High on a cliff at the western edge of Montenegro is Crvena Stijena, a large rockshelter with archaeological deposits dating to the Middle Paleolithic and earlier. Since 1954, numerous archaeologists have excavated at the site. Now a new report, Crvena Stijena in Cultural and Ecological Context: Multidisciplinary Archaeological Research in Montenegro, summarizes what we know about this important site and its context.
Robert Whallon, curator emeritus of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, edited the book and contributed several chapters. The book covers the 18 years he worked at the site, and addresses a wide range of topics, including a theoretical framework of the site, local topography, the site’s geological and ecological context, a history of research, detailed stratigraphy and the relationship to other sites, discussion of sources of lithic raw materials, faunal remains, malacology, archaeobotany, Neanderthal fire structures, overall synthesis, and an evaluation of future research.
Whallon characterizes the site this way: “It is one of the longest (if not the longest) geological and archaeological sequences for the Middle Paleolithic in Europe.”
In 1998, Whallon started working at the site. That year, the researchers took samples from the Campanian Ignimbrite (volcanic ash) layer in the rockshelter. That layer, which was formed 39,000 years ago, is a completely sterile, distinctive time horizon, explained Whallon. “It covered the whole eastern Mediterranean to the plains of the Ukraine. It probably drove people away from this area for a good while.”
In 2004, Whallon and his colleagues started excavating. They found Crvena Stijena to be a very large, very complex site that required lots of physical labor (i.e., breaking apart tons of rock) as well as archaeological excavation. In terms of age, material dates range from the Bronze Age (1500 to 2000 BC) back to the Middle Paleolithic (about 75,000 years ago). And that’s not all.
“That’s not even halfway through,” said Whallon. “There’s a lot more remaining to be excavated.”
Whallon turned over his role in the project to Gilbert Tostevin, one of the book’s contributing authors and a colleague at the University of Minnesota. Tostevin will continue the work at Crvena Stijena with colleagues from Montenegro.
“The book is not a final chapter, but a continuing chapter,” said Whallon.
Crvena Stijena in Cultural and Ecological Context is available from the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts (http://www.interacademies.net/Publications.aspx; ISBN: 978-86-7215-413-9).