Lepenski Vir

Europe's First Monumental Sculpture


Lepenski Vir is the name of the great whirlpool in the middle of Djerdap and the nearby horseshoe-shaped shelf between the right bank of the Danube and the steep cliffs of the Korsho hill. A group of experts from Belgrade Archeological Institute who visited this spot for the first time in late summer 1960 noticed on the bank, in shallow cross-section, an indeterminate layer containing fragments of pottery belonging to the Starchevo group, the oldest culture of the Late Stone Age (Neolithic) in the Danube Basin. No great expectations were aroused by this, and it was little more than a matter of routine now, in 1965, to cut a couple of trial-trenches across the imperilled site. The results were truly astonishing. Beneath the 'conventional' Neolithic lay earlier buildings and carvings of a previously unknown kind.

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Lepenski Vir stands out upon the map of prehistoric Europe: for its methodically planned architecture and for its diverse sculptures. In the latter, the site has suddenly assumed an importance for which the epithet 'unique' might be acceptable. 'Lepenski Vir art' enters the world's art-history substantially in its own right and without convincing parentage.

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The sculptures fall into three groups: strongly marked representations of human heads occasionally with somewhat fish-like features but little or no indication of the body; seemingly non-representation arabesques or abstracts; and aniconic or semi-iconic forms, describable sometimes as 'omphaloi'. All types are apparently contemporary, and here radiocarbon comes to our aid with a date-bracket of some six centuries, approximately 5350-4700BC (uncorrected dates), through it is clear that the Lepenski Vir cultures as a whole go back appreciably further.

Adopted from: " New Discovery at Lepenski Vir" by Dragoslav Srejovich.


lpv@umiacs.umd.edu