Between the Danube and the Deep Blue Sea: Zooarchaeological Meta-Analysis Reveals Variability in the Spread and Development of Neolithic Farming across the Western Balkans

Article English OPEN
David Orton ; Jane Gaastra ; Marc Vander Linden (2016)
  • Publisher: Ubiquity Press
  • Journal: Open Quaternary (issn: 2055-298X, eissn: 2055-298X)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.5334/oq.28
  • Subject: archaeology, zooarchaeology | meta-analysis | zooarchaeology | GN700-890 | 1204 | GN281-289 | Human evolution | Prehistoric archaeology | Paleontology | neolithisation | Neolithic | western Balkans | QE701-760 | Neolithic; zooarchaeology; meta-analysis; western Balkans; neolithisation

The first spread of farming practices into Europe in the Neolithic period involves two distinct 'streams', respectively around the Mediterranean littoral and along the Danube corridor to central Europe. In this paper we explore variation in Neolithic animal use practices within and between these streams, focusing on the first region in which they are clearly distinct (and yet still in close proximity): the western Balkans. We employ rigorous and reproducible meta-analysis of all available zooarchaeological data from the region to test hypotheses (a) that each stream featured a coherent 'package' of herding and hunting practices in the earliest Neolithic, and (b) that these subsequently diverged in response to local conditions and changing cultural preferences. The results partially uphold these hypotheses, while underlining that Neolithisation was a complex and varied process. A coherent, stable, caprine-based 'package' is seen in the coastal stream, albeit with some diversification linked to expansion northwards and inland. Accounting for a severe, systematic bias in bone recovery methodology between streams, we show that sheep and goats also played a major role across the continental stream in the earliest Neolithic (c.6100-5800 BC). This was followed by a geographically staggered transition over c.500 years to an economy focused on cattle, with significant levels of hunting in some areas – a pattern we interpret in terms of gradual adaptation to local conditions, perhaps mediated by varying degrees of cultural conservatism. Subsequent westward expansion carried with it elements of this new pattern, which persisted through the middle and late Neolithic.
  • References (143)
    143 references, page 1 of 15

    Arbuckle, B S, Kansa, S W, Kansa, E, Orton, D, Çakırlar, C, Gourichon, L, Atici, L, Galik, A, Marciniak, A, Mulville, J, Buitenhuis, H, Carruthers, D, De Cupere, B, Demirergi, A, Frame, S, Helmer, D, Martin, L, Peters, J, Pöllath, N, Pawłowska, K, Russell, N, Twiss, K and Würtenberger, D 2014 Data sharing reveals complexity in the westward spread of domestic animals across Neolithic Turkey. PLoS ONE, 9: e99845. DOI: pone.0099845

    Babović, Lj 1986 Zbradila - Korbovo: compte-rendu des fouilles en 1981. Đerdapske Sveske III. Belgrade: Archaeological Institute, pp. 95-115.

    Balasse, M and Ambrose, S H 2005 Distinguishing sheep and goats using dental morphology and stable carbon isotopes in C4 grassland environments. Journal of Archaeological Science, 32: 691-702. DOI:

    Balasse, M, Evin, A, Tornero, A, Radu, V, Fiorillo, D, Popovici, D, Andreescu, R, Dobney, K, Cucchi, T and Bălăşescu, A 2016 Wild, domestic and feral? Investigating the status of suids in the Romanian Gumelniţa (5th mil. cal BC) with biogeochemistry and geometric morphometrics. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 42: 27-36. DOI: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/j.jaa.2016.02.002

    Bartosiewicz, L 2005 Plain talk: animals, environment and culture in the Neolithic of the Carpathian Basin and adjacent areas. In: Whittle, A and Bailey, D (Eds.) (Un)settling the Neolithic. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 51-63.

    Bartosiewicz, L 2007 Mammalian bone. In: Whittle, A (Ed.) The Early Neolithic on the Great Hungarian Plain: investigations of the Körös culture site of Ecsegfalva 23, County Békés. Volume 1. Budapest: Archaeolingua, pp. 287-325.

    Bartosiewicz, L, Boroneanţ, V, Clive Bonsall, C and Stallibrass, S 2006 Size ranges of prehistoric cattle and pigs at Schela Cladovei (Iron Gates Region, Romania). Analele Banatului, 14(1): 23-42.

    Benac, A 1955 Neolitsko Naselje u Lisičićima kod Konjica. Glasnik Zemaljskog Muzeja u Sarajevu, 10: 49-84.

    Benac, A 1958 Neolitsko Naselje u Lisičićima kod Konjica. Sarajevo: Odjeljenje Istorisko-Filoloških Nauka.

    Benecke, N 2007 Archäozoologische Untersuchen. In: Hoffmann, R, Kujundžić-Vejzagić, Z, Müller, J, Müller-Scheeßel, N and Rassmann, K (Eds.) Prospektionen und Ausgrabungen in Okolište (BosnienHerzegowina): Siedlungsarchäologische Studien zum zentralbosnischen Spätneolithikum (5200-4500 v. Chr.). Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, pp. 159-161.

  • Related Research Results (4)
  • Metrics
    views in OpenAIRE
    views in local repository
    downloads in local repository

    The information is available from the following content providers:

    From Number Of Views Number Of Downloads
    White Rose Research Online - IRUS-UK 0 84
Share - Bookmark