|Elevation||200 m (700 ft)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Postal code||385 00|
|Alternative names||Map showing the main cultures of Neolithic Greece c. 7000 BCE — c. 3200 BCE|
|Geographical range||Eastern Europe|
|Dates||c. 6850 BCE — c. 4400 BCE|
|Preceded by||Neolithic Greece|
|Followed by||Dimini culture, Starčevo–Kőrös–Criș culture|
Sesklo (Greek: Σέσκλο) is a village near the city of Volos. Volos is located within the municipality of Aisonia. Aisonia is located within the regional unit of Magnesia. Magnesia is located within the administrative region of Thessaly. Thessaly is located within Greece.
This settlement gives its name to the first Neolithic culture of Europe, which inhabited Thessaly and parts of Macedonia. The Neolithic settlement was discovered in the 1800s and the first excavations were made by Greek archaeologist, Christos Tsountas. The oldest fragments researched at Sesklo place the civilization's development as far back as c. 7510 BCE — c. 6190 BCE, known as proto-Sesklo and pre-Sesklo and they show an advanced agriculture and a very early use of pottery that rivals in age those of the near east. Available data also indicates that domestication of cattle occurred at Argissa as early as c. 6300 BCE during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.
The aceramic levels at Sesklo contained bone fragments of domesticated cattle too. The earliest occurrence reported in the near east is at Çatalhöyük, in stratum VI, dating c. 5750 BCE, though it might have been present in stratum XII too — c. 6100 BCE. The Neolithic settlement was covering an area of about 20 hectares in its peak period c. 5000 BCE and comprised about 500 — 800 houses with a population of perhaps up to 5,000 people.
|c. 5000 BCE||Year 1981 CE||Year 1991 CE||Year 2001 CE|
|Historical Population of Sesklo||1,000 — 5,000||781||857||906|
The peoples of Sesklo built their villages on hillsides near fertile valleys, where they grew wheat and barley, also keeping herds of mainly sheep and goats, though they also had cattle, swine and dogs. Their houses were small, with one or two rooms, built of wood or mudbrick in the early period.
Construction technique later became more homogeneous and all were homes are built of adobe with stone foundations. The first houses with two levels were found and there is also a clear intentional urbanism. The lower levels of proto-Sesklo lack pottery, but the Sesklo people soon developed very fine-glazed earthenware that they decorated with geometric paintings in red or brown colors. New types of pottery are incorporated in the Sesklo period.
The "invasion theory" states that the Sesklo culture lasted more than one full millennium up until c. 5000 BCE when it was violently conquered by people of the Dimini culture. The Dimini culture in this theory is considered different from that found at Sesklo. However, Professor Ioannis Lyritzis provides a different story pertaining to the final fate of the "Seskloans." He, along with R. Galloway, compared ceramic materials from both Sesklo and Dimini utilizing thermoluminescence dating methods. He discovered that the inhabitants of the settlement in Dimini appeared c. 4800 BCE, four centuries before the fall of the Sesklo culture c. 4400 BCE.
The decoration evolves to flame motifs at the end of the Sesklo culture. Pottery of this “classic” Sesklo style was also used in Western Macedonia as at Servia. When investigating whether these settlers could be migrants from Asia Minor, there are many similarities between the rare Asia Minor pottery and early Greek Neolithic pottery, but these similarities seem to exist between all early pottery from near eastern regions. The repertoire of shapes is not very different, but the Asia Minor vessels seem to be deeper than their Thessalonian counterparts. Shallow, slightly open bowls are characteristic of the Sesklo culture and absent in Anatolian settlements.
The ring base was almost unknown in Anatolia, flat and plano-convex bases were worked instead. Altogether, the appearance of the vessels is different. The earliest figurines' appearance is also completely different. The very rare pottery from levels XII and XI at Çatalhöyük closely resembles in shape the very coarse earthenware of Early Neolithic I from Sesklo, but the paste is quite different, having a partly vegetable temper, and this pottery is contemporaneous, not a predecessor of the better-made products in the Thessalonian material. On the whole, the artifactual data argues in favor of a largely independent indigenous development of the Greek Neolithic settlements. This indicates that the domestication of cattle was indigenous on the Greek mainland.
One significant characteristic of this culture is the abundance of statuettes of women, often pregnant, probably connected to the widely hypothesized prehistoric fertility cult. Whatever the case, these abundant sculptures are present in all the Balkan and most of the Danube civilization form many millennia, though they cannot be considered exclusive to this area. Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas even mentions a gorgon mask from the Sesklo culture. The Sesklo culture is crucial in the expansion of the Neolithic into Europe. Dating and research points to this Sesklo's influence on both the Karanovo and Körös cultures which seem to originate here, and who in turn gave rise to the important Danube civilization current. Lyritzis concluded that the "Seskloans" and the "Diminians" co-existed for a period of time.
- De Facto Population of Greece Population and Housing Census of March 18th, 2001 (PDF 39 MB). National Statistical Service of Greece. 2003.
- Runnels & Murray 2001, p. 146: "Theocharis believed that the entire area from there to the upper acropolis of the site was filled with habitations and that Sesklo was a town of perhaps 5,000 people, rather than a village. Other archaeologists working at the site have reduced the population estimate to between 1,000 and 2,000, but either way, Sesklo was a settlement of impressive size in its day."
- Gimbutas 2001, p. 25.
- Liritzis.I (1981) Dating by thermoluminescence: Application to Neolithic settlement of Dimini. Anthropologika, 2, 37-48.(in Greek with English summary)
- Liritzis, Y and Galloway, R.B (1982) Thermoluminescence dating of Neolithic Sesklo and Dimini, Thessaly, Greece. P.A.C.T Journal, 6, 450-459.
- Liritzis, Y and Dixon, J (1984) Cultural contacts between Neolithic settlements of Sesklo and Dimini, Thessaly. Anthropologika, 5, 51-62 (in Greek, with complete English version sent on request)
- Reingruber, Agathe and Thissen, Laurens. "Aegean Catchment Aegean Catchment (E Greece, S Balkans and W Turkey) 10,000 – 5500 cal BCE"