Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Take your daily supplements - today have a taste of Neolithic Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Neolithic podcasts are coming! The first episode should come out on Thursday May 10, but may be a day late. I'm going to try really hard though to not let it be late. However, the Neolithic was so large I had to split it into two podcasts. Even still, I had to edit out a bunch of things that I would have liked to have included. So, I'm doing some blogging on the bits that have been edited out. A couple of those edits come from within the territory of modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On the podcasts we talk a bit about Southeastern Europe and the Balkans not having a lengthy Mesolithic because farming came so quickly to the area, the same can be said about Bosnia & Herzegovina. But, the history of this nation began all the way back in the Paleolithic. A site known as the Badanj Cave was painted by Paleolithic man as early as 16,000 BC and is the oldest Paleolithic monument site in the region. Here you can see a picture of one of the engravings found in the cave. It is a picture of a horse being attacked by arrows. To me it looks a bit abstract...

While this is an interesting find, it shows a culture that was fairly isolated. The Neolithic however, paints a different picture of cultures intermingling and becoming fresh and new. One example of this is the Butmir Culture that thrived in the 3rd millennium BC. What made this culture so unique is their characteristic pottery. If you have listened to the podcasts or read most of the blog posts about prehistoric cultures you'll find that al of them are "known by their characteristic pottery". Over the past few weeks I have looked at probably two thousand pieces of pottery in pictures. There are some obvious distinctions based on shape. But, some of the detail that archeologists are able to label as characteristic takes an expertise that I am sorely lacking. I try to rely then on the most accepted theories and present alternatives when the dissenting voice is loud enough. But I now find myself looking at my dishes and saying things like, "this is an IKEA culture dish" or "this is a ProtoIKEA culture dish", or "what is this MesoIKEA dish doing where all of the PaleoWalMart dishes are hanging out". I say these things and then chuckle to myself. I'm really starting to become alarmed.

Distinctive Butmir Pottery. Its
swirls are different than all the other
swirls from this time. That's how we
know it's Butmir!
But, in addition to becoming a bit weird when looking at dinnerware I am becoming increasingly fascinated with the interchange of cultures. That is one of the reasons why the Butmir Culture interests me so much. The Butmir Culture is named after the town of Butmir, which is near Sarajevo. The site was discovered when the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was expanding the agricultural university of Sarajevo in the late 19th century. The site so intrigued scholars all over Europe that they held an archeological festival (which in my mind resembles Comic Con) at Sarajevo in 1894. This archeological get together produced a wide variety of theories about the new discovery of the Butmir Culture. The distinctive pottery was similar enough to later Minoan pottery on the island of Crete that it led some to suggest that the Butmir was a precursor to the famous Minoans of Crete. This theory isn't widely held today. Instead people think that the Butmir Culture was a bit of a cosmopolitan hot spot for their age. They took on the cultures of the Aegean, the Balkans, Pannonia, and Mediterranean to create their distinctive lifestyle. This would mean that Bosnia & Herzegovina from an early time was taking in ideas from far flung regions that in today's terms we would describe as Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Mainland Greece, the Greek isles, including Crete and Italy to create a style that was all their own. This is why history fascinates me so much!

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