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Asaviec Archaeological Project – Belarus

January 3, 2010

The lake region in northern Belarus has evolved as a frontier environment since the earliest occupation. Far distances from any established Neolithic “strongholds” and the lacustral setting of the area led to the development of distinct forms of Neolithic-Bronze Age societies.

The material culture of the Asaviec family of settlements reflects the changes in the social organization, culture, technology, lifestyle and spiritual lives of the local people over time. Due to the continuous occupation of the area, the finds reflect the gradual and complex process of transition from the Neolithic society of hunters and gatherers to mixed subsistence to increased reliance on agriculture and cattle herding in the Bronze Age.

During the early Bronze Age, the Asaviec settlements were abandoned as a result of climatic changes that forced the settlers to move uphill. Eventually the site was covered by a thick layer of turf, which created an anaerobic environment and resulted in excellent preservation of wood, bone and horn artifacts.

Over 600 bone and horn objects found in Asaviec to date make up over half of prehistoric bone tools unearthed in Belarus. Among them there are well preserved arrows and spearheads, knives, needles, axes, adzes, chisels, shovels, paddles, harpoons and miniature fish hooks. Stone and flint tools are also abundant. Arrowheads, flint blades and polished perforated axes were found. Asaviec settlements preserved a wide range of objects of prehistoric art. Among the unique artefacts, there are carved representations of water birds and people, wood and bone figurines of people, animals, snakes and birds, as well as amber and bone jewellery and pendants.

Many crushed human bone remains found in the occupation layers of the settlements strongly suggest practice of cannibalism, possibly ritual in nature.

Our goals for the 2010 season consist of continuing the detailed excavation of the settlements. On the bases of thorough recording and study of the spacial and chronological distribution of the artifacts in household context, we will investigate the socio-economic relations in this developing agricultural society.

Cost: Our season will last 3 weeks. The cost of the project is $1,000USD. This price includes basic food supplies on-site, transportation from Minsk to Asaviec and back, your accommodations in Minsk, as well as the bureaucratic expenses for registration in Belarus.
Dates: 1-21 July 2010

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