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An inquiry into the "missing" Central Balkans Mesolithic: faunal remains from Bukovac cave, Serbia

Živaljević, Ivana; Dimitrijević, Vesna; Dogandžić, Tamara; Talamo, Sahra; Mihailović, Dušan

Apart from the well-known Mesolithic sites in the Danube Gorges, occupied more or less continuously between c. 9500-5500 cal BC, the evidence of human presence in the North-Central Balkans in the Early Holocene is virtually non-existent. This puzzling phenomenon has been associated with presumed low population densities, changing environmental conditions, geomorphological effects on site survival and visibility, or the lack of research. In that respect, recent excavations at the cave site of Bukovac near Despotovac in the Resava river valley (tributary of Velika Morava, Central Serbia) (Dogandzic et al. 2014; 2017) provide important new data relevant to the understanding of the phenomenon. The stratigraphic sequence at Bukovac is predominantly related to the Upper Palaeolithic (mainly Gravettian) occupancy, manifested by a rich lithic assemblage, hearths, bone tools and abundant faunal material. However, the Early Holocene use of the cave had also been confirmed, on the basis of partially preserved layer along the cave wall, containing animal bones which produced a Mesolithic date. Apart from dating, the taxonomic composition of the sample (including remains of wild game, mustelids, rodents, birds and a significant amount of fish bones) is unequivocally reflecting Early Holocene biodiversity and foraging (hunting and fishing) patterns. In this paper, we present the results of archaeozoological analysis of the faunal sample from the Bukovac Mesolithic layer, but also discuss the implications of its state of preservation in the broader context of Mesolithic „invisibility“ in the archaeological record.

Grants: Max Planck Society; Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information
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