Skip to main content

Forming Idendities in a Transitional Area

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BURIAL (Forming Idendities in a Transitional Area)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

The project Burial was dealing with the interpretations of the archeological finds from the Late Bronze Age (12th – 8th century BC) in a specific region of Southeast Europe that included territories of continental Croatia and northern Bosnia. For the most parts of Southeast Europe, the awareness of the group identification is to the present day strongly connected with the dominant collective identity of ethnic group as a persistent and impenetrable community with cultural and biological continuity within certain territory. This, for obvious reasons, hazardous concept was consequently adopted also for the non-written societies in the past by using their material culture, foremost burials and specific grave belongings (jewelry, weapons), as a prime source of the distinction.
In contrast to this unilateral and static model of ancient societies, the archaeological remains from region udner study provide a different and innovative approach to the questions of identity. Large diversity of the burial customs and funeral objects are indicating that group identification needs rather to be understood as overlapping, multifaceted and dynamic construct.
The main objectives of the project were to provide tangible evidences regarding the prehistoric societies in the region under study in terms of absolute chronology, metal and pottery production, burial customs, settlement structure, subsistence strategies and relationships with neighbouring areas. This goal was accomplished with a number of applied scientific analyses that provided a much better comprehension of the different technological and social aspects of ancient communities. The results achieved within the project vastly helped to create new paradigm in the way how to explain and understand people of the past.
Especially in the region of Southeast Europe with repeated and harmful instrumentalization and misusage of the history it is essentially important to establish evidence based narrative that will regard ancient communities not as static entities but rather as real, once existing people with manifold social structures and organisation levels, economic challenges (resource management) and beliefs (burial customs).
• Extensive literature review in the in the libraries of all relevant archaeological institutions in Vienna (Academy of Sciences, University, Museum of Natural History), examination of a number of Bronze Age finds from the Balkan area which are treasured in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna.

• Development of the database for the general assessment of the cremation burials in Central and Southeast Europe. Based on this pre-work, the home institute OREA established a new project which resulted with the free access, online and browser supported database - Cremation Bronze Age Burials (CBAB).

• Detailed analyses of archaeological finds from the region under study with focus on typological, chronological and spatial (distribution) questions. This step included the processing and publication of new bronze finds from a different museum collections in Austria, Bosnia and Croatia.

• Geomagnetic radar screening of the site Dolina in Croatia (see first picture). In total, nearly 4 Ha of the archaeological site, including burial site and contemporary settlement were prospected. The achieved results, especially for the settlement area, were far beyond expedition, since the geomagnetic survey pointed to the existence of well-organized settlement with regular arrangement of Bronze Age rectangular houses (see second picture).

• Participation in the subsequent excavations in the Dolina in 2015 and 2016. This work included documentation of revealed structures and co-writing of two published field reports.

• The classification and recording of the unpublished archaeological finds from the site Dolina (see third picture) was conducted in April 2016 (finds from the field campaign in 2015) and in February 2017 (finds from the field campaign in 2016) in the Institute for Archaeology in Zagreb. The focus was on numerous pottery findsand metal finds.

• The project significantly supported a number of scientific analyses of the finds from excavations in Dolina. These examinations included:
Radiocarbon dating of 20 selected samples from archaeological features
Analysis of charcoal and burnt wooden remains (timber) – species, usage of wood
Residue analyses of selected pottery - evidence about the content of vessels
Petrographic analyses of pottery in terms of technique, treatment and tempering
Archaeometallurgical analyses of bronze objects from Dolina (provenance of raw material, connections with other metallurgical centres)
Analysis of stone tools (hammer stones, casting moulds, grindstone, whetstones)
Analysis of animal bones (husbandry, eating habits, species)

• Definition of the theoretical model that will enable interpretation of the archaeological record beyond static model of “culture-ethnic groups”.

• Organization of the international conference about theoretical perspectives on Balkan archaeology and burial customs with a key note lecture by M. Parker Pearson, 30th November - 2nd December 2016, OREA Institute, Vienna (see fourth picture).

• Presentation of project objectives and results at conferences in Kiel (Germany), Čačak (Serbia), Sarajevo (Bosnia-Hercegovina), Zagreb (Croatia), Vienna (Austria), Belgrade (Serbia), Munich (Germany), Tulcea (Romania).

• First results of the project were published in three peer-reviewed journal paper, in conference contributions and proceedings (8 international conferences) and in two public lectures in University of Vienna (Austria) and Oxford University (Great Britain).
The implementation of the “Burial” project with a number of tangible results provided a possibility for a new narrative based on evidences and facts. This will also considerably influence the perception of the past societies, especially in the region under study, as real, once existing, acting people and not as static “cultural-ethnic” groups.
The interdisciplinary approach of the “Burial” project that included a variety of analytic methods (geophysics, archaeometallurgy, archaeozoology, petrographic and residual analysis of pottery) significantly changed research perspective in Croatia and Bosnia and set a new benchmark for the investigations of Late Bronze Age sites in the region.
In terms of expected impact the project has fulfilled all the expectations from the original proposal and even exceeded some of the anticipated outcomes. Together with experts for surrounding regions of Central and Southeast Europe, the MCH fellow became an integral part of extraordinary scientific team with unique supra-regional expertise in Late Bronze Age. This international research network established in the course of the “Burial” project provides an excellent environment for future actions and collaborations of the MCS fellow itself and institute OREA in general.
Overall it can be stated that successful and meaningful implementation of the project “Burial” has vastly contribute toward better and fact based understanding of prehistoric social and economic organization.
Analysing the pottery from Dolina, Institute of Archaeology, Zagreb
Geomagnetic prospection of the site Dolina in Croatia
Dolina, Settlement with array of burned houses and tumuli (in the north)
Workshop in Vienna, Key Note Lecture Mike Parker Pearson