Vela spila: a brief introduction to recent fieldwork
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Cambridge
Vela spila Cave (Korčula, Croatia), preserves a long, rich, high-resolution record of palaeoenvironmental and archaeological remains in the Adriatic region. Its deposits span from the Last Glacial Maximum (ca. 20 kyr) to the Bronze Age (ca. 3 kyr). In this talk we focus on Late Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic assemblages. During the late glacial period Late Upper Palaeolithic people seasonally visited Vela spila to process and consume large game animals (e.g. red deer, European ass, wild cattle) that they hunted on the exposed Great Adriatic Plain. Raw materials for the production of stone tools and shell beads were also procured some distance from the cave; groups had large annual ranges. Starting around 17.5 kyr people developed the technology of firing clay into ceramic, zoomorphic ‘figurines’; this technology was used until about 15 kyr. Human activities at Vela Spila changed significantly after the deposition of the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff (NYT, c. 14.3-13.9 kyr) shortly after the onset of rapid, late-glacial warming (GI-1d, starting c. 14.7 kyr). Immediately after the deposition of the NYT the Pleistocene ceramics disappear, the intensity of site visits drops significantly, and the cave was abandoned. After a break in occupation for about 5 kyr, Mesolithic people revisited the cave during the Holocene starting about 9.5 kyr. Rising sea levels had a dramatic impact on Vela Spila’s Mesolithic inhabitants; roe deer, fox, fish, and shellfish dominate the food waste and only locally-available raw materials were used to make stone tools and shell beads. Over the course of the Mesolithic occupation, the human use of subsistence resources intensified. The 8.2 kyr event is roughly correlated with the first appearance of Neolithic technologies (domestic animals followed by pottery) at the site. The archaeological assemblages display aspects of both continuity and change across the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. With the adoption of food production in the Neolithic, Vela spila was used primarily as a pen for keeping domestic sheep and goat.