Satellite imagery has uncovered a network of more than 100 Bronze Age structures concealed in the expansive plains of Serbia, challenging previous assumptions about the region’s history.
The findings, dating back over 3,000 years, were published in a study led by Barry Molloy, an associate professor of archaeology at University College Dublin.
The remnants of these Late Bronze Age settlements were first noticed in 2015 while reviewing Google Earth photos of a 93-mile stretch along Serbia’s Tisza River.
Molloy told Live Science that “We could see traces of over 100 Late Bronze Age settlements,” and what sets this discovery apart is the detailed measurement of their size and layout, providing unprecedented insights into the organization of these ancient communities.
Contrary to earlier beliefs about the Pannonian Plain as a hinterland devoid of Bronze Age settlements, this discovery challenges that narrative. The proximity of the enclosures, similar to modern neighborhoods, suggests a consciously chosen tightly-knit community structure. Molloy describes it as a “complex and well-organized society.”
Due to extensive farming activities over the years, the outlines of many enclosures were nearly invisible from the ground. Nonetheless, remnants of walls and ditches, potentially serving as defensive ramparts, were uncovered. This defensive aspect aligns with the discovery of clay chariots and weaponry in nearby cemeteries, indicating that the inhabitants were well-acquainted with warfare, possibly defending against external threats.
The archaeological team, during on-site visits, unearthed a variety of artifacts, including grinding stones, pottery shards, and bronze pieces. Radiocarbon dating of animal bones confirmed the ancient occupation of the settlement from 1600 to 1200 BCE. Molloy notes the presence of burnt daub, suggesting instances of fire damage to the structures.
Despite these remarkable findings, the fate of the settlement around 1200 BCE remains a mystery. Molloy speculates that the community might have adopted a more mobile lifestyle, moving freely across the landscape.
In a broader context, this revelation contributes to the ongoing discourse on the transformation of settlement networks during the later Early to Middle Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin. Recent research contests the notion of a diminished Late Bronze Age, proposing increased scale, complexity, and density in settlement systems, accompanied by intensified long-distance networks.
The study underscores the role of climate change in shaping these societies. The discovery of a network of over 100 densely spaced settlements, known as TSG sites, is a testament to the cultural permeability and adaptability of these ancient communities.
The sites, characterized by massive, enclosed structures, played a pivotal role in the Bronze Age landscape. Constructed around 1600 BCE, these monumental settlements reached their zenith around 1400 BCE and began to decline after 1300 BCE. The legacy of these sites extends to the hillforts of the European Iron Age.