Institute of Prehistory, Early History and Medieval Archaeology

The Vinča group – (almost) 50 years on

Prof. Dr. John Chapman (Durham University)

My inspiration for an undergraduate dissertation (1972) on the origins of the Vinča group and, then, a PhD on the group as a whole (1976) came from a 1971 trip to the Belo Brdo tell. The PhD was transformed by new analyses to become the 1981 BAR publication - a processually-oriented work which, in an unexpected way, remains the only general synthesis of the Vinča group until this very day.

In this self-critical and -reflexive paper, I look backwards to those aspects of the synthesis which remain relevant; examine those parts which have been overtaken by more recent research; and consider why it is that the synthesis has yet to be superceded.

It is interesting that landscape studies and especially settlement studies remain some of the most relevant parts of my research. Although new fieldwork has led to incrementally better distribution maps, the basic premises remain true of the changes in settlement structure from Starčevo to Vinča.

The remote sensing revolution and the contextual recording of finds have made the greatest impacts on Vinča research. Site planning and site size studies have progressed enormously. The analyses of site densities of figurines still poses important research questions but lacks the current contextual detail of figurine deposition.

Apart from congenital idleness, I cannot imagine why no other specialist has written a new synthesis of the Vinča group. It is not that no new 'cultural syntheses' have appeared in the Balkans - syntheses are not yet a threatened species. Admittedly, a rather large amount of new material has appeared in the last 50 years - together with a tendency to paint pictures on smaller canvases. Yet my hope for the next 50 years is that several new general syntheses will be written.