Lake Settlement of Dispilio
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The prehistoric settlement of Dispilio is located at the “Nisi” (Island) site, on the southern shore of Lake Kastoria. It was discovered in 1932, when the level of the lake was lowered, and at the point where Nisi was separated from the shore of the lake, remains of wooden piles were found. Systematic excavations (1992 onwards) reveal the remains of an extensive Late Neolithic lake settlement, one of the most important and oldest of its kind in Europe. The excavations at Dispilio are a milestone for archaeological research in Greece, both because of the specificity of the excavation and for the study of the forms of habitation during the Neolithic period.
The houses of the settlement, circular and rectangular, were built of wood, reeds and clay on wooden pile-driven platforms. The animal and plant remains as well as other movable finds from the excavation (pottery, tools, etc.) record the whole range of economic activities of the prehistoric inhabitants of Dispilio: agriculture, livestock breeding, hunting and fishing (bone hooks, traces of a boat, triangular obsidian arrowheads, pottery and a stone ring-shaped arrowhead).
Unique cultural aspects of the community of Dispilio are revealed by three bone flutes and a wooden plaque with engraved linear elements. This tablet dates with certainty to 5260 BC and cannot be ruled out as an early form of written language, as is assumed for similar symbols engraved on clay found in settlements in the southern Balkans.
In July 1992 a trial excavation began at the “Nisi” (Island) site. The findings of the excavation fall into three categories: movable, architectural and environmental findings. The first category includes tools and utensils, the second includes postholes and other structural elements, and the third includes fruits, bones and other similar small findings. A significant number of ceramic vessels present a wide variety of shapes and are made, for the most part, from four different types of ceramic material. Vessels related to food preparation (cooking utensils), the offering and consumption of food were found, as well as a set of storage vessels whose construction was imperative.
Finally, reference should be made to a special group of findings attributed to the ideological behaviour of the inhabitants. And it is precisely this behaviour which, in the opinion of the scientific team, is reflected in categories of findings, such as jewellery, figurines, decorative themes on the vessels and some particular types of vessels whose use is not understood, as well as in a small set of burial findings referred to above and in two other children’s burials found at a depth of around 80 cm and a number of scattered human bones found among the other osteological material in the western sector. To date, a very important collection of such mobile findings made of materials of different origins has been assembled and includes, in addition to the categories already mentioned, four sound-producing (melody?) objects made of bone and clay, a section of processed wood on the surface of which horizontal and vertical marks have been engraved, some of them reminiscent of Linear A writing marks, as well as clay and bone objects with similar engravings. All are part of activities related to the “ideological” life of the inhabitants of the settlement. That is, those activities that have no direct connection either with the organisation of the site or with the economy.