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Spondylus Gaederopus in Neolithic Cultures in the East Adriatic

Sineva KUKOČ ; Sveučilište u Zadru, Odjel za arheologiju Obala P. Krešimira IV./2 23000 Zadar, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (17 MB) str. 177-202 preuzimanja: 381* citiraj
APA 6th Edition
KUKOČ, S. (2012). Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu. Histria antiqua, 21 (21), 177-202. Preuzeto s
MLA 8th Edition
KUKOČ, Sineva. "Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu." Histria antiqua, vol. 21, br. 21, 2012, str. 177-202. Citirano 28.09.2020.
Chicago 17th Edition
KUKOČ, Sineva. "Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu." Histria antiqua 21, br. 21 (2012): 177-202.
KUKOČ, S. (2012). 'Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu', Histria antiqua, 21(21), str. 177-202. Preuzeto s: (Datum pristupa: 28.09.2020.)
KUKOČ S. Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu. Histria antiqua [Internet]. 2012 [pristupljeno 28.09.2020.];21(21):177-202. Dostupno na:
S. KUKOČ, "Spondylus gaederopus u neolitičkim kulturama na istočnom Jadranu", Histria antiqua, vol.21, br. 21, str. 177-202, 2012. [Online]. Dostupno na: [Citirano: 28.09.2020.]

This paper discusses Spondylus Gaederopus shells from the Neolithic settlement of Barice. The paper hopes to
contribute to knowledge about the appearance of these shells during the Neolithic era on the East Adriatic, as part
of the European Spondylus phenomena.
The most common form in which this shell appears in the East Adriatic, from Istria to Gudnje on the island of
Pelješac, during the Neolithic, is as a completely unprocessed Spondylus shell. In the early Neolithic, when clear traces
of trade in goods appeared in the Adriatic, the Spondylus frequently occurs, among other shells, as a food item in
the East Adriatic. However, it could also be found (Vela Spilja – Korčula) in other periods. When it comes to settlements
(Danilo) with a large quantity of shells and snails, it is usually hard to define to what extent the unprocessed
Spondylus shells were used as food or whether they were used as (export) material for the making of jewellery.
Spondylus has not often been observed in graves and in other cultural and chronologically relevant settings in the
East Adriatic. Therefore, the question arises whether processed and unprocessed Sypondylus shells found inland are
indications of more cultural layers and of wider use than was the case in the Mediterranean. Is it possible that the
social and religious role of Spondylus diminishes or changes in relation to the distance from the original harvesting
There are 11 known sites where processed Spondylus shells have been discovered, including sites in Trieste’s
Karst. The dominant context in which the processed shells occur is the East Adriatic settlement context (caves and outdoor habitats). The only exception is a hoard, or perhaps a workshop, observed at the site of Ražanac, where the
shell was supposedly discovered in its original context, possibly dating from the later Neolithic. A possible similar
discovery belonging to the Danilo culture was observed at the settlement of Smilčić where an adult male was buried
in a grave void of architectural elements. Funerary gifts that included a bracelet made of Spondylus shells were
found in the deceased’s vicinity.
The following types of partially processed Spondylus shells have been observed in the East Adriatic: cut and
perforated shells, bracelets, rings, simple pendants and rare figural forms. Typologically the most interesting, figural
shapes of Spondylus shell of the East Adriatic have been recovered at the settlement of Benkovac – Barice. Examples
include an anthropomorphic pendant, described in the article, void of context, and a small axe made of wellpolished
Spondylus, which is a new discovery made during archaeological excavations in 2012, yet unpublished.
It has been confirmed that Spondylus shells were processed in the Adriatic Neolithic cultures, and that there
is typological exclusivity, as well as exclusivity according to other traits, and a certain distinction of the Adriatic
Central European Spondylus circle with respect to the fairly concurrent Greek-Bulgarian-Romanian world of Spondylus.
However, the actual role of the East Adriatic Spondylus viewed inside the wider European circle still remains
unknown. More precisely, we do not know about the amount of imports of the processed products with respect to
the unprocessed (raw material) products arriving inland (the Balkans, Podunavlje, the Alps). Were Spondylus shells
partially or initially processed? How far did the East Adriatic exports really reach? In addition, the dating of the
first processed Spondylus shells remains elusive, as does the answer to the question about the religious and social role
of processed shells in East Adriatic communities.
Since the Spondylus example from the site of Benkovac – Barice was discovered together with remains from the
Impresso and Danilo cultures, but void of the original context, it is unknown whether the example belongs to the
early Neolithic. During the initial excavations of this site conducted in 2012, the processed Spondylus was discovered
only in the context of the middle Neolithic. Finally, there is an (unpublished) bracelet made of Spondylus shell
from the site of Kopačine on the island of Brač. It originated from the Epipaleolithic/Mesolithic cultural context
and could, therefore, belong to the oldest artefact made of spiny oysters in the (East) Adriatic.
The absence of undisputable archaeological data related to the appearance of Spondylus on the East Adriatic as
early as the late Neolithic does not deny the possibility of the export at that time of East Adriatic Spondylus raw
material inland within the overall cultural relations between the Adriatic – Northwest Balkans – Central Europe
– Aegean area.
There is no universal model at the European level that could fully explain the Spondylus phenomenon. The Spondylus
shell and its spread connects individual, specific cultures in which it had its primary function, and at the same
time it is part of the whole “togetherness” of the Neolithic era where it functioned on another cultural plain. This
is precisely why the European Spondylus phenomenon cannot be explained by one model, or by theories of “exoticism”,
“trade” or the archaeologically trivialized pseudo-social model of “social prestige”. With such explanations, the
particular role of Spondylus, both in the religious and social aspect of individual cultures, gets lost. Nevertheless,
there is the “common” and the “universal” in the overall European Spondylus phenomenon that can only belong to
the sphere of symbolism. More precisely, this can be discerned from a certain combination and system of symbols
(shell, water) that, in its variability but also durability over time, corresponds closely with the general European and
much broader Neolithic world of notions and concepts of Beauty (jewellery / cosmos) and the Sacred (divine) that
provided Fertility, but always in a concrete social context.

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