Should we consider ditch enclosures as an element of the Neolithic package?
Keywords:Early Neolithic, ditch enclosures, Neolithic package, Balkans, Anatolia
The article presents the earliest Neolithic ditch enclosures that have been registered throughout the Near East and the Balkans. The history of research indicates gaps both in the publishing state of the ditches and the analyzing strategies. All this restricts the in-depth study of this phenomenon and results in tentative conclusions. The time and space distribution of the known so-far ditches helps however for the distinguishing of some regional patterns and/or interregional similarities. It appears that the ditch-digging practice existed since the time of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) in the Fertile Crescent. There, single ditches were combined with stone walls. Around the mid-seventh millennium BC, ditches occurred sporadically in Western Anatolia and probably in Northern Greece. At the turn of the sixth millennium BC, ditch enclosures became a common feature for the architectural organization of settlements in the regions of Marmara, Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace, the southeast parts of the Central Balkans, as well as in the Southern Caucasus. They differ significantly from the PPN enclosures, which suggests that the idea of their construction evolved in the course of time. The Early Neolithic enclosures in Thrace, for example, display elaborate circular or oval layout of multiple ditches where rich depositional activities have taken place.
If we are to assume that the ditch-digging practice originated in the PPN of the Levant and Mesopotamia, then its distribution should have been associated with the Neolithic dispersal westwards of the core area of formation. The final part of the paper is dedicated to the ambiguous concept of the Neolithic package, with a discussion on whether ditch enclosures can be considered as part of the assemblage.