Life and death of a Neolithic house
Keywords:burnt houses, two-story houses, house/human burials, Late Neolithic, Eastern and Central Balkans
In the second half of the Early Neolithic (after 5800 BC), the construction of two-story houses began in the Eastern and Central Balkans. For the time being it seems that during the Early Neolithic the two levels of these houses were used almost always residential, and that in the Late Neolithic (after 5500/5400 BC), only the upper floor had residential functions whereas the lower floor was used for economic and production purposes (storage of food or salt production).
Some Neolithic houses were “cremated”, i.e., subjected to domithanasia, a voluntary act of intentional burning of the house. There were apparently different reasons for that though most probably they were not structural but possibly were related to the social sphere.
The deliberately burnt houses were buried in pits following the pars pro toto principle. The debris in the pits contains remains from different parts of the structure and the installations of the interior. For now, it seems that during the Early Neolithic, the pits were located on the periphery of the settlement, and during the Late Neolithic they were relocated to off-settlement ritual assemblages.
In our research thinking, we have no grounds to separate the Neolithic dead from their house-home. Therefore, the “cremated” houses would eventually lead us to their most probably cremated inhabitants. This could be one possible explanation for the large number of “missing” graves in the Balkan Neolithic.