Archeologists Find Neolithic Hoard
November 6, 2012

Archeologists Find Old Hoard From Neolithic Era

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

As it turns out, humans have always been interested in the nicer things in life. Little trinkets, jewelry, pretty and interesting-looking rocks, all of these have been found in archeological digs. No matter the explicit purpose of these items, one thing seems universally true: They were simply nice to look at, a kind gesture from one person to another. Now, some Tübingen archeologists have found what they believe to be the oldest hoard of figurines and jewelry in Europe. The collection of early Neolithic items is thought to be some 8000 years old and is set to be analyzed and catalogued by the University of Tübingen´s Institute of Prehistory and the Serbian Archeological Institute in Belgrade. Once these researchers have a chance to go over the hoard, these items will be placed on display in the Tübingen University Museum.

There are some 80 items in this hoard, each made of bone, clay and stone, and each acting as a piece of jewelry or as a simple figurine.

Dr. Raiko Krauss, a Tübingen archeologist who is heading up the German side of the project has said this complete collection “provides a unique glimpse into the symbols of the earliest farmers and herdsmen in Europe.”

These items, found in Belica during a dig, include stylized female figures and parts of the human body. There are also figurines of tools, such as axes and even some abstract shapes. The team is most curious about the purpose of these figurines cast in the female shape. These items, says Dr. Krauss, are made from stone which has been worn smooth by water, then shaped by human hands to look like rotund women. The archeologists aren´t sure if these items were idols, fertility symbols, or simply lucky charms given to one another.

The stone objects found in the hoard are mostly composed of serpentinite from an ophiolite belt some 40 KM (that´s 24.85 miles) west of the Belica site where these items were discovered. According to the archeologists who dug up these items, this serpentine rock likely washed out from the mountains and was worn smooth by the rivers and streams in the process. These early Neolithic artists likely picked through these stones, finding the ones they thought to be best, and then sculpted them into the figurines.

The archeologist team found this hoard as they were mapping out an outline of an early Neolithic settlement in the area. To guide them in this process, the team looked to previous finds on the surface to determine where these early peoples likely lived and migrated along this area. It was in the middle of their outline where the team found this hoard, which was largely undisturbed. The archeologists then carefully dug up the items using some very modern and precise prospecting methods.

“Important finds like this should be prominently displayed in the Serbian National Museum,” said Dr. Krauss in a statement about the hoard.

“But the National Museum in Belgrade has been closed since the civil war.” Therefore, Dr. Krauss is working with some of his colleagues from Serbia to bring the exhibition to the University of Tübingen Museum in Hohentübingen Castle.

The exhibition will be available there in the winter semester of 2013/2014. The hoard and the resulting investigation, will be published in both German and Serbian.