Macedonia's geographic position is beneficial: is has fertile valleys, rivers, lakes, and a climate which has been favourable for the existence and survival of people ever since the remotest past. Thus, it was inhabited rather early.
In the prehistoric period, Macedonia played a significant role in the cultural development of the Balkans. Some of its regions, such as the valleys of the rivers Vardar, Strumica, and Struma, were important natural routes for the movements of the population. Moreover, Macedonia played a notable role in linking the Aegean - Anatolian and Central European cultural spheres.
Along the Vardar valley of that period, there were two rather significant natural barriers: the gorges of Taor and Demir Kapija. And other regions were either separated or isolated by mountain ranges.
New Stone Age (Neolith)
The earliest traces of human life in Macedonia date back as far as the new Stone Age (Neolith). According to the archaeological findings, during that period people already had permanent settlements, and pursued primitive agriculture that had spreaded from the region of Anatolia towards the Balkans, as well as some initial livestock breeding activities. They produced primitive home-made products and were engaged in pottery activities. That was the time when the ancestral inhabitants of Macedonia were abandoning a savage lifestyle and were entering into a more developed barbaric period.
The most famous site from that period is Vrshnik near the village of Tarinci in the district of the town of Stip. . People who inhabited it mainly pursued agriculture, and were using smoothed stone axes and slings for hurling oval clay balls. They also used clay pots with a number of stands.
Neolith inPelagonija plain is known of by a number of sites from the Velusa - Porodin group, characterized by stone and bone tools and clay objects that include coarse and ornamented ceramics and offering pots related to cults and religious beliefs. Similar sites were also excavated in the region of Ohrid.
When migrations from the central Adriatic regions reached Macedonia, the outcome was the establishment of a so-called Trn group in Pelagonia, named by the findings from Trn, that consist of various ornamented ceramics.
And, from the transitional period between the Neolith (new Stone Age) and the Bronze Age (Metal Age) in Pelagonia are the findings from Shuplevac - Bakarno Gumno. At that time, the Indo-European tribes commenced their invasion of the Russian Steppes (Karpate territories), and through the valley of the river Morava reached Macedonia. In a number of strikes they even penetrated into Pelagonia, and from that time are the findings from the sites of Karamani, Crnobuki, Visok Rid (near Bukri), and Visoi (near Novo Zmirnevo).
The ancient inhabitants of Macedonia started using the metals rather early. In the Bronze Age period, i.e., from the last centuries of the Third Millennium to the year 1,200 B.C., there were also invasions of the Indo-European tribes, which can be seen from the findings of Crnobuki, Karamani, Visok rid, Baresani, Kravari, Shuplevac and Bakarno Gumno (in Pelagonia), in Demir Kapia, in Skopje's Forth Kale, and in Archimenochori in the Aegean part of Macedonia.
At that time, settlements were also erected on hardly accessible hills (Forth Kale in Skopje Shuplivec), probably for the reason of protection against attacks. Also stone houses were built, and the pots were unevenly baked and had cylindrical necks, similar to the early Bronze Age findings from a number of regions within the Aegean part of Macedonia. And in Crnobuki, coarsely stylized seated figures were found.
Towards the mid-Bronze Age, previous migrations of the Indo-European tribes ceased, and peace was brought within the region, which is obvious from the findings in the sites of Kanino, Radoborska Tumba, and Visok Rid (Pelagonia), with the pots similar to those from Archimenochori.
In the period from 1,300 - 1,200 B.C., Macedonia was again caught in conflicts and so-called Aegean migrations. Through a long process, the Indo-European tribes merged with the native inhabitants and the Indo-Europization spreaded to the Macedonian territory. Then also the Iron Age started, which can be confirmed by the findings from Demir Kapija and from many sites in the Pelagonia plain.
Among the most notable tribes that lived in Macedonia were the Illyrian, Thracian, Brigian, Edonian, Paionian, and Pelagonian. Towards the end of the IX century B.C., throughout the Macedonian territories also the ancient Macedonians emerged, gradually inhabiting almost the entire territory all the way to Mount Pindus in the south.
Dating back from about 700 years B.C., of particular importance are the findings from the sites of Damjan (the region of Radovis), Orizari (the Kochani region), and the village of Brazda (the region of Skopje). At that time, people used to live in fortified settlements with ramparts built without mortar. They made beautiful clay pots and jewels.
In the period from the VIII to the VI century B.C., tribal aristocracy was gradually strengthening, trade was developing, and the influence of Greek colonies was increasing. Dating from that period are the golden findings from the sites of Trebenista, and Tarinci in the region of Stip. At that time, the formation of the earliest peoples in Macedonia and constitution of first states commenced.
Remnants of material culture
The earliest traces of the life of people in Macedonia originate as far back in the past as the remote new Stone Age (Neolith). Archaeological findings tell us that people at that time already had permanent settlements and were engaged in primitive farming and cattle-raising. Pottery making was rather common, there were various home-made products. And, among the most opulent archeological sites from that period, are those at Anzabegovo (the region of Sveti Nikole) and Madjari (the region of Skopje). .
Also the locality of Tarinci in the region of Stip is well-known. Locals mainly pursued farming, and used smoothed stone axes and slings for hurling oval clay balls.
Neolith in the Pelagonia plain is distinguished by numerous sites. There, among other things, also bone tools were found, as well as beautifully ornamented clay pots and ritual objects.
Similar findings were excavated in other sites in Macedonia.
On the other hand, in the Pelagonia plain also findings dating from the transitional period between the Neolith and the Bronze Age (or the Metal Age) were discovered. That was also the time when Macedonia was penetrated by tribes that came from that far as the Russian Steppes. From that time are also the lake dwellings in the region of Struga.
During the Bronze Age, raids of various tribes from the north continued. Thus, in order to protect them against the attacks, the settlements were erected on inaccessible hills as well. Among the remnants there are also stone houses.
There are numerous Iron Age archaeological sites throughout Macedonia. Among the oldest known tribes from that period in Macedonia are Brigians and Paionians and, during the late IX century B.C. also the ancient Macedonians gradually settled in almost all of the territories.
At that time, tribal aristocracy gradually strengthened, trade was developing, and the influence of Greek colonies was increasing. At the same time, also the formation of the earliest peoples in Macedonia and constitution of first states commenced.
Opulent archaeological findings that consist of well - modeled golden and other metal objects confirm that the craftsmanship was thriving. Of particular significance are the findings from the Trebenista site in the region of Ohrid , that comprise golden masks, golden sandals, bracelets, and other ornamental objects of silver, ivory, etc., which were used for funeral rites.