Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Earth and Planetary Sciences


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Jennifer Smith


This dissertation examines the paleoecology of earliest European agriculture via geological and geochemical analysis of two Neolithic settlements in central Dalmatia, Croatia. The Early Farming in Dalmatia Project, of which this geoarchaeological study is a part, is a case study in the adoption and environmental impact of agricultural technology. Dalmatia served to transmit agriculture from the domestication centers of the Middle East to mainland Europe. The record of neolithization in this region is incomplete - biased toward caves, upland storage locales. The landscape setting of the foraging-to-farming behavioral evolution is missing, even as Neolithic transition research turns to more complex human behavioral ecological models. The Danilo Bitinj and Pokrovnik sites are open, lowland sites enabling detailed study of the early farming landscape. Pedology and geomorphology combine in the reconstruction of Neolithic paleoenvironments and the investigation of conditions affecting the preservation of archaeological remains. This site-specific geoarchaeology provides a dataset critical to the archaeological interpretation of and behavioral model-building for this momentous cultural change. The dissertation's main objectives are characterizing dominant site materials: soils and ceramics) and their variation, and understanding Neolithic site choice in terms of potential differential productivity. Three summers were spent mapping site areas, conducting in-field geomorphology and pedology, and sampling natural and cultural materials. Laboratory analyses describing the chemistry and mineralogy of site soils and ceramics include pH, electric conductivity, organic carbon content, stable isotope chemistry, and X-ray diffraction. Results indicate sodic: high pH, low conductivity) soil conditions in which Neolithic artifacts have resided for over 7000 calendar years. Both Danilo Bitinj and Pokrovnik subsoils contain quartz and potassium feldspar, revealing a non-karst, possibly volcanic origin. The valley-and-range topography of the central Dalmatian polje-karst field coupled with this fertile, fine-grained fill most likely served to enhance the agricultural settlement and productivity of this region. Site subsoil and ceramic mineralogies are similar, revealing a potential common source for these materials. The primary contributions of this dissertation are a differential regional productivity model explaining Neolithic settlement strategy, a comparative characterization demonstrating similarity between site soils and ceramics, and a ceramic typology enabling archaeological analysis of site assemblages.


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