RIT Dean Launches Archaeological Dig in Croatia in June




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Tracing the spread of farming is an archeological puzzle that has long interested Andrew Moore, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology. Evidence of early farming signifies a move away from hunting and gathering, and the advent of village settlements, ancient precursors of post-modern cities.

In June, Moore will head to Croatia to launch the first season of an archaeological dig in the village of Danilo along the Dalmatian Coast. He will use this key Neolithic site as a case study for the spread of farming from West Asia into the Mediterranean and Central Europe. Evidence of early and late Neolithic phases at Danilo makes this excavation especially interesting to him.

Moore’s earlier work in Syria pushed back the date of early farming by 1,000 years to approximately 11,000 B.C. His more than 30 years of research is detailed in his book, Village on the Euphrates.

Moore looked to the relatively neglected area in Croatia when unrest in the Middle East caused him to suspend a project in the Jordan Valley. He soon made contact with an active community of Croatian archeologists and RIT’s American College of Management and Technology in Dubrovnik. ACMT will provide a base of operations for Moore and his team during their month long stay.

“ACMT will provide very real logistical support, ”Moore says. “The project represents an RIT and ACMT effort.”

Moore’s team will include Anthony Legge and Gordon Hillman, an archeozoologist and an archeobotonist, respectively, with whom he has worked for the last 30 years.

Two geomorphologists from the University of Pennsylvania will join the team, along with students from RIT, Cornell University and Zadar University in Croatia. The team will work in collaboration with Sibenik Museum and chief prehistoric archaeologist, Marko Mendusic.

While the bulk of digging will be done next summer, Moore is treating this year as an exploratory season, a chance for the entire team to meet for the first time and to work with technology they will use during the excavation.

Last year, Moore and students from Cornell University’s geology department conducted a survey of ground-penetrating radar to identify the best place to excavate. The survey allowed the team to see archeological layers and features, including a hearth and a stone wall buried underground. The Cornell team will also participate this year.M

“We engaged the interest of local archeologists in new approaches to archaeology using new theories and applying technical solutions to recovering data,” Moore says.

This year, Moore will introduce a unique device designed by a team of six mechanical engineering students at RIT to uncover data systematically. The flotation machine will separate charred plant remains, bones and small artifacts from the soil—keys to Moore’s inquiry. The machine will replace what he calls “primitive devices” and will yield higher-quality and more dependable results.

“We can talk more directly about economic change when we can see bones and seeds,” Moore says.

He is equally excited about three major waterfalls near the Danilo site that will provide a ready-made climate gauge not studied before. According to Moore, lime in the water dissolved to form the gorges in a relatively “quick” 19,000 years, preserving a history of climatic vegetation.

“This represents an environmental study that will be new for this part of the Mediterranean,” Moore says.