Uivar: a late Neolithic-early Eneolithic fortified tell site in western Romania

Wolfram Schier

Aim and scope of the project

The south-eastern part of the Carpathian Basin constitutes the north-west margin of the distribution of Neolithic/ Eneolithic tell settlements in Europe. While present from the early sixth millenn iU111 cal Be in Macedonia or eastern Bulgaria and from even earl ier in northern Greece, tells do not appear before 5100 cal BC in the lowlands of the Pannonian Plain (Meier-Arendt 1991, 77-8; Hertelendi and Horvath 1992; Glaser 1996). AI most of these strati fied settlement mounds, continuous habitation ends in the second half of the fifth millennium with the appearance of the early 'opper Age Tiszapclgar culture. In comparison with the tell settlements of the southern Balkan Peninsula, tells of the Carpathian Basin arc a rather ephemeral and isolated phenomenon which is repeated only once more (i.e. during the advanced early Bronze Age). The main objective of the Uivar project is to study the formation and decline of a late Neolithic tell settlement by using a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on the environmental and socio-economic evidence (or other possible causes) for the beginning and the end of the centralised, continuous settlement that is represented by tells. On the other hand, living-on-top-of-the-past is a process that can be seen as a mental concept based on building traditions, descendance lines, and ritual links to the ancestors.

While thes 'ancestrfll bounds may be seen as expressions of the conservatism of Neolithic society, seen with the eyes of the archaeologist, the growth of a tell comprises a record of both continuity and of change. When sediment deposition <in ern per radiocarbon year) and innovation ratio withi n the material culture (expressed by the first eigenvector of a correspondence analysis) are compared on an absolute time scale (Schier 2000; 2001), there is evidence for a non-linear relationship; while material culture may change drastically within a few centimetres of a continuous tell stratigraphy, it may appear static through half a metre in other parts of the site


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Figure 1. Map 0/ the Carpathian Basin.

The site of Uivar

Uivar is situated 40 km west-south-west of Timisoara (Fig. I), in an alluvial plain near the River Bega, a tributary of'the River Tisza. Near the modern village ofUivar, the settlement mound rises to 4 m above the plain and covers 3 hectares. The site was selected for study because of its considerable size (which indicated a settlement that had played 11 central role), and for the potential availability of palaeoenvironmental data in the site's surrounding floodplains. Research started in 1998 as a joint Romanian-German project comprising intensive interdisciplinary survey work and large-scale excavation. A survey in J 998 included drilling transects, aerial photography and a large-scale surface sampling of the

6. Uivar: a late Neolithic-early Eneolithic fortified tel! site in western Romania


Figure 2. Plan of the tell site of Uivar produced by high resolution Cesium ntagnetometry in 2000 (DI: Helmut Becker, Bayerisches Landesamtfiir Denkmalpflege, Abt. Geopliysikalische Prospektion).

tell (performed over a regular 5 x 5 III grid). The surface collection recQverec140,OOO sherds; analysis of chronological and spatial distributions of material produced patterns that, initially, were difficult to interpret. Excavation provided an evaluation of su rface di stribu tions, as well as 0 f pi cughzone and subsurface features.

Most crucial for the project, however, was a geomagnetic survey performed by He lrnut Becker (Bayerisches Land esa 11l t fij r Den kmalpfl ege, Geophys ikal i sche Prospektion), which covered c. l I hectares of the tell and its surroundings (Fig. 2). This high resolution magnetogram revealed the location of more than 70 burnt houses of


Wolfram Schier

Figure 3. Sequence of phases of the innermost ditch (trench IV No. 7 011 Fig. 2), seen front the east (virtual reconstruction S. Suhrbier; Berlin).

different sizes and orientations, as well as a system of concentric ditches that run up to 100 111 from the edge of the settlement mound. The existence of such an extended ditch system not only underlines the importance and centrality of the settlement ill its regional context, but also raises the question of what was the function of such a large enclosed, but (according to the geomagnetic evidence) mainly uninhabited area that surrounded the densely settled mound i tse I [

Defensive system

All of the outer ditches detected by the geomagnetic record have been verified by test trenching. The ditches usually have a V-shaped cross-section, are c. 5-6 m wide and 1.5-2.5 m deep. Palisades ran 1.0-2.0 m from four of the five ditches. The outermost ditch encompassed an area of 8- J 0 hectares and was covered by 1.5 rn of stratified colluvial/alluvial layers, At such a distance beyond the limits of the visible tell, features buried at such a depth would not have been discovered without geophysical prospection. Four ofthe outer ditches are datable with high probability to the late Neolithic Vinca C culture.

While a purely defensive character might be disputed for the outer ditches (see below), it can hardly be denied for the massive inner ditches. The innermost ditch had a complex building sequence (Fig 3), beginning as a small and rather shallow ditch, but was filled, reshaped, enlarged, and had its narrow causeway shifted laterally. After an intermediate period, when there was no fortification but several. rectangular houses in that area (Fig. 4: E-F), a third ditch was dug cutting at an oblique angle into the earlier ones. This final phase of the settlement's innermost fortification (Fig. 4: A-B) has almost monumental dimensions: 7 m wide and more than 4 Il1 deep. The laminated stratigraphy of this fortification suggests a rather slow fate of filling, with different types and sources of fill. Several dark layers (consisting of masses of charred threshing residues: glumes and spikelets), suggest that a pyrotechnical process took place near the ditch. Maybe the chaff served as fuel to produce the reducing atmosphere for black Vinca pottery, since a fragment of a perforated kiln floor was also found in the filling of the ditch.

The corresponding outer ditch (Fig. 4: D) has slightly smaller dimensions, and a row of double postholes running along its inner edge suggests a wall of horizontally split planks that were fixed between pairs of posts. Most puzzling is the discontinuation of the outer ditch beyond the north side of the entrance causeway; there is no record of it in the geomagnetic results and this outer ditch may not have been completed.

Domestic architecture

No direct evidence of unburnt houses was discovered during the first four excavation campaigns. We discovered oven platforms based on differences in surfaces and structures, though no walls could be seen. Detailed evidence for domestic architecture came from burnt houses which were clearly identified by the geomagnetic survey. One of the basic, still unanswered questions is whether these burnt houses represent individual events of accidental or deliberate burning (cf. Tringham 2005), or whether they belong to one or several fire catastrophes that destroyed the enti re settlement or large parts of it.

The ratio ofburnt- to- un b urnt houses is of course very hard to esti mate. Assu m ing that most of the sediment form ing th e

6. Uivar: a late Neolithic-early Eneoluhicfortified tell site in western Romania


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15 m

Figure 4. Simplified plan 0/ excavatedfeatures ill trench I1~ showing the latest phases oftheforttfication. The third phase of the innermost ditch (A, B) followed a phase 0/ rectangular buildings (E, F). The latest feature is the ditch D, which seems to have remained unfinished.

sett!emeotmound consists of transformed building material, the total volume of the tell, which C[lJ) be es ti mated around 70,000 cubic m, provides a rough basis for extrapolating the total number of houses that were built during the existence of the site. Calculated using ground plans, wall thicknesses, and the quantity of building loam contained in an average house(I5-25 cubic 111), the number of houses at Uivar totals 3000-4500. This, admittedly crude, calculation docs not fake into aCCOll11t the large quantities of former tell sediment which would have been redeposited as colluvium a 1·0 lind the settlement mound. Thus, the actual number of houses may

have been considerably higher. Looking at the geomagnetic map (Fig. 2) it becomes obvious that the percentage cf burnt houses that can be detected and potentially excavated lies well below 5 percent of the total number of houses built during the life-span of the settlement,

What did these houses look like') At Ui var, our excavations of ten burnt Neolithic houses have revealed considerable variability in size and construction details among contemporary houses. Excavated in 2001-02, the best preserved burnt house DHows liS to provide a detailed reconstruction of a late Neolithic house, dated to c. 4900 cal


Wolfriu« Schier

Figure 5. Reconstruction of late Neolithic burnt house (trench I, feat. 373), seen from the east (virtual reconstruction S. Suhrbier: Berlin).

Be (Fig. 5). This 12 x 4.5 111 rectangular house consisted of three rooms. The floor was made of loam, supported by an array of wooden poles, the negative impressions of which were preserved beneath the burnt floor. The house walls consisted of wooden posts connected by wattle-and-daub and covered on both sides with 10-15 ern of 10 am. Although the floor was completely renewed once only, the walls had up to 20 thin layers of loarn plastering. The westernmost of the three rooms possessed an upper floor (i. e. as recorded in the debris from the upper floor, which contained negatives of split wooden planks); [his was found above and within the wall debri: , lying both on the lower floor and in situ. The use of split planks to support the upper Hoar (instead of the round poles used for the ground floor) may suggest that the ceiling of the bottom room consisted of uu pla ster ed wood visible from below and which therefore was carefully constructed and smooth ly finished. Houses with upper storeys are known from several other sites in the middle and late Neolithic of south-east Europe (Lichter 1993, 66). As we recovcre I no evidence for its materials, for its shape,

or for its support, the roof is the most hypothetical part of o ur reconstruction.

In 2005 we uncovered the first evidence of unburnt house structures, and thus revealed unforeseen details and unexpected conditions of preservation. The walls made of loam were distinguished from the surrounding cultural layer by their harder consistency and not by any differences in colour. After we removed the wall foundation, we could recognise ditches and rows of postholes below the loam floor. Within a greyish layer, rich in small particles of charcoal, there appeared thin layers of uncharred plant fibres and fragments of thin wooden twigs and branches. We discovered the foundation ditches of at least two houses oriented parallel or at right angles to each other (Fig. 6 a, b), underneath remains of carefully worked wooden planks. Branches or rods, some more than I m long, covered an area of abou t 10 sq. 111, main] y in the a rea between the two houses. In distinction to the worked wooden planks, the rod fragments were spread randomly without any orientation or pattern, Among the rod fragments we discovered five

6. Uivar. a late Neolithic-early Eneolithic fortified tell site in western Romania


Fi ure 6_ Wooden remains below late Neolithic house fioors: 60 (top) twig waste, working place for wattle; 6b (bottom) wooden beams used (IS substructure forfloor. Note the .arejully chiselled joint (Photos. W Schiel)

damaged or fragmented stone axe blades. This area, which is connected microstratigraphically to the foundation layers of two houses, can be interpreted as a working place in which the wattle structure for the house walls was prepared.

Two dozen samples of wood were taken for archaeobotanical analysis which is still in progress; hazel (Corylus), ash tFraxinus), alder (Alnus) and poplar (Populus) have been identified so far, Because thin, branch-less twigs of J _5 HI length do not occur naturally in forests, the long twigs at Uivar dern nstrate that coppicing and deliberate forest management produced tile raw material for building wattle and daub walls. The massive worked planks (still exhibiting visible grain tructure) had been compressed to a layer a few rnillirnetres thick; attempts to obtain dendrochronological dates from these compressed planks fai led. The preservation of wood in this layer (2 III below the tell surface and well above the groundwater level) appears to have been due to mineralisation of carbonates.

Til advance of the final results of archaeobotanical analyses, a tentative reconstruction of building processes

Figure 7. Corner of un burnt late Neolithic house: 7a (top) the northern long wall wasfounded on top ala line ofcattle bones, 7b (bottom) after removal 0/ the bones, postholes became visible inside the foundation ditches (Photos:

Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Berlin).

can be suggested. Worked wooden planks were laid out in the interior shape and orientation of the projected house, and foundation trenches were dug along the wooden planks. Massive corner posts and smaller intermediary ones were fixed in postholes dug into the bottoms of the foundation trench. Starting below the f-uture floor level and well inside the foundation trench, rods cut from coppiced trees were used to twine the wattle structure of the walls. Next, the wooden frame inside the ground plan was covered by a layer of loamy earth mixed with ash and small charcoal fragments. I! is not possible to determine whether or not the sherd and animal bone content of this layer was intentional or whether it was due to the re-use of an existing cultural layer. Covering the ashy layer was a layer of fibrous plants, possibly bundles of reeds, which were cut off precisely in line with the inner edge of the walls, Finally, the actual floor was prepared by spreading and compressing about 10 ern of yellowish loam on top of the plant layer.

The preparation ofa house Hoar appears to have been a surprisingly complex process, at least in the case of these


rVoljl'mn Schier

Figure 8. Photograph offront and drawing ofalternative perspectives of fragment of' life-sizeface mask made ofweakly burnt day and tempered with ch'!lI(Pholo: P Neckermann, Institute ofPrehistoric Archaeology; Wurzburg).

two houses, where favourable conditions have preserved organic remains. The floor building process reconstructed here differs from the burnt houses in Uivar; the bottoms of fragments of burnt: floors usually reveal negative Impressions of round, supporting stakes. The reasons for such 11 complex preparation of a house floor are not well understood, though they may have functioned as insulation against soil moisture 01' as mechanical stabilisation offlcor plaster in order to prevent cracks.

Ritual practice in and around the settlement

A third house, contemporary with the two already discussed, revealed details of construction which are unique and without any practical function. While the same frame of wooden planks was observed inside the foundation ditch of this bouse, the ditch itselfwas filled with densely packed, large cattle bones. More than forty bones (belonging to several individuals) supported a 2 111 length of house wall (Fig. 7 a, b). As the bones had been integrated in the lowermost part of the wall (which started below the inner floor level), they were hidden not only from the house's inhabitants, but even from anyone who would have carried

out later episodes of demolition and rebuilding. This relationship strongly supports an interpretation or the cattle bones as the remains ofa founding ritual or, more precisely, a foundation sacrifice (Schier 2006, 326).

Only ODe of the (partially) excavated burnt houses at Uivar contained large numbers of pottery vessels in situ (i.e. as one would expect if the burning had been the result of a sudden outbreak of fire). In some cases, differences in the degrees of hardness of floors and walls (caused by varying intensities of burning) might be the result of attempts to extinguish the fire. Current evidence from Uivar, therefore, can neither confirm nor refute Tringham's hypothesis of ritual house burning (Tringham 2005).

There is evidence, however, for the use of fire in foundation rituals. ln two cases, traces of heavy firing including calcinated animal bones were found immediately below the foundation layer of the wooden poles which supported the loam floor ill a house. It is inconceivable that the fire which destroyed this house could have affected the sub-foundation layer (i.e. the sub-foundation layers were completely covered by the house and would have had no direct: air supply); clearly, the burning of the subfoundation deposit and of the later house must have been

6. Uivar: It late Neolithic-early Eneolithic fortified tell site in western Romania


caused by two, separate fires. A plausible explanation is that the former burning was a purification ritual performed just before the founding of a new house.

In two of the foundation ditches which were cut down into older houses, we found the head of a figurine and another, complete female figurine (Fig. 10: 1-2), These finds should also be understood in the context of a foundation ritual.

The most intriguing find from Uivar was found in a later foundation trench cut into the house described above (Fig. 5): one half of a life-size mask made of weakly burnt clay, with modelled eyebrows and nose, and with a mouth cut in the shape of a 'w ' (Fig, 8). The outline of the mask closely resembles the so-called pentagonal Vinca C figurine heads (type 03 according to Hackmann 1968)' the main difference is the presence of a mouth, which is 110t depicted on figurine heads from the Vinca culture. This find is a surprisingly perfect confirmation of the hypothesis, formulated 111 the 19505, which interprets figurine heads as masked people (Hackmann 1968, 142-3). It is still debatable, however, if these figurines represent gods/goddesses or humans involved in a ceremonial act. Nevertheless, the fact that only one half of the mask was recovered (and this was despite careful excavation by industrial vacuum cleaners) supports tile old hypothesis (Hackmann 1968, 143-4) that anthropomorphic figures were deliberately, symbolically destroyed, and It, again, suggests the practice of rituals in the context of house foundation activities (cf Schier 2005).

Another possible example of intense symbolic meaning which would have attracted ritual activity is the entrance to the site which passes through the two innermost circular ditches. In the fills of the ends of these ditches (i.e. next to the ditches' causeways) we found extraordinary concentrations of large animal bones, among which were severa I fragments of skulls, aurochs horn cores, ns well as large fragments of red deer antler, The dominance of wild species in these concentrations and of body parts which, prior to their secondary disposal 111 the ditches, lllay have been used a' trophies is remarkable and suggests that they functioned as apotropaic symbols marking the transition between the outside world and the realm of the settlement (i.e. the domus'sphere in Hodder's sense; 1990,44-70).

Finds and regional context

Like most tell sites, the settlement mound at Uivar is rich in finds, especially pottery, To date we have recorded and classified fi ve tons of Neolithic and Eneolithic pottery; 74 percent of this material belongs to the Vinca culture. As is typical for Vinca pottery, there is a great variety of shapes, ranging from storage vessels, narrow-necked amphorae, and coarse ova I cooking pans known as 'fish trays', to fine wares, among which bowls are 'the dominant form. The usually dark-grey or black fine ware is of especially good fabric, with carefully smoothed and burnished surfaces, often polished to a shiny, lustrous finish. Among the

decorative techniques, the most frequent are channelling (Fig. 9: 1-6) and pattern burnishing. Channelling is restricted mainly to upper parts of vessel profiles (z.e, neck and shoulder), while pattern burnishing occurs only on the lower parts of vessels. The technical skill required to produce such advanced handmade pottery, as well as the almost canonical rigidity of shapes and associated decorative systems, are strong arguments for specialised pottery production as opposed to household pot making. Support for the argument for specialist pottery production comes from the discovery of a fragmentary, perforated platform belonging to a two-chambered pottery kiln found as a secondary deposit in a ditch,

Besides the typical Vinca pottery which can easily be compared with other sites in the Romanian Banat (Drasovean 1996) and with the eponymous site of Vinca (see below), the late Neolithic pottery from Uivar contains different cultural elements. There are a few, though quite distinctive, sherds of the Tisza culture (Fig. 9: 7-8); these should be regarded as imports. More numerous are fragments with incised decoration (Fig. 9: 11-12) that are inspired by the Szakalhat and Tisza cultures, but which were made In Vinca fabric anel, to a lesser extent, which appear in Vinca forms; Lazarovici has previously defined the Bucovat group as a regional, synthetic culture which possesses a mixture of Szakalhat and Vinca elements (Lazarovici 1979, 143-54; 1991),

Few sherds have been identified as imports of the Turdas Group trorn southern Transylvania; Turdas was formerly thought to be an early phase of the Vinca culture (Garasanin 1979, 149-53), though it has recently been recognised as regional group marking the transition from Vinca B to Vinca C (Lazarovici and Kalmar-Maxim 1991), More numerous but still making up less than 0.1 percent of the Uivar Neolithic pottery, are finds of the Foeni group, a recently defined regional group of the Transylvanian Petresti culture (Drasovean 1997; Paul 1992) With its black polished ware of metallic appearance, the Foeni material is technically superior even to the Vinca fabric. The eponymous settlement of Foeni is only 15 km from Uivar, and the fact that there is so little Foeni material at Uivar suggests, not that there was no contact between the sites, but that the usage of the two sites was not contemporaneous.

At Uivar, early Copper Age pottery was found primarily in storage and refuse pits and in shallow depressions located, immediately below the plough zone, on top of the first cultural layer. Only one tentative house from this period has been excavated. The Eneolithic pottery at Uivar can be attributed to the Tiszapolgar culture and, more specifically, to its formative phase, Protc-Tiszapolgar (Kalicz and Raczky 1987, 26; Makkay 1991, 324-5). Unfortunately very little material from this earliest Tiszapclgar phase bas been published and, therefore, it is difficult to separate this formative phase from classical Tiszapclgar (BognarKutzian 1972), Eight percent of the pottery at Uivar can be classified as Eneolithic; while some vessel shapes can


Wolfram Schier








o 2 em


Figure 9. Decorated potteryfrom houses and settlement {ayers in Uivar: 1-6, "classical" Vinca culture: 7-8, Tisza culture; 9, Foeni group ofPetresti culture, II), Turdas variant of Vinca culture, .Il-J2, regional Banat variant of Vinca culture (Drawings P Neckermann, Institute a/Prehistoric Archaeology, Wiirzhwg).

6. Uivar: a late Neolithic-early En eo lith ic fortified tel! site in western Romania



6 0 20m


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Figure 10. Anthropomorphic figurines and pottery: 1-2, Vinca culture; 3-7, early Copper Age (Proto-Tiszapolgar culture), (Drawings P Neckermann, Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Wiirzburg).



Wo{{I'am Schier

be dated to the classical Tiszapolgar culture, others, such as long-necked vessels with pointed, perforated (or lentilshaped) knobs and perforated low pedestals (Fig. 10: 3-7) are characteristic for Proto- Tiszapolgar (Horvath 1987,42; fig. 10, 11, 17, 19). Generally the Eneolithic pottery is of very good quality, is well burnished with a characteristic silky gloss, and has a greyish to dark grey colour. When compared with material from classical Hungarian sites, the high quality of the Uivar pottery indicates a persisting tradition of late Neolithic pottery technology and thus, perhaps a rather early date.

Preliminary analysis of lithics from Uivar (Tillmann 2004) has shown a predominance of blades and, among these, of scrapers and sickle blades. There is little production waste and a high degree of metric standardisation, both of which indicate a central and specialised lithic industry, though the sites of production within the settlement have yet to be discovered. A number ofraw material types have been identified, though the locations of their sources have yet to be determined; the exception is obsidian which accounts for 8 percent of the lithics and which was imported from the Tokaj region of northern Hungary Another exotic import is a scraper made of Szentgal radiolarite which was used in a composite sickle. This radiolarite comes from the Bakony mountains north of Lake Balaton (Biro and Regenye 2003); its presence at Uivar suggests exchange relations with the early Lengyel culture which spanned a distance of more than 300 km __

A characteristic feature of the lithic spectrum at Uivar is the absence 0 f arrowheads; there are no triangular or trapezoidal artefacts of any type which could have served


as points for long distance weaponry. The presence of large wild animals in the fauna, however, can only be understood with the presence of effective hunting weapons. A discovery in 2002 shed light on the probable substitute for the absence of bows and arrows; a large storage vessel, found in situ, contained more than 40 balls made of burnt clay and with a standardised diameter of 5 ern, Most probably, these should be interpreted as a store of sling balls. The use of the sling has been suggested for the Neolithic of south-eastern Europe, though the missiles themselves have frequently escaped the attention of excavators (VutiropouJos 1991).


It is not difficult to compare the type-spectrum of the Vinca pottery in Uivar with the h11110US sequence at the type site, which is located c. 150 km away. Based on a reassessment of the mostly unpublished, stratigraphically ordered material from Vinca (Schier 1996; 1997) it has been possible to refine and enhance the typo-chronological resolution of the schematic stratigraphy of the site of Vinca itself It can be shown that the beginning of the younger Vinca culture, that is Vinca C, actually starts at G, 6.5 m relative depth at the type site and can be subdivided into three subphases Cl-C3.

The latest Neolithic pottery from Viva!" comes from the top layer of the tell just below the ploughzone, as well as from several burnt houses, and can be correlated with Vinca C1 and the older part of C2 as redefined at the type site (Schier 1997)_ No material datable to Vinca C3 or even D

Table 1. Radiocarbon dates
Lab-lVo. Internal 14C_ ±j(J Feature Trench Context and material
No. A e /\'0.
Hd-22736 U1"010 5949 38 351 f 373 Burnt house! charcoal
Hd-22734 01-019 5996 60 370 Filling of sunken but (cuts 351/373) / charcoal
Hd-22735 Ul-l06 6022 28 205 Burnt house / charcoal
Hd-22737 U1-112 6036 22 205 Burnt wall debris of house! charcoal
Hd-22688 Uf-1I5 5947 41 54 n Burnt house / charcoal
J-Id-22754 UI-036 5989 26 1021 IV Rectangular post pit ,I charred beam
Hd-22756 Uf-037 6008 27 1046 IV Rectangular post pit I charcoal
J-Id-22751 UJ-051 5896 36 [043 IV Filling of innermost ditch, 'i7 77,12 m i charred
I fd-22659 UI-052 5862 32 1043 IV Filling of innermost ditch, \! 77,86 m i charred
Hd-22930 UI-050 5726 77 1029 IV Filling of incomplete inner ditch / charcoal
Hd-22928 UI~056 5740 55 IX Filling of outer ditch! charcoal 6. Uivar: a late Neolithic-early Eneolithicfortified tell site in western Romania


has been found at Uivar, Because of this, the relation ofthe late Neolithic to the early Copper Age features and finds at Uivar is important also for the chronological framework of the region. The traditional view considers the Tiszapolgar culture later than or, at best, overlapping late Vinca D (Kalicz and Raczky 1987, 30). Future research will have to investigate whether or not, at Uivar, a gap of several centuries exists between the Vinca C2 settlement and the features belonging to a formative phase of the Tiszapolgar culture.

Almost 40 radiocarbon dales have been analysed at Uivar; the majority come from the latest Neolithic building horizon. This phase comprises several complete OJ' partial houses and can be dated on the basis of'five secure dates in the range 4940--4800 cal Be (Schier and Drasovean 2004, 202-204). Two dates from the fill of the innermost ditch fall in the range 4830--4700 cal Be. One date from the fill of the incomplete inner ditch and one date from one of the outer ditches suggest that these ditches were still open at 4690--4500 cal Be, even though they may have been dug much earlier. Unfortunately no datable material could bc obtained from the bottoms of the ditches, and thus it is still possible that the time of const.ruction for the fortification system is contemporary with the latest building horizon or perhaps is even older. On the other hand, the ditch system was still Opel], maybe even in usc, up to 300 years after the late leoli hic building phase at the site. This is yet another argument in favour of continuity at the settlement and against tile proposal that a large gap exists between Ville11- C2 and (Proto )Tiszapolg{IL

Environmental evidence and economic issues

Having uncovered 1500 sq. m to date, the excavation is only one part of the interdiscip linary work at and around the tell at Uivar. Besides the ongoing archacozoological analysis of more than two tons of animal bones, the project is undertaking all extensive archaeobotanical programme of recovery and analysis (Fischer and Rosch 2004). Wet sieving of samples from cultural layers, pits, houses and ditch fills ha: provided an increasingly representative picture of crop cultivation and processing. Occurring in high frequeacies are einkorn (Triticum monococcum) and a wheat species only recently identified, wh ich is nowadays restricted to the Caucasus region (Triticum cf timopheviiy; ernrner (Triticum dicoccumy is surprisingly rare. Less frequent cereals were pasta wheat (Triticum aestivum/ dUl'Ifmj and barley (Hordeum vulgare). Other cultivated plants include flax iLinum usitatissimumi, pea (Pisum $ulinllll) and lentil (Lens culinarisy. The importance to subsistence of gathering is probably underestimated due 10 taphonomic factors; nevertheless the palaeobotanical record contains a variety ofberries, including cornel cherry (Comus mas) and Physalis alkekengi, which are rare or absent in [be more recent flora of the alluvial plain.

A topographical survey based on a narrow grid revealed that the seemingly flat plain around the settlement mound

actually contains very shallow depressions between 0.1- 0.3 m deep. Drilling and small test trenches in two of these patches proved the existence of buried fluvial sediments with pollen preservation, probably fossil oxbow lakes. A preliminary palynological study shows that these sediments reach back into the middle Holocene, thus covering the time span of the settlement. Because of the mixing of alluvial and colluvial components (the latter contains tiny sherds and daub particles frorn the tell), radiocarbon dating of charcoal in this pollen profile could be misleading. In order to obtain an absolute timescale for assessing human impact in correlation with settlement dynamics, sediments were dated by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL). Unfortunately due to incomplete bleaching of the quartz grains only maximal dates could be obtained (Kadereit 2004; Kadereit et at. 2006). Nevertheless, Uivar can be considered one 0 f the ra re N eo lithic sites in south-eastern Europe for which environmental change and human impact can be analysed on a local scale and in close proximity to the settlement itself.

The surprising identification of the northernmost ditch, buried under 1.5 m of alluvial/colluvial sediments, was the stimulus for geomorphological and sedimentological research which is attempting to reconstruct the microtopography of the alluvial plain around the tell in the fifth millennium cal Be. First results (Sponholz 2004; Kadereit et al. 20(6) not only suggest that the ancient land surface was lower than at present, but also reveal a micro-topography caused by prehistoric changes in river courses and resulting oxbow lakes, which are now levelled by flood sediments and w 11 i ch contain an i ncreas lIlg colluv ial com ponen t as one approaches the tell. A comprehensive assessment of the late Neolithic landscape and its dynamics will, however, only be possible at the end of the interdisciplinary project.


Since the interdisciplinary fieldwork at Uivar is still in progress, the available evidence allows only preliminary conclusions which will be modified in the light of further research. However, a number of points can be made at this point

Without doubt, the large-scale geomagnetic survey provided the most surprising results. Widening the perspective to a regional scale, we could face the possibil ity that Lell settlements in the Carpathian basin are far larger and more complex spatial entities than is suggested by the visual outline of their mound, The existence of complex ditch systems, resembling Neolithic enclosures in central and north-western Europe, adds a new aspect to the tell phenomenon and raises questions about the function of the large enclosed, but uninhabited, areas around the core of the settlement with its densely packed houses. The settlement size and its complexity, as well as the indicators tor specialised production and the division of labour, emphasise the central and complex character of late Neolithic tell settlements. On a social scale, it would



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Wolfram Schier

not be an exaggeration to think in terms of proto-urbanity. A variety of ritual behaviour (well known from most tell sites) appears to be associated with bui Idi.ng activity in Uivar. The find of a clay mask is unique for the Neolithic of south-eastern Europe, and it supports the hypothesis that Vinca culture "figurines depict or symbolise ceremonially masked individuals.

In terms of relative chronology, Uivar raises more questions than it answers; while the conventional regional chronological framework for the late Neolithic and early Copper Age recognises a gap between these phenomena, the stratigraphic and construction evidence does not support the assumption of a long-lasting interruption. In any case, the apparent extent of early Eneolithic building activity is almost without parallel among the tell sites in southeastern Hungary, northern Serbia and western Romania. Finally, ongoing interdisciplinary reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment at Uivar will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and, especially, the end of tell settlement in this region, at the north-western margin of the widespread Eurasian phenomenon of tell settlements.


The Uivar project could be realised thanks to the continuous support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. I wish to thank all members of the project team, steadily growing since 1998. Special thanks go to florin Drasovean for the inspiring spirit of cooperation, and to H. Becker (Geophysics), A. Tillmann (Lithic study), M. Rosch and R Fischer (Archaeobotany). G. el Susi (Archaeozoology), B. Sponholz (Physical Geography), G, Wagner and A. Kadereit (OSL dating) for their experience and knowledge which they have contributed to the project, for bridging the borderlines between several disciplines, and for all of their valuable information which I have included in this article J am especially grateful to Douglass Bailey for improving the English of this text and for his helpful remarks on an earlier draft. For the remaining errors or misinterpretations, however, I remain responsible.


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