The main objective of the project is to construct comprehensive knowledge of the manufacturing of products made of osseous raw materials (bone, antler and animal teeth) and the ways in which they were used among hunter-gatherer-fisher communities (Mesolithic and Subneolithic=Ceramic Mesolithic), inhabiting the area of the East Baltic Plain (territories of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the north-eastern part of Poland) in the Early and Middle Holocene. The limit date that closes the chronological scope of the project is the end of the 4th century cal BC, when as a result of the expansion of the Globular Amphora Culture (GAC) and the Corded Ware Culture (CWC), Subneolithic communities started to disappear. The area to be analysed is unique not only due to archaeological sites discovered there, with perfectly preserved Stone Age artefacts made of organic raw materials (long awaited to be examined and made accessible to a broader spectrum of readers – which is the main objective of the project). Its significance also lies in the fact that throughout the Early and Middle Holocene (i.e. from about 11.6 to 4-5 thousand years ago), it was situated as if on the borderline between two realms, namely, the Eastern European and the Western European, not only allowing ideas of each of these worlds to be transferred to the other, but also absorbing them. Therefore, it is a perfect place for studying the intensity, characteristics and profile of cultural changes occurring in the early- and mid-Holocene hunter-gatherer communities, whereas the use of artefacts made of osseous materials to this end will allow us to obtain previously unattainable information in this regard.
The following detailed studies will be carried out under the project:
1. Studies on the scope of changes occurring in osseous raw material processing techniques and in the ways in which osseous products were used at specific developmental stages of hunter-gatherer communities of the analysed region, with particular emphasis on the role impulses from external environments played in these changes. The analysed development phases are (1) Mesolithic, (2) „subeolithization” – impulses from the area of eastern Europe, (3) stage of coexisting with the Middle Neolithic cultures of Central Europe, (4) neolithization – influence of the Late Neolithic communities of GAC and CWC.
2. Studies on the possibility of identifying and interpreting technological and functional discrepancies between collections of products that come from various sites/regions/archaeological cultures (research on regional organization and stratification of studied communities).
3. Comparative studies on the ways in which the products found in the settlement/household contexts and those deposited in graves were manufactured and used (research on the function of camps and rituals).
4. Technological and functional studies on the figurative art and ornaments of osseous objects.
The project analyses collections of osseous products from the most important sites in this part of Europe, the vast majority of which have so far not been available for this type of research. The basic research tool used in the studies conducted as part of the project is the traceological method. Discovered residues will be subjected to physical-chemical analyses, involving e.g. SEM-EDX, GC-MS and ATR-FT-IR (and others). As for technological analyses of ornamented products, we expect to use Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). More important products will also be subjected to ZooMS and FTiR analyses (to identify the raw material that was used for their production).