MIRACLE, Preston T.; FORENBAHER, Staso (Ed.). Prehistoric Herders of Northern Istria: the archaeology of Pupicina Cave, Volume 1\Pretpovjesni stocari sjeverne Istre: arheologija Pupicine peci, 1. svezak (Monografije i katalozi 14). Pula. Arheoloski muzej Istre, 2006. 560p. Resenha de: MLEKUZ, Dimitri. Documenta Praehistorica, v.34, 2007.
This monograph documents the results of the excavation of the post-Mesolithic layers in Pupi²ina Cave in Northern Istria. Pupi²ina Cave contains a deep, albeit interrupted sequence, which covers the last 12 000 years of occupation, with significant Neolithic and Bronze Age deposits. This is the first volume in a series of monographs which is intended to cover the whole occupational sequence of the Cave.
This substantial monograph is a very welcome contribution to studies of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in the Northern Adriatic, which has been relatively intensively researched, but lacks well- excavated and dated assemblages, and which is plagued by a lack of detailed publications.
The most obvious contribution of the monographs lies in the detailed specialist studies of the whole line of evidence, both ÔartefactualÕ and ÔecofactualÕ, including stratigraphic, micromorphological, taphonomical, palaeobotanical etc. data. Thus, aside from an introductory article (Miracle) and two overview contributions, the monograph consists of a series of detailed specialist reports covering different lines of evidence.
Miracle and Fornbaher describe the methodology of excavation and the stratigraphy of the post-Mesolithic layers in the cave in full detail. The sequence of five occupation horizons is dated with eight radiocarbon dates. Particularly interesting is the geoarchaeological report (Boschian), which clearly demonstrates that the stratigraphic sequence is almost entirely the result of anthropogenic processes, mainly the periodic burning of animal dung and cleaning of cave floors. The micromorphological data provide clear evidence that the cave was used as a sheep pen. The pottery analysis (Forenbaher and Kaiser) provides evidence of sharp contrast in the use of pottery at the site between the Bronze Age and Neolithic, while the analysis of stone artefacts (Forenbaher) questions previous assumptions that the Neolithic lithic industry in the region is based on a prismatic blade technology industry. An important observation is the intensification of long-distance interactions during the Neolithic, which can be clearly seen in an expanded range of raw materials. Different uses of raw materials can be seen in a small collection of bone and antler artefacts (Amatt and Miracle).
The report on vertebrate fauna (Miracle and Pugsley) clearly shows the major role in subsistence of herds of ovicaprines, thus complementing the micromorphological and stratigraphic evidence. The paper reveals substantial changes in cave use, animal management, during the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
The very small mollusc assemblage provides more evidence of site formation and taphonomical processes than of dietary or palaeo-environmental processes (Laurie, Miracle and Poje). The charcoal and phytolites analysis offer evidence of the utilisation of the landscape in the immediate enivrons of the cave (Fletcher and Madella) and thus complements a pollen analysis from an offsite core (Andri), while the analysis of small vertebrate remains (Steward and Parfitt) focuses more on the formational processes which could have led to their accumulation in the cave. The specialist reports often include regional comparisons and set data within a wider regional context. Especially worth mentioning is the report on faunal assemblages (Miracle and Pugsley), which summarises zoo-archaeological data from the whole of the eastern Adriatic.
The last two chapters summarize the different lines of evidence and provide an overview and conclusion about the cave itself and its environment, and its position in the spread of farming in the eastern Adriatic.
The first synthetic contribution summarise changes in the activities in the cave and its immediate environs (Miracle and Forenbaher). Pupi²ina was a seasonally visited site, with changing patterns and intensity of use and occupation. It was used as a seasonal camp, with major periods of relatively intensive occupation during the second half of the 6th and the beginning of the 5th millennium BC (Middle Neolithic) and mid-second Millennium BC (Bronze Age).
The Middle Neolithic occupations were short; shepherds lived in the cave with their herds; animals were slaughtered and consumed on site. Although the authors admit that the data fits fairly well with J.-.. BrochierÕs Ôhabitat bergerieÕ, an occupational site used by shepherds and their herds, they anyway conclude Ð in my opinion too hastily Ð that ÒPupi²ina may have been a special-purpose site attached to the nearby villageÓ, and was therefore more a Ôgrotte bergerieÕ, a seasonal transhumance site linked to the (hypothetical) lowland village. This might be true of the Middle Bronze Age, with the appearance of fortified hill-forts in northern Istria and the immediate vicinity of the site.
An important observation is the existence of ÔgapsÕ in the deposition, a major one between the Mesolithic and Neolithic, and another between the Neolithic and Bronze Age, along with several others. These ÔgapsÕ also occur in other caves in the region. Unfortunately, the research does not provide a final answer to this problem, although it seems to be crucial for understanding the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the cave and the wider region, which is the topic of the second synthetic contribution (Forenbaher and Miracle). There is a hiatus in occupation of around 1800 years between the Mesolithic and Neolithic occupations of the cave, therefore the evidence of a Mesolithic-Neolithic transition and the transition to farming has not survived. Unfortunately, this renders the cave less suitable for a discussion of the process of neolithisation. The earliest Neolithic layers in Pupi²ina are at least a few hundred years younger than the first Neolithic evidence in the region. Therefore, we might not agree with the authorsÕ conclusion that ÒPupi²ina has some of the strongest and clearest evidence of a new population of herders/farmers coming to the site in the Middle NeolithicÓ. Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence of absence of huntergatherers in the cave during the transitional period, especially when other lines of evidence (exclusive use of local lithic raw materials in the oldest Neolithic horizon) may suggest local ancestry of the first herders in the cave.
The first monograph in the series is a colossal contribution to Neolithic and Bronze Age studies in the area and sets high standards for future research and publications on the area. It is to be hoped that the quality of the research and publication seen in this monograph will be also reflected in publications by other researchers working in the area. I eagerly await further volumes from the series.
Dimitrij Mlekuz – University of Ljubljana