Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Honew, Kenneth

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Neolithic period--Balkan Peninsula; Balkan Peninsula--Antiquities


Plant and animal domestication has always been considered a Near Eastern innovation, which diffused into Europe via the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Even in current publications, most authors may overlook data which are not complimentary to the diffusion theory. However, there is an evergrowing number of archaeologists, zoologists, botanists and other specialists who are beginning to question the validity of a strictly non-European participation in the development of domestication in Europe. The Balkan Peninsula has been accepted as the area in which the earliest traces of domestication in Europe have been found. A great deal of confusion has arisen in the archaeological literature concerning the early Neolithic period of this region. This confusion is due to the nature of the data and the manner in which they have been reported since Childe's treatise in 1929. The present study is concerned with a few categories of the archaeological inventory for the Balkan Early Neolithic and how these categories have been discussed in the literature. Neolithic pottery, settlement patterns, trade, dating problems with this period, land use, plant and animal domestication evidence, and the controversy concerning the Balkan Mesolithic technocomplexes are covered. In each of these categories, the current theories and archaeological evidence are discussed as they relate to the problem of European participation in plant and animal domestication. The thesis concludes that Mesolithic and Early Neolithic evidence reveals the possibility of European innovation, or at the very least, joint participation in the development of the currently known domesticated species of the earliest farming communities. The Mesolithic data show that trade and contact was established all along the western Aegean coast long before agriculture first appeared. The species of plants and animals currently accepted as the first domesticates either have wild ranges which occur in Europe, or, have never been investigated as a wild species in Europe which places its current range in doubt. Early Neolithic European settlements have not received enough attention in the literature. Balkan settlements reveal a unique pattern to this part of Europe, in fact, incomparable to the Near East from which the complex has purportedly diffused. Pottery comparisons between Early Neolithic Balkan wares and the Near Eastern counterparts have been the strongest argument for diffusion in the past. However, new studies on dating methods, temper, clay sources and design have made these comparisons less convincing. Finally, radiocarbon dating systems need to be used more responsibly; other methods of dating such as thermoluminescence and obsidian hydration should be used along with the radiometric system to establish Balkan chronologies. A new outlook is needed in Early Neolithic studies concerning the Balkan Peninsula. Concentration should be placed on a holistic look at the Neolithic way of life in both Europe and the Near East instead of the current narrow viewpoint which consists of comparing isolated artifacts found on the two continents to prove diffusion.


Includes bibliograhpical references.||Includes illustrations and maps.


105 pages




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