interpretation may reect
postWorld War II tendencies to pacify the prehistoric past
(Keely, Fontana, and Quick 2007:56). However, they also re-
ect wider anthropological debates on the social philosophy of
exchanges and relationality in which some authors emphasize
an altruistic feature of exchange and conviviality (e.g., Overing
and Passes 2000; Santos Granero 2000). Other scholars have
stressed predatory and cannibalistic modes of interaction as a
central trope of certain groups through the action of building
and constituting particular social worlds (e.g., Fausto 2012;
Viveiros de Castro 2011). As Descola (2013:337, 425n4) em-
phasizes, different approaches to sociability are not mutually
exclusive, and the task becomes the identication of dominant
and changing modes of relationality on the basis of the par-
ticular set of empirical evidence at hand.
Vinča Culture
The Middle to Late Neolithic in the northern and central
Balkans is epitomized by the Vinča culturetaxonomic unit.
The emergence of Vinča groups and the formation of a shared
social network with a high degree of similarities in material
culture styles is strongly associated with population nucleation
at tells, tell-likesettlements, and at settlements and new
forms of craft production in the form of dark burnished ceram-
ics, gurines often displaying mask-like triangular faces, and
the development of copper metallurgy, among other crafts
(e.g., Borić2009, 2015; Chapman 1981; Orton 2012; Whittle
et al. 2016). The widespread spatial distribution of these crafts
suggests the establishment of shared social networks and in-
traregional trade routes among the descendants of the earliest
agrarian communities of southeastern Europe. Based on the
evidence from the type-site of Vinča-Belo Brdo, a simplied
chronological scheme divides the Vinča culture into four phases
based on the stratigraphy of the type-site: Vinča A (ca. 5400/
53005200 cal BC), Vinča B (ca. 5,2005,000 cal BC), VinčaC
(ca. 5,000/4,9504,850 cal BC), and VinčaD(ca.4,8504,600/
4,550 cal BC; Borić2009, 2015; Tasićet al. 2016; Whittle et al.
2016).
A seemingly simultaneous disintegration of the tell-based
existence over the western and central Balkans and the eastern
Carpathian Basin took place around 4,600/4,500 cal BC, and a
burnt building horizon marks the last Vinča culture occupa-
tion level at many sites (e.g., Borić2009, 2015; Link 2006;
Parkinson 2002; Tasićet al. 2016). In the ensuing Early Copper
Age, settlement locations, material culture styles, and man-
agement of domestic stock see dramatic changes compared
with the preceding period. Earlier models attempted to explain
these changes either by evoking external causes of change, such
as the arrival of new populations linked to conict and the
destruction of previous settlements, or by attributing change to
internal social dynamics (for a review, see Borić2015). For the
Vinča culture area, the most dominant theory has been Tring-
hams (1992) model, which argues that tensions and conict
in Late Neolithic Vinča villages toward the mid-fth millen-
nium BC were resolved by group ssioning and the establish-
ment of new settlements with households, houses,or their
social segments and members breaking away from the imposed
constraints and power structure of tell or large tell-likeset-
tlements. In the long run, this might have led to the dissolution
of the social network that held Vinča culture groups together.
There has been an assumption among various authors that this
process of disintegration of settlement at the end of the Late
Neolithic around the mid-fth millennium BC, which might
have been linked to increased levels of intergroup conict, was
the main catalyst of the need for enclosures and fortications
(e.g., Link 2006). While some of the known enclosed features
from several Vinča culture sites, such as Uivar in Romania
(Schier 2008), are indeed dated to the late Vinča phases, there
is evidence of several early Vinča enclosed sites based on pot-
tery typologies (see Tripković2013:199238). Hence in the
absence of sites with well-dated enclosure features, the ques-
tion remains open as to what wider regional dynamic should
be linked to the appearance of enclosed Neolithic sites and
whether such sites might have appeared already from the be-
ginning of the Vinča culture phenomenon in the second half of
the sixth millennium BC. This situation brings into sharp focus
our recent work at the Vinča culture site of Oreškovica-Selište
in eastern Serbia.
Settlement Foundation, Fortication,
and Abandonment at Oreškovica-Selište
The archaeological site of Oreškovica-Selište (lat 44719
0
31.46
00
N,
long 21719
0
11.10
00
E) is located at a naturally raised low-lying
hilltop at 209211 m asl in the village of Oreškovica near the
town of Petrovac na Mlavi in eastern Serbia (g. 1). The site is
found east of the Morava River Valley in the piedmont area
within the drainage of the Mlava River and close to the Ho-
molje Mountains, which are rich in copper mineralized ore
Borićet al. Enclosing the Neolithic World 337
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deposits. There are several partly chronologically overlapping
Vinča culture settlements in this regional context at a relatively
close distance of several kilometers from Oreškovica-Selište.
The best known is the site of Belovode, found at a distance of
6 km. Belovode can be considered a megasite,with a settle-
ment spread of almost 90 ha (Šljivar, Kuzmanović,andJaca-
nović2006) and a vertical sequence of up to 3.5 m that covers
the complete duration of the Vinča culture (Borić2009 and
references therein).
A geophysical survey and excavations at Oreškovica-Selište
were undertaken in 2013, 2014, and 2016 as part of a Serbian-
British-American international collaborative research initia-
tive, Vinča Archaeology and Metallurgy Project, the aim of
which is to gain a better understanding of social processes
leading to craft specialization, including the emergence of cop-
per metallurgy, in an early agricultural society in the central
Balkans. The chosen microregion is of particular importance
due to its proximity to the best-known Neolithic copper mining
site of eastern Serbia at Rudna Glava.
Geophysical Survey
More details on the geophysical survey approach and method-
ology are provided in supplement A (supplements A, B are
available online). The southern zone of the settlement is sit-
uated on a sharper elevation change (g. 2A). The principal
goal of the surveys was to ascertain the overall site size and
character of surrounding defensive works. The total enclosed
area of the prehistoric site is estimated at over 6.1 ha and
includes multiple ditch and palisade features and likely en-
trance areas in the north, east, and west zones of the settlement
(g. 2A). Based on the results of the geophysical survey, an area
in the northwestern zone of the settlement defensive works
was selected for excavation and ground truthing of identied
magnetic anomalies that were initially interpreted as ditch and
palisade features (g. 2B).
In addition, numerous dipolar and nondipolar magnetic anom-
alies were registered within the internal space of the settlement
area. These are interpreted as a variety of domestic-activity-
related features, such as pits (nondipolar), unburned house-pit
constructions (nondipolar), and burned structures (dipolar;
g. 2B). In this paper, we focus more specically on those
geophysical anomalies relating to the enclosure system of the
settlement.
Excavation of Enclosure Features and Settlement
In 2014, a 26-m-long and 1.5-m-wide transect (trench 1) was
dug to establish the sequence of enclosure features at the north-
eastern extent of the settlement spread (g. 2). Here, excavated
features (g. 3) comprised a large 3.6-m-deep (from the surface
level) and 7-m-wide V-shaped outer ditch (feature 47; g. 4); a
rampart; a middle, smaller V-shaped ditch (feature 48), fol-
lowed by a likely row of 1-m-wide and 1-m-deep postholes
with decayed wooden post traces in the middle, likely repre-
senting a palisade (g. 5); and a shallow inner ditch or pit
Figure 1. Map showing the distribution of Vinča culture settlement in the area of eastern Serbia (base map: Geographical Institute
Jovan Cvijić,Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts). A color version of this gure is available online.
338 Current Anthropology Volume 59, Number 3, June 2018
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Figure 2. A, Fluxgate gradiometer survey data from the Oreškovica-Selište settlement (top) and interpretation of this data detailing
main enclosure features surrounding settlement (bottom). B, Enhanced view of uxgate gradiometer survey data where the trench 1
transect was placed to ground truth ditch and palisade enclosure construction (left) and interpretation of this data detailing key
enclosure features and internal dipolar and nondipolar features interpreted as prehistoric burned and unburned pit and/or house pit
structures, respectively (right). A color version of this gure is available online.
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Figure 3. Composite image showing trench 1 transect that cuts multiple enclosure features at Oreškovica-Selište and the west-facing section with marked features (F), contexts, and
provenance of samples dated by means of accelerator mass spectrometry. A color version of this gure is available online.
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(feature 33) lled with midden deposits. Stratigraphic infor-
mation and alignment of ditch and palisade features strongly
suggest that all these features were part of the same defensive
system, were used simultaneously, and in all likelihood were
constructed at the founding of the settlement and remained in
use until the abandonment of the settlement as a whole.
Testing geophysical anomalies within the enclosed area of
the settlement, trenches 2 and 3 (g. 2) uncovered the majority
of two large pit features, dug some 2 m into the natural soil.
Both pits contained large amounts of ash and midden-type
deposits rich in pottery fragments, daub from burnt and de-
stroyed wattle-and-daub constructions, ground stone, gurines,
animal bones, bone tools, and malachite (green) and azurite
(light blue) copper ores, which were collected for either pig-
ment preparation or smelting from the copper mining zone
some 10 km to the east. One of the pits was associated with a
domed oven with evidence of replastering. We believe that,
over these pit features, stood aboveground buildings with pits
below acting as an intentional constructional element (e.g., as
a storage cellar and/or as thermal isolation). The structures
destruction debris was only partly burnt and preserved after
abandonment, the removal of which might also have been
aided to some degree by subsequent erosion because of the
single-layer nature of occupation at the site. Hence the ta-
phonomy of these domestic structuresdestruction and debris
deposition is signicantly different from well-attested exam-
ples of (possibly intentionally) burnt buildings at many other
Vinča culture sites.
The repertoire of ceramic forms and decorations from both
the enclosure features and settlement pits conrms elements
characteristic for early Vinča A and B phases that are dated to
before 5,000 cal BC (Borić2009; Whittle et al. 2016). Diag-
nostic Vinča A and B material culture includes anthropo-
morphic appliques on ceramic vessels, red-painted footed
chalices, geometrically incised lamp-altars with zoomorphic-
anthropomorphic protoms, barbotine decoration, bands with
dotted incision, and white incrustation. Figurines by and large
show the same early elements in their iconography (g. 6).
Based both on site stratigraphy and on the homogeneity of
Figure 4. Close-up photographs of the V-shaped outer ditch.
A, West-facing section. B, East-facing section. A color version
of this gure is available online.
Figure 5. Palisade posthole before excavation, facing east (A),
and half-sectioned, facing west (B). A color version of this gure
is available online.
Borićet al. Enclosing the Neolithic World 341
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diagnostic elements in the ceramic assemblage, Oreškovica-
Selište appears to be a single-phased settlement that, despite a
signicant build-up and some substantial features, was aban-
doned after a relatively short period of occupation during
Vinča B phase. This conclusion was tested by accelerator mass
spectrometry (AMS) dating of different excavated contexts.
AMS Dating
After faunal analyses, samples chosen from excavated enclo-
sure and settlement features were identied to species level,
and seven samples have been AMS dated (table 1). Among the
identied species, remains of domestic cattle dominate, fol-
lowed by domestic pig, caprines, red deer, hare, wild boar, dog,
red deer, and marten. Three samples are from articulating ani-
mal joints found in two different settlement features, which
suggests that the dated remains come from freshly butchered
animals rather than from residual faunal remains. The dated
articulating joints come from two large settlement pits. No ar-
ticulations are present in a limited excavation segment of the
outer ditch feature. However, here, among other stratied sam-
ples, an antler tool from a discarded mattock was dated (OxA-
31571) that might have been used for ditch digging or recuttings,
and it provided the oldest date out of the seven dated samples.
A Bayesian statistical model combining these results with the
stratigraphic sequence (g. 7) shows a good overall agreement
index (A model: 103). It suggests that the settlement at
Oreškovica-Selište began between 5,370 and 5,080 cal BC (95%
probability for Start Oreškovica-Selište;g. 7), probably be-
tween 5,320 and 5,210 cal BC (60.3% probability) or between
5,170 and 5,130 cal BC (7.9% probability). The settlement at
Oreškovica-Selište ended between 5,220 and 4,980 cal BC (95%
probability for End Oreškovica-Selište;g. 7), probably be-
tween 5,210 and 5,180 cal BC (8.4% probability) or between
5,160 and 5,040 cal BC (59.8% probability). Despite problems
caused by a plateau on the calibration curve in the period be-
tween 5,200 and 5,100 cal BC, the obtained posterior density
estimates suggest a short-lived settlement during the VinčaB
phase, which is in agreement with pottery typology.
In this microregional context, a series of nine AMS dates
from the site of Belovode place the founding of the site in the
earliest phases of the Vinča culture development during the
period 5,4705,310 cal BC (68% probability), while the settle-
ment continued to be occupied up to 4,7104,520 cal BC (68%
probability; Borić2009:211). Hence while the settlement at
Belovode remained occupied for a considerable period of time,
Figure 6. Fragmented clay gurine head with traces of painting found in context 57 (x.21) in a backlled pit feature at Oreškovica-
Selište. A color version of this gure is available online.
342 Current Anthropology Volume 59, Number 3, June 2018
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the occupation at Oreškovica-Selište came to a halt after a short
period of use.
Discussion
Based on the results of our geophysical prospection work, ex-
cavations, and dating evidence, the site of Oreškovica-Selište is
currently the earliest systematically excavated enclosed and
fortied site in the Neolithic Balkans. Because the site is a one-
phase, single-layer settlement, it is with more certainty that
one here observes the dynamics involved in site founding and
abandonment. In contrast with the slow and haphazard es-
tablishment of habitation sites, the layout of the settlement
at Oreškovica-Selište, with its enclosure and fortication fea-
tures, suggests a preconceived template for a village-type set-
tlement in the early phases of the Vinča culture. The founding
of the settlement and its enclosure features were made possible
through large earthworks that were communal undertakings,
the construction of which might have been the very act of com-
munity creation. We have estimated that around 42,500 hours
of work must have been needed for the digging of the outer
ditch. To put this into perspective, a work force of 30 people
working 12 hours per day would need 120 days to complete
the digging of the ditch alone. Furthermore, if the palisade
with 1-m-deep and 1-m-wide postholes, which was uncovered
through the trench 1 excavation, indeed encircles the whole
settlementas we suspect on the basis of the results of geo-
physical prospectionadditional hours of work should be cal-
culated to account for the construction of the complete de-
fensive system.
All of this work and the investment of time, energy, and
resources are impressive in their scope and required a sub-
stantial and well-organized population at the start of phase
Vinča B, dating to around 5,200 cal BC. The density of other
contemporaneous sites in this microregion and across the area
of the Vinča social network, as well as the existence of the very
large megasite at Belovode, further contribute to the conclu-
sion that there were relatively high population levels for the
period in question. Furthermore, the abandonment of this rel-
atively substantial settlement after a short period of occupa-
tion, despite signicant investment made in its build-up, speaks
of social upheavals at the end of phase Vinča B in the last
century of the sixth and the beginning of the fth millennia
BC. Moreover, this particular locality at Oreškovica-Selište was
not settled again during the Neolithic. There are other material
culture correlates that indicate changes in the social fabric of
Vinča culture groups in the transition from Vinča B to VinčaC
around this time. Based on the evidence presented here, which
may correspond to that from many other enclosed Vinčaset-
tlements, it is possible to speculate that intergroup competi-
tion, conict, and likely violence might have been character-
istic of the period.
Table 1. Radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry measurements from the Oreškovica-Selište site
Laboratory ID Context (d/m/y) Material
Radiocarbon
measurement
(BP) d
13
Cd
15
NCN
Calibrated date
(95% condence
interval, cal BC)
Posterior density
estimate (95%
probability cal BC)
OxA-31571 Tr 1, (46), quad
1021/1068, depth
2.92 cm (8/7/14)
Antler, Cervus
elaphus (S.1)
6265 538 221.9 7.8 3.3 53305070 53105070
OxA-31572 Tr 1, (17), spit 16,
quad 1020/1070
(5/7/14)
Metatarsal,
Capreolus
capreolus (S.4)
6137 535 221.5 7.2 3.3 52204990 52205040
OxA-31573 Tr 1, (36), quad
1020/1059
(5/7/14)
Metacarpal,
Bos taurus (S.6)
6223 537 220.3 7.8 3.3 53105060 52905060
OxA-31574 Tr 2, (62), spit 9, x.3
(Yp1010.771,
Xp990.813,
Zp209.586)
(13/7/14)
Articulating sides
of the mandible,
Sus scrofa
domesticus (S.8)
6224 537 220.0 9.4 3.4 53105060 52905070
OxA-31575 Tr 2, (14), spit x.39
(Yp1009.281,
Xp988.942,
Zp209.931)
Horncore,
B. taurus (S.9)
6164 539 220.7 8.3 3.4 52205000 52205050
OxA-31576 Tr 3, (57), spit 10,
quad 1010/1009
(13/7/14)
Articulating radius
and ulna, Lepus
europaeus (S.10)
6206 537 217.9 5.0 3.3 53005050 52705060
OxA-33521 Tr 3, (57), spits
1011, quad
1011/1007
(15/7/14)
Articulating femur
and tibia, Martes
species (S.11)
6210 532 220.0 13.8 3.0 53005050 52605060
Note. Quad pquadrant; S psample; Tr ptrench.
Borićet al. Enclosing the Neolithic World 343
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Keeley, Fontana, and Quick (2007:87) suggest that V-
sectioned ditches backed by a palisade or other protective fea-
tures are indicative of the defensive and military function of
such systems and are completely superuous to the goals of
preventing livestock from straying, deterring the entrance of non-
human predators or peaceful yet suspicious humans, or sym-
bolizing a boundary to other humans.This corresponds with
the evidence we found at Oreškovica-Selište, and we are in-
clined to interpret its enclosure and fortication features as de-
fensive, built to secure the community that inhabited this early
village from attacks that might have come from other (com-
peting?) neighboring villages. In recent years, we have learned
a great deal about the existence of Neolithic enclosures in this
regional context, based largely on the increasing number of geo-
physical surveys. To date, such defensive features have been
excavated at a few other Neolithic sites within the region, ab-
solutely dated, and the ndings published (see supplement B,
which lists Neolithic sites in southeastern Europe with enclo-
sure features).
There is considerable variability in the type of enclosure fea-
tures found on Neolithic sites across southeastern Europe
from the common occurrence of ditches in the Carpathian
Basin and in other riverine and lowland zones, occasionally
coupled with evidence of rows of postholes indicating the ex-
istence of palisades, to the use of drystone walls in certain areas
of the central Balkans and Greece and a general preference for
naturally raised topographic locations for the establishment of
settlements. There is also a signicant chronological variability
with regard to when the evidence of enclosure features appears
for the rst time and how long individual features were used.
At present, before a more detailed chronology of such features
at each individual site is established, it remains difcult to say
whether more specic regional and diachronic patterning of
this evidence can be discerned. Yet evidence of Early Neolithic
enclosures and fortications is relatively sporadic, and it is only
in the mid-sixth millennium BC that enclosures become more
common, widespread, standardized, and a persistent phenom-
enon of many sites. Almost as a rule, wherever extensive geo-
magnetic surveys have been conducted on Middle to Late Neo-
lithic sites across southeastern Europe, some type of enclosure
features have been ascertained. One could speculate that de-
mographic factors, such as the overall increase in population
from the Early to the Middle and Late Neolithic across the
region as well as an increasing tendency toward territorialism,
with the concomitant competition for resources and dynamic
social interactions, might have led to frequent feuding among
Figure 7. Probability distributions of radiocarbon dates from Oreškovica-Selište. Each distribution represents the relative probability
that an event occurred at a particular time. For the radiocarbon measurements, distributions in outline are the results of simple
radiocarbon calibrations, and solid distributions are the output from the chronological model. Other solid distributions are estimated
from the model. The large square brackets and OxCal version 4.3.2 (Bronk Ramsey 2017; r5 IntCal 13 Atmospheric Curve adapted
from Reimer et al. 2013) CQL2 keywords dene the overall model exactly. This model represents the previous stratigraphic infor-
mation outlined in the text. B. taurus pBos taurus;C. capreolus pCapreolus capreolus;C. elaphus pCervus elaphus;Fpfeature; L.
europaeus pLepus europaeus;M. martes pMartes martes;S. scrofa pSus scrofa.
344 Current Anthropology Volume 59, Number 3, June 2018
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All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/t-and-c).
neighboring villages. Such intermittent conicts might have
taken place within archaeological taxonomic units or cultures,
such as the Vinča culture world, which might have represented
effective tribal territories and mating networks with shared
traditions of practical gestures and material culture styles. In-
termittent feuding is also likely among different cultural tax-
onomic units, especially along the border zones. Direct bioarchae-
ological evidence of such postulated violent encounters remains
scarce at present in the central Balkan Neolithic, although oc-
casional human remains deposited in an unstructured manner
have been found both within settlements and in surrounding
ditches (e.g., Okolište [Müller 2014] and Stubline [A. Crno-
brnja, personal communication, 2015]). The question remains
open to what extent the widespread evidence of burnt buildings at
many sites is the consequence of intentional burning of these
features (e.g., Stevanović1997) or the result of violent attacks.
Parkinson and Duffy (2007) have argued that increasing
social segmentation and the concept of substitutability (i.e., a
cultural logic that permits the cultural substitution and equa-
tion of an individual with a specic group with which that
person is a member; Parkinson and Duffy 2007:100) were the
main social triggers for the appearance of enclosures, forti-
cations, and similar features in the European Neolithic. From
the perspective of practice theory, we suggest that the com-
munal labor that went into the construction of enclosed sites
in the Neolithic of southeastern Europe must have acted as a
powerful and cohesive social bond in creating and maintaining
a sense of belonging for groups who identied with particular
settlements. We also argue that, while various enclosure fea-
tures in the Neolithic of southeastern Europe most likely had a
defensive functional role, this does not stand in opposition to
the symbolic importance of such demarcations between the
world inside a village and the one outside. As in examples com-
ing from African ethnography (cf. Descola 2013:26), the village
might have been conceived as governed by social order and seg-
mentary hierarchy strongly permeated by ancestral presence,
while the outside might have been conceived as an unruly and
dangerous space.
In the future, with a larger sample of enclosed Neolithic sites
investigated in the same way as Oreškovica-Selište, it will be
possible to provide a more robust analysis of diverse trajecto-
ries of settlement histories. This will allow us to attempt to an-
swer with more certainty questions concerning competition,
conict, and violence as constitutive forms of social interaction
and reproduction in the Neolithic Balkans.
Acknowledgments
We acknowledge funding received in 2012 from the Wenner-
Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research through an
International Collaborative Research Grant (115 to D. Borić,
R. Doonan, B. Hanks, and D. Šljivar), funding received in 2014
and 2015 for eldwork and postexcavation analyses from the
Study Abroad Program of Cardiff University (Cardiff, UK),
and funding for determining AMS dates from the Natural
Environment Research Council Radiocarbon Facility (NF/
2014/2/0). We are grateful to the Center for Russian and East-
ern European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitts-
burgh, PA) for small grants to D. Borićand B. Hanks in 2016.
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