The importance of the neolithization process lies in its position as being a milestone in our social evolution when essential changes took place. These changes include: 1) a shift from mobile to sedentary lifestyle and development of architecture, 2) developed pyrotechnology and introduction of pottery and 3) the exploitation of domesticated species and shift towards farming.
The transformation was accompanied by an increase in population density, which led to social tensions and more massive migration. Migration was the major mechanism for the dissemination of the new socio-economic system and its accompanying attributes. Relevant for Europe is the Near Eastern neolithization core and the Eastern Mediterranean communication network in general. The Aegean Sea played a key role in the early expansion of farming as it was the gateway to Europe. The next steps however are some of the least understood events in the process and they involve the hinterland north of the Aegean coast.
The N. Macedonia/S. Serbia/Bulgaria belt represents a mosaic of high mountains and small isolated plains connected by narrow river valleys, resulting in intertwined niches of Mediterranean and Continental environments. The early farming system, originally a SW Asian complex socio-economic product of the Mediterranean environment, was less suited for the colder European climate. This affected the yields and the human subsistence base. In order to survive, the societies had to adapt, by introducing local plants in the diet, gradual increase of cattle and pigs (better suited for the new environment than the ovicaprids), and increase in dairy production. The Vardar-Morava valley, being one of the main corridors bringing the early farmers to the extremely diverse interior of the Balkan peninsula about 8200 years ago, may hold the key for understanding the mechanisms of human adaptation and perseverance. For these reasons, a new research initiative in this understudied region is necessary.
We have selected two sites as case studies: Amzabegovo as a hypothetical northern outpost of the Mediterranean socio-economic and cultural group, and Svinjarichka Chuka as a representative of the typical Central/Northern Balkan Neolithic group. The goal is to embed the existing data from the ongoing field excavations at the two sites in a common theoretical frame and build a narrative which will serve as the theoretical support for further investigations of the neolithization process along the Vardar-Morava corridor. With this project we aim to set a theoretical base from which future lines of investigation would emerge.
Austrian Academy of Sciences (JESH grant)