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Premières communautés paysannes en Méditerranée occidentale

Jean Guilaine
Jean Courtin
Jean-Louis Roudil
et al.

Méditerranée adriatique, rapports avec le monde Égéen et les Balkans

The development of neolithic communities in the central mediterranean : western Greece to Malta

John Evans


La Grèce occidentale et la Dalmatie sont caractérisées par une côte longue et très irrégulière telle que les terres sont séparées par de nombreuses baies dont le trajet est facilité par des îles et des îlots. En tenant compte des données recensées pour la navigation pendant le Néolithique, il n’est pas surprenant de constater des contacts entre les différentes îles et les zones côtières dès le début du Néolithique ancien. Plus frappant que les ressemblances entre les groupes néolithiques de cette région, généralement limités aux formes et décors de la céramique, sont les indications de la diversité des outillages, des habitats et des économies de subsistance mises en évidence par des travaux récents. Dans certains cas, des caractères locaux suivent une tradition indigène à la région et signalent donc des continuités avec des périodes antérieures. Dans les cas où ils sont novateurs, ces caractères locaux semblent représenter des adaptations locales liées à l’installation d’une nouvelle base de subsistance dans une zone définie. L’auteur présente les données provenant de diverses parties de la région, ainsi que les rapports entre les civilisations de la Grèce occidentale et de la Dalmatie, et celles des terres intérieures. Pendant les périodes plus récentes, ces liens inter-régionaux établis au Néolithique ancien persistent mais ne se limitent nullement à l’émergence des groupes culturels bien définis.

Texte intégral

1In this paper I propose to review the current state of knowledge concerning the origins and some aspects of the early development of the first farming communi-ties in the South-Eastern portion of the region which is to be covered in this Colloquium. I hope that it will serve as a suitable jumping-off point for discussion and as a suitably generai introduction to the succeeding papers which deal with more restricted parts of the area or offer evidence from recently investigated sites.

2The geographical limits I have chosen are of course arbitrary, but I think that they are convenient ones which have some meaning, at least in the context of this discussion. It has long been recognised that the lands on either side of the Adriatic are closely linked during the Neolithic period, as they often were later on, in prehistoric and historic periods also. A number of the papers which follow mine are clearly based on this premise. However, I believe that it can also reasonably be argued that the larger geographical area which I have delimited for the purposes of this paper is one which offers suitable conditions for the development and maintainance of cultural contacts between the various human communities living there, provided only that they have effective equipment for regularly crossing the short stretches of open water which separate the various portions of terra firma which it contains. Current evidence seems to suggest that a Neolithic way of life spread fairly rapidly to all but a few small portions of this whole area, and that more intensive contacts developed between the various groups of settlements in the course of the Neolithic. Exploitation of the naturally easy links between the various areas of this region in later times has sometimes had important consequences for the subsequent course of Mediterranean civilisation, notably the period of Mycenaean expansion in the second millennium B.C. and then that of Greek expansion and colonisation in the following one. Apart from these more spectacular episodes, however, constant contact between the various local communities has beyond doubt been of the greatest significance in shaping the pattern of cultural development around all these shores over many thousands of years.

3Apart from the shortness of the sea crossings, one of the most obvious characteristics of the region as a whole is the enormous length of coastline in relation to the easily accessible areas of land behind them. It is the more striking if one ignores the main part of the Balkan peninsula, which is more or less cut off from the Western coastal strip through Dalmatia, Albania and Epirus by the Dinaric ranges and the Pindus mountains. Without going into any calculation of a value for « specific shoreline », which is « the length of shoreline divided by the area of the country » (Rashevsky, 1968, 132), it is obvious enough that the exceptionally extensive and generally indented coastlines of this region, which offer plenty of good natural harbours for primitive shipping, must have encouraged seaborne contacts over the whole area, supplemented, as opportunity offered, by the short cuts provided by suitable land routes, where these existed.

4The evidence of radiocarbon dates indicates that the period which saw the first appearance of food-producing communities in the Central Mediterranean was towards the latter part of the period of rapidly rising sea-level which began during the latter part of the last glaciation (cf. Lamb 1982, Fig. 39). The major changes in the relations of land and sea had already taken place, though there was to be some further rise as well as other smaller scale changes, due to various other factors, which were still to take place, and have of course continued to do so in the millennia which have elapsed since the end of the Neolithic period. Deposition and erosion have also played their part in altering the landscape, thus covering or destroying archaeological sites.

5The period we are dealing with was also that in which the climate was approaching the world-wide climatic optimum, with an oceanic tendency which probably favoured the implantation of the new way of life, though it cannot be held to be primarily responsible for its appearance in the area.

The present position

6While notable advances have been made in the study of the Neolithic period in many parts of the region with which I am concerned over the past few decades, the progress of research has, it is not surprising to say, been by no means uniform in all areas. The differences between one area and another are especially notable in the matter of survey activity. Some areas, notably the Tavoliere in Apulia, the Bradano region in Basili-cata, and parts of Calabria, have been the scene of some intensive survey projects. An Anglo-Yugoslav survey of an area near Zadar, led by Dr. Batovic and Dr. John Chapman, was begun last summer, and will continue this year, but though it has already made valuable contributions to knowledge, and has clarified the geomor-phological situation considerably, it must be said that the results so far have only a minimal bearing on the study of the Neolithic. In other areas work of this kind has not yet been carried out, and the gaps left in our knowledge by this lack are obvious enough.

7Even where intensive surveys have been carried out, however, there are, as Dr. Whitehouse pointed out in a recent paper on settlement patterns in South-East Italy (Whitehouse, 1981, 160), differences in the aims, and as a result in the methods adopted, which make it very difficult often to compare the results achieved. Some survey is certainly better than none, but ideally it should be as intensive as possible, and this may involve, as Dr. Ammerman’s work in Calabria has shown, revisiting and collecting on sites at different times of the year, perhaps several times (Ammerman and Bonardi, 1971, 337). It is also of fundamental importance, as again Ammerman’s work, and also that of Dr. Delano Smith in Apulia, has shown very clearly, that the geomorphology of the area should receive expert attention at the same time. This can be of importance for many reasons, but one of the most important of these, from the archaeologist’s point of view, is that any factors affecting the « visibility », or the disappearance, of sites can be recognised and taken into account. Otherwise not only individual sites, but whole classes, are liable to be missed.

8There are of course many other problems in assessing the results of survey work, including, as Dr. Whitehouse again noted, that of early sites being masked by the accumulated debris of later ones, not to mention the difficulty of being sure that we are in fact recognising the true significance of all the material and all the types of site found. The extension of survey work to all areas of the region under consideration would therefore be a precondition for any really objective evaluation of the development of Neolithic settlement there. For the present, however, one has to work with what evidence is available, and it must be recognised that this severely limits the quality of the results to be obtained in any such assessment.

The transition to food-producing

9In most parts of the region under consideration we have evidence of the existence of the communities of Neothermal hunters or gatherers that for convenience we call Mesolithic. Among these there is evidence that while some deposits of this phase demonstrate a continuation of reliance on hunting relatively large mammals, others provide evidence for the collection on a large scale of land and marine shells and the catching of smaller animals and birds for food. To some extent these differences are no doubt related to the environment of the site, but this is not invariably the main factor. These sites are stratified cave deposits, and at some of them the succeeding levels contain remains of impressed pottery, associated with food remains and a chipped stone industry more or less identical with those of the earlier levels. Well-known examples of this succession are the cave of Crvena Stijena in Montenegro (Benac, 1957, 1958), Jamina Stredi on the Dalmatian island of Cres (Mirosavljevic, 1971), and in Sicily, at the Western end of the region, the caves of Corruggi (Bernabò Brea, 1949), Sperlinga (Cavalier, 1971) and Uzzo (Piperno et al, 1976, 1978). While it is more difficult to find uncontroversial examples of a similar stratigraphic continuity in South Italy, there are certainly cave sites with mesolithic material in the upper levels e.g. La Porta (Radmilli, 1960), Grotta Erica (Bonuccelli, 1971) and others where impressed pottery is associated with lithic industries of Romanellian or Mesolithic derivation. A good example is furnished by the cave of Latronico III near Potenza (Cremonesi, 1969), where the lithic industry, associated with developed impressed ware and some painted pottery, shows distinct Tarde-noid influences, with trapezes and denticulated blades. A similar lithic industry is also present at Tuppo del Sassi, also near Potenza, where it occurs in Mesolithic levels, and there are Neolithic levels above.

10On the other hand, the most characteristic early Neolithic sites are open settlements characterised by impressed pottery, but having a different kind of chipped stone industry which consists chiefly of blades and scrapers of various kinds. Stone querns and rubbers found on these, along with the bones of domesticated animals, indicate that the basic activities were concerned with farming. Well known examples are the sites of Smilcic and Nin near Zadar in Dalmatia, the many ditched villages of South-East Italy and the Stentinello villages, both ditched and open, of Sicily. These are now joined by the extensive, but apparently more dispersed, settlements of the Acconia area of Calabria.

11The nature of the relationship between these different kinds of site has been much discussed, and can be interpreted in different ways. On the one hand, it can be taken to imply that we have here the indications of a process of change taking place wholly or mainly within the indigenous population, or on the other that it demonstrates the arrival of new people accustomed to living in settled villages based chiefly or wholly on mixed subsistence farming among a sparse population of local hunter-gatherers, these latter living mainly in caves or rock shelters. These would have continued their traditional way of life, but adopting first the use of pottery, and then also other traits, including elements of the subsistence base of the newcomers. These are the extreme points of view, the latter being until recently at least, the most popular. Other views are mostly some kind of compromise between these two, generally involving the development of the indigenous population under some measure of cultural influence or stimulus from outside the area, and often postulating some movement of people also, even if not from very far afield.

12It seems to me that we are not yet in a position to decide finally between these various hypotheses, or to explain the processes involved in any very satisfactory way. However, some things can probably be affirmed and others ruled out. First of all, it seems impossible not to believe that some basic elements of the new economy, notably the cereals and at least some of the domesticated animals, were introduced from outside the area. On the other hand, there seems little to be said in favour of the concept of a wholesale transference of population from some other part of the Mediterranean where parallels to the impressed pottery have been noted - for example the Levant - since such a mass migration by sea from these relatively remote areas (apparently without stopping off on the way) is surely inconceivable at the stage of technological development and social organisation which we are dealing with in this period. North Africa seems an equally unlikely starting point, unless perhaps of contacts via Pantelleria and Lampedusa with Sicily.

13The Cardial impressed pottery, is, however, undoubtedly a distinctive product which sets the Adriatic Neolithic apart from that of the Neolithic of the adjacent regions to the South-East and East. But although it is possible to delineate an Adriatic province on this basis, none the less some links can be seen with the pottery of the neighbouring regions. The shapes of the Adriatic pottery, though simple, do seem to echo in a general way some of those current in the early Greek Neolithic and the Starcevo culture. In Albania the earliest Neolithic yet discovered (earliest on typological grounds, since no radiocarbon dates are available) has pottery with barbotine decoration which resembles that of the first phase of Starcevo. This comes from the site of Burim on the Eastern edge of the lowland area of the country (Prendi and Andrea, 1981, 28). A slightly later phase is represented at Kolsh I and Blaz II (also on the eastern side of the lowlands) where the impressed decoration was executed with a stick or bone, and barbotine was rare, but where there was also a little (c. 5 %) cardial decoration (Prendi and Andrea, 1981, 29). Kolsh I has also Starcevo type dark on red painted ware, so that according to Prendi (1976, 55) it would seem to correspond to the Vrshnik stage of Starcevo (IIb). The small amount of cardial decoration, however, points Westwards, though in fact nothing is known in the West of Albania earlier than the site of Cakran, where a developed stage of the impressed ware, corresponding to the Guadone style in South-East Italy, was found associated with Danilo type material (Kor-kuti, 1972). The evidence available from Western Greece adds very little to this. The material from Asfaka (Higgs and Vita Finzi, 1966, 22) with a C14 date of 5430 ± 240 b.c., said to resemble Italian Neolithic pottery rather than that of Nea Nikomedeia, has not been published, while that from Sidari in Corfu (Sordinas, 1968), which also dates to the 6th millennium, is not much better known. The shape of the impressed cup from the Level C top (Sordinas, 1968 Fig. 3 bottom), is, however, not unlike some from the other side of the Pindus, as well as from the Adriatic. In Yugoslavia contact with Starcevo is only attested as dating later sites like Zelena Pećina (Benać, 1957) and at Obre I we have an example of a basically Starcevo assemblage with elements of resembling later Adriatic impressed ware (Batovic, 1975). It is difficult not to agree with Dr. Batovic that this represents penetration inland by the Adriatic impressed ware cultures from an original base on the coast.

14While it is not possible as yet to see clearly how the Adriatic culture developed, I think that the little evidence there is points to the probability that links with the Early Neolithic of Northern Greece and Southern Yugoslavia were responsible for the initial introduction of the basic elements, including pottery, to the Adriatic area. Once in the area they probably spread rapidly along the coasts of Dalmatia, Southern Italy and Sicily. Unfortunately there is little direct evidence in the way of radiocarbon dates available as yet to check on this. However, the date of 6180 ± 80 b.c. - P. 2734 (Piperno et al, 1980, 61) for Late Mesolithic levels (14/13) which are immediately followed by levels in which Neolithic traits begin to appear, at the Grotto dell’Uzzo, in the extreme western part of the region, could be taken to support such a view. Certainly there is now somewhat more impressive indirect evidence in the consensus among dates for the end of the Impressed ware phase in the Adriatic part of it. Two dates of around 5000 b.c. for levels at Villaggi Scaramella containing Late Impressed and La Quercia wares have been available for some years. These are now joined by three dates published recently from Masseria Giuffreda (Foggia), (Guilaine et al, 1981, 156), two of which probably refer to the La Quercia phase occupation of the site and lie a century or two on either side of 5000 b.c. Some dates from Rendina (Follieri, his volume) also seem consistent with these. There are now also dates for the final phase of Impressed Ware on the opposite side of the Adriatic, which I am able to refer to through the kindness of Dr. John Chapman who has supplied me with a copy of the forthcoming paper in which he is publishing them (Chapman, Forthcoming). The dates, which come from two successive levels of Stratum I at Gudnja, likely to correspond to La Quercia phase in Apulia, again lie just on either side of 5000 b.c. Several dates from the succeding Danilo levels are consistent with these. The inference from all of them seems clearly to be that the spread and initial development of the impressed ware culture took place during the sixth millennium b.c. in radiocarbon years. A date of around 5000 b.c. is also reported by Ammerman for elaborate impressed ware at Acconia in Calabria (1983, 169) though in this area it is not yet known what, if anything, preceeded this phase. The nearest impressed ware of a more primitive type is from Tine’s excavation of the village site at Favella, (Tinè, 1964, 280).

Development of the Neolithic communities

15The development of the Neolithic communities in the southern part of the Central Mediterranean is marked by continuing links, but also by a strong tendency to diversification which can be seen most obviously in the material equipment and especially in the various styles of pottery developed. Collecting and gathering activities continue to be attested at some sites, principally caves, but also occasionally at open sites, such as Coppa Nevigata, where conditions were particularly favourable for these activities. Do these sites represent communities of Mesolithic survivors, as Dr. Whitehouse suggested for southern Italy some years ago, or are they simply those which the Neolithic population used in the course of (probably seasonal) gathering and sometimes also herding activities ? It many cases this last seems to be a likely answer, especially where they lie close to areas with fairly dense Neolithic populations, as in Apulia. (Some were also the focus for religions activities (e.g. Scaloria). On sites like Crvena Sti-jena and Zelena Pecina the situation may well be different, however, since they both lie in mountainous country a fair way from the coastal plain. These could well represent the remains of separate groups independent of those who occupied the open sites on the coast. Such problems clearly need further study.

16Turning to the village sites, it is obvious that there is considerable variety in these over the whole area. The Early Neolithic settlements of Dalmatia, such as Smil-cic and Nin, seem to have been simply agglomerations of a number of light huts. Their economic basis was probably a mixture of farming and hunting, as attested in the later Danilo sites. The material used for equipment seems to have been exclusively local, and there is no evidence of exchange at first (Batovic, 1966, 225). In Apulia we have the ditched settlements based on farming, and ranging in size from the individual farmstead to the large village. The ditches round the sites, as well as the C shaped ditches in the later ones, and other features, have been claimed as showing adaptation to the somwhat more oceanic climatic conditions prevailing at the time in the area (e.g. Tinè 1968). Water storage may well have been important, though the ditches round the site may well have had other functions, such as keeping out wild animals. A striking contrast to these nucleated settlements of the Tavoliere and the Murge is offered by the pattern which is emerging in the South-West of Calabria. Here the work of Albert Ammerman and his team has revealed a noticeably different state of affairs. Occupation seems to consist of small groups of remains often occuring quite close to each other, but it is not yet clear whether they represent a single rather dispersed village or a series of individual farmsteads occupied at different times (Ammerman and Bonardi, 1981, 341). There is no trace of any surrounding ditch or other enclosure structures. Forty eight structures were located at Pian di Curinga by magnetometer survey and the excavation of one of these revealed that it was a roughly rectangular structure rather more than 4 x 3 m., consisting of a framework of saplings covered by wattle and daub (Ammerman, 1983, 17). Little is known of early house plans in most other parts of the region, but in Apulia they may well have been normally curvilinear, though sometimes also apsidal or even rectangular (Lo Porto, 1976, 283, 289). In Sicily ditched enclosures are again known, but these are relatively few, and all in the East. Little is knovn about structures in these or other open sites as yet.

17Regional diversity, combined with continuing links between the various areas, is even more strikingly evident in the pottery styles of the later part of the Early Neolithic and beginning of the Middle Neolithic. In the Eastern part of the region we see the development of a variety of elaborations on the impressed decoration, all tending towards an arrangement of the designs in an overall syntax. This, which Tinè has christened the Guadone style, can be seen on pottery of the developed Early Neolithic in the Tavoliere and the Materano, and across the Adriatic at various sites in Dalmatia, and at Obre I, and again further South at Cakran in Albania along with various other types of pottery, including incised, incrusted and painted wares. These link with Danilo types to the North and to the South with Middle Neolithic material from Elateia and Corinth. They also include fragments of the well-known « rhytons » which are found in both areas, as well as some possible Dimini imports of the Tsangli phase (Korkuti, 1972, 28 ; Prendi, 1976, 59).

18Painted wares of various types also appear further North and West in Dalmatia and South East Italy at the end of the Early Neolithic. In the former area they appear first as the dark faced painted wares of La Quercia type on the Tavoliere which are often associated with developed impressed ware of the Guadone type. They are followed by the pottery painted with broad unbordered bands, which has a wider distribution. Examples of wares similar to the latter have been found on the other side of the Adriatic at Gudnja, dating from the end of the Early Neolithic (Batovic, 1976, 150), and at the caves of Vela and Jakasova on Korkula (where, however, they seem to have been associated with incised wares of Hvar style. (Cecuk, 1978, 263, 267, Figs. 2-4).

19The characteristic wares of the Middle Neolithic in Dalmatia are of course the Danilo painted and incised wares. These must come into fashion, according to the Gudja dates, in the first half of the 5th millennium b.c., several hundred years before the first dates for elaborate painted wares, such as trichrome wares, in Italy. However, the Danilo culture seems to have a long development in Dalmatia, and Batovic considers that a development can be traced in the pottery which parallels the succession of styles in South East Italy from La Quercia to Scaloria Bassa in its general lines if not in detail (1975, 150). The incised wares of the Danilo culture, however, are distinctive to the Eastern shores of the Adriatic and do not have a counterpart in Italy.

20In other areas of South Italy different ceramic developments take the place of the painted Apulian wares. Already in the Materano in the advanced impressed ware phase a striking local style had been evolved, which Tinè had called the « Materan facies of Guadone ». This is followed by a phase characterised chiefly by the first appearance of the well-known scratched (graffito) decoration, which is sometimes combined on the same vase with impressed decoration on the outer face, while painted lines in the La Quercia style sometimes appear on the inner one (Tinè, 1978, 46, and Fig. 4, 1 and 2). This gives a context for the beginning of this phase, which, however, lasts a long time in this area. Passo di Corvo wares, perhaps imported, are found in small quantities in association with these same scratched wares, which seem, however, to remain in fashion until the appearance of Serra d’Alto wares about 4000 b.c.

21Further West, in Calabria, the situation is different again, since Ammerman’s investigations seem to show that at least in the South-West the Stentinello style of impressed decoration remained the norm for the fine pots through at least most of the 5th millennium b.c. and perhaps longer. Certainly very little pottery of Capri or Serra d’Alto type has been found there, though Diana pottery has been found in quantity (Ammerman et al. forthcoming). In Sicily also, of course, it has long been realised that the Stentinello patterns remained the standard ware all through the period when red painted trichrome and Serra d’Alto wares were in vogue, since examples of these styles are found associated with Stentinello pottery. Only in the phase when pottery of the Diana type came into use did the situation change, as apparently in Calabria. It was a group using a variant of the Stentenello pottery that colonised Malta for the first time at the end of 5th millennium b.c. (Trump, 1966, 21 ; Evans, 1971,208).

Growth of exchange

22In the early phases of the Neolithic in the area covered there is not much evidence for regular exchange of commodities between different groups. From toward the end of the Early Neolithic, however, the exchange of certain types of goods evidently did become of increasing importance. One of the most important of these goods was obsidian. The main source for this, over much of this area I have been discussing, was the Aeolian islands, and it is significant that the first permanent settlement there seems to coincide with the development of the widespread trade in obsidian. The earliest remains are those from Castellaro Vecchio, which contain Stentenello type pottery along with some pieces decorated with plain red bands. Ammerman’s work in Calabria has shown how a considerable amount of this material was sent over to the West coast of Cal-bria, probably in the form of roughed out cores, where it was further worked at certain sites and then passed on (Ammerman, 1979). As he has ingeniously shown, some sites seem to have been more involved than others in this business, but in general amounts of obsidian are high on the West coast sites in comparison with amounts on the East coast. Does this mean that most of it was passed on further ? And how far did it go ? Certainly as far as Apulia, though some may even have reached Dalmatia.

23Ammerman (1983) has also shown that pots (or their contents), were being exchanged locally, and this was no doubt the case in the other parts of the region as well, though detailed studies have yet to be undertaken. Pots may have also sometimes moved over larger distances. The appearance of Danilo type incised ware, and even the fragment of a rhyton at the Lipari acropolis, (Bernabò Brea and Cavalier, 1980) may be related to the long distance obsidian connection. Other types of raw material, other than obsidian, notably hard rocks for the manufacture of axes, also travelled over considerable distances. From this time onwards the exchange of goods was certainly established as an added stimulus to contact between different parts of the South Central Mediterranean lands.



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