ИСТРАЖУВАЊЕ НА ЛОКАЛИТЕТОТ ВРБЈАНСКА ЧУКА ВО 2017 ГОДИНА
SUMMARY: RESEARCH OF THE VRBJANSKA CHUKA SITE IN 2017
Истражувањата во 2017 година на локалитетот Врбјанска Чука кај Славеј, се надоврзаа на оние од претходната археолошка кампања, иако се добија многу позначајни податоци за стратиграфијата, архитектурата и стопанскиот живот во неолитот, доцната антика и средниот век. Тоа го овозможи мултидисциплинарниот пристап во истражувањата, коишто освен со елементарните методи и студии на наодите, се проучува и преку археоботаниката, археозоологијата, геомагнетното скенирање, дигиталната топографија, геоархеологијата, фотограметријата и 3Д моделирањето на артефактите и теренот, дронската ортофотографија, изотопските, радиокарбон и use-wear анализите, како и оние на липидите. Сите овие компоненти на истражувањето на Врбјанска Чука овозможуваат мошне доследно разбирање на неолитската населба и заедницата што живеела во неа, што воедно претставува и примарната цел на овој проект. Според добиените податоци од анализите, може да се заклучи дека неолитската населба е формирана околу 5900 година пр.н.е., односно при крајот на раниот неолит и имала 5 развојни фази. Според откриената материјална култура од подоцнежните хоризонти, може да се смета дека активностите на овој локалитет продолжиле околу III и IV век н.е., со регистрирани активности околу VII и VIII век, а потоа и во периодот меѓу X и XIV век.
The research of Vrbjanska Čuka in 2017 continued those started the previous season, but resulted in much more significant data regarding stratigraphy, architecture and economy in the Neolithic, Late Classical period and Middle Age. They were enabled by the multidisciplinary approach by implementing archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, geomagnetic scanning, digital topography, geoarchaeology, photogrammetry and 3D modeling of artifacts and the environment, drone orthophotography, isotopic, radiocarbon, lipid and use-wear analyses. All these components of the research of Vrbjanska Čuka enabled a comprehensive understanding of the Neolithic settlement and the community that lived there, that was the primary aim of this project.
In regard to the stratigraphy of site, it has 5 horizons, the Neolithic ones being determined by architectural features and not by material culture. In this context, a further revision of Neolithic horizons is possible, upon extending the archaeological trench and making a detailed insight into the material culture and the architectural features that would arise. Even though ceramic vessels as the most frequent finds do not bear significant differences between Neolithic horizons in Vrbjanska Čuka, still it could be considered that, examined further, they could contribute towards an even more thorough understanding of changes of this settlement, but also within society. In this regard, radiocarbon analyses provide even a more detailed insight into the chronology of the settlement. According to the data obtained by these analyses at the University of Bern, the earliest Neolithic layers could be dated around 5900 BC. So far, this date places the site in the final phases of Early Neolithic, completely corresponding the dating of few other sites in Pelagonia.
Analyzing samples from other Neolithic horizons would determine the chronology of the remaining Neolithic phases of the settlement, which, according to the architectural features, composes of three horizons. Such a stratigraphic condition could potentially be changed, unless there is a significant divergence within material culture and dating of the remaining two horizons. However, according to the current acknowledgment, despite not having an especially high stratigraphy (about 1 meter of the total tell height), this Neolithic settlement was especially dynamic during the 6th millennia BC. The tell was actively used for several hundreds of years during the Early Neolithic, only to be deserted in the next 5 000 years until Late Classical period. According to the material culture found in Horizons IV and V, activities at this site might have continued around the 4th and 5th centuries AD, with recorded activities around the 7th and 8th centuries, and then between the 10th and the 14th centuries.
The architecture discovered is typical of the Neolithic in the Balkans; seven buildings of various construction characteristics have been researched at the site. Besides exploring the massive Building 2 (13x9 meters), in 2017 there was also research on Building 4 (incompletely uncovered), as well as parts of Buildings 5, 6 and 7. Considering the provided data, it could be indicated that all these buildings belong to several Neolithic horizons and some of them contain construction elements previously not recorded nor discussed in Macedonian Neolithic. Besides the standard burnt daub found in Buildings 1, 2, 3 and 4, Buildings 6 and 7 were made of dried daub which did not suffer from fire, i.e. was not burnt during construction or its abondement. Building 5 was made of massive wooden posts with no daub, therefore it can be identified for its wooden structure (canopy) or as a component of Building 2 (cantilever of roof construction, i.e. the upper floor for which there are no certain indications yet). Multiple bigger and smaller bins, ovens and platforms made of daub and compact clay have been found in these buildings, but also numerous grinders referring to the intense use while processing crops.
In favor of this are the archaeobotanical analyses which confirmed barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, lentils, peas, fava beans, millet, rye and spelt that could be of later (Classical/Medieval) origin. Functional analyses of flint tools refer to a frequent use of these objects for harvesting, applying blades made of various materials. In the same context are traces of use of stone axes which confirm that they were also used for opening clams, used as food.
Archaeobotanical analyses demonstrated that acorns were consumed as well as many types of wild plants, such as plums, cherries, blackberries etc. Regarding economy and nutrition, the results of archaeozoological analyses confirmed consuming of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, but also catfish, trout, snakes, frogs and clams. Besides dogs, osteological material recorded remains of deer, does and foxes, bones and fur of which might have also been used for tools and garments. Information obtained with bioarchaeological study also provide a partial reconstruction of the environment, so certain elements of flora and fauna suggest a potential presence of still waters (marshes and swamps) near Vrbjanska Čuka (indicated as well by cane, water birds, reptiles etc.), but also forests (oak and pine).
Considering the data from the excavation, dating, lab analyses and material culture performed in 2017 it could be proposed that during the Early Neolithic Vrbjanska Čuka was settled by farming communities with extremely high aesthetic criteria and knowledge of multiple architectural techniques. It is additionally witnessed by the exquisitely made fine ceramic vessels and their unusual frequency within ceramic production, but also by few buildings containing various architectural elements. Thus, results of the 2017 research demonstrate that Vrbjanska Čuka is a complex site despite its smaller size. It developed in an environment attractive for establishing villages during the Neolithic. Future research will determine even more segments of the life within this agricultural society, especially having in mind the cooperation with multiple experts of multidisciplinary archaeology.