Location: Vela Luca, Korcula Island
Entrance Orientation: WSW
Entrance Altitude: 130m asl
Cave Formation: Horizontal
Main Research Years: 1951; 1974-1995; 1996-2006; 2007-Present
Occupation Eras and Dates:
Late Upper Palaeolithic – Bronze Age
Late Upper Palaeolithic A 17, 530-17, 190;
Late Upper Palaeolithic I 12,950-12,250;
Mesolithic B 7310-7038;
Mesolithic D 6360-6070;
Neolithic C 566-5530.
Cecuk, B. and Radic, D. 2005. Vela Spila: viseslojno pretpovijesno nalaziste – Vela Luka, otok Korcula. Vela Luka: Centar za kulturu “Vela Luka”.
Cristiani, E., Farbstein, R. and Miracle, P. 2014. Ornamental traditions in the Eastern Adriatic: The Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic personal adornments from Vela Spila (Croatia). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 36, 21-31.
Novak, G. 1954. Arheoloska istrazivanja na otocima Jorculi I Hvaru u 1951. I 1952., Ljetopis JAZU, 59, Zagreb.
Radic, D. 2005. Vela Spila: Preliminary analysis of early Neolithic and Mesolithic strata in test pit
examined in 2004. Opvscula Archaeologica 29, 323-348.
Rainsford, C., O’Connor, T. and Miracle, P. 2014. Fishing in the Adriatic at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition: Evidence from Vela Spila, Croatia. Environmental Archaeology 19 (3), 311-320.
Cave Description: The cave is located on the western end of Korcula Island, overlooking the Kale Cove arm of Vela Luka. The entrance to the cave is 4m high by 10m wide, in a bent arch shape. The cave has a single, large chamber approx.. 50m long, 30m wide, 17m high. Ceiling shaped as a fairly regular spherical dome. Two openings in the ceiling of the cave – Velo and Mao zdrilo 11m x9m and 5m x 4m respectively. All parts adequately lit for normal work and residence. 1100m sq. floor area.
Research Chronicles and Data: First noted in 1835 historically. First excavations 1949 (Marinko Gjivoje) and 1951 (Boris Ilakovac and Vinko Foretic). Grga Novak excavated in 1951 to confirm links with sites on Hvar. Systematic exploration by Institute of Archaeology of the Yugoslav (today Croatian) Academy of Science, headed by Grga Novak annually since 1974. During Mesolithic, used for seasonal hunting and collection of marine resources and also burial. Three child burials (age between 2-3) discovered between 1986 and 1998 in contracted position as part of younger Mesolithic. Igneous rock cobble in one burial indicative of sea travel. Frequent large fish bones found, possibly indicative of deep-sea fishing. No break in stratigraphy between Mesolithic and Neolithic but also no continuation of material culture. Constant decline in use of shellfish, snails and fish as part of diet in Neolithic. Finds of sheep and goats in Mesolithic layers pre-Impressed Ware. VERA no. 2340, charcoal, ‘transition’ strata, 7200 +- 30BP, 6170-6130 Cal BC, 12.9%, 6100-5990 Cal BC, 82.5%. Same stratum: VERA 2342, animal bone, 7175 BP, 6160-5920 BC. Early stage of Impressed Ware culture. Early Neolithic: Ceramics varying thickness 0.4-1.4cm corresponding to other Impressed Ware culture sites. External side often coated and somewhat polished. Possible animal figurine. Punctures & incisions and incisions & imprints characteristic end of Impressed Ware. Flint: Approx. 70 flint items – mostly debitage, 11 blade fragments with trapezoidal or triangular corss-sections. Frequent traces of use, Sporadic traces of production. 2 scrapers. 3 tools with steeply retouched lateral side similar to a bore. Other: Green mould-shaped polished wedge with upper portion broken. Bone: 2 finely retouched needles. Obsidian.“Radiocarbon analysis of charcoal from Layer VI, section g x 19-21, some 60cm above the Mesolithic burials 1-3, provides a calibrated date of 6230-6000 (6150) BC. This date clearly indicates a time which postdates the Mesolithic as recorded (e.g. in Kopacina Cave on the island of Brac), where it was dated to 6680 BC (Muller 1994:351). It corresponds to the date from Mesolithic Layer 8 (Stratum I B) of the Odmut Cave and, what is particularly important, to the earliest pottery phase from Gudnja Cave on Peljesac peninsula (Chapman 1988:7-10). There is no doubt that Layer VI (from section g x 19-21) is the oldest pottery level in Vela Spila.” (Cecuk and
Radic 2005, 81) “Charcoal from Layer V, section g x 19-21, which was associated with finds of typical middle impresso stage, provided a date of 5855 BC.” (Cecuk and Radic 2005, 81) Above the Impresso ware layers is a continuous transitioning from Early to Middle Neolithic. Compared to earlier and later phases, the Middle Neolithic phase is relatively poor in finds. Older phase dominated by monochrome burnished pottery and a younger phase dominated by trichrome painted pottery. Older phase: fine uniformly fired pottery with a usually black or sometimes grey or red burnished surface. Improved technology of production compared to preceding Early Neolithic phase. More careful preparation of raw material and use of kilns allowing thinner vessel walls and more complex shapes e.g. S-shapes and carinated pieces. Younger phase: dated to end of Middle Neolithic. Expansion of polychrome painting with mixed linear and spiral motifs, “under the influence coming from the Apennine Peninsula.” (Cecuk and Radic 2005, 121) Late Neolithic and Hvar culture: layers up to 0.6-1m thick. Encountered at a depth of 1.6m in central part of the cave, directly overlying the strata with Vela Luka painted pottery. Huge number (several hundred thousand) potsherds, worked stones, bones and plentiful food remains – all kinds of human activities. Divided into four stages – early, classic, late and final. Hvar culture beings in the Late stage. Eneolithic Nakovana Culture. Immediately overlays previous Neolithic layers and underlays a compact Bronze Age layer. Unburnished vessels, often with light-coloured surfaces and slightly concave necks that join the shoulder at a sharp angle, herald the onset of a new culture. Cave visited more often during the younger stage. Huge numbers of sheep and goat bones with cattle remains also constituting a significant proportion of faunal remains. Early Bronze Age and Cetina culture.