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Oldest piece of ceramics with a human figure from Neolithic times discovered

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neolithic ceramic

Macedonian archaeologists reported a sensational find. As they proudly announce, they have now discovered the oldest image of a man in the country on a ceramic vessel. From the Neolithic, about 6000 years before Christ. The finds were made in the archaeological site of Ogradje near the village of Orman, as the Macedonian archaeologist Pero Sinadinovski, MA, has confirmed.

The excavations were already carried out in the fall of last year, but this unique discovery was only recorded several months ago during cabinet research and processing of the material which was found.

The research was carried out by the Skopje Nature Conservation Center, where the archaeological material is currently located. The investor in the study was Mr. Igor Stevkovski, owner of the land where the findings were made. There was evidence of a Neolithic settlement on his belongings.

The currently unemployed archaeologist Pero Sinadinovski was involved in the excavations of the monument of the old settlement Konjushnica near the village of Orman. He led the excavations as well as investigations with a probe in the field.

The excavations were led by Vera Atanasovska, archaeologist, chief conservator, and Nikola Gjurovski, archaeologist, conservator and the archaeologists Kiril Denkovski, Nenad Pivko and Gjorgji Bukcevski.

Macedonian legislation states that when archaeological objects “come to light” on a person’s private property, the locality must be explored, the objects documented and removed or secured so that the owner can use his land.

Two-tier settlement from the Middle Neolithic

The archaeological site of Ogradje is located on the south side of the village of Orman, just before the village entrance from the road to Volkovo, near (northwest) the Macedonian capital Skopje. The old settlement is located on a low terrace about 500 meters west of the Lepenec River.

Artifacts from the 5th to 6th centuries and the Neolithic around the middle of the 6th millennium BC were discovered here. At the point where the highest concentration of Neolithic ceramics was on the surface, we researched with a probe measuring 12 x 9 meters. We found a two-tier Neolithic settlement from the Middle Neolithic as part of the Anzabegovo-Vršnik cultural group in 3-4 chronological phases. This settlement was active around the middle of the 6th millennium BC when there were several settlements in and around what is now Skopje. Settlements like Tumba Madžari, Slatina near the village of Zelenikovo, Cerje near Govrlevo and others – explains the archaeologist Sinadinovski.

The archaeologists were fortunate to discover interesting situations in both layers explored: moving objects and structures.

In the younger class, they discovered the foundations of a house, which they dug over an area of 7 × 4 meters. They couldn’t dig it out at its full size due to limited space. The house was built of earth and mud that were applied to a layer of wood, the floor consisted of compacted earth. In the north corner of the house they found the bottom of an oven, around which there was a mill and two millstones (the upper stones used to press the mill).

Two open fireplaces were discovered about 3-4 meters east of the house, and a group of 8 stones and a fireplace were located north of the house. Colleagues from Serbia and Spain analyzed the stones they discovered and found that two of them were used for food processing and one for bone and stone tools. It’s likely an economic part of the settlement where food was processed and prepared, as well as bone and stone tools. A kind of summer kitchen, which is confirmed by the presence of fragments of storage jars.

In the older layer, the remains of a house and an open fireplace were also discovered 6 meters east of it. Due to the situation in the younger class, we can assume that the house suffered from a fire and was briefly flooded by the Lepenec river from the north – Sinadinovski continues.

25 fragments of anthropomorphic house models of the “Great Mother – goddess of fertility” discovered

Due to the flood in the Neolithic settlement, many moving objects were removed from their place of origin and fragmented (such as a vessel from the household that was carried away from its original location by the floods).

During the excavations in Ogradje, archaeologists discovered around 2,200 ceramic fragments. They particularly highlight the black painted figures as real masterpieces of ceramics from the Neolithic.

Fortunately, as Sinadinovski says, several vessels have been completely reconstructed.

In addition to the ceramics, archaeologists also discovered 25 fragments of anthropomorphic models of “The Great Mother – goddess of fertility” (Големата Мајка Божица – заштитницата на плодноста). They also hid several anthropomorphic figures, altars, bone tools, flint stones and stone knives, axes, etc.

I would like to refer to a depiction of a man who was depicted on high, massive legs on the underside of a vessel. The upper part of the body has been drawn with a thicker vertical line from which the arms emerge. One arm has been angled down at the elbow and placed on the thighs, and the other is angled up, also from the elbow. The thighs are overemphasized and the legs are pointed in the lower part. Iconographically, this piece is reminiscent of anthropomorphic house models because the thighs are overemphasized and an arm rests on them, so that at first glance it gives the impression that it is a female being.

However, upon closer inspection of the representation, we noticed the presence of a third leg painted next to the left leg and concluded that it was a representation of the masculinity of the Neolithic man, or perhaps the god of fertility in the Neolithic. This is definitely the oldest representation of a man depicted on a ceramic vessel on the territory of our country – Sinadinovski says proudly.

He adds that such images are rare in this part of the Balkans dating to the Neolithic period. There are some rare examples in the neighborhood of Macedonia chronologically related to this finding – some are in Bulgaria and Greece.

There are a greater number of relief depictions of a man on the dishes, mainly with similar iconography and body arrangement. According to Sinadinovski, in our country there is a similar representation in the locality of Cocev Kamen in the Kratovo region, where paintings of human representations can be seen in a small depression in the rock. The drawings are not accurately dated, but due to the presence of a Neolithic settlement, it is possible that they date from this period as well.

When the term “young Stone Age” is mentioned, many often think that it was people who had neither their own language, art or culture, that they were more or less wild people who clapped with stones while chanting strange noises. This is a completely wrong picture for this past time. These people had very organized lives. Agriculture and animal husbandry were their main economy, they built large settlements and houses, some settlements even had several thousand inhabitants. They had their own religion, their own art, their own culture, etc. – Sinadinovski says reverently.

The archaeological material found still clearly shows that the ceramic handicraft and the ceramic art were quite developed at this time. The people communicated with the neighboring settlements, but also with the settlements from the wider part of the Balkans.

A more appropriate term for this period would actually be “Ceramic Age”, as the ceramic handicraft was so well mastered that they produced such high quality and beautiful ceramics that will never be repeated in the history of this area. And all without a ceramic pen, which was invented much later. The people from this settlement undoubtedly communicated with the settlements from Skopje, where identical material culture, anthropomorphic representations, altars and architecture were discovered.

All of this shows that in the Neolithic Age, a strong culture called Anzabegovo-Vršnik developed over a larger area in east and north Macedonia after excavating two sites near the villages of Anzabegovo near Sveti Nikole and Tarinci in the Kočani region had been. So this settlement, Tumba Madžari and other settlements from Skopje were the few bright spots that shone in the evening in the Neolithic and that, with their knowledge and art, left us with a wonderful material culture that we are discovering today and that are part of the daily life of people brings closer in the Neolithic. – says Sinadinovski in conclusion.

SOurce: Fakulteti.mk “Археолозите го открија најстарото парче керамика со насликан човек во Македонија”, published July 2020. Translated by History.mk

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