The Vinča culture (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [ʋîːntʃa]), also known as Turdaș culture or Turdaș–Vinča culture, was a Neolithic archaeological culture in Southeast Europe, in present-day Serbia, and smaller parts of Bulgaria, Kosovo,[a] North Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia and Romania (particularly Transylvania), dated to the period 5700–4500 BC or 5300–4700/4500 BC. Named for its type site, Vinča-Belo Brdo, a large tell settlement discovered by Serbian archaeologist Miloje Vasić in 1908, it represents the material remains of a prehistoric society mainly distinguished by its settlement pattern and ritual behaviour.
|Alternative names||Turdaş culture|
|Horizon||First Temperate Neolithic|
|Period||Middle Neolithic, Neolithic Europe, Chalcolithic Europe, Old Europe|
|Dates||c. 5700–4500 BC|
|Type site||Vinča-Belo Brdo|
|Characteristics||Large tell settlements|
|Preceded by||Starčevo culture|
|Followed by||Tisza culture|
Farming technology first introduced to the region during the First Temperate Neolithic was developed further by the Vinča culture, fuelling a population boom and producing some of the largest settlements in prehistoric Europe. These settlements maintained a high degree of cultural uniformity through the long-distance exchange of ritual items, but were probably not politically unified. Various styles of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines are hallmarks of the culture, as are the Vinča symbols, which some conjecture to be the earliest form of proto-writing. Although not conventionally considered part of the Chalcolithic or "Copper Age", the Vinča culture provides the earliest known example of copper smelting in the Old World.
Geography and demographicsEdit
The Vinča culture occupied a region of southeastern Europe (i.e. the Balkans) corresponding mainly to modern-day Serbia and Kosovo[a], but also parts of Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Greece.
This region had already been settled by farming societies of the First Temperate Neolithic, but during the Vinča period sustained population growth led to an unprecedented level of settlement size and density along with the population of areas that were bypassed by earlier settlers. Vinča settlements were considerably larger than any other contemporary European culture, in some instances surpassing the cities of the Aegean and early Near Eastern Bronze Age a millennium later. One of the largest sites was Vinča-Belo Brdo (a suburb of Belgrade, Serbia), it covered 29 hectares (72 acres) and had up to 2,500 people.
Early Vinča settlement population density was 50–200 people per hectare, in later phases an average of 50–100 people per hectare was common. The Divostin site was occupied twice between 4900 and 4650 B.C. and an estimate based on 17 houses suggests that given a lifespan per house of 56 years. 1028 houses were built on the site during that period with a final population size estimated to be between 868 and 2864. Another large site was Stubline from 4850/4800 BC. it may have contained a maximum population of 4,000. The settlement of Parţa maybe had 1,575 people living there at the same time.
The 2017 and 2018 archaeogenetic studies on 7 samples show that almost all belonged to the paternal Y-DNA haplogroup G-M201 (G2a2a; G2a2a1; 2x G2a2a1a; G2a2b2a1a-PF3346) with one to haplogroup H-P96, while maternal mtDNA haplogroup H, H26, K1a4, K2a, T2b, U2, HV. According to ADMIXTURE analysis they had approximately 90-97% Early European Farmers, 0-12% Western Hunter-Gatherer and 0-8% Western Steppe Herders-related ancestry.
The origins of the Vinča culture are debated. Before the advent of radiocarbon dating it was thought, on the basis of typological similarities, that Vinča and other Neolithic cultures belonging to the 'Dark Burnished Ware' complex were the product of migrations from Anatolia to the Balkans. This had to be reassessed in light of radiocarbon dates which showed that the Dark Burnished Ware complex appeared at least a millennium before Troy I, the putative starting point of the westward migration. An alternative hypothesis where the Vinča culture developed locally from the preceding Starčevo culture—first proposed by Colin Renfrew in 1969—is now accepted by many scholars, but the evidence is not conclusive.
|Vinča culture||Vinča-Belo Brdo||Years BC|
|Early Vinča period||Vinča A||5700–4800|
|Late Vinča period||Vinča D||4800–4200|
In its later phase the centre of the Vinča network shifted from Vinča-Belo Brdo to Vršac, and the long-distance exchange of obsidian and Spondylus artefacts from modern-day Hungary and the Aegean respectively became more important than that of Vinča figurines. Eventually the network lost its cohesion altogether and fell into decline. It is likely that, after two millennia of intensive farming, economic stresses caused by decreasing soil fertility were partly responsible for this decline.
According to Marija Gimbutas, the Vinča culture was part of Old Europe – a relatively homogeneous, peaceful and matrifocal culture that occupied Europe during the Neolithic. According to this hypothesis its period of decline was followed by an invasion of warlike, horse-riding Proto-Indo-European tribes from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.
Most people in Vinča settlements would have been occupied with the provision of food. They practised a mixed subsistence economy where agriculture, animal husbandry and hunting and foraging all contributed to the diet of the growing Vinča population. Compared to earlier cultures of the First Temperate Neolithic (FTN) these practices were intensified, with increasing specialisation on high-yield cereal crops and the secondary products of domesticated animals, consistent with the increased population density.
Vinča agriculture introduced common wheat, oat and flax to temperate Europe, and made greater use of barley than the cultures of the FTN. These innovations increased crop yields and allowed the manufacture of clothes made from plant textiles as well as animal products (i.e. leather and wool). There is indirect evidence that Vinča farmers made use of the cattle-driven plough, which would have had a major effect on the amount of human labour required for agriculture as well as opening up new area of land for farming. Many of the largest Vinča sites occupy regions dominated by soil types that would have required ploughing.
Areas with less arable potential were exploited through transhumant pastoralism, where groups from the lowland villages moved their livestock to nearby upland areas on a seasonal basis. Cattle were more important than sheep and goats in Vinča herds and, in comparison to the cultures of the FTN, livestock was increasingly kept for milk, leather and as draft animals, rather than solely for meat. Seasonal movement to upland areas was also motivated by the exploitation of stone and mineral resources. Where these were especially rich permanent upland settlements were established, which would have relied more heavily on pastoralism for subsistence.
Although increasingly focused on domesticated plants and animals, the Vinča subsistence economy still made use of wild food resources. The hunting of deer, boar and aurochs, fishing of carp and catfish, shell-collecting, fowling and foraging of wild cereals, forest fruits and nuts made up a significant part of the diet at some Vinča sites. These, however, were in the minority; settlements were invariably located with agricultural rather than wild food potential in mind, and wild resources were usually underexploited unless the area was low in arable productivity.
Generally speaking craft production within the Vinča network was carried out at the household level; there is little evidence for individual economic specialisation. Nevertheless, some Vinča artefacts were made with considerable levels of technical skill. A two-stage method was used to produce pottery with a polished, multi-coloured finish, known as 'Black-topped' and 'Rainbow Ware'. Sometimes powdered cinnabar and limonite were applied to the fired clay for decoration. The style of Vinča clothing can be inferred from figurines depicted with open-necked tunics and decorated skirts. Cloth was woven from both flax and wool (with flax becoming more important in the later Vinča period), and buttons made from shell or stone were also used.
The Vinča site of Pločnik has produced the earliest example of copper tools in the world. However, the people of the Vinča network practised only an early and limited form of metallurgy. Copper ores were mined on a large scale at sites like Rudna Glava, but only a fraction were smelted and cast into metal artefacts – and these were ornaments and trinkets rather than functional tools, which continued to be made from chipped stone, bone and antler. It is likely that the primary use of mined ores was in their powdered form, in the production of pottery or as bodily decoration.
Major Vinča sitesEdit
- Suciu 2011
- Perić 2017
- Chapman 2000, p. 239.
- Radivojević, Miljana; Rehren, Thilo; Pernicka, Ernst; Šljivar, Dušan; Brauns, Michael; Borić, Dušan (1 November 2010). "On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe". Journal of Archaeological Science. 37 (11): 2775–2787. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.012. ISSN 0305-4403.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 40–51.
- Porčić, Marko (31 December 2011). "An exercise in archaeological demography: estimating the population size of Late Neolithic settlements in the Central Balkans". Documenta Praehistorica. 38: 323–332. doi:10.4312/dp.38.25.
- Archaeological Exhibitions. Duncan Caldwell.
- S., Jovanovic; Mila, Savic; Ruzica, Trailovic; Z., Jankovic; Dusko, Sljivar (2003). "Evaluations of the domestication process in Serbia: Plezoological remnants at neolithic settlement of Blovode". Acta Veterinaria. 53 (5–6): 427–434. doi:10.2298/AVB0306427J.
- The rise of metallurgy in Eurasia: Evolution, organisation and consumption of early metal in the Balkans. University College London, Institute of Archaeology. 2010.
- Porčić, Marko (2012). "Social complexity and inequality in the Late Neolithic of the Central Balkans – reviewing the evidence" (PDF). Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia. p. 171. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Newsletter of the Association for Coroplastic Studies Number 12, Summer 2014 (PDF). Association for Coroplastic Studies. 2014.
- Lipson, Mark; Szécsényi-Nagy, Anna; Mallick, Swapan; Pósa, Annamária; Stégmár, Balázs; Keerl, Victoria; Rohland, Nadin; Stewardson, Kristin; Ferry, Matthew; Michel, Megan; Oppenheimer, Jonas; Broomandkhoshbacht, Nasreen; Harney, Eadaoin; Nordenfelt, Susanne; Llamas, Bastien; Gusztáv Mende, Balázs; Köhler, Kitti; Oross, Krisztián; Bondár, Mária; Marton, Tibor; Osztás, Anett; Jakucs, János; Paluch, Tibor; Horváth, Ferenc; Csengeri, Piroska; Koós, Judit; Sebők, Katalin; Anders, Alexandra; Raczky, Pál; Regenye, Judit; Barna, Judit P.; Fábián, Szilvia; Serlegi, Gábor; Toldi, Zoltán; Gyöngyvér Nagy, Emese; Dani, János; Molnár, Erika; Pálfi, György; Márk, László; Melegh, Béla; Bánfai, Zsolt; Domboróczki, László; Fernández-Eraso, Javier; Antonio Mujika-Alustiza, José; Alonso Fernández, Carmen; Jiménez Echevarría, Javier; Bollongino, Ruth; Orschiedt, Jörg; Schierhold, Kerstin; Meller, Harald; Cooper, Alan; Burger, Joachim; Bánffy, Eszter; Alt, Kurt W.; Lalueza-Fox, Carles; Haak, Wolfgang; Reich, David (November 2017). "Parallel palaeogenomic transects reveal complex genetic history of early European farmers". Nature. 551 (7680): 368–372. Bibcode:2017Natur.551..368L. doi:10.1038/nature24476. PMC 5973800. PMID 29144465.
- Mathieson, Iain; et al. (8 March 2018). "The Genomic History of Southeastern Europe". Nature. 555 (7695): 197–203. doi:10.1038/nature25778. PMC 6091220. PMID 29466330.
- Patterson, Nick; et al. (2022). "Large-scale migration into Britain during the Middle to Late Bronze Age" (PDF). Nature. 601 (7894): 588–594. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04287-4. PMID 34937049. S2CID 245509501.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 1–5.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 33–39.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 17–32; calibrated with CalPal.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 132–139.
- Gimbutas 1976.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 84–116.
- Chapman 1981, pp. 117–131.
- Cvekic 2007.
- Chapman, John (1981). The Vinča culture of south-east Europe: Studies in chronology, economy and society (2 vols). BAR International Series. Vol. 117. Oxford: BAR. ISBN 0-86054-139-8.
- Chapman, John (2000). Fragmentation in Archaeology: People, Places, and Broken Objects. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-15803-9.
- Cvekic, Ljilja (12 November 2007). "Prehistoric women had passion for fashion". Reuters. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
- Lipson, Mark (16 November 2017). "Parallel palaeogenomic transects reveal complex genetic history of early European farmers". Nature. Nature Research. 551 (7680): 368–372. doi:10.1038/nature24476. PMC 5973800. PMID 29144465.
- Gimbutas, Marija A., ed. (1976). Neolithic Macedonia as reflected by excavation at Anza, southeast Yugoslavia. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California.
- Narasimhan, Vagheesh M. (6 September 2019). "The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 365 (6457): eaat7487. bioRxiv 10.1101/292581. doi:10.1126/science.aat7487. PMC 6822619. PMID 31488661.
- Perić, Slaviša (June 2017). "Drenovac: a Neolithic settlement in the Middle Morava Valley, Serbia". Antiquity. 91 (357). doi:10.15184/aqy.2017.41.
- Suciu, Cosmin Ioan (2011). "Early Vinča Culture Dynamic in South-Eastern Transylvania". In Mills, Steve; Mirea, Pavel (eds.). The Lower Danube in Prehistory: Landscape Changes and Human-Environment Interactions. Bucharest: Editura Renaissance. pp. 75–86. ISBN 978-606-8321-01-1.
- "Serbia's Journey Through Centuries: Prehistory". srbijomkrozvekove.rs. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
- Tasić, Nikola; Srejović, Dragoslav; Stojanović, Bratislav (1990). Винча: Центар неолитске културе у Подунављу [Vinča: Centre of the Neolithic culture of the Danubian region]. Belgrade: Центар за археолошка истраживања Филозофског факултета.
- Vasić, Miloje (1932). Preistorijska Vinča I [Prehistoric Vinča I]. Beograd.
- Vasić, Miloje (1936). Preistorijska Vinča II [Prehistoric Vinča II]. Beograd.
- Vasić, Miloje (1936). Preistorijska Vinča III [Prehistoric Vinča III]. Beograd.
- Vasić, Miloje (1936). Preistorijska Vinča IV [Prehistoric Vinča IV]. Beograd.
- Подунавље између 6000 и 3000 г. пре нове ере [The Danubian Region from 6000 to 3000 B. C.] Винча и њен свет [Vinča and its world] (in Serbian). Belgrade: SANU. 1990.
- Shennan, Stephen (2018). The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108386029. ISBN 9781108422925.