Location: Beshenkovichi, Vitsebsk voblast, Belarus
2014 field season at Asaviec will take place from July 21st to August 10th. The upcoming expedition is expected to yield hundreds of exciting finds, including bone and amber jewelry, prehistoric work tools, and elaborate pottery used by the inhabitants of this region 5,000 years ago.
The lake region in northern Belarus has evolved as a frontier environment since the earliest occupation. Far distances from any established Neolithic strongholds and the lacustral setting of the area led to the development of distinct forms of Neolithic-Bronze Age societies. The material culture of the Asaviec family of settlements reflects the changes in the social organization, culture, technology, lifestyle, and spiritual lives of the local people over time. Due to the continuous occupation of the area, the finds reflect the gradual and complex process of transition from the Neolithic society of hunters and gatherers to mixed subsistence to increased reliance on agriculture and cattle herding in the Bronze Age.
During the early Bronze Age, the Asaviec settlements were abandoned as a result of climatic changes that forced the settlers to move uphill. Eventually the site was covered by a thick layer of turf, which created an anaerobic environment and resulted in excellent preservation of wood, bone and horn artifacts.
Over 600 bone and horn objects found in Asaviec to date make up over half of prehistoric bone tools unearthed in Belarus. Among them there are well preserved arrows and spearheads, knives, needles, axes, adzes, chisels, shovels, paddles, harpoons, and miniature fish hooks. Stone and flint tools are also abundant. Arrowheads, flint blades, and polished perforated axes were found. Asaviec settlements preserved a wide range of objects of prehistoric art. Among the unique artifacts, there are carved representations of water birds and people, wood and bone figurines of people, animals, snakes, and birds, as well as amber and bone jewellery and pendants. Crushed human bone remains found in the occupation layers and domestic context of the settlements strongly suggest practice of cannibalism, possibly ritual in nature.
Upcoming field season will explore Asaviec during the crucial period of transition from Neolithic to Bronze society, and is expected to yield a wealth of amber and bone jewelry, and weapons, especially harpoons and arrowheads.
Period(s) of Occupation: Neolithic, Bronze Age
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 2 weeks
Room and Board Arrangements
We will be staying in a small and cozy wild camping site, about 15 min walk from the excavation area. There are several small rivers near the campsite, they are excellent for bathing, washing, and fishing. Fields of raspberries, blackberries, wild blueberries, and strawberries can be found within walking distance from the camp site. The town of Beshenkovichi is about 10 km from our camping site, and daily buses run there from the nearby village of Asaviec. In town, toiletries and food can be bought at a reasonable price; banks, internet facilities, and health services can be accessed. We will be cooking on the open fire and gas stoves. In the mornings, we will generally have a light snack consisting of tea/coffee and sandwiches. Second breakfast and lunch will be eaten during rest breaks on in the field. Excellent quality cheese and dairy products as well as fresh vegetables can be bought locally from villagers. Since physical work in the field will be demanding, meat or another good source of protein should be consumed for dinner (BBQs are very popular in the field). You are responsible for your own camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, matt) which you can either bring with you, or purchase in Belarus once you arrive.
Academic CreditNumber of credits offered: none