Stone Age of Iron Gates

There were lots of breakthroughs in human history until this date. Some were instant and recognisable events or technological inventions and some were slow evolutionary processes in history of our species. Whatever they were, the outcome was always reshaped course of mankind entirely. In our own time one of those is no doubt learning how to split the atom and very invention of nuclear bomb. We are still living in the post-turbulence time of that latest breakthrough that has potential to rise us from the Earth toward the stars. Some would say that it is still unknown whether this one is more of a civilization killer event or true entrance into another phase of humanity. We will wait and see. Either way, it is breakthrough, nevertheless. In early human history there was one similar invention that had the same uncertainty. It was called "Neolithic Revolution" and it happened in the middle of the Stone Age. And yes, even though we are still here, consequences of this invention are still very much all around us.

"Lepenski Vir" by Giovanni Caselli

Yes, the invention is of course, the agriculture along with domesticating wild animals. In this part of the world it happened around the year of 5300BC and it was invented by the one of the oldest civilization that occupied Iron Gates, the great gorge of mighty Danube at the spot called Lepenski Vir (Lepen Whirlpool) near the Koršo hills at the right bank of the river. The gorge had everything for the rise of one medium sized settlement for our Mesolithic predecessors. Large river with lots of fish, hills and valleys very near the bank with lots of small animals, deer and especially easily hunted herds of aurochs (now extinct specious of wild cows) and lots of water birds.

Many things happened in human minds with agricultural way of life. If you ask me, it was the point when humans abandoned the 'natural' way of life or to better say it was the time when natural equilibrium with humans being just a part of the biodiversity micro-cosmos of the inhabited area changed inevitably. We became the ultimate and the only player. Growing our own food and enslaving wild animals had risen us toward the god like creatures and we left our prehistorical ways for good. Just like with nuclear power, we made one great step in human evolution. And just like with nuclear bomb we invented all the side-effects we are suffering to this day.

With agriculture we didn't just invented unlimited food supplies. We got ourselves envy and jealousy toward our own neighbor and cousin for simple things as him having more food or land. We started to hunt for pleasure and not just for food. We started to steal and hate. We invented divine beings and prayers for them to spare our crops from natural hazards between planting and harvesting seasons. Let me just not repeating myself too much on the topic. Please read more about it in my last year post Supermarket Religion with review of one very interesting book and another civilization who lived in old settlement of 'Göbekli Tepe' in nowadays Turkey.

Anyway, yesterday I took my family to the Lepenski Vir and it's wonderful museum to learn more of this great people and how and why, on Earth, they managed to survive several millenniums in tent based settlements and lasted for maybe the longest period of time in human history. As for why, unfortunately I can't explain with words. You would have to visit Iron Gates and see it for yourself. In short - it is beautiful site. The river is magnificent and the gorge is one of the kind. The forests are still there and the feeling is, well, if I was one of the Mesolithic explorers on foot, finding this place would be the same as finding the heaven. Migrating it out would be, from one hunter and fishermen group point of view, well, stupid.

Perhaps the only thing this place doesn't have is lots of room for large agriculture fields and eventually these people left it as soon as they became too dependable by the Neolithic Revolution and from that point in time in fifth millennium before Christ we have no idea where they went and spread. Probably upstream Danube in search for large plains for their crops is currently most valuable scientific explanation. Maybe something more happened in addition to agricultural reasons to force them to leave but we don't know. Today, one of the large dams in the world, named 'Iron Gates I', created significant landscape change in form of a long river lake and flooded entire gorge and all the ancient settlements preventing further exploration in search for more clues.

Perhaps, for me, these guys in pre-agricultural times were extremely interesting for many reasons. Anthropologically speaking, they were large comparing to other humans in Europe at the time and lived longer and healthier life. Thanks to their diet with most of the fish dishes on their stone tables some of the prominent members of the society lived more than 60 years and some of them were tall enough to play in NBA with ease. Well, of course, most lived about 40-50 years old, but with their average height of 165 for women and 172 for men they might have origins in old Cro-Magnon species from Paleolithic. Fascinating story about all the skeletons in tombs were that no traces of violent deaths were found. Apparently, they were extremely peaceful people and also interesting fact that all excavated skeletons (more than 150 in total) miss only two teeth gives a clue that their amazing diet with almost 70% fish and rest of the meat and berries was a fact that they literally lived in some sort of the Mesolithic paradise.

At the end, all the main exploration and excavations of this site was made by professor Dragoslav Srejović of the University of Belgrade. 136 buildings, settlements and altars were found in the initial excavations in 1965-1970. I read somewhere that Dragoslav Srejović was a giant in a Newton way of definition and I couldn't agree more. This short film above is the same one they played for us in the museum. I am sorry I couldn't find the one with English subtitles but it was great learn and amazing documentary considering it was filmed in the same time lapse as the exploration. And as my wife noticed it has even a romantic tale in the background that gives a special touch and feel of one typical archaeological life in mid sixties.


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