Brought to light: ROOTS researchers study the Late Neolithic settlement of Opovo (Serbia)

In March 2022, the team conducts a geomagnetic survey at Opovo. Photo: Melissa Villumsen

In March and October 2022, archaeologists from the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, in cooperation with the National Museum in Pančevo and the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad, investigated the Late Neolithic site of Opovo (Serbia). The site is a multi-phase settlement of the Vinča culture, that is known from sites in south-eastern Europe. Old 14C dates place Opovo into the period from 4860 – 4780 cal BC. Geomagnetic surveying has now brought to light the almost complete settlement map of Opovo.

Already in the 1980s, an American-Yugoslavian archaeological team had carried out excavations in a part of the settlement and noticed some differences compared to the then known settlements of the Vinča culture (Tringham et al. 1985; Tringham et al. 1992). Besides smaller, single-roomed houses and a disproportionately high share of obsidian artefacts, the high share of hunted animals in the animal bone spectrum (around 90%) was also remarkable. These features led to the interpretation of Opovo as a trading site of a provincial nature with a strong adaptation to its environment. 

In spring 2022, the ROOTS scientists had the opportunity to investigate the structure of the site in more detail with the help of a geomagnetic prospection. This prospection method was in development in the 1980s and has since become standard practice in archaeology. The new geomagnetic image of Opovo shows a network of ditches that are enclosing an area of 9 ha with more than 100 houses. Based on this settlement plan, further questions opened up for the team, especially concerning the demographic development, social structure and economic distribution of resources within the settlement. Within the framework of the subcluster "ROOTS of Inequalities", a drilling prospection was carried out in October 2022 with the aim of extracting organic material from different settlement areas and dating it. 

In a two-week campaign, with the help of students from Kiel University and the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin), it was possible to sample a large number of settlement objects. Further analyses are currently being carried out at the Leibniz Laboratory for Age Determination in Kiel and results are expected from mid-2023. 

The investigations at the Late Neolithic settlement of Opovo are being carried out by an international team consisting of: Fynn Wilkes (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Miroslav Birclin (National Museum Pančevo), Martin Furholt (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Aleksandar Medović (Museum of Vojvodina Novi Sad), Kata Szilágyi (CAU Kiel), Ildiko Medović (Museum of Vojvodina Novi Sad), Robert Hofmann (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Till Kühl (CAU Kiel, ROOTS) 

The new geomagnetic plan of the late Neolithic settlement of Opovo (Serbia).

Sherd of a vessel found at the site of Opovo in October 2022


Further reading:
Tringham, Ruth, Bogdan Brukner, Timothy Kaiser, Ksenija Borojevic, Ljubomir Bukvic, Petar Steli, Nerissa Russell, Mirjana Stevanovic, and Barbara Voytek. 1992.
“Excavations at Opovo, 1985-1987: Socioeconomic Change in the Balkan Neolithic.” Journal of Field Archaeology 19 (3): 351. doi:10.2307/529922.

Tringham, Ruth, Bogdan Brukner, and Barbara Voytek. 1985.
“The Opovo Project: A Study of Socioeconomic Change in the Balkan Neolithic.” Journal of Field Archaeology 12 (4): 425. doi:10.2307/529968.


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions