The territory of Macedonia is located in the center of the Balkan natural roads and connects the two major cultural spheres: the Aegean and the Anatolian, as hotbeds of the oldest agricultural and livestock communities, with the interior of the Balkans and Central Europe. Natural roads along the river valleys have a special role in this regard; The Vardar valley, which follows the Morava valley, provides contacts between the Aegean world and Pannonia, and Strumeshnica, through the lower stream of the Struma, connects southeastern Thrace with the front of Asia Minor, while the Drim valley connects with the southern Adriatic coast. Great influence have the roads of the mountain passes on the massifs around the Ohrid-Prespa region, which connects this region with the cultures in Albania, and the Maleshevo and Osogovo Mountains, which, in turn, connects Macedonia with the middle stream of Struma and central Bulgaria.
Paleontological research reveals data on life in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, especially in Pelagonija, around Veles, in the Makarovec cave in the canyon of the river Babuna and in the Stip region, where material findings of the first weapons and tools from bone and from stone (stone tool in the shape of a wedge of a man-hunter; in the grave find in the Stip region, a skeleton of a man was found, whose age dates back to around 9,000 BC). Artifacts from the Mesolithic period (between 10,000 and 5,000 BC) – axes, hammers, flint knives, stones for sharpening, mortar, needles, bones and horned chisels testify to the first farming communities.
The map of the archeological sites shows the existence of about 160 Neolithic sites (in the period from around 5,300 – 3,200 BC), mainly settlements located in the fertile fields, along the river valleys and at the foot of the mountains of Pelagonija, Skopje, Kumanovo, Strumica. , Radovish and Polog Valley, as well as in the Ovcepolje-Bregalnica region and in the Ohrid Basin.
In eastern Macedonia it is characteristic, the so-called Anzebegovo-peer group, according to the eponymous settlements and the Late Neolithic culture called Angelci-Zelenikovo. Multi-layered settlements were inhabited by wooden dwellings with a square or rectangular base, with a two-story roof, covered with mud and painted white or red, sometimes decorated with plastic ornaments; in every house there was a stove, a fireplace, rarely a cult object (Tumba Madzari). The data from Tumba Madzari (Skopje Valley) indicate densely built houses, grouped around a common sanctuary and with equal orientation. In the Ohrid region, the settlements have a different appearance; namely, there are pile dwellings, which are analogies of the cultures of the Adriatic zone.
It is assumed that the inhabitants of ancient Macedonia were engaged in agriculture (growing cereals and legumes), livestock (sheep, goats, pigs and cattle), but also hunting and fishing. The making of ceramic dishes was no longer just for home everyday use (in the early Neolithic they were roughly made dishes, monochrome or red, decorated with ornaments and geometric motifs in white – amphorae and rounded deep panes) but also attention was paid to the artistic-aesthetic expression (the shapes become more diverse, with larger dimensions, peaks, cups, amphorae, cups on a high conical leg, painted pottery with dark brown geometric figures), and the cult pottery was made in handicrafts. Among the religious-cult artifacts, the dominant deity is the goddess of fertility – the Great Mother, represented in a terracotta sculpture of a female body, which in the lower part turns into a house; this unique Middle Neolithic representation of a deity from the Skopje Valley is the protector of home and family; the cult of fire, domestic animals, the cult of the dead, all related to various religious rites were also observed in the sanctuaries.
The Late Neolithic is a time when major social changes began, caused by the demographic movements of populations from neighboring areas. The transition from the Stone Age to the Metal Age, known as the Eneolithic (from the end of the IV millennium BC) is associated with large migrations, caused by the movements of steppe-nomadic Indo-European peoples, who settled on the Balkan Peninsula and assimilated with the indigenous population, which led to new prehistoric ethno-cultural units with a specific material culture, for which there are many archaeological confirmations. Due to the intensive use and processing of copper, this period is known as the Copper Age. Copper was used to make jewelry, weapons, and implements, and trade flourished.
The people of this period were engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry and hunting. The regional cultural group Suplevec – Bakarno Gumno from Pelagonija is characteristic, connected with the localities in the Kumanovo Valley (Nagorichane) and in the East Bregalnica Valley; Eneolithic settlements were registered on Skopsko Kale, in Pelagonija, in the Ohrid-Prespa Basin and in the Kocani region. The settlements were built mostly on higher plateaus – mounds, naturally protected; The exception is the pile dwellings on Lake Ohrid.
The discovered small plastic artifacts speak of the rich spirituality of this cultural group and in a religious sense: zoomorphic figures, female and male representations from Burlichevo, a small ceramic figure of a male torso in a sitting position from Govrlevo (near Skopje), known as “Adam from Macedonia ”, Female statuettes in sitting form from Crnobuki and Bakarno Gumno, stone scepter from Suplevec (confirmation of the Indo-European origin of the population), copper axes with blade and circular opening (Vranishta, Kravari, Prilep region); This includes jewelry made of shells, patterned bracelets and prints, indicating communications with the peoples of the Mediterranean.
The Bronze Age in the Aegean and in Macedonia began earlier than in the areas north of them. Data from this period are mostly found in the Pelagonija Valley (before and until 1900 BC), expressed through a cultural group called Armenohori. The archeological findings of this cultural group are similar to the findings from several sites in Aegean Macedonia, and especially with those found in the Vardar valley and in the vicinity of Thessaloniki. A special similarity of these findings, through the shapes of the cups with two and the cups with one handle, is revealed with the findings from Albania. These groups are connected by the rough gray ceramics, as well as the way it is decorated. According to the findings of tools and weapons, people were engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting, but also in handicrafts (pottery, spinning, weaving). The settlements were larger, built on previous Eneolithic settlements; Traces of necropolises with burnt dead bodies were discovered, and in Varosh near Prilep there is a necropolis outside the settlement, with cyst graves, fenced and covered with stone slabs.
A megalithic observatory called Kokino (near Staro Nagoricane, Kumanovo region) has been found in Macedonia since the Early Bronze Age; The observatory, created from volcanic rocks, marks the places where the Sun and Moon rise in the periods of short, equinox and long day. Kokino is a shrine that traced the movements of celestial bodies to create a religious calendar for determining the days of rituals; the observatory also determined the days for performing seasonal work in agriculture and animal husbandry.
A special place in this period has the processing of bronze, the so-called “Macedonian bronze” (fibulae, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, bronze bowl in the shape of a jug with a handle), found in the archeological sites in the village of Patele near the Island Lake, Vardino in the lower stream of Vardar, in Radanje, in the Suva (Reka) River necropolis near Gevgelija , in Pelagonija and in the Ohrid region.
This period is characterized by trade relations with the Mycenaean world and with the south in general, on the route Thessaly – Haliakmon (Bistrica) – Pelagonija – Polog – Ibar, or the road Pletvar – Vardar; This is evidenced by the found Mycenaean sword in Tetovo. In the southwestern part of the central Balkan Peninsula, from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, there is a continuity of a significant ethnic population – Brigi. The ancient authors consider the Brigids to be the oldest people in the world. According to archaeological, onomastic, linguistic and historical research, the Brigids migrated and settled in Asia Minor under the name of the Phrygians (the first migration waves were around 1500/1504 BC and lasted until 800/700 BC. .); The smaller ethnic groups that remained on the territory of Macedonia, in the ancient period assimilated with the ancient Macedonians, Paionians, Dasarets, Edonites, Migdons and other ethnicities.
The Indo-European way of burial under mounds and, in general, the material culture (characteristic dishes- jugs with two handles) indicate the presence of a Brig population in the Ohrid region, in Pelagonija, east of the lower streams of the Vardar, then in northwestern present-day Greece, in Epirus, as well as in central, southeastern and southern Albania. But, according to interdisciplinary research, in the Bronze Age there was a general connection of cultures from the Carpathians to the Adriatic and to Pelagonija; This wide geographical area also includes the areas of the central Balkans, the Pomoravje and the Povardarie.
Archaeological excavations from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age reveal necropolises in the territory inhabited by a Paeonian population; The Paionians, as an old population, are a link that connects the Balkan-Lower Danube complex with Lower Macedonia. In the Skopje region (Dolno Sonje) and at the locality Bolnica – Prilep, grave-cysts were discovered with skeletal burial in a constricted position, with grave finds on ceramic vessels and a stone cheekbone from a bronze sword. This ethnic community inhabited the southern part of the central Balkans: Homer sang about the “crooked Paionians” of “broad Aksij”, and according to Herodotus, these tribes settled near the Pangea, the Strymon River, and Lake Prasiad; Thucydides, on the other hand, locates them in the area west of Pella, all the way to the sea.
In the XIII century BC. The Balkan Peninsula was engulfed in new waves of unrest and resettlement (so-called “Aegean migration”), which brought with them new cultural elements, thus beginning the Iron Age.
The influence of the cultures that originated in the Mediterranean is significant for this period, but also the culture from the Carpathian-Danube area where, before the end of the IX century BC, the culture of the hot fields began to decay. As a confirmation of the arrival of these nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes from the Russian steppes, which moved in waves to the Balkans, are the artifacts in ceramics with stamped ornaments and inlay; These findings are related to the findings of Pontus, as well as the formation of the Basarabi style that covers the area from the Black Sea to Vojvodina, with great influence in the west and in Macedonia. Interesting is the appearance of horse equipment and new types of weapons (axes, labris, spears, arrows and a new form of iron sword, shields). A large number of finds were found in the necropolis near Trebenishte (Ohrid region) (from the 7th century BC until the end of the 4th century BC).
According to the luxurious material finds (gold burial masks, gold sandals, bracelets, gold and silver jewelry, massive bronze craters, silver goblets and rhytons, bronze helmets and other cult objects), these tombs are called “princely tombs”, belonging to the princely tombs are the deceased from the tribal aristocracy; There are similar findings in the Sindos necropolis, near Thessaloniki and in the Halkidiki-Lower Vardar area.
This period ends in the VIII century BC. with the formation of separate ethnic communities with specific historical and cultural development. With the intensive use of iron for the production of tools and weapons, there was a change in the material culture which, in turn, led to changes in the social structure; namely, the social and economic situation changed, and with the acquisition of wealth of a part of the population, there was a class stratification. During the Old Iron Age, the first tribal and tribal communities were created in which, with the concentration of economic and political power in the tribal aristocracy, the ruling class, states and state arrangements were created and the hereditary monarchies and dynasties of ancient Macedonia emerged.
HISTORY OF THE MACEDONIAN PEOPLE
Editor: Prof. Dr. Todor Cepreganov
prof. Dr. Aneta Shukarova
prof. Dr. Mitko B. Panov
prof. Dr. Dragi Gjorgiev
prof. Dr. Krste Bitovski
acad. Ivan Katardziev
prof. Dr. Vance Stojchev
prof. Dr. Novica Veljanovski
prof. Dr. Todor Cepreganov