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DOI 10.4461/GFDQ.2020.43.3


Karst landforms and prehistoric settlement patterns: a case study from Korčula Island (Croatia).

Pages 31-43


This study is aimed at testing if and how a detailed assessment of geomorphological features in the territory nearby can complement palaeoenvironmental evidence revealed by the archaeological stratigraphy from a cave site. In the test site, located in the western part of the Adriatic island of Korčula (central Dalmatian coast, Croatia), the stratigraphy of the prehistoric cave settlement of Vela Spila reveals a tight relationship between postglacial environmental changes and human settlement patterns. In this work the territory outside the cave was investigated from a geomorphological point of view. A 1:25000 scale geomorphological map of the western part of the island was created through remote sensing and field survey. Two cores were drilled in Blatsko Polje, a large karst depression shaping the western part of the island to verify if the sediment record trapped in the depression was a suitable candidate for future palaeoenvironmental studies. The geomorphological context was also related to archaeological evidence from surface archaeological surveys in Western Korčula. The result of these combined methods shows a karst landscape typical of the Dalmatian coast and highly influenced by the island’s underlying structural and tectonic characteristics, with several landforms such as debris flows and pocket valleys indicating possible episodes of wetter, more erosive conditions both before and after the last ice age. The sediment cores from the Blatsko Polje, which is now artificially drained, show previous phases of intermittent flooding and a drier episode that led to the area being exploited more by humans in the Neolithic (8-4 ka BP). This is indicated both by the placement of archaeological sites of different phases around the Polje, and by finds of lithics, pottery, and microfauna in the cores themselves. Geomorphological analysis supports evidence of a tight relationship between environmental changes and human settlement patterns inferred from the cave stratigraphy and provides some information on the features of the landscape exploited by the cave dwellers. Finally, the polje infill proved to be a potential palaeoenvironmental archive (albeit an unusual one), that would warrant future investigation with higher resolution core sampling.

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