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Issue 1, 1999

The Mesolithic Habitation Complexes in The Balkans and Danube Basin

by Dr. Vasile Boroneant

Dr. Vasile Boroneant, The Mesolithic Habitation Complexes in The Balkans and Danube Basin, Living
Past, 1, 1999, URL:

Table of contents
•Introduction •Geographical Environment •Ways of penetration. Areas of diffusion •Considerations on the
general evolution of the Epi-palaeolithic/Mesolithic in the area •The succession of the three complexes in
the Iron Gates region •The final Epi-Gravettian. The Proto-Clisurean •Late Epi-Gravettian. Clisurean
(Romanello Azillian) •The Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir cultural complex •Chronological list of the
excavated sites Subzone I. Danube Gorge (Bazias-Gura Vaii) •Conclusions for subzone I •Conclusions for
Subzone II. Wide open valley landscape •The Art of Epipalaeolithic/Mesolithic in the South-West of
Romania •Bibliography


The social and historical conditions that occurred immediately after the second world war in this part of
the continent, caused a weak support and interest towards the research in the archaeological field of
Mesolithic complexes, in what concerned both the scientific and museum exploitation of the discoveries,
and their integration into the European circuit. This was also due to their character, more special and more
diverse than of the ones in the west-central and northern parts of Europe, and a lot more similar to the
ones in Anatolia and the Near East. This is why we consider extremely appropriate the organisers'
proposal of discussing this matter at the Meetings of the XIII Congress of the International Union For
Prehistorical and Protohistorical Sciences (UISPP) at Forli, Italy. Therefore, we shall refer less to the
general problems of the Balkanic Mesolithic complexes and more to the relationships between the
Romanian and Balkanic areas, of course, only at the extent that the length of this paper will allow us.

1. Geographical Environment

The analysis of the geographical environment where the human society developed during the Mesolithic
age shows us that there were three main regions where the process took place:

•The Peri-Mediterranean area - covering the insular part and the coast of Greece, of Albania and of the
countries of former Yugoslavia. •The Balkanic area, consisting of the mountainous peninsular region of
Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. This second area was separated from the third area, the area of Carpathians by
the Danube Gorge in the region of Iron Gates. •The eastern part of the Danube basin.

The entire Mesolithic evolution is closely connected to the extension of a warmer climate towards the
western, central and north-eastern Europe. The key for the real understanding of this process is (in what
concerns Romania and Yugoslavia) the Iron Gates region. This is the region housing the main part of the
discoveries. The Iron Gates had a mild Sub-Mediterranean climate, a rich economic potential, specific
flora and fauna, cultural and behavioural traditions, the shelter of a generous landscape, in a word, all that
the river had to offer.
2. Ways of penetration. Areas of diffusion

The elements of the cultural dynamics had three main areas of spreading, if we consider the historical

•The sea coast - advancing through the western regions of the continent; •The corridor of the Danube
basin - the direction of diffusion pointing towards central and northern Europe; •The eastern part of the
Danube basin, having as direction of diffusion the central and eastern Europe; In this last case, the
phenomenon took place through the Prut, Siret and Dniester, all three being rivers tributary to the Danube.

The last two areas were connected through the genetic structure of the relief, having in between the
Carpathian mountains.

They all exploited the economic potentials and cultural traditions adding a particular colouring feature to
the process of development and diffusion of the specific lifestyle during the Mesolithic period. The
influence and the communication between the sea stream and the Danubian one took place through a
network of rivers flowing on the coast regions but also through the rivers tributary to the Danube, most of
them collected by Drava, Sava and Morava on the right side of the Danube, Tisa and Olt on the left one.

A short glance upon these directions of spreading shows that each of them had its own dynamics of
invention. This means that where favourable climate conditions, economic and human potentials existed,
the human communities changed from the state of hunter and gatherer to the one of harvester and then of
farmer, and from hunting animals to domesticating and breeding them. The change to a domestic
economy had as a consequence the sedentation, the birth of a rural agricultural community, while all the
other communities that did not fulfil the 'conditions' continued their old ways of living of hunting animals
and gathering food. The appearance and diffusion of these first 'germs' encouraged the generalisation of
the new way of production. Owing to the climate conditions of the Atlantic period it was imposed the
generalisation of an agricultural way of production - called the Neolithic age. Under these circumstances,
the Mesolithic (or Epi-Palaeolithic as called by other specialists) appears to be a time when based on
observations and experiments, humans stepped from a behaviour specific to a society based on the
consumption of items that nature was offering - both as food and materials for processing the tools and
weapons - to a society based on invested labour.

The only way of a thoroughly understanding of the process of formation and diffusion of the European
Mesolithic, is not considering it separate from the one that took place in the Near and Middle East. The
warm postglaciar climate, the potential of flora and fauna in the Near and Middle East, Anatolia and the
basin of the Aegean sea presented common features, encouraging thus the adaptation process of the
human race. We do not insist now upon this fact, well known from various other studies. The new factor
is that recent archaeological and environmental research revealed a genetic link between these cultural
aspects. The historical dynamics is closely connected to the optimum conditions for the development of
the human spirit. For the territory we are discussing about was proved the existence of micro-climates that
through specific features encouraged the appearance of 'germs' that pushed the human civilisation
upwards on the ascendant line of the historical becoming. The micro-climates influenced one another and
the new developed ideas circulated confronting the realities among them. The existing conditions lead to a
new way of thinking, to a new behaviour of the species. This is how we explain the fact that the
geographical regions that expanded the last, had the human experience started on the process of
transformation later, and borrowed from the first ones the new discoveries, adapting them to their specific
conditions. It was not the great number of individuals that produced the change, but the circulation of the
new ideas. And then appeared the required factor of progress, the emulation.
Compared to the Palaeolithic, the existence of micro-climates generated a restriction of the area where the
human activities were taking place. The phenomenon, noticed by several specialists, was named
'segregation' or 'regional specialisation'. The phenomenon became stronger as the climate got warmer.
During the same period of time, the food diet changed, the consumption of meat decreased while the
consumption of vegetal food increased. This is closely connected to the extinction of certain species of
animals, like the mammoth, the cave bear and reindeer. The species specific to the new climate extended,
with the domination of Capra ibex, Rupicapra rupicapra, Cervus elaphus, Sus scrofa. The deciduous
forests spread to the prejudice of the conifers. The change on the climate had also as a consequence an
incrementation on the area of lakes and ponds, therefore an increasing number of fish and birds. The
humans directed their attention and activities towards them. A new toolkit for hunting and fishing was
required then, attracting into the economic circuit other raw materials locally available or resulted from
the food consumption, as bone, horn, wild boar teeth. New tools, weapons, means of catching the game
and fish were invented. The activities of gathering and harvesting improved. But new problems appeared:
the storage of food, the introduction of new kinds of meat in the food diet. Clothes made of vegetal fibres,
looser and more adequate to a warmer climate replaced the clothing made of furs.

3. Considerations on the general evolution of the Epi-palaeolithic/Mesolithic in the area

We must say from the very beginning, that we consider the Balkans and the Iron Gates region of the
Danube (the 'Clisura') as fit into the large geographic area where a series of special discoveries were
made. We consider worth mentioning that between the Balkans and the Iron Gates region on one side and
the rest of Romania, on the other side, in what concerned the three ways of diffusion of the Mesolithic,
there was a time delay, materialised in the inventory of artefacts discovered so far. We expect future
discoveries to fill the existent gaps. This appeared because of the dynamics of invention, more accelerate
in this part of the continent, owing to the favourable climatic conditions (a lot milder here during the last
glaciation) and to the existence of cultural traditions that allowed the humans to start from a more
advanced level, compared to the one on the rest of the continent. Apart from these, there is another cause
that apparently was overlooked or neglected by the specialists and we would like to discuss now.

The Black Sea, because of its warm water streams, also favoured the development of a milder climate. It
was present on the coast (the Bosphorus, the Dobrudja, the south of Caucasian mountains, south of
Moldavia and Ukraine). As the most recent discoveries proved, in all these regions were exposed
complexes having related features to the ones that benefited by the Peri-Mediterranean climate. The
existent flora and fauna support the idea. And this is also our argument for the third way of diffusion of
the Epi-Palaeolithic/Mesolithic on the European area. We presume that the process of diffusion had also
an opposite sense of penetration; the same ways of advance were used by the cultural syntheses present in
the cultural complexes in the west, centre and east part of the continent to advance towards the south-
eastern regions. This continued during the Neolithic age, too.

During the same period of time as the Sub-Atlantic climatic period, the Euro-Asian civilisation seemed to
have passed into a new age. The change was also correlated, of course, with other climatic factors and
also with the socio-historical cultural dynamics. Another problem that we would like to bring into
discussion is the one of the warm water streams of the Canary Islands, coming from the west and the
north of the continent from tropical regions. They have influenced the existing populations during the
historical period we are dealing with. In no other way can we explain the presence of Maglemoisian type
complexes on both sides of the British channel. They developed owing to the thermic balance of the Earth
and spread in a tight connection with the level variations of the planetary ocean. This problem must
remain in focus for further research.
The Peri-Mediterranean area was dominated during the end of the Upper Palaeolithic by Epi-Gravettian
features and it was perfectly normal to continue that tradition during the Epi-Palaeolithic. Within the
Balkanic region the situation appeared to be similar. It is not clear yet what happened within the
Carpathian area, as because of the relief and the thermic climate this has always functioned like a
'revolving plate' between the two areas mentioned above and other two: the alpine central European
region and the eastern one, areas much different, due to the presence of the Black and the Baltic seas.

From the research completed so far, in the Iron Gates region we can distinguish two different stages. The
first one is the one that continues the Epi-Gravettian cultural tradition. The change towards the
"segregation/ regionalization" took place gradually. The blade technique was little by little abandoned and
flaking technique is adopted. The flint and other rocks, locally available, were used as raw materials, but
bone and horn were also in an intense usage. The second stage corresponds to the moment of reduction in
size of the area within which the humans were activating and also to the moment of a rare use of flint in
the bladelet technique and the usage mainly of quartz and quartzitic rocks in making the tools. The
processing of bone, horn and wild boar tusk became more common. The same for flaking the quartzite
rocks and flint. Culturally we were able to tell three categories of complexes, linked together in a genetic
and causative chain.

•Final Epi-Gravettian - or Proto-Clisurean (Proto-Romanellian) as we call it;

•Late Epi-Gravettian - Clisurean (Romanellian) as called by us. (Al. Paunescu names it Romanello-
Azillian). It comprises at his turn four stages of development:
•Climente Cave II •Cuina Turcului I •Cuina Turcului II •Ostrovul Banului I-III a
•The cultural complex Schela-Cladovei-Lepenski Vir, also with four stages: an early one, two middle ones
and a late one. In order to establish this periodization we have taken into account quantitative studies (the
quantity of rocks used: flint, quartz, quartzitic rocks), qualitative e being the one of the Danube Gorge in
Clisura region, between Bazias and Gura Vaii and the second being the open space following the
Danube's exit from the Gorge, between Gura Vaii and Ostrovul Mare. Between the two zones there are
differences in terms of quantity and quality of the toolkit, in the typology of stone, horn and bone
artefacts, in the frequency of appearance of various animal species.

4. The succession of the three complexes in the Iron Gates region

From the climatic point of view the three complexes developed between Lascaux Interstadial Age (the
early arid pine phase by Em. Pop & collab., the climatic Romanian oscillation by M. Carciumaru) and the
beginning of the Atlantic (mid-'spruce mixed with hazelnut and oak' phase after Em. Pop and the end of
'spruce & oak' s phase, after M. Carciumaru). Chronologically, it took place between 14,500 BC and
5,600 BC. We must pay great attention to this chronological framing, as we agree with E. Pop, N. Boscaiu
and M. Carciumaru that the 'classic' Pre-Boreal might have appeared a lot earlier than in the central
Europe, that is about 2000 years before. Al. Bolomey, who studied the local fauna also noticed this fact,
as well as E. Kessler, who studied the avifauna.

5. The final Epi-Gravettian. The Proto-Clisurean

This stage was identified in 1965, 1968 in just one site, at Pestera Climente I, situated in Cazanele Mari
region, Dubova village, Mehedinti county. The layer occurred at a depth of 140 to 190 cm. It was rich in
'cryoclasts', containing fireplaces and faunal remains ( forest and euritherm species): Sorex araneus,
Pippistrellus pippistrellus, Spalax leucodon,Cricetus cricetus, Microtus arvalis, Ocotona pusilla, Ursus
spelaeus,Crocuta spelaea, Mustela nivalis, Rupicapra rupicapra, Capra ibex etc. Among the 157 pieces of
the lithic inventory were identified scrapers made of the end of blades, points and micro-points with a flat
side, roundly retouched points, micro-gravettes, 'a cran' pieces, 'encoche' blades, backed blades, Dufour
blades, segments of circles, a few burins, etc. To complete the list we would also like to mention a bone
spear made of a 'penial' bone of Ursus spelaeus and a piercer. Similar finds were found at La Gravette,
Willendorf, Moravany, Asprochaliko.

6. Late Epi-Gravettian. Clisurean (Romanello Azillian)

It is a local aspect of the Romanellian, being also related to the Valourguian and Azillian. Stage I -
Climente I cave, Cazanele Mari region, Dubova village, Mehedinti county. It was identified and studied in
1968,1969. The layer was between 0.65-0.90 m. It presented 'cryoclasts' and fireplaces. The fauna
consisted of Ursus spelaeus, Sus scrofa, Cervus elaphus,etc. The lithic inventory contained: circular,
subcircular and ogival scrapers made of flakes, microburins, roundly retouched points (Romanellian),
Gravettian pieces with a flat side (Climente I type), triangular points,'a cran' pieces, 'a esquillee', segments
of circles, backed blades, truncated backed blades presenting dentils, Dufour bladelets, etc. The inventory
comprised 752 pieces, all published. We also found artefacts made on bone, deer antler, a fragmented
harpoon, awls, borers, throwing points. A few of the bone pieces were ornamented with incised geometric
patterns or small circular hallows executed presumably with a well sharpened burin. Some of the teeth
had been used as pendants. The river boulders, occasionally painted with red ochre, were used for
grinding bones and seeds or in the case of the ones presenting hallows - to transform the ochre in powder.
In the same layer was also found a human skeleton, lying on one side, spread with red ochre, hands under
the head. The skull was fragmentary and only the lower jaw was present.

Stages II and III were found in two neighbouring sites in Cazanele Mari region, Dubova village,
Mehedinti county. Stage II in the first layer at Cuina Turcului and Veterani Cave. Both were sites
excavated in 1964 by C.S. Nicolaescu-Plopsor, M. Davidescu, St. Roman and V. Boroneant. Between
1965-1969 at Cuina Turcului the excavations were resumed by Al. Paunescu and at Veterani cave by Dinu
Rosetti and V. Boroneant between 1966-1968. The fauna of both sites consisted predominantly of Sus
scrofa, Capra ibex, Rupicapra rupicapra, Bos primigenius, Cervus elaphus, Alces alces, Equus cabalus,
Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Ursus aorctus, Putorius putorius, Castor fiber and various species of birds.
Flint industry was extremely well represented: we had 1518 processed finds for the first layer and 2345
for the second one. End-scrapers made of flakes were dominant, like in Climente II cave, but all the other
types specific to the Clisurean/Romanellian were also to be noticed: circular segmented points, micro-
gravettes, backed bladelets, burins, 'a cran' pieces, truncated bladelets, Dufour bladelets. Compared to
Climente II cave the new elements were represented by trapeze shaped pieces and also triangular ones.
Overall, the variation in the types of tools and the variation of their percentage was hardly noticeable
between the layers.

A third site belonging to the Clisurean was found outside the Iron Gates region, in the karst of Cerna
Valley, at Baile Herculane, in a cave named Pestera Hotilor ('the Thieves' Cave'). But its inventory was
considerably poorer. Cuina Turcului offered a rich bone inventory, consisting of awls, piercers, throwing
points, all shaped differently from the ones in Climente I cave. Some of them presented abstract
geometric patterns, resembling to the ones belonging to the Romanellian (V. Boroneant, paper at the VIII
section, XV colloquium). Personal ornamentation objects made of bone, horn, teeth and snail shells were
also to be found. River boulders painted with red ochre were still present. Stage IV was discovered on an
island, Ostrovul Banului-Gura Vaii, Mehedinti county, situated at the exit of the Danube from the Gorge.

Three layers of habitation were identified. The fauna included mainly Sus scrofa and Cervus elaphus but
also a large variety of fish, among which the best represented were Acipense ruthenus, Huso huso,
Leucicus chephalus, Abramis brama, Ciprinus carpio, Selurus glanis, Styzostedion lucioperca, all species
that had been previously identified in the other sites. The end-scrapers dominated the flint industry. The
toolkit also included typical Clisurean points, micro-points, La Gravette and triangular points, segments
of circles, atypical 'a cran' pieces, truncated, backed and Dufour blades, finely retouched flakes and
blades. For the first level we had 101 pieces, 81 for the second level and 127 for III a. No ornamented
bone tools were found but was still to be noticed the presence of river boulders painted with ochre. As a
general observation we would like to underline the increasing rate of microlithization, the high percentage
of bladelets, the fast decline in number of the segments of circles and the presence of the backed blades
down to the lowest level. It is also worth mentioning the increasing number of the 'ecaillee' pieces,
especially of the end-scrapers, and the lessening in number of the abruptly and semi-abruptly retouched

Each stage of the Clisurean brought a strengthening of the microlithization. The prismatic and pyramidal
cores are also to be found more and more seldom. Yet, the bipolar ones are somewhat more frequent.
Samples for C14 dating were taken for each stage, but only the results obtained for Cuina Turcului were
relevant. They read 10650±120 and 10100±120 BC for the first layer and 8175±200 and 8175±200 for the
second one. The tests were made by the Berlin Laboratory. The results are given in non-calibrated years.
On the Yugoslav bank, similar discoveries appeared only at Padina and Vlasac. Chronologically they are
contemporary to stages II and III a from Ostrovul Mare and presented the closest resemblance with ours,
in what concerned the entire evolution of the process, starting with the Proto-Clisurean (final Epi-
Gravettian) up to the end of this evolution. The similarities concerned the typology of the flint toolkit, the
processing technique of bone and horn, the artistic aspect of the ornamental objects. I

t is only the percentages and the slight variations in the tool types that distinguish the complexes in the
Danube valley from the ones at Grotta Romanelli, Grotta delle Mura, Grotta del Cavallo, Grotta di
Uluzzo, Grotta Azzura di Samotorza,etc. This in what concerns the classic Romanellian and the following
stages to the Epi-Romanellian. Close analogies can also be made to the Valourguian in the south of France
(named at the beginning Romanello-Azillian). Yet, direct links with these cultural complexes could not
have existed. Between the Iron Gates region, eastern Yugoslavia and the Adriatic sea there are the Dinaric
mountains. Yet, the excavations at Crvena Stijena, Odmut and Medena Stijena seem to indicate a certain
road of advance of the cultural relations. The process was born in the Danube Valley and then spread
along the Sava river and its tributary, Drina, and then, over the Adriatic ( that had a very low level during
that age) within the Italian peninsula. Another branch of the cultural trend followed the Sava river to the
springs, through Slovenia (Ovca Jama, Babija Jama) maybe over the heights of the Alps, pointing
westwards. The complexes on the sea coast (Franchthi IV-VI, Asprochaliko 1-5)( the Slovanian group, as
considered by White-Kozlowski) present common features, yet slightly different to the ones in the Iron
Gates and southern and western Italy. The penetration through the Iron Gates Gorge happened during the
early stage of Cuina Turcului II. We believe that from a historical behaviour point of view the Clisurean
marked the presedentation period.

7. The Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir cultural complex

This last stage had a sudden development, though in steps. It occurred when changing from the Clisurean
complexes, based mainly on flint exploitation from the local resources, to a lessening of this activity and a
change to an intensive processing of the river boulders and other types of rocks. Predilection was shown
to locally exploited quartz ( seldom obtain from natural deposits, more often from the rocks available on
the beach). Climatically, the process corresponds to the Boreal and beginning of Atlantic period, after the
end of the Pinus phase. During this stage the landscape suffered a great change. It involved the warming
of the climate, the stabilisation of the Danube course( first at a lower level than the present one, then
reaching the one existent nowadays). Man gradually descended from the caves situated on the upper
levels of the karst (Climente II cave (178m) to Climente I cave (62m) and the shelter under the rock at
Cuina Turcului (60m)). During the period of time when Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir culture flourished,
the Danube had the lowest level. It only happened twice ever since, between III-I centuries BC and IX-
XIII centuries AC. In terms of archaeological sites, this period frames between the habitation at Ostrovul
Banului (end of IX millennium) and Alibeg, Icoana (mid-VI millennium). During the first stage at
Veterani Terasa the flint toolkit still preserved Clisurean flint tools that later on will be quite rare or

8. Chronological list of the excavated sites Subzone I. Danube Gorge (Bazias-Gura Vaii)

Veterani Terasa (Cazanele Mari, Mehedinti county) Characteristics. Flint industry in decline (only 37.77%
of the processed raw material). It is the beginning of the quartz industry (13.16%) and of the quartzitic
rock usage (49.07%). The toolkit still comprised the abruptly retouched points, specific to the Clisurean,
but also micro-gravettes, segments of circles, backed blades, Dufour blades, burins, circular and
semicircular end-scrapers, 'ecaillee' end-scrapers. The tool processing was usually made on flakes. Bone
and deer antler tools appeared. Also the debut of the ornamented pieces; sunken hut-type dwellings had
simple fireplaces, the stone-border was not present yet.

Ostrovul Banului (downstream the cataracts, Gura Vaii, Mehedinti county).

Flint industry also in decline (13.69%), quartz industry in full development (43.56%). The same for the
industry of quartzite and other rocks (42.75%). Debut of horn, bone, wild boar tusk industry. The
dwellings were of the sunken hut type with simple hearths. The flint toolkit included retouched points,
micro-gravettes, backed blades, micro-end-scrapers made on flakes. The number of pieces belonging to
these categories of tools appeared to diminish. In exchange, there was an increasing number of pieces
retouched 'a esquillee'. We also exposed deer antler and bone tools, river boulders painted with red ochre.
The excavations took place in 1965.

Icoana (Cazanele Mici, Ogradena-Ieselnita village, Mehedinti county)

Flint industry reached very low percentages (1.58%), quartz had 66.01% and quartzitic rocks 32.51%.
The toolkit was dominated by end-scrapers made on flakes but roughly processed. Still to be found were
roundly retouched points, micro-gravettes, backed blades. In great number were found the finely
retouched micro-flakes. Among the quartz tools remarkable were the side-scrapers and the 'a ecaillee'
pieces. The processing of bone, deer antler and tusk reached most elaborated forms (ard tips with high
foot and several holes for fastening into the handle). The ornamentation makes a start for the abstract
geometric patterns which will become a main feature of this kind of complexes. The second layer of
habitation contained the hut-type dwellings with simple hearths but co-existing with burials. The river
boulders were painted with red ochre or partly polished on one side. It was excavated in 1967-1968.

Razvrata (Cazanele Mici, Ogradena-Ieselnita village, Mehedinti county)

The lowest percentage for the flint industry (0.57%) with the same types of tools as at Icoana. The
processing of quartzitic tools was in regress (25.50%) but quartz registered very high percentages (70%).
The excavations revealed dwellings of the sunken hut type in the second level of habitation, with circular
fireplaces made of river stones. The bone, horn and tusk industries were similar to Icoana. The site was
exposed in 1967-1968.

Cuina Turcului
We identified here proofs of habitation belonging to the Schela Cladovei culture that had not been
stratigraphically noticeable during the excavations (see the section dedicated to the Clisurean).

Alibeg (Pescari-Alibeg straits, Pescari village, Caras-Severin county)

A come-back of the flint industry in what concerns the blade-technique (5.15%). The quartzitic rocks lost
ground (10.74%), quartz reached the highest percentages ever (84.11%). There appeared to be a decline in
the bone, tusk and horn industries. The ornamental objects and the flint tools announced the Neolithic.
The dwellings were half-sunken, with a border well consolidated with well burnt limestone. The
excavations took place in 1969, 1970.

9. Conclusions for subzone I

The location of the sites is an important feature, as the habitation places were situated on the very bank of
the river, in a flooding area. Some of the layers were excavated only when the waters were at the lowest
level. The fauna was more diversified. Quartz, horn and bone industries were richer in number of tools
than in the second subzone.

10. Conclusions for Subzone II. Wide open valley landscape.

It is situated upstream Turnu-Severin and Ostrovul Mare island. The highest terraces of the Danube get
far off the river and most of the sites were situated on islands and lower terraces. Among the excavated
sites we can list:

Schela Cladovei - the site that gave the name to the culture is situated on the Romanian bank of the
Danube, being the south-eastern district of the Drobeta Turnu Severin municipium. The above mentioned
site might have contained all the stages of evolution of the culture but most of the area had been covered
by the Danube little before the excavations commenced. As a whole, the flint industry had small
percentage (4.18%), the quartzitic rocks 25.72%. The quartz industry was on the highest evolution point
(70.10%). The inventory of flint and quartzitic tools consisted of roundly retouched blades, abruptly
retouched blades and flakes, circular and semicircular end-scrapers. The trapeze shaped end-scrapers
made their debut. There was also a difference in what concerned the technique of chopping the stone. The
number of random detached flakes is smaller. The processing of deer antler kept at the same level while
tusk processing was poorly represented. The decoration of bone and horn was made by hardly perceptible
incisions. During the earliest stages the fireplaces were simple, and then, made of river boulders, disposed
in a circular shape. Later they were bordered with rectangular or triangular stoneslabs. The burials
occurred around the dwellings. The presence of individuals killed by arrow tips or having healed wounds
suggested the existence of a steady community. The river boulders had red ochre marks. They seem to
have been used for grinding grains, seeds and even ochre. Some of them presented a deep hallow on one
side, resembling to the Lepenski Vir ones. The excavations were undertaken in 1965,1967-1968, 1982-

Ostrovul Corbului - Cliuci (island on the Danube, Ostrovul Corbului, Hinova, Mehedinti county) The
same features as in the middle stages of Schela Cladovei culture were present in what concerned flint,
quartz, quartzitic rocks, bone and tusk. There was no quantitative analysis. Fl. Mogoseanu, the
archaeology no stratigraphical recordings. They comprise of deer antler tools which may typologically
belong to stages II-III of the culture.

Ostrovul Mare - river km 873 (island on the Danube, Gogosu village, Mehedinti county)
On the island was built the hidro-electric station of Iron Gates II. The inventory of flint tools differed
slightly from what we found on the other sites in subzone I. Still there were resemblance to the tools at
Schela Cladovei. We found end-scrapers made on flakes. The roundly retouched points and the micro-
gravettes were absent. Level III contained trapeze points and a crescent one. Except from Alibeg (which
was situated to the western end of the Gorge), the quality of flint was different compared to the one of the
flint tools in the sites upstream. Dominated the quartzitic industry, represented by the same types of tools
as at Schela Cladovei site. Along with the old types made of deer antler, we found a new kind of hoe with
a direct way of fastening into the handle. The arrow tips appeared more seldom, making place to narrow
blade daggers. The ornaments were of the same abstract geometric kind, being also noticed on the
polished stone. Levels II and III sheltered half-sunken dwellings; the first layer had 'surface' ones. The
fireplaces of the first level were circular, made on river stones. In the upper levels they were rectangular
or trapeze shaped. A human mandible was found under one of the hearths.

Ostrovul Mare - Km 875, upstream

The toolkit of flint and quartzitic rocks was almost identical to the one at km 873. They were dominated
by the 'a ecaillee' pieces, made of cores, the great majority bipolar ones. The dwellings were similar to the
ones at km 873, with a step forward in what concerns the 'dynamics of invention': the burnt clay platform,
like in the dwellings at Lepenski Vir. The fireplace presented a rectangular border made also of burnt clay.
Level III, together with Alibeg and Schela Cladovei, are the latest cultural complexes of Schela Cladovei
type (see the synoptic table).
Except for Schela Cladovei archaeological site, all the others that presented Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir
features are presently covered by the waters of the two artificially created lakes, Iron Gates I and II. They
are contemporary, totally or in stages, as the case may be, with the sites on the Serbian bank from Padina,
Vlasac, Lepenski Vir, Hajducka Vodenica (for the first zone) and Mala Vrbica-Ajmena, Velesnica, Kula-
Mihalovac (also covered by the waters) for the second zone. One thing was clear to the communities on
both banks: they were aware of their common ethnic and linguistic origin. Otherwise, communication
between them would have been impossible. A historical behaviour was developed, so there was a need for
a religious, spiritual and administrative centre. We are talking about Lepenski Vir, the first centre of this
kind in Europe. Future research might give the proof to link these sites to other ones in the Balkans, and
we particularly have in mind Crvena Stijena in Montenegro, which in our opinion presented the same
creative features, specific to the area of the central basin of the Danube. This area is different from all that
the Mesolithic of the Near East and Europe has known till now. The beginning of the sedentation created
the premises of the Neolithic society. It is the area where the pig was domesticated.

The eastern part of the Danube Valley.

It was specific to the communities of hunters-fishermen-gatherers. The rate of the dynamics of invention
is lower, owing to the traditions formed within the geographic area of the Pontic central Carpathian basin.
Inside it are to be remarked contradictory evolutions, springing from a late Epi-Gravettian (as proved by
M. Brudiu through his excavations in the Subcarpathians and in the Moldavian field, and by Al. Paunescu
in the Carpathians). This late Epi-Gravettian developed towards what we call Tardenoisian complexes in
the area but are in fact just a local evolution specific to the age. Another evolution, started due to a
southern impulse, materialised into the discoveries at Soroca-Trifauti on the Prut river. It might have been
influenced by the new changes taking place in the southern parts and in the Iron Gates area. The deer
antler and bone industries must be correlated to the Epi-Gravettian tradition at Cotu lui Niculint. They fit
into the local lithic industry. In the eastern range of the Carpathians, to the north, around the Ceahlau
mountains, we noticed the existence of a late Swiderian characterised by peduncular points, that might
have penetrated from the northern regions. We do not insist upon these kind of complexes, being a special
subject for some other time.

The Art of Epipalaeolithic/Mesolithic in the South-West of Romania

There are no artistic traces in Protoclisurean but for the Clisurean these were identified in Climente II
Cave and Cuina Turcului rock-shelter in the gorge region called 'Cazanele Mari', Dubova village,
Mehedinti county (in this limestone area Danube waters are troubled, like boiling water in a pot).

Two nice pieces came from Climente II cave: one has rhomboid patterns and the second a combination of
zigzags, hachures, circular notches and ladder patterns. The 'Cuina Turcului' shelter provided a larger
number of pieces, 12 in the first level and 5 in the second one. Among the bone fragments of the first
level was identified just one, as part of a spatula, all the rest being just spare fragments. They have wavy
patterns, enclosing rhomboid ones displayed along the fragment, covering almost the entire surface. There
is one exception though where the patterns are across the fragment. This particular piece has a rhomb as a
central motif, being enclosed in a larger rhomboidal shape, also continued with other rhomb-shaped
figures. The rhomb and square shaped figures are almost always hachured. Another well represented
pattern is the zigzag.

One piece presents a more complex ornament, having a hachured rectangle right in the centre, closed on
one side by a wavy pattern and on the opposite side by a wavy line and various other straight ones. We
have found very interesting one particular piece that had the patterns arranged in three registers: the first
one was made of hachured triangles and separated of the second one by a ladder pattern. This second
register consisted of rhombs and inclined hachures. The third one was composed of wavy and straight
incisions. The patterns resemble to the ones in the second level of habitation of the culture. The
ornamentation technique is very much different from the naturalist art of the Upper Palaeolithic. The
representations on the first register are very much similar - almost identical- to the ones of the Italian
Romanellian. The only major difference lays in the fact that the Italian ones were made on huge slabs or
blocks of rocks in sites like Grotta Romanelli, Grotta del Cavallo, Barma Grande . Slightly different are
the ones discovered at Grotta Palesini, Grotta Maritza, Ramito shelter. Some analogies can be made to the
discoveries in the east part of our continent (see Ukraine, at Mezin on Dezna valley, river tributary to The
Nipre) as well as to the ones in the Central and Western Europe. These similitudes are striking mainly on
what concerns the Climente II cave.

The second level is freed of the hermetism of the first one and the artistic representations simplify. The
wavy framing is no longer present, the patterns achieve their own personality. The art gets rid of the so
called 'fear of emptiness'. The rectangles and rhombs are now made of parallel lines. It is the moment
when the individual 'angle' appears as a pattern, as a derivations of the zigzag. A new 'style type ' was
born and is the one which is going to prevail throughout the Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir period and
then will get generalized during the Neolithic times.

Of that cultural layer the most interesting artifact is a phalanx of a wild horse. The edges of the flat side,
the distal and proximal ends have been polished. It presents ornaments on the same flat side on the distal
area. The pattern is made of five angles pointing downwards, enclosed one into the other. In the centre of
the face there is a rhomb connected with a six-angled pattern pointing upwards. On the back side, on the
distal half, there are nine lines shaping a rectangle. The proximal half and the two lateral sides present
each two inclined lines - looking like a neutral zone. Also on the proximal area can be noticed a non-
hachured horizontal stripe continuing also on the side faces. We think that this pattern has either been
abandoned during the execution or it has a very precise purpose we can't think about yet. The
archaeologist who found it was wondering whether it didn't symbolize a human figure. Another find on
the same level is a bone spatula also suggesting a human figure. The artifact presents at the base a stripe
made of inclined hachures. On our opinion this is the earliest human representation in our country and in
this part of the Europe.

The figure on the horse phalanx , as well as the one on the spatula, seem to wear the clothing specific to
the age,thing that will continue to appear on the clay figurines on the local Neolithic. On the Clisurean
site at Ostrovu Mare the only worth mentioning artifact was a notched bone. Starting with that very
moment the cultural trend on the Danube area moved away ( in terms of artistic representations) from the
Romanellian and the art of the sea shores corresponding to the following cultures. The patterns
corresponding to the second habitation level at Cuina Turcului is transmitted to Schela Cladovei cultural
complex. These will appear on bone and horn objects and not so often on the sone ones. In what concerns
the Schela Cladovei - Lepenski Vir complexes, we noticed that on the ornamentation of the bone, horn
and wild boar tusk (on the open-air sites at Veterani Terasa, Icoana, Schela Cladovei, Ostrovu Mare and of
course the ones on the Serbian bank) the artistic ways of expression are entirely new .

The double lined way of contouring the figures is abandoned, being replaced by deep or superficial
incised lines. We would like to enumerate a few artifacts - the most representative - in the chronological
order of their discovery. The first one belongs to the first cultural stage at Veterani Terasa site: a spatula
on which the hachured stripe pattern (the ladder motif) is combined with the hachured triangle pattern.
Icoana site, stages II and III, Schela Cladovei culture are represented by a fragmented dagger. The
hachured stripe divides the area in two registers ornamented with the network pattern and the hachured
triangles. A special artistic value have the "votive" deer antler tools, having a curved shape. Our belief is
that they might have been used as sickles. They are nicely ornamented on the edges with small dentils
joined on sides by wavy pattern ending on circles. The most frequent pattern is the angular one, then the
hachured stripe and the network.

As a new pattern appears the notches - especially on the processed sides of the hoes and ard-tips, the very
first tools to appear in the history of our continent. On one of these boar tusk pieces we noticed a
primitive sketch of a bird. We considers important to underline that on both sides of the river the
ornamentation style is the same. Some complete bones and fragmentary ones, deer antlers ( in various
stages of processing) bear incisions, among which some might have occurred incidentally and some could
have been done on purpose. Some of the artifacts are artistically interesting owing to their shape - e.g. the
'votive' pieces, having also nice ornaments. Very special is a fragmentary wolf mandible having some
notches on its surface which have not appeared during the meat deboning process. They might have had a
'magic' purpose. The arrowheads - a weapon specific to this culture - often bears vertical scratches or a
network pattern at the distal end. Most of them appear in order to ensure a better fastening to the
arrowhead on the stick.

Stone artifacts having artistic value or a magic or religious meaning<Picture>

Considering the ornamentation the finds can be grouped into two classes:

•A. ornamentation through simple incision; •B. ornamentation through repeated hammering using a hard
percussion tool. This technique seems to have been invented by the local artists - the result being a wide
scratch on a contour already traced. The patterns varied: spirals, wavy lines, combinations of the two -
having may be some criptic, magic or religious sources of inspiration which remain obscure to us. Some
others represent funny human figures or even animals. As a curiosity we mention the fact that these
appear only on the Serbian bank, in the sites at Lepenski Vir, Padina, Hajducka Vodenica, Vlasac, Vrbica,
Velesnica. The raw materials were the river boulders or the local gritstone and limestone, often of a
reddish colour. The natural shapes of the landscape might have offered to the artists sources of inspiration
for their ideas.

Among the incised artifacts worth mentioning are only two. One was found at Veterani Terasa and
belongs to the earliest stage of the culture. The pattern is given by a rectangle having one rounded corner
and three right ones. Parallel to the right corners there are fine parallel lines. The second piece belongs to
the middle stage at Ostrovul Banului. It is polished and more complex than the first one, resembling to an
anvil. Another piece was find at Ostrovu Mare km 873. It is be semi - circular and the base is flattened
through polishing. The sides are ornamented with the network pattern. It belongs to a late stage of the
habitation. Very interesting but on the Serbian side of the Danube was a polished river boulder found at
Vlasac, having a stripe of rhombs painted with ochre going all around . Lepenski Vir provided also a river
boulder - of an elongated shape though - having a fish head scratched on one side. The B-type of
ornamentation (hammering technique) was present on the Romanian bank only through a river boulder,
bearing on its surface spiral and linear patterns in a circular fashion and having a long hallow on one of
the flat faces. Their significance was rather hard to understand ; the Jugoslavian colleagues had called this
kind of finds 'altar stones' and the same did we as they resembled very much to the ones from Hajducka
Vodenica, Lepenski Vir, Padina Velesnica, etc. Of course, the more impressing ones are the ones at
Lepenski Vir. Those boulders have the shapes of human faces or animal heads, being realized in a
primitive way but proving a great capacity of inspiration. They are the earliest works of sculpture in the
European Mesolithic. In order to understand them better we have to consider them as a whole, together
with the dwellings they were found in, dwellings of that particular trapeze shape, also unique. They had
been built on platforms of clay, most of the time burnt, having inside hearths bordered by stone slabs.
Most of the fire places seem to have had an artistic meaning. This idea occurred to us as the stone slabs do
sometime form triangular geometric patterns. The carved boulders found on the hearths had a precise
place and signification. Lepenski Vir was to be the first religious and artistic centre in Europe built on a
plan already established, but designated also to a social and administrative function. Looks like they had
some special individuals who were more 'initiated' into the matters of religious and artistic life and it is
they who were very much aware of the economic potential of the zone in what concerned the sources of
raw materials. Lepenski Vir appears to be 'a capital' of the Danube Gorge region. There was just one kind
of population inhabiting this area and they were speaking the same language, had the same aspirations,
had the same domestic interests: taming and raising animals, working the land (we actually mean a
primitive way of gardening), fishing. This population was living in settlements on the islands and terraces
of the Danube as these had damp fertile soils, were wearing a kind of 'knitted' clothes or just furs. The
clothing was a light one, adapted to the climate of the area, a mild submediteranean one. The fig, nut and
peanut trees were 'home' there. They had already tamed the dog and the pig, having a very rich alimentary

Other artistic and religious customs<Picture>

We have found river boulders painted in ochre and red ochre boulders even in the earliest stages of
habitation of the Clisurean ( first stage at Climente I cave and Cuina Turcului, stages II - III at Cuina
Turcului, IV stage at Ostrovul Banului). They (the river boulders) had probably been used for grinding or
pounded (the ochre ones) in order to get the dye used for painting the flint and bone tools or the tatoos.
We also revealed boulders having a hallow on one side, hallow still bearing traces of red ochre, a proof
that they had been used at preparing the ochre powder.

In Climente II cave we have found a skeleton that had red ochre spread on it - a custom that continued
during the Schela Cladovei-Lepenski Vir culture. Some of the boulders have also traces of black paint. We
had found small boulders of graphite both in the Clisurean and Schela Cladovei period which we think
were used for painting or tatooing.
The ornamental objects held an important place. The Clisurean at Climente II cave, Veterani Cave, Cuina
Turcului, Ostrovul Banului produced small bone plates - pitched or not - that had been used as pandants,
together with teeth coming from deer and fox and small pebbles made of limestone, gritstone, granite.
These, together with some snail shells (Dentalium, Lithogliphus naticoides, Theodoxus danubius,
Colombina etc.) were gathered in necklaces. During the Schela Cladovei - Lepenski Vir culture they
continued using the same kind of objects of ornament but adding a few more types made of wild boar
teeth, some bone beads cut from bones. These occurred mainly during the VI stage at
Alibeg and Ostrovu Mare km 875. Some of the ornaments were made of deer antler - most of them used
as pandants but having shapes of sickles and hoes - which were considered as symbols of welfare. A step
forward in what concerned the ornamentation was made at Schela Cladovei were it has appeared the
decoration of the clothing, maybe through sewing. Skeleton 38 (1988) - for example, contained 138 snail
shells and 338 fish teeth which might have been sown on the clothing, around the waist. It might have
made a kind of belt or skirt covering the sex. At Ostrovul Mare, in the III level a small treasury was found
under the floor of a dwelling. Among the objects we found a necklace made of Litophiphus Naticoides.
The specialist estimated that the snails belong to the spontaneous fauna of the time and the fish teeth are
carp teeth.


Considering the radio-carbon dates and the stratigraphic observations we can conclude that the evolution
process of the Clisurean (including the Protoclisurean) has taken place between the middle of XV
millenium and the middle of IX one( 12600 +- 120 BP, 10125 +- 200 BP). It might have occurred maybe
a bit early than the Romanellian considering the fact we do not have any dating for Climente I cave ( the
Romanellian was dated to 10640+-100,9790+-80 BP). It is, by any means contemporary to the
Romanellian but starting with the III stage at Schela Cladovei it developed differently. The Clisurean
turned towards the art specific to Schela Cladovei culture, this being an abstract and geometric one.
Together with the culture from the Near East, they are a step forward in the process of sedentation, of
agricultural and animal raising experiments, which reach their supreme form during the Neolithic.
Meanwhile, the Romanellian turned towards a abstract geometrical and linear feature hard to understand,
being characteristic to the populations of hunters-fishermen-gatherers from the premediteraneean area.

The populations from the Balkanic and Anatolian regions generalized the pottery inspired by the local
mesolithic traditions having a faster dynamic of invention. The changing of the art of the Danube and
Balkan region towards the geometric style has started with the II habitation stage at Cuina Turcului and
continues throughout the whole period of the Schela Cladovei -Lepenski Vir culture and of the so called
'preceramic Neolithic' (considered by the author just a stage of the local mesolithic) and maybe of other
cultures still unrevealed. The larges area of spreading was on the pottery, on vases and statues. The
process occupies the period of time after 8200, during the stages III-IV of the Clisurean and of the Schela
Cladovei - Lepenski Vir complexes, as given by the radiocarbon dates ( 8580+- 105 BP, Schela Cladovei,
8030+- 130 BP, Icoana; 7827+-237 BP, Ostrovul Corbului; 7560+-200 Bp, Ostrovul Mare).

The stylistic pattern that formed on this area around Danube and Carpathians matches the rest of the
civilizations of the Ancient world, together with the Anatolian plateau and the Near East. This achieved
through a specific dynamic of invention, observation and experiments and local traditions formed
throughout the Mesolithic / Epipalaeolithic times.



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•Fig. 1(a) Map of the Iron Gates region showing the major prehistoric sites.
•Fig. 2 The stony wall from the area of the Livadita Cave, with the opening of the cave (up) and the site
of the excavations made inside the cave and at its base above the road.
•Fig. 3 The Gaura Chindiei II Cave from Corini (ex Pescari). Entrance to the cave.
•Fig. 4 Ostrovul Mare Scenery from the field area of Portile de Fier II, before the start of the rescuing
archaeological excavations from the Portile de Fier Power Plant and before the making of the
accumulation lake.
•Fig. 5 Cazanele Dunarii when the Danube had a normal flow.
•Fig. 6 View of the Gaura Ponicovei Cave. In the scenery - the Danube and the old road, now flooded by
the accumulation lake.
•Fig. 7 The Veterani Cave during the excavations when the walls built by the Romans and during the
Middle Age were still in good condition. The access is made only by water now.
•Fig. 8 Scenery on the Serb bank in front of the Veterani Cave
•Fig. 9 Ostrovul Mare, at the 873rd kilometre, (the western bank) in 1980 when the rescuing
archaeological excavations began.
•Fig. 10 The Ciucarul Mic limestones and the opening to the Cazanele Mici.
•Fig. 11 A mill (on the Ponicova Brook) with a wooden pipe that transported the water to the wooden
•Fig. 12 A wooden mill (on the Ponicova Brook) using the force of water.
•Fig. 13 Dubova locality before the transmutation that took place before the level of the Portile de Fier I
Accumulation Lake increased.
•Fig. 14 Local transportation of agricultural products before the transmutation of the Dubova Locality
(backside view).
•Fig. 15 The local transportation before the Dubova locality was transmuted - sideways view.
•Fig. 16 Razvrata settlement (1976) from Cazanele Mici at the flowing point of the Mraconia River,
before the start the Schela Cladovei culture.
•Fig. 17 The exit of the Danube River from Cazanele Mici. Behind the ship, on the Serb bank; little
above the water level we can see the Roman road dug into the stone during the Roman emperor Trajan,
between 101 - 105 AD. In front of the ship, Tabula Traiana transmuted before the water level of the
Cazanele Mici Accumulation Lake had increased.
•Fig. 18 The image of the Icoana settlement at the exit from Cazanele Mici, before the start of the
archaeological excavations regarding the Schela Cladovei culture, 1976.
•Fig. 19 Ostrovul Banului (Golu) in 1965, before the beginning of the rescuing archaeological
•Fig. 20 Settlement from Schela Cladovei in 1970 at the time the level of the Portile de Fier II
Accumulation Lake had not yet increased and when the surface was still used as training ground for
•Fig. 21 Ostrovul Mare at Botul Piscului point where the rescuing archaeological excavations began in