A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Transition

          The transition from the Middle to Late Neolithic in Eastern Macedonia

Towards the middle of the VI millennium BC, major ethno-cultural changes occurred on the Balkan Peninsula. According to certain researchers, these changes were the result of internal migrations of people caused by the climate change. According to others, this was the so-called successive migration through which new cultural elements were brought from Anatolia, not excluding the possibility of a movement of small or large groups of people.

The second theory is widely accepted in science and some of the scientists even see the entire Balkan Peninsula and Anatolia as one huge cultural complex with sub-groups. The territory of Eastern Macedonia was not excluded from such occurrences and movements, so towards the end of the Middle Neolithic some novelties in the material culture are noticed. The ceramic material from the Middle Neolithic period is characterized by its red coloring, it is fired under oxidizing conditions and the main feature is the decoration with dark-colored curved, spiral and meander motifs, the rough pottery is decorated with barbotine and impressed ornaments.

In the last phase of the Middle Neolithic or Anzabegovo-Vršnik IV phase, despite the red pottery, the number of dark, mainly gray and black pottery increased, which will latter give the main mark of the Late Neolithic pottery. The ornamentation in this IV stage also shows the blending of the old and the new traditions.

In the late Neolithic, most of the settlements were erected on top of the Middle Neolithic ones, so we can notice continuity of living on certain positions. The ceramic material of the Late Neolithic period has quite different characteristics in contrast to the Middle Neolithic. In this period the pottery is mainly dark-colored, black or dark brown, obtained by reducing conditions in the firing process.

Between the shapes, we can notice more rounded or biconical vessels decorated with shallow channels or with incisions and punched strips, also typical for this period is the Blacktopped pottery. In the Late Neolithic period a new technology for making pottery occurs, that is, firing under reducing conditions, and with that novelty, the previous traditions disappear completely. This transitional period from the Middle to the Late Neolithic on the wider Balkan region is mainly viewed through the prism of ceramic material and the technological changes that we can notice on it.

According to some research, the change in the technology of pottery production is a result of the change in the social relations, as well as the contacts between different communities, where an integration of pottery makers might have occurred. Towards the end of the Anzabegovo-Vršnik IV phase, the population has decreased, traditional values were declining and the stylistic and technological knowledge of the pottery makers had fallen under the strong influence of the neighboring communities.

This was primarily due to the increase of the temperature and the depletion of the natural resources, which have been exploited over several centuries. Under such conditions, people had to leave their settlements and search for better locations where the conditions for agriculture and breeding livestock were better. Because this territory was densely populated in the Middle Neolithic period, we can easily exclude the migrations of foreigners from far away.

It is about local migrations from several smaller Middle Neolithic settlements into a larger one, just like the case of the Anzabegovo settlement, but also formation of new settlements from the people who left their homes due to the depletion of the natural resorts around their old settlements.

A good example is the settlement of Barutnitsa in the village Anzabegovo, where we may find the answer related to this issue. In this settlement there was a sharp increase in the population in the Late Neolithic period, the calculations showed that there were about 710 houses in the settlement and between 4000 and 7000 inhabitants. This leads us to conclude that this archaeological site was a small town and an economic center in this region in the Late Neolithic Period.

The favorable climate in the Middle Neolithic period provided a good life for the population settled on this territory. With the rise of the temperatures, many droughts occurred and the people could not produce and live as before, this has forced them to migrate and search for a better location, and thus the cultural group Anzabegovo-Vršnik has ended. All this led to the decline of the traditional and technological values of the local potters.

Towards the end of the Middle Neolithic Period, under the influence of the surrounding settlements and cultures, a new “fashion” of pottery production has taken hold over the entire Balkan Peninsula. Even though certain communities from our territory remained faithful to Middle-Neolithic traditions for some time, in the period between 5300 and 5200 BC all of the communities entered the era of the Late Neolithic.

Pero Sinadinovski