Massive Neolithic settlement found in Serbia

A 7,000-year-old Neolithic settlement has been found in Serbia. It is among largest Late Stone Age settlements found in the country.

The settlement was found near the Tamiš River in northeast Serbia’s Banat region which it shares with Hungary and Romania. The Serbian part of the Banat is flat and marshy. It includes the largest area of sandy terrain in Europe – a 300-km2 area called the Deliblato Sands which used to be part of a prehistoric desert.

The newly discovered settlement is only 40 km northwest of the sands, outside the village of Jarkovac.

Geophysical map of ancient settlement
Results of the geophysical survey at the Jarkovac site, Serbia. Credit: © Cluster ROOOTS/Museum of Vojvodina Novi Sad/National Museum Zrenjanin/National Museum Pančevo.

“This discovery is of outstanding importance, as hardly any larger Late Neolithic settlements are known in the Serbian Banat region,” says team leader Martin Furholt from Germany’s Kiel University in a press release.

Geophysical data, which shows ditches and other structures underground, reveals a settlement which covers an area between 11 and 13 hectares (110,000–130,000 m2). This area is equivalent to about 300 basketball courts.

Artefacts found on the surface suggest the settlement belonged to the Vinča culture which lived during 5400–4500 BCE. These people were among the most advanced in southeastern Europe during the Neolithic (12,000–4,200 years ago).

Vinča produced symbols which may be the oldest examples of writing in the world, predating Sumerian writing by nearly 400 years.

Preparation of a geophysical survey on a field
Preparation of a geophysical survey during the field campaign in March 2024. Credit: © Sebastian Schultrich, Cluster ROOTS.

The Banat settlement also includes strong influences from the local culture from the same period.

“This is also remarkable, as only a few settlements with material from the Banat culture are known from what is now Serbia,” explains Fynn Wilkes, a doctoral student also from Kiel.

The team also conducted fieldwork on Neolithic sites in Hungary.

Circular features called “rondels” from 5000–4400 BCE were studied using geophysics as well as walking surveys of the surrounding areas. They found they were able better identify the age of individual sites.

“For example, sites that were previously categorised as Late Neolithic circular ditches turned out to be much younger structures,” explains Kata Furholt from, an archaeologist at Kiel University.

Photo and diagram of small wheel model
A wheel model from the site of Szilvás, Hungary, assigned to the Vučedol culture (3000-2400 BCE). Credit: © Fynn Wilkes.

“Southeast Europe is a very important region in order to answer the question how knowledge and technologies spread in early periods of human history and how this was related to social inequalities,” adds Martin Furholt. “This is where new technologies and knowledge, such as metalworking, first appeared in Europe. With the newly discovered and reclassified sites, we are collecting important data for a better understanding of social inequality and knowledge transfer.”

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