1. Prehistoric babies in the (bio)archaeological record. Sofija Stefanović. 22nd Neolithic Seminar: Modelling the Processes of Neolithisation, 6.11-7.11.2015. Ljubljana, Slovenia. (PDF)
Abstract: The whole evolution of human fertility is based only on indirect evidences, such as sites densities and paleodemographic reconstructions, and there is no evidence about number of babies born by prehistoric mothers. On those indirect evidences we have built one of the most important chapter of human evolution: people lived at the very low population densities until the beginning of the Neolithic when they experienced fertility increase. Starting point of the new ERC BIRTH project is that such important chapter of human evolution cannot be written without direct evidences about fertility rate and project intends to provide first direct, skeletal evidence about number of babies born by prehistoric mothers. The project developes an integrative framework for understanding skeletal, nutritional and cultural effects on fertility rates, and for the study of bioarchaeological evidence of birthing in the Central Balkans between 10000 5000BC. In this presentation, special attention will be on possible role of culture in prehistoric demographic shift, and some archaeological evidences about community attitudes to birthing process and childcare from prehistoric Balkans will be presented.
2. Demography of the Central Balkan Neolithic. Preliminary results of population dynamics reconstruction using summed radiocarbon probability distributions as population proxy. Marko Porčić, Tamara Blagojević, Sofija Stefanović. 22nd Neolithic seminar: Modelling the Processes of Neolithisation, 06-07.11.2015, Ljubljana, Slovenia. (PDF)
Abstract: The Central Balkans has great importance for understanding the spread of the Neolithic in Europe, especially the issues related to the Neolithic demographic transition, yet little is known about the population dynamics in the region during this critical period. In this study, which is a part of the ERC BIRTH project, we apply the method of summed calibrated probability distributions on the published radiocarbon dates from Serbia in order to make a preliminary reconstruction of population dynamics during the Neolithic in the Central Balkans. The results suggest that there were 3 potential demographic events: 1) an initial population increase episode related to the earliest Neolithic ~6000 cal BC, followed by a trough ~5800 cal BC which was in turn followed by a rebound; 2) another decrease between 5500 and 5400 cal BC, just before the transition from the Early (Starčevo) into the Late Neolithic (Vinča) period; 3) major population growth during the Late Neolithic period. It should be emphasized that these results should be taken as preliminary and tentative as they are based on a relatively small set of published radiocarbon dates collated from various sources motivated by different research agendas, which might have introduced some bias into the results.
3. The stress of farming: bodies and health during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic Transition in Serbia. Jelena Jovanović, Tamara Blagojević, Camille de Becdelievre, Sofija Stefanović. IUAES inter congress: World anthropologies and privatization of knowledge: engaging anthropology in public, Abstract Book, 04-09.05.2016, Dubrovnik, Croatia. (PDF)
Abstract: The Neolithic transition, the passage from mobile foraging to sedentary farming, was a major shift during human prehistory: a series of behavioral and ecological transformations substantially modified the daily lifestyles and eventually impacted human biology. Studies suggested that this transition positively impacted fertility rates, promoted reproduction and enhanced population fitness; however, bioarchaeological studies carried on human remains have also documented a general decline in health status and a global increase in morbidity, suggesting that the shift toward agriculture also paradoxically had an adverse effect on individuals’ physiological fitness. Using 200 Mesolithic and Neolithic skeletal remains (9500-5500 BC) discovered on the territory of Serbia, this research test the assumption that the transition to the Neolithic brought important biological changes which are reflected by a higher prevalence of various skeletal and dental pathological conditions, and by a global reduction in the size of populations under the effect of growth disturbances. Two lines of evidence are compared chronologically and spatially: nonspecific stress markers (Cribra orbitalia, Porotic hyperostosis, Enamel hypoplasia), indicators of diet (dental caries and calculus), and body proportions (body mass, stature and body mass index). This study suggests that the Neolithic transition – when Humans took the control over the (re)production of plants and animal species – can also be seen as a process of “Domestication of the Human species”.
4. Culture, demography and climate at the beginning of the Neolithic in Southeast Europe. Marko Porčić, Tamara Blagojević, Kristina Penezić, Sofija Stefanović. IUAES inter congress: World anthropologies and privatization of knowledge: engaging anthropology in public, Abstract Book, 04-09.05.2016, Dubrovnik, Croatia. (PDF)
Abstract: It has long been recognized in anthropology and archaeology that there is a complex relation between culture, demography and climate. This issue has been of central importance in the Neolithic archaeology in Europe, especially for the related questions of the spread of Neolithic and the Neolithic demographic transition. We present a critical review of the previous research along with new contributions based on the results of palaeodemographic reconstruction of population dynamics for the parts of Southeast Europe during the 7th and 6th millennia BCE. The summed radiocarbon calibrated probability distributions method was applied on published datasets from Serbia, Bulgaria and Hungary, and the resulting curves were compared with the climate proxy data. We conclude that there are some indications that climate patterns were correlated with changes in culture and demography at various scales, but at present there is no sufficient data to establish causal links.
5. Ispitivanje ishrane prvih zemljoradnika i populacione dinamike u neolitu centralnog Balkana. Dragana Filipović, Camille de Becdelievre, Thomas Büdel, Jelena Jovanović, Kristina Penezić, Sofija Stefanović. Srpsko arheološko društvo, XXXIX skupština i godišnji skup. Programi, izveštaji i apstrakti, 02-04.6.2016., Belgrade, Vršac. (PDF)
Abstract: U svetskoj literaturi široko je prihvaćeno mišljenje da su pojava poljoprivrede i razvoj sedelačkog načina života doveli do porasta stepena fertiliteta u ljudskim zajednicama, što je dalje uzrokovalo uvećanje populacije i gustine naseljenosti, da bi, na kraju, doprinelo formiranju najranijih urbanih centara. Nije, međutim, do sada ispitan nijedan direktan dokaz, poput bioloških indikatora vidljivih na ili u skeletnim ostacima ljudi, koji bi definitivno dokazao tu pretpostavljenu vezu između “uzroka” (promene u ishrani) i “posledice” (demografski rast) ovog procesa. Projekat BIRTH (koji finansira Evropski istraživački savet/European Research Council) za cilj ima da ispita vezu između konzumiranja “nove hrane” i populacione dinamike tokom perioda u kom na Balkanu dolazi do prelaska na poljoprivrednu proizvodnju. Prethodne antropološke i analize stabilnih izotopa u ljudskim ostacima prikupljenim sa nekoliko mezolitskih i ranoneolitskih lokaliteta u regionu sugerišu mogući rast populacije počev od kraja kasnog mezolita, kao i varijacije u dužini perioda dojenja dece početkom neolita. U okviru BIRTH projekta, jedan od istraživačkih koraka je analiza biomarkera očuvanih na i u ljudskim kostima i zubima, kao i na alatkama. Prisustvo biomarkera biljaka poslužiće kao osnov za utvrđivanje uloge domestikovanih biljaka i životinja u arheološki prepoznatom povećanju stope fertiliteta u vreme razvoja poljoprivrede.
6. Starčevačka grupna grobnica na Vinči ili mesto neolitskog zločina. Sofija Stefanović, Jelena Jovanović, Maja Miljević, Saša Živanović. Srpsko arheološko društvo, XXXIX skupština i godišnji skup. Programi, izveštaji i apstrakti, 02-04.6.2016., Belgrade, Vršac. (PDF)
Abstract: Tokom arheoloških istraživanja na Vinči 1931. godine, Miloje Vasić otkrio je grupnu grobnicu koja je pripadala starčevačkoj kulturi. Vasić je sahranu devet odraslih individua okarakterisao kao “kosturnicu sa dromosom”, a autori koji su se nakon njega bavili ovim nalazom, iako su imali različite stavove o arhitektonskim karakteristikama grobnice, nisu dovodili u pitanje da se radi o grupnoj grobnici. Međutim, nedavna analiza orginalne fotodokumentacije “grupne grobnice” koja se čuva u Arheološkoj zbirci Filozofskog fakulteta u Beogradu obavljena u Laboratoriji za bioarheologiju, pružila je sasvim drugačiju interpretaciju ovog nalaza. Naime, za četiri individue (grobovi 2, 3, 4 i 8) nedvosmisleno je utvrđeno da su sahranjene grudima i licem ka zemlji, što pored toga što naravno ne odgovora stračevačkoj pogrebnoj praksi, može da ukazuje ili na specifičnu pogrebnu praksu koja do sada u ovoj kulturu nije zabeležena ili, što je verovatnije, na to da su bar kada su u pitanju ove četiri individue, u pitanju ili nasilne smrti ili određen negativni odnos prema ovim pokojnicima ili pak da je sama lokacija mesto zločina. Da se najverovatnije radi o neolitskom mestu zločina govori naročito položaj individue iz groba 8 kod koje su, pored toga što je sahranjena grudima ka zemlji, femuri savijeni tako da su postavljeni na leđa, što je položaj do kojeg je moralo doći nasilnim aktom koji je vrlo verovatno podrazumevao i vezivanje. Cilj rada je da se pokaže kako forenzički pristup i samoj fotodokumentaciji može pružiti obilje novih podataka ne samo o pogrebnoj praksi nego eventualno može omogućiti i otkriće praistorijskih mesta zločina.
7. Kultura, demografija i klima početkom neolita u jugoistočnoj Evropi. Marko Porčić, Tamara Blagojević, Kristina Penezić, Sofija Stefanović. Srpsko arheološko društvo, XXXIX skupština i godišnji skup. Programi, izveštaji i apstrakti, 02-04.6.2016., Belgrade, Vršac. (PDF)
Abstarct: Svest o kompleksnosti odnosa kulture, demografije i klime već dugo je prisutna u arheologiji i antropologiji. Ova tema je od centralnog značaja u neolitskoj arheologiji Evrope, a posebno kada je reč o pitanjima koja se odnose na širenje neolita i neolitsku demografsku tranziciju. U ovom radu daćemo kritički osvrt na ranija istraživanja, kao i nove rezultate zasnovane na paleodemografskoj rekonstrukciji populacione dinamike u delovima jugoistočne Evrope tokom 7. i 6. milenijuma pre naše ere. Metod sumiranih distribucija verovatnoće kalibrisanih radiokarbonskih datuma primenjen je na publikovane datume sa teritorije Srbije, Bugarske i Mađarske, a dobijene krivulje poređene su sa podacima o klimatskim pokazateljima. Rezultati ukazuju na to da postoje određene naznake o tome da su klimatski obrasci povezani sa promenama u kulturi i demografiji na različitim skalama, ali da na trenutnom stepenu istraženosti ne postoje dovoljno jaki pokazatelji uzročnih veza među ovim pojavama.
8. New weaning food for prehistoric babies and origin of caries. Sofija Stefanović, Jelena Jovanović, Kristina Penezić, Tamara Blagojević. 20th Congress of the European Anthropological Association (EAA), European Anthropology in a Changing World: From Culture to Global Biology, 24-28.08.2016, Zagreb, Croatia. (PDF)
Abstract: Increase in caries is described in many Neolithic populations and often interpreted as a consequence of diet based more on carbohydrates. However, we suggest that intensification of caries is probably more connected to new way of food preparation with Neolithic than with new type of food. Special threat for deciduous teeth was new weaning food for babies, probably kind of porridge based on grinned cereals and milk which form a sticky paste around the teeth causing dental caries. We combine different lines of archaeological and bioarchaeological evidences from the territory of the Central Balkans which suggest appearance of new weaning food and increase of caries on deciduous teeth with Neolithic. First, we present our results of microscopic study of 40 Early Neolithic bone spoons from the sites Starčevo and Donja Branjevina, on which we had found evidences of deciduous teeth bite-marks, suggesting their usage for feeding the babies with porridge. Secondly, we present appearance of caries on children with stable isotope information on diet from the site of Ajmana, on which we had found correlation between diet and caries presence. Our results indicate that in further understanding of origin of caries more attention should be paid on new way of food preparation in Neolithic, rather than on food itself.
9. Children feeding practices and growth patterns during Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the Danube Gorges. Jelena Jovanović, Camille de Becdelievre, Gwenaelle Goude, Estelle Herrscher, Sofija Stefanović. 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC 8), 28.08-02.09.2016, Kyoto, Japan.The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition is the major shift in subsistence correlated with a general decline in health status and a global reduction of body proportions.(PDF, WAC-8.PDF)
Abstract: Recent stable isotope analyses performed on Mesolithic and Neolithic individuals from the Danube Gorges (Balkans, 9500-5500 BC) document significant differences in term of children feeding practices. Therefore, we examine here how different feeding practices could have influenced children growth patterns and health status. We reconstruct the evolution of growth patterns and health status per age categories (infant-early childhood-childhood), and interpret the results in the light of our current understanding of breastfeeding and weaning patterns.
10. Female stress during the Neolithic Demographic Transition in the Balkans: evidences from tooth cementum. Krsitina Penezić, Sofija Stefanović, Ursulla Wittwer-Backofen, Petra Urban, Jelena Jovanović. 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC 8), 28.08-02.09.2016, Kyoto, Japan.(PDF, WAC-8.PDF)
Abstract:It is generally accepted that the first fertility increase occured in the Neolithic, during the process of the so-called Neolithic Demographic Transition. But this hypothesis is not based on biological skeletal evidence of fertility, but rather derived from indirect evidence. In order to provide direct evidences about female fertility ERC BIRTH project investigates “crisis lines” which correspond to stressful life events and are visible in tooth cementum. We compare number of “crisis lines” in Mesolithic and Neolithic females from the Balkans (10000-5000 BC) in order to investigate whether the number of stressful events increased with Neolithic as a possible consequence of increase of fertility.
11. Births, mothers and babies: a bioarchaeological perspective. Session. Sofija Stefanović, Gwenaelle Goude. 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC 8), 28.08-02.09.2016, Kyoto, Japan. (PDF, WAC-8.PDF)
Abstract:Although births, mothers and babies present key pillars for human survival, their role has not been adequately studied, either by physical anthropology or archaeology. The attitudes of past communities towards pregnancy, birth and neonatal care must have played a key role in the success of the birthing process, but these have also not been satisfactorily addressed in archaeological writing. The aim of this session is to provide an overview of bioarchaeological research into the place of births, mothers and babies in ancient populations across time and space. Contributions will use multidisciplinary approaches and improved methodologies to address the roles and circumstances of birthing in human evolution. New methods for studying pregnancy, breastfeeding-weaning and social status of women and children, eg., through studies of nutrition, health, and growth, will be showcased.
12. Between the forest and the river: hunting and fishing in the Danube Gorges in the Mesolithic. Ivana Živaljević, Vesna Dimitrijević, Sofija Stefanović. 22nd Meeting of the EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), Abstract book. 31.08–4.09.2016, Vilnius, Lithuania. (PDF)
Abstract:Ever since the discovery of the site of Lepenski Vir, it was recognized that fishing had an important role in the settling of the Danube Gorges in the Mesolithic. The importance of wild game hunting has also been confirmed by the analyses of animal bones and emphasized ever since the first published archaeozoological reports. The issue of the role of terrestrial vs. aquatic resources in the diet has been addressed from the perspective of stable isotope analysis, with somewhat contrasting results. The analyses of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope ratios have suggested that the Mesolithic inhabitants of the Danube Gorges consumed considerable amounts of fish, with gradual broadening of the dietary spectrum to include terrestrial resources at the onset of the Neolithic (Bonsall et al. 1997; 2000; 2004; Grupe et al. 2003; Borić et al. 2004), whereas the analysis of sulphur (δ34S) isotope ratio has suggested that there have been significant inter- and intra-site variabilities in dietary practices (Nehlich et al. 2010). However, this issue had not so far been addressed in greater detail from an archaeozoological perspective, mainly due to great difficulties and biases in cross-referencing quantified mammal and fish remains, but also due to the fragmentary nature of faunal assemblages from some of the sites. Although the assessment of precise proportion of wild game meat vs. fish in the diet is elusive, particularly due to the differences in mammalian and fish skeletons, and biases affecting their survival and recovery, we attempted to tackle this issue by estimating their dietary contribution and nutritive potential on the basis of the sum of average weight of the minimum number of individuals for both mammals and fish. In addition, we estimated the proportion (size and number) of economically most important fish (cyprinids, Wels catfish and acipenserids) in the assemblages from the sites of Lepenski Vir, Vlasac and Padina. Even with methodological biases concerning recovery techniques employed during the old and new excavations, and different areas of the sites they have encompassed, we found that fish species composition on the three sites varied to some extent. Given the site locations, their short distance from one another and similar landscape and environmental conditions (vicinity of cataracts and large whirlpools), this propensity towards fishing particular kinds of fish could suggest that the sites functioned as specialized fishing centres, and held different species of fish in special regard.
13. (Dis)continuities in fishing practices at the onset of Neolithic: a case study from Starčevo, Serbia. Ivana Živaljević, Sofija Stefanović. 22nd Meeting of the EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), Abstract book. 31.08–4.09.2016, Vilnius, Lithuania.(PDF)
Abstract:Whereas the significance of fishing is well documented at a number of Mesolithic and Early Neolithic (c. 9500 – 5500 cal BC) sites in the Danube Gorges (the Danube stretch between present-day Serbia and Romania) and is corroborated by archaeozoological, isotopic and archaeological evidence, this important activity has received less attention in the study of surrounding areas. The issue of determining the role of fishing is particularly relevant for the understanding of transitions from foraging to first food producing economies in the North-Central Balkans, the latter commonly associated with the Starčevo-Körös-Criş cultural complex (c. 6200 – 5500 cal BC). Existing data on isotopic dietary signatures of human remains from Early Neolithic Starčevo-Körös-Criş sites signal a more terrestrial diet (Whittle et al. 2002; 2005), however archaeozoological data from several Körös sites in Hungary (Bartosiewicz et al. 2012) suggest that the role of fishing, in addition to being obscured by inadequate recovery techniques, would have varied greatly depending on site location and other socio-economic factors. In this paper, we present and discuss the results of the analysis of fish remains from the eponimous, Early Neolithic site of Starčevo-Grad in Serbia. The site is situated on the former bank of the Danube at the edge of its floodplan, little over a 100 km upstream from the Danube Gorges as the crow flies. The faunal remains collected over the course of 1932 and 1969-1970 excavation campaigns (originating from both domestic and wild animals, waterfowl and fishes) were previously published by Clason (1980), and are indicative of a both stock-breeding and a hunting/fishing economy. The fish remains, albeit few, were collected mostly by hand; and the role of fishing was probably more substantial. The occurrence of large fish hooks and fishing net weights speak in favour of such hypothesis, as well as the environment of the site, which was located in the very proximity of the river. In addition to the re-analysis of the remains from older excavations of Starčevo-Grad, our study also included the analysis of fish remains collected during 2003-2008 excavation campaigns. The aim of this paper, as well as future analyses of Early Neolithic faunal assemblages is to problematize the presumed dichotomy between Mesolithic and Early Neolithic subsistence strategies and to assess the role of fishing at the advent of food producing economies in the Central Balkans.
14. Aurochs’ distribution and evidence of hunting in the pre-Neolithic and Neolithic Central Balkans. Vesna Dimitrijević, Tamara Blagojević, Sofija Stefanović. 22nd Meeting of the EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), Abstract book. 31.08–4.09.2016, Vilnius, Lithuania. (PDF)
Cattle played a dominant role from the very beginning of neolithization in the Central Balkans, unlike in southernmost Europe, where sheep and goat, mostly for environmental reasons, preceded and subsequently kept their key position in animal husbandry. As genetic evidence suggests, cattle was introduced to Europe from its initial centres of domestication in the Near East. However, incidences of local domestication cannot be completely ruled out, and, even more so, hybridization of domestic stock with wild progenitors. In order to understand whether these processes ever happened, data on the distribution of the wild ancestor of cattle in the region are important, as well as its features observed from skeletal remains and archaeological contexts of discovery. Although scarce, aurochs were present in the Central Balkans during the Late Pleistocene, as can be judged from the faunal remains from Palaeolithic sites and alluvial deposits. The steppe bison, another large bovid of comparable size and ethology, was more frequent. Its prevalence is documented both by the number of sites where its presence has been confirmed, and by the ratio of bison and aurochs remains at sites where both species were found. Steppe bison became globally extinct toward the end of the Pleistocene, although the more precise timing of its disappearance in the region is not known. It can be hypothesized that aurochs consequently became more numerous and substituted bison in an empty niche, but there is also a lack of data on the presence of aurochs at the end of the Last Glacial and the beginning of Holocene. The remains of aurochs from Pleistocene alluvial deposits mainly consist of cranial parts, whereas those from Palaeolithic sites include scattered bone fragments and teeth, which makes it largely impossible to determine whether they accumulated as prey of human hunters or large animal predators. The earliest occurrence of contextualized auroch remains is a partial skeleton discovered in a Mesolithic layer at the site of Velesnica in the Danube Gorges. The processing of the animal carcass is evident from the butchering marks on the articulated neck vertebra. During the Mesolithic, auroch remains are scarce at other sites in the Danube Gorges and other parts of the Central Balkans. In the Neolithic, the remains of aurochs became a regular component of settlement animal bone refuses, but mostly in modest proportions, show that the intensity of hunting was not high. Nevertheless, owing to its cognation to domestic cattle, potential local domestication trials and hybridization, or solely to its impressive appearance, the significant symbolic role of this large bovid, one that is going to endure throughout prehistory, was probably established already at the onset of the Neolithic. In this respect, the sudden and synchronous appearance of spoons made from auroch metatarsal bones in the Central Balkans, as well as within the large area stretching from Anatolia to Pannonian plane and Carpathian Mountains is intriguing.
15. Exploitation strategies of the animal environment of the last hunter-gatherers and first farmers in Europe. Monica Margarit, Adina Boroneant, Vesna Dimitrijević, Clive Bonsall. 22nd Meeting of the EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), Abstract book. 31.08–4.09.2016, Vilnius, Lithuania.(PDF)
The profound climatic changes and the need to identify solutions for the survival of humankind represent major topics of debate in contemporary society. Throughout their 200,000-year history modern humans have been faced with climatic changes some of them radical, which had a significant impact on the strategies employed for the exploitation and management of the environment, especially the animal life, and were reflected in the types of economic practices. Through this session proposal, we will analyze, quantify and compare the effects of this phenomenon and provide an integrated view of the ways in which the animal environment was exploited by prehistoric communities at the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer-stockbreeder, identifying and comparing different eco-cultural models developed across Europe. The investigations will cover two priority domains: biodiversity evolution (e.g., taxonomic richness; magnitude of faunal turnover) and correlative human societal transformations, especially in animal management and techniques of exploitation (bone manufacturing). Among others, the aim of our session includes the identification of the modifications that intervened in the relation between the exploitation of the animal environment and the way in which it was reflected in palaeo-economy, habitat, social or spiritual organization. We invite speakers to discuss these topics from different perspectives; both theoretical and practical approaches are encouraged.
16. Detecting the signal of the Neolithic demographic transition in Central Balkans using summed radiocarbon probability distributions: theoretical and methodological issues. Marko Porčić, Sofija Stefanović. Recent issues in palaeodemography, 22-24.11.2016, Rzeszow, Poland.
The theory of the Neolithic demographic transition predicts that the introduction of farming and sedentary lifestyle will lead to an increase in fertility resulting in a population increase. The aim of the ERC BIRTH project is to detect this signal in the Central Balkans region using skeletal and radiocarbon evidence. In this presentation the focus is on the summed radiocarbon probability distributions as a proxy for population dynamics. We first discuss potential demographic scenarios for the Early Neolithic of Central Balkans in the context of the Neolithic demographic transition theory. These scenarios are then converted into mathematical models of population dynamics. The theoretical models are explored by using the most likely parameter combinations from the literature in order to make a theoretical evaluation of potential demographic scenarios in Central Balkans. In the next step, we simulate the radiocarbon sampling process and apply the method of summed probability distributions to the simulated data in order to explore the possibilities and limitations of the method. The simulated data are analyzed in order to explore how sample size influences the ability of the method to detect the signal of the Neolithic demographic transition depending on it properties. Finally, the results of simulated scenarios are then compared to the preliminary results based on the application of the method to the empirical dataset of published Early Neolithic radiocarbon dates. We discuss the implications of the results in the context of the ongoing project of collecting new samples for radiocarbon dating for the purpose of paleodemographic reconstruction of population dynamics in the Early Neolithic in Central Balkans.
17. Collective burial or Neolithic crime scene? Sofija Stefanović, Nataša Šarkić, Saša Živanović. 44th Annual North American Meeting Westin Hotel, New Orleans, 17.4.2017 – 19.4.2017, New Orleans, USA. (PDF)
During the archaeological research in Vinča (Serbia) in 1931, a grave that belonged to the Starčevo culture was discovered. The grave of ten adults and one sub-adult, mostly males, was characterised as “a tomb with dromos”. Researchers who have subsequently worked with the material, although possessing different views on architectural features of the tomb, have not questioned that this is a grave with collective burial. However, a recent analysis of the original photo documentation, carried out by the Laboratory for Bioarcheology, provided a completely different interpretation of the findings. The three individuals are determined to be buried on their chest, face to the ground, which does not fit with usual burial practice in this culture. In another three cases the head was completely separated from the body and in the case of one individual both femurs were bent in position, which could be only possible if his back was broken. Very little skeletal material was preserved from this necropolis. However, by combining the analysis of the existing material and photographs, it was determined that at least eight of the individuals had ante-mortem traumas on the cranial and postcranial skeleton and there were at least three cases of decapitation. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the burials of these individuals were not simultaneous. The goal of the current work is to illustrate how a forensic approach, even through photographic documentation, can provide a wealth of new information and even enable the discovery of a prehistoric crime scene.
18. Births, mothers and babies: Prehistoric fertility in the Balkans between10000-5000 cal. BC. Sofija Stefanović, Vesna Dimitrijević, Marko Porčić. MESO 2015 – The Ninth International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe,14th-18th September, Belgrade, Serbia. (PDF)
BIRTH ERC project will investigate the key biological and cultural mechanisms affecting fertility rates resulting the Neolithic Demogaphic Transition, the major demographics in human evolution. Project integrate skeletal markers with micro-nutritional andmacro-scaled cultural effects on fertility rates during the Early-Middle Holocene (10000-5000 BC) in the Central Balkans. Human, animal and plant remains, will be analysed us-ing methods from bioarchaeological, forensic, chemical sciences in order to: 1) Investigate variability in the pattern of birth rates (number of pregnancies, interval(s) between themand the duration of the reproductive period) through histological analysis of irregularitiesin tooth cementum of women; 2) Determine paleoobstetric and neonatal body characteris-tics, health status and nutrition through analysis of skeletal remains; 3) Determine micro-nutritional changes during the Early-Middle Holocene through trace element (Zn, Ca andFe) analysis; 4) Investigate the micro and macronutritional value of prehistoric foodstuffs,through an analysis of animal and plant remains and to compare the nutritional intakein relation to health and fertility; 5) Establish a chronology of the NDT in the Balkansby summed radiocarbon probability distributions; 6) Explore the possible role of culturein driving fertility increases, through analysis of community attitudes to birthing troughinvestigation of neonate graves and artifact connected to the birthing process. Given thatthe issues of health and fertility are of utmost importance in the present as they were in thepast, the BIRTH project offers new understanding of biocultural mechanisms which led tofertility increase and novel approaches to ancient skeletal heritage.
19. Onsite Bioarchaeological Knowledge of the Neolithic settlements in the Balkans: The case of Vrbjanska Čuka, a tell-site in Pelagonia, Republic of Macedonia. Beneš, Jaromír, Naumov, Goce, Majerovičová, Tereza, Budilová, Kristýna, Živaljević, Ivana, Dimitrijević, Vesna, Bumerl, Jiří, Komárková, Veronika, Kovárník, Jaromír, Vychronová, Michaela, Stefanović, Sofija. 14th Conference of Environmental Archaeology “Humans and environmental sustainability: Lessons from the past ecosystems of Europe and Northern Africa” 26th-28th February 2018, Modena, Italy. (doi 10.5281/zenodo. 1216080)
The first part of this contribution comprises of an outline of bioarchaeological studies connected with the Neolithic settlements in the Balkans. A substantial proliferation of environmental studies is recorded in the last decade concerning archaeobotanical and archaeozoological evidence. Main attention is paid to archaeobotanical and archaeozoological studies which consider settlements and their bioarchaeological context. The second part is focused on the Neolithic tell-site of Vrbjanska Čuka in Pelagonia, Republic of Macedonia, where authors have been performing bioarchaeological research since 2016. In this paper, we present the results of the analyses of botanical macroremains and microremains (starch, phytoliths) and faunal remains collected in season 2016 in the broader context of the Neolithic Balkans in order to estimate the bioarchaeological potential of the site.
20. Bioarchaeology at the Tell-Site VrbjanskaČuka in Pelagonia, Republic of Macedonia: analytical results from field season 2016. Beneš, Jaromír, Naumov, Goce, Budilová, Kristýna, Bumerl, Jiří, Živaljević, Ivana, Dimitrijević, Vesna, Komárková, Veronika, Kovárník, Jaromír, Majerovičová, Tereza, Vychronová, Michaela, Stefanović, Sofija. Neolithic in Macedonia III, 13th December 2017, Skopje, Macedonia. (doi 10.5281/zenodo. 1216103)
The presentation focuses on archaeobotanical and archaeozoological evidence in the context of the tell-site Vrbjanska Čuka, Republic of Macedonia, where a joint Macedonian-Czech-Serbian team is performing detailed bioarchaeological research. In the field season 2016, selected contexts from the site were sampled for multiproxy analyses including botanical macroremains and microremains (starch, phytoliths), and faunal remains were collected from all contexts. Archaeobotanical research focused on samples from profile W1 in the western wall of excavated area, and randomly taken samples from other contexts indicative of the Neolithic, Classical and Medieval occupancy of the site. Macroremains analysis detected typical species for the Neolithic period (einkorn, emmer, barley, lentil, peas) and species typical in later (Classical or Medieval) periods (e.g. millet, rye). Investigation of plant phytoliths revealed good quality of microremains. Starch analysis was carried on grindstones from Neolithic contexts. Such grains could be interpreted as food remains.
The hand collected faunal sample, albeit small, is indicative of a predominantly stockbreeding economy. The majority of elements originate from domestic animals – namely cattle and caprines, and to a lesser extent pig and dog. The presence of dogs on site is also manifested by several bones with gnawing marks. A single element from wild boar suggests that occasional hunting also took place. Shells of freshwater mussel were also identified, originating from a single context and thus probably represent remnants of a meal. Faunal sample collected by flotation consisted of smaller bone fragments and isolated teeth of previously identified mammal taxa. In addition, sporadic remains of rodents, amphibians, reptiles and smaller fish (small-bodied cyprinids and salmonids) were also found. These taxa (apart from fish) were probably not used in human diet, but were inhabiting the environment of Vrbjanska Čuka. Given their minute size and a fairly small number of remains, it might be suggested that fishing occupied a secondary role in comparison to stockbreeding, and possibly represented a sporadic or opportunistic activity.
21. Neolithic fishing landscapes: case studies from Serbian sites in the gorges and in the plains. Živaljević, Ivana, & Stefanović, Sofija. 19th ICAZ Fish Remains Working Group Meeting “Fish and Fishing Communities: Understanding Ancient and Modern Fisheries through Archaeological Fish Remains” (ICAZ FRWG). 1st-7th October 2017, Alghero – Stintino, Italy. (doi 10.5281/zenodo. 1216122)
The Mesolithic-Neolithic settlements in the Danube Gorges (North-Central Balkans) flourished in a specific landscape, with rapid changes in the riverbed, whirlpools, cataracts and strong river currents. These features were particularly favourable for fishing, and led to the prolonged stay of human communities during the Mesolithic (ca. 9500-6200 cal BC) and the emergence of permanent
settlements in the Transformational Mesolithic-Neolithic phase (ca. 6200-5900 cal BC). Even with the appearance of domestic animals after 6000 cal BC, these settlements remained in use primarily as fishing centres, suggesting that subsistence strategies in the Danube Gorges remained unchanged even after the appearance of the first farming and stock breeding communities. Apart from the Danube Gorges, these ‘new’ communities settled in strikingly different landscapes – the hilly terrain of the Central Balkans and the flat terrain of the Pannonian plain, more suitable for farming and animal herding. However, the spatial clustering of Early Neolithic sites in the vicinity of rivers and lakes, as well as the occurrence of fish remains, signal that fishing occupied a significant role at least at some locations. The paper explores the role and extent of aquatic resource exploitation at the advent of food production, both in the Danube Gorges area where fishing represented a long local tradition, and in the newly established Neolithic sites in the Pannonian plain. The aim of this study, as well as future analyses of Early Neolithic faunal assemblages, is to problematise the presumed dichotomy between Mesolithic and Early Neolithic subsistence strategies, and the relationship between economic practices and particular landscapes.
22. Lov, stočarstvo i simbolički značaj životinja na Golokutu: nove analize arheozoološkog materijala. Živaljević, Ivana, Dimitrijević, Vesna, Radmanović, Darko, & Stefanović, Sofija. XL Godišnja skupština i godišnji skup Srpskog arheološkog društva (SAD), 5th-7th 2017. (doi 10.5281/zenodo. 1216135)
Domestikacija životinja i promene koje su time usledile smatraju se jednim od ključnih ‘neolitskih’ inovacija, zajedno sa pripitomljavanjem biljaka, pojavom grnčarije i artefakata od glačanog kamena, kao i novim oblicima društvene organizacije i ideologije. Ovi procesi, međutim, nisu bili ujednačeni, niti su neizostavno pratili jedni druge. Rad se osvrće na eksploataciju životinja na ranoneolitskom lokalitetu Golokut-Vizić na zapadnim obodima Fruške gore. Faunistički uzorak sa ovog lokaliteta ukazuje da su se njegovi stanovnici, osim uzgajanja domaćeg govečeta, ovce, koze i svinje, bavili i lovom na divlje goveče, jelena, srnu i divlju svinju i sakupljanjem školjki i puževa. I divlje i domaće životinje bile su zastupljene jedinkama različitih uzrasta, što bi ukazivalo da su se lov, tj. klanje domaćih životinja odvijali tokom različitih sezona. Katkada su ostaci životinja bili ‘ritualno’ deponovani, kakav je slučaj sa lobanjom divljeg govečeta pohranjenom u grobu žene u zgrčenom položaju. Pored toga, preliminarna arheozoološka analiza ukazala je i na različit sastav faune u kontekstima jama, što bi se takođe potencijalno moglo dovesti u vezu sa određenim obrascima strukturalnog deponovanja. Osim diskusije o udelu lova i stočarstva u kontekstu ranoneolitskog naselja na Golokutu, različitim sezonama ljudskih aktivnosti i tretmanu životinjskih ostataka, ovo istraživanje otvara mogućnosti za dobijanje podataka o dužini dojenja kod domaćih životinja putem analiza stabilnih izotopa, a time i bolje sagledavanje ljudskog uticaja na životinjsku biologiju u cilju eksploatacije mleka.
23. Behavioral Adaptations – Morphological Adaptations: new contributions from Morphometric Mapping for the understanding of Mesolithic-Neolithic transformations (Balkans; 10 000 – 5000 BC). De Becdelievre, C., Le Guen M.A., Porčić M., Jovanović, J.,Stefanović, S. Proceedings of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution Vol. 6., 21st – 23th September 2017, Leiden, The Netherlands. (doi 10.5281/zenodo.1218601)
A major transition occurred during the Early-middle Holocene: Humans entered a new adaptive niche by settling in favored environments and by domesticating other species. Today, a growing body of archaeological evidence documents the timing of this transition and the study of prehistoric human remains relates this process to specific bodily adaptations. However, it is noteworthy that: 1. varying methodologies and heterogeneous markers have been used; 2. these different markers of physical activity – of different nature and relating complementary biological information – have barely been compared; 3. because of the availability of well-preserved samples, these markers could not always be applied to ecologically homogeneous population or to population for which multiple archaeological line of evidence on subsistence strategies were available. The context of Danube Gorges prehistoric sites (Balkans, 9500-5500 BC) – where the remains of more than 500 human skeletons have been discovered – well-contextualized and covering a sequence spanning the whole Mesolithic and the Early Neolithic – provides the opportunity to analyze jointly behavioral and morphological adaptations on an homogeneous Early Holocene population. The sites of the Lepenski Vir culture document the gradual transformations of mobile hunter-gatherers and fishermen (Early Mesolithic) toward a population of sedentary fishermen (Late Mesolithic – Early Neolithic), which adopted ceramics and finally practiced animal husbandry (Neolithic). Recent results of geochemical analyses indicate that a number of Neolithic individuals were non-locals, originating in some geologically differentiated areas outside the Danube Gorges; these migrants may have brought Neolithic socio-cultural novelties in the gorges (ceramics, polished axes, new type of flint used for tools, different adornments, new funerary gestures…). Therefore, in this study, bone markers of physical activities (enthesopathology, osteoarthrosis) have been analyzed on a sample of 200 adults individuals, together with a new technique of virtual analysis specifically applied on humerus and femurs: morphometric mappings. This technique considers the diaphyses of long bones as “tubes” which can be virtually unrolled and read like maps; measurements of the external topography of diaphyses (the robusticity of muscles attachments), of the thickness of cortical bone (bone robusticity) and of the internal geometry of bones (second moments area) are virtually taken all along the diaphysis and then projected like maps. These morphometric maps enable thereby to locate with precision along the whole diaphysis the main differences in term of muscle attachments, cortical thickness and bone geometry. Plus, the technique also enable to obtain “average maps” of groups of individuals, which makes possible statistical comparisons. Results: 1. confirm long bone morphological adaptation to sedentism, especially a gradual and diachronic trend of systematic decline in lower limbs robusticity, a trend toward more circularity in the geometric sections of lower limbs mid-shaft diaphyses, a reduction in the robusticity of specific entheseal sites and a decline in the extent of pathological entheseal sites located on the lower limbs; 2. suggest a sexual dimorphism possibly correlated to the first development of a sexual division of labor; 3. indicate that the inner bone morphology as well as outer topography of muscle-attachments of nonlocals individuals are different from locals foragers (migrants from neighboring farming communities?). These results demonstrate the value of the Human Behavoral Ecology approach to our understanding of the broad process of human bio-cultural adaptations.
24. Children feeding practices in the Danube Gorges at the advent of the Neolithic. Jovanović, J., Goude, G., Novak, M., Bedić, Ž., De Becdelievre, C., Stefanović, S. The 23rd European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting, 30th August – 3rd September 2017, Maastricht, Netherlands. (doi 10.5281/zenodo.1218595)
Examining individual life-histories provide a direct way to understand the mechanisms of population’s adaptation to major ecological and socio-cultural changes. The Mesolithic- Neolithic transformations offer a convenient frame to develop this bottom-up approach. The Neolithic transition, the passage from mobile foraging to sedentary farming, was a major shift during human prehistory. Focusing on the Balkan region where Early Neolithic started around 6200 cal BC, this paper presents stable isotope results (carbon, nitrogen, sulfur) of an intra-individual sampling strategy (data on bone and deciduous/permanent teeth) performed on 30 children from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites situated across Serbia and Croatia. Results suggest significant differences in the feeding practices of Mesolithic and Neolithic children as well as regional differences in mother’s dietary choices. This study opens new horizons on the relationship between individuals subsistence strategies and the dynamic of the group, implying that these bio-cultural differences may contribute to the important demographic changes observed at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition.
25. Who Were The Earliest Farmers? Interactions – Innovations – Adaptations At Earliest Neolithic Of The Central Balkans, Human Bioarchaeological Perspectives. De Becdelievre, C., Jovanović, J., Hofmanova, Z., Stefanović, S. The 23rd European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting, 30th August – 3rd September 2017, Maastricht, Netherlands. (doi 10.5281/zenodo.1218593)
Abstract:A major transition occurred during the first part of the Holocene: Humans entered a new adaptive niche by settling in favored environment and by domesticating species of plants and animals. From primary “centers of domestication”, it is frequently considered that Neolithic farmers – as well as the idea of agriculture – spread to some “marginal” areas. Simultaneously, a main event of demographic expansion occurred, and it seems that this process impacted at various degrees both the human health and the human biology. Focusing on the analysis of the remains of more than 500 humans discovered in several regions of the Balkans (the Danube Gorges; the territory of the Central Balkans; the Great Pannonian Plain), and covering the Mesolithic (9500 BC – 6200 BC) and the Early Neolithic (6200 – 5500 BC), we discuss this usual perception of Neolithization as “an episode of ecological niche colonization” by addressing simple questions: who were the earliest famers in the Central Balkans? what were they looking like? and what about their living conditions? To better understand the behavioral mechanisms and the biological outcomes of the Neolithization process, we tackle the issues of migrations, diet, health and bodily adaptations by synthesizing data coming from recent analyses: physical anthropology, 3D morphometric, stable isotopes, aDNA. Taken as a whole, results suggest that Neolithization should be understood as a complex phenomenon combining both foragers innovations and farmers migrations, foragers and farmers interactions in some specific spots, local behavioral adaptations – particularly in term of subsistence patterns – to environmental conditions, a global health decline and a specific pattern of body adaptation to the new sedentary lifestyle. By offering a glimpse into the life of the first farming communities this study also emphasizes the contributions of Human Behavioral Ecology to our understanding of the mechanisms of bio-cultural adaptations.
26. Exploring the demographic aspects of the Mesolithic – Neolithic transition in Central Balkans via tooth cementum analysis: preliminary results. K. Penezić, M. Porčić, S. Stefanović. The 23rd European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting, 30th August – 3rd September 2017, Maastricht, Netherlands. (doi 10.5281/zenodo.1218630)
The Neolithic way of life was accompanied with an increase in fertility and increase in other forms of physiological stress (e.g. disease, malnutrition). Evidence of this stress could be seen in tooth cementum. The formation of each incremental line in tooth cementum corresponds to one year of life and is related to calcium metabolism. Lines corresponding to physiological stress events are different in appearance and are referred to as “crisis lines”. Given the changes related to the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, we would expect to find a difference in the frequency of physiological stress events between the Mesolithic and Neolithic populations due to increased fertility and/or increased presence of pathology and disease. In this paper we present a method for determining and quantifying stressful events and for statistical comparison of the stress event frequency between populations. The method is applied to a sample of Mesolithic (9000 – 6400 calBC) and Neolithic (6200 – 5300 calBC) teeth from the Central Balkans.
27. Cow milk exploitation and calf weaning in the Early Neolithic Balkans: insights from intra-tooth variations in nitrogen isotope ratios.I. Živaljević, V. Dimitrijević, S. Stefanović, M. Balasse. 13th ICAZ (International Council for Archaeozoology) Conference, 2nd – 7th September 2018, Ankara, Turkey.
Human interdependence with domestic cattle (Bos taurus) in the North-Central Balkans can be traced to the origins of animal husbandry in the region, i.e. to the Early Neolithic (c. 6000-5400 cal. BC). The prevalence of cattle remains in the archaeozoological record and the ubiquity of bovid imagery are testimonies to their prominent role in the economic and symbolic sphere, as well as in their day-to-day interactions with humans. Furthermore, recent lipid analyses of organic residues from Early Neolithic pottery vessels from a number of Balkan sites (Ethier et al. 2017) indicate that dairying was not only present from the start, but also fairly widespread. However, cow milk exploitation would not have been straightforward, but heavily dependent on the length of lactation, the presence/absence of suckling calves, the amount left for human consumption and consequently on the calf weaning pattern. In this paper, following Balasse & Tresset (2002), we examine the weaning patterns in several individuals from Early Neolithic sites (Starčevo-Grad, Topole-Bač, Magareći mlin) by looking into the intra-tooth (M1, M2) variation in nitrogen isotope (δ15N) ratios of dentine collagen. Observed trophic changes related to different dietary stages (in utero, suckling and weaning) are cross-referenced with herd age structures, in order to make inferences about slaughter patterns. An emphasis on animal life-histories, by means of stable isotope analyses and ageing, provide new insights into the nature of early cattle husbandry, milk availability and sharing between humans and calves, as well as the management of animals in these processes.