Neolithic landscapes of the Pusta Reka region (Leskovac)


The concentration of prehistoric sites around the modern city of Leskovac in southeast Serbia implies the intense use of the region alongside the South Morava River and its tributaries. A few prehistoric sites have been registered within the Leskovac territory so far, mainly through surface finds. Prehistoric sites were scattered in the river valleys and mountainous areas, while the earliest occupation in the region seems to be attested from the Neolithic period (Bulatović – Jović 2009). However, only occasional and accidental finds show the presence of the Starčevo culture in the Leskovac region, while the understanding of the occupation during the Early Neolithic period remains quite unclear.

The main goal of the project is to investigate the use of the valleys between river streams by focusing on the identification of potential early farming communities in the region. An additional documentation of the later prehistoric sites coinciding with Copper and Bronze Ages seeks to provide an insight of the long-term landscape use by prehistoric communities in the area.

Map of the surveyed region (© M. Börner/OREA)

The first step of the project involves the archaeological survey of various find spots and an additional geophysical survey and detailed topographical mapping and documentation. For this task paleo-geographical investigations including drillings, core analyses, and sampling for radiocarbon dating is conducted by Steffen Schneider and his team, and geophysical prospection by Cornelius Meyer (Eastern Atlas).

The major plan for the second project phase is to intensify the environmental studies and focus on excavations of a Starčevo site defined in the course of the survey. The GIS analyses of the survey data, material studies as well as ongoing analyses of the drilling cores form the basis for excavations. The excavations will include all necessary studies on the material culture, i.e. pottery and lithics, accompanied by the investigations of archaeozoology, paleobotany and physical anthropology. Raw material analysis will be undertaken by Michael Brandl in the scope of the project Characterisation of Early Neolithic chert resources in the Pusta Reka region.

The excavations of a Starčevo site, with the focus on defining the Early Neolithic occupation in the region would enhance our view on the pre-Vinča horizon, previously limited only to accidental finds and significantly contribute to our understanding of the Neolithisation processes of the Central Balkans.

Fieldwork in Serbia 2017 (© B. Milić, F. Ostmann/OREA)