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Going Over

The Mesolithic-Neolithic
Transition in North-West Europe

Edited by
Alasdair Whittle & Vicki Cummings

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 2007

Contents
Alasdair Whittle

Preface

xvi

Alasdair Whittle & Vicki Cummings

Introduction: transitions and transformations

1-4

Alan Barnard

From Mesolithic to Neolithic modes of thought

5-19

Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

From Mesolithic to Early Neolithic in the western Mediterranean

21-51

Pablo Arias

Neighbours but diverse: social change in north-west Iberia during the


transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic (55004000 cal BC)

53-71

Detlef Gronenborn

Beyond the models: 'Neolithisation' in Central Europe

73-98

John Robb & Preston Miracle

Beyond 'migration' versus 'acculturation': new models for the spread of


agriculture

99-115

Alex Bentley

Mobility, specialisation and community diversity in the Linearbandkeramik:


isotopic evidence from the skeletons

117-140

Richard P Evershed

Exploiting molecular and isotopic signals at the Mesolithic-Neolithic


transition

141-164

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Neolithic cattle domestication as seen from ancient DNA

165-187

Anne Tresset & Jean-Denis Vigne

Substitution of species, techniques and symbols at the Mesolithic-Neolithic


transition in Western Europe

189-210

Pierre Allard

The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the Paris Basin: a review

211-223

Grgor Marchand

Neolithic fragrances : Mesolithic-Neolithic interactions in western France

225-242

Chris Scarre

Changing places: monuments and the Neolithic transition in western France

243-261

Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

The neolithisation of the Scheldt basin in western Belgium

263-285

Leendert P Louwe Kooijmans

The gradual transition to farming in the Lower Rhine Basin

287-309

Graeme Warren

Mesolithic myths

311-328

Chris Tilley

The Neolithic sensory revolution: monumentality and the experience of


landscape

329-345

Richard Bradley

Houses, bodies and tombs

347-355

Amy Bogaard & Glynis Jones

Neolithic farming in Britain and central Europe: contrast or continuity?

357-375

Alasdair Whittle

The temporality of transformation: dating the early development of the


southern British Neolithic

377-398

Gill Hey & Alistair Barclay

The Thames Valley in the late fifth and early fourth millennium cal BC: the
appearance of domestication and the evidence for change

399-422

Julian Thomas

Mesolithic-Neolithic transitions in Britain: from essence to inhabitation

423-439

Alison Sheridan

From Picardie to Pickering and Pencraig Hill? New information on the


'Carinated Bowl Neolithic' in northern Britain

441-492

Vicki Cummings

From midden to megalith? The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in western


Britain

493-510

Steven Mithen, Anne Pirie, Sam Smith &


Karen Wicks,

The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in western Scotland: a review and new


evidence from Tiree

511-541

Gabriel Cooney

Parallel worlds or multi-stranded identities? Considering the process of


'going over' in Ireland and the Irish Sea zone

543-566

Snke Hartz, Harald Lbke & Thomas


Terberger

From fish and seal to sheep and cattle: new research into the process of
neolithisation in northern Germany

567-594

Lars Larsson

Mistrust traditions, consider innovations? The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition 595-616


in southern Scandinavia

Alasdair Whittle

Going over: people and their times

617-628

Preface
In proposing this conference to The British Academy I am grateful first to
fellow members of Section H7 for their encouragement, and especially to
Professor Paul Mellars for his advice and guidance. I would like to thank the
Research Committee and the Publications Committee of The British
Academy for their support, Angela Pusey for her help in the setting up of the
conference, and James Rivington and Amritpal Bangard for their help in the
publication of these papers. We are also grateful to Hilary Meeks for her
expert copy editing. The conference took place in Cardiff University on
1618 May 2005, and I am grateful to my colleagues Liz Walker, Sue Virgo,
Ian Dennis and Steve Mills for their various inputs, as well as to Vicki
Cummings for her help throughout. Daniela Hofmann looked after registration and accounts, and she, Ollie Harris, Jessica Mills, Andy Cochrane and
Penny Bickle gave invaluable support during the conference itself. Finally,
Vicki and I would like to thank all the contributors for their efforts to submit
papers promptly and to schedule.
ALASDAIR WHITTLE
Cardiff School of History and Archaeology
Cardiff University
June 2006

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Introduction: transitions and


transformations
ALASDAIR WHITTLE & VICKI CUMMINGS

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT, in the long run and on a global scale, the transition from hunter-gatherer existence to farming society has had profound consequences for mankind. A world of vastly increased numbers, developed
social hierarchy, institutional diversity, technological innovation, and social
forms such as states and empires, is scarcely conceivable to us on the basis of
subsistence provided by hunting and gathering, even though there are interesting examples of hunter-gatherer social complexity such as found on the
North-west Coast of America. In these terms, adopting farming, settling
down, and becoming Neolithic, constituted one of the big changes in human
history, with big consequences, the effects of which we are still experiencing
today. The transformation can even be seen in moral terms, as a kind of fall
from a state of grace in the world of hunters and foragers, where different values and ideals prevailed, promoting sharing among people, creatures and the
earth itself (Brody 2001): a view that resonates today in an era of humanly
induced climate change.
Archaeology can identify, in broad terms, when these processes of change
and their subsequent consequences began, in a series of regional early
Holocene sequences around the globe. The situation in Europe appears
dependent on earlier developments in the Near East. As far as central and
north-west Europe is concerned, we can state with some confidence, after well
over a century of research in many areas, that there were no farmers before
6000 cal BC, and very few hunter-gatherers after 4000 cal BC except in peripheral regions. Surely, the optimist might claim, we are getting better not only
at the timescales, but also at understanding the main features of transformation: the connections with south-east Europe and beyond there with the Near
East, the spread of agriculture, sedentism and related new material practices,
the adaptations and adoptions of the people already there in the face of or in
reaction to incoming population, and the resultant, steady increase in social
complexity. Some might even argue that we are getting better at grasping
the major mechanisms and stimuli of change, such as leapfrog or targeted
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 14, The British Academy 2007.

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Alasdair Whittle & Vicki Cummings

colonisation in search of prime conditions for agricultural life, on the one


hand, or responses to abrupt and major alterations in climatic conditions, on
the other.
In this perspective, the terms of debate have long been fixed, and the task
is to sift existing evidence and to win new data, in order further to refine the
timescalesabove all to grasp the moment of transition from one kind of
existence to anotherand to weigh in the balance the competing claims,
region by region, for a dominant role by colonisers or indigenous people.
That kind of debate has certainly been more complicated since the contribution of indigenous people was seriously acknowledged, which we could date
back to the appearance of the Man the hunter volume (Lee & DeVore 1968).
It has also become more interesting over the last 3040 years as more and
more evidence has been made available, region by region, by a combination
of research and contract/rescue investigations.
How long-term processes have ended, however, does not tell us automatically how they began. The consequence of this teleological fallacy is that our
narratives are given a predetermined form, shaped by long-term outcomes on
the one hand and a globalising perspective on the other. We therefore tend to
look for particular moments of transition, to privilege certain features such
as subsistence, residence, population and social complexity from the outset
and to discuss north-west Europe in the terms of everywhere else. What if
other things were in play in our particular area (and indeed elsewhere), including novel ways of thinking about the world, about time, about identity and
about sociality? What if the connections with elsewhere were not so much to
do with dependence as contingency: making use of what happened to become
available through other histories? What if new practices could be adopted
while existing, older ways of thinkingabout self, others and the natural
worldwere still dominant? What if the processes of change required or
resulted in complex mergings of both identity and practice, which our essentialising labels of hunter-gatherers versus farmers, or worse still Mesolithic
versus Neolithic, are simply inadequate to signify? What if we started with
the radical premise that most or all societies in the post-glacial period
whatever their subsistence or technological basewere normally in a state of
transformation, which would offer a quite different perspective on the holy
grail of finding moments of Mesolithic-Neolithic transition?
With these starting points, our enquiry in north-west Europe could transform itself from being a footnote to large-scale, global processes whose character and consequences had already been largely determined, and become
instead a detailed, particularising case study of change in specific human
societies, in particular times and places. As such, it can be seen as a contribution also to contemporary debate in archaeology about the play between

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INTRODUCTION

agency and structure, the place of individual actors, and the meaning and
significance of diversity.
The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition has been investigated in Denmark for
some 150 years (Fischer & Kristiansen 2002), and Enlightenment philosophers such as Rousseau and Hume had already speculated extensively about
the shape and nature of social development. The dominant twentieth-century
trope was rapid and extensive change brought from the outside, but in northwest and central Europe an allowance for the contribution of indigenous
people can be traced back to the effects of Lee and DeVore (1968), suggestions by figures such as Humphrey Case (1976) and Pieter Modderman
(1988), and modelling by Marek Zvelebil and Peter Rowley-Conwy (1986),
among others. Other important and relevant recent theoretical trends to note
include debates on agency (e.g. Barrett 2001), dwelling (e.g. Ingold 2000) and
personhood (e.g. Fowler 2004; cf. Bailey & Whittle 2005; Pluciennik 1998).
Because the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition has long been in focus, there have
been many reviews of it, which it is not our intention here to list in detail.
There have been other good, recent collections of papers, but with either
rather broad European (e.g. Ammerman & Biagi 2003; Price 2000) or more
concentrated regional coverage (e.g. Marchand & Tresset 2005; Zvelebil et al.
1998). We have to go much further back in the literature to find a comparable regional coverage to that offered in the papers here, to the closed shop
of the former Atlantic Colloquium (e.g. Palaeohistoria 12 of 1966, and de
Laet 1976).
While we have arranged the order of papers largely on a geographical
basis, this volume also offers a wider range of approaches, which we believe
is another distinctive feature. It was as important for us to include discussion
of isotopic and aDNA analyses or plant remains and animal bone assemblages, for example, as to assemble a coherent regional coverage from northern Spain to southern Scandinavia. It has not been possible for every
thematic treatment presented at the conference itself to be included in the
volume, and if space were not a limitation we could have commissioned yet
more regional syntheses. We do not claim that the volume as a whole presents
a new consensus on the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in north-west
Europe. Some authors argue vigorously for the colonisation model (see also
Rowley-Conwy 2004), and others just as strongly for the indigenist perspective; some at least may agree with our own view of the complexities involved
and the likely resultant fusions of identities and practices. All would agree, we
think, about the diversity of the processes involved, and that sense of variation on not a single but several themes will act, we hope, as a spur to further
investigation and interpretation of this most intriguing and challenging of
changes.

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Alasdair Whittle & Vicki Cummings


REFERENCES

AMMERMAN, A. J. & BIAGI, P. (eds) 2003. The widening harvest. The Neolithic transition in
Europe: looking back, looking forward. Boston: American Institute of Archaeology.
BAILEY, D. & WHITTLE, A. 2005. Unsettling the Neolithic: breaking down concepts, boundaries and origins. In D. Bailey, A. Whittle & V. Cummings (eds), (un)settling the Neolithic,
17. Oxford: Oxbow.
BARRETT, J. C. 2001. Agency, the duality of structure, and the problem of the archaeological
record. In I. Hodder (ed.), Archaeological theory today, 14164. Oxford: Blackwell.
BRODY, H. 2001. The other side of Eden: hunter-gatherers, farmers and the shaping of the world.
London: Faber and Faber.
CASE, H. J. 1976. Acculturation and the Earlier Neolithic in western Europe. In S. J. de Laet
(ed.), Acculturation and continuity in Atlantic Europe, 4558. Brugge: de Tempel.
DE LAET, S. J. (ed.) 1976. Acculturation and continuity in Atlantic Europe. Brugge: de Tempel.
FISCHER, A. & KRISTIANSEN, K. (eds) 2002. The Neolithisation of Denmark. 150 years of
debate. Sheffield: J. R. Collis Publications.
FOWLER, C. 2004. The archaeology of personhood: an anthropological approach. London:
Routledge.
INGOLD, T. 2000. The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill.
London: Routledge.
LEE, R. B. & DEVORE, I. (eds) 1968. Man the hunter. Chicago: Aldine.
MARCHAND, G. & TRESSET, A. (eds) 2005. Unit et diversit du processus de Nolithisation
de la faade atlantique de lEurope (7e4e millnaires avant notre re). Paris: Mmoire 36 de
la Socit Prhistorique Franaise.
MODDERMAN, P. J. R. 1988. The Linear Pottery culture: diversity in uniformity. Berichten van
het Rijksdienst voor Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek 38, 63140.
PLUCIENNIK, M. 1998. Deconstructing the Neolithic in the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition.
In M. Edmonds & C. Richards (eds), Understanding the Neolithic of north-western Europe,
6183. Glasgow: Cruithne Press.
PRICE, T. D. (ed.) 2000. Europes first farmers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ROWLEY-CONWY, P. 2004. How the west was lost: a reconsideration of agricultural origins in
Britain, Ireland and southern Scandinavia. Current Anthropology 45, Supplement AugustOctober 2004, 83113.
SKA, L. (eds) 1998. Harvesting the sea, farming
ZVELEBIL, M., DENNELL, R. & DOMAN
the forest: the emergence of Neolithic societies in the Baltic region. Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press.
ZVELEBIL, M. & ROWLEY-CONWY, P. 1986. Foragers and farmers in Atlantic Europe. In
M. Zvelebil (ed.), Hunters in transition: Mesolithic societies in temperate Eurasia and their
transition to farming, 6793. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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From Mesolithic to Neolithic


modes of thought
ALAN BARNARD

THIS PAPER HAS ITS ORIGIN in the comparative study of an observed


Mesolithic to Neolithic-type transition (actually in African tool-tradition
terms, Later Stone Age to Iron Age): the present-day shift from hunting and
gathering to agro-pastoralism in southern Africa. But before entering into
comparisons between Europe and Africa, let me make two disclaimers. First,
the paper is not specifically concerned with theories of the spread of herding
or farming. Indeed, my model is not contingent on any particular perspective
in archaeological theory or model of neolithisation (such as wave of
advance or indigenous development). It could prove useful under various
theoretical banners in reinterpreting aspects of the archaeological record
with reference to economics, sociality, politics, land use, and inter-group
interactions in the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Secondly, the paper is
concerned not with direct ethnographic analogy, but rather with relational
analogy.
A relational analogy involves comparable archaeological periods, and it
involves equivalent sets of structural relations. Comparable here means literally compare-able; it does not mean identical. The pitfalls of crude ethnographic analogy are avoided because the model is structural and not dependent
on ethnographic or archaeological detail.

SOUTHERN AFRICAN/EUROPEAN COMPARISONS


My own field of research is as a social anthropologist among huntergatherers, part-time hunter-gatherers, and former hunter-gatherers (and
some herding groups) in southern Africa. These groups are comparable in
many ways to north-west European Mesolithic populations. The surrounding
agro-pastoral populations are similarly comparable to European Neolithic
peoples.

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 519, The British Academy 2007.

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Alan Barnard

A word on the history of archaeology in the two regions is worthwhile. In


north-west Europe, the term Neolithic is attributed to Lubbock (1865, 12),
who made the contrast between the Neolithic and Palaeolithic ages.
Mesolithic was first used a year later, by Westrop, though what he described
was more the Upper Palaeolithic than what we call today the Mesolithic.
Piette in the 1880s and 1890s began to uncover the Mesolithic as we know it,
but used other terms for the periods he described (Bahn 1996, 1223; Daniel
1975, 12330). Read (1911, 347) mentions the Mesolithic (in inverted commas) as an attempt to bridge the gap between Palaeolithic and Neolithic, but
asserts that it would not seem probable that the missing links will occur at all
events as far north as Britain.
In southern Africa, early archaeologists sought to fit what they found into
European paradigms (Deacon 1990). Scholars at first used the terms
Palaeolithic and Neolithic, though the Cambridge anthropologist A. C.
Haddon, on a visit in 1905, argued that South African archaeology must
develop its own understandings of its Stone Age. Leading amateur archaeologists of the following decade, such as Johnson and Pringey, would only
go half way and used a mixture of local and European terminology. Pringey
died in 1924, and this gave the first professional, A. J. H. Goodwin, the
chance to go through his collection. Goodwin first presented his specifically
southern African typology in 1925, and by 1929 his detailed classification of
Stone Age cultures was complete (Goodwin & Van Riet Lowe 1929). It is the
one still in use.
The comparable ages then are, for Europe the modified Lubbock scheme
with Mesolithic and Neolithic, and for southern Africa the Goodwin scheme
comprising for our purposes here his Later Stone Age (or Late Stone Age, in
contemporary ethnography, Bushmen or San) and the Iron Age (Bantuspeaking agro-pastoralists). I stress that the southern African Later Stone
Age is analogous to the European Mesolithic, not the Neolithic. The southern African Iron Age is analogous to the European Neolithic, not the
European Iron Age (in modern usage, southern Africa has no Neolithic and
no Bronze Age).

NEOLITHISATION: MODELS FROM SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY


The next question, if I can employ the word neolithisation in a southern
African context, is when such neolithisation began there among its huntergatherer population. The traditional view among southern African ethnographers of so-called Bushman or San groups (actually a diverse set of
populations) is that it begins now; processes comparable to neolithisation
have been witnessed a great many times by several ethnographers in the last

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FROM MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT

four or five decades (e.g. Guenther 1986). The revisionist view, among several
other ethnographers, archaeologists and historians (e.g. Wilmsen & Denbow
1990), is that it began some 1500 years ago and seemingly was rapid in its
effects on ways of life. The traditionalists are essentially gradualists, and see
slow transition rather than rapid revolution as the best description of the
process of change towards a full agricultural economy. Thus, in a sense, they
are in agreement with many today in their understanding of the process in
Europe, whereas the revisionists in that sense replicate at least a simplified
image of Gordon Childes classic vision of a Neolithic Revolution. I shall
return to this question later.
In social anthropology some five models have been created in order to
explain differences between foraging (Mesolithic) and non-foraging
(Neolithic) economies. Those concerned with the problem tend to be huntergatherer specialists, whereas in archaeology those concerned with the problem tend to be Neolithic (i.e. non-hunter-gatherer) specialists. The main
reason is simply that social anthropologists who do fieldwork among living
hunter-gatherers see themselves in terms of the transition which their
societies have gone through. We academics are all post-Mesolithic; our
hunter-gatherer informants are not.
The five models of foraging society include Sahlins original affluent society, Woodburns immediate-return economic systems, Bird-Davids giving
environment, the Marxists foraging mode of production, and my foraging
mode of thought. Sahlins (1974, 139) sees the perception of affluence
among hunter-gatherers as being based on the value of leisure time rather
than wealth; thus the Neolithic Revolution, as he, like Childe, sees it,
increases wealth but not leisure time. In the 1970s, one Botswana government
officer noted that original affluence in such a sense presupposes that there is
no post-Mesolithic, in other words that the model works only for those
who are not surrounded (as of course present-day Bushmen are) by agropastoralists. Sahlins model nevertheless survives, albeit with modifications,
in the tool-kit of anthropologists who are interested in transitions comparable to the Mesolithic-Neolithic. The most significant alteration has been
one suggested by Bird-David (1992), that we should take greater account of
cultural perceptions, especially sharing, in understanding original affluence.
The second model is Woodburns (1980) idea of immediate-return, as
contrasted to delayed-return, economic systems. Most hunter-gatherers are
immediate-return, but complex hunter-gatherers, along with all non-huntergatherers, are delayed-return. For Woodburn, delayed-return hunter-gatherers
include those who store or invest time in making nets, those such as
Australian Aborigines who farm out their women (i.e. who have complicated kinship systems based on investment in reproduction), and any who
are only part-time hunter-gatherers (i.e. who engage, however slightly, in

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Alan Barnard

pastoralism or horticulture). The last might include European Mesolithic


hunter-gatherers, especially any with partly domesticated plants and animals
(cf. Zvelebil & Lillie 2000).
Bird-Davids (1990) model of the giving environment supposes that
hunter-gatherers perceive environments differently to farmers. For huntergatherers, the environment shares; one does not extract from it, and this is
related too to her later notion of the cosmic economy of sharing. Marxists
have emphasised production: what they have called the foraging mode of production or the communal mode of production (e.g. Lee 1981). The emphasis is
on the interplay between production and social relations. My own model
places the emphasis differently: on economic ideology (mode of thought)
rather than on production.
In earlier papers, I have distinguished a foraging or hunter-gatherer mode
of thought from an accumulation mode of thought. The model was derived
in part by altering the terms of reference of Marxist notions. In changing the
emphasis from subsistence to the ideological basis of diverse economies, different sets of social relations become apparent. Like modes of production,
modes of thought are in articulation; and in my observations in southern
Africa, the foraging mode of thought has proven more resilient than either
traditionalist or revisionist understandings would predict. My concern has
been with the continuity of the foraging mode of thought in transitional societies (i.e. ones that no longer practise pure foraging but possess livestock or
crops), and it is apparent at least in the Kalahari that the transition is a slow
one; people can hold on to ideologies reflecting foraging for generations, even
when their systems of production have undergone transition.
For the purposes of this paper, what I have previously labelled the foraging mode of thought will be described as Mesolithic, and what I have
described as the accumulation mode of thought will be called Neolithic.
What this implies is both that the significant European archaeological periods for these are Mesolithic and Neolithic, and that the transition there is
comparable to the observed differences between foraging and accumulation
practices in southern Africa (cf. Gronenborn 2004).

MESOLITHIC AND NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT


My two proposed modes of thought are characterised by opposite perceptions in at least four domains: saving versus consumption (which reflect
notions of time and work); decision-making and political hierarchy; degree
and kind of kin category extension; and notions of land, place and settlement.
All of these have implications for understanding group structure, transhumance, migration, and so on. These are discussed with detailed evidence in

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FROM MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT

earlier papers (especially Barnard 2002), so for reasons of space just short
summaries and figurative representations will be presented here. A fifth
domain, identity in terms of ethnic group and nation, is not relevant for
Mesolithic-Neolithic comparisons, but I can add, at least for archaeological
speculation, several new ones: relative equality (gender, class and age), ritual
and belief, related aspects of kinship structure and memory, and magical
practices (including good magic, witchcraft and sorcery). Just the first of
these new ones lends itself to diagrammatic representation.
Take sharing (and immediate consumption) versus accumulation (Fig. 1).
Of course all hunter-gatherers accumulate and store to some extent, and I
include immediate-return Bushmen as well as complex hunter-gatherers like
those who lived at the time of contact on the north-west coast of North
America. However, what Bushmen value is sharing over accumulation, and
this usually takes the form of distribution, particularly of meat. Bushmen
value sharing not just in the sense of a belief that those who share are good
people, but also in the sense that failing to share is anti-social. Society itself
is based on sharing, and is offended by accumulation. Evidence for this
includes the very fact that people conceal accumulation, while nevertheless
acknowledging its existence. For example, one may have two tobacco
pouchesa full one, which is hidden, and a relatively empty one, to show
people and to share from. Furthermore, exchange is related to sharing, and
not equated with it. The well-known system of hxaro (as the Ju/hoansi or
!Kung call it) or //a (the Nharo or Naro term) is a sphere of exchange in
which non-consumable, movable property is exchanged for similar property,
but always with a delay. What is important is that the delay creates an ongoing relationship of generalised rights of access to resources, including water,
firewood, and rights to hunt in ones exchange partners territory: in other
words, a system of informal sharing that formal exchange overlies.
The second domain concerns decision-making and political hierarchy
(Fig. 2). Hunter-gatherers tend to have a political ethos in which leaders
emerge for specific tasks. Leadership is often not long-lasting and is generally
not hereditary. It may exist only for some specific purpose, such as for a hunt
or a ritual. Leaders aid in consensus-based decision-making, but they do not
hold power. Indeed, the act of seeking power is discouraged, and it would
weaken their prestige if it became apparent. One might claim that much the
same is true in some other societies, but hunter-gatherers couple the position
of self-seeking individuality with a low opinion of power itself. Even leaders
who have power thrust upon them are sometimes reluctant to take on the
role, as in one case I witnessed of the inability of a Ju/hoan group to find a
representative to speak to a government official. Leaders, though they might
bear labels like big one or great one, do not like making the decisions for
the rest of their communities.

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Alan Barnard

10

MESOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT


Accumulation

Anti-social (equated with


not sharing)

Immediate consumption

Social (equated with sharing


with family and community)

NEOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT

Figure 1.

Accumulation

Social (equated with saving


for self and dependants)

Immediate consumption

Anti-social (equated with


not saving)

Sharing (immediate consumption) and accumulation.


MESOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT
Leadership

Negative (associated with


self interest)

Followership

Positive (associated with deference


to the will of the community)

NEOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT


Leadership

Positive (associated with


high status)

Followership

Negative (associated with low


status or possibly lack of initiative)

Figure 2. Followership and leadership.

The third domain may seem strange to archaeologists, but it is ethnographically attested throughout the world. Hunter-gatherers have universal
systems of kin classification, in which each member of society classifies every
other as belonging to a particular kin category (Fig. 3). This means that there
is no distinction between kin and non-kin. The mechanism of classification
varies greatly, even within southern Africa, but among both Ju/hoansi and
Nharo, for example, it is done through personal names. There are a limited
number of these, and they cycle through the generations from grandparent to
grandchild; anyone with the same name is believed to be descended from the
same namesake-ancestor and is therefore a grandrelative. A sisters namesake will be a sister, a daughters namesake a daughter, and so on (usually

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FROM MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT

11

MESOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT


Kin classification

Universal (everyone classed


as kin)

Society

Equated with kinship

NEOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT

Figure 3.

Kin classification

Non-universal (distinction between


kin and non-kin)

Society

Equated with tribe or ethnic group

The extent of kin classification.

MESOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT


Land

Sacrosanct (associated with


primordial possession)

People

Sovereign (people as free


individuals)

NEOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT

Figure 4.

Land

Sovereign (associated with alienable


wealth or political authority)

People

Sacrosanct (people as citizens


of a larger unit)

People and land.

older people classify younger, and the latter reciprocate appropriately). All
this determines things like incest and marriageability and whether to be informal or formal in verbal or physical association. Non-Bushmen who stay for
some length of time are given names too in order to fit them into the system.
Universal kinship often remains important even after permanent settlement,
and it ties in clearly with the idea that one has kinship with people across vast
areas, and not merely within ones own locality. It is easy to envisage this in
Mesolithic Europe too. The system is not dependent on trade or migration;
it is conducive to the exploitation of shared hunted and gathered resources,
seasonal movements, and great flexibility in group structure.

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Alan Barnard

12

MESOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT


Equality

Natural (equated with social


harmony)

Inequality

Unnatural (equated with antisocial


behaviour, boasting, etc.)

NEOLITHIC MODE OF THOUGHT

Figure 5.

Equality

Unnatural (equated with stagnation)

Inequality

Natural (equated with ability to


accumulate, achievement, competition)

Relative equality.

Attitudes to land are embedded in local knowledge and longstanding


relations between peoples and their respective environments, and this represents my fourth domain. Accumulators and foragers may understand relations between land and people in reverse (Fig. 4). Agricultural peoples in the
modern world will tend to see land more in terms of sovereignty: for example with regard to the nation-states authority to decide what does and what
does not constitute legal ownership. They see semi-sacred rights of freedom
and so on, as vested in the people independently of the land they occupy.
Foragers and recent former foragers, however, see their lands as associated
with inalienable rights and the primordial possession of land by kin groups.
They see people as innately free and the state as the usurper, not the guarantor, of freedom and mutual aid. Agricultural peoples accumulate land by
conquest or purchase, whereas for most foraging peoples this is not possible
because relations between people and land are different, in terms of ritual
association, economic association, notions of ownership and knowledge, and
perceptions of power and rights.
My fifth case here is that of relative equality (Fig. 5). In an egalitarian
hunter-gatherer society, equality is associated with natural social harmony.
Bushmen value modesty and see any attempt to boast or assert superiority as
out of the order of things. Inegalitarian societies include examples from
Neolithic (and no doubt some Late Mesolithic) to capitalist, and my contention is that these will see the idea of social hierarchy differently. Of course,
there are many forms of social hierarchy, and these can be based on gender,
on class, on age, and so on. The significant thing here is simply the contrast
between the two forms. It is possible that some Late Mesolithic groups might
be seen for these purposes as Neolithic, or in any case deviating from

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13

the model. This does not negate the model for the Mesolithic (or huntergatherers) in more general terms.
Finally, we have the cases of ritual and belief, memory and kinship, and
magical practices. These do not lend themselves to diagrammatic representation with two dyadic sets of relations. Let me here simply offer speculation on
the basis of my ethnographic experience. In terms of ritual and belief,
Mesolithic sites are not present in the archaeological record, and in a
Mesolithic mode of thought (like a Bushman or San one) I would expect ritual to be focused above all else on sociality. Living hunter-gatherers throughout the world base their rituals on sociality: more specifically on either curing
(as in the main Bushman ritual activities), on shamanic practices, or on
totemic association. In contrast, Neolithic sites are of course apparent in the
archaeological record, and I would expect that in contrast to a Mesolithic
mode of thought, the Neolithic would be focused on forces external to society and on kin groups within society (i.e. not society as a whole). These latter
could be totemic groups or simply ancestors. In Africa and many other parts
of the world, hunter-gatherers tend not to have unilineal descent groups,
whereas small-scale agro-pastoralists do. Hunter-gatherers, often nomadic,
have less emphasis on specific sites, even for example in burial of the dead.
There are exceptions, such as burial sites like Skateholm in Sweden, and
indeed the sedentary hunter-gatherer communities of Late Mesolithic southern Scandinavia as a whole may be the exception (see for example Larsson
1990; but also Larsson, this volume). That said, one can easily see classic
Neolithic burial sites as part of the general change of emphasis towards such
different kinds of genealogical memory in post-hunter-gatherer society (cf.
Whittle 1996, 89; 2003, 10732).
In a Mesolithic mode of thought, magic should be rare but communal,
focused either on good (in the abstract) or on non-humans (such as hunted
animals). This accords with the situation among all Bushman groups, and
many other hunter-gatherers too. In a Neolithic mode of thought, as in Iron
Age southern African and many other non-foraging communities, I would
expect magic to be more common and individual, focused either on affines or
on enemies.

THE PERSISTENCE OF MESOLITHIC THOUGHT INTO


THE NEOLITHIC?
Today we talk about the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Childe talked instead
about a Neolithic Revolution. To me, it is not a matter of either/or, and indeed
Childe himself (1936, 105) referred to his revolution as the climax of a long
process. The Neolithic did eventually yield a revolutionary new way of

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Alan Barnard

thinking for those societies undergoing the transition. It is not simply a matter of how many generations, or how many steps the transition requires. I say
this as someone who has observed a similar transition taking place, in my
period of observation over some thirty years, on and off; and in terms of
the full duration of the transition, much longer of course. Southern African
revisionists talk in terms of a millennium and a half of transition from first
contact between Iron Age agro-pastoralists and Later Stone Age huntergatherers.
The prevailing opinion among revisionists is that contact itself creates
new ways of thinking, and this fits too with Woodburns (1980) model. My
view is that both sides in that debate have overestimated the impact of culture
contact on mode of thought. Traditionalists used to expect purity from their
hunter-gatherers: one hundred percent or they do not count as real huntergatherers. Revisionists seem to expect the same. To exaggerate slightly, in the
traditionalist mind, the hunter-gatherer ceased to exist just after ones fieldwork; in the revisionist mind, the hunter-gatherer ceased to exist much
earlier, perhaps a millennium ago. Both sides are saying the same thing: the
hunter-gatherer mode of thought has disappeared.
I have seen and documented many cases of the persistence of huntergatherer thought among semi-sedentary and sedentary hunter-gatherercultivators and even among San wage labourers from diverse parts of the
Kalahari (e.g. Barnard 1988). So too have other ethnographers. What these
observations indicate is that mode of thought is much slower to change than
mode of production. Social relations (relations of production, if you like)
retain the structures of hunter-gatherer times if these are deeply rooted in
cultural understandings of sociality. The existence nearby of agro-pastoralists
does not make former hunter-gatherers think more like agro-pastoralists; it
may even accentuate the differences in their thinking by making each side
more aware of what makes them, say, Nharo or Tswana (or Mesolithic or
Neolithic).
Let me illustrate with two examples from southern Africa. My ethnographic summaries are necessarily very short and simplified, but they should
serve as models for thinking about possibilities in the transition of Late
Mesolithic groups in contact with a Neolithic culture to a Neolithic way of
thinking. My first example concerns individuals in Bugakhoe and Tsexa
Bushman communities in the swampy areas of northern Botswana, north of
the Kalahari. These have been described by Michael Taylor in his thesis on
community-based natural resource management in the area (Taylor 2000).
He describes how both livelihoods and identities are malleable and contextual. Individuals can operate in diverse economic situations: traditional hunting, gathering and fishing; subsistence-herding; being part of the modern
economy when temporarily in the south of the country, and so on. It is not

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FROM MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT

15

just that they have diverse strategies, but that they seem to think in terms of
different cultural systems (or modes of thought).
My second example concerns a specific community of Hai//om Bushmen
in northern Namibia. Aspects of the relation between Hai//om and their
neighbours and their transition to new ways have long existed in the ethnographic record, but my interest here is with the apparent seasonal difference
between hunting and gathering (in the winter dry season) and agriculture (in
the summer wet season). Among his descriptions of diverse settlement types,
Thomas Widlok (1999, 16470) describes seasonal movements between three
of particular interest here. One, which I had the good fortune to visit briefly
with Widlok in the dry season of 1991, is located in a remote mangetti (mongongo) grove some two hours walk from the nearest water. This group stays
there for only a few weeks of the year, but their lifestyle is based purely on
gathering and hunting. The main part of the dry season is spent at another
camp where water is permanently available, but where gathering and hunting
still provide the bulk of subsistence and there is little contact between the
Hai//om and their agricultural neighbours. Yet they spend the wet season at
another site, where they work for Ovambo agro-pastoralists, grow their own
crops, and even structure their encampment and build their dwellings in
Ovambo style. In European terms, it would not be too far-fetched to translate this pattern to a hypothetical community with a winter Mesolithic way of
life and a summer Neolithic way of life.
In broad terms, the foraging mode of thought is resilient and resistant to
contact with agro-pastoralists. Typical characteristics of hunter-gatherer
society include a band level of social organisation, large territory for size of
population, lack of social hierarchy, universal kinship (everyone being classified kind of kin, no non-kin), widespread sharing, a dualistic mentality
(farmers think in threes), symbolic relations between hunted animals and
humans, and flexibility in all realms. The very flexibility of such groups
enables the survival of many of the other attributes (cf. Barnard 1999; 2002).
Or, as Widlok (1999, 107) has put it: . . . former hunter-gatherers now forage
on agropastoralist economies and on the State without changing their internal social organisation drastically and without necessarily adopting new
social institutions.
Why should a hunter-gatherer population take up agro-pastoral pursuits
(cf. Sadr 2002)? There could be many reasons, of course: climate change (and,
for example, sea-level change in the case of Europe), population pressure,
pressure on old resources or the availability of new resources, political domination (either directly or through trade), culture change (including religious
conversion), desire for sedentary lifestyle, or desire for greater accumulation
of wealth. In considering these, it is wise to consider at the same time the
huge differences in mindset involved in the transition, both to the addition

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Alan Barnard

16

of livestock as a major focus and to the addition of cultivating. These


differences are illustrated diagrammatically in Fig. 6 and Fig. 7.
Let me return to the Hai//om for two final examples of the difficulties
involved in the transition to a Neolithic mode of thought. In Botswana there
is a practice, known in the Tswana language as mafisa, whereby poor people
(often Bushmen) look after livestock for better-off people (usually Tswana)
and in return receive products from the livestock, or sometimes calves or kids
born to the cattle or goats they look after. Among the Hai//om in Namibia,
Widlok (1999, 11319) refers to a roughly equivalent practice as inverse
mafisa. The difference is that in inverse mafisa, the poor person (a Hai//om)
acquires his own livestock and leaves them with a well-off Ovambo, who in
turn keeps the products of the arrangement. Why does it occur? Plainly not
for economic advantage on the part of the poor Hai//om, but for social reasons: it is not good to be seen to have wealth, so one pays to deposit it elsewhere. It is as if one were to pay interest to a bank for keeping ones money!
In another example from Widloks (1999, 1006) ethnography, Hai//om sell
gathered mangetti nuts to Ovambo. The Ovambo make liquor from the
nuts, then sell it to the Hai//om at a profit. Again, Ovambo get wealthier

Figure 6.

Hunting and gathering versus herding, hunting and gathering.

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FROM MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC MODES OF THOUGHT

Figure 7.

17

Hunting and gathering versus cultivating, hunting and gathering.

and Hai//om poorer, with the only gain for the latter being the retention of
original affluence in the form of more free time.

FINAL REFLECTIONS
A Neolithic Revolution is, of course, both technological and ideological,
and need not either be quick or affect all Mesolithic groups in contact with
Neolithic peoples equally (cf. Price 2000, 31418). Proper use of analogy is
not to pick up and drop on to, but more subtle than thatto be used to think
with. I can provide an analogy, but it is up to archaeologists to decide how
and where it might be useful. Indeed, I can see the case for analogy in reverse.
For example, it may be significant for the rethinking of Kalahari revisionism
that the timescale from first farmers in the Kalahari to the present, about
1500 years, is almost exactly the period reckoned for the process of neolithisation in the Netherlands (Verhart 2000, 233). As Louwe Kooijmans (1998,
51) puts it: The main problem with respect to the agricultural transformation
of Northern Europe is not why the new system was adopted, but why it was
adopted only after a substantial time lag.

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18

Alan Barnard

Nor should the original affluent society or Mesolithic mode of thought


necessarily be regarded as either quite so original or quite so backward as it
may seem to us, in any post-Mesolithic Agebe it Neolithic, southern
African Late Stone Age, or global capitalist. The Mesolithic mode of
thought was a different value system from what came after (cf. RowleyConwy 2001), and whether economically rational or otherwise represents a
manner of thinking that encodes perceptions of social behaviour, relations to
land and so on, that are both adaptive and equally rational in their own
terms.
Note. I am grateful to Magdalena Midgley and Thomas Widlok for comments on
an earlier draft.

REFERENCES
BAHN, P. G. (ed.) 1996. The Cambridge illustrated history of archaeology. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
BARNARD, A. 1988. Cultural identity, ethnicity and marginalization among the Bushmen of
southern Africa. In R. Vossen (ed.), New perspectives on the study of Khoisan, 927.
Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
BARNARD, A. 1999. Modern hunter-gatherers and early symbolic culture. In R. Dunbar,
C. Knight, & C. Power (eds), The evolution of culture: an interdisciplinary view, 5068.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
BARNARD, A. 2002. The foraging mode of thought. In H. Stewart, A. Barnard & K. Omura
(eds), Self- and other images of hunter-gatherers, 524. Osaka: National Museum of
Ethnology.
BIRD-DAVID, N. 1990. The giving environment: another perspective on the economic system
of gatherer-hunters. Current Anthropology 31, 18996.
BIRD-DAVID, N. 1992. Beyond the original affluent society: a culturalist reformulation.
Current Anthropology 33, 2547.
CHILDE, V. G. 1936. Man makes himself. London: Watts and Co.
DANIEL, G. 1975. A hundred and fifty years of archaeology (second edition). London:
Duckworth.
DEACON, J. 1990. Weaving the fabric of Stone Age research in Southern Africa. In
P. Robertshaw (ed.), A history of African archaeology, 3958. London: James Currey.
GOODWIN, A. J. H. & VAN RIET LOWE, C. 1929. The Stone Age cultures of South Africa.
Annals of the South African Museum 27, 1289.
GRONENBORN, D. 2004. Comparing contact-period archaeologies: the expansion of farming
and pastoralist societies to continental temperate Europe and to southern Africa. Before
Farming 2004/4, 135.
GUENTHER, M. 1986. The Nharo Bushmen of Botswana: tradition and change. Hamburg:
Helmut Buske Verlag.
LARSSON, L. 1990. The Mesolithic of southern Scandinavia. Journal of World Prehistory 4,
257310.
LEE, R. B. 1981. Is there a foraging mode of production? Canadian Journal of Anthropology
2(1), 1319.

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LOUWE KOOIJMANS, L. P. 1998. Between Geleen and Banpo: the agricultural transformation
of prehistoric society, 90004000 BC. Amsterdam: Stichting Nederlads Museum voor
Anthropologie en Praehistorie.
LUBBOCK, J. 1865. Pre-historic times, as illustrated by ancient remains, and the manners and
customs of modern savages. London: Williams and Norgate.
PRICE, T. D. 2000. Lessons in the transition to agriculture. In T. D. Price (ed.), Europes first
farmers, 30118. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
READ, C. H. 1911. Archaeology. Encyclopaedia Britannica (eleventh edition), 2, 34454.
ROWLEY-CONWY, P. 2001. Time, change and the archaeology of hunter-gatherers: how original is the original affluent society? In C. Panter-Brick, R. H. Layton & P. Rowley-Conwy
(eds), Hunter-gatherers: an interdisciplinary perspective, 3972. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
SADR, K. 2002. Encapsulated Bushmen in the archaeology of Thamaga. In S. Kent (ed.),
Ethnicity, hunter-gatherers, and the other: association or assimilation in Africa, 2847.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
SAHLINS, M. 1974. Stone age economics. London: Tavistock Publications.
TAYLOR, M. 2000. Life, land and power: contesting development in northern Botswana.
Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh.
VERHART, L. B. M. 2000. Times fade away: the neolithisation of the southern Netherlands in an
anthropological and geographical perspective. Leiden: Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden
University.
WHITTLE, A. 1996. Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
WHITTLE, A. 2003. The archaeology of people: dimensions of Neolithic life. London: Routledge.
WIDLOK, T. 1999. Living on mangetti: Bushman autonomy and Namibian independence.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
WILMSEN, E. N. & DENBOW, J. R. 1990. Paradigmatic history of San-speaking peoples and
current attempts at revision. Current Anthropology 31, 48924.
WOODBURN, J. 1980. Hunters and gatherers today and reconstruction of the past. In
E. Gellner (ed.), Soviet and Western anthropology, 95117. London: Duckworth.
ZVELEBIL, M. & LILLIE, M. 2000. Transition to agriculture in eastern Europe. In T. D. Price
(ed.), Europes first farmers, 5792. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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From Mesolithic to Early Neolithic in the


western Mediterranean
JEAN GUILAINE & CLAIRE MANEN

INTRODUCTION
THE TRANSITION FROM the Mesolithic to the Early Neolithic in the western
Mediterranean is a stimulating subject for more than one reason. First, the
regions geographic position means that it is a case of distant Neolithisation
(between 20003500 km) from the presumed epicentre of Neolithisation in
south-east Asia, around the Turko-Syrian border. Attempting to grasp the
economic, social or symbolic differences compared with the parent region is
in itself a challenging exercise. Indeed, this remoteness, associated with the
idea of a substantial and dynamic indigenous substratum, has frequently
fostered the idea that this zone could have toppled into the Neolithic by
a process of acculturation of the native populations. For many years debates
have in fact opposed upholders of a process of colonisation by maritime
routes and those in favour of a transition merely due to cultural dissemination and local adaptation of farming or other aspects of the Neolithic. How,
on the basis of archaeological data and their interpretation, can these diverse
questions be approached today, and what conclusions can be drawn from
them?
The geographical context taken into consideration here is that of the
broad western Mediterranean (Fig. 1), from Liguria (northern Italy) to the
Valencian region (Mediterranean Spain). The French regions will be more
specifically examined, but there will be frequent comparisons with the
Mediterranean shores of the Iberian peninsula.

THE LAST HUNTER-GATHERERS


Only the Final Mesolithic will be considered here, with no attempt to explain
the genesis of the cultural complexes involved.

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 2151, The British Academy 2007.

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39
4140
44 42 43
45 46

38

37

34 33
35 36

30
32 31
29 28

24

21

15
16
17
13 14
22

18

27 25
26

23

19
20
9
10 11
12

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Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

23

Geographical distribution: a state of research, or ecological selection?


The Mesolithic populations are still poorly known. Along the coast from
Liguria to Valencia there are relatively dense concentrations of sites (Lower
Ebro and southern Catalonia, Valencia) and zones completely empty of any
settlements (Liguria and coastal Catalonia). Is this due to an ecological selection of certain sectors to the detriment of others? It has often been observed
that sites of contacts between valleys and medium-altitude mountains are
privileged: the heart of the Causses region, or the Upper Segre for instance.
However, coastal or sub-coastal (Chteauneuf) occupations are also known.
The distribution map of Iberian sites grouping all those dated to between
6500 and 6000 cal BC points to a mainly peripheral, but fairly even, distribution (Juan-Cabanilles & Mart Oliver 2002). While the notion of systematic
poles seems plausible, it is certainly likely to be qualified under the effects of
a more balanced research policy. Indeed, there are areas where Mesolithic
and Cardial populations co-exist (such as western Provence and Valencia),
and others where they are mutually exclusive.
In addition, the effects of a contrasted, unevenly spread research background cannot be neglected. The destruction of coastal sites due to the
Versilian transgression should also be envisaged. Other possible culprits are
erosive crises which may have led to the truncation of deposits in caves or
rockshelters (such as Balma Margineda), and a fortiori on open-air sites. The
latter are, moreover, very poorly known; most of the evidence comes from

Figure 1. Location of the main sites mentioned in text. 1. Secche, Isola del Giglio, Italy 2.
Arene Candide, Finale Ligure, Italy 3. Pendimoun, Alpes-Maritimes, France 4. Fontbrgoua,
Salernes, Var, France 5. Font des Pigeons, Chteauneuf les Martigues, Bouches du Rhne,
France 6. Unang, Malemort de Comtat, Vaucluse, France 7. Lalo, Espeluche, Drme, France 8.
Grande-Rivoire, Sassenage, Isre, France 9. Montclus, Gard, France 10. Oullins, Le Garn, Gard,
France 11. LAigle, Mjannes-le-Clap, France 12. Bourbon, Cabrires, Gard, France 13. Peiro
Signado, Portiragnes, Hrault, France 14. Pont de Roque-Haute, Portiragnes, Hrault, France
15. Camprafaud, Ferrires-Poussarou, Hrault, France 16. Abeurador, Flines-Minervois,
Hrault, France 17. Gazel, Sallles-Cabards, Aude, France 18. Cuzoul, Gramat, Lot,
France 19. Le Martinet, Sauveterre-la-Lmence, Lot-et-Garronne, France 20. Borie-del-Rey,
Blanquefort-sue-Briolance, Lot-et-Garronne, France 21. Buholoup, Cazres, Haute-Garronne,
France 22. Jean Cros, Labastide-en-val, Aude, France 23. Dourgne, Fontans-de-Sault, Aude,
France 24. Balma Margineda, St Julia, Andorra 25. La Draga, Banyoles, Gerona, Spain 26.
Pasteral, La Cellera del Ter, Gerona, Spain 27. Avelanner, Les Planes dHostoles, Gerona, Spain
28. Lladres, Vascarisses, Barcelona, Spain 29. Frare, Matadepera, Barcelona, Spain 30. Forcas,
Graus, Huesca, Spain 31. Moro, Olvena, Huesca, Spain 32. Chaves, Casbas, Huesca 33.
Costalena, Maella, Aragon, Spain 34. Pontet, Maella, Aragon, Spain 35. Secans, Aragon, Spain
36. Botiqueria, Mazalon, Aragon, Spain 37. Cingle del Mas Nou, Ares del Maestre, Valencia,
Spain 38. Carasol de Vernissa, Valencia, Spain 39. El Collado, Oliva, Valencia, Spain 40. Cova
de lOr, Beniarrs, Valencia, Spain 41. Barranc del Castellet, Valencia, Spain 42. Cova dels Pilars,
Valencia, Spain 43. Coveta del Moro, Valencia, Spain 44. Cova de la Sarsa, Bocairente, Valencia,
Spain 45. Mas dIs, Penguila, Valencia, Spain 46. Cova del Cendres, Teulada, Valencia, Spain.

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Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

deposits in shelters and cavities. The great dearth of Final Mesolithic sites
often remains enigmatic. What should be thought of the fact that Mesolithic
series often end in caves and shelters during the Middle-Late Mesolithic (such
as Fontbrgoua c51, or Abeurador c3)? The total absence of any Final
Mesolithic in certain islands which were otherwise fairly well frequented during the ninth and eighth millennia cal BC, such as Corsica, may be explained
by the interruption of visits by mobile groups based on the continent. It is
therefore on the continent that the explanation of this halt in insular
exploration should be sought.
Techno-cultural aspects
The Final Mesolithic in the north-western Mediterranean presents some general characteristics: good knowledge of flint deposits, the obtaining of standard blades, use of the microburin technique, and trapezoidal or triangular
microliths.
Some slight differences can, however, be observed with respect to the principal complexes identified. The western version of the Castelnovian (as
opposed to the eastern Castelnovian from the karst, the Adige valley, Emilia
or the Alpine forelands in Lombardy) is known in Provence, along the Rhne
route and in the western Alps. The known sites are few and far between.
Whole areas are lacking in any data (western Liguria: the region of Early
Neolithic Ligurian impressed ware sites; eastern Provence). The characteristic technical features are a standardised blade production technique, asymmetric trapezes (Chteauneuf trapezes)sometimes practically triangles due
to reduction of the small baseand rhombuses (Binder 1987; 2000; Escalon
de Fonton 1956; 1971).
The Gazel-Cuzoul group stretches from the Pyrenees (Gazel, Dourgne,
Buholoup) to the Aquitaine borders of the Massif Central (Le Martinet, La
Borie del Rey, Le Cuzoul de Gramat). In Languedoc and the Pyrenees, the
poor quality materials (Thanetian flint, Pyrenean rocks, quartz) explain the
low proportion of blades. The most original pieces are the Gazel points:
triangular points with abrupt crossed retouch on the back, flat inverse
retouch on the base and thinning retouch on the faces (Barbaza 1993;
Guilaine 1973).
In the Iberian peninsula, where the contemporary Mediterranean facies
have long been designated by the general term of Geometric Complex
(Fortea Perez 1973), the following groups can be distinguished for the final
phases of the Mesolithic:
The Segre Basin group. At Forcas II, the levels for the end of the
Epipalaeolithic (III, IV) contain triangular and trapezoidal abruptly
retouched microliths with use of the microburin (Utrilla 2002).

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MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

25

The Lower Ebro group (Botiqueria, Costalena, Pontet, Secans). Trapezes,


short or asymmetric, often with one or two concave sides, are associated with
scalene triangles also presenting one or two concave sides (Costalena c3).
Thorn triangles are sometimes present (Botiqueria c4; Pontet e) (Barandiaran
& Cava 1981; 1989; Utrilla 2002).
The Cocinian group in the region of Valencia/Alicante. This is sometimes
subdivided into two cores: Central Valencian and Lara-Arenal (Bernabeu
Aubn 2002). The Cocina II group is characterised in particular by trapezes
and triangles with concave edges (Cocina-type triangles), use of the
microburin technique, and Montbani bladelets (Fortea Perez 1971; JuanCabanilles 1990; 1992).
Economy
The seventh and sixth millennia cal BC (a period which, in the western
Mediterranean, includes the last hunter-gatherer populations and the first
farmers) are characterised by the maximum development of the post-glacial
forest. The image of a generalised oak forest can sometimes be moderated;
naturally open spaces could also exist, for example at Lalo (Drme: Beeching
2003). Hunting was essential; red deer, boar and roe deer were the most
frequent prey. Ibex were also stalked in high-altitude zones. There is little
evidence concerning plant gathering, mainly attested on earlier sites
(Abeurador, Fontbrgoua: lentil, chickling vetch, pea, vetch, chick pea); it
must, however, have continued (Courtin 1975; Vaquer & Barbaza 1987).
Recently, taxa of Fabaceae, Lens sp., Vicia cf. tetrasprema and Vicia/Lathyrus
have been identified in the Mesolithic levels of the cave at Gazel (Laurent
Bouby, pers. comm.). Dried fruits (hazelnuts) are often attested (Dourgne), as
are the remains of pulpy fruits (La Margineda: blackberry, sloe, pistachio,
fruit of the dogwood-tree) (Marinval 1995). Mollusc collecting was common,
whether from the sea (as at Chteauneuf) or land (as at Dourgne and Gazel).
The question of the possible rearing of ovicaprins during the Final
Mesolithic, proposed for a time (for example at Gazel and Dourgne), has
been reconsidered, with probable Neolithic pollution or palimpsest strata
telescoping as it were the contents of successive occupation levels (cf.
Dourgne: Guilaine 1993). It often turns out, indeed, that in caves and rockshelters the archaeological strataor those observed as suchin fact only
represent the outwardly homogenous compaction of a certain number of
successive visits. Brochiers observations at Balma Margineda are edifying in
this respect; each layer proved to be the telescoping of several floors.
The temporal homogeneity of the evidence obtained from a given stratigraphic unit therefore often remains relative. Moreover, the idea that a technique (breeding) was borrowed or hunks of meat exchanged between

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26

predators and producers is an agreeable picture, but one which is difficult to


prove.
It is interesting to note that a few years after the discussion concerning
possible Mesolithic animal husbandry, the concept of pre-Neolithic agriculture appeared in France. Pollen analyses carried out in filled-in depressions or in marshy coastal areas, from the Rhne to the Ebro, have indicated
clearing of the landscape with the development of ruderal plants and, sometimes, the presence of cereal pollens in horizons dated to between 6400 and
5800 cal BC, i.e. earlier than the first Neolithic settlements (for a survey see
Richard 2004): Etang de Berres (Triat-Laval 1982), Embouchac (Puertas
1998), Capestang (Jalut 1995), Petit Castelou (Guenet 1995). Should the
presence of fires on certain sites (Drassanes 1) be interpreted as the result of
natural phenomena, or as attempts at clearing the forest by hunters
(Riera i Mora 1996)? The chronology of the Neolithic spread through the
Mediterranean region is today sufficiently well established with regard to its
general features to consider such clearing (with cereals) as difficult to accept.
The phenomenon arises in more general terms since these possible traces of
pre-Neolithic human activity appear in several regions of France (Dordogne,
the Loire basin, Vosges and Jura), which reveal an obvious divergence
between palynological data and archaeological facts.
Chronology
The chronological distribution of dates between Italy and Spain for the various facies of the late Mesolithic is clear; they are all situated between 6600
and 6000 cal BC (Fig. 2). Without anticipating the discussion which follows,
we must also observe the very clear gap between dates for the late Mesolithic
and those for the Early Neolithic; the two series run side by side c. 6000 cal
BC with practically no overlapping. It must thus be recognised that the various hypotheses regarding Mesolithic/Neolithic interaction refer to a historic
reality even though the lack of precision of radiocarbon dating does not yet
allow this to be demonstrated.

THE MESOLITHIC INHERITANCE


The world of the dead
One domain in which the Mesolithic and early Neolithic populations in the
western Mediterranean had common features, and which thus allows the
hypothesis of a possible filiation to be proposed, is that of funerary contexts
and mortuary rites. In both cases, the dead are rare and inconspicuous, and

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Figure 2. Comparisons of the histograms of the late Mesolithic and early Neolithic datings. In
grey, late Mesolithic datings; in white, early Neolithic datings. After Manen & Sabatier 2003.

do not seem to be part of the landscape of the living. The deceased of


Impressed Ware groups remain few and far between, unlike, for example, the
Neolithic of the Near East. There, from a very early date, sometimes in the
PPNA, necropolises appear (Kortik Tepe, Turkey) or, in the PPNB, houses
of the dead with multiple or collective burials (Skull Building, ayn,
Turkey; house of the dead, Djade, Syria), or individual burials in dwellings,
under the floors of houses (Halula, Syria). In southern France a few individuals have been found buried in caves or shelters used as temporary dwellings
during the Cardial or Epicardial (e.g. Pendimoun, Unang, Baume Bourbon
and Gazel: Binder et al. 1993; Coste et al. 1987; Duday & Guilaine 1980;
Paccard 1987). The phenomenon also existed in the Iberian peninsula where
certain individuals were buried in dwelling-caves (La Sarsa), or in small
peripheral cavities: El Carasol de Vernissa, El Barranc del Castellet, Cova
Negra, Coveta del Moro, Cova dels Pilars, Cova del Front in Valencia, and
Avellaner and Cova dels Lladres in Catalonia (Bernabeu Aubn et al. 2001;
Bosch i Lloret & Tarrus i Galter 1990; Pla & Junyent 1970). It was not until
the Catalonian Postcardial that the first Neolithic necropolis appears in that
geo-cultural zone: Caserna de San Pau (Barcelona).
This type of situation echoes a model observed previously in the Late or
Final Mesolithic in France, where practically no Castelnovian individuals
have been found: one in the Epi-Castelnovian at Montclus (Ferembach 1976),
and another at Le Rastel (Barral & Primard 1962).

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In Spain, the burial at Cingle del Mas Nou was that of an individual
interred in a supine position in a narrow pit with, at the level of his legs, the
incomplete and disconnected remains of five other persons. This tomb is
dated to 58755650 cal BC, i.e. the Final Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
(Olria et al. 2005). The existence, in Valencia, of the El Collado necropolis
represents a case which is so far unique: 14 pit burials, with bodies in the
flexed position and accompanied by stone objects and shell ornaments (Arias
& Alvares-Fernandez 2004). It obviously calls to mind the graves in shell
middens at Muge (Portugal). This short survey suggests the hypothesis of a
relatively thin population density for the Mesolithic. However, assuming that
the human groups during the Early Neolithic were more numerous, we also
have to note the small amount of evidence available for that period. Whence
the idea, proposed by Chambon (in press), that the bodies found so far do not
represent the norm, but rather reprobates or outcasts. An archaeological
argument can be added to this hypothesis; the Early Neolithic individuals
found are rarely accompanied by any significant grave goods. In fact, they
very often have none at all (such as Pendimoun: Binder et al. 1993). It therefore seems that, in the Early Neolithic, the norm could have been deliberately
making bodies disappear, either by natural means (abandoning to wild animals, abandoning in rivers, and so on) or by anthropic means (dismembering,
breaking of bones, cannibalism, and so on). The deceased members of the
Cardial population seem to have been excluded from the cultural landscape.
As the same seems to be the case for the Final Mesolithic populations, the
hypothesis of a continuance of funerary rites among the early farmers can be
proposed. Basically, the Neolithisation of the western Mediterranean may
not have destabilised a well established tradition among the native populations. It was only with more marked territorial claims and the appearance of
more stable dwellings, and perhaps too with the emergence of social differences, that the signalling of certain deceased individuals became more obvious and that the dead became integrated, in one way or another, in the
cultural landscape.
Personal ornaments
Some typical items of adornment are common to the last hunters and the
Cardial populations. There are, first, perforated Columbellae rusticae. These
shells are found on several sites, both Mesolithic (e.g. Chteauneuf, Dourgne,
Costalena, Botiqueria dels Moros, El Collado, and others) and Early
Neolithic (e.g. Chteauneuf, Camprafaud, Cova de lOr, Chaves, and others).
The same observation is valid for unworked, merely pierced, cardium shells.
In addition, in Cardial and Epicardial contexts, beads made of shell,
stone or bone have been found which manifestly imitate the upper eyeteeth of

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red deer. They are oval beads with a swollen base. They are also found in
Valencia (Or and Cendres), Catalonia (Cova Pasteral and Lladres), Aragon
(Chaves and Moro de Olvena) and southern France (Jean Cros, Chteauneuf
and Oullins). In a context where the environment was subject to the effects of
human action, this tradition underlines the continuing existence of a reference to the domain of the wild and hunting. Of course the Cardial culture
also developed at the same time items of adornment unknown to the
Mesolithic populations: for instance, stone bracelets and circular beads made
of shell.
Cardial art and Mesolithic art?
This problem, which would on its own merit greater development, will merely
be mentioned. The debates concerning the chronology of the famous
Levantine art in the Iberian peninsula are well known. Some authors, in
view of its favourite themehuntinghave considered it to be an iconography of hunters and initially dated it to the Mesolithic, or even to the Upper
Palaeolithic (Breuil, Cabr and Obermaier). Others perceived it as a longterm output, straddling the world of the hunter-gatherers and that of food
producers (Almagro, Ripoll and Beltran). Finally, more recently, it has been
attributed to the Neolithic and considered, due to the stylistic superpositions
observed in certain shelters (such as La Sarga), to have begun after the
macro-schematic art, itself envisaged as a typically Cardial production
(Mart & Hernandez 1988; Hernandez Perez & Segura Marti 2002).
Bernabeu recently proposed an interesting hypothesis. In the perspective
of the dual Neolithisation model (intrusive Cardial/accultured Mesolithic
populations), he attributed Levantine art to the neolithicised native populations of the sub-continental zones (Geometric Complex with pottery). This
naturalistic art would essentially have emerged during the Epicardial, as a
sort of cultural statement or even one of resistance to the Cardial environment with its foreign origin. This perpetuation could explain why the native
populations, although neolithicised, asserted their own artistic culture.
Schematic art and macro-schematic art, stamped by a certain degree of
conceptualisation or abstraction, would thus be the vectors of a Cardial
iconography promoting anthropomorphism (Bernabeu Aubn 2002). It is
interesting to note that this dual model, applied to the artistic domain, is also
echoed in Aragon (Utrilla 2002).
Another point, of more general interest, concerns the absence of figurines in the Western Mediterranean Early Neolithic (Guilaine 1996); they
are scarcely found beyond the Italian peninsula. We suggest that these
objects are linked to the social functioning of the fully sedentary communities of the Near East or of south-eastern Europe. In central and western

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Mediterranean zones, this stage was generally attained only in the Middle
Neolithic (fifth/fourth millennia cal BC). Finding figurines in Cardial
dwellings cannot of course be excluded; it would be surprising if any were
found on neolithicised Mesolithic sites.
The question of microliths
It is interesting to note that it is often arrowheads which serve to raise the
question of tradition or rupture between hunters and farmers. This could
underline the role still played by hunting in farming populations (and even if
the arrowheads are sometimes microliths serving other uses). It should be
recalled that in the Valencian Cardial, the microliths are for the most part
trapezoidal with abrupt marginal retouch; they are obtained from laminary
supports broken by flexion or percussion (Juan-Cabanilles 1990; 1992). In the
Cardial at Chaves, Upper Aragon, however, the microliths are mainly doublebevelled (doble bisel) segments (Cava 2000). In France, arrowheads from the
Cardial in Provence, trapezoidal or triangular, often have abrupt or semiabrupt retouches, sometimes associated with covering retouch on one face
(Chteauneuf, Grotte de lAigle: Binder 1987; Roudil et al. 1979). A certain
morphological diversity reigns (Fig. 3).
It is the development, in France, of Montclus arrowheads and, in
Mediterranean Spain, of double-bevelled microliths (doble bisel), which
gives rise to several theories.
They may be items resulting from a technical process deriving from a
native practice: the presence of inverse flat retouch on the base of the triangular points of the Final Mesolithic in Languedoc, thinning retouch on the
faces of the same implements (Barbaza 1993), and use of the double bevel
technique among some Epipalaeolithic Geometric Complex populations in
Mediterranean Spain (Stage C of Juan-Cabanilles and Mart). They would
thus, in both cases, be a legacy from a pre-Neolithic population. Or it may be
a question of Neolithic types (Montclus, segments) secondarily adopted by
the hunter-gatherer cultures who had come into contact, directly or indirectly, with farmers (Marchand 1999). Their presence among predatory
groups would thus reflect late horizons, contemporary with farming settlements. This argument can be supported by the increase of these types during
the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition.
The problem is all the more acute in that often the chronology of the
Montclus and double-bevelled segments (doble bisel) is determined from
sites in shelters or cavesi.e. locations often frequented during hunting
activitieswhere the Mesolithic/Neolithic succession is legible. However,
this type of site also presents some risks; mixed or disturbed levels may lead
to questionable scenarios.

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Figure 3. Some geometrical arrowheads and microburin present in Mesolithic and/or early Neolithic sites in western Mediterranean. After Briois 2000;
Binder 1987; Juan-Cabanilles 1990; Barbaza 1993; Cava 2000; Utrilla 2002; Barandiaran & Cava 1989.

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It should be noted, however, that on sites such as Gazel or Dourgne, the


setting in place of the Early Neolithic is accompanied by a rapid redeployment pattern for microliths; the Montclus/Jean-Cros technique (direct semiabrupt retouch, covering retouch of the convex section) replaces the Gazel
points. These transformations seem to occur in a broader context of modifications to hafting techniques when Neolithisation arrives; the triangular
point, or one used as a barb, is replaced in farming communities by microliths
with a cutting edge.
This observation does not, however, settle the question of the origin (or
origins) of these microliths. A diffusionist hypothesis is unlikely; Montclus
points exist both in the Final Mesolithic and Early Neolithic levels of
Franchthi Cave (Argolis, Greece) where they are, in an early period, evidence
in favour of a possible native Neolithisation with borrowed technology during the seventh millennium cal BC (Perls 1990). They do not, on the other
hand, exist in either the Mesolithic (Latronico 3 cave) or the Early Neolithic
(Impressa) in southern Italy, the geographical relay of the westward advance
of Mediterranean Neolithisation.
No microliths of this type are known in the various Neolithic groups of
central Italy (Marmotta). Finally, these microliths are unknown in the small
settlements of Portiragnes where the stereotyped model is that of symmetrical trapezes obtained by the bitruncation of bladelets (Briois 2000). On the
other hand, bifacially retouched microliths are known in the Impressa at
Pendimoun. Arrowheads with covering retouch are found sporadically in the
Tyrrhenian Cardial (Caroppu di Sirri).
Lastly, the hypothesis of a western Mediterranean genesis for these two
types of microliths (Montclus, mainly known to the west of the Rhne, and
double-bevelled (doble bisel) segments, well represented in Iberian
Mediterranean regions) is thus the most likely explanation, whether invented
by the late Mesolithic or the early Neolithic populations in which they will
proliferate.

NEOLITHISATION IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE:


ITALIC INFLUENCES
One of the lessons learnt from research over the past twenty years is that the
development of the Cardial Neolithic, previously considered to be the earliest culture of the southern French Neolithic, had been preceded chronologically by small settlements of populations with a clearly Italic origin. This
anteriority seems to be confirmed by the radiocarbon dates of these sites
which converge around 58005600 cal BC. From a cultural point of view these
sites, still few in number, while presenting some shared features, are not indis-

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33

putably homogeneous. That could indicate varied origins and not colonisation from a single locality. The impression gained from excavation of the two
sites at Portiragnes is one of small dwellings, probably of limited duration,
linked to a first attempt at exploiting and utilising arable coastal environments. Although a certain amount of evidence attributable to this horizon
has been recorded between the Cte dAzur and Roussillon, three sites have
provided more representative information. They are the lowest level at
Pendimoun, Castellar (Alpes-Maritimes) and the two open-air sites of Pont
de Roque-Haute and Peiro Signado, Portiragnes (Hrault). We will describe
now their principal cultural aspects, which in spite of certain similarities are
far from being consistent.
Peiro Signado (Portiragnes, Hrault)
Discovered and excavated first in the late 1970s, the site of Peiro Signado
completely disrupted the classical schema of the Cardial/Epicardial succession by offering direct comparisons with the famous site of Arene Candide
(Liguria). The resumption of excavations by Briois has allowed the nature of
the occupation to be more precisely defined.
The pottery production at Peiro Signado presents shapes of the flat-based
basin type, but also bowls, bottles and cooking pots (Fig. 4). Handles are very
little used: vertical or horizontal ribbon handles, knobs (sometimes perforated), tongues or strips and nipples. The great majority of the sherds studied present a decoration made by the impressed groove technique. Other
decorative techniques are used, but to a lesser degree (less than 10%): impressions made with a cardium shell, short vertical or curved incisions, some rare
furrows, various impressions, more or less circular, elongated or half-moon
shaped and, lastly, finger-pinched decorations. The impressed groove technique is used to construct varied overall, extremely geometric, decorative
themes: vertical or horizontal chevrons organised in bands, vertical or horizontal zigzags, or simple lines. The short impressions made with cardium
shells form horizontal, vertical or oblique lines spreading in parallel across
the belly of the pot. The longer impressions give structured themes of blank
or hatched triangles near the lip and on the belly. The same themes are found
made from circular impressions, with fingers, or grooves which are sometimes
used to outline hatched triangles. From the lithic production point of view
(Briois 2000, fig. 4), the raw materials used consist almost exclusively of small
pebbles probably from secondary fluviatile formations of the Lower Rhne.
Small quantities of obsidian from the Tyrrhenian region, however, were
exploited on the site. This lithic industry has a very high proportion of blades
and uses the pressure technique. Tools include bladelets with lateral retouch,
borers and symmetrical trapezes produced by bitruncation.

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Figure 4. Shapes and decoration of the pottery production at Peiro Signado, Portiragnes,
Hrault. After Manen 2002.

Pont de Roque-Haute (Portiragnes, Hrault)


Excavation of the site of Pont de Roque-Haute, also located at Portiragnes,
about 3 km from Peiro Signado, has revealed a dozen pits, mutilated by
ploughing, presenting, as a secondary deposit, fills of discarded rubbish. The
pottery production on this site presents shapes similar to those at Peiro
Signado (Fig. 5): flat-based basins, bowls, cooking pots and bottles. Handles
seem to have been little used: ribbon or rolled handles, knobs, lugs and
tongues; none are perforated. Among the decorative techniques, the use of
the cardium shell is well represented. As a complement, various other types
of impressions, but also incisions, impressed grooves and relief modelled
adornments are used. The decorative themes are predominantly simple, composed of lines or parallel bands. Observation of the fragments and more
complete shapes shows that the decoration generally covers the pot to a large
extent. In a few rare cases, a more geometric decoration (triangles or angles)

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Figure 5. Shapes and decoration of the pottery production at Pont de Roque-Haute,


Portiragnes, Hrault. After Manen 2002.

adorns the upper section of the pot. The lithic industry is identical to that of
Peiro Signado, except for the many remains of macro-tools (grinding implements) at Pont de Roque-Haute. The blade knapping is carried out on local
raw material, but also on a few pieces of obsidian from the island of
Palmarola. Analysis of the faunal remains attests to well-mastered animal
husbandry with in particular some specialisation in sheep. In this very early
context of the first Languedoc Neolithic, it may be presumed that the occupants of Pont de Roque-Haute had acquired a long experience in animal
production elsewhere (Jean-Denis Vigne, pers. comm.). Einkorn, emmer and
barley have been identified. There is evidence of accessory predatory activities.
Pendimoun, Castellar, Alpes-Maritimes
In the Pendimoun shelter, the bottom of the stratigraphy has yielded, alongside
largely monochrome ceramics, pots characterised by a decoration made with
nail impressions, pinched patterns, and some discontinuous impressions of

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various shells (cardium, patella, and so on). The decorative themes form
horizontal bands or panels filled with lines. The ceramic shapes
include spheroid or truncated conical open pots, bottles with narrow necks
and small pots in the shape of a flattened dome. Flat bases are attested.
Handles are mainly tongue-shaped, unperforated or with a vertical perforation. The excavator considers that Pendimoun 1 demonstrates connections with
Apulia, the Marches and Abruzzi (Binder et al. 1993). However, these comparisons require refinement since the Neolithisation of the Marches and
Abruzzi presents a probable chronological difference compared with the early
Neolithic in Apulia. In the lithic industry, the presence of triangular geometric pieces with flat bifacial retouch and sickle elements is observed. The
mammal fauna is mainly composed of domesticated species: sheep or goats
and cattle. The remains of cereals point to the cultivation of emmer and
barley. Gathering activities are attested. Chronologically, the early horizon
of Pendimoun seems to be located between 5800 and 5600 cal BC. Above
this horizon, levels related to the Cardial context have been compared, for
the earliest, with the Tyrrhenian zone (geometric Cardial) and, for the more
recent, with the Cardial in Provence (zoned Cardial ware).
Discussion
What can be concluded from these data? Although all three are related to the
Italian domain, these sites include a ceramic production with parallels in
diverse geographic areas. Peiro Signado presents ceramic similarities with the
series from the Arene Candide cave. It may thus be considered that it represents a sort of Ligurian bridgehead towards the west. Pont de Roque-Haute
has stronger relationships with a more southern site in the Tuscan archipelago: Giglio Island (Manen 2000). There are also resemblances to the vertical
layout of the shell decoration with separate impressions to be found in southern Italy (Guilaine & Crmonesi 2003). At Pendimoun, a strong monochrome element is associated primarily with spike motifs and with pinched
decorations and impressed edges. Thus, from a ceramic point of view, there
is no cultural unity. From a lithic point of view, a certain diversity also seems
apparent. As previously mentioned, the Pendimoun microliths with cutting
edges are for the most part triangular, and call on flat bifacial retouching. On
the contrary, arrowheads at Portiragnes are trapezoidal, made from bitruncated bladelets. The presence of obsidian from Sardinia and Palmarola points
to contacts with islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. At Pont de Roque-Haute, the
abundant fauna indicates animal husbandry based for the most part on goat,
associated with some cattle, whereas predatory activities remain restricted to
a low level. Agriculture is shown by numerous millstones and the presence of
emmer, einkorn and barley.

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The impression gained is thus one of a productive system based on a well


developed agro-pastoral economy. In that sense, we can speak of a colonisation process. Lastly, dwellings on the Portiragnes sites seem to call largely on
cob as a building material. The remains of a circular building with wooden
posts have been identified at Peiro Signado (Briois & Manen in press).
Seeking the chronological articulation between these different currents has
become an essential approach for understanding the settlement of the first
Neolithic societies in southern France.

GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF


THE FRANCO-IBERIAN CARDIAL
In France
Distribution and chronological evolution. In comparison with the preceding
settler or colonised sites, the constitution of the Cardial culture in southern France seems to be, rather, the result of a more structured process of
development and demographic expansion, provoking a rapid transformation
of the scope of identity references. Recent research puts the accent on the
variety of economic systems adopted but also on an organisation based on a
mobile system of resource exploitation.
The Cardial in southern France is well installed in coastal territories, but
several indications attest to its early penetration into more continental
domains, in particular along the main fluvial routes, and even into highland
environments (Beeching 1999; 2003). Apart from these general considerations, it has to be admitted that we have insufficient knowledge of the
siting criteria for Cardial settlements and that it is difficult to identify the
geo-ecological features which may have determined settlement choices for
these communities. The relationship with water (coastal regions, ponds and
lakes, fluvial routes, marshy or swampy zones) is, however, evident.
The chronology of the French Cardial is still subject to debate (Manen &
Sabatier 2003). We are advocates of an early chronology, with the first phase
of the Cardial between 5600 and 5400/5300 cal BC. Coordinated study of
radiocarbon dates and ceramic styles has allowed the Cardial to be subdivided into two phases. The modalities of this evolution were identified at an
early date thanks to the stratigraphy at Chteauneuf (Escalon de Fonton
1967; Courtin et al. 1985), and later refined (Beeching 1995; Binder 1991;
Manen 2002).
Generally speaking, Cardial pottery was made with local clay to
which particles of chamotte (fire-clay) were added (in particular for the
early phase). The characteristic shapes are small and medium-sized pots:

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basins, cooking pots, bottles, bowls and small globular pots (Figs 6 and 7).
Fragments of storage jars are rare. Among the main categories of decoration,
impression dominates to a large extent, followed by relief moulding. In the
impression category, cardium shells represent the dominant decorative
technique (over 60%). The decorative themes of the early Cardial consist of
various types of impressions organised in well defined ribbons. They are
frequently filled with geometric motifs (crosses, zigzags, chevrons, oblique
strokes, and so on) and framed or interrupted by a border. More rarely, the

Figure 6. Pottery styles from Cardial in south of France. 1, 5: Grotte de lAigle; 2, 4, 67, 9:
Baume dOullins; 3: Leucate; 8, 10: Grotte Gazel. After Manen 2002.

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Figure 7. Pottery styles from Cardial in Catalonia. 1: Cova del Frare; 2: Cova Freda; 3:
Esquerda Roques del Pany; 45, 8: Cova Gran; 6: Guixeres de Vilobi; 7: Cueva de Chaves. After
Manen 2002.

ribbons are accompanied by pendants. The relief-moulded decorations form


themes which are often simple: a horizontal cord circling the pot and
repeated in parallel from top to bottom. The cords are often covered with a
band of impressed motifs, and may then serve as framing or dividing features.
In a more recent phase of the Cardial, the cardium shell loses its value, to the
advantage of other impressed implements: finger, comb and smooth shell.
The decorative themes are still structured in horizontal bands which may or
may not be repeated from top to bottom of the pot. Themes of vertical bands

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Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

and areas covered with decoration are also well represented. It is above all in
the filling of the bands that differences with the earlier style can be observed.
This filling consists mainly of simple lines of impressions; geometrical motifs
are less frequent.
The evolutionary sequence of the Cardial, which covers nearly 700 years,
remains to be defined, as does the question of regional variability.
The Cardial industry associates laminary production (sickles, knives)
obtained by indirect percussion with a flake industry providing denticulates
and sturdy endscrapers. The characteristic geometric pieces are trapezoidal
arrowheads with abrupt and also covering retouch. Distribution circuits
ensured the spread of polished stone: eclogites from Piedmont and Liguria
reached the Rhne, glaucophanites from the Durance region are found in
Languedoc up to the borders of Roussillon (Leucate), and calcic amphibolites,
probably from the Pyrenees (Ricq-de Bouard 1996).
The economy presents a fairly broad diversification. Settlements on
plains, centred on agro-pastoral production, are found alongside a sector
focused on exploiting ecological niches more favourable to pastoral activities
and hunting. These last activities imply a mobile aspect in the economy, probably with networks structured at an early date and the use of caves for shepherding activities. Agriculture (wheat and barley) was preferentially focused
on Triticum aestivum compactum (Marinval 1988). The long-lasting occupation of sites has not been demonstrated and there could have been frequent
moves.
Formation of the Cardial
The relegation of the appearance of the Cardial to a secondary position
after the Italic sites, vectors of the Neolithic package (agriculture/animal
husbandry/pottery/adzes), means that it has lost part of the innovative aspect
attributed to it until now. Long considered by many authors as intrusive, at
the head of new technologies, it has now come down in the world and is
henceforth envisaged as a second phase culture. Its interest is not any the less,
however, for it displays a power of expansion which goes far beyond the
coastal strip affected by the earliest sites of Italic inspiration, so that inland,
especially, the Cardial remains the true vector of Neolithisation. As the idea
of an intrusive neolithicising wave borne by the Cardial has weakened, several
hypotheses can be proposed for the genesis of that culture (Fig. 8).
It can be considered as consisting of a second wave of populations of
external origin. By its partly coastal geographical distribution, the Cardial
remains a fully Mediterranean culture, in spite of its continental breakthroughs. The only cultural horizon set on its eastern flank and likely to have
provided a certain influx remains the Tyrrhenian Cardial (Latium, Tuscany,

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Figure 8. Hypotheses for the genesis of the Cardial culture.

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Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

Sardinia and Corsica). Apart from spatial proximity, it shares with it the taste
for decoration in bands treated with shells, but the Cardial in southern
France differs from that of the Tyrrhenian region in several aspects: a halt in
obsidian imports, the almost complete abandonment of flat-based pots,
decoration on pottery restricted to the cardium shell alone, and loss of the
decorative geometrism specific to the Tyrrhenian region. It should be noted,
however, that these two facies share a fairly similar management of meat
resources (sheep/goat and hunting well represented), a light installation on
the ground, or in any case of short duration, and the non-signalling of the
dead. Without excluding contacts (areas of geographical overlapping exist in
eastern Provence), it seems difficult to consider the Cardial as globally
imported from the Tyrrhenian zone.
The Cardial can be envisaged as a native process resulting from the conversion of local populations to the new economy introduced by the Italics.
In Provence, technological interruptions or breaks between the Castelnovian
and the Cardial industries do not argue in favour of this option (Binder
1987). On the other hand, in western Languedoc, we have seen that transit
terms could exist between Gazel points and Jean-Cros or Montclus arrowheads (Barbaza 1993). More generally, certain cultural features of the
Cardialinvisibility of the dead, use of Columbellae shells, and imitation
deers teethseem to be inscribed in a sort of native tradition. Our knowledge of the Mesolithic substratum is still too scanty and barely allows us to
go beyond these generalities.
A third hypothesis could rest on a process of the demographic transition
type. By introducing an agro-pastoral economy, settlers of Italic origin could
have provoked demographic stress, with a rapid population increase, a
process encouraged by the production economy. In a few generations, a new
culture would have emerged under the effect of several factors: earlier Italic
influence conveying the Neolithic package, contacts with the Tyrrhenian
zone promoting the acquisition of decorations with bands of shell impressions, and the maintainance of the native traditions (Columbellae and exclusion of the dead). Unlike the Italic settlements, localised and of short
duration, the Cardial is organised around large interactive territories (circulation of polished tools, flint materials and certain pots, bracelets, pastoral
activities), which explain its geographic extension and its long duration.
In Mediterranean Spain
Cardial and Neolithisation. The question of the Iberian Cardial will be considered more rapidly, for this culture is intrusive here and the question of its
genesis does not arise in the same manner as in southern France. We do not
know whether, in the Iberian peninsula, settlements of Italic origin exist as

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MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

43

we have seen between Liguria and the Pyrenees. The Cardial is thus in Spain
the vector of Neolithisation, a prolongation from the southern French core
(Fig. 9). Its distribution shows that it took root preferentially in some well
defined zones (occupied at an early date during the sixth millennium cal BC):
the Barcelona region, the area around Cabo de la Nao. At this early stage
c. 5500 cal BC, i.e. in the context of a rapid spread from Franceit seems
obviously contemporary with the Mesolithic populations strongly implanted
in certain neighbouring or continental regions: Upper Aragon, Lower Ebro,
Maestrazgo, the central Valencian group, and the Lara-Arenal sector (stage
3 of the evolutionary model of Juan-Cabanilles & Mart Oliver 2002).
In a second phasethe latter half of the sixth millennium cal BC we
note, as happened in the southern French evolution, the geographic (and
probably also demographic) progress of the farmers, but also the setting in
place of a Late Cardial/Early Epicardial duality (stage 4). Initiated at the very
start of the Cardial implantation, interaction with the native populations of
the Geometric Complex led to their progressive conversion to a production
economy.
At stage 5 of the previously mentioned model (Epicardial), during the
first half of the fifth millennium cal BC, the farmers had completely assimilated the native populations and no isolated Mesolithic groups remained.
Neolithic colonisation then spread to various points on the Meseta.

Figure 9. Experimental modelling of the Iberian Early Neolithic. After Juan-Cabanilles &
Mart Oliver 2002.

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44

Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

While, as in southern France, research long concentrated on natural cavities, recent work has shown the advantages to be gained from the study of
open-air settlements. On the lacustrian site of Draga (Gerona), remains of
quadrangular dwellings with wooden posts and cob have been identified
(Bosch et al. 2000). A research project in the Serpis Basin, in the region of
Alcoy, has revealed, at Mas dIs, the remains of three Cardial huts, one with
an apsidal end. Nearby, three concentric ditches, one of which is contemporary with the houses, have been identified (Bernabeu Aubn et al. 2003). These
circular structures are reminiscent of certain southern Italian models of the
end of the Early Neolithic.
Experimental models
Over the last few years a whole series of excellent research projects have
enormously improved our vision of the Iberian Early Neolithic, especially
in the Mediterranean zone. The Neolithisation of this area seems indeed to
have occurred from the southern French Cardial which is here the vector
of the Neolithic package. From the two principal settlement poles previously mentionedthe Barcelona region and Cabo de la Naothe Cardial
rapidly spread to zones far inland (see the Chaves cave and Upper
Aragon).
At a very early date, following a henceforth classical dual model,
contacts were initiated with the native populations of hunter-gatherers
(Geometric Complex). The interaction, combined with certain traditions,
gave rise here to the manifestation of specific Pericardial cultural features:
perpetuation of the lithic characteristics, a statistical rise in double-bevelled
segments (doble bisel), a more or less well mastered assimilation of ceramic
technology, with pots with no decoration or with a reinterpreted decorative
theme, and progressive infiltration of production economy behaviour.
It is interesting to note that the effects are not merely one way, in the
Cardial/Geometric Complex direction. The presence of double-bevelled segments (doble bisel) in certain Cardial assemblages (as at Chaves) points to
either influence from the opposite direction or the mixing of populations.
This continental Neolithisation of the Geometric Complex could in part
fashion the Epicardial, in parallel with a Late Cardial component. Bernabeu
considers the Epicardial to be the true creator of the naturalistic Levantine
art, a sort of identity reflex when faced with the intrusion of the schematic or
macro-schematic art linked to the Neolithic package (Bernabeu Aubn
2002).

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MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

45

THE EPICARDIAL
From the western Alps and the lower Rhne valley to Andalusia, the second
part of the Early Neolithic is characterised in particular by pottery styles
which often associate grooves and impressions arranged in bands, bundles or
garlands. Groups of grooved lines edged with dots represent a sort of denominator specific to the whole of this broad western Mediterranean area.
Regional stylistic nuances obviously exist over such a zone, still sufficiently
evident compared with the classical general features.
This Epicardial also developed over several stages; in Languedoc, three
are found at Gazel and Saint-Pierre-la-Fage. In a certain number of stratigraphies (at Chteauneuf, Gazel, Camprafaud, Cova del Frare, Cendres, and
Cariguela de Piar), the Epicardial style is established in parallel with the
Cardial, which it finally eliminated. This secondary stratigraphic position
explains the term itself (Escalon de Fonton 1956; Guilaine 1970). The matter
of its genesis is more delicate. While a gradual emergence from a Cardial substratum can be acknowledged, we are obliged to recognise that the Epicardial
has a character which makes it a fully autonomous culture, not a mere
epiphenomenon. The idea of a peripheral component of the Cardial in its
very essence cannot be excluded. Whatever the case as far as the mechanisms
are concerned (Cardial filiation and/or a peripheralisation process for the
Cardial), the expansionist strength of the Epicardial is obvious. In the
Mediterranean regions, from the Rhne to Andalusia, it finally eliminated
the Cardial and covered the whole of the initially Neolithicised area. Its vitality, however, probably related to a certain demographic surge linked to agricultural expansion, led it to colonise large continental regions and to take the
frontiers of the Neolithic well beyond the more limited Cardial sphere. Traces
are found as far as the Alps (Grande Rivoire) and the Causse region. In the
Iberian peninsula, this colonisation is in particular marked by its extension
along the valleys of the large rivers flowing towards the Atlantic (Douro,
Tagus, Guadiana, Guadalquivir). In so doing, the Epicardial is the vector of
the Neolithic package on the central plateaus (Meseta). In western Andalusia
and Portugal, the Mediterranean Epicardial appears in the form of a particular facies characterised notably by ornaments presenting panels with spike
incisions or impressions (Guilaine & Ferreira 1970; Zilho 1992).

OTHER FACIES
Pseudo-Limbourg/Pseudo-Hoguette
Some styles cannot be linked with either the Cardial or the Epicardial in their
classical form. Thus, a pot decorated with combed bands (at Margineda),

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Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen

46

another with a pointed base and a motif of impressions on cords (at Gazel)
have clear affinities with the Hoguette style (Guilaine & Manen 1997), of
which they represent the extreme south-western extension. Similarly, a pot
from the cave at Gazel with incised bands associated with garlands or triangles echoes a classical Limbourg theme. These pieces show how many other
components, still not particularly apparent, exist in the Early Neolithic of the
western Mediterranean.

CONCLUSION
The spread of the production economy in the western Mediterranean
occurred in a cultural context extremely different from the zone where
Neolithisation was born, the Turco-Syrian borders where PPNB, the truly
founding culture of the Neolithic, seems to have emerged. Figure 10 sums up
some of these differences in the characteristics of dwellings, in the funerary
domain and in social functioning.
In southern France, the earliest Neolithic manifestations are due to small
groups of settlers of Italic origin. They are distinguished by the installation
of small settlements of limited duration but which were clearly vectors of the
Neolithic package: agriculture, animal husbandry, pottery, polished axes,

Eastern Mediterranean

Western Mediterranean

PPNB

Cardial

Settlements

- Building material : stone and brick


- Houses : quadrangular
- Strong sedentism (in landnam)
- Existence of big villages (Abu

Settlements

- Building material : wood and clay


- Houses : circular, quadrangular or in apse
- Low sedentism (short duration)
- Absence of big villages

Hureyra, Ain Ghazal)

Burials

- Collective graves
- First necropolis
- Burials in settlement
- Houses of death
Society

- First hierarchisation
- Use of figurines
- Ceremonial building (cf. Gbekli)

Burials

- No collective graves
- No necropolis
- Isolated burials in caves
- Invisible dead
Society

- No hierarchisation
- Absence of figurines
-?

Figure 10. Differences in the characteristics of dwellings, in the funerary domain and in social
functioning between the first eastern and the western Mediterranean Neolithic cultures.

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MESOLITHIC TO NEOLITHIC IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

47

and so on. It thus seems that the trigger in the beginning was a process of
maritime colonisation of Italic origin.
The Cardial must henceforth be considered, in France, as a secondary
process. Its genesis is still subject to discussion. Three components seem to
have played a role in its composition: the previously mentioned Italic substratum, vector of the production economy; the Tyrrhenian Cardial group,
perhaps responsible for the band decoration; and a possible native substratum, still poorly known. These three components would then have blended
locally in a context of rapid population increase, stimulated by a demographic transition resulting from the agro-pastoral practices introduced
earlier. It is this hypothesis of demographic stress which would have led to
the process acquiring a stronger expansionist dynamism.
In Spain, where the pioneering Italic culture establishments have not yet
been identified, the Cardial, spreading from Provence and Languedoc,
seems to have been in its turn the vector of the economic and technical
Neolithic package. Settling first, preferentially, in Catalonia and Valencia,
it spread rapidly but sporadically in more continental regions (as seen at
Chaves).
Lastly, it is interesting to note that in the western Mediterranean the
founding of settlements during the Early Neolithic did not lead to their
continued existence over a long period, unlike, for example, certain tells in
Thessaly or the Balkans or some southern Italian sites, which were occupied
or frequented for several millennia throughout the Neolithic. Such a tendency
to a lasting territorial attachment does not exist here. During the Cardial,
sedentariness seems to have been relative, and the attachment to a given place
was periodically called in question. Perhaps this periodic mobility is also
responsible for the invisibility of the dead.
The question of the role played by the last hunter-gatherer communities
in Neolithisation will remain a subject for debate until a fuller corpus of data
concerning these populations becomes available. At all events, it does not
seem that these human groups could have carried much weight on an economic level except for prolonging for a while the hunting-gathering economy.
It was, however, on a cultural level that these populations could, in a certain
manner, have perpetuated themselves in the Neolithic system by means of
some persistent ideological features (exclusion of the dead, Columbella ornaments, culture of the wild by means of deer tooth type pendants or the
hunting scenes of Levantine art).
After a few hundred years, the various components which had participated in developing the early southern French and Iberian Neolithic seem to
have blended in the Epicardial complex, thereafter the only one present
throughout the western Mediterranean area.

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48

Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen


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1979. La grotte de lAigle Mjannes-le-Clap (Gard) et le Nolithique ancien du Languedoc
oriental. Mjannes-le-Clap: Socit languedocienne de prhistoire.
TRIAT-LAVAL, H. 1982. Pollenanalyse de sdiments quaternaires rcents du pourtour de
ltang de Berre. Ecologia Mediterranea 8, 97115.
UTRILLA, P. 2002. Epipaleoliticos y neoliticos del Valle del Ebro. In E. Badal, J. Bernabeu
Aubn & B. Mart (eds), El paisaje en el Neoltico mediterrneo, 179208. Valencia:
Universidad.
VAQUER, J. & BARBAZA, M. 1987. Cueillette ou horticulture msolithique: la Balma
de lAbeurador. In J. Guilaine, J. Courtin, J.-L. Roudil & J.-L. Vernet (eds), Premires
communauts paysannes en Mditerrane occidentale, 23142. Paris: CNRS.
ZILHO, J. 1992. Gruta do Caldeiro. O Neolitico Antigo. Lisboa: Instituto Portugus do
Patrimnio Arquitectnico e Arqueolgico.

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Neighbours but diverse: social change in


north-west Iberia during the transition
from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic
(55004000 cal BC)
PABLO ARIAS

INTRODUCTION1
THE IBERIAN PENINSULA is often described as a miniature continent. The
complexity of its orography and its geographic situation in a temperate latitude, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic environmental regions,
result in a highly compartmented landscape, with strong contrasts within relatively short distances. This is, indeed, the case in the north-west quadrant of
the Peninsula, including Galicia, northern Portugal, the Cantabrian coastal
area, the northern Meseta and the Upper Ebro valley. There we can find a
wide range of geographical regions, from the flat semi-steppe areas of
Central Castile, with its hard continental climate and Mediterranean vegetation, to the green mountainous Cantabrian region, one of the most humid
areas of Europe, covered with green meadows and deciduous forests.
Without implying in the slightest an environmental determinism, it is
obvious that the population involved in the transition to the Neolithic had
to face very different conditions. Besides, the Mesolithic backgrounds and
degrees of exposure to external influences are very diverse. All this permits
us to predict great variability in the transitions to the Neolithic in a relatively restricted area (around 200,000 square km), thus allowing the populations involved to know each other, and to develop complex systems of
relationships.

This paper is a contribution to the research project El origen de las sociedades campesinas en
la fachada atlntica europea (HUM2004-06418-C02-00), granted by the Programa Nacional de
Humanidades del Plan Nacional de I D I (20042007) of the Spanish Government. I would
also like to thank my colleagues Jess Garca Gazlaz and Jess Sesma for allowing me to use
unpublished data from their research at Los Cascajos.
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 5371, The British Academy 2007.

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54

From another point of view, it is likely that the existence of natural barriers, such as the Cantabrian, Central and Iberian Cordilleras, frequently
reaching 2000 m above sea level or more, favoured the territorial behaviour
characteristic of Holocene groups.
In this paper I will present the available information on the late
Mesolithic and the early Neolithic in north-west Iberia (Fig. 1), and discuss
its significance when attempting to understand the processes of transition
from foraging to peasant societies.

THE UPPER EBRO VALLEY


With the present information, the most probable scenario relates the origin of
the Neolithic in this part of Europe to the expansion of the Mediterranean
Neolithic towards the interior. That gives a paramount importance to the
Ebro valley, one of the main routes of communication in the Iberian
Peninsula. Actually, within the area analysed in this paper, it is this region

Figure 1. Sites that have provided relevant information on the transition to the Neolithic in
north-west Iberia.

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SOCIAL CHANGE IN NORTH-WEST IBERIA

55

alone that has provided assemblages that might be related to the earliest
phase of the Iberian Neolithic, identified archaeologically by the predominance of pottery decorated with impressions of the cockle Cerastoderma
edule (cardial ware). Despite the low representativeness of the collection, this
might be the case of the cave site of Pea Larga (Fernndez Eraso 1997),
where the earliest layer has provided 17 sherds of cardial pottery (out of 24
decorated sherds among 460 fragments: Fig. 2). Unfortunately, the only radiocarbon date for this context is too imprecise (I-15150: 6150 230 BP, corresponding to the intervals 55204540 cal BC (at 2 sigma) and 53204800 cal BC
(at 1 sigma).2 Besides, the part of the interval with a highest probability lies

Figure 2.

Sherd of cardial pottery from Pea Larga Cave (from Fernndez Eraso 1997).

All the radiocarbon dates cited in this paper have been calibrated according to the IntCal04
curve (Reimer et al. 2004), using the 5.0.1 revision of the CALIB program (Stuiver & Reimer
1993).

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clearly below the chronological boundary between the earliest (real cardial)
Neolithic horizon and a later, more complex, phase when this kind of pottery
tends to be substituted by assemblages where other types of impressed and
incised decorations predominate: the so-called Epicardial and the Late
Cardial or Neolithic IB (around 5300 cal BC: Bernabeu 1999; 2002; JuanCabanilles & Mart 2002; Mestres & Martn 1996).
However, around 5200 cal BC, there is a network of Neolithic sites in the
Upper Ebro valley, including both the left and the right banks of the river
and even some valleys that run up towards the north. This seems to be shown
by the amazingly homogeneous radiocarbon dates from Atxoste, Cueva
Lbrega, Los Husos and Los Cascajos, corresponding to contexts with
Epicardial type assemblages that may be classified as really Neolithic, given
the high proportion of domestic animals in the faunal assemblages that have
been studied so far.
But the situation in this area at the end of the sixth millennium cal BC is
relatively complex. On the left bank of the river, which is the best researched,
a dense network of Mesolithic sites, located in rock-shelters, has been studied in recent years (Alday 2002). These have provided assemblages comparable with the Geometric Mesolithic of Mediterranean Spain. The role played
by the populations which are behind those assemblages in the Neolithisation
process has still not been determined exactly. Nevertheless, there are signs
suggesting phenomena of acculturation, such as the relative continuity of the
population (most of the early Neolithic sites in this area are located in places
where there are final Mesolithic occupations: Fuente Hoz, Mendandia,
Atxoste, La Pea de Maran, Kanpanoste Goikoa) and in some cases, it
appears that there is a certain continuity between the Mesolithic and
Neolithic stone tool assemblages (Alday 1999; Cava 1994).
However, the data provided by some early Neolithic sites suggest a certain
break or novelty, such as occurs at Pea Larga itself, Los Husos, Cueva
Lbrega or Los Cascajos. The latter is a particularly relevant site. The preliminary reports that have been published so far on this recently excavated
open air settlement (Garca Gazlaz & Sesma 1999; 2001; Pea et al. 2005a)
show a clear break with the Mesolithic tradition in funerary behaviour
(Fig. 3), lithic technology and settlement pattern. Looking for references in
the Mediterranean (mainly Catalonian) Neolithic seems to be the most
promising path to understand this site.
A particularly interesting case is that of Mendandia, a site located near
the main nucleus of Neolithic population at the end of the sixth millennium,
where a sequence with three levels containing pottery has been documented
(Alday 2005). These are dated respectively to about 6050 (III sup), 5500 (II)
and 5400 (I) cal BC. Although they have been described as Neolithic, those
contexts have yielded assemblages of a Mesolithic type and only wild species.

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Figure 3. Early Neolithic burial at Los Cascajos. Photo: courtesy of Jess Garca Gazlaz and
Jess Sesma.

This suggests the possibility of the existence of long range contacts with the
Mediterranean coast that would have allowed new goods to reach these distant, but well communicated interior areas. This hypothesis seems to be confirmed by the presence at this and other Mesolithic sites of adornments made
from shells of Columbella rustica, coming from the Mediterranean (lvarez
2003) or the predominance of evaporitic flint from the middle Ebro Valley at
Los Husos (Fernndez Eraso et al. 2005).
The case of Mendandia is not so exceptional in the region as it might
seem to be at first sight. To the north-east, in Navarra, in the foothills of the
Pyrenees, there are several sixth millennium cal BC contexts that have been
attributed to the Neolithic simply because of the presence of some pottery
sherds (Abauntz layer c, Aizpea layer b, and Zatoya layer I). In fact, in none
of these is there any sign of agriculture or stock herding, while the industries,
except for the very scarce pottery, may be classified as Mesolithic. This suggests that, as in other areas of Atlantic Europe, we may be facing the
archaeological evidence of foragers who owned pottery, either because they
had learnt how to make it, or because they had acquired some vessels
through exchange. Indeed, all these sites have provided Columbella rustica

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58

shells, both in layers with pottery and in the preceding strata accepted as
Mesolithic (lvarez 2003).
In this respect, we may wonder if the inter-relationship could not have
worked in both directions. An aspect that has not been sufficiently examined is the expansion of the Helwan technique in the manufacture of geometric microliths. This type of retouch is very characteristic of the early
Neolithic in the Ebro valley, and it also appears after the middle of the
sixth millennium cal BC at sites in Lower Aragon and Valencia. Generally,
this has been interpreted as the addition of another element in the local
Neolithic package, spread by the supposed colonisers coming from the
Mediterranean coast, together with domestic species and pottery. However,
there is evidence against this rather simplistic idea, as some examples of
this type of retouch have been found in Mesolithic contexts in the north
of the peninsula since the start of the sixth millennium cal BC, as well as
there being no logical relation between this particular technique in the
manufacture of projectiles and the Neolithic way of life. The hypothesis
may be proposed, although not yet tested, that this technique arose among
the Mesolithic groups in the western Pyrenees, perhaps derived from a type
that is not unusual in the area in the seventh millennium: the triangles with
inverse retouch on the short side, sometimes related to the Sonchamp
points (Cava 2001). If this were confirmed, it may be proposed that they
spread inversely, from the hunter-gatherers in the north to the first
Neolithic groups in the east of the Peninsula, following the same routes
that pottery, domestic species and Mediterranean shells took, but in the
opposite direction.

THE NORTHERN MESETA


One of the most significant advances in the knowledge of the Iberian
Neolithic in the last few years has been the documentation of what has been
called the Interior Neolithic (Fernndez-Posse 1980). Several research projects have been able to document a network of Neolithic settlements with
Epicardial type assemblages dated to the last third of the sixth millennium
cal BC. Some of these are located in caves, such as the classic example of
La Vaquera (Fig. 4) in Segovia (Estremera 2003), but most of them are open
air settlements, like the important sites of La Lmpara and La Revilla
del Campo in Soria (Kunst and Rojo 1999) or some contexts documented
in palaeosoils sealed by megalithic monuments, like La Velilla and
Quintanadueas. It is even probable that the start of the impressive flint
mining activity at Casa Montero, near Madrid, can be attributed to this
moment (Consuegra et al. 2004).

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SOCIAL CHANGE IN NORTH-WEST IBERIA

Figure 4.

59

Early Neolithic impressed pottery from La Vaquera (from Estremera 2003).

Unfortunately, the study of the Neolithisation of the Meseta is seriously


complicated by the almost complete absence of Mesolithic remains in the
interior of the Peninsula. This has made many researchers propose a model
of colonisation in a completely empty territory (Delibes de Castro &
Fernndez Manzano 2000; Estremera 2003; Kunst & Rojo 1999).
As myself and others have developed in more detail elsewhere (Arias et al.
2005), the use of negative arguments, like the ones used for this problem, is
very risky, especially when many areas have not been explored yet, and the

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60

interior Mesolithic has a serious problem of archaeological visibility (there


are no clear criteria to assign decontextualised material to this period). In
addition, there are signs that indicate the presence of hunter-gatherers in the
area. As well as some sites with material that is probably Mesolithic (see
Arias et al. 2005 for a detailed analysis), there is certain indirect evidence,
such as some absolute dates that are difficult to attribute to Neolithic groups
or the presence of mixed traits in the early Neolithic of the Meseta.

CANTABRIAN SPAIN
Cantabrian Spain is one of the classic areas for Mesolithic studies in the
Iberian Peninsula. A dense network of sites is known, particularly on the
eastern coast of Asturias, where about a hundred shell middens belonging to
this period have been catalogued along some 35 km of coastline (Fano 1998).
However, the distribution of the main settlements, generally located 1 or 2
km inland from the present shore, and the palaeoeconomic information, suggest that they were not groups specialised in exploiting only the marine environment, but that they are an example of a broad spectrum economy, centred
on hunting and gathering on the coastal platform, complemented with fishing and collecting seafood, and hunting on nearby rocky hills (Arias 1999).
Some stable isotope data for coastal sites confirm this hypothesis, showing a
diet in which the intake of protein was distributed approximately equally
between land and marine food, as the d13C suggests, and the high values of
d15N indicating that the latter probably derive more from fish than from
invertebrates (Arias & Fano 2005).
From this point of view, there is a notable contrast between the isotopic
values at coastal sites and those of a well documented inland site: Los Canes,
a burial cave with three graves holding five individuals. Despite being only
11 km from the coast, the diet of its inhabitants appears to have come exclusively from terrestrial resources (Fig. 5). This is particularly interesting, in
that it confirms the existence of inland populations, which has been a frequent topic for discussion in local prehistory. Equally, the fact that they did
not exploit the nearby marine resources suggests a territorial behaviour for
these groups, which is consistent with the concentration of graves in the site.
The first evidence of the exploitation of domestic species in the area is
dated to the first half of the fifth millennium cal BC. Cattle bones associated
with impressed ware, similar to that from the Upper Ebro, found at the
cave site of Arenaza, have been dated to about 4900 cal BC (Arias & Altuna
1999). At another cave site, El Mirn, a grain of emmer (Triticum dicoccum)
has been dated to around 4400 cal BC (Gx-30910: 5550 40 BP; 44604340
cal BC) (Pea et al. 2005b; Pea et al. 2005a). It is interesting to point out that

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SOCIAL CHANGE IN NORTH-WEST IBERIA

Figure 5.

61

Stable isotopes values for Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in Cantabrian Spain.

both sites have yielded assemblages with high percentages of domestic


animals (7080%), which makes one question gradualist hypotheses, such
as myself and others have occasionally supported. However, the regional
archaeological record for the first half of the fifth millennium cal BC is very
complex. Together with those fully Neolithic sites, we find numerous contexts showing a total continuity with the Mesolithic, many of which show no
signs of domestic species, and even have possible evidence of intensification
in gathering, such as the presence of barnacles (Pollicipes cornucopia) in some
late middens. At the moment, it is not clear if this is merely a question of

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logistic mobility (specialised settlements corresponding to groups of farmers


who continued hunting and gathering in certain places, as has been proposed
to explain some Neolithic contexts in the south-east of France: e.g. Binder
1991), or whether we are dealing with a Neolithisation in a mosaic pattern,
with groups of farmers and hunter-gatherers living at the same time in nearby
areas.
In any case, there is an appreciable time difference between the start of the
Neolithic in the region and in the neighbouring Upper Ebro (at least four
centuries: probably more). These two regions are close to one another, communication (especially in the Basque Country) is easy, and there are signs that
even in the Mesolithic there were contacts between the two areas. We can
point out, for example, the use of flint from the Ebro valley at some sites in
the Basque Country (Fernndez Eraso et al. 2005), the presence of marine
shells at several Mesolithic sites in the Upper Ebro (lvarez Fernndez 2006)
or the existence of technical and stylistic similarities between the assemblages
on both sides of the Cordillera (Arias 1991). Helwan technique is particularly
interesting in this respect. Some Mesolithic contexts dated to the sixth millennium cal BC, such as Los Canes, have provided microliths made with this
technique, characteristic of the Ebro valley Neolithic. This suggests that
there could be contacts between the hunter-gatherers of Cantabrian Spain
and the earliest farmers in the Upper Ebro, perhaps prolonging in time social
networks that already existed before the Neolithisation of the latter region.
This allows us to define the last centuries of the Mesolithic in Cantabrian
Spain as an example of societies in the availability phase proposed by
Zvelebil and Rowley-Conwy (1986; see Zvelebil & Lillie 2000 for a more elaborated version of the model). And probably change reached these societies
through these networks, as the available evidence indicates a process of acculturation with a fundamentally indigenous base. The industrial features of the
first Neolithic in the Cantabrian Region display considerable continuity with
the local Mesolithic. There are also signs of continuity in the symbolic world,
as shown by the presence of Asturian picks, a typically Mesolithic tool, used
as a grave good in the Asturian burial of Molino de Gasparn, and also in
megalithic monuments probably dated to the second half of the fifth millennium cal BC (Arias & Fano 2003). Some singular items point in the same
direction, such as some painted cobble stones in early megalithic assemblages, apparently continuing a tradition in the regional Mesolithic (Arias
1991).
Two main lines of explanation have been followed to tackle the problem
of the causes of the Neolithisation of this area. One relates change with the
development of social complexity among the hunter-gatherers, and the other
links it to subsistence problems. It is not easy at the moment to respond to
this dilemma, although the evidence for the second line is somewhat more

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63

solid. Despite some signs of social inequality, such as the differences in the
grave goods found in the burials of Los Canes, it does not seem that the
complex hunter-gatherers model can be applied to the Cantabrian Mesolithic.
Besides, for the moment we have no evidence for the diffusion of prestige
items or imported goods among these groups. In contrast, the clear signs of
dietary stress in the most recent skeleton from Los Canes (Mara Dolores
Garralda, pers. comm.), and the indirect evidence provided by the intensification in the gathering of sea food, or the territoriality itself, in a narrow
region, relatively poor in natural resources, where there seems to have been
considerable population density in the Mesolithic, all suggest that the system
could have been near its limits and that farming might have become a socially
acceptable solution.

GALICIA AND NORTHERN PORTUGAL


The archaeological information about the Neolithisation of the far northwest of the Peninsula, the Spanish region of Galicia and the former
Portuguese provinces of Beira Alta, Douro Litoral, Minho and Trs-osMontes e Alto Douro,3 is scarce and incomplete. In great part, this comes
from preservation problems, related to the acidity of the soils which makes
the fossilisation of archaeological materials difficult, and it is also probably
due, in the case of coastal areas, to structural phenomena that have increased
the effect of the Flandrian transgression.
The information about the Mesolithic is particularly precarious. In Galicia
some very poor sites are known in inland areas like Serra do Xistral or O
Bocelo, and perhaps some of the problematic surface finds of lithic materials
in coastal areas can be attributed to this period. The situation in the north of
Portugal is a little better, as some sites have been studied in recent years, such
as the open air settlement at Prazo (Trs-os-Montes: Monteiro-Rodrigues
2000; Monteiro-Rodrigues & Angelucci 2004), with quartz tools associated
with problematic sixth millennium cal BC dates (see Zilhos comments in
Carvalho 2003), or the rock shelter of Buraco de Pala (Sanches 1997). We may
add some possible indirect evidence of the activity of the hunter-gatherer
groups, like some changes recorded in pollen diagrams for Serra do Xistral in
the second half of the seventh millennium cal BC (Ramil 1993).
The oldest evidence for the presence of Neolithic groups is probably provided by a series of sites in the area of Beira Alta, like Buraco da Moura de
So Romo or Penedo da Penha (Valera 2005). Although so far no absolute
3

In the current administrative division of Portugal, that corresponds, approximately, to the


districts of Viana do Castelo, Braga, Porto, Vila Real, Bragana, Guarda, Viseu and Aveiro.

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dates have been published, the characteristic industries (pottery with conical
basis and impressed and incised designs comparable with the so-called cultura de las cuevas in the Meseta and Andalucia, almagra ware) suggest that
these sites correspond to the last third of the sixth millennium cal BC or the
start of the fifth, which is not surprising if we note their proximity to the
well known nucleus of Neolithic population in the limestone massif of
Estremadura. The radiocarbon date for the site of Quinta de Assentada (Sac1774: 5870 110 BP; 50004490 cal BC), with undecorated spherical-shaped
pottery that Valera (2005) attributes to a later phase of the local Neolithic,
might confirm this hypothesis.
To the north of the river Douro, there is no clear sign of the Neolithic
until c. 4750 cal BC, which is the date for contexts with pottery and domesticated vegetable or animal species at Buraco de Pala and Prazo. The
Neolithisation process, however, is not clear. The researchers who excavated
these sites, where Neolithic levels cover Mesolithic strata, interpret some continuity in settlement patterns and lithic technology as possible evidence for
processes of change within the local hunter-gatherer communities (MonteiroRodrigues 2000; Sanches 2003). However, recent studies question this interpretation, arguing that the lithic assemblages of those sites are highly
dependent on the limitations of the local raw material (Carvalho 2003). In
any case, the change seems to have been relatively rapid, if we consider the
high percentages of domesticated species (in particular, the remains of barley, wheat and pulses at Buraco da Pala: Fig. 6), which casts doubts on
extremely gradualist models like the one recently proposed by Jorge (1999).
Some data obtained further to the north are more difficult to interpret
at the moment. Among these we can point out the presence of impressed
pottery at coastal sites in the south of Galicia, like A Cunchosa, O
Regueirio or Lavaps, which has been linked with a possible maritime diffusion of the early Neolithic from central Portugal, and even with impressed
types on the French Atlantic coast (Surez Otero 1997). Unfortunately, the
context of this pottery is not well defined and in fact in some cases it is not
clear whether it can be related to later, Chalcolithic, decorated pottery from
the same sites. In fact, the oldest well documented contexts with pottery in
Galicia, the sites of Porto dos Valos and A Gndara, dated to the second
half of the fifth millennium cal BC, have only provided undecorated sherds
(Prieto 2005).
Equally problematic is the identification of cereal pollen associated with
sixth millennium cal BC dates, such as those from palaeosoils documented
below several Galician dolmens (Barbanza, As Rozas, Parxubeira, and As
Pereiras) or the questionable site of O Reiro, where a date of c. 5500 cal BC
has been obtained for a context with pottery, wild mammals, remains of fish
and cereal pollen (Ramil 1973). The stratigraphical association of all these

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SOCIAL CHANGE IN NORTH-WEST IBERIA

Figure 6.

65

Charred seeds of fava bean (Vicia faba) from Buraco da Pala (from Sanches 1997).

elements is not sufficiently clear, so the presence of agriculture or pottery


cannot be proven for such an early date in the far north-west of the
Peninsula.

THE REGIONAL SEQUENCE: A PROPOSAL FOR THE


TRANSITION TO THE NEOLITHIC IN NORTH-WEST IBERIA
In conclusion, the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula provides, in a
restricted area, a huge variety of Neolithisation processes, probably interrelated, on an unequal background of Mesolithic populations, with great
contrast between densely populated areas, such as the Cantabrian coast or
the Upper Ebro, and others with lower densities.
It is precisely in one of these densely populated areas where the first contacts appear to have happened. The evidence from Mendandia suggests that,
about 5500 cal BC, not much later than the time when the first Neolithic
groups were established on the Mediterranean coast, the first pottery could
have reached the Upper Ebro. The earliest pots were probably no more than
attractive prestige goods, which reached this area through exchange networks, whose existence is proved by the presence of Mediterranean shells in
the local Mesolithic.

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However, for a long time, it is not likely that frequent contacts took place.
During the second third of the sixth millennium cal BC, the evidence is so
scarce that we can only talk of a very limited relationship. The situation
changes after 5300/5200 cal BC. At this time there is a rapid advance of the
agricultural frontier in the Ebro valley and the Meseta, and perhaps also in
central Portugal. It is likely that in some cases there was a true colonisation
by groups coming from the east or the south, as suggested by settlements like
La Lmpara, Los Cascajos and perhaps the sites in Beira. However, the
Mesolithic groups did not remain passive. They are probably responsible for
some Neolithic contexts with signs of continuity, and of some of the peculiarities of the local Neolithic. It is more than likely that the establishment of
Neolithic groups in the axis of the Ebro Valley intensified the contacts with
hunter-gatherer groups in the surrounding area. These relationships would
explain the proliferation of pottery in Mesolithic sites in the foothills of the
Pyrenees. It is also possible that there were some types of contacts with
groups in Cantabrian Spain, although pottery was not adopted, either
because the contacts were more sporadic or because there was greater social
resistance among these societies.
In the first half of the fifth millennium cal BC, the Neolithisation of the
north-west of the Peninsula was completed with the adoption of farming in
the Cantabrian region, the north of Portugal and perhaps Galicia. It appears
that this was carried out basically by the hunter-gatherer groups. Thus, it
seems that colonisation was restricted to ecologically more favourable areas,
such as the Ebro Valley, whereas in regions where it was more difficult to
adapt to the new ways of life, we should look at the local populations as the
most likely responsible for the change. In any case, the most recent evidence
suggests that it was a relatively rapid process, although the complexity of the
situation in the Cantabrian region still has not been explained.
Finally, in the second half of the fifth millennium cal BC, a most important change from the symbolic and social point of view happens: the building of the earliest megalithic monuments. Megaliths present some very
interesting features in this part of the Iberian Peninsula. The earliest structures appear practically simultaneously in all the regions we have studied in
this paper, about 4300 cal BC, and a true explosion in the number of monuments occurs around 40003900 cal BC (Arias et al. 2006; Scarre et al. 2003).
However, this apparent uniformity hides a great variety. In reality, what unifies this phenomenon is simply the notion of monumentality and probably of
funeral collectiveness. But, if we examine the concrete solutions, from both
the architectonic and the grave goods points of view, there are huge differences between, on the one hand, Galicia and the north of Portugal, on the
other, Cantabrian Spain, and finally the Meseta and Upper Ebro (Fig. 7).
This suggests that the arrival of megaliths cannot be explained as a simple

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67

Figure 7. Examples of megaliths from Galicia (1. Casa dos Mouros, La Corua), the
Cantabrian Region (2. Cantos Huecos, Cantabria) and the Upper Ebro valley (3. La Cabaa,
Burgos).

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case of diffusion, and much less, as has traditionally been suggested, as a consequence of colonisation. In reality, what spread, in a simultaneous, almost
explosive, way was an idea, a concept, and each society interpreted it in its
own way, incorporating elements of its own cultural background and its own
history. From this point of view, the megaliths can be seen as the end point
of the process of deep social change that we call Neolithisation: a process of
variable geometry in which the last Mesolithic societies in the north-west of
the Peninsula were transformed to give birth to a new world.

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transition to farming, 6793. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Beyond the models:


Neolithisation in Central Europe
DETLEF GRONENBORN

RESEARCH BY BRITISH AND AMERICAN SCHOLARS on the transition to farming in Central Europe has resulted in a number of models which have been
viewed with continuous scepticism in Central Europe. Contrary to the often
generalised Anglo-American approaches, particularistic traditions, based
methodologically and theoretically on culture history and environmental
archaeology, have continued, notably in the German-speaking countries but
also in France. These have been substantiated by an ever increasing body of
meticulously collected detailed data.
This ongoing research by a variety of disciplines on the question of
the transition to farming in Central Europe, notably in the western parts
along the Rhine valley, has by now resulted in a complex and differentiated picture of the so-called process of Neolithisation. This process began
during the latter half of the seventh millennium cal BC, then experienced
a major shift with the expansion of the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK),
and ended in the mid-fifth millennium cal BC. During these two thousand
years a multi-facetted combination of migrations, adaptations and acculturations, together with socio-political cycling, led to the fundamental
transformation of Central European societies from segmented tribes to
emergent complex chiefdoms. The trajectories were triggered by external
parameters like climatic fluctuations and internal factors such as human
agency.

A SLIGHTLY POLEMICAL INTRODUCTION


The emergence of farming in the Near East and its spread to Europe is one
of the most dramatic and significant processes of economic, social and political change in the history of modern humans. It is therefore unsurprising
that this period has received continuous and wide attention in the scholarly

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Detlef Gronenborn

world; notably English-speaking researchers have often taken broad, indeed


global, perspectives.
After the early studies by the American geologist Raphael Pumpelly
(1908) it was Vere Gordon Childe in his many and diverse works (e.g. Childe
1929) who had studied the spread of farming to Europe. Childes interpretation of the expansion had been very influential in the English-speaking world
where scenarios had been propagated which saw this period of technical and
socio-political innovation connected to massive migration processes. These
hypotheses were to be substantiated by genetic studies; well known are the
works of Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza (1984), later Chikhi et al. (2002),
and of course Renfrew (1987; 1996), who had added a linguistic aspect to the
discussions. This migrationist position is apparently still shared by a number of American scholars (e.g. Bogucki 2003), while in the United Kingdom
the tide has changed and post-processual archaeologies have resulted in indigenist standpoints (e.g. Whittle 1996). Only a few UK-based scholars,
notably Renfrew himself, continued to adhere to the idea of migration: The
model proposed by Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza seemed to me a very
compelling one [. . .] for its simplicity and its explicit nature. (Renfrew 2003,
328). In most of these studies, regardless whether migrationist or indigenist,
the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK) played a major role as the conveyor belt of
farmingand, in a way, civilisationto temperate Europe.
Recently, a number of scholars in the English-speaking world have taken
an intermediate position in which both migration and acculturation play a
role. Renfrew (2002, 11) has adjusted his position, and referring to Central
Europe he writes: . . .imagine the farming population becoming established
in one of these cells before pioneers move on to the next cell or region, having developed the further adaptive changes in farming techniques. . . . The
pattern is then one of numerous, successive stages, in each of which the population grows to a certain level over a period of several generations before the
next stage is colonised. Shortly thereafter Zvelebil (2004, 199) admitted: In
1986 I was convinced that the LBK culture was generated principally by
demic diffusion of intrusive farmers from the south-east. My understanding
of the problem has now changed. . .The Linear Pottery Culture has many
originsand we should celebrate its cultural and genetic diversity.
These statements sounded familiar to Central European archaeologists;
this was exactly the research agenda which had dominated on the continent
for decades. Contrary to the more general theoretical declarations published
by British and American researchers, prehistorians in Central Europe had for
long taken a particularistic and material-analyses-based standpoint (Scharl
2004). Beginning with Klopffleisch (1884), 1imek (1914) and Palliardi (1914),
continuous studies on Early Neolithic material culture allowed the construction of highly differentiated typo-chronological schemes, which served as

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75

fine-grained scales for further analyses of LBK emergence, expansion and


decline. One of the most notable breakthroughs were the studies of Quitta
(1960; 1964) who, following Neustupny (1956), not only defined the earliest
phase of the Linear Pottery Culture but also suggested the first differentiated
model of LBK emergence and expansion (Quitta 1960). Slightly later, Quitta
(1964) explained the sudden appearance of earliest LBK sites, with small
groups of settlers who would have left the Moravian and Lower Austrian core
area of LBK origin and would have migrated in two streams towards the
west. Thus, 40 years before Zvelebil (Zvelebil & Lillie 2000) had adopted the
leap-frog model for LBK expansion, Quitta had formulated the research
agenda for Central European archaeology and had sketched the step-wise
colonisation of circumscribed biotopes suitable for rain-fed cereal-based
farming. Admittedly, Central European Neolithic archaeology has also had
its brief yet hefty migrationist-diffusionist debate (Kind 1998; Tillmann
1993), but nowadays an intermediate scenario is preferred by the majority of
researchers closely acquainted with Early Neolithic archaeology. Hence, from
a continental European perspective, the ongoing debate in the Englishspeaking archaeology and genetics world (e.g. Balter 2005; Richards 2003) is
a somewhat curious phenomenon.

THE NEOLITHIC BEFORE THE NEOLITHIC


Traditional chronology charts of the Neolithic see the transition to farming
for Central Europe somewhere in the earlier to middle sixth millennium
cal BC. However, palaeobotanical work undertaken during the 1990s
(Beckmann 2004; Erny-Rodmann et al. 1997) has resulted in the resurrection of hypotheses of an earlier onset of attempts of cereal cultivation during a period traditionally called the Late Mesolithic and characterised by
trapezes and regular blades (Clark 1958; 1980; Gehlen & Schn 2003; 2005;
Taute 1973/74). This new style in lithics arrived in continental Europe
between 7000 and 6700 cal BC (Gronenborn 1997b) with a possible retardation phase of several hundred years towards the North (Bokelmann 1999).
The origins of regular blades and trapezes appear to lie somewhere in
Central Asia and might have arrived in Europe via the south Russian steppe
zones (Gronenborn 1997a). It is interesting to note that this technological
change came after a period of climatic unrest, which is currently only visible in the Greenland ice cores and the oxygen isotope ratios inferred from
deep-lake ostracods from the Ammersee in Bavaria (von Grafenstein et al.
1999). This Early-Holocene-Event (EHE) appears to have set in around
7500 to 7300 cal BC (Fig. 1) and may be correlated with the ice-raftingdetritus-event 6, one of the cooling cycles which also punctuated the

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Figure 1. Cooling cycles of the Holocene with the period of Neolithisation. A: Holocene Cooling Cycles, proxy data: d18O GISP2 (Alley et al. 1997;
Grootes et al. 1993; Meese et al. 1997; Stuiver et al. 1995), d18O Ammersee (von Grafenstein et al. 1999), Cold Events Alps (Haas et al. 1998), Main river
oak growth anomalies and deposition rate (Spurk et al. 2002), ice rafting detritus drift ice index (Bond et al. 2001), IRD events (Bond et al. 2001, Heiri et
al. 2004). B: Period of Neolithisation (grey shading in chronology bar, LH La Hoguette). C: LBK chronology and climate fluctuations (for data refer to
Strien & Gronenborn 2005).

76

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77

Holocene climate optimum (Bond et al. 2001; Heiri et al. 2004). Whatever
may have been the effects of this fluctuation, shortly thereafter Continental
Europe experienced a major shift in lithic technology unparalleled in previous or following periods. Equally in temporal proximity to this period of
climatic unrest appeared the first farming settlements in south-eastern
Europe (Efstratiou et al. 2004; Perls 2001), and shortly thereafter the
earliest cereal-type pollen in Central Europe was associated with Plantago
lanceolata at the Soppensee in Switzerland (Lotter 1999). Throughout the
seventh millennium cal BC evidence for cereal-type pollen is present at various locations throughout Central and Western Europe (Beckmann 2004;
Erny-Rodmann et al. 1997; Gehlen & Schn 2003; Visset et al. 2002; Zapata
et al. 2004). These indications, albeit sparse and still debated (Behre 2007),
have inspired Jeunesse (2003) to replace the term Late Mesolithic with
Nolithique Initial for Central Europe. It may then be permissible to postulate that the expansion of farming to the European continent was triggered
by a climatically unfavourable period during the later eighth millennium cal
BC; equally the rapid spread of the blade-and-trapeze industries may have
been initiated by this event. The following seventh millennium cal BC, at
least in southern Central Europe, may then be considered as an opening
phase of the Neolithisation process (Fig. 1).

LBK ORIGINS AND EARLY EXPANSION


Following Neustupny (1956) and Quitta (1960), the LBK emerged in presentday western Hungary in the course of culture contact between a yet
unknown population of hunter-gatherers, the more southern Starcevo-KrsCris (SKC) groups and later early Vinca. This core territory may also be visible in the distribution area of Transdanubian radiolarites, among them the
so-called Szentgl variant, in Mesolithic assemblages (Fig. 2a). The internal
chronology of this process of culture transfer and redefinition is still debated
in its details (e.g. Bnffy 2004; Kalicz 1995; Lenneis & Stadler 2002; Pavk
2004; Whittle et al. 2002), but the general scenario of a regional origin of the
LBK is still acceptable to most Central European researchers. Clearly, contrary to what many earlier linguistic and genetic studies appear to suggest
(e.g. Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza 1984; Bellwood 2005; Chikhi et al. 2002;
Renfrew 1996), most continent-based archaeologists have never considered
any notable population expansions across the Balkanic-Central European
border. Also, recent ancient mtDNA evidence certainly does not contradict
the hypothesis of an emergence of the LBK within a local population in
Transdanubia and/or south-west Slovakia, and the expansion from these
territories towards the west and north-east (Haak et al. 2005).

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Detlef Gronenborn

Figure 2. Development of distribution system of Transdanubian radiolarites with extension of


earliest LBK. A: Mesolithic (after Mateiciucov 2003; 2004); B: Earliest LBK (after Gronenborn
1999; Mateiciucov 2003; 2004).

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Both the LBK and its eastern Carpathian Basin counterpart, the Alfld
Linear Pottery (AVK), could be materially visible representations of two
different socio-political entitiesmaybe tribes in traditional terminology
(Fowles 2002; Wenskus 1961)of which the western one was forced toor
had chosento expand. The first migration routes become visible through
the expanding network of Transdanubian radiolarites (Fig. 2b) and they
followed Late Mesolithic exchange routes, at least towards the west
(Gronenborn 1994; 1999, 1302; Mateiciucov 2004). What exactly initiated
this expansion is as yet unknown. Petrasch (2001) considers an enormous
population growth but does not take regional contacts and influx of local
hunter-gatherers in LBK societies into account. A possible link with the
eruption of Mount Mazama in Oregon, one of the largest volcanic eruptions
during the Holocene, has been suggested by Strien and Gronenborn (2005)
but is, of course, only speculation. The greatest problem is the uncertain date
of LBK emergence (Bnffy 2004; Pavk 2004) but the fifty-seventh century
cal BC is a good candidate.
In any case, the furthest extension of the LBK I was reached by the midsixth millennium cal BC (Fig. 2b); the loess regions were covered with widely
dispersed but tightly connected hamlets and villages, which served as the foci
of communication with local hunter-gatherers and hunter-gatherer/pastoralists in the west. Contact between immigrant farmers and local populations is
evident from microliths of non-LBK traditions on earliest LBK sites which
vary from region to region, particularly along the western margins but also in
Bavaria (Gronenborn 1999, 151, fig. 8; 2005).
The western margin of the earliest LBK is rather well researched as far as
contacts between immigrant farmers and local pastoralists and huntergatherers are concerned (e.g. Gronenborn 1990; 1999; Kind 1997; Jeunesse
2000; Jeunesse & Winter 1998; Strien 2000). This is, certainly, also due to
the fact that these contacts are archaeologically much more visible since
the local groups used potteryLa Hoguette, Limburg, and the socalled Begleitkeramikwhich is easily distinguishable from the LBK.
Bruchenbrcken is a site which has become widely known for its evidence of
Mesolithic-Neolithic contacts; data both from the lithic, as well as the
ceramic assemblages, indicate intensive interaction between people manufacturing LBK and those manufacturing La Hoguette ware (Gronenborn 1990;
2005; Lning et al. 1989). Traditionally, the manufacturers of the former have
been interpreted as the farmers of Transdanubian origin; the latter would be
pastoralists and hunter-gatherers of possibly local ancestry with cultural
links to southern France (Jeunesse 2000). A lithic technology foreign to
earliest LBK sites further east and carried out on Maas valley raw materials indicates that male herder/hunter-gatherers worked in the village
(Gronenborn 1997a, 7780). Furthermore, mineralogical analyses of both

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Detlef Gronenborn

LBK and La Hoguette wares from Bruchenbrcken show that vessels of


either ceramic tradition were manufactured out of local clay; hence also
women should have lived and worked together (Eisenhauer 2003, 327; and
pers. comm.). This supports the evidence from stable isotope analyses also
discussed further below (Bentley et al. 2002; 2003; Bentley, this volume). At
least during the earliest and earlier LBK whole groups lived and worked side
by side in what, from a coarser perspective, appear to be LBK villages.
Little is known about the economy of the manufacturers of La Hoguette
pottery. Only the site of Stuttgart Bad-Cannstatt has revealed some aspects
(Brunnacker et al. 1967; Kalis et al. 2001; Meurers-Balke & Kalis 2001).
Apparently the location was visited by a small group of herder/huntergatherers during the spring and fall of the years between 5480 and 5210 cal
BC (Meurers-Balke & Kalis 2001, 634). This group hunted a variety of animals such as roe deer and red deer, aurochs, wild boar and hare but also
herded sheep/goats. An earlier excavation had produced possible evidence of
cattle (Brunnacker et al. 1967) but the recent re-examination of the site failed
to substantiate this (Arie J. Kalis, pers. comm.). Wheat pollen indicates the
processing of cereals at or near the site, but the temporal proximity to earliest LBK settlements in the region would allow for possible exchanges with
farming communities, and hence it is unclear whether the herders also grew
wheat themselves (Strien & Tillmann 2001).
La Hoguette pottery disappears during the Flomborn phase east of the
Rhine (Lning et al. 1989; Strien 2000), but certain traces of the pastoralists
remain visible in the archaeological record such as triangular points and local
elongated trapezes, but also the raw material networks of Maas Valley flint
or chert from the Swabian Alb (Gronenborn 2003b; Strien 2000; Strien, pers.
comm.). Contacts and exchange between pastoralists/hunter-gatherers and
farmers would certainly not only have entailed economic aspects but also
worldviews and sacral concepts. Here LBK conceptswhich should have
differed from those of the pastoralists and hunter-gatherersmight have
been more successful. Judging from anthropomorphic and zoomorphic clay
figurines, LBK ideology seems to have circled around fertility associated with
farming (Petrasch 2002) and may have been promoted by a cast of title holders, who may be represented in some of the anthropomorphic figurines
(Fig. 3). These show complicated headgear or hairstyles and dresses which
would have been unpractical in day-to-day farming activities and may have
been high status insignia. This group could have constituted the LBK elite,
composed of title holders perhaps recruited from members of founder
lineages (Gronenborn 2003a; Lning 2005).
Certainly, very little has hitherto been said and written about an LBK
elite, except by van de Velde (1993; 1997), and not many scholars would even
account for elevated individuals or sub-groups with status ascribed rather

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Figure 3. Possible ceremonial structure and anthropomorphic figurine from Bad Nauheim-Nieder Mrlen (after
Schade-Lindig 2002; Schade-Lindig & Schwitalla 2003).

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Detlef Gronenborn

than acquired. Jeunesse (1997) had suggested such a stratum for the later
LBK because of the appearance of rich burials of adolescents. In addition
to these more traditional approaches in social archaeology, an interpretation
of some of the anthropomorphic figurines as representations of ancestors
(Lning 2005), and/or high-ranking individuals, may lead to a thorough
reconsideration of Early Neolithic socio-political structures. This alleged
group of title holders may have formulated, conserved and promoted a belief
system which had emerged in Transdanubia and consisted at least partly of
Balkanic Neolithic traditions (Hckmann 1972; 1999; Kaufmann 1991).
Another material manifestation of LBK belief systems may be the ceremonial structure from the site of Bad Nauheim-Nieder Mrlen, north of
Frankfurt (Fig. 3). The circular ditch system, erected during LBK II (the
Flomborn phase), has a pathway leading to it and its interior appears to have
been artificially elevated with a mound structure (Lning 2005, 284; SchadeLindig & Schwitalla 2003). The site is also famous for the abundance of
anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines (Schade-Lindig 2002). Whatever
these LBK concepts may have been in detail, they would have dominated the
multi-tradition farming villages, and the hunter-gatherer and pastoralist
communities might have at least partly adopted the new ideas and incorporated them into their worldview. Along with the adoption of an LBK ideology
came the loss of much of their traditional material culture, and the former
herders and hunter-gatherers disappear in thedespite its diversitystill
uniform LBK material canon.
If this hypothesis (admittedly still speculative but nevertheless not
implausible) of the existence of a religious and political elite during the
earlier LBK eventually proves to be correct, we may also consider elite
dominance (Renfrew 2002; Zvelebil & Lillie 2000) as an applicable scenario
for the Danubian Neolithisation of Temperate Europe, despite the fact that
we are dealing with pre-state-level societies.
Contacts between farmers and hunter-gatherers were not only directed
towards the west but also towards the northapparently from the earliest
LBK onwards (Gronenborn 2005). The lithic assemblage of Bruchenbrcken
contained a microlith previously unclear in its attribution, but which can now
be identified as an oblique transverse trapeze with a circumscribed distribution in southern Scandinavia and northernmost Germany. This goes in
accordance with the appearance of northern lowland or Baltic flint at
Bruchenbrcken and other northerly earliest LBK sites (Gronenborn 1997a,
114).

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FURTHER EXPANSION TOWARDS THE WEST


LBK expansion came to a standstill along the Rhine for a period of several
decades. While earliest indications of an LBK-type farming in the Wetterau
region date to the mid-sixth-millennium cal BC (Schweizer 2001) the first
expansion of the late earliest LBK/earliest Flomborn-type wares (LBK II) to
the Rhineland (Heinen et al. 2004) should have occurred around 5400 cal BC
(Strien & Gronenborn 2005). The transition between LBK I and LBK II
between 5490/5450 and 5370/5350 cal BC can be correlated with a climate
decline visible in a number of climate proxies (Schmidt & Gruhle 2003; Strien
& Gronenborn 2005). The Flomborn style itself seems to have evolved
slightly before the onset of the climate fluctuation, during the decades
between 5500 and 5475 cal BC in the Upper Neckar Valley and north-western
Bohemia (Strien 2000; Strien & Gronenborn 2005, 140). From these regions
the ceramic style expanded in the western part of the LBK oikumene but the
earliest LBK must have persisted as a pottery style up to about 5400 cal BC in
some regions and is also visible in the Rhenish site of NiederkasselUckendorf. Hence, according to the age-model favoured by Strien and
Gronenborn (2005) the expansion across the Rhine and into Alsace and the
Rhineland correlates with a climate fluctuation.
The new and more westerly regions are settled in the following decades, a
process described in detail in Stehli for the Merzbachtal west of Cologne
(Stehli 1989). Founder villages are installed in favourable locations on loess
soils and serve as core sites from where other hamlets and villages sprang off;
they may also have been central places with a certain function as distribution
centres for goods such as lithic raw material (Zimmermann 1993; 1995).
Other sites east of the Rhine continued with their function as regional centres, but in many locations we see a relocation of villages during the LBK
I-LBK II transition. One site which assumes a role as a central place is the
site of Vaihingen upon Enz in south-western Germany (Bentley et al. 2003;
Krause 2001; Krause et al. 1998). Groups with differing material culture traditions lived together in this village, which was fortified during a certain subperiod of the Flomborn phase (Krause 2002; Strien 2005). Vaihingen shows a
notable decrease in the number of houses during the change from Flomborn
(LBK II) to the middle LBK, a decrease occurring contemporaneously in the
Rhineland and also Alsace, which may be linked with another westward
advance (Strien & Gronenborn 2005), as the earliest published assemblages
in the Marne valley and the Hesbaye date to the middle LBK (Lodewijckx &
Bakels 2000; Tarpet & Villes 1996). In absolute terms, LBK II should have
ended around 5210/5200 cal BC during a period which seems to have been climatically unfavourable according to what a number of proxy-data suggest.
Again, temporal correlations of site occupation and climate fluctuations

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84

indicate a possible connection between migrations and climatically unstable


or adverse periods.

MULTI-TRADITION COMMUNITIES
Movement of individuals and groups between farming communities is one
way to explain the evidence for imports and also the considerable economic
and, perhaps also, social and political variation within and between LBK
villages and hamlets. Another way is to consider continuous influx of huntergatherer or pastoralist groups who had not yet been integrated into LBK
societies. Such a co-habitation between groups of different origins is also
indicated in recent strontium isotope analyses undertaken at a number of
sites along the Rhine Valley (Bentley et al. 2002; 2003; 2004; Bentley &
Knipper 2005; Bentley, this volume). Apparently whole groups merged during the earlier LBK which supports the archaeological interpretation presented above, and in later phases it seems that mostly females came in from
outside. This goes in accordance with hypotheses of a general patrilocality in
LBK societies (Eisenhauer 2003).
Some of these sub-groups appear to have continued a hunter-gatherer
subsistence; evidence exists for late LBK sites in the Paris Basin (Hachem
2000; Sidra 2001), but hunting also appears to have played a considerable
role at the earliest LBK site of Bruchenbrcken with its multi-tradition
material culture (Uerpmann 1997). A number of sites in southern Bavaria
at the southern margins of the LBK extension also show high percentages
of game (Dhle 1993). Game may have been brought into LBK villages by
hunter-gatherers who continued their life-way in the densely wooded hilly
regions unsuitable for agriculture, and were only visited occasionally by pastoralists; theoretically they could have served as refuge areas but because of
various preservation problems, and a somewhat underdeveloped research
situation, actual archaeological evidence for such groups is sparse (e.g.
Taute 1973/74; Grote 1994; Gehlen 1999). But these upland regions may
also have served as pastures for cattle (Kalis & Zimmermann 1988). Indeed,
recently Bentley and Knipper (2005; Bentley, this volume) have suggested
the existence of pastoralists as sub-groups within LBK villages. In short,
what previously appeared as culturallyand by implication ethnically
homogenous LBK villages were in reality focal points of varying cultural
traditions with differing regional origins across Central Europe; farmers
from Transdanubia were just one component. These complex compositions
continued from the earliest LBK throughout and may have been one of the
reasons why Early Neolithic societies were faced with a period of economic

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85

and social crises, which ultimately resulted in considerable culture change


and the transition to the Middle Neolithic (Gronenborn 1999, 18790; 2006).

THE END OF THE LBK


Apart from possible internal factors which led to the decline of the LBK, the
period also appears to have been characterised by climate fluctuations
(Schmidt et al. 2004); these seem to have reached their climax around 5150 to
5100 cal BC and correlate with the emergence of the Hinkelstein pottery tradition (HST) in the Rhine-Hessen area around Mainz (Strien & Gronenborn
2005). From there HST spreads towards the south into the Neckar Valley;
this middle Neolithic pottery tradition coexisted with the terminal LBK in
adjacent areas. The emergence of the HST may be attributed to social, political and religious changes in late LBK societies that were confronted with
climate uncertainties; these uncertainties may have resulted in economic
instability such as harvest failures. There are a number of indications for
similar problems occurring during the thirty-seventh century cal BC in late
Michelsberg communities and lake-shore settlements in Switzerland and
south-western Germany (Schibler et al. 1997; Steppan 2003). Harvest failures
could have undermined the authority of lites who may have based some of
their power on the rituals associated with determining the time of sowing and
harvesting. If climatic fluctuations had resulted in a shift of vegetation periods, traditional knowledge would have become useless, lites and values
would have become powerless, and societies could have disintegrated (Tainter
2000). Social disintegration may be evident from the sites of Talheim in the
Neckar Valley and Schletz in Lower Austria where individuals were killed
intentionally and collectively (Wahl & Knig 1987; Wild et al. 2004).
Such periods of social and political unrest would have called forth charismatic individuals who could claim to be able to solve the problems better
than the old lite and to reinstate stability, and political change would have
been the result. Change in belief concepts is evident in the adoption of a new
pottery style, which had repeatedly been assigned to religious change as the
motifs resemble human figures in a praying position (Spatz 2003). Also,
burial rites changed from the flexed interments practised during the LBK to
extended burials (Spatz 1999). Clearly, LBK ideology had changed; those still
clinging to the old views were surrounded by the adherents of a new worldview. Conflicts between these groups may have arisen and it may be no coincidence that at the site of Herxheim assemblages of bones in the ditches
surrounding the village date to exactly this period. While current interpretations of the excavators would call for a communal burial ground where

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individuals had been brought from far-off LBK regions (Orschiedt et al.
2003), other interpretations consider less humanistic practices of ritual tortures and killings of captives, slaves or witches (Gronenborn 2001; 2006). In
whatever way Herxheim may one day be explained, the site served as a
supra-regional centre during the terminal LBK for the remaining communities with contacts visible in pottery styles stemming from western Belgium,
Hesse, Bavaria, the Elster-Saale Region and 1rka in Bohemia (Jeunesse
online). These imports show that the long-term networks in operation since
the first expansion of the earliest LBK had been maintained throughout the
Early Neolithic, and that terminal LBK societies were still tightly knit
together.

NEOLITHISATION CONTINUED
Contemporary to the emergence of HST and the final years of the LBK
along the Rhine, another advance of the Neolithic of Danubian tradition
took place. The expansion of LBK towards the west into the Paris Basin has
recently been reconsidered by Jeunesse (199899; 2001). His rearrangement
of the chronological order suggested by Constantin (1985) has a number of
considerable consequences for the Neolithisation of western Europe. The
LBK advances from the Marne valley towards the Paris Basin where it
formed the Ruban Rcent du Bassin Parisien (RRBP) shortly before 5000 cal
BC, possibly in connection with the climatic unrest during these years (Strien
& Gronenborn 2005). In the course of contacts between local huntergatherers and/or herders the group Villeneuve-Saint-Germain emerged and
coexisted with RRPB. Both finally formed the RRBP final which again is
superseded by the Group de Cerny (Jeunesse 2001). Cerny in particular is an
interesting phenomenon as monumental burial mounds have been preserved
which, according to Jeunesses chronology, date early in the fifth millennium
cal BC, and in fact superimpose terminal LBK house structures (Duhamel &
Mordant 1997). While the archaeologically preserved burial goods associated
with the single individual interments are unimpressivelithic points, flint
axes, bone artefacts and potterythe mounds reach an extension of several
hundred metres and constitute a work effort by a greater number of individuals. With these monumental structures societies had reached a new quantitative stage in individual representation; as said above, chieftaincy might have
begun already earlier, with the emergence of a stratum of title holders during
the earlier LBK, but now title holders were represented and memorised in
monuments erected with considerable effort by a larger community. During
the fifth millennium cal BC the Paris Basin constituted an area of cultural
activity which served as a point of origin for the eastward expansion of the

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Michelsberg culture (Jeunesse 1998; Seidel & Jeunesse 2000), which may have
also had a part in the spread of the Neolithic to the British Isles (Sheridan
2003; Sheridan, this volume; Tresset 2003). It should be noted here that this
further expansion of farming towards northern and north-western Europe
has also been linked with climate fluctuations (Bonsall et al. 2002).
While societies in the Paris Basin underwent changes towards a more
differentiated complexity, the process of Neolithisation also reached the
northern European lowlands. These regions had gradually been incorporated
in a westward stream of technological innovation, namely the spread of a
pottery horizon which might have its ultimate roots in north-eastern Asia
(Dolukhanov et al. 2005). The earliest manifestations of this pottery might
be the Elshan tradition in the Samara region in south-eastern Russia
(Mamonov 2000) appearing around 7000 cal BC. From there pottery with
distinctively pointed bases and flared rims spread westward to the Russian
steppe-forest and forest belt and reached the eastern Baltic (Gronenborn
2003c; Hallgren 2003; Timofeev 1998). Ultimately it appears in the western
Baltic, and the north-western continental European lowlands (e.g. Cromb
et al. 2002; Hartz & Lbke 2005; Louwe Kooijmans 2003; Raemakers 1999).
One of the southernmost finds of a vessel with pointed base and flared rim
comes from the LBK site of Rosheim in Alsace (Jeunesse & Lefranc 1999).
Earlier finds from the Baltic region at the site of Vaihingen indicate continuous north-south contacts throughout the younger LBK (Krause 2002).
Flared rim and pointed base pottery is not, at least during the early spread,
associated with any kind of farming but was made by hunter-gatherers and
fishers: an association to be observed elsewhere in the world in different periods (Rice 1999). Despite the association with hunter-gatherers, such potteryusing traditions are marked as Neolithic in the Russian archaeological
terminology, for which there is a certain justification if farming is not understood as being central to the definition of the term but rather social complexity (Dolukhanov 1995). Seen from this perspective, the pointed-base
horizon constitutes a third element in the Neolithisation process of northern
Central Europe (Gronenborn 2003c). Contrary to southern Central Europe,
pottery is the first element to appear in this process, and only centuries later
is it followed by cultigens (e.g. Kalis & Meurers-Balke 1998; Klassen 2000).

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS


The earliest phase of the Neolithisation process in Central Europe sets in
around 7000 to 6700 cal BC and might have been triggered by the so-called
Early-Holocene-Event: a phase of cooling and/or fluctuating climatic conditions. The following seventh millennium cal BC in southern Central Europe

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Detlef Gronenborn

may be understood as a transitional phase from a hunter-gatherer to farming


economy of the classic Neolithic of Danubian tradition which emerged
possibly during the fifty-sixth century cal BC. However, before LBK villages
sprang up, the western regions became involved in a process which had its
origins in southern France prior to the Impressa and Cardial traditions
sometime around 5800 cal BC (Gronenborn 1997a; van Willigen 2004).
Archaeologically it became manifest in the pottery tradition of La Hoguette,
which appears to be associated with groups practising small ruminant pastoralism, but also continued hunting and gathering. The origins of this peculiar pottery tradition remain unclear; north-western Africa is an interesting,
yet unexplored, option.
LBK expansion and interaction with local populations was a process of
wide-reaching advances of small-scale farming groups which settled biotopes
favourable for their technology. This expansion constitutes the second phase
of the Neolithisation process in southern Central Europe. The LBK settler
groups experienced considerable population increase within a relatively short
period of time which fostered socio-political differentiation. Perhaps from
founder lineages there evolved high-ranking individuals who conserved and
promoted a Balkanic-Danubian ideology. This worldview became dominant
within the LBK oikumene as local hunter-gatherers and pastoralists were
acculturated and assimilated into the multi-tradition settlements. These
groups may have continued with their former economy and may be visible as
those sub-groups practising predominantly hunting and pastoralism. Such a
cultural mlange is currently examined best at the western margins of the
LBK along the Rhine, from where the Neolithic of Danubian tradition
spread further into the Rhenish lowlands, Dutch Limburg and Alsace,
an expansion possibly triggered by a climatic fluctuation. The last expansion
towards the west into the Marne valley and the Belgium loess areas also
appears to correlate with a new climatically unfavourable period. Further
fluctuations in rainfall and temperature may have, among many other internal socio-political and economic reasons, fostered the decline of the LBK
towards the end of the sixth millennium cal BC. During these periods we see
the appearance of new pottery styles which might indicate the collapse of
traditional values and ties.
By 5000 cal BC the LBK existed only in a few regions which were, nevertheless, interconnected over hundreds of kilometres. By 4950 cal BC, also,
these communities had vanished and Middle Neolithic societies had emerged
throughout Central Europe. Now standardised monuments characterised the
landscape, the so-called roundels. They may be taken as archaeologically visible representations of a new lite which was able to command the erection
and continuous maintenance of massive communal work efforts; newly
emerged lites are also evident in the early earthen long barrows in the

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Paris Basin Cerny culture. With this socio-political shift, the process of
Neolithisation had reached a third phase.
During these centuries the Central European North becomes included in
wider processes as pottery from eastern European, and probably Central or
Eastern Asian origins, appears in the sites of the hitherto aceramic Erteblle
culture. But while contacts towards the south with LBK farming villages had
existed at least since the mid-sixth millennium cal BC it was not until towards
the end of the fifth millennium that the northern societies gave more attention to a farming economy. Summing up, it may be stated that the process of
Neolithisation of Central and Temperate Europe is composed out of three
supra-regional traditions which have their origins in the Mesolithic and possibly Palaeolithic social networks: the classic and long-established Danubian
tradition with the LBK as its earliest manifestation; the western or occidental composition with its connections to southern France and the Iberian
Peninsula and possibly north-west Africa; and the tentatively baptised
hyperborean tradition of the Russian forest and steppe zones with pottery
but without farming.
Going back to the slightly polemical introduction, one aspect remains to
be dealt with, namely that of language. Throughout the last decades notably
Renfrew (1996) and later Bellwood (2005) promoted a model where the dispersal of a farming technology would be linked to the dispersal of languages.
These ideas have been received with much criticism and lately Renfrew (2002,
14) has published an appeasement offer: We could certainly postulate a
model where at least half of the population in any local area along the way
would, at a crucial stage, be composed of incoming farmers from the immediately previous area. The product of this down the line phenomenon could
be the transmission of the language of the incomers, and yet the significant
attenuation of the signal carried on by their genes. While this statement is
certainly intriguing and indeed intellectually stimulating, it hitherto lacks any
robust substantiation from linguistics (e.g. Rexov et al. 2003), and consequently the matter remains largely untouched in Central European archaeology. The uncertain explicatory power of the language-farming-dispersalhypothesis is unfortunate, however, as it would fit well with the lite
dominance model: the Indo-European language could have been introduced
by the LBK which ideologically dominated local hunter-gatherers and pastoralists; with this ideological domination came linguistic replacement: food
for further speculations.
As uncertain as the linguistic aspect may be and as little agreement there
may exist over it, it is nevertheless intriguing to note, that after many decades
of research on the spread of farming and its wider implications for world history, both Anglo-American modellers and Central European empiricists have
reached similar conclusions at least for Central Europe. The spread of

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Detlef Gronenborn

farming is a complicated and differentiated process with considerable local


and regional variations. It is also certainly not a process occurring along a
supposedly well defined frontier but one which lasted for several millennia
and which happened in stages. Economic changes were certainly one major
point, and socio-political transformations were another: the famousinfamous trajectories towards complexity. As these points have nowadays
found widespread agreement among most scholars acquainted with the
matter, future research should be geared towards the precise role of a likely
triggering force: Holocene climate fluctuations.
Note. I am indebted to Alasdair Whittle and Vicki Cummings for inviting me to the
conference and for their subtle fine-tuning of the manuscript.

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WENSKUS, R. 1961. Stammesbildung und Verfassung. Das Werden der frhmittelalterlichen
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WHITTLE, A. 1996. Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds. Cambridge: Cambridge
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Beyond migration versus acculturation:


new models for the spread of agriculture
JOHN ROBB & PRESTON MIRACLE

INTRODUCTION: A DESPERATE PLEA FOR NEW IDEAS


THE BEGINNING OF FARMING should be one of the most exciting issues in
European prehistory. Instead, it runs repetitively in well-worn ruts. Was it the
movement of farmers or was it foragers adopting farming for reasons of their
own? These are the choices. Our interpretive logic has remained static for at
least two decades, the chart depicting migration and acculturation zones has
been fought to a stable frontier, and scholars on both sides seem puzzled as to
what could possibly be done to further the question beyond accumulating
further data on their own corners of Europe. For example, in recent discussions of the topic, researchers continue to question the relative importance of
ideational versus economic changes (Rowley-Conwy 2004; Thomas 2003),
and to accumulate new evidence to track the movement of agriculture
(Colledge et al. 2004; Price et al. 2001). But with few exceptions (such as
Barnett 2000; Bellwood & Renfrew 2002; Forenbaher & Miracle 2005;
Zvelebil 2002), there has been little work on models that move beyond the
migration vs. acculturation stalemate. In many ways this is a debate in search
of a paradigm shift (cf. Price 2003).
Why all this should be so is mysterious, given that some of the most agile
minds in archaeology have been writing on the Neolithic transition. What has
happened, apparently, has been a case of talking past each other. Because the
various schools of thought writing on the issue start from different theoretical
propositionsoften differing even on what the term Neolithic implies
theorists tend to start out with strong a priori views, use the evidence to establish their own position to their own satisfaction, and then get on with writing
about what really interests them on their preferred side of the migrationacculturation line (whether this is big-picture spotting of cultural similarities
across Europe or an extremely localised view of culture as meaningful experience). As a solution to the practical and political difficulties of academic life,
this works ideally. However, among its collateral effects is a willingness to
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 99115, The British Academy 2007.

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John Robb & Preston Miracle

accept basic terms of argument as a highly polarised dichotomy between only


two scenarios, neither of which is actually very plausible. Moreover, evidential tropes are presented as increasingly weary, formalistic claims, rather than
with real thought or conviction. The result is a lurking suspicion, in us at
least, that probably neither side is right about what actually occurred.
This paper aims to open up this theoretical can of worms, working in
similar directions to some recent essays in a non-dichotomised, nonessentialising archaeology of Europe in this period. These take two distinct
but related directions. One is to re-evaluate standard interpretive tropes in
classic cases such as the LBK, and to argue for much more complex processes at the forager-farmer encounter (Gronenborn 1999; 2004; Kind 1998;
Modderman 1988; Tillmann 1993). This strategy grapples closely with the
complexities of the evidence, and it often involves refreshingly concrete
models of social processes, but at times it implicitly accepts traditional
parameters of the problem (for instance, that economies such as farming and
foraging corresponded to social group identities). A more radical approach is
represented by theorists who question the idea that one can define essentialist
identities based upon economies (Bailey et al. 2005; Whittle 2003).
In keeping with what we hope is a growing critical trend, we first discuss
the basic terms of argument critically, then pose several new models, and conclude by discussingoptimistically, we hopethe resolvability of the question. Beyond the Socratic aim of annoying all parties to the debate equally,
we hope to open a theoretical space in which Europe between 7000 and 4000
cal BC can be freed of encumbering conceptual baggage and viewed as a real
ethnographic landscape.

INTERPRETIVE TROPES: WHAT IS THE STANDARD LOGIC


ACTUALLY BASED UPON, IF ANYTHING?
At 8000 cal BC Europe was a continent of foragers. At 4000 cal BC it was a
continent of farmers. How this happened has been the focus of argument for
at least a century (Rudebeck 2000), with causes cited ranging from the desperate need to stave off famine to the inherent perfectibility of human civilisation. However, before archaeologists can explain why the shift happened,
we need to describe the social process of how it happened. The question of
how has been posed, for at least a century, in terms of two opposed alternatives. Either the Neolithic was carried throughout Europe by the actual
movement of farming peoples intruding into a landscape of foragers, or foragers adopted it for their own endogenous reasons once they gained access to
it through neighbours who farmed. For the last two decades, these alternatives have been divided spatially as well. Champions of forager adoption have

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generally conceded two or three core areas to migrationists: the initial


Neolithic of the Balkans, the LBK, and the initial spread of Impressed/
Cardial Ware throughout the Mediterranean. Conversely, outlying and interstitial areas such as the Alps, Central Iberia, the Atlantic fringe of France,
Belgium and the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Britain and Ireland are commonly viewed as places where foragers adopted the Neolithic slowly, late, and
often partially (Zvelebil 2002; Zvelebil & Lillie 2000; Zvelebil & RowleyConwy 1986). This approach is certainly an advance over simple monocausal
models through its recognition of geographic and temporal variability in
rate and mechanism of the adoption of farming. Recent work emphasising the mosaic nature of the transition when examined on a fine scale is
equally to be applauded. However, if taken too literally, this approach is still
founded on a dichotomous view of agriculture as being spread either by
migration or by acculturation. Even characterising the spread of agriculture
in prehistoric Europe as a fine-grained mosaic of small-scale migrations and
adoptions carves the map into smaller pieces rather than examining the
underlying mechanisms of the spread. It is more finely pixelated but still
bichromic.
What is this view based upon? Almost all parties use the same canonical
criteria (Table 1; Bogucki 2000; Rouse 1958; 1986). There are two principal
criteria: the speed with which the Neolithic spreads and whether the complete package (horticulture, domestic animals, polished stone tools, pottery
and settled villages) spread together or merely as piecemeal traits. More
complex interpretations tend to be extrapolations from these tenets; for
example, the idea that differences in the contextual usage of Neolithic
technologies indicates local adoption by foragers rests upon the same logic
of homogeneity equals migration, heterogeneity equals acculturation.
Each of these interpretive tropes rests upon highly questionable assumptions which have, however, received remarkably little critique. Speed of spread
first emerged as an issue when radiocarbon dating revealed a consistent, directional spread of farming across Europe at about 1 km/year (Ammerman &
Cavalli-Sforza 1973; 1984; Clark 1965). Certain parts of this expansion, particularly the LBK, turned out to move much more rapidly, and Ammerman
Table 1.

List of standard interpretive tropes.

Criterion

Migration

Acculturation

Speed

Migrations spread farming


quickly

Adoption is a gradual process

Traits transmitted

Transmission of complete
Neolithic package, or several
unrelated traits

Transmission of incomplete
Neolithic package, or only one
aspect

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John Robb & Preston Miracle

and Cavalli-Sforza admitted that, to sustain this growth, frontier farmers


would have to reproduce at a rate approaching the theoretical maximum for
human populations. However, three decades of research later, it is clear that
LBK farming did not spread through a demographic wave of advance but by
leap-frogging among patchy, low-density enclaves. Given this, and given the
difficulty of providing a satisfactory motive for LBK leap-frogging (Bogucki
2000; 2003), one would think that all bets are off as far as how fast or slow
migrating enclaves could reasonably be expected to move (Price 2003).
The converse assumption, that forager acculturation would inherently be a
slow process, seems to rest, logically enough, upon the idea that each forager
group could not adopt farming until it became available from a neighbouring
group, hence a long-distance movement of farming would require a long accumulation of such lag times. But as a prima facie assumption, why should we
believe that LBK farmers could move an entire village society 20 or 30 km in
a decade but that it would take foragers much longer than this to acquire
Neolithic ways from their neighbours this distance away? We should also bear
in mind that people are mobile for all sorts of reasons besides migration (see
below). There is abundant and compelling evidence of high residential and
logistic mobility among recent foragers, as well as evidence from long-distance
transfers of raw materials such as lithics and molluscs that past European foragers were highly mobile. Thus distance might not have been the same for the
two groups; foragers would have been more mobile over larger territories, so
that 50 km might involve one step of transmission from one foraging group to
the next, but many more transmission steps among settled farmers.
The other criterionwhether a complete Neolithic package or only
selected traits is transmittedhas really provided the keystone of interpretation. The logic seems common sense; immigrants will transport all their
traits, including unrelated ones and inconsequential cultural baggage, while
acculturating foragers will be free to choose what novelties interest them.
Granted, the range of lifeways we can actually monitor archaeologically is
limited (we lack, for instance, the dress, language and beliefs which often
mark immigrants in modern societies) and most are functionally related, for
instance pottery, sedentism, axes, and the storage of agricultural produce. We
might also note a latent directional teleology through which it is assumed that
foragers may adopt farmers lifeways but not the reverse. But the real problem here is a remarkable double standard of logic. Migrating farmers carry
their physical and conceptual baggage with them like a snail carrying its shell;
transmission, for them, is essentially a passive process. Foragers shop at the
Neolithic store; transmission is an active act of choice.1
1
In this sense, these two views come pre-aligned with theoretical positions; those viewing culture
as an active and meaningful choice are inherently predisposed towards forager acculturation

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How does questioning this assumption actually change our interpretation? To take one example, it is often claimed that the homogeneity of the
LBK way of life over great distances indicates it was carried by migrants. But
it would be equally logical, and probably more so, to assume that groups
separating and meeting new environments and other populations would
change their culture as they moved, losing some elements and gaining new
ones. If so, we must regard LBK homogeneity not as passive photocopying
but as an actively chosen phenomenon, a rigid adherence to uniformity for
social reasons, a defiance of distance. Yet once we admit that more sophisticated social motives may influence choices about both farmer-farmer and
farmer-forager transmission, the basis of interpretation shifts. LBK homogeneity could equally well be due to migrants anxious about isolation maintaining a network with home or, for that matter, to foragers adopting a
package whose uniformity was important to maintain for ideological reasons.
To take another example, groups who had pottery or domesticates but who
hunted and foraged or used Mesolithic-style lithics are usually seen as acculturating foragers. Yet we might equally well expect migrants into a new
region, particularly one with a radically different environment, to learn ways
of living there from people already there and to change their way of life
accordingly.
The biggest assumption of all, of course, is that there are only two possible processes which patterns of transmission must be matched to. This is discussed further below; here we note only that it has become an unconscious
term of argument which pre-structures how one must interpret the evidence,
for instance in the mandate to resolve and mask ambiguities in order to be
able to pronounce any given situation as a result of either migration or
acculturation.

SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION


The above discussion comes to the conclusion that for such a traditional and
solid-looking edifice, the standard arguments for both migration and
acculturation are based on remarkably little defensible logic. We now
attempt some constructive argument.

explanations, while those who view it as passive tradition are inherently predisposed towards
migrations. It gives a rather depressing picture of the level of critical debate that it has taken
several decades before anyone has apparently raised the idea that transmission from one group
of farmers to another is equally well an active social choice.

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Economies technologies cultures identities


As a point of departure, it is worth restating the obvious. While we are interested in explaining the spread of the Neolithic (however it is defined), this is
our own preoccupation and need not correspond to anything recognised by
prehistoric Europeans. In the archaeological imagination, Mesolithic and
Neolithic become self-imposing and inescapable terms of discourse; it is
extremely difficult to avoid slipping, unconsciously, from classifying a society
archaeologically as Mesolithic to assuming that it was in fact ethnographically
made up of Mesolithic people who must have been socially distinct from
Neolithic people. This archaeological essentialism results in a dichotomous
approach to the societies we are trying to understand, and arguably forms the
greatest single obstacle towards actually understanding it.
An example helps. In ethnohistoric Native North America (Fig. 1), we
can draw a moderately clear line between horticulturalists and groups who
exclusively foraged. This frontier, however, corresponds poorly with the distribution of permanent (non-mobile) housing, and even less well with the
distribution of pottery. It bears no relation at all to aspects of ritual such as
the use of sweat lodges for purification, or for that matter to language groups.
Our point here is not merely to deconstruct the idea of an inviolable
Neolithic package, a point made many times in recent years. Rather, it is to
show how relations between farming and non-farming societies varied
immensely, to the degree that using economy-based archaeological classifications such as Neolithic and Mesolithic to envision what peoples identities
were and how they related is highly distorting. In some cases, for instance the
Hurons and the Algonquins, or the Pueblos and the Comanches, the edge of
farming coincides with a recognised ethnic difference. Such cases seem more
common at a sharp ecological frontier (in this case with ecologically specialised trade across it, somewhat as in Zvelebil and Lillies model (2000) for
the Baltic). In other cases, such as between the semi-farming groups on the
eastern Plains and the bison hunters of the Central Plains, they shared many
elements of worldview, ritual and material culture, and it is likely that the
most marked differences between them had a relatively shallow time depth.
In the Eastern Woodlands, groups moving into new environments (from
woodlands to prairies, for example) learned to practise new economies as
they moved. Other groups varied their economy along a spectrum from foraging to horticulture. Ojibway groups, for example, included groups reliant
upon maize gardens and groups living entirely on hunting, fishing and gathering. Here a sharp line between between farmers and foragers would cut
a self-recognised ethnic group in half. Moreover, there were widely shared
cultural practices and idioms which cut across all economic boundaries, such
as the ritual use of tobacco and sweat lodges.

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Figure 1. The distribution of horticulture, non-mobile houses, pottery, and ritual use of sweat
lodges in Native North America (after Driver & Massey 1957).

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Economy was often, perhaps usually, not the main way in which Native
American tribes defined themselves and their relations with their neighbours.
As this suggests, we need to approach the archaeological record without
preconceptions about how people with different economies or material
cultures would have interacted.
People are always moving
Social movement in space is central to explaining the spread of the Neolithic.
A second implicit tenet of much Neolithic-transitionology is that societies are
closed and static. This underlies the proposition that Neolithic things can
move into Mesolithic territories by only two ways: borrowing without the
movement of people, or the movement of an entire social group.
Even a cursory reading of any ethnohistory reveals this as a fiction.
Movement is fundamental to the lives of most foraging groups, and annual
routines may include aggregation with other groups as well as with their own
kin. Continuing with North American examples, the hunting and fishing
Nipissing, for instance, often over-wintered with sedentary Huron farmers.
Movement also typifies farmers. Pueblos are often considered the quintessential sedentary farming groups, self-contained islands in the desert. But
pueblos typically included people married in from neighbouring pueblos, resident or visiting people from neighbouring forager groups, and individuals
and families integrated as refugees or captives. Sometimes quite large groups
joined a pueblo en bloc as the survivors of a village decimated in war, as a faction driven out of its home village by internal politics, or simply lured by an
economic opportunity or cultural attraction. This fluidity, typical of both
farmers and foragers, is driven by many causes, among them the sheer vicissitudes of history, coping with the demographic needs of very small groups,
the inherent value of people and their labour, and the need for wide alliances
across ecological boundaries.
We would draw the following implications, in brief, for understanding the
Neolithic transition. First, movement of people was probably an essential
vector for the spread of the Neolithic. Our argument here is that artefacts
entail detailed systems of social knowledge; things such as domestic animals,
shorn of their techno-cultural context, can certainly be used and consumed,
but are difficult to reproduce and use fully. Hence Neolithic things probably
moved with Neolithic people to make and use them. But, secondly, the
movement of people happened in a great range of forms. The spectrum
would have included the movement of individuals and families, the movement of multi-family groups to be integrated into a recipient society, and the
movement of entire and self-sufficient societies (Barnett 2000; Forenbaher &
Miracle 2005). Much of this movement would not have been understood as

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a migration but as normal social processes common to both foragers and


farmers. Of these, the most common forms, which we can assume to have
been present in all societies, would have been the relatively invisible movement of individuals and families. Moreover, and importantly, this normal
movement of people between groups need not have been directional. We cannot assume that normal people exchange happened only among foragers or
farmers and not between them, nor that movement between foraging and
farming groups was unidirectional and restricted to the movement of farming
groups into forager territory, the movement of forager women to marry
farming men, or any other single scenario.
Social reproduction for both foragers and farmers
As noted above, the standard construal of the problem uses a double standard of logic. To indigenous foragers, culture is a conscious choice; to incoming farmers, culture is passive baggage. This is clearly unjust to our putative
Neolithic farmers, whom we must theorise with similar capacity for social
and cultural action. In other words, we must consider a Neolithic farmers
decision of whether to reproduce, modify or give up the traditions of her
group as no different from a Mesolithic foragers decision. The same is true
for the decision to live in ones home, to move to another community, or to
move ones whole community elsewhere. For farmers and foragers equally,
and indeed for all the groups between these two stereotyped polarities, living
out their history meant continually evaluating and reinventing traditions, and
choosing from a repertoire of available possibilities, whatever the historical
source of this repertoire was.
Social and political models
The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition is documented and well interpreted in a
number of ways. Traditional archaeologists have regarded it as a change of
archaeological cultures. The transition is often understood principally as an
economic shift. Post-processualists have regarded the advent of the Neolithic
as a cultural choice, a shift in systems of meaning, decoupled from both
large-scale archaeological patterning and economy.
All of these are useful ingredients, but what is missing is the idea of social
action. Culture-historical models generally treat the transmission of culture
from one generation to the next, or from one group to a neighbouring one, as
a straightforward and obvious matter, without specifying the social context
which determines why it happens in one way and not in any of a myriad of
other possibilities. Economic interpretations typically treat Neolithic economy as an ecological adaptation driven by necessity; the people themselves

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John Robb & Preston Miracle

do not have particular reasons for choosing to produce what they do in the
way they do. While we find treatments of the Neolithic transition as a shift in
cultural attitude highly stimulating, they too lack a certain explanatory je ne
sais quoi. For example, Mesolithic foragers choices are typically interpreted
by referring them to generalised traditions and attitudes (such as food preferences, respect for ancestors, and so on), with little consideration of the
concrete social relations and reasons, the positioned actions, the cultural
micro-politics within which tradition is invoked or reinvented. Among the few
models to treat the transition socially have been those of Bender (1978), Price
(1995), Hayden (1990), Tillmann (1993) and Zvelebil (1986). The reproduction
of society and culture through human agency is a central locus which cannot
be omitted here, as it furnishes the common ground upon which cultural and
economic understandings of the Neolithic transition meet.

THE RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES:


RESULTING ARCHAEOLOGICAL PATTERNS
To put the point in concrete terms, consider an encounter between parties
with two distinct ways of life. As noted above, this may happen on scales
ranging from individuals to entire groups. There are at least four distinct
responses each party can have to this difference, including not changing their
way of life in any way, heightening differences between the groups, adopting
some new techniques or items or adjusting their way of life to integrate or
accommodate the other, and adopting all of the new way of life as a complete
package.
Table 2 presents some expected patterns for how the encounter might
unfold. This is simplified in considering only what impact an incoming way
of life might have on an indigenous way of life, rather than vice versa.
Moreover, it seems possible, even probable, that more than one of these
responses would occur in any given situation; in many contact situations, for
example, people simultaneously absorb practices and goods from each other
and heighten their own traditions to accentuate the difference between them.
Without labouring the obvious, we would point out five implications of
this admittedly first step in model-building.
1 One initial conclusion is that the traditional scenariosmigration
and acculturationoccupy only a small fraction of the total possibility
space. The classic migration scenario in particular may represent a relatively
uncommon possibility, if societies are rarely as well bounded as it supposes.2
2
Indeed, in assuming a collision between groups with strongly marked boundaries, no history of
previous interaction, and little common heritage, a strong migrationist scenario echoes the

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2 A second implication is that many outcomes are equifinalleaving


similar archaeological patterns. For example, using the standard archaeological criteria discussed above, there is no way to differentiate between the
classic migration scenario and a wholesale adoption of a new way of life by
indigenous people.
3 Following from this, one archaeological priority must be to devise
criteria for interpreting a situation which can differentiate between a greater
range of possibilities. For example, we must look for patterning at different
scales within siteswhich requires forms of excavation not commonly
employed when it is assumed that sites can be classified as representing
homogeneous ways of life. New scientific methods such as the use of stable
isotopes to identify mobility patterns may be invaluable in this if the resulting
data are not simply to be used to reinforce conventional narratives.
4 Equifinality itself may be telling us something important. The past
furnishes material for continual reformulation of tradition in the present.
Tracing the historical derivation of a groups way of life genealogically is our
own preoccupation rather than a logical necessity of the past. The fact that a
group presents itself archaeologically in a way which does not make its
origins transparently evident may be telling us about the choices and priorities
involved in their way of life.
5 Given the latitude of possibilities involved in a cultural encounter, the
actual outcome must be understood as social in a number of ways. The act of
contact is best thought of not as a purely external phenomenon causing a
social response, but must have been enmeshed in social relations. Its effects
surely depended upon social context (for instance whether the groups
involved regarded themselves as related), on the desirability of mobility,
aggregation, tradition and similar factors, and upon social agendas within
each group. Difference itself may have been an important cultural resource to
be valued, shunned or played with.
Reinterpreting the LBK: enclave migration as cultural reformulation
As an illustration, we briefly sketch out a reinterpretation of the classic scenario of LBK migration. While the LBKs status as a migration has sometimes been questioned (Gronenborn 1999; 2004; Kind 1998; Modderman
1988; Tillmann 1993; Whittle 1996), it remains the prevailing wisdom that the

conditions of post-Columbian European colonialism in the Americas and elsewhere; even


ancient colonial situations such as the Mycenaeans and, later, the Greeks in the Central
Mediterranean, would often have involved greater equalities of technology and organisation and
much greater mutual comprehensibility in cultural idioms. On the political context of theorising
the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, see Pluciennik (2001).

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Static frontier between


well-bounded ways of
life

Blurry, polythetic and


moving frontier between
ways of life (classic
acculturation scenario)

Moving frontier between


two well-bounded ways
of life

None

Piecemeal adoption
of specific traits

Adoption of
complete lifestyle

Static frontier between


ways of life becoming
more accentuated

None

Moving frontier between


two well-bounded ways of
life

Heterogeneity on all scales


within and between groups;
spread of difference in
landscape without clear
boundaries

Fine-grained heterogeneity
within group; on regional
scale, gradual spread of
difference within
increasingly poorly
bounded ways of life

Fine-grained heterogeneity
within groups more marked
than it was between source
communities

Individual

Moving frontier between two


well-bounded ways of life

Heterogeneity on all scales


within and between groups;
spread of difference in
landscape without clear
boundaries

Heterogeneity within group


on household or segment
level; on regional scale,
gradual spread of difference
within increasingly poorly
bounded ways of life

Heterogeneity within groups


more marked than it was
between source communities

Family/ segments

Level of mobility between groups with different ways of life

Some possible models for social interaction where two ways of life meet.

Heightening cultural
difference

Table 2.

Response to cultural difference

Moving frontier between


two well-bounded ways of
life

Moving frontier between


two ways of life with
halo of blurry spread of
difference beyond it

Moving frontier between


two well-bounded ways of
life (classic migration
scenario)

Moving frontier between


two well-bounded,
increasingly differentiated
ways of life

Whole group

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LBK was carried from Hungary to France on the backs of westwardlymoving peoples. We do not claim that this reinterpretation is necessarily
correct, just that it demonstrates how scenarios radically different from
conventional interpretations are equally plausible once we scrutinise the
foundations of interpretation critically.
For many archaeologists, the LBK is the Neolithic migration. It moves
quickly. From its origins in western Hungary around 5500 cal BC, it reached
as far west as west-central Germany in little more than two centuries, and by
5000 cal BC at the latest it had arrived in the Low Countries and eastern
France. This is a rapid spread by any standard, covering about 1500 km in no
more than 500 yearsan average of 3 km/year or 75 km/generation. As for
the other criteria of migration, LBK economy is overwhelmingly based upon
domesticated crops and animals. Moreover, the LBK is marked by a highly
consistent set of material things. LBK potsespecially from the first few
founding generationsare similar over a huge area. The same is true for the
famous LBK longhouses; these monumental dwellings show a very similar
layout throughout the LBK range. This implies a homogeneous sedentary
way of life radically different from that of mobile foragers. The standard
view, consequently, is that the LBK spread through Central and Western
Europe through a real movement of Neolithic colonists.
Yet once we begin to question the basis of such interpretations, other
views become equally plausible. There are three reasons why it is difficult to
defend an interpretation of the LBK as a migration.
1 First, such a rapid spread is demographically difficult to sustain. Even
if we acknowledge the lack of any evidence for population pressure to drive a
wave of advance model, and follow an enclave migration model instead, we
still have to imagine the frontier communities doubling their size to spawn off
a new daughter population every generation. This requires an average growth
rate of about 3% per year, close to the theoretical maximum and rarely
sustained in any human community for long (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza
1984).
2 Secondly, the very uniformity of the LBK is a problem. We argue that
homogeneity is not likely to be the ground state of human beings, particularly
in small, widely separated, decentralised communities, and there is little reason to presume a priori that each generation moving into new territory would
maintain their culture and economy unmodified. If we consider the LBK as
created by increasingly distant small groups over about twenty generations,
realistically we should expect the pot or house arriving in France to be noticeably different from that leaving Hungary. Even if the accuracy of cultural
reproduction were 99% between each generation/move, one would still expect
a divergence of almost 20% between initial and final LBK groups. Strong
social processes must be at work to prevent replication/transmission errors.

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3 Thirdly, it is difficult to understand the motivation or cause for the


LBK as a migration. Discounting population pressure, enclave migration has
been ascribed to either idiosyncratic social customs or characteristics of complex adaptive systems (Bogucki 2000) or a strategy for evading the possible
inegalitarian social relations possible within Neolithic villages (Zilho 2003).
The former is possible, but seems an ad hoc supposition; the latter begs the
question of why the phenomenon is therefore not found much more widely
among early farming societies, and why many groups within Neolithic landscapes, where such migration was not an option, do not display evidence of
marked inequality.
As an alternative scenario, we seek the roots of the LBK in Mesolithic
foragers enhancing a Mesolithic lifestyle. Mesolithic Europe was populated
by thinly dispersed groups, but they had a tendency to aggregate when exceptionally dense resources allowed it. Sociality was attractive; perhaps not yearround, but in a counterpoint of partial mobility. The Late Mesolithic
complex hunters of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts show the potential of
Mesolithic groups to transform in areas where resources were rich and dense.
In contrast, in the thinly settled heartland of Central Europe, resources did
not allow large groups to aggregate except in exceptional circumstances such
as the Iron Gates. Thus, there was a pre-existing Mesolithic association of
food surplus, periodic sedentism, and sociality.
The next step is obvious. In areas of dispersed natural resources, when
domesticated foods became available, they were slotted into this social role,
that of supporting sociality. This role for domesticates has been proposed for
Scandinavia by Price (1995), but it can fit foragers in less rich environments as
well or better. The new economy would have been transmitted through the
normal movement of people between Mesolithic groups; the LBK thus may
well have expanded along the lines of pre-existing linkages between Mesolithic
populations, which would have been along rivers since they provide corridors
for easy movement and surplus resources to underwrite aggregations.
With more frequent and permanent aggregation, however, came both economic and political changes. Sociality itself may have been collectively valued
rather than simply a tool for ambitious political strategists. Domesticates
provided controllable power resources for actualising sociality, at the cost of
shifting annual mobility rounds. Loose, flexible relations based upon movement within territory shifted to more rigidly defined ones centred upon specific places, the focus of labour, commitment and identity. And these places
and relations required new ways of conceptualising identity. Hence new
resources were conceptualised in terms of the construction of new kinds of
places. It is thus no accident that house design is one of the icons of unity,
with the massive, overbuilt longhouses which have rightly been considered
monuments of domestic identity. Likewise, pottery is a socially obvious thing

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used in situations of communal eating and drinking. Moreover, the newly


adopted way of life would be understood in terms of a narrative of descent
which would trace its connections to the places and groups from which these
things were adopted. This may be the importance of the very strong stylistic
unity of the LBK pots and houses: surely the result of close attention to
uniformity rather than haphazard unthinking reproduction.
In this interpretation, LBK farming was adopted rapidly and uniformly
by a minority of Mesolithic foragers in very specific environments, for reasons originating in Mesolithic power relations and cultural themes of food,
aggregation, and sociality. When they did so, they used Neolithic material
culture to underscore the difference between themselves and their predecessors and neighbours. They were creating radical difference as a form of identity politics, severing themselves from local history. It seems unlikely that this
claim to exotic origins would be expressed only in material culture. We could
well expect revisionist group historyrecreating genealogy to create or
emphasise myths of exotic descent. Thus, we are arguing, if you showed up
at an LBK village and asked them whether their ancestors had come from
somewhere else, they would say yes. And they would be wrong.

CONCLUSIONS:
TRANSFORMATION OF AN ETHNOGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE
Asking did the Neolithic get there by migration or acculturation is really the
wrong question to ask, and it pre-structures any possible answer in unhelpful
ways. It represents only a fraction of possible social interactions, and it
imposes an almost irresistible need to think of Neolithic people meeting
Mesolithic people, even though these are our own constructed, essentialising
categories rather than necessarily referring to any real social identities (cf.
Bailey et al. 2005).
Rather, the problem becomes how did each group, whether forager,
farmer, or something in between, make use of cultural differences both
among themselves and available from their neighbours, to recreate their way
of life? The source of this repertoire is not irrelevant, but is hardly the only
or most important element. Instead, the key is the social logic with which
available possibilities were reinvented as actualities. Even if our interest,
ultimately, is to trace the historical origin of a way of life, we must approach
it by investigating how it was socially reproduced in the first instance.
Can this be done? We would like to think, optimistically, that it can. New
research questions challenge us to develop new methodologies. For example,
our just-so story about the Mesolithic origins of the LBK could presumably
be investigated, and differentiated from a migrationist account, in a range of

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ways. Some would involve new forms of data, such as the use of human bone
chemistry to track patterns of mobility. It should be emphasised, however,
that cutting-edge scientific methods are only as reliable as the interpretive concepts they are used with; there is no point doing twenty-first-century science
to support nineteenth-century archaeology. For example, the challenge in this
case is to use isotope data to investigate how people moved, without assuming
a priori the existence of discrete forager and farmer groups. Other relevant
tactics involve simply re-examining traditional archaeological data such as site
locations and ceramics (to take one example, by looking at variability rather
than typological identification of pottery). Finally, a major step here is to
bridge the traditional divide in how specialists study Mesolithic and Neolithic
societies, by theorising social action equally for both.

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HAYDEN, B. 1990. Nimrods, piscators, pluckers, and planters: the emergence of food production.
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Mobility, specialisation and community


diversity in the Linearbandkeramik:
isotopic evidence from the skeletons
ALEX BENTLEY

THE THEME OF THIS CONFERENCE VOLUME reflects a growing recognition that


the Neolithic in Europe involvedin different proportions in different
placesboth the colonisation by small groups of farmers and an interaction
with hunter-gatherers. Generations of this interaction not only led foragers
eventually to adopt farming (e.g. Zvelebil 2002), but enabled early farmers to
survive in new surroundings through products and raw materials procured
from indigenous groups. Intermarriage between foragers and farmersas a
basic means to maintain alliances (e.g. Fox 1983, 136)may well be the way
in which small, isolated farmer communities survived through the earliest
generations, with indigenous groups the only option for exogamous marriage.
In fact, indigenous foragers in central Europe may have been as numerous as
the very first agriculturalists (Zvelebil 1997; 2002). At the time of the proposed demographic expansion of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), even the
Hungarian Plain was sparsely populated with dispersed settlements (Whittle
1996; Zvelebil & Lillie 2000).
The consideration of forager-farmer intermarriage during the initial
phases of the Neolithic is an old topic, of course. Even the classic wave of
advance theory explicitly considered admixture between indigenous and
colonising groups (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza 1984, 824), as have subsequent demic diffusion models (e.g. Chickhi et al. 2002; Currat & Excoffier
2005; Eswaran 2002). However, because the genetic effects of early foragerfarmer intermarriages would have multiplied themselves through the hundreds
of human generations since the Neolithic (e.g. Bellwood 2005, 260), genetic
models that extrapolate backward from modern populations will be highly
sensitive to tiny changes in not just the assumed admixture rate between
hunter-gatherers and farmers (Currat & Excoffier 2005), but also the sexspecific biases in these intermarriages. Adding this small amount of complexity to genetic models could clear up some apparent incongruities in the

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 117140, The British Academy 2007.

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Alex Bentley

data. For example, geneticists studying the Y-chromosome in modern


Europeans often argue that Neolithic farming spread primarily through
demic diffusion, or the migrations of the farmers themselves (e.g. Chikhi
et al. 2002; King & Underhill 2002). On the other hand, geneticists studying
mitochondrial DNA in modern Europeans have argued for a much larger
Palaeolithic component in modern Europeans, suggesting that the adoption
of farming by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers was of prime importance (e.g.
Richards 2003; Richards et al. 2000). The apparent discrepancy is most likely
due to over-generalising from different sources of evidence. In fact, because
the Y-chromosome is inherited strictly along the paternal line, and mtDNA
is inherited maternally, a potential solution is a colonisation of small
groups of farmers, in which those of whom survived did so by intermarrying
with indigenous women (e.g. Bellwood 2005, 2602; Bentley et al. 2003b).
Hundreds of generations later, modern European populations could have
inherited their Neolithic, Near-Eastern Y-chromosome haplotypes from
their colonising fathers, and their Palaeolithic mitochondrial DNA from
their indigenous, hunter-gatherer mothers of Continental Europe. A pioneering ancient DNA study appears to supports this, in that a particular
mtDNA haplotype (N1a) found in early Neolithic female skeletons is
comparatively rare among modern Europeans (Haak et al. 2005).
Population genetic studies are but one example of how explicit consideration of demographic heterogeneity greatly enhances our discussions of the
Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Europe. Much of the progress so far has
focused on how things changed for populations as a generalised whole, such
as how the diet changed (e.g. Boquet-Appel 2002; Jackes et al. 1997; Richards
et al. 2003), or how the LBK archaeological assemblage (longhouses, pottery,
domestic animals and plants) appeared suddenly from Hungary to eastern
France in a relatively short period in the sixth millennium cal BC (e.g. Gkiasta
et al. 2003). With much of the basic where and when understood for the
spread of the LBK (even if the databases are not well coordinatedsee
Cromb & Van Strydonck 2004; Steele et al. 2004), what is becoming
more interesting at this point is the nature and reasons for the regional differences in the early LBK of central Europe (Bogucki 1996; Bogucki &
Grygiel 1993; Gronenborn 1998; 1999; 2003; Lning et al. 1989; Whittle
1996), including geographic differences in ceramic and lithic assemblages
(Lning et al. 1989; Gronenborn 1994), and in animal husbandry and
farming (Lning 2000).
Questions of LBK heterogeneity directly relate to how agriculture spread
and who it involved. Assessing indigenous involvement is more than a simple
modelling of admixture rates, not least in terms of when the intermarriage
may have taken place. Over time, in areas where foragers were in more frequent contact with farmer communities, foragers may have adopted agricul-

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ture by competing for economic exchange with farmers (e.g. Dennell 1983;
Gronenborn 1999; 2003; Jeunesse 2000; Otte & Noiret 2001; Tillmann 1993;
Whittle 1996). For example, by considering the geographic distributions of
Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in Europe around 60005000 cal BC, Lahr
et al. (2000) argue that Mesolithic settlement was generally sparser in Central
Europe and the Northern European Plains when the first Neolithic groups
appeared, but forager populations may well have increased in these regions
after farming was established (see Lahr et al. 2000, fig. 8.3). This may have
resulted from foragers being attracted to agricultural areas for economic
exchange, and entering into what Bailey (1988) termed a symbiosis with
farmers. As described by the frontier mobility or availability model
(Zvelebil & Lillie 2000; Zvelebil & Rowley-Conwy 1984), foragers during the
early stages of the forager/farmer frontier would have acquired a few domestic animals through trade. Later on, status differences emerged among foragers as they over-exploited their resources in competition to exchange with
farmers. As male foragers lost prestige, forager women may have immigrated
into the farming communities. Eventually, this social competition induced
foragers to adopt farming. An ethno-historical example of this process
occurring involves the Muckogodo hunter-gatherers and Masaii pastoralists
of southern Africa (Cronk 1989).
One way to enhance our understanding of the LBK is to zoom in on the
generalised picture, and examine patterns of local diversity and specialisation
within LBK communities (e.g. Bentley & Shennan 2003; Strein 2000). Within
any typical LBK community, we might consider the heterogeneity that
existed ethnically, economically, and socially, and how each of those aspects
changed through time. Ethnically, the people occupying Central Europe during the LBK were a mix of indigenous and migrant ancestries. Economically,
it is doubtful that everyone in each LBK community made pottery, herded
livestock and cultivated plants as equal generalists. Did subsistence specialisations, such as livestock herding versus crop cultivation develop over time?
Socially, were early LBK communities subdivided in ways that mirrored these
specialities or potentially mixed ancestries?
This chapter considers the LBK in south-western Germany (Fig. 1),
which is an ideal study area regarding questions of community diversity,
because it was at or near the frontier zone between foragers and farmers for
centuries, c. 55005200 cal BC (e.g. Gronenborn 1999; 2003; Jochim 2000;
Zvelebil & Rowley-Conwy 1984). The presence of shell-tempered, La
Hoguette pottery in terminal Mesolithic contexts in Alsace indicates that
indigenous groups were at least in indirect contact with Neolithic (probably
Cardial) communities, even if it is debatable whether La Hoguette predates
the earliest LBK in southern Germany (e.g. Bogucki 2000; Gronenborn 1999;
Jeunesse 1987; Schtz et al. 1992). Flint from the Paris Basin and the Maas

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Alex Bentley

Figure 1. The Rhine Valley and adjacent areas, showing the extent of early LBK settlement,
c. 5300 BC. Sites mentioned in the text include: D  Dillingen, F  Flomborn, S  Schwetzingen,
SM  Stuttgart-Mlhausen, T  Talheim, V Vaihingen. Reproduced by courtesy of the
Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

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Valley of the Netherlands, each well within Mesolithic territory during the
early LBK, are found in LBK contexts in the Rhine valley, at sites such as
Bruchenbrcken, Zimmersheim, Ensisheim, Bischoffsheim and SpechbachLe-Bas (Cziesla 1994; Gronenborn 1999; Jeunesse 1997; Mauvilly 1997). At
Bruchenbrcken, the earliest LBK blades have faceted striking platforms
with a 70 angle between the striking platform and the dorsal ridge, which is
common on Mesolithic blades from the Paris Basin, but not in Earliest LBK
blades elsewhere, for which 90 was the norm (Gronenborn 1998). In addition, a pointed base vessel recently discovered at the LBK site of Rosheim in
Alsace may derive from the Erteblle culture or even possibly the Russian
steppes (Gronenborn 2003; Jeunesse & LeFranc 1999).

LOCAL EVIDENCE ON THE SCALE OF THE INDIVIDUAL


Local diversity in the early European Neolithic can be characterised by
studying the skeletons of the people involved, either through craniometrics,
ancient DNA, or isotopic analysis, each of which has indicated some degree
of indigenous adoption through interaction with early farmers (Bentley
et al. 2002; Brace et al. 2006; Haak et al. 2005). In the LBK of central
Europe, many of the useful isotopic data so far have come from strontium
isotope analysis, which is a way of recovering a geographic signature from
archaeological tooth enamel, indicating where the animal spent its time during childhood, when the enamel mineral was forming (e.g. Price et al. 2002).
Essentially, strontium isotope ratios (hereafter 87Sr/86Sr) are conveyed from
weathering rocks, through the soil, into the food chain and ultimately into the
skeleton of local animals, without measurable fractionation (change in the
ratio) during the process (Capo et al. 1998). Unfortunately, 87Sr/86Sr in such
environmental materials such as rocks and soils can be quite variable, and not
necessarily representative of the biologically-available values (e.g. Capo et al.
1998; Sillen et al. 1998). However, by averaging the 87Sr/86Sr differences
between rocks, soils, parts of individual plants and so on, animals feeding in
the same location acquire similar 87Sr/86Sr in their skeletons, with a much
smaller variance than in the local soils and plants (Burton et al. 1999; Price
et al. 2002). Hence 87Sr/86Sr in the skeletons of animals tend to represent a
geographic average of their local, biologically-available strontium (Bentley
et al. 2004; Burton et al. 1999; Price et al. 2002).
Although tremendously useful for characterising variations within communities, strontium isotopes are rarely an exact signature that pinpoints just
where a person was born. The strontium isotope ratio in tooth enamel,
87
Sr/86Sr, is simply a number, usually 5 digits, that represents an average of the
biologically-available strontium taken in by an animal while the sampled

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Alex Bentley

122

enamel was forming. Two people from places with similar geology will
acquire similar 5-digit numbers no matter how far apart those places were.
Furthermore, if an animal travelled while its enamel formed, then the measured 87Sr/86Sr reflects an average of all the locations visited in the time covered by the enamel sample. If it is possible to sample the enamel in very small
increments along its growth axis, then the time resolution is much improved,
but in any case, the 87Sr/86Sr reflects an average of strontium intake for some
particular time interval.
The point is that, rather than treating 87Sr/86Sr as a magic signature as it
is sometimes portrayed by journalists, a focus on patterns of 87Sr/86Sr variation can shed wonderful insight on prehistoric human mobility, community
and diversity. This is especially true when 87Sr/86Sr is combined with other
isotopes, such as oxygen and carbon or nitrogen. The trick is to look for
statistically-significant patterns of local versus non-local values among groups
of different individuals, rather than trying to pinpoint the exact origins of a
few individuals. For example, we might find a significantly higher incidence
of non-locals among either men or women (suggestive of matrilocality or
patrilocality, respectively), among those buried with a certain artefact or in a
certain cardinal orientation (indicative of social differences between locals
and non-locals), among those from a certain part of the site (characterising
neighbourhoods within the site), or among those whose skeletons are
morphologically distinctive (showing differences in health or possibly even
genetic ancestry between locals and non-locals). Furthermore, when paired
with measurements on domestic animals, it may be possible that certain
isotopic signatures in people were derived from herding animals to the
same places. In this way, community diversity, subsistence specialisation and
even kinship and marriage patterns can be inferred from the isotopic data,
through a knowledge simply of the difference between the local and non-local
signatures at a particular study site.

ISOTOPIC RESULTS FROM LBK SKELETONS OF


SOUTHERN GERMANY
South-western Germany is an ideal study region for strontium isotope analysis of LBK skeletal samples not just for the archaeological regions discussed
above, but also for its geology. On both sides of the Upper Rhine Valley are
the Vosges and Black Forest uplands, which are underlain by gneisses and
granites that have significantly higher 87Sr/86Sr values ( 0.715) than the
Jurassic and younger sedimentary rocks ( 0.710) of the regional lowlands
(Fig. 2). In the early stages of this project, the expected strontium isotope
ratios were predicted from measurements in area rocks and stream waters

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Figure 2. Geology of Southern Germany, showing the mean 87Sr/86Sr measured in pig enamel from various archaeological sites (see Bentley &
Knipper 2005, table 2). After Bentley & Knipper (2005, fig. 1).

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(listed by Bentley et al. 2003a; Price et al. 2003). Later, after determining that
archaeological pig teeth represent well their local, biologically-available isotope values (Bentley et al. 2004), Bentley and Knipper (2005) mapped the
biologically-available strontium, carbon and oxygen isotopic signatures of
prehistoric Southern Germany using archaeological tooth enamel samples
from domestic pigs. The mapping shows a marked upland-lowland difference
in biologically-available 87Sr/86Sr values, ranging between 0.7086 and 0.7103
in the sedimentary lowlands, and from 0.710 to as high as 0.722 in crystalline
uplands of the Odenwald, Black Forest and Bavarian Forest (Fig. 1). In addition, Bentley and Knipper (2005) found that carbon isotopes in the carbonate fraction of pig enamel were generally about 12% more enriched in 13C in
the uplands.
Regarding the LBK human skeletons, after several years of isotope measurements, a regional picture is finally emerging of the change in human
mobility patterns over time in early Neolithic southern Germany (Fig. 2).
The cumulative results show that shortly after farming arrived after 5500 cal
BC, there were many non-locals in each community, mostly with upland
strontium isotope signatures (Fig. 3). Centuries later, towards 5000 cal BC,
there were fewer non-locals overall, and females were more common among
the non-locals with upland signatures.
As Fig. 3 shows, many of the non-local 87Sr/86Sr values from human
enamel are above about 0.7108 (horizontal line), which indicates a significant
diet from the uplands. By combining different forms of information,1 Bentley
et al. (2003a) determined that foragers who spent a quarter of their childhood
in the uplands would acquire a 87Sr/86Sr value above 0.7108, whereas a lowland farmer would be below 0.710, even when allowing for 11% of the farmer
diet to be upland-reared meat (meat has less Sr than grain).
Since LBK settlements in southern Germany are found almost exclusively
in lowland settings, the distribution of flint and ceramic artefacts in BadenWrttemberg indicates that the main stream valleys were densely populated
during the early and middle Neolithic, with the uplands not settled until the
later Neolithic (Heide 2001). For this reason, the early LBK individuals with
upland 87Sr/86Sr values may have been either indigenous hunter-gatherers
who joined farmer communities, or pastoralists who spent time in the uplands.
Most likely, the upland values represent some of each, and ancient DNA
being analysed in some of these samples by Wolfgang Haak (J. Gutenberg
Universitt, Mainz) may help to resolve these questions. Given the

1
Specifically: (a) a diet derived from Greggs (1988) optimal foraging analysis for Neolithic
south-western Germany, (b) the approximate Sr contents of those different foods, and (c)
generalised estimates of the 87Sr/86Sr in the uplands vs. lowlands.

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archaeological evidence for coexistence and trade between Neolithic and


indigenous groups during the early LBK (Gronenborn 1999), the upland
women in the early LBK are prime candidates for hunter-gatherers who
joined farmer communities through marriage (Bentley et al. 2002). Later in
the LBK, when farming was predominant, the upland males are more likely
to have been livestock herders.

SOCIAL DIFFERENCES WITHIN LBK COMMUNITIES


The compiled results in Fig. 3 indicate that certain people, having lived partly
on upland resources, were buried in socially-distinct ways among communities of people who subsisted primarily on lowland resources. This is because
the burials of non-locals show patterns consistent within each site, but
different between sites.
Also, at several sites most non-locals were buried with the head toward a
certain cardinal direction, with that direction particular to each site. At
Flomborn (Fig. 4) and at Stuttgart-Mhlhausen (Fig. 5), most of the nonlocals are buried with head pointing west, and at Stuttgart-Mhlhausen the
0.716

0.714

87

Sr/86Sr

0.712

0.710

0.708

0.706
Lowland
pigs

Upland
pigs

EM

LM

Figure 3. Summary of 87Sr/86Sr in human enamel from Neolithic Germany. Circles, females;
triangles, males; squares, child of unknown sex; crosses, pigs (used to map values). Filled
(grey) symbols are burials with a shoe-last adze. Sites ordered chronologically include Early
Mhlhausen (EM), Flomborn (F), Late Mhlhausen (LM), Schwetzingen (S), Talheim (T), and
Dillingen (D). 87Sr/86Sr above about 0.7108 (horizontal line) required significant diet from the
uplands.

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Alex Bentley

126
0.713

Flomborn (5200 cal BC)

0.712

87

Sr/86Sr

0.711

0.710

0.709

0.708
W

NW

NE

SE

Figure 4. 87Sr/86Sr in human tooth enamel from Flomborn. The horizontal axis shows the
cardinal direction of the head during burial. Circles, females; triangles, males; squares, unsexed
children. The dashed line shows the local range estimated by Bentley et al. (2002).

relative number of these west-pointing non-locals decreases markedly later in


the LBK (Fig. 5a vs. 5b). At Schwetzingen (Fig. 6), most of the non-locals
point toward north or north-east (Bentley et al. 2002; Price et al. 2001; 2003).
Particularly interesting are correlations between 87Sr/86Sr and the inclusion of a shoe-last adze (Schuhleistenkeil), a ground-stone adze that is often
found in male LBK burials. At Flomborn (Fig. 4) and Dillingen (Fig. 7), very
few of those with non-local 87Sr/86Sr values, male or female, were buried with
a shoe-last adze (Flomborn: p  0.13; Dillingen: p  0.01), but adzes were
present with most of the local males (Bentley et al. 2002). At StuttgartMhlhausen, there are two west-pointing, non-local males with a shoe-last in
the early LBK (Fig. 5a), but by the middle LBK, seven out of the eight males
with shoe-last adzes are east-pointing (Fig. 5b), and with significantly lower
(p  0.10) 87Sr/86Sr, meaning that shoe-last adzes are again associated with
locals by this time. The simple reason for this association between the shoelast adze and local (or at least lowland) 87Sr/86Sr values may be that these men
were cultivatorsas opposed to hunters or livestock herdersand they used
the hafted adze for cutting wood or cultivation tasks, perhaps hoeing. As
discussed below, the men with upland 87Sr/86Sr values may have herded
livestock, and therefore had less use for one of these adzes.

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127

Figure 5. 87Sr/86Sr in human tooth enamel from Stuttgart-Mhlhausen, during the (a) Early LBK
and (b) Mid-Late LBK. The horizontal axis shows the cardinal direction of the head during burial. Circles, females; triangles, males; squares, unsexed children. The dashed line shows the local
range estimated by Bentley et al. (2004), from archaeological pigs teeth at nearby Vaihingen.

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Alex Bentley

128

0.712

Schwetzingen (51005000 cal BC)

0.710

87

Sr/86Sr

0.711

0.709

0.708
SW

NW

NE

SE

Figure 6. 87Sr/86Sr in human tooth enamel from Schwetzingen. The horizontal axis shows the
cardinal direction of the head during burial. Circles, females; triangles, males; squares, unsexed
children. The dashed line shows the local range estimated by Bentley et al. (2002).
0.713

Dillingen (51004900 cal BC)

0.712

87

Sr/86Sr

0.711

0.710

0.709

0.708
S

Figure 7. 87Sr/86Sr in human tooth enamel from Dillingen. The horizontal axis shows the
cardinal direction of the head during burial. Circles, females; triangles, males; squares, unsexed
children. The dashed line shows the local range estimated by Bentley et al. (2002).

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129

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY IN THE LBK


Overall, the strontium isotope analyses of human skeletons from LBK cemeteries in the Upper Rhine valley show a significant proportion of non-local
females (Fig. 3). The prevalence of females among the non-locals is most significant at Schwetzingen (p  0.05) and at Dillingen (p  0.14). Although the
specific circumstances certainly differed from site to site, the simplest explanation2 is that the kinship system was broadly patrilocal, that is, it was the
women who relocated within the exogamous marriage system. Patrilocality
would appear to be the most stable kinship system for LBK society because
considerable herds of livestock were kept, and ownership of livestock is
strongly associated with patrilocality (Holden 2002; Holden & Mace 2003;
Holden et al. 2003). There is support for this interpretation also from genetics. By comparing data on the diversity of Y-chromosomes (inherited from
the father) and mtDNA (inherited from the mother) among modern
Europeans, Seilestad et al. (1998) identified generally greater mobility (i.e.
genetic homogeneity across space) among women than among men.
Assuming the differences are not artefacts of comparing data from different
molecules in different European populations, the most likely explanation is
patrilocality during the general prehistory of Europe (Calafell et al. 2000;
Seielstad et al. 1998; Stoneking 1998). Although the ancient DNA and isotope results so far do not overlap on many of the same LBK skeletons,
Flomborn Burial 13, the one identified by Haak et al. (2005) with Neolithic
farmer (haplotype N1a) ancestry, was also the only Flomborn woman without an upland strontium isotope signature, and hence the best candidate from
this site for a woman of Neolithic farmer ancestry. This is speculating, but it
shows how much could be learned by analysing both isotopes and ancient
DNA in the same individuals in the future.
Isotopic analyses from the site of Talheim, a late LBK community killed
in a violent raid, support the patrilineal hypothesis in rather dramatic fashion. The remains of 34 individuals recovered at Talheim (c. 49004800 cal
BC), in the Neckar valley of Germany, included nine men, seven women, two
adults of unknown sex and 16 children, all buried in a single pit 3 m long
(Wahl & Knig 1987; Wild et al. 2004). All show violent injuries as if the
victims were killed in a single massacre, and were probably the residents of
a village (Wahl & Knig 1987). Tooth enamel samples of most of these
individuals were analysed for strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes
2

It should be noted that the greater variation in 87Sr/86Sr among Neolithic females is in no way
an artefact of any physiological differences between males and females, as strontium isotopes do
not fractionate during biological processes, and furthermore, the opposite pattern (local females,
non-local males) has in fact been observed for a case study from early agricultural Thailand
(Bentley et al. 2005).

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Alex Bentley

130

(Bentley et al. n.d.). By plotting the strontium and oxygen isotopes from the
Talheim tooth enamel samples, three distinct clusters appear (Fig. 8), which
can be considered groups with different childhood origins (whether sedentary
or mobile). As Fig. 8 shows, Groups 1 and 2 are quite distinct, with the d18O
gap between them about as large as the variation within each group. Of these,
Group 1 appears to represent the local community because its 87Sr/86Sr is
consistent with the expected local range, and also because it contains all of
the young children.
It has been argued that the young women from Talheim, notably underrepresented among the remains, were taken away by their captors (e.g. Wild
et al. 2004). This is supported by the isotope evidence, as the most striking
aspect of Group 1 in Fig. 8 is that it contains no adult females: only males,
young children, and an 11-year-old girl. None of the four adult females
analysed fell within this local group; although a small sample, given that 10
out of 15 (23) of the other samples were in Group 1, the probability of this
happening by chance alone is less than 2% ( [13]4). Because there are two
adult women in both Group 2 and Group 3, it appears that the women of
Group 1 were selectively spared (captured) by the attackers.

Talheim
0.7105

Group 3: Pastoralists?

87

Sr/86Sr

0.7100

0.7095

0.7090
Group 2:
Family?

Group 1: No adult females!

0.7085
25

26

27
d18O

Figure 8. Isotope values in human tooth enamel from Talheim, showing 87Sr/86Sr vs. d18O. Circles,
females; triangles, males; squares, young children ( 6 years). Boys and girls ages 612 are shown
with symbols like the adults, but smaller. The colour shadings denote three groups determined
by Bentley et al. (n.d.), including: Group 1 (open), Group 2 (grey), and Outliers (black). To avoid
clutter, error bars are shown only for the children, as these are typical errors for all the other
measurements. After Bentley et al. (n.d., fig. 5a).

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Remarkably, by combining the isotope data with the results of previous


skeletal analyses, it appears that Talheim Group 2 may have been a nuclear
family. Figure 9 shows the way in which Alt et al. (1997) summarised their
major skeletal-biological results, showing which Talheim individuals possess
relatively rare, heritable traits, numbered 164, 333, 554 and 673. The lines in
Fig. 9 connect individuals of particular similarity, which may include similarities involving traits other than these four. Of particular interest are a man
in his twenties (84-2), a boy (84-23) and a girl both about 11 years old (84-23
and 83-15A), whom Alt et al. (1995, 21415) postulated may have been a
father and his two children. The five individuals of Group 2 include the
father (84-2) and the 11-year-old daughter (83-15A) and, although it did
not include the son (84-23), Group 2 does contain another 11-year-old boy
(83-15B) who seems just as likely to be the son, as he shares traits 164 and
333 and was linked to the potential father by a line of genetic similarity
(Fig. 9). The two adult women in Group 2 include a 20-year old woman

83-11

83-20A

83-22VII

84-4
83-12

83-10B

83-15A
83-18B

554

83-221

83-22C1
84-2

83-7
84-23
673

83-15B

83-3A

333
83-19/20

84-28

164

Figure 9. Diagram of the major skeletal-biological results of Alt et al. (1995; 1997) on the
Talheim individuals. Individuals sampled in this study for isotopes are in black, with grey showing individuals not sampled. Similar individuals are connected, with solid lines for  35% similarity, and dashed lines for  25% similarity. Boxes show individuals possessing certain traits
(trait numbers are indicated at the bottom of each box). After Alt et al. (1995, fig. 2).

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Alex Bentley

(84-4, upper left in Fig. 2), who seems a good candidate for the wife of the
father because she has relatively little genetic similarity with him, which
would mean that the children inherited traits 164 and 333 paternally. The
last member is a 50-year old woman, a potential grandmother (83-22D)
who could be on the mothers side, since she too lacks traits 164 and 333.
Although this interpretation is partly subjective, it really should be no surprise to discover a family within this community, and the particular group
membership of a man, a woman, two similarly aged children, and a woman
of the previous generation seems unlikely to be a chance combination.
Fox (1983, 2753) describes the nuclear family as generally viable within
patrilineal kinship systems, mainly because men, whose role in matrilineal
societies is essentially impregnation, generally commit in patrilineal societies
to one wife, in order to control the inheritance of paternal property for their
children. From an anthropological perspective, then, the isotopic evidence for
patrilocality suggests that nuclear families were possible in the LBK, and
reciprocally, the evidence for a nuclear family at Talheim supports the case for
patrilineal/patrilocal kinship.

SPECIALISATION AND FAMILIAL OCCUPATIONS IN THE LBK


The results from Talheim (Bentley et al. n.d.) yielded one additional revealing pattern involving Group 3. With the four highest 87Sr/86Sr values of the
Talheim sample (Fig. 8), Group 3 includes two females (83-10B, 83-20A) and
two males (83-7 and 83-18B). The two males were actually identified by Alt
et al. (1997) as possible brothers or cousins based on similarities in skeletal
morphology. All four were close to 30 years old when they died.
Bentley et al. (nd.) also measured carbon isotopes (d13C) in the Talheim
sample, and by plotting 87Sr/86Sr vs. d13C (Fig. 10). The data fall into two
arrays: a horizontal array with relatively uniform 87Sr/86Sr, and a diagonal
array in which 87Sr/86Sr correlates linearly with d13C (r2  0.89 for 10 data
points). Group 3 falls exclusively within the diagonal array, and Groups 1
and 2 fall within the horizontal array. Since the regional uplands tend to yield
both higher 87Sr/86Sr and higher d13C (Bentley & Knipper 2005), the diagonal
array probably aligns with increasingly upland diet contribution. Because
certain LBK cattle, sheep and goats from this area (discussed below) yield
values significantly above 0.710, we can be fairly sure that LBK livestock
were herded into the uplands, including the Black Forest (Kienlin & ValdeNowak 2003; Valde-Nowak 2002; Whittle 1996, 162). Hence the diagonal
array in Fig. 10 may represent different consumption of upland-reared
meat (see Bentley et al. n.d.), and possibly the livestock herders of the
community.

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0.711

Trait 554

87

Sr/86Sr

0.710

0.709

Traits 164, 333

0.708
14

13

12
C
13

Figure 10. 87Sr/86Sr and d13C for the Talheim individuals, compared with the presence/absence
of the four important non-metric traits identified from skeletal morphology by Alt et al. (1995,
1997), including: 164 and/or 333 (black), 554 (grey), 673 (outlining square) or none of these
traits (open). As in Fig. 9, the smaller symbols indicate girls and boys aged 612. After Bentley
et al. (n.d., fig. 6).

What is most remarkable about Fig. 10 is that, by using the data symbols
to represent the genetic traits, we find that all six of the individuals possessing genetic trait 164 and/or 333 plot along the horizontal array, and the three
with trait 554 plot along the diagonal array. Although a small sample, this is
significant, as the probability that three samples of one description would
plot distinctly from six samples of another description by random chance is
less than 1%. Also, among the six remaining individuals without any of these
four traits, five occur within the diagonal array (Fig. 10). This indicates a
correlation between diet, geographic origin and genetic relatedness, suggesting the plausible association of specialised cultivators with the horizontal
array and livestock herders with the diagonal array (Group 3), with both
specialisations being familial, learned by children from their parent(s).
The idea of livestock herders as familial, socially-distinct specialists in the
LBK can be further explored at Vaihingen, a settlement occupied from the
early (Flomborn) phase of the LBK through to at least the mid-LBK, with
the remains of at least 80 longhouses, recovered in the excavations led by
Rdiger Krause. Some time after the settlement was established in the
Earliest LBK, Vaihingen was encircled by a ditch roughly 2 m wide, and less

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Alex Bentley

than a century after that, the ditch was filled in (Krause 2000). During the
subsequent LBK phases, at least 80 people were buried in all layers of the
ditch fill. Other burials, at least 40, were made within the settlement, often in
the lateral trenches next to houses. Since the ditch burials usually contained
little more than a few potsherds, and a few individuals apparently were
simply thrown into the ditch, they would seem to reflect a social group
marginalised from those who were buried (and presumably lived) within the
settlement. Strontium isotope analyses of human enamel revealed significantly more non-local strontium isotope signatures in human tooth enamel
samples from the ditch burials than from the settlement burials (Bentley et al.
2003a).
Although it may be that the non-locals were immigrants from other villages, it seems at least as likely that they were livestock herders, especially
since the cattle, sheep and goats from Vaihingen show a wide range of
87
Sr/86Sr values. Bentley et al. (2004) found that pigs had the narrowest range
of signatures from the site, and were hence locally kept. That study also
found, however, a wide range of strontium isotope signatures from cattle,
sheep and goats, many of which were pastured into the uplands, such as the
Black Forest. In fact, archaeological survey of flint artefacts has shown that
people used the Black Forest Mountains probably for summer highland pasturing and leaf-foddering, by the Late Neolithic or before (Kienlin & ValdeNowak 2003; Valde-Nowak 2002).
Transhumance at Vaihingen was confirmed by analysing cow enamel
samples at regular intervals along the growth axis of the tooth, yielding a
continuous 87Sr/86Sr record for the first two years of the cows life. The results
(Bentley & Knipper 2005) from three Vaihingen cows show that one was
clearly taken into the uplands during the summer to pasture, while the other
two were taken to different places during the summer (Fig. 11). With further
analyses planned, what is so intriguing so far is that the three Vaihingen cows
are different; one appears to have gone from the settlement into the uplands
and then returned to the settlement, whereas the others seem to have started
somewhere away from Vaihingen. It may be that different groups, possibly
family lineages, maintained access to different pasture lands of the area. This
was the case in historic Corsica, for example, as pastoralists would return to
the same pasture land year after year, criss-crossing each others paths on the
island to their patches, which were distributed for particular historical reasons
rather than simply being nearest to their winter settlements.
Given the palaeobotanical evidence for intensive gardening in the LBK of
this region (Bogaard 2004), there may have been a division of labour between
cultivators and pastoralists. It is tempting to propose that men herded the
livestock and women tended the gardens, but not only is the relationship
between gender and Neolithic labour potentially more complicated than that

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MOBILITY, SPECIALISATION AND COMMUNITY DIVERSITY

135

M2 M3

0.7110

Cow 3822
Cow 3194
Cow 4850

0.7115

pig range

87

Sr/86Sr

0.7100

0.7095

0.7090

0.7085
M2
M3
mo.

mo.

mo.

Figure 11. 87Sr/86Sr in teeth from three different cows at Vaihingen. Cattle teeth grow at different times after birth, with the second molar (M2) growing from about birth to about ten months,
and the third molar (M3) growing from about age 10 months to about 2 years old. After Bentley
& Knipper (n.d.)

(Peterson 2002), even the four potential livestock herders at Talheim (Group
3 in Fig. 8) include two women. But in any case, the data suggest a link
between heredity and subsistence specialisation, the relationship of which
with gender and settlement segregation is left to further research.

CONCLUSIONS
Isotopic analyses of tooth enamel from early Neolithic skeletons in southern
Germany add diversity to the picture of the Neolithic transition in central
Europe, which has often been described as a wholesale shift in diet and technology. Taken from several sites in southern Germany spanning most of the
LBK era, the isotopic data demonstrate: some degree of immigration from
nearby indigenous groups; social differences (in burial orientation and artefact associations) within LBK communities between locals and non-locals; a
pattern of patrilocal kinship which supports (via anthropological kinship
theory) the potential identification of a nuclear family at Talheim; and

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Alex Bentley

finally, specialisation of subsistence activities, such as livestock herding and


cultivating, probably along hereditary lines. In any case, it is clear that early
Neolithic settlements in central Europe were not simply manifestations of a
homogenous package, but were diverse communities characterised by many
different social and economic roles which archaeology is actually capable
now of resolving.
Note. I thank Detlef Gronenborn for comments and suggestions, and the following people for their contributions over the years to the work discussed in this
paper: T. Douglas Price, Tina Hayes, Corina Knipper, Tim Atkinson, Elisabeth
Stephan, Matthew Cooper, Rdiger Krause, Joachim Wahl, Paul Fullagar, and
William M. White.

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Exploiting molecular and isotopic signals


at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
RICHARD P. EVERSHED

INTRODUCTION
THE PAUCITY OF CULTURAL FINDS at this key stage in human prehistory
increases the need to fully and effectively exploit all the sources of evidence
that exist. Organic residues, preserved in association with skeletal remains
and pottery, have the potential to provide various levels of information relating to diet and subsistence, and thus the wider interactions of ancient
humans with their environment. Such organic residues are inherently biochemically complex and, thus, demand rigorous chemical and biochemical
methods be employed in their investigation. Further challenges to achieving
reliable interpretations, based on such residues, derive from the complexities
of human behaviour and the uncertain impacts of taphonomic/diagenetic
alterations during deposition and burial. This paper explores the potential to
enhance the rigour and level of information retrievable from the biochemical
constituents of skeletal remains and pottery by exploiting new sources of
molecular and isotopic information. The following possibilities will be
addressed: (i) deriving palaeodietary information from human remains via
the complementary use of amino acid and lipid components; and (ii) assessing terrestrial and marine contributions to organic residues preserved in
skeletal remains and pottery.

COMPOUND-SPECIFIC STABLE ISOTOPE ANALYSIS OF


BONE BIOCHEMICAL COMPONENTS
Light stable isotopes were first used in archaeology for palaeodietary reconstruction in the late 1970s (Vogel & Van der Merwe 1977). Since then
palaeodietary reconstructions, based on bulk carbon and nitrogen isotopes
values of the collagen and hydroxyapatite preserved in skeletal remains,
have been applied widely to archaeological studies and are discussed in
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 141164, The British Academy 2007.

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detail elsewhere in this volume. In brief, the reconstruction of ancient diets


in this way is possible because d13C and d15N values of fossil consumer tissues
reflect the isotopic signatures of the local environment, specifically the plants
that lie at the base of the food chain, i.e. the You are what you eat (or more
precisely assimilate) principle. Although isotopic analysis may not always
allow the precise reconstruction of diet, it can allow discrimination of major
dietary trends and niches (Gannes et al. 1998).
The vast majority of studies performed to date have used bulk stable
isotope values of collagen and apatite. The compound-specific stable carbon isotope approach draws on new technologies and allows access to
stable isotope information inaccessible to bulk methods, focusing on individual collagen amino acids, cholesterol and fatty acids. With these possibilities in mind we have explored the use of compound-specific stable
isotope methods. Our overarching aim has been to: (i) improve the understanding of the isotope signals carried by the various tissue biochemicals;
(ii) glean new information inaccessible to bulk stable isotope analyses, and
(iii) add new insights into interpretations based on the widely applied bulk
collagen isotope method.
In order to achieve this we have rigorously assessed analytical methodologies for compound-specific stable isotope analysis by gas chromatographycombustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS; Docherty
et al. 2001; Jim et al. 2003a; Jones 2002; Stott & Evershed 1996). We have
used animal feeding experiments and mathematical modelling methods to
establish how macronutrient compositions and stable isotope values of
dietary constituents are reflected in the bone biochemicals, including the
amino acids that comprise collagen, cholesterol and fatty acids (Howland
2003; Howland et al. 2003; Jim 2000; Jim et al. 2001; 2003b; 2006; Jones 2002;
Stott et al. 1997b) and now are applying these approaches to address a range
of archaeological questions (Copley et al. 2004a; Corr et al. 2005).
Our investigations have demonstrated widely different turnover times for
collagen and lipids, offering the potential for gaining insights into long and
short-term dietary change (Copley et al. 2004a; Jim 2000). We have also
demonstrated how different bone biochemicals reflect different dietary components, i.e. cholesterol and apatite record d13Cwhole diet, while the bulk stable
isotope signal of collagen is biased towards dietary protein sources (Howland
et al. 2003; Jim 2000; Jim et al. 2004). Interestingly, by probing the carbon
isotope signals of individual amino acids in collagen, from experimental
animals (rats and pigs) raised on controlled diets, we have been able to: (i)
demonstrate that no detectable fractionation occurs during the assimilation
of essential amino acids, and (ii) determine the extent of incorporation of
non-protein dietary carbon into de novo synthesised non-essential amino
acids (Jim et al. 2006; Jones 2002; Howland et al. 2003).

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Compound-specific stable isotope analyses of the building blocks of complex biopolymers, such as collagen, are essential to unravelling the stable
isotope signals expressed in bulk signals. The exploitation of individual
collagenous amino acids has great potential in palaeodietary reconstruction,
but surprisingly only a handful of studies have determined the d13C
values of amino acids from ancient bone collagen (Copley et al. 2004a; Corr
et al. 2005; Fogel & Tuross 2003; Hare & Estep 1983; Hare et al. 1991; Tuross
et al. 1988). Another advantage of determining compound-specific stable isotope values of amino acids is that the question of contamination can be minimised since: (i) the purity (% compositions of amino acids compared to fresh
collagen) of amino acid extracts are routinely assessed as part of the analytical protocol; (ii) compound-specific specific stable isotope values are
recorded on-line taking advantage of the high resolution capabilities of GC
capillary columns to resolve individual amino acids from any co-extracted
impurities; (iii) sample size of collagen, and hence of precious archaeological
bone, is greatly reduced since only c. 40 ng of each amino acid is required,
with 12 amino acids being determined in a single run; and (iv) whole collagen
stable isotope values can be readily reconstructed from the individual amino
acid d13C values via mass balance calculations (Jim et al. 2003a).
A major argument for developing this line of approach lies in the fact that
different dietary components (macronutrients) are used to biosynthesise
different bone biochemical components, i.e. lipids versus protein and the different amino acids comprising collagen. Thus, the application of compoundspecific isotopic approaches has the capacity to improve our understanding
of the relationship between dietary macronutrient composition and the
d13C values of bone components, thereby opening up new levels of dietary
information and refining archaeological interpretations (Ambrose 1993;
Hare et al. 1991; Jim et al. 2001; 2003b; 2004; 2006).

THE QUESTION OF MARINE FOOD CONSUMPTION


BY ANCIENT HUMANS
Evidence for changing patterns of marine food consumption by prehistoric
peoples, detectable via stable isotope analysis, was first presented by Tauber
(1981) as early as 1981, in his report of results from human skeletons from
Denmark. This led him to suggest a dramatic change in the diet of Mesolithic
humans, who ate mostly marine protein, to Early Neolithic people, who ate
none. A more recent report based on an increased sample set appears to confirm this trend (Richards et al. 2003). This recent report has been much
debated; indeed a recent issue of the journal Antiquity contained three papers
focusing on this question (Hedges 2004; Lidn et al. 2004; Milner et al. 2004).

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Three areas of ambiguity appear to have emerged: (i) the precise definition of
the end member d13C values; (ii) the variation in the enrichment of d13C
values in food chains; and (iii) interpretation of the collagen isotope signals
represented by collagen. It has been acknowledged that there may be a degree
of uncertainty in the interpretation of marine diet resulting from these factors (Hedges 2004). We would add at least two further areas of uncertainty.
First, that the quality control criterion applied to assess the purity of isolated
collagen, i.e. the widely used C/N ratios of 2.9 to 3.4 (DeNiro 1985) or 3.1 to
3.5 (van Klinken 1999), leaves considerable room for exogenous (contaminating) organic matter affecting bulk carbon and nitrogen isotope values,
and, secondly, that a linear mixing model appears to be assumed between end
member values for marine and terrestrial protein based stable isotope values.
It would actually be rather surprising if when humans consumed diets of
such diverse biochemical compositions as those comprising marine and
terrestrial foods, their tissue (e.g. collagen) isotopic compositions varied
according to a simple linear function (Phillips & Koch 2002).
This recent controversy concerning the Mesolithic/Neolithic diet transition would seem to emphasise the importance of exploring compoundspecific approaches to palaeodietary reconstruction. Interestingly, we have
recently applied the compound-specific approach to the question of marine
resource exploitation by the hunter/gatherers from the southern and western
Cape Region of South Africa (Corr et al. 2005). Our findings would seem to
have relevance on the on-going debate concerning marine food consumption
by prehistoric humans in Europe, and highlight many other challenges that
exist in determining the consumption of marine resources by prehistoric
peoples around the world.
In parts of the Cape the arid nature of the environment (400 mm per
annum) results in extremely enriched herbivore bone collagen d15N values,
which overlap with the isotopic range for marine species; thereby effectively
negating interpretations based on this criterion alone (Heaton 1987; Heaton
et al. 1986; Schwarcz et al. 1999; Sealy 1997) since herbivore bone collagen
d15N values overlap with the range for marine species (Heaton et al. 1986;
Sealy et al. 1987). A further problem in this region is the presence of C4
grasses in the terrestrial ecosystem, which is reflected in the high mean bone
collagen d13C value of 111.9 recorded for many animals for the past
11,000 years. The latter factor largely precludes the use of bulk d13C values of
bone collagen to assess the extent of marine food consumption.
Our compound-specific methods appear to overcome both these problems and provide support for our decision to pursue this alternative
approach. To summarise, we applied GC-C-IRMS to determine d13C values

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145

for amino acids from the bone collagen of a selection of terrestrial and
marine animals. We then investigated the collagen of 26 prehistoric inhabitants of the southern and western Cape recording compound-specific d13C
values for five essential (threonine, valine, leucine, isoleucine and phenylalanine) and seven non-essential (alanine, glycine, serine, proline, hydroxyproline, aspatate and glutamate) amino acids, which together constitute 85% of
the carbon in bone collagen. The results were then interpreted in the light of
models built on the results obtained from the tissues of experimental rats and
pigs (Howland 2003; Howland et al. 2003) and rats (Jim et al. 2006; Jones
2002). Interestingly, we revealed a phenomenon that would have remained
undetected if only bulk collagen isotope values had been determined.
Specifically, unusually high d13C values were observed for glycine in marine
mammals, which appear to be inherited in human bone collagen. Enriched
glycine d13C values are well known; indeed they account for the relative
enrichment of bulk collagen d13C values in mammalian tissues, since glycine
contributes 17.5% of the carbon atoms of collagen (Abelson & Hoering
1961; Fogel et al. 1997; Hare & Estep 1983). However, we have observed an
additional enrichment in glycine in marine organisms and have proposed this
as a new proxy for marine resource consumption by ancient humans (Corr et
al. 2005). The basis of the new proxy lies in the fundamentally different metabolic and biosyntheitic pathways of essential and non-essential amino acids.
Thus, phenylalanine (essential) and glycine (non essential, although unusually in this case glycine appears to behave as an essential amino acid) preserve
very different palaeodietary signals and the difference in their d13C values
(D13CGlycine-Phenylalanine) can be exploited to distinguish between marine protein
and terrestrial protein consumers. D13CGlycine-Phenylalanine values show strong
correlation (R2 0.84; Fig. 1) with collagen d15N values from the same individuals, thereby revealing the potential of this new marine dietary indicator
to serve as a substitute for d15N values of whole collagen. This observation
alone serves to illustrate the importance of investigating the isotopic signal of
bone collagen at the level of individual amino acids. We believe that such
investigations hold the key to fully exploiting the potential of the stable isotope values of bone collagen in order to add greater confidence to interpretations based on bulk stable isotope values. Indeed, such compound-specific
methods are proving of great value in the fields of ecology (Fantle et al. 1999)
and biogeochemistry (Keil & Fogel 2001).

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Figure 1. Plot showing the correspondence between d13CGlycine-Phenylalanine and d15N values of
collagen from hunter/gatherers from the south-western Cape, indicating the potential of
compound-specific glycine carbon isotope values as new marine dietary proxy.

INTEGRATING PALAEODIETARY PROXIES FROM SKELETAL


AND SOFT TISSUE REMAINS
Lipids, including cholesterol and to a lesser extent fatty acids, are preserved
in skeletal remains, however, these are usually discarded as part of collagen
or apatite preparation protocols. The widespread survival of cholesterol
archaeological bone was demonstrated in 1995 (Evershed et al. 1995).
Archaeological human and animal bones, including a 75,000-year-old whale
bone from a permafrost deposit, were found to contain free cholesterol and
cholesteryl fatty acyl esters, and diagenetic products (5a and 5b-cholestan-3one, 5a and 5b-cholestanol and cholest-5-en-7-one-3b-ol; Evershed et al.
1995; Stott et al. 1997b). The cholesterol found in bone may derive from
either the remnants of the original blood-borne lipid (in the case of vascular
bones), the fat component of bone marrow that would have been present at
the time of death of the organism or a component of cellular lipids present

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147

in bone forming cells (Stott et al. 1997a). The use of cholesterol as a palaeodietary indicator has been extensively investigated (Jim et al. 2004; Stott &
Evershed 1996; Stott et al. 1997a; 1997b; 1999). The d3C values of cholesterol
have been shown to be constant across different skeletal members for a given
individual (Stott & Evershed 1996). Assessment of d13C values for cholesterol
from animals raised on isotopically distinct diets (Corr 2003; Jim 2000; Jim
et al. 2001; 2003b; 2004; Stott et al. 1997a), indicate that: (i) cholesterol is a
good indicator of whole diet, (ii) neosynthesis of cholesterol is more significant than assimilation in determining the d13C value of cholesterol, and (iii)
bone cholesterol d13C values respond to changes in the isotopic composition
of whole diet more rapidly than collagen and apatite, such that cholesterol is
an indicator of short-term diet (Stott et al. 1997a; Jim 2000). These results
have been applied, alongside collagen and apatite analysis, to address
archaeological questions relating to the diets of a range of ancient populations (Copley et al. 2004a; Corr 2003; Howland 2003; Jim 2000; Jones 2002;
Stott et al. 1999).
The fatty acids present in archaeological bone, teeth and soft tissues have
been somewhat less explored as a source of palaeodietary information,
although they have been shown to survive in a wide variety of inhumations
(Buckley & Evershed 2001; Corr et al. submitted; Evershed 1990; 1992;
Evershed & Connolly 1988; 1994; Evershed et al. 1995). This appears due to
the low survival rate of bone fatty acids in the archaeological record; fatty
acids only seem to be preserved in significant abundances under exceptional
burial environments, for example arid and waterlogged sites (Copley et al.
2004a; Evershed & Connolly 1988). Fatty acids present in bone most likely
originate from bone marrow fat (Evershed et al. 1995).
Feeding studies on rats and pigs raised on isotopically controlled diets,
have shown that bone fatty acid d13C values are 13C-depleted by up to 3.4
with respect to whole diet (Howland et al. 2003; Jim 2000; Jim et al. 2001;
2003b), as a result of a kinetic isotope effect occurring during the oxidation
of pyruvate by pyruvate dehydrogenase to acetyl CoA, the common
precursor in lipid biosynthesis (DeNiro & Epstein 1977; Hayes 1993).
The d13C values of bone fatty acids have recently been used together with
those of individual amino acids and apatite as indicators of trends in
the management of domesticated animals in Egypt (Copley et al. 2004a).
More recent results obtained from compositional and stable isotope analyses
of the remains of Kwaday Dn Tsinchi, a remarkably well-preserved body
unearthed from a retreating glacier in the Tatshenshini Alsek Park, British
Columbia, Canada, have shown the bones and skin preserve abundant lipids,
including cholesterol and fatty acids, in addition to collagen (e.g. Fig. 2).
Unusually, the long chain hydroxy acids, 10- and 12-hydroxyeicosanoic
acid and the corresponding C22 homologues were detected, which point to

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Richard P. Evershed

Figure 2. Partial gas chromatogram of trimethylsilylated total lipid extract of Kwaday Dn


Tsinchi bone. FA denotes fatty acid and IS the internal standard. Peak identities: 1 ndodecanoic acid; 2 iso-tridecanoic acid; 3 n-tridecanoic acid; 4 n-tetradecanoic acid;
5 anteiso-pentadecanoic acid; 6 iso-pentadecanoic acid; 7 n-pentadecanoic acid; 8
4,8,12-trimethyltridecanoic acid; 9 hexadecenoic acid; 10 n-hexadecanoic acid; 11
pristanic acid; 12 anteiso-heptadecanoic acid; 13 iso-heptadecanoic acid; 14 nheptadecanoic acid; 15 phytanic acid; 16 octadecenoic acids; 17 n-octadecanoic acid; 18
10-hydroxyhexanoic acid; 19 eicosenoic acids; 20 10-hydroxyoctadecanoic acid; 21 12hydroxyoctadecanoic acid; 22 docosanoic acids; 23 10-hydroxyeicosanoic acid; 24 12hydroxyeicosanoic acid; 25 10 and 12-hydroxydocosanoic acid; 26 cholesta-3,5-diene; 27
cholesterol; 28 cholest-3-en-4-one; 29 n-tetratriacontane (internal standard). The presence
of fatty acids of marine origin provides an unexpected new source of palaeodietary information.
See Fig. 5 for structures of the isoprenoid fatty acids.

C20:1 and C22:1 being present in the tissues at the time of death, possibly
originating from a substantial intake of marine foods by the individual.
Additional biomarkers for marine food consumption included the isoprenoidal compounds: phytanic acid, pristanic acid and trimethyltetradecanoic acid (Corr et al. submitted). The d13C values of the cholesterol and
collagen components of the skin and bone point to the more rapidly turning over skin components recording the consumption of C3 terrestrial/
fresh-water foods in the months prior to death, while the bone signatures
showed high marine protein consumption throughout life (Richards et al.
in press).

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ORGANIC RESIDUE ANALYSIS OF


PREHISTORIC POTTERY VESSELS
During the processing of foodstuffs (e.g. cooking) in unglazed pottery vessels, organic residues can be either adsorbed onto the vessel surface or, more
commonly, absorbed into the vessel wall. Extensive investigations, performed
over the past two decades, have demonstrated the widespread survival of
organic residues in archaeological pottery. For a variety of reasons, but
mainly due to their hydrophobic nature and general ubiquity in foodstuffs,
absorbed lipids are commonly observed surviving in potsherds for many millennia. Indeed we have observed lipids in the oldest pottery we have so far
examined, namely those from prehistoric sites from south-east Europe and
the Near East. Our investigations have shown that analyses of both adsorbed
and absorbed residues, but most profitably the latter, can lead to the detection
of the processing of animal (e.g. Copley et al. 2003; 2005a; 2005b; 2005c;
2005d; Dudd & Evershed 1998; Evershed et al. 1997), plant (Copley et al.
2001; 2005e; Evershed et al. 1991; 1999) and bee (Evershed et al. 2003a;
Regert et al. 2001) products. Such analyses can therefore provide rather
specific information on the nature of commodities processed in the vessels
but also more general information concerning local, or even regional, trends
in agricultural practices or evidence of exploitation of natural resources.
By far the most common class of organic residue detected in archaeological pottery are degraded animal fats recognised by the high abundances of
the C18:0 fatty acid, together with its ubiquitous C16:0 counterpart. A variety
of approaches have been employed to identify the sources of animal fats
(Evershed et al. 1997; Mottram et al. 1999), but by far the most effective
method currently available is compound-specific stable isotope analysis via
GC-C-IRMS, which allows the structures of diagnostic (biomarker) components of lipid mixtures to be unambiguously linked to their stable isotope
values. As in the case of animal fats, compound-specific d13C values afford
insights into the biochemical sources of biomarkers even when their chemical
structures are identical.
d13C values of fatty acids provide the basis for distinguishing between
ruminant (e.g. sheep/goat and cattle) and porcine (pig) adipose fats (Evershed
et al. 1997; Mottram et al. 1999). The d13C values exhibited by these animals
must reflect their different diets and fundamental differences in their metabolisms and physiologies (Evershed et al. 1999). Especially relevant to detecting the emergence of the Secondary Product Complex as a component of the
Neolithisation of Europe (Sherratt 1981; 1983) is the ability to separate
ruminant adipose and dairy fats, again distinguished by the d13C values of
their fatty acids (Dudd & Evershed 1998). The C18:0 fatty acid in dairy fat is
significantly more depleted in 13C than the corresponding compound in

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carcass fats (c. 2.1 ; Copley et al. 2003). Fatty acids in ruminant adipose
tissues are mainly synthesised from acetate (as acetyl CoA), originating predominantly from the fermentation of dietary carbohydrate in the rumen. In
contrast, the mammary gland is incapable of synthesising the C18:0 fatty acid;
instead, it is obtained via the remobilisation of adipose fatty acids and
directly from the dietary C18 fatty acids, after biohydrogenation in the rumen
(Moore & Christie 1981). The difference between the C18:0 fatty acids from
ruminant adipose and dairy fat can be explained by the fact that lipids are
more depleted in 13C than carbohydrates (DeNiro & Epstein 1977), and
approximately 60% of the C18:0 fatty acid in dairy fat are derived via biohydrogenation of dietary unsaturated C18 fatty acids (i.e. C18:1, C18:2 and
C18:3) in the rumen.
GC-C-IRMS analysis of remnant animal fats of archaeological origin
has now been extensively used to address some key questions concerning
animal husbandry in prehistory, for example the earliest evidence for dairying in prehistoric Britain and Europe (Copley et al. 2003; 2005a; 2005b;
2005c; 2005d; Craig et al. 2005a; 2005b; Dudd & Evershed 1998), and the
exploitation of pigs in the late Neolithic (Mukherjee 2005; Mukherjee et al.
in press).
A key aspect of the use of stable isotopes in archaeological studies is
establishing appropriate comparative collections. For example, animals
farmed today cannot be directly compared to those raised in antiquity due to
such factors as: (i) intensive farming which has led to animals being fed supplements to enhance their diets and to improve the nutritional quality of their
meat and milk (e.g. Chilliard et al. 2001; Lowe et al. 2002; Nrnberg et al.
1998); (ii) selective breeding resulting in changes in the biochemical composition of the tissues of domestic animals; (iii) the burning of fossil fuels since
the industrial revolution causing changes in the isotopic composition of
atmospheric CO2 (Friedli et al. 1986), resulting in the tissues of modern animals being depleted in 13C compared to their ancient counterpart; and (iv) C4
plants (e.g. maize) having been introduced to Britain and incorporated into
animals diets, again significantly altering the carbon isotopic composition of
animal tissues. Our identifications of remnant animal fats extracted from
archaeological pottery have been aided by a carefully assembled database of
modern fats (Copley et al. 2003; Dudd & Evershed 1998; Evershed et al.
2003b). The reference animals sampled were selected due to their having been
reared on known diets of C3 origin and comprise adipose fat from cattle,
sheep and pigs, and milk fat from cattle and sheep. The d13C values obtained
from the modern reference animals are adjusted for post-Industrial
Revolution effects of fossil fuel burning by the addition of 1.2 (Friedli
et al. 1986). Confidence ellipses (1 s.d.) corresponding to pig adipose, horse,
ruminant adipose and ruminant milk provide reference d13C ranges, onto

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which the values for archaeological samples can be overlaid to assess lipid
origins (Fig. 3). In areas of the world where C4 plants form a significant
contribution to animals diets, modern reference animals should be chosen
accordingly. The C4 contribution accounted for it by comparing the difference in the D13C values of the C16:0 and C18:0 fatty acids for the reference and
archaeological fats (D13C) where D13C d13C18:0 d13C16:0 (Copley et al. 2003;
Evershed et al. 1999; Mukherjee et al. 2005).
Clearly, many archaeological vessels will have been used to process commodities from more than one type of animal. In order to account for this a
mixing model is used to calculate theoretical d13C values. This mathematical
model has been used elsewhere for the detection of the mixing of vegetable
oils of differing stable carbon isotope composition (Mottram et al. 2003;

Figure 3. Plot of d13C values of the major saturated fatty acids [palmitic (C16:0) and stearic
(C18:0) acids] of the adipose fats of modern horse, ruminant (cattle and sheep) adipose and milk
fats, and porcine adipose fats. The fields are 1r confidence ellipses. The d13C values have been
adjusted for the post-Industrial Revolution effects of fossil fuel burning.

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152

Woodbury et al. 1995) and sedimentary lipids (Bull et al. 1999), and utilises
the percentage abundance of each specific fatty acid and its associated d13C
value. Recent work has shown that numerical values for types of animal fat
derived from plots of the type shown in Fig. 4 do show reasonable correlations with faunal assessments based on skeletal remains (Copley et al. 2005d;
Mukherjee 2005; Mukherjee et al. 2005; in press). Especially relevant in the
context of this volume is the observation that 25% of the Neolithic sherds
contained dairy fats, confirming that dairying was a major component of
prehistoric farming, suggesting that the emergence of dairying in farming
communities (the Secondary Products Complex) occurred prior to its introduction to Britain from, say, the end of the fifth millennium cal BC at the
earliest. Interestingly, evidence for the processing of bee products, most likely
honey, based on the detection of beeswax, and plant products, was also
detected in a relatively small number of sherds.

DETECTING MARINE FATS IN POTTERY VESSELS


A recent development in the study of animal fats in archaeological pottery
has been our recognition of a range of lipid biomarkers for the processing of
marine products in pottery vessels. Marine commodities contain high abundances of polyunsaturated fatty acids; indeed, two such polyunsaturated
fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6
n-3), are believed to have health benefits for humans (e.g. Passi et al. 2002),
and so it is encouraged that modern diets include a greater consumption of
fish. Modern terrestrial and marine-based animal/plant fats and oils are relatively easy to distinguish through their lipid compositions; few terrestrial
plants or animal-derived fats contain high abundances of polyunsaturated
fatty acids as observed in marine fats/oils (e.g. Rossell 1991). However, unsaturated fatty acids rarely survive as significant components of organic residues
in pottery vessels, since they are particularly susceptible to oxidation during
vessel use and burial (Evershed 1993). Thus, the use of compositional data
derived from unsaturated fatty acids (not only di- and polyunsaturated fatty
acids but also monosaturated fatty acids) cannot be used in drawing
comparisons between modern reference fats and archaeological lipid
residues.
Despite these apparent complications, we recently obtained very promising new evidence that the processing of marine animal products can be
detected in organic residues from pottery vessels (Copley et al. 2004b; Hansel
et al. 2004). The initial pottery vessels investigated were excavated from a
coastal site in Brazil, and absorbed lipid residue analysis demonstrated the
presence of a range of unusual fatty acid (Figs 5 and 7), phytanic acid

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Figure 4. Plots (a) of d13C values of methyl esters of C16:0 and C18:0 fatty acids from the three periods indicated. The ellipses correspond to those discussed
above in relation to Fig. 3. Sherds plotting between the represent the mixing of animal products in vessels. Plots (b) of D13C values versus d13C values of
C16:0 fatty acid provide a further environment independent method of classifying animal fats.

MOLECULAR AND ISOTOPIC SIGNALS

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Figure 5. Unusual biomarkers of marine fats and oils observed in pottery vessels from coastal
sites (Hansel et al. 2004; Copley et al. 2004b). 1 4,8,12-trimethyltridecanoic acid
(4,8,12-TMTD); 2 phytanic acid (3,7,11,15-tetramethylhexadecanoic acid); 3 pristanic acid
(2,6,10,14-tetramethylpentadecanoic acid); and 4 to 10 x-(o-alkylphenyl)alkanoic acids.

(3,7,11,15-tetramethylhexadecanoic acid), pristanic acid (2,6,10,14-tetramethylpentadecanoic acid) and 4,8,12-TMTD (4,8,12-trimethyltridecanoic


acid) in some of the lipid extracts (Hansel et al. 2004). These isoprenoid compounds (already referred to above in relation to Kwaday Dn Tsinchi) are
found in particularly high concentrations in marine animals, and are absent
or present in only very low concentrations in some terrestrial organisms (e.g.
Ackman & Hooper 1968). Importantly, they have not been detected in sherds
analysed in this laboratory obtained from numerous inland archaeological
sites, and therefore appear to be a promising indicator for the processing of
marine products in the pottery.
Further evidence for a marine source was suggested (Hansel et al. 2004)
through the presence of x-(o-alkylphenyl)alkanoic acids (Figs 5 and 6) with
16 to 20 carbon atoms; these are fatty acids containing an unusual benzenyl

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Figure 6. Partial GC/MS total ion current (TIC; A) and m/z 105 (B) and 290 (C) summed mass
chromatograms of the lipid extract of potsherd from a coastal site on Santa Caterina Island,
southern Brazil. m/z 105 is the dialkylbenzene fragment ion, and m/z 290 corresponds to
the molecular ion (M.) for x-(o-alkylphenyl)octadecanoic acids. The inset shows the positions
of the isomers C to I displayed in the m/z 290 mass chromatogram. n is the length of the alkyl
side chain 1 where, for x-(o-alkylphenyl)octadecanoic acids, n m 10 (modified from Hansel
et al. 2004). A ZB1 capillary column was utilised.

moiety within the Alkyl chain. x-(o-alkylphenyl)octadecanoic acids were first


detected during the heating of modern cooking oils containing triunsaturated
fatty acyl lipids in experiments employed to determine the potential toxicity
of frying oils (Michael 1966; 1996). More recently, x-(o-alkylphenyl)octadecanoic acids have been shown to form from methyl linolenic acid through
laboratory thermal degradation studies (Matikainen et al. 2003). Figure 7
summarises the reaction scheme leading to their formation; it proceeds with
isomerisation and, following a 1,5 hydrogen shift, trans/cis isomerisation
occurs, to yield a fully conjugated fatty acid. The cyclic products (4) to (10)
are formed via an intramolecular Diels-Alder (IMDA) reaction. Once the
cyclodienyl ester has been formed, aromatisation is energetically favourable
and occurs rapidly at cooking temperatures. Thus, a product-precursor
relationship exists between x-(o-alkylphenyl)alkanoic acids and triunsaturated fatty acids. Since, as noted above, unsaturated fatty acids are unlikely
to survive in appreciable concentrations in lipid residues in pottery vessels,

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Figure 7. Scheme (after Hansel et al. 2004) showing the formation of x-(o-alkylphenyl) alkanoic acids from cis, cis, cis-9, 12, 15-octadecatrienoic acid via isomerisation, a 1,5 hydrogen shift
and then either a cis/trans isomerisation or a 1,7 hydrogen shift, followed by an intramolecular
Diels-Alder (IMDA) reaction and aromatisation. The reaction can occur at 270C over 17 h
(Matikainen et al. 2003).

these x-(o-alkylphenyl)alkanoic acids, which are stable compounds, offer a


novel means of detecting the processing of commodities containing unsaturated
fatty acids.
We have recently undertaken laboratory heating experiments to assess
whether x-(o-alkylphenyl)alkanoic acids form when pure compounds and triacylglycerol mixtures are heated with a potsherd matrix. The results obtained
demonstrate that these compounds form when tri-, di- and monounsaturated
fatty acids, but not saturated fatty acids, are heated at 270C with potsherd

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(Fig. 7). Distributions obtained are consistent with those seen in lipid
residues obtained from potsherds from the coastal archaeological sites of
Santa Catarina Island, Brazil and Kasteelberg, South Africa (Copley et al.
2004b; Hansel et al. 2004), thereby confirming that they can serve as indicators for the processing of marine foods, high in marine oils, which contain
high abundances of polyunsaturated fatty acids (Copley et al. 2004b;
Evershed et al. in press; Hansel et al. 2004). Clearly, much scope exists for
investigating the presence or absence of these new marine biomarkers in early
Neolithic pottery where, through the use of high sensitivity GC/MS methods,
their presence or absence may add substantially to the on-going debate
concerning the exploitation or otherwise of marine resources by early
agriculturalists/pastoralists.

CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS


From the foregoing discussion a range of new sources of molecular and isotopic information have been highlighted that show considerable promise for
application to studies of changes in diet, resource exploitation and agriculture at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transitions. These new possibilities have
been brought about by our efforts to probe the biochemically complex and
diagenetically altered organic constituents of skeletal remains and ancient
pottery at the molecular level. Such an approach is essential to attain valid
interpretations based on such aged and altered materials.
In the field of palaeodietary reconstruction, based on skeletal remains, we
have demonstrated a range of new biochemical proxies suitable for investigating: (i) whole diet; (ii) specific elements of the diet e.g. protein and energy
components; and (iii) long- and short-term dietary variation, applicable to
the investigation of ancient diet at any period in human prehistory, provided
of course preservation is favourable. Further refinements will be achieved
and new proxies will continue to emerge. For example, improvements are ongoing in compound-specific amino acid analyses, with the recent development of a new liquid chromatography LC-IRMS method offering potential
advantages over the GC-C-IRMS approach, since no derivatisation (esterification of carboxyl groups/acylation of amino groups) is required. Only
acid hydrolysis of the protein is required to provide free amino acids from
proteins or peptides and we have already shown that this treatment introduces no significant isotope effect (Jim et al. 2003a). Amino acids separated
by aqueous based HPLC are quantitatively converted to CO2 in a reactor
containing ammonium peroxodisulphate. Preliminary analyses have shown
that such amino acids can be analysed directly on the LC-IRMS systems to
provide d13C values, with sensitivities compatible with the concentrations of

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Richard P. Evershed

collagen available from many prehistoric skeletal remains (Krummen et al.


2004).
Further developments include the possibility of adding compoundspecific d15N and dD determinations to the repertoire of light stable isotopes
used in palaeodietary and palaeoecological reconstruction. Both are technically feasible and should help to further unravel and exploit the stable isotope
signals carried by a number of biomolecules, including collagenous amino
acids. For example, the hydrogen isotope ratios of animal body protein have
recently been shown to reflect trophic level (Birchall et al. 2005), with further
compound-specific determinations likely to help to identify the biochemical
basis of the phenomenon. Additionally, compound-specific dD determinations of fatty acids from pottery will further extend the use of this class of
biomolecule. One area of application we are currently exploring is the use of
fatty acid dD values, in parallel with d13C values, to distinguish between terrestrial and marine resource exploitation and processing in pottery vessels.
Such applications are now possible as a result of the introduction of
GC-thermal conversion-IRMS instruments.
A further area of application of molecular proxies is that of compoundspecific radiocarbon analysis. Either preparative gas chromatography (Stott
et al. 2003) or high performance liquid chromatography (Tripp et al. 2006)
can be used to isolate components from complex extracts for radiocarbon
analysis. Potential gains in undertaking such analyses include dating early
pottery (Berstan 2002; Stott et al. 2003) and skeletal collagen derived amino
acids. The latter possibility will allow us to exploit the marine reservoir
effect or hard water effect to improve our understanding of the origins of
specific amino acids (Corr et al. 2005).
Note. None of the material discussed herein would have been possible without the
contributions of members of my research group, past and present. Particular thanks
go to Lorna Corr, Mark Copley, Susan Jim, Anna Mukherjee, Mark Howland and
Fabrico Hansel, whose recent work features prominently in this contribution. I am
also indebted to colleagues in institutions in several continents who have contributed
samples, expertise and ideas so generously, and make the undertaking of archaeological research such an enjoyable and infinitely varied endeavour. My collaborators
Stanley Ambrose, Bas Payne, Vanessa Straker, Judith Sealy and Mike Richards are
thanked for their generous contributions to the original investigations reviewed in this
paper. Drs Ian Bull and Robert Berstan are thanked for their expertise and tireless
efforts in developing and maintaining the analytical facilities in the Bristol laboratory.
None of the work discussed in this contribution would have been possible without the
financial support provided by the UK Natural Environment Research Council,
English Heritage, The Royal Society and the University of Bristol; their support is
gratefully acknowledged.

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Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

162

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hydrolysis on the d13C values of individual amino acid derived from polypeptides and
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MOLECULAR AND ISOTOPIC SIGNALS

163

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Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

164

Richard P. Evershed

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Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Neolithic cattle domestication as seen


from ancient DNA
RUTH BOLLONGINO & JOACHIM BURGER

INTRODUCTION
THE EARLY NEOLITHIC comprises the time when pre-farming people became
sedentary and subsequently began to domesticate plants and animals. The
first settlers appeared about 12,000 years ago in the Middle and Near East;
the Neolithic then expanded all over Europe from about 7000 cal BC onwards.
The question is: did the first agro-pastoralists move to Europe, together with
their plants and animals, or was it rather a cultural transfer where the
Mesolithic people of Europe adopted the idea of domestication? It is possible that animals were imported without major human migration. We know
that many plant species, and some animal species, at least sheep and goat,
were imported from the Near East, as no wild progenitors existed in Europe.
With regard to domestic cattle (B. taurus), however, the situation is different.
Its wild ancestor is the aurochs (B. primigenius), which was prevalent all over
Europe, Asia and North Africa. Therefore the European aurochs remains a
potential progenitor of northern cattle breeds. Even if all cattle were
imported, it is still possible that crossbreeding occurred. This could have happened either purposefully (for example, through young female aurochs being
caught) or unwillingly (for example, when herds were driven to the forests
and the cows could not be kept separate from wild bulls).
The most up-to-date knowledge of cattle domestication is the achievement of archaeological and archaeozoological studies. The morphological
methods are based on size differences, with domesticated animals usually
being smaller compared to their wild relatives. These measurements are
sometimes insecure due to sexual dimorphism, high fragmentation of bones,
age or the nutritional status of the animals. Morphological methods are limited in the way that these data cannot tell the relation between populations or
reveal hybrids. This information can only be received from molecular genetic
data.

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 165187, The British Academy 2007.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

166

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Studies on modern cattle populations already demonstrate the relations


of the two major cattle breeds, the humpless taurine cattle (B. taurus) and
the Asian humped zebu (B. indicus). Studies by Loftus et al. (1994), Bradley
et al. (1996) and MacHugh et al. (1997) showed that these two groups stem
from independent domestication events in different geographical regions.
Concerning the taurine cattle, recent population studies show that today the
genetic diversity is highest in the Near and Middle East (Loftus et al. 1999;
Troy et al. 2001). This is an indication of the centre of origin in this region.
But modern data can be biased by recent breeding practices and introgression. Only the analysis of ancient samples can help to get at detailed information about prehistoric situations. In this study, we present ancient DNA
data from mainly Neolithic bones of both cattle and aurochs from across
Central and Eastern Europe.

MATERIALS AND METHOD


Samples and amplified loci
Altogether 161 ancient bones were analysed. The geographic distribution
covers France, Germany, the Balkans and the Near East. Samples are mainly
Neolithic but some are dated to the Mesolithic and Bronze Age. Information
about origin, age, morphometric classification and haplotypes is given in
Table 1.
The analysed locus is the HVR I region within the mitochondrial d-loop.
The mitochondrial genome is only maternally inherited and does not recombine. Therefore the maternal lineage can be traced back for many generations
as changes only occur by mutation. The d-loop is a non-coding region and
the lack of selection enables mutations to accumulate at a high rate and therefore the HVR I region is very variable. It is also a prevalent marker for population genetic studies and a large modern dataset for comparison is
available. Another advantage of using a mitochondrial marker is the high
copy number of the mitochondrial genome. Each cell usually contains only
one nucleus but up to several thousands of mitochondrial genomes. This
increases the probability of finding sufficient DNA for a successful amplification within ancient samples.
In addition, the mitochondrial cytochrome b was amplified from two taurine and two aurochs samples. This marker is a gene and its sequence can be
translated into the encoded amino acid sequence, which is mainly of interest
for authentification of ancient DNA data.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Atlit Yam, Israel


YAM 4

SYR 09

Aswad, Syria

AP 6
AP 7

Bld. 11 Hat.190-210

A375, 92 ADN ZV
120 ZZ124 h. 176
(A208)

25-AP97 13l 18
26-AP99 9R 136

416/69

Allendorf, Germany
ALL 1

Asagi Pinar, Turkey

65 obj 777 (small)


65 obj 777 (big)
296 obj 3115
62 obj 1246

L146 level2, B1412


Hat. 696.16-696.10

Archaeol. code

ALB 1
ALB 2
ALB 3
ALB 4

Albertfalva, Hungary

Abu Gosh, Israel


ABU 2

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

PPNC

Early EPPNB

Karanovo IV

12030-52 cal. BP

Bronze Age, Bell


Beaker, 2500 BC

PPNB

Date

L. Kolska Horwitz

C. Edwards,
J.-D. Vigne

H. Hongo,
M. zdogan

N. Benecke

Alice Choyke

L. Kolska Horwitz

Given by

Tibia

Radius

Scapula

Skeletal
element

B.p.?

B.p.

B.t.
B.t.?

Bos spec.

B.p.

B.p.

Species
Morhpol.

B.t.
B.t.

B.p.

B.t.
B.p.
B.t.
B.p.

Genetic

(Continued)

T3c
Tc

Pc

T3
Pg
T3e
Pg

Haplo-type

Table 1. Archaeological sites, sample names, age, origin, classification and haplotypes for samples used in this study. Haplotype names refer to
Fig. 1b. B.p. Bos primigenius, B.t. Bos taurus, Bison b. Bison bonasus, * independent replication in Dublin. ** These Near Eastern samples
are replications and were first sequenced by C. J. Edwards at Trinity College, Dublin.

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

167

151
23-1

Archaeol. code

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

CP / 33.116

Cave Lours, France


CAT 1

CH 02
CH 03
CH 04
CH 11**

CH1996#4
CH1996#3
CH1996#1
CH1996#X1

Budapest, Hungary
WIB 1
WIB 2

Catal Hyk, Turkey

Berlin, Germany
WIB

Berettyszentmrton, Hungary
BER 1
56.11.186
BER 2
56.11.426
BER 5
56.11.553
BER 6
56.11.979
BER 8
55.4.132

Bad Abbach, Germany


KOEL 1
KOEL 2

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

70006000 BC

3694 BC cal.

Iron Age

Medieval

Late Neolithic

Neolithic

Neolithic
48004650 BC

Date

L. Martin,
C. Edwards,
J.-D. Vigne

Louis Chaix

Istvn Vrs

Norbert Benecke

Istvn Vrs

G. Roth

Given by

Metacarpus
Metacarpus
Metacarpus
Metacarpus

Skull

Rib
Rib

Radius
Humerus

Skeletal
element

Bos sp.
Bos sp.
Bos sp.
Bos sp.

B.p.

Bison b.
Bison b.

Bison b.

B.p.
B.t.

Species
Morhpol.

B.t.

B.p.

Bison b.
Bison b.

Bison b.

B.t.

Genetic

Pe

T3

Haplo-type

168
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

HK 83:1040 l
HK 88:354k
HK 83:933 c
HK 83:754 o
HK 83:702 i

HK 85:142

EIL 7

A367, 92 ADN
B x4 F2 (A200)
A372, 92 ADN
B x3 F2 (A205)

Eilsleben, Germany
EIL 1
EIL 2
EIL 4*
EIL 5
EIL 6

SYR 06

Djade, Syria
SYR 01

5000 BC, LBK

Hans-Jrgen Dhle
Metacarpus
Humerus
Humerus, distal
Radius, distal
Metacarpus,
proximal

Radius
Calcaneus
Calcaneus

DG 85-3-46
DG 85-3-11
DG 85-3-10

Tibia, distal
H.-P. Uerpmann

Didi Gora, Georgia


DID 1
DID2
DID 3

Bronze/Iron Age

Bernburg, 3600 BC Hans-Jrgen Dhle

Derenburg-Steinkuhlenberg,
Germany
DER 1
HK 87:183i

L. Chaix

H. Hongo,
M. zdogan

ca. 300 BP
(modern bone!)

19 1991 30M 5-13 R


2814 1987 25L 2-39 Lr
87 27M 4-27 G
1991 29M7-15 R2
2372 87 20L 9-46 CH2
91 30M 5-13 R
2672 1991 EF 7-6 Lr1

PPNB, 7000 BC

Chateaux, dOex, Switzerland


CAD 1

CO 1
CO 2
CO 5
CO 7
CO 9
CO 13
CO 14

Cayn, Turkey

B.t.
B.t.
B.p
B.p.
B.p.
B.t

B.p.
B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.?

B.t.
B.t.
B.p.
B.p.

Bos sp.
Bos sp.
Bos sp.

B.t.

Bos sp.

Bos sp.
Bos sp.

Bos sp.

B.t.?

Ph
T3
(Continued)

T3b
T3
P1
Ph

Tc

T3

T3

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

169

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Skull

Tibia
Tibia

Mietje Gemonpre

27.500 cal. BC

2230-2
2230-1

Goyet Cave, Belgium


BIP 1
BIP 2

Hans-Peter Uerpmann
Femur
Pelvis
Molar
Betty Arndt

Species
Morhpol.

Bison sp.
Bison sp.

B.t.
B.p. ?
B.p.

Bos sp.
Bos sp.
Bos sp.

B.p.

B.t.

Metacarpus, distal B.t.

B.t.
Tibia, distal
B.t.
Tibia, distal
B.p.

Skeletal
element

Radius
Radius
Radius

Oldest LBK

H. Hongo,
M. dogan

Louis Chaix

L.P. Louwe
Kooijmans

Given by

Early LBK

GO 73F-2 90
GO 9-217
GO 73i-1

Goddelau, Germany
GOD 1
GOD 2
GOD 3

62005500 BC

Mesolithic,
5464 / 78 BC

Late Neolith.
Bronze Age

Date

Gttingen FMZ, Germany


GOE 1
Obj.1181 F.Nr.6521/2
GOE 3
Obj.1222 F.Nr.806
GOE 4
Obj.777 F.Nr.761

10-FT 700
13 FT-137
14 FT 19/20

FT 1
FT 4
FT 5

Fikirtepe, Turkey

ETI 1

Etival, France

EMM

J97 A/B

HK 78:169
HK 85:138 p
HK 78:162
HK 88:487 g
HK 83:928 l

EIL 8
EIL 9
EIL 12
EIL 13
EIL 14

Emmeloord, Netherlands

Archaeol. code

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

Bison sp.
Bison sp.

B.t.
B.t.
B.t.

B.p.

B.t.

B.t.
B.t.
B.t.
B.p.

Genetic

T3
Tc
T3

T3b

T3
T3
T3
Pf

Haplo-type

170
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

HC 4
HC 6
HC 8

4-HC 93 14N 0-21


6-HC 93 15N 527
8-HC 99 43

Gr.389-26, Bef. n.v


Gr.394 Bef.963
Gr.159 2129

Hilzingen, Germany
HIL 1
HIL 3
HIL 5

Hocacesme, Turkey

Herpaly House, Hungary


HER 3
HER 4

A402,02Q:4j Est A10


sample2 (A235)

67004000 BC

LBK

H. Hongo,
M. zdogan

Elisabeth Stephan

Metacarpus
Humerus
Tooth

C. Edwards, J.-D. Vigne

Middle Neolithic A. Choyke

MPPNB-RPPNB

Calcan.

Haloula, Syria
SYR 26

Hans-Jrgen Dhle

100 BC, La Tne

97 A SF48

Halle, Germany
HAL 1

Radius
Tibia

Metacarpus
Metacarpus

Radius

L Chaix

33403150 BC cal. Louis Chaix

Early-mid.
Palaeol.

Grotte du Pardon, France


PAR 1
G90.K23:d44:22

Grotte de la Bouloie, France


BOU 1

BOU 2

GCH 1
GCH 2

Grotte Champeau, France

Bos sp.
Bos sp.
Bos sp.

B.p.
B.p.
B.t.

Bos sp.

B.t., B.p. ?

B.p.

B.p.
B.p.

B.p.
B.p./Bison ?

B.t.

B.p.

B.p.

T
(Continued)

Pa

Ph

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

171

Ulna

Skeletal
element

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

#201 Hat.175180

Mala Triglavca, Slovenia


LJU 1

LJU 2
LJU 3

West R59
Hat.0.82/4.59/0.21

Q 104, Settore-1,
US3coll

Lod NY, Israel


LOD 1

Kfar Hahoresh, Israel


KH 2

Isernia. Italy
ISE 2

P47.dec34 917

L. Kolska-Horwitz

Peretto

L. Chaix

Neolithic/Late
Neol.?
Mesolithic
Neolithic/Late
Neol.?

Mihael Budja

Ceramic Neolithic L. Kolslka-Horwitz

PPNB

730.000 BP

13680 BP

Incisivi
Atlas

Mandibula

Radius

Humerus

Bison?

Istvn Vrs

Istvn Vrs

Given by

Igue du Gral, France


IGU 1

Late Neolithic

Early Neolithic,
Koros

Date

5.5.13.11

Archaeol. code

Hdmezovsrhely- Gorza,
Hung.
HOD 2
68.8.47
HOD 4
68.8.68

HOB 2

HdmezovsrhelyBodzaspart, Hung.

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

B.t.

B.t.

B.p.

Bison

Bos sp.
Bos sp.

Species
Morhpol.

Bison
B.p.

B.t

B.t.

Genetic

Pb

T3

T3

Haplo-type

172
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

72 / 1678
37 / 1854
111 / 1760
28 / 1832

21 E-8
21 E-10
26-1
21-1

2-2

Mareuil-les-Meaux,
France
MAR 2
MAR 8
MAR 9
MAR 10

Mezra Tel Eilat, Turkey


MEZ 1
MEZ 2
MEZ 3
MEZ 4

Mitterfecking, Germany
KOEL 3

NMR 24

NMR 22

NMR 19

NMR 3

Nieder-Mrlen, Germany

10/2. 2507B/26704
EV99/1
4/2. 1162/25890
EV98/2
4/2. 1162/25890
EV98/2
7/1. 877/25191

Neustadt (Schl.), Germany


NES 1
LA 156/02
N 100-101 E 118-119
NES 2
LA 156/04
N 100-101 E 116-117

A404

IRQ 02

Maral Tappeh, Iran

H.-P. Uerpmann

Rose-Marie
Arbogast

M. Mashkour,
C. Edwards,
J.-D. Vigne

G. Roth
Tibia

Phalanx
Phalanx

Metatarsus
Mandibula
Costae
Femur

Scapula

Flomborn

Sabine Schade-Lindig

Humerus, prox.

Tooth

Tooth

Humerus, dist.

Scapula

45004100 cal. BC S. Hartz, U. Schmlcke


Phalanx 1

Mnchshfener Culture

6000 BC

Late Neolithic
50004900 BC

Chalcolithic

B.t. ?

B.t. ?

B.t. ?

B.t., B.p. ?

B.t.?

Bos sp.

B.t.

B.p.
B.t.
B.p./Buffalo
B.t.

B.t.
B.t.
B.p.
B.p. ?

B.p. ?

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.p.

B.p.

B.t.

B.t.

T3
(Continued)

T3

T3f ?

Pf

Ph

T3

Tc

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

173

9
8,A1B

60.9.669
60.9.197
60.9.1316
60.9.1409
60.9.1879

77:193
74:52
77:200

Ros74 VI A 148i

3-16994
95 Niv III 1-15316
1-17508
8145
1-18993
11196
1 Niv II
4522 Niv. IV

Polgr-Csoszhalom,
Hungary
POL 1
POL 2
POL 3
POL 4
POL 5

Quenstedt, Germany
QUE1
QUE 2
QUE 3

Rosenhof, Germany
ROS 1

Ruffey-sur-Seille, France
RUF 1
RUF 2
RUF 3
RUF 4
RUF 5
RUF 6
RUF 7
RUF 8

Archaeol. code

KAR 1
KAR 3

Orlovez, Bulgaria

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved


Skeletal
element

Tibia/Radius
Tibia?
Humerus
Metacarpus
Tibia
Radius

Metatarsus

S. Hartz, U. Schmlcke
Metatarsus

Hans-Jrgen Dhle

Istvn Vrs

Hans-Peter Uerpmann

Given by

Mesolithic
R.-M. Arbogast
Sauveterrien ancient
Sauveterrien ancient
Sauveterrien ancient
Sauveterrien moyen
Sauveterrien moyen
Sauveterrien moyen
Msolithique rcent
Msolithique rcent

4838 / 81 cal. BC

Bronze Age

Late Neolithic

earliest Neol.,
Karanovo

Date

B.p.
B.p.
B.p.
B.p.
B.p.
B.p.
B.p.
B.p.

B.t.

B.t.
B.t.
B.t.

B.t.
B.t., B.p. ?

Species
Morhpol.

B.p.

B.p.

B.t.
B.t.
B.t.

B.t.

B.t.
B.t.

Genetic

Ph

Pd

T3a
T3
Ta

Tb

T3
T3

Haplo-type

174
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Trebur, Germany
TRE 1

IRQ 09

LfD AD EV 1988:79
Grave 90

A419

30/93 27/38

Tel Hreiz, Israel


THE 2

Tall-i-Mushki, Iran

4.-3. JT
Phase IV, late
3rd. Mill.

TB94 A1077:2/H5
TB95 A1136:2/HS3

TB 03**
TB 07**

Middle Neolithic

8.-9. Jt. BC

PN

Chalcolith. BZ

Tell Brak, Syrien

Lengyel, 3000 BC

Neolithic

1159 SBSK 4103.49


SVBA 0625 / 46
SVBA 0625 / 56

47 000 BP

6000 BC Halaf

Oldest LBK

Szegvr-Tzkves, Hungary
SZE 1
72.1.260
SZE 2
72.1.174

Svodn, Slovakia
SVO 1
SVO 2
SVO 3*

Fig. 4 Table 9
in Ziegler 1994

Sed A4 aa

Shams-ed-Din, Syria
SED

Siegsdorf, Germany
Sieg 1

SF 762-14

Schwanfeld, Germany
SWA 1
Phalanx 1

Tooth

Holger Gldner

C. Edwards,
J.-D. Vigne,
M. Mashkour

L. Kolska Horwitz

K. Dobney/
C. Edwards

Istvn Vrs

Humerus

Tooth

Radius

Hans-Peter Uerpmann

W. Rosendahl

H.-P. Uerpmann

H.-P. Uerpmann

B.t.

B.t.

Bos sp.
Bos sp.

B.t.
B.t.
B.t.

Bison b.

B.t.

Bos sp.

B.t.

B.t.
B.t.

B.t.
B.p.

B.t.
B.t.
B.p.

Steppe bis.

T3
(Continued)

(T?)
T3

T3
P

T3
T3
P

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

175

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

VIE 4

VIE 2

Viesenhuser Hof,
Germany
VIE 1

TRO 13

TRO 12

TRO 11

TRO 10

TRO 4

TRO 3

Trosly-Breuil, France
TRO 2

TRE 4

Bef.9 2111/329
Nr.1317
Bef.2 2423/1752
Nr.588
Bef.4 2510/199
Nr.1301

TB 89 K XX
/ 23 76
TB 89 K XIX
/ 9 20
TB 89 K XX
/ 16 59
TB 90 MXI/8
1/4 SW (10)
TB 89 KXIX/5
(16)
TB 87 DVIII
21 91 (12)
TB 0 87 EV
III 27 (13)

LfD AD EV 1988:79
Grave 60
LfD AD EV 1988:79
Gra. 113
LfD AD EV 1988:79
Grave 63

TRE 2

TRE 3

Archaeol. code

Archaeological site,
Laboratory code

middle/younger LBK

late/middle LBK

middle/younger LBK

LBK

Neolithic

Date

Elisabeth Stephan

Rose-Marie Arbogast

Given by

Radius

Humerus

Tibia

Metacarpus

Metacarpus

Metacarpus

Metacarpus

Humerus

- (calf)

Tibia prox.

Skeletal
element

B.p.

B.p.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.p.

B.t.?

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

Species
Morhpol.

B.t.

B.t.

Genetic

T3

T3

Haplo-type

176
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

LA 518/1998
LA 505, 04 97/8

Ri-E51

Yilan, Trkei
YIL

Bef.1 2622/1606,
Nr.332
Bef.6 2205/891
Nr.2156
Bef.2 3435/2221
Nr.1853
Bef.6 2840/1362
Nr.5138
Bef.1 2201/944
Nr.5078

Wangels, Holstein,
Deutschland
WAN 1
WAN 2

VIE 25

VIE 24

VIE 18

VIE 14

VIE 13

3946/79 cal BC
ca. 6000 BC

LBK

LBK

middle/younger LBK

middle/younger LBK

late LBK

H.-P. Uerpmann

U. Schmlcke,
S. Hartz

1 Phalanx

Metatarsus

Metacarpus

Tibia

Tooth

Humerus

B.p.

B.t.
B.t.?

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.t.

B.p.

B.t.
B.t.

T3
T3d

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

177

178

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Precautions during ancient DNA analyses


The laboratories in Mainz are dedicated to ancient DNA only and fulfil the
highest international standard and criteria for DNA clean rooms. The preand post-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) areas are strictly separated in two
different buildings. A one-way-system avoids carry-over contamination: persons are only allowed to enter the pre-PCR lab with freshly washed clothes
but entry is not permitted if the person has already been to another lab or the
office on the same day. In an extra room clothes are changed with special
clean room overalls, shoe covers, gloves, facemasks and face shields. All items
are irradiated with UV light before they enter the lab. The rooms and workbenches are regularly cleaned with soap and bleach, and UV irradiated over
night. The water used for cleaning is irradiated with a water-proof UV bulb
for at least ten hours.
Sample preparation was performed as follows. First, the bones were irradiated with UV light. In order to remove contaminations, the surface of the
bones was removed. Approximately 2 by 1 by 0.5 cm were cut out of the bone
and additionally irradiated. All extraction and amplification reactions were
accompanied by blank controls. For authentification of the sequences each
sample was extracted independently at least two times, followed by one or
two PCRs, respectively. Randomly chosen PCR products were cloned. The
results were only accepted when all sequences were consistent. For two samples (see Table 1), bone preparation, extraction, PCR and sequencing were
independently reproduced in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity
College Dublin.
Extraction, PCR, sequencing and cloning
The extraction was performed as described by Burger et al. (2004). The
analysed fragment of interest is determined by the use of specific starter molecules (primers). Three different primer pairs for the mitochondrial HVR 1
were designed and none of them were found to amplify human DNA. The
third primer system has two different lower primers that give a longer and a
shorter product, in order to get a haplogroup determination even for samples
where the DNA was highly fragmented.
The ancient DNA was amplified by PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
technique. The success of the PCR was checked on a 2% agarose gel.
Afterwards the DNA was purified, sequenced and subsequently analysed
on 310 Genetic Analyzer (Applied Biosystems). Randomly chosen PCR
products were additionally cloned in order to monitor possible background
contaminations and postmortal sequence damage. Detailed protocols of all
steps are described in Bollongino (2005).

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

179

RESULTS
Out of 161 samples, 65 (including seven bison samples for comparison) were
reproducibly amplifiable. The success rate within European samples was
52.1%. Within the Near Eastern samples less than 10% were amplifiable,
demonstrating the bad DNA preservation in hot climates.
Before trying an interpretation of the results of the ancient samples, it is
necessary to have a look at extant cattle populations. Modern taurinen cattle
can be divided into five groups (T, T1, . . ., T4, as described in Troy et al.
2001), so called haplogroups (see Fig. 1a). A haplogroup comprises all
sequences (haplotypes) that can be derived from a specific ancestral
sequence. The best way to detect an ancestral sequence is to draw a network
(see Fig. 1b). A network represents all types of sequences as circles that are
connected through branches. These branches show the positions at which the
respective sequences differ from each other. A haplogroup often appears in a
starburst pattern, showing the ancestral sequence in the centre. The different
sequences within one haplogroup are called haplotypes.
A network of the ancient sequences is shown in Fig. 1b. Two major clusters can be identified, one comprising the ancient cattle sequences and the
other cluster showing all ancient aurochs. These groups are separated by at

Figure 1a. Skeleton network showing the haplogroups of extant taurine cattle. The numbers
indicate the positions of mutations (16.000, the positions refer to the European consensus
sequence with the GenBank accession no. NC_001567, Anderson et al. 1982) that define the
respective haplogroup (for example haplogroups T3 and T can be distinguished by different
bases at the position 16255). Haplogroup T4 can only be found in Eastern Asia, T1 is predominant in Africa. T2 is also present in Europe (but rarely) and the Near East, but could not be
found within the ancient data set.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Figure 1b. Median Network of ancient sample sequences. Each circle represents a haplotype; the size is relative to the frequency of the haplotype. Each
dash marks a mutation. The haplotypes show a star-like formation with the ancestral sequence in the centre. All haplotypes that descend from one ancestral sequence belong to the same haplogroup (T3 black, T grey, P white, P1 sample EIL4). Haplotypes with a question mark indicate samples that
could not be amplified for all fragments, thus leaving some insecurity about possible further mutations. The network was drawn using the method described
in Bandelt et al. (1995).

180
Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

181

least nine mutational steps. The cattle sequences belong to the haplogroups T
and T3. The majority of the cattle sequences belong to the central haplotype
of T3. T3 is the most dominant haplogroup within modern European cattle
whereas T is very rare. In the Near East both T and T3 are distributed.
The sequences of the ancient samples were compared to modern data
from taurine and zebu cattle and European bison in a neighbour-joining tree
(Fig. 2). Water buffalo is the outgroup, followed by wisent and zebu. The
modern cattle data cluster together with the ancient cattle samples, whereas
the ancient aurochs are the neighbour group of taurine cattle. None of the
extant sequences belongs to the aurochs clade. One sample (EIL 4) has a
very unusual sequence (haplotype P1) and neither belongs to the aurochs nor
the cattle cluster. A comparison with the sequences in GenBank (internet
database) revealed that it is a Bos sequence, but has no close similarity to any
known breed.

Figure 2. Neighbour-joining tree of ancient and modern sequences. The bootstrap values at the
branches indicate how many of 100 calculated trees showed exactly this branch. The small letters represent single haplotypes within the respective haplogroup referring to the network in Fig.
1. P1 is the uncommon haplotype of the sample EIL4. The tree was calculated with PAUP
(Swofford 2002).

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

182

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger


DISCUSSION

Authentication
The sequences are regarded as authentic for the following reasons.
Contaminations during the lab procedure can effectively be ruled out, as all
extraction and PCR blank controls were blank. Cross contaminations did not
occur as both aurochs and cattle samples were extracted and amplified contemporarily, and none of the aurochs samples ever showed a taurine
sequence or vice versa. Many of the sequences are unique and the aurochs
lineage is extinct, which means that it cannot be found within modern data
and thus cannot stem from recent contaminations. The aurochs sequences are
identical, or very similar, to those previously published by Bailey et al. (1996)
and Troy et al. (2001). All results were extensively reproduced (see materials
and methods) and two samples were independently reproduced in Dublin.
Random cloning showed that no background contamination could be found.
Post-mortem damages, such as deaminations (Gilbert et al. 2003a; 2003b;
Hansen et al. 2001; Hofreiter et al. 2001), were ruled out by reproduction of
sequences and use of UNG. For four samples (two cattle [SVO 1 and EIL 2]
and two aurochs bones [SVO 3 and EIL 6]), an additional amplification of
the cytochrome b locus was performed (Czerwinski 2003). In contrast to the
d-loop, the cytochrome b is a coding gene and thus can be translated into
the amino acid sequence. The translation showed that the amino acid
sequence is correct so that reproducible post mortem sequence changes can
be excluded (data not shown). Two variable positions could be revealed (positions 14873 and 15134) and both are silent mutations (that is, they do not
affect the encoded amino acid), thus underlining the authenticity of the
sequences. Additionally, the analysis of the results showed that all data make
phylogenetic sense.
Genetic distinction of Bos taurus and Bos primigenius
A clear difference between B. taurus and B. primigenius is not necessarily
expected because the aurochs is the ancestor of the domestic cattle. They
share the same molecular background so that a strong genetic similarity
would not be surprising. But our data speak for a rather distant relation
between the two as both the neighbour-joining tree (Fig. 2) and the network
(Fig. 1b) divided all data in two major groups. The large distance of nine
mutations suggests a clear genetic difference between cattle and aurochs. We
believe that one of the groups (P, see Fig. 1b) represents the aurochs for the
following reasons. This group contains only sequences that belong to an

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NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

183

extinct lineage while the cattle haplogroups are identical to modern ones. Two
samples (ETI 1, RUF 4) date to the Mesolithic, which is definitely prior to the
first domestication and shows a typical aurochs haplotype. Our aurochs haplogroup is identical to those that have previously been published by Bailey
et al. (1996) and Troy et al. (2001). Furthermore, the majority (90%) of the
samples that were analysed by morphometric means supported the genetic
classification of the sequences in aurochs and domestic cattle (see Table 1).
The distinction between B. taurus and B. primigenius is also revealed by the
cytochrome b results. Compared to the d-loop, this locus is very conservative
and hardly shows any polymorphisms within one species. The two differences
(for positions see above) between cattle and aurochs underline the genetic
distance between the two groups.
The taxonomic status of the sample EIL 4 cannot be identified completely by the current data. The morphology of the bone is very robust and
above the size variation of Neolithic cattle, and therefore the morphometric
analysis clearly addresses this sample as an aurochs. It is possible that this
individual represents a different population that might stem from another
glacial refuge, maybe from a region in Asia, but aurochs sequences from this
geographical part of the world are not known yet. The final evaluation of the
EIL 4 sample has to be left for future research.
Differences in morphometric and genetic classification of Bos taurus and Bos
primigenius
Within the samples that were morphometrically determined, the consistence
with the genetic classification was 90%. Thus both methods confirm each
other for the great majority of bones. The few differences can be explained by
several possibilities. First, bones of a medium size are difficult to classify due
to sexual dimorphism; that is, it is not possible to tell whether the bone comes
from a female aurochs or a domestic bull. Secondly, the animal could be a
hybrid. For example, if the mother was a domestic cow and the father an
aurochs bull, the offspring may have had a rather aurochs-like phenotype, but
the mitochondrial matriline would identify it as domestic cattle. In order to
solve such a case, an additional analysis of a patrilinear marker is necessary.
These loci can be found on the Y-chromosome in the nucleus, but is very
difficult due to the very low copy number. Nevertheless, few Y-chromosomal
sequences from ancient wild and domestic cattle could be amplified.
Unfortunately the investigated locus (zinc finger gene) did not show any polymorphisms. The low variability does not allow us to distinguish patrilines of
aurochs and domestic cattle (Bollongino 2005).

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184

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger

The origin of European cattle and their relation to the European aurochs
The results of this study do not support the theory of an indigenous origin
of European domestic cattle. In the case of an independent secondary
domestication, the mitochondrial sequences of B. taurus and B. primigenius
should be almost identical. But even Early Neolithic cattle samples, like
those from Eilsleben and Goddelau in Germany, are very distant from their
contemporary aurochs sequences, and thus European aurochs cannot be the
progenitors of domestic cattle.
So where do domestic cattle originate? A possible centre of origin, from
the archaeological and archaeozoological context, is the Anatolian and
Near Eastern region. There has also been some discussion, initiated by
Bknyi (1974), about a local domestication in Hungary. We analysed samples from two sites that were addressed as possible domestication centres
(Polgr and Berettyszentmrton), plus two additional Hungarian sites
(Szegvr-Tzkves and Albertfalva). But the cattle sequences from these sites
(POL 2, POL 4, POL 5, ALB 1, ALB 3 and SZE 1) as well as the aurochs
data (SZE 2, ALB 2 and ALB 4) show the same haplogroups as the respective Central European samples and, most importantly, show the same distance too. Therefore our data do not support the theory of an independent
domestication in Hungary.
As Central Europe and the Balkans can be excluded as domestication centres, the Near East and Anatolia remain the most likely origins. And indeed the
ancient samples from this region (TB 07, CH 11, AP6, HC 8) belong either to
haplogroup T or T3, whereas the European aurochs haplogroup P can be
found in neither ancient nor extant Near Eastern cattle.
Even if all cattle were imported into Europe, it is still possible that the
European aurochs contributed to the domesticated population by subsequent
interbreeding. Genetically, there are two ways of interbreeding: male and
female introgression. Female aurochs might be caught as calves and added to
the herds in order to compensate for loss due to disease or a harsh winter. But
archaeological findings showed that an extensive trading system connected
the settlements, and it might have been easier to get domesticated animals
from neighbours, rather than taking the risk of introducing the uncontrollable behaviour of wild aurochs. Male introgression could have happened
when cattle herds were driven to the forest for feeding and cows were (on purpose or unintentionally) not kept separated from wild bulls. Both ways would
leave traces in the genome. Female introgression of wild aurochs cows would
have left aurochs matrilines in modern cattle populations. If female introgression occurred, it was a rare event and not a successful one, either. The
question of male introgression cannot be answered with the current data as

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

NEOLITHIC CATTLE DOMESTICATION

185

no ancient aurochs patrilines are known yet. Such data can only be obtained
by analysis of nuclear loci, such as the Y-chromosome, which are, as already
mentioned, unfortunately not informative so far.
The fact that European wild oxen and domestic cattle are so distant from
each other suggests that aurochs populations in Europe are different from
those in the Near East. It is completely unknown where the glacial refuges of
the aurochs were, but it seems that the post-glacial aurochs repopulation of
Europe did not start from Near Eastern regions.

SUMMARY
This study revealed ancient mitochondrial data from 40 domestic cattle and
17 aurochs samples (plus ancient bison for comparison), which date mainly
to the Neolithic, but which also includes some of Mesolithic and Bronze Age
date. A genetic distinction of B. taurus and B. primigenius within Europe
could be shown. The large molecular distance between the two groups, even
in the Early Neolithic, excludes an independent domestication of European
cattle. All European domestic cattle haplogroups could be traced back to the
Near East. A suggested secondary domestication centre in Hungary could
not be supported. Furthermore, there are no genetic traces of interbreeding
of imported cattle and European aurochs.
Note. We are very grateful to all the people who provided samples and would like to
thank all of them for their wonderful cooperation: Rose-Marie Arbogast, Betty
Arndt, Mihael Budja, Lszl Bartosiewicz, Norbert Benecke, Mihael Budja, Louis
Chaix, Alice Choyke, Keith Dobney, Hans-Jrgen Dhle, Rudi Fries, Mietje
Gemonpre, Holger Gldner, Snke Hartz, Daniel Helmer, Hitomi Hongo, Liora
Kolska Horwitz, L. P. Louwe Kooijmans, Louise Martin, Marjan Mashkour, Jens
Lning, Banu ksz, Mehmet zdogan, Carlo Peretto, Georg Roth, Sabine SchadeLindig, Ulrich Schmlcke, Liesbeth Smits, Reinhold Schoon, Helmut Spatz (),
Elisabeth Stephan, Anne Tresset, Hans-Peter Uerpmann, Jean-Denis Vigne and
Istvn Vrs.
Furthermore we would like to thank Jean-Denis Vigne, Anne Tresset, Detlef
Gronenborn, Helmut Hemmer and our colleagues Barbara Bramanti and Wolfgang
Haak, for fruitful discussion and support. We also want to thank Petra Czerwinski for
providing the cytochrome b data.
Special thanks go to Ceiridwen Edwards and Dan Bradley in Dublin for helpful discussions and proof-reading, as well as their support in data analysis and
reproduction of samples.
The project is funded by the Bundesministerium fr Bildung und Forschung and
partially funded by the OMLL project by the CNRS, Paris.

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186

Ruth Bollongino & Joachim Burger


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187

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CUNNINGHAM, P., CHAMBERLAIN, A. T., SYKES, B. C. & BRADLEY, D. G. 2001.
Genetic evidence for a Near-Eastern origin or European cattle. Nature 410, 108891.

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Substitution of species, techniques and


symbols at the Mesolithic-Neolithic
transition in Western Europe
ANNE TRESSET & JEAN-DENIS VIGNE

INTRODUCTION
IT IS OFTEN ASSUMED that the dissemination of the Neolithic way of life,
which originated in the Near East, took a more complex turn when arriving
in the western part of Europe (Guilaine 2003; Lichardus et al. 1985; Mazuri
2003; Whittle 1977; 1996). This may be partly due, on the one hand, to the
late survival of regional Mesolithic societies that probably interacted in some
places with incoming farmers, taking on the new way of life and possibly contributing to its dissemination, and on the other to the reunion of the two
main neolithisation streamscontinental and Mediterraneanin the same
area or at least in adjoining territories. The use of new techniques, including
ancient DNA (aDNA) and stable isotopes, has shed some light on key aspects
of those events at a large scale, such as the appearance of domesticates in
Europe and the way it affected human diets. Recent complementary
approaches at more local scales have helped to refine general observations on
the transformations of man/animal relationships between Mesolithic and
Neolithic periods, from biogeographic, zootechnical and symbolic angles.
This paper aims at gathering this very rich and polymorphic information in
order to set it against what is already known of the neolithisation of Western
Europe.

CHRONOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF DOMESTICATION AND


EARLY DIFFUSION OF UNGULATES THROUGH EUROPE
Recent research has demonstrated that sheep, goat, cattle and pig were
domesticated on the southern slopes of the Eastern Taurus c. 8500 cal BC,
during the Early PPNB (Helmer et al. 2005; Peters et al. 1999; 2005; Vigne

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 189210, The British Academy 2007.

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Anne Tresset & Jean-Denis Vigne

et al. 2003). During the last quarter of the ninth millennium, these domesticates spread from this core region to a large part of the Near Eastincluding
Cyprus(Guilaine et al. 2000; Vigne & Buitenhuis 1999). The birth of a true
animal husbandry in the Near East as a major economic activity, however,
took place only during the eighth millennium (late middle PPNB and recent
PPNB).
The European history of husbandry began at the turn of the seventh millennium BC, when this expansion reached the south-eastern margin of
Europe, namely Greece and the Balkan region (Guilaine 2003; Mazuri 2003;
Perls 2002). On the European continent, the diffusion of domesticates,
together with husbandry techniques, followed two main routes that are now
well known and relatively well dated (Fig. 1): the northern coastline of the
Mediterranean during the seventh and sixth millennia on the one hand
(Guilaine 2003; Vigne & Helmer 1999; Zilho 2001), and the Danubian
corridor and main continental valleys during the sixth and beginning of the
fifth millennia, toward the Atlantic Ocean on the other hand (Bogucki 1988;
Marchand & Tresset 2005; Mazuri 2003; Tresset 2002; Tresset & Vigne
2001). The two flows might have converged to cross the Channel and the
Celtic Sea sometime during the mid-fifth millennium cal BC or at the beginning of the fourth (Milner & Woodman 2005; Tresset 2003; Whittle 1977;
Woodman 1986; Woodman & McCarthy 2003).

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF THE WILD ANCESTORS OF


DOMESTICATES AND THE CONTRIBUTION OF
PALAEOGENETICS TO DOMESTICATION ISSUES
The domestic sheep and goat result from the domestication of Oriental
Mufflon (Ovis orientalis) and Bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus), respectively.
These wild ancestors were not present in Europe. From morphological characters (Uerpmann 1979) and, more recently, DNA analyses (Luikart et al.
2001), it was already known that the European ibexes could not be the
ancestors of domestic goats. In addition, it was demonstrated in the 1970s
that the present-day Corsico-Sardinian Mufflon was produced by the
Neolithic feralisation of domestic sheep in these Mediterranean islands
(Poplin 1979; Poplin & Vigne 1983). This has been fully confirmed by DNA
investigations (Hassanin et al. 1998; Hiendleder et al. 1998). From there, it
was released in the wild to the European mainland during the nineteenth to
twentieth century (Bon et al. 1991). Thus, domestic sheep and goat had no
native ancestors in Europe. As they are present on this Continent from the
start of the Neolithic, they must have been introduced there by the first
farmers.

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Figure 1.
cal BC.

The two main flows of dissemination of domesticates in Europe, as documented by zooarchaeology. Dates are

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The aurochs was present virtually everywhere in Europe, Ireland


excepted. Thus its domestication could have taken place anywhere on this
continent. Work by Bailey et al. (1996) and by Troy et al. (2001) have provided the first known mitochondrial aDNA sequences (control-region) for
this extinct species in Europe. Results have revealed a clear difference with
sequences obtained from extant breeds of domestic cattle in Europe and the
Near East (Troy et al. 2001), suggesting a non-European origin for the
domestic form. This hypothesis was also supported by results on extant
breeds that can be explained in the light of cattle ancient history. In particular, they revealed a highest genetic diversity in the Near East and a gradual
loss of this diversity (bottle-neck effect) north-westward. These features are
considered as typically resulting from a domestication event in the region
where the diversity is the highestthe Near East in this specific caseand
the subsequent diffusion of domesticates. More recent results on the
microsatellite diversity of the European present day cattle suggest that the
two flows of diffusion, Mediterranean and continental, have had different
origins in the Near East (Cymbron et al. 2005). However, several problems
persisted:
1 Even if likely, the time of the expansion phenomenon cannot be precisely derived from purely genetic considerations (at least not at a timescale
and not with an accuracy relevant to Neolithic studies), and there is no
evidence that it was actually a Neolithic event.
2 The aurochs sequences obtained by Bailey et al. and by Troy et al. all
came from British animals and there was no guarantee that they were
representative of the European aurochs population.
Further work on Neolithic domestic cattle and aurochs of the British
Isles, Ireland and mainland Europe has been done (Bollongino et al. 2005;
Edwards et al. 2004) and many mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences
have been obtained on aurochs from continental Europe (Bollongino et al.
2005; Edwards et al. 2007; see also Bollongino & Burger, this volume). Results
are all converging to reveal clearly distinct maternal lineages for European
domestic cattle on the one hand and aurochs on the other. This is a strong
argument to say that there was a very limited (if any) contribution of female
European aurochs to Neolithic domestic herds. Thus, local domestication
events sensu stricto seem to have been very limited in Europe, as far as
bovines are concerned. However, this does not preclude crossbreeding events
involving a male aurochs contribution, as mtDNA only reveals the female
genetic inheritance. Recent work on the Y Chromosome (documenting the
male genetic legacy) of the European aurochs and modern, as well as ancient
domestic cattle, from Europe and the Near East (Gtherstrm et al. 2005)
suggest that hybridisation of domestic cattle may have taken place at some
point during the Neolithic with local aurochs, especially in the northern part

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193

of Europe. These genetic data are ambiguous in some respects. The fact that
some characteristics of paternal descent were shared by European aurochs
and European early domestic bovines does not imply that the latter stemmed
from the former as long as it has not been demonstrated that these very characteristics were not also shared by Near Eastern animals. However, these data
tend to converge with former claims of local domestication, especially
beyond the northern borderline of the Linearbandkeramik expansion
(Nobis 1975). The small size of bovines found at very late Mesolithic sites
(Erteblle), on which the local domestication hypothesis was based, could
thus be reinterpreted as resulting from backcrossing events linked to the
arrival of Neolithic farmers in adjacent regions. Palaeogenetic investigation
of this issue is currently in progress by Scheue, Bollongino and collaborators
(among whom are the authors of the present paper: see also Bollongino &
Burger, this volume).
Another aspect that still has to be explained concerns the mitochondrial
diversity in extent cattle breeds from the British Isles (Troy et al. 2001). It is
unexpectedly high in comparison with adjacent parts of mainland Europe,
and thus does not fit into the model of expansion derived from the bottleneck pattern perceptible across mainland Europe (see above). Basically, this
unexpected diversity could result from at least two different phenomena: the
contribution of local female aurochs to domestic herds (see for example
Bailey et al. 1996), which subsequently proved to be unlikely, or the admixture of several herds of different origins. This latter hypothesis still has to be
investigated on a broad basis. Among diverse scenarios, one would be the
contribution of the two main Neolithic streams of dissemination of domesticates and husbandry, respectively Mediterranean and Danubian, which
have probably distinct Near Eastern origins (Cymbron et al. 2005), to the
constitution of British herds. This possibility of a dual origin for the British
(and Irish) Neolithic has been debated in general terms, especially in relation
to megalithic monuments (Renfrew 1976; Scarre 1992; Shee-Twohig 1981),
and has more recently received further credit with the identification of several
distinct continental points of origin for various aspects of the material culture (Fairweather & Ralston 1993; Milner & Woodman 2005; Sheridan 2000;
2003; Tresset 2000; 2003; Woodman & McCarthy 2003).
Ongoing worldwide research on the origin of domestic pigs by Larson
et al. (2005) has revealed a striking geographic pattern of mtDNA from
extant breeds suggesting many distinct domestication events around the
world. Data obtained on extant European breeds both suggest an origin distinct from the Near Eastern ones and a strong contribution of the female
local wild boar to the constitution of domestic herds. The time of the events
involved here is a matter of debate but will certainly be clarified by aDNA
work currently in progress by the same authors. However, it is already clear,

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Anne Tresset & Jean-Denis Vigne

194

as Larson et al. (2005) are stating, that these results do not exclude the possibility of a diffusion of domestic pigs with the first farmers in Europe, along
with domestic bovines, sheep and goat, but, unlike what has been observed
for those species, early Near Eastern pig lineages would not have survived
until modern times and would have been progressively replaced by locally
domesticated animals, at least the female part. This scenario would be very
consistent with zooarchaeological data. First, pig was rarely the basis of husbandry in most of early Neolithic communities in Europe, except in the western part of central Europe (Tresset & Vigne 2001), but began to develop to a
very large extent at the end of the fifth and the beginning of the fourth millennium in north-western mainland Europe (Arbogast et al. 1991; Augereau
et al. 1993; Mniel 1984; Pernaud et al. 2004; Tresset 1996). Secondly, this
development of pig husbandry more or less corresponds to an important rise
in the mean size of animals (Tresset 1996; Fig. 2). Very few metric data document the early pigs of German and Alsatian LBK sites (Arbogast 1994;
Mller 1964), but it is striking that they are all much smaller than their later
western counterparts. The rise in the size of domestic pigs could result from
several, possibly interlinked, causes among which zootechnical improvements
(congruent with the development of pig husbandry) and the incorporation of
wild local females to the herds. This latter explanation would have resulted in
the contribution of local wild boar mitochondrial sequences to domestic
herds. If Neolithic farmers kept doing this over centuries, it is likely that the
former domestic sequences originating in the Near East would have been
swept away.

THE INTRODUCTION OF DOMESTICATES INTO WESTERN


EUROPE: MESOLITHIC AND NEOLITHIC PERSPECTIVES
We have investigated the history of the introduction of husbandry in three
areas: during the sixth to fifth millennia in Southern France, on the Atlantic
faade between 5500 and 4000 cal BC, and c. 4000 cal BC around the Channel.
Southern France
The analysis of the faunal assemblages of the early Neolithic sites of the
north coasts of the Central and Western Mediterranean evidences two very
different systems of exploitation (Vigne 2003; Vigne & Helmer 1999). In the
large villages of Greece and south-eastern Italy (Puglia), during the second
half of the seventh millennium, hunting was very reduced and husbandry
was highly specialised on cattle exploitation, for meat and secondarily probably for milk (see preliminary results for Trasano, Matera: Vigne 2006). In

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Figure 2. Withers height estimated for domestic pigs in LBK and post-LBK cultures in central and
western Europe (after data collected in Tresset 1996).

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other areas of the north-western Mediterranean, i.e. in the Western Impressa


and Cardial cultures (late seventh/early sixth millennia), cattle and sheep
(and secondarily goat and pig) husbandry was more balanced, and deer and
wild boar hunting kept an important role in the economy, irrespective of the
type of site considered (either open air or cave/rock shelters). Three nonexclusive lines of interpretation have been proposed (Tresset & Vigne 2001;
Vigne 1998): greater density and cultural prevalence of Mesolithic groups,
more forested environments, or different techno-economic traditions. But
these interpretations did not take into account the earliest phase of the
Neolithic in the South of France, i.e. Ligurian Impressa phase which has
been evidenced at Pendimoun and Portiragnes (Binder 1995; 2000; Guilaine
2003; Manen 2000; 2002; Manen & Sabatier 2003), as no archaeozoological
studies had been done at that time.
We recently studied the animal bones of Portiragnes, Pont de RoqueHaute (PRH), which yielded Ligurian Impressa ware dated to c. 5600 cal BC.
This site is considered as an early beachhead for the Neolithic colonisation of
the Languedoc: all the archaeological data suggest that people came more or
less directly from Italy (Guilaine 2003; Manen 2000; see also Guilaine &
Manen, this volume). The faunal analysis (Vigne 2007) suggests important
differences with the subsequent Cardial system of exploitation: though
fishing and shellfish collecting are attested, hunting is nearly absent and
husbandry seems very specialised on sheep. As a preliminary reflection, we
compared the faunal composition of this Portiragnes-PRH fauna with the
ones of three Cardial stratigraphic sequences in the same area (Fig. 3a).
Gazel (excavated by J. Guilaine 1976; 2003) is located in the Aude Valley,
on the lower slopes of the Montagne Noire, at 250 m above sea level; the cave
has been occupied by Mesolithic people, then by Cardial people starting from
c. 5500 cal BC (Manen 2002). Faunal analyses have been partly published by
Geddes (1980; 1985).
Camprafaud (excavated by G. Rodriguez 1985) is located more deeply in
the hinterland, at nearly 500 m above sea level; the stratigraphy in the cave
describes the evolution of the Neolithic, starting from c. 5300 cal BC. Faunal
analyses are due to Poulain-Josien (Rodriguez 1985, 253356). Dourgne
(excavated by J. Guilaine; Guilaine et al. 1993) is also located in the hinterland, in the Corbires Mountains, at 700 m above the sea level; the stratigraphy yielded two main early Neolithic phases. Faunal analyses have been done
by Geddes (in Guilaine et al. 1993).
The three Cardial-Epicardial sequences have come from cave or rockshelter sites, while the earlier Ligurian Impressa site is an open air one.
However, Vigne and Helmer (1999) demonstrated that the difference between
cave and open air sites is not the main factor explaining the faunal differences
between the sites, and suggested that this difference in the choice of site

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197

setting should be considered as a consequence of economic strategies rather


than a cause.
The faunal assemblages of the different layers and sites have been
analysed by way of a correspondence analysis of the number of identified
specimens (NISP) of cattle, caprines (sheep goat), suids (domestic wild)
and other wild vertebrates, except fish (for the methodology see Vigne &
Helmer 1999). The scatter structure is strong (trace0.34). The first axis is
determined by an opposition between wild animals and sheep; the second one
is determined by high frequencies of cattle and, secondarily, suids. The
archaeozoological assemblages scatter following a gradient between three
types of faunal compositions (Fig. 3b):
Type 1 layers with dominant wild fauna (mostly deer and boar), which
indicate hunters or hunting sites;
Type 2 layers with mixed wild and well balanced sheep and cattle domestic fauna, which suggests balanced Neolithic subsistence with a secondary
but important role for hunting;
Type 3 layers with faunas mostly dominated by sheep and goat, i.e.
specialised Neolithic subsistence.
The early Neolithic Impressa fauna is highly dominated by sheep, and
plots at the left extremity of the gradient. This testifies that the first
pioneers coming from Italy brought with them their specialised Neolithic
subsistence, without hunting and with rather poor fishing and shellfish
collecting. The four different phases of the Early Neolithic stratigraphy of
Gazel, which describe the Cardial and Epicardial from c. 5500 to c. 4800
cal BC, show a rather specialised Neolithic subsistence, however more
balanced than in Portiragnes, hunting being more and more important
through time. The two layers at Dourgne are highly dominated by wild
animals, and, as already concluded by Guilaine (in Guilaine et al. 1993),
clearly represent occupations of Neolithic hunters or temporary settlements of Neolithic groups for hunting expeditions. The six layers of
Camprafaud describe the Cardial and Epicardial succession, contemporary
with Gazel. But, in contrast to Gazel, the early layers indicate a subsistence mostly dominated by hunting, sheep, cattle and pig becoming more
and more important through the stratigraphy. However, even at the end of
the Epicardial, i.e. c. 4800 cal BC, the Neolithic subsistence at Camprafaud
still included an important element of hunting, together with a non
specialised husbandry of sheep, cattle and pig.
This time and space pattern suggests a break between the specialised subsistence system that prevailed during the early Impressa stage of neolithisation. This seems to be confirmed by the preliminary results of the analyses of
the faunal remains of the Impressa layers at Pendimoun (Daniel Helmer and
Lionel Gourichon, pers. comm.).

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Figure 3. Geographical location of the four Early Neolithic sites in the French Languedoc area
(a), and (b) projection of F1 F2 planes of the correspondence analysis of their taxonomic faunal composition. The different layers or phases of the different sites are abbreviated with the first
letter of the name of the site followed by the number of the layer or phase: i.e. C16 means the
layer 16 of Camprafaud. For Portiragnes, all the bones of all the contemporaneous pits have
been grouped. See further explanations in text.

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199

This pattern also clearly shows that early Neolithic people in the hinterland, above 400 m, actually adopted domestic species such as sheep and goat.
But they integrated them in a completely different system of subsistence,
characterised by an important part of hunting which may be considered as a
Mesolithic heritage, and by a well balanced husbandry. The latter may be
considered as the evidence of a low level of breeding skills, at the opposite
end of the spectrum to those of early Impressa people, but it should rather
be considered as a cultural choice, which might have been better adapted to
the social, cultural and economic traditions of use of natural resources by
these local Neolithic people. It seems that each local Cardial population
rebuilt its own Neolithic subsistence system, according to its traditions and
natural environment.
The Atlantic faade
Zooarchaeological data collected in Brittany have revealed that late
Mesolithic communities (at the end of the sixth millennium cal BC) living by
the coast were relying on very diversified marine resources, including mammals, birds, fishes and molluscs (Dupont et al. in press; Schulting et al. 2004;
Tresset 2005a). Isotopic data derived from the collagen of a series of human
remains coming from the well known cemeteries at Tviec and Hodic
(Morbihan, Brittany) have revealed very high d13C values (Schulting 2005;
Schulting & Richards 2001), confirming the heavy reliance of the late
Mesolithic economy on marine resources. The Tviec and Hodic cemeteries
have also provided many data regarding symbolic aspects of the man/animal
relationship. Faunal remains found in graves (Pquart et al. 1937; Tresset
2005a) comprise bird of prey talons (white tailed eagle at Hodic), carnivore
mandibles, deer antlers, wild boar tusks, ray buckles or exceptionally big fish
jaws (for example, one maxilla at Tviec) and mirror the diversity of species
exploited for food (Tresset 2005a). Late Mesolithic sites in Ireland (e.g.
Ferriters Cove, mid fifth millennium; Woodman et al. 1999) and Scotland
(Oronsay sites: Mellars 1987; Morton: Coles 1971) display similar trends, and
the stable isotope data are congruent with zooarchaeological sources in indicating a heavy reliance on marine resources (Richards & Mellars 1998;
Schulting 1999).
Domesticates appeared on the north-western margin of Europe between
the end of the sixth and the beginning of the fourth millennium cal BC, introduced by the Mediterranean and the Danubian streams. It was probably a
complex process, and there is now evidence in Brittany and southern Ireland,
at the end of the sixth millennium and during the mid fifth millennium
respectively, for the introduction of domesticates in late Mesolithic contexts
(Tresset & Vigne 2007; Woodman et al. 1997; 1999; Milner & Woodman

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Anne Tresset & Jean-Denis Vigne

2005), though the old claims for such events in Brittany (Benard Le Pontois
1929; Bender 1985; Pquart et al. 1937) proved to be relying on incorrect data
(Tresset 2000), resulting from mix-ups between Mesolithic and later layers. In
Brittany and southern Ireland, domesticates appeared several centuries
before the Neolithic package and before husbandry techniques. It proved to
be appropriate here to dissociate the concepts of domesticates and husbandry
techniques, as the occurrence of the former does not imply the presence of
the latter (see also Tresset 2002).
Whatever form the introduction of domestic animals might have taken,
their adoptiongradual or more abrupt had dramatic effects on peoples
diet, especially on the coastline of Europe. Isotopic analyses on human bones
in Scotland, Ireland and Brittany have demonstrated the same dramatic shift
from a mainly marine to a nearly exclusively terrestrial diet (Richards et al.
2003; Schulting 2005; Schulting et al. 2004). However, zooarchaeological evidence shows that shellfish, fish and seabirds were still exploited, though in
much smaller quantities. Interestingly, there are also some changes in the
species exploited between the two periods. This is particularly striking regarding seabirds, which are mostly auks and ducks, and sometimes gannets, during the Mesolithic, but are dominated by gulls, shags and cormorants in the
Neolithic (Dupont et al. in press; Schulting et al. 2004; Tresset 2005b). The
range of marine mollusc species exploited also narrows during the Neolithic
(Dupont et al. in press). These elements suggest a qualitative change in the
use of wild animals that could have become a seasonal buffering resource for
humans, fodder for domesticates, or items of prestige value (including
through hunting as a sport).
Southern England and the Paris Basin
Bibliographic data collected in southern England for the first half of
the fourth millennium cal BC, which locally corresponds to the beginnings of
the Neolithic, were compared with data elaborated in the Paris Basin for the
same period and for the last half of the fifth millennium (locally equivalent
to the middle Neolithic). Metrical data obtained in southern England
(Armour-Chelu 1991; Grigson 1999) clearly show that domestic cattle were
already much smaller than the local aurochs (as documented at Starr Carr:
Legge & Rowley-Conwy 1988), which weakens any hypothesis of local
domestication and is convergent with aDNA data (see above). The size of
these domesticates was similar to their continental contemporary counterparts, suggesting they were originating in the adjacent part of the Continent
(Tresset 2003).
Faunal spectra observed on either side of the Channel at the same time
seem to deliver a convergent picture, as they are very similar (Fig. 4). All this

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Figure 4.

Faunal spectra observed on either side of the Channel c. 4000 cal BC (after Tresset 2002; 2003).

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suggests a cultural continuity between the two sides of the Channel at the
time of the appearance of husbandry in southern Britain (Tresset 2000; 2003;
2005).

FROM FOOD TO SYMBOLS


We have also examined the congruence between economic and symbolic systems in early farming contexts. These two registers do not always mirror each
other and their discrepancies can deliver precious information on mental
representations of different animal categories and their social value.
The Cerny culture that emerged in the Paris Basin shortly before 4500 cal
BC, and represented a radical transformation of the Danubian society, was
characterised by grave goods evoking hunting activities (arrowheads) and
wild animals (bangles made of wild boar tusks, necklaces made of red deer
canines, carnivore claws, bird of prey talons) in strong contrast to the economy, which mostly relies on cattle (Tresset 1997; 2005a). Interestingly, these
items are very similar to those retrieved in late Mesolithic funerary contexts,
as documented at Hodic and Tviec in Brittany (Pquart et al. 1937; Pquart
& Pquart 1954; Tresset 2005a). They are, at the same time, very different from
the grave goods traditionally placed in Danubian graves throughout Europe,
that usually consisted of shells (fossil or contemporary), ceramics, lithic and
bone tools, colourants and domestic animal joints. Wild animal elements
such as carnivore and red deer teeth were scarce (Jeunesse 1997).
There is a gap of three to four centuries, at least, between the arrival of
the first farmers and the beginning of the Cerny culture in the Paris Basin.
However, the contribution of the local Mesolithic societies to the formation
of this new culture is considered as plausible by a number of researchers (in
Constantin et al. 1997). Conversely to the Cerny case and roughly at the same
time, in west-central and south-western France, cultural groups of the midfifth millennium cal BC (Chambon and Monbolo groups as well as contemporary cultures in the same area) crafted pots with horn-like designs,
featuring cattle, sheep or goats (see Cassen & LHelgouach 1992 and Tresset
2005a for a survey), but the analysis of faunal samples revealed that domesticates were scarce in the subsistence economy of these societies (Lesur et al.
2000; Tresset 1998; 2001; Fig. 5), which mostly relied on large wild mammals
(red and roe deer, aurochs and wild boar). This discrepancy points toward a
special value, beyond the economic one, attached to the first domesticates in
this region, perhaps because they were of recent acquisition.
Following these early manifestations, domestic animals, and especially
cattle, became central to the Neolithic symbolic system in the whole of western Europe during the end of the fifth and the fourth millennia cal BC, as they

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Figure 5.

203

Faunal spectra observed in the south-west of France during the fifth millennium cal BC.

did in the economic system, but as described above, this apparent uniformity
can result from very different local histories.

CONCLUDING REMARKS
Zooarchaeological syntheses are still too scarce and regionally scattered
to provide a general overview of the diverse techno-economical and

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Anne Tresset & Jean-Denis Vigne

cosmogonic reorganisations produced by the neolithisation waves in western


Europe, especially by the introduction of new animals and animal products.
However, the increase of conventional osteo-archaeological data, together
with more accurate dating methods (by AMS radiocarbon dating), a better
understanding of cultural dimensions of faunal assemblages and more diversified analytical information (isotopic and genetic data) raise some hope to
do so in the foreseeable future.
Today, it is nonetheless possible to say that the use of animals by early
Neolithic societies of Western Europe was very diverse through time and
space, and that this diversity mainly results from a combination of cultural
singularities and diverse histories of interaction between local hunter-gatherers and incoming Neolithic cultures. What arises from all this is that the socalled Neolithic package was only rarely adopted as a whole. We have
presented examples of probable (though scarce) local domestication, of geographical differences in the rhythm of transfer of domesticates, of different
systems of slow recombination of the Neolithic husbandry in the Cardial/
Epicardial culture but of drastic diet changes on the Atlantic faade, of discrepancies between the symbolic appropriation of domestic animals and their
actual use as sources of animal proteins. The model of a big wave of diffusion of the Neolithic package (including sheep, goat but also cattle and probably some pigs) is still acceptable at a broad timescale, but at a more precise
time resolution (more in accord with social phenomena), it must be refined
both in terms of rhythms and modalities. This is clearly visible in western
Europe, as in all the peripheral areas, because these territories are far from
the initial centres from geographical, ecological and cultural points of view,
and because the neolithisation flows acquired there a slower pace. But it is
very likely that similarly complex phenomena of local or regional recombination also occurred in places where the neolithisation stream was so fast and
so powerful that the interactions with local Mesolithic left very tenuous
evidence. Consequently, western Europe probably remains one of the best
documented areas to understand the complex and subtle relations between
the last hunter-gatherers and early farmers in the management of animal
resources during the Neolithic expansion toward the west. As such, it now
deserves a complete renewal of anthropozoological analysis, based on the
extraordinary set of new evidence recently acquired.

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205

REFERENCES
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The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition


in the Paris Basin: a review
PIERRE ALLARD

INTRODUCTION
THE LAST THIRTY YEARS have seen increasing numbers of excavations of early
Neolithic settlements in the main Paris Basin river valleys. These early
Neolithic sites can be seen as part of the Danubian period, and specifically
belong to the Ruban (LBK) and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (VSG)-Blicquy
cultures. The Paris Basin is also an area with many excavated Mesolithic sites.
This paper presents a review of research into neolithisation processes on the
westernmost edge of Danubian expansion. The study is mainly based on
lithic finds because recent work has greatly improved our knowledge not only
of Early Neolithic, but also of Mesolithic, flint industries in the Paris basin.
There is no doubt that some of the LBK arrowheads show precise analogies
with certain late/final Mesolithic arrowheads (asymmetrical trapezes and triangles with flat inverse retouch and the microburin technique). Yet in the current state of research, it is too restrictive to address the issue simply through
arrowheads. A much broader scope of comparison of the two industries is
required, integrating all possible levels of analysis.
The Paris Basin is located at the limit of the expansion of the two
Neolithic trends in Europe. The Ruban culture (Linearbandkeramik)
appeared around 5300 cal BC in Alsace and then developed in Champagne
(Middle Ruban). Most Ruban sites in the Paris Basin are later (RRBP,
around 5000 cal BC).
The question of neolithisation in this context concerns diverse aspects
such as the chronology of the Danubian sequence (the relation between the
Ruban and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain group), the cultural attribution of
Limburg and La Hoguette ceramics, and the characterisation of Final
Mesolithic industries. If we theoretically accept the existence of all these entities, the cultural context of the end of the sixth millennium cal BC is complex.
We must therefore attempt to more clearly define the principal protagonists
of this neolithisation (Fig. 1).
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 211223, The British Academy 2007.

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Pierre Allard

212

Figure 1. The LBK appears at around 5300 cal BC. A majority of sites date to the later LBK
phase, called Ruban rcent du bassin parisien (RRBP). Limburg pottery mostly occurs in this
late phase. The early Neolithic ends with the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain, just after the LBK.

THE RUBAN CULTURE


The Ruban expansion into the Paris basin originates both from Alsace to the
south-east, and the Meuse/Moselle regions to the north-east. The Ruban
sites are located in the river valleys of the eastern half of the Paris Basin,
though a few isolated discoveries show that the Ruban extends outside this
main distribution area.
At present, the material culture (architecture, ceramics, and so on) of
Ruban sites in the Paris Basin resembles that of the western LBK culture,
with the exception of a few regional particularities such as the T decoration
of pots (Ilett & Hachem 2001; Ilett et al. 1982).
The lithic debitage is very homogeneous (Allard 2005). It is oriented
toward the production of regular blades with parallel edges (detached by
indirect percussion), which are relatively short (812 cm) and 1.5 to 2.5 cm
wide. The technological particularity of this production lies in the systematic
preparation of the striking platform by the removal of small flakes. The tools
are made principally on blades, though the laminar debitage waste products
were also transformed into tools, including the cores which were reused as
hammers. True flake debitage does not appear until the final stage of the
Ruban (Allard 2005). Though the tools are highly standardised, variations
in the frequency of certain types exist in the different settlements (Fig. 2).
Lithic raw materials were generally procured on a regional scale (10 to
50 km), which shows that the presence of these materials did not play a role

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MESOLITHIC-NEOLITHIC TRANSITION IN THE PARIS BASIN

213

Figure 2. The LBK has blade debitage, with a characteristic (facetted) preparation of the
striking platform. LBK sites produce a standardised range of tool types. n 1: blade, 2: core,
3: retouched blade, 45: asymmetrical arrowheads, 67: splintered pieces, 8: scraper, 910: sickles, 11: borer, 12: burin, 1314: scrapers (tools from Cuiry-ls-Chaudardes, Bucy-le-Long and
Berry-au-Bac in the Aisne Valley).

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Pierre Allard

in the location of Ruban settlements. The circulation of siliceous products


attests to the existence of relations between all the zones. The Senonian and
Tertiary flints from Champagne represent a higher proportion of the materials procured at the Basse-Alsace and Moselle settlements (Blouet 2005;
Mauvilly 2000). The presence of a few Belgian flints (from Ghlin and
Hesbaye) in the Aisne and Oise Valleys and at Saint-Dizier in Champagne
attests to relations between Belgium and the northern Paris Basin (Allard
2005).
Within this homogeneous portrait, which indisputably links the lithic
industry of the Paris Basin to the central European Linearbandkeramik culture, there are regional differences within the Paris Basin. In the Paris Basin,
burins are present only in the Late Ruban (RRBP): they are absent further east
(Plateaux 1986). The sites of the Yonne Valley have a much higher proportion
of flake tools than elsewhere in Europe.
Arrowheads present certain characteristics that merit further study.
Arrowheads in the Aisne/Oise/Yonne area have an asymmetrical triangular or
trapezoidal shape with flat inverse retouch at the base. They are often made
on blades and produced by the microburin technique. There are also a few
transverse arrowheads. In Champagne, asymmetrical points are numerous
but the microburin technique is absent in many cases. Symmetrical arrowheads with bifacial retouch, usually on blades, are attested, notably at Juvigny
les Grands Traquiers (Tappret & Villes 1996). On the Moselle, both types
coexist. The asymmetrical points are usually produced without the microburin technique by covering retouch or short, triple side, bifacial removals
(Lhr 1994), which is different from the Paris Basin model. In Alsace, symmetrical forms are by far the most common and are made either on flakes or
blades. The few asymmetrical arrowheads are very often made from exogenous raw materials from the Paris Basin. The microburin technique is observable on only one arrowhead from Alsace (on a Paris Basin flint: Mauvilly
1997). Symmetrical arrowheads are apparently more frequent in the eastern
part of our study region (Fig. 3). The asymmetrical forms are more frequent
in the central Paris Basin, as well as in the Belgian LBK, especially in the
Hainaut area.
Another interesting technical detail of the asymmetrical arrowheads concerns their lateralisation. The right side was more often used in the north-east
Paris Basin and in Belgium, while the left side was more frequently used in
the Moselle and Alsace zones (Lhr 1994). Further south, both sides were
used equally. In summary, the lithic industry corresponds to the central
European LBK culture except for a few regional particularities, such as the
presence of burins or flake debitage and a high proportion of flake tools in
the Yonne sites (Augereau 1993). The arrowheads correspond to those of the
western LBK with a few marked regional variations.

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215

Figure 3. The asymmetrical forms (in grey) are more frequent in the central Paris Basin and
also the Belgian LBK, especially the Hainaut area. Another interesting technical detail with the
asymmetrical arrowheads concerns lateralisation. The right side was mainly used in the northeast Paris Basin and in Belgium, the left side in the Moselle and Alsace, and both sides equally
further south.

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216

THE VILLENEUVE-SAINT-GERMAIN (VSG) GROUP


Here there is a major change in settlement patterns with a significant
increase in the number of sites and an extension much farther west. In
Belgium, the Blicquy group is closely related to the VSG. The VSG settlements and material culture are clearly derived from the late Ruban, though
significant changes occur (Constantin 1985). It is impossible here to present
the debate concerning the chronological position of the VSG, but the most
recent analyses demonstrate that this group succeeded the Ruban and that
its principal elements appear in the final stage of the RRBP (Constantin &
Ilett 1997). The lithic industry is particularly convincing in this debate
(Allard 2005; Allard & Bostyn in press). This position has since been supported by a new examination of the radiocarbon dates (Dubouloz 2003),
which are presented below.
The flint industry shows the same kind of blade debitage as the Ruban,
but is generally more diverse (Augereau 1993; Bostyn 1994). The more common productions show a duality of short blade and flake debitage production,
as well as tool shaping on blocks, generally on local materials. There is no
technological distinction from the Ruban productions except the elongation
of blades made from Tertiary flint. Flake production, on the other hand, is
systematic and dominant in the settlements (Bostyn 1994). Nevertheless, one
of the more spectacular changes observed is the production and distribution
of long blades of Tertiary flint from the central Paris Basin.
Though the circulation of flints was mostly regional and concentrated in
the heart of the Paris Basin, an intense network existed between Belgium
and the Paris Basin. This network also concerned schist bracelets, which are
present at all the settlements. The typology of the tool industry is similar to
that of the Ruban with the notable exception of the appearance of tranchets
at the end of the VSG (Augereau 1993). On the other hand, the frequency of
tool categories changes, with flake tools becoming dominant, especially scrapers and denticulates. Burins become the most frequent blade tools, particularly
in the northern Paris Basin (Bostyn 1994). The arrowheads are triangular, or
less often asymmetrical trapezoids, fabricated with the microburin technique
like those of the Ruban. Symmetrical arrowheads are for the moment
unknown in the VSG-Blicquy context. Transverse arrowheads are, in contrast,
regularly found in this context.
In the sectors where the Danubian sequence is well documented, such as
in the Aisne Valley, the arrowheads of the VSG group present the following
characteristics (Allard 2005). The preference for right lateralisation of the
asymmetrical arrowheads disappears in the VSG group and transverse arrowheads gradually become more frequent: from 2% in the late Ruban to 16% in
the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain; inverse retouch at the base and the microburin

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technique become less common; and the frequency of arrowheads drops to


only 3%. These features, which begin to disappear in the VSG, are in fact
the archaic features that the Ruban arrowheads share with Mesolithic
forms.

THE FINAL MESOLITHIC


Due to the large number of Mesolithic sites in the Paris Basin, this is one of
the best documented regions in Europe. However, many of the flint assemblages studied in the past come from sites located on sandy subsoils with
poor preservation. Relative dating is thus difficult and there are few reliable
radiocarbon dates.
Based on earlier studies of arrowhead typology and debitage types, Rozoy
(1978; 1997) and Hinout (1997) proposed various hypotheses concerning the
distribution of cultural groups. The final Mesolithic is characterised by
Rozoy (1978) through: the debitage of bladelets or regular, narrow blades
(known as the Montbani style); evolved arrowheads (trapezoids and triangles) with flat, inverse retouch; and a high percentage of Montbani blades
and bladelets (objects with a semi-abrupt retouch that forms notches or concavities). While these authors consider the site of Alle Tortue (Xb for Rozoy
& Slachmuylder 1990) at Fre-en-Tardenois as the reference for the late
Tardenoisian, they believe it is also possible to distinguish several Mesolithic
groups who occupied limited territories. The heart of the Paris Basin is
divided into the South and North Tardenoisian by the Seine River (corresponding to a change in the lateralisation of trapezoids), with the Ardennian
and Somme groups constituting two entities occupying the north of the zone.
The studies of Hinout are often based on these same sites (but not the
same excavations) but employing a different method, which relies mostly on
statistical analyses. He identified three principal groups with a main separation delimited by the Seine: the Sauveterrian with denticulates to the west of
the Seine and the Tardenoisian and the Mauregny to the north-east of the
Seine. These three entities existed throughout the entire Mesolithic (Hinout
1997).
The contexts considered are unfortunately weak since they are susceptible
to disturbances, and the construction of a chrono-cultural sequence based
only on the statistical evolution of typological, and sometimes technological,
classes is problematical. Therefore, despite a high number of sites, it has not
yet been possible to establish a reliable chronological sequence.
The real breakthrough regarding the Mesolithic results from more recent
work in the Somme Valley by Ducrocq (2001). Here the contexts are more
secure and Ducroq has established a reliable sequence for later Mesolithic

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Pierre Allard

218

lithic material, supported by radiocarbon dates (Ducrocq 2001, 2245). By


6500 cal BC, asymmetrical trapezoidal arrowheads appear. They are made
with the microburin technique and have a left lateralisation. At around 6000
cal BC, feuille de gui (mistletoe leaf) arrowheads still exist. These are followed
by asymmetrical arrowheads with right lateralisation (but with no direct
dates). The latest, or final Mesolithic, dating to around 5000 cal BC, has the
same arrowheads. The evolution of the late Mesolithic toward the final
Mesolithic would therefore be oriented toward an increase in asymmetrical
arrowheads relative to arrowheads with skewed bases ( bases dcales). In
Ducrocqs work, the terminal Final Mesolithic is represented by the dated
series from Castel (6090 95 BP, 52244797 cal BC: Ducrocq 2001, 2245),
which is characterised by Montbani blades and bladelets, triangular or
asymmetrical trapezoidal arrowheads with right lateralisation and flat inverse
retouch (made with the microburin technique), and oblique truncations.

LIMBURG POTTERY
I will not present here the history of research on Limburg pottery (or of La
Hoguette pottery on the Rhine), whose stylistic and technical repertoire
remains unique relative to the material culture of the Ruban (Constantin
1985; Lning et al. 1989). Based on ceramics, some researchers have constructed a model that attempts to associate them with Mesolithic groups
(characterised by asymmetrical arrowheads with right lateralisation for the
Limburg zone and left lateralisation for the La Hoguette zone) that were
already modified by the Neolithic influence of the Cardial trend before the
arrival of the Ruban (Gronenborn 1990; Jeunesse 1998).
However, questions surrounding Limburg pottery are not necessarily the
same as those concerning La Hoguette pottery. Its total absence in numerous
Mesolithic sites of the Tardenois and the Somme is troubling, and has also
been observed for the Hesbaye sector and the Dutch Limburg (Cromb et al.
2005). At present Limburg pottery exists only in Ruban contexts and with a
diffusion zone principally concentrated in the RRBP of the Aisne and the
Ruban of Hainaut.
The hypotheses concerning Limburg pottery have largely surpassed
currently available data and are oriented toward the idea of a prominent
influence of native populations in the neolithisation of Western Europe, in
contrast to a simple colonisation of the Ruban. In the region that interests
us, there is no argument to support the former model.

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NEW LEADS TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE


NEOLITHISATION OF THE PARIS BASIN
Radiocarbon dates
In terms of radiocarbon dates, there has always been some difficulty with the
late Ruban and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sequence. Nonetheless, a new
detailed analysis of the cumulative diagrams of calibrated dates shows a tangible succession between the end of the Ruban and the VSG (Dubouloz
2003). This presentation places the latest Ruban at around 5000 cal BC, with
the VSG following shortly after (Fig. 4). This hypothesis is supported by
studies of the lithic industry, which indisputably confirm the chronological
succession of these two periods (Allard 2005; Allard & Bostyn in press). The
radiocarbon dates for the latest Mesolithic in the Somme area are broadly
contemporary with the late Ruban (Ducrocq 2001). However, dates are still
very rare for northern France.
Arrowheads
It is already known that arrowheads similar to those of the late Mesolithic
exist in the Ruban of the northern Paris Basin (Allard 2005; Ducrocq 2001;
Lhr 1994). If we compare late Mesolithic types from the Somme and

Figure 4. C14 dates of RRBP and VSG of the Paris Basin. This recent presentation
shows the latest LBK at around 5000 cal BC and the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain shortly after
(Dubouloz 2003).

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Pierre Allard

Tardenois with RRBP types from the Aisne Valley, located just between the
two areas, the following points emerge. There are fewer types in the Ruban.
There are no oblique truncations in the Ruban. Right lateralisation and flat
inverse retouch, two technical details that are extremely common in the
Somme Mesolithic, are relatively less common in the Ruban (right lateralisation drops from 100% in the Mesolithic to 71%, while inverse retouch drops
to 46%). The blanks used for arrowheads are more varied in the Ruban.
Though similar in length, the Ruban arrowheads are generally wider.
In conclusion, though the technical and typological convergences are
indisputable, it is significant that the Ruban arrowheads of the northern
Paris Basin present technical differences from those of the local Mesolithic.
They are in fact much more similar to the arrowheads of the Belgian Ruban.
Likewise, oblique truncations disappeared and the symmetrical points of the
Ruban of Champagne are totally unknown in the local Mesolithic. Thus one
has to accept the idea that the Danubian asymmetrical arrowheads were
already an integral element of the lithic industry of the western LBK, which
developed in the Rhine-Meuse region during a phase earlier than that of the
Paris Basin Ruban.
Ideally, we would integrate all possible levels of analysis of the lithic
industry (raw material procurement, technology, use-wear analysis, and so
on). Unfortunately, these studies are lacking for the Paris Basin Mesolithic.
Nonetheless, based on current evidence, it is possible to make the following
observations (Fig. 5). The raw material procurement patterns are quite different; Mesolithic groups exploited local resources while Ruban populations
selected good quality regional materials from a range of 15 to 30 km, sometimes to the detriment of local materials (Allard 2005). The debitage products are different; there are bladelets and narrow blades in the Mesolithic
and mostly blades in the Ruban. The tool assemblages are different. Some
specific tool types are completely different (for example, Ruban scrapers,
borers and burins). The Yonne area, in the southern Paris Basin, is an exception to the general Ruban pattern. Here the Ruban industry is rather
different, with a greater use of local flint and true flake debitage, as in the
Mesolithic.

CONCLUSION
The main results of the study are the following. We now have a better understanding of late Mesolithic industries, especially concerning arrowhead
types. The radiocarbon dates show that the late Mesolithic is perhaps partly
contemporary with the Ruban. The Late Ruban-VSG sequence is firmly
established and we see that the VSG industry is derived from the Ruban,

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221

Figure 5. Comparison between the Ruban (RRBP) and late Mesolithic (Tardenois and Somme)
lithic industries.

with a loss of Mesolithic elements. This suggests that the MesolithicNeolithic interaction in the Paris basin mainly involved the Ruban and was
largely completed by the time VSG emerged.
Following these results, we can now propose a tentative interpretation of
the regional differences observed. In the northern Paris Basin and Belgium,
the similarities between Ruban and Mesolithic arrowheads could reflect
farmer-forager contacts and interactions following Ruban colonisation in
the Rhine-Meuse region. Indeed, as a whole, the lithic industry of the Paris
Basin Ruban is most closely comparable with that of the earlier settled
neighbouring Ruban zones, and not with that of the Mesolithic (in blade
dimensions, raw material procurement and tool assemblages). For this reason, it seems more plausible to speak of a gradual integration of Mesolithic
populations who partially maintain a characteristic identity in their arrowheads. It is perhaps this same characteristic identity that is expressed in the
Limburg pottery, which would thus belong to the repertoire of the Ruban
populations of the Meuse and Aisne areas (and whose technique would originate in that of the Hoguette culture, in principle much earlier). Nonetheless,

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Pierre Allard

this cannot be seen as more than an integration since the material culture
and technical system are clearly that of the Ruban. For example, the unpublished results of the faunal analysis of the site of Cuiry-ls-Chaudardes
(Hachem 1996) show that the Ruban populations of the Aisne arrived with
complete herds, and were perfectly familiar with the practices of raising and
slaughtering domestic animals.
Finally, in the southern Paris Basin, the situation appears rather different.
Here the additional technical similarities between Ruban and Mesolithic
industries possibly reflect a local acculturation of forager groups in areas such
as the Yonne. It is indeed in this region that the most significant differences in
the LBK lithic industry are currently observable and we must thus preserve the
possibility of an alternative hypothesis.
Note. I would like to thank M. Ilett (University of Paris I) for his help and for
improving the English text. I wish to thank, too, M. OFarrell for the translation of
this paper.

REFERENCES
ALLARD, P. 2005. Lindustrie lithique des populations rubanes du nord-est de la France et de la
Belgique. Rahden: Marie Leidorf.
ALLARD, P. & BOSTYN, F. in press. Gense et volution des industries lithiques danubiennes
du Bassin parisien. In P. Allard, F. Bostyn & A. Zimmermann (eds), Contribution of lithics
for early and middle Neolithic chronology in France and neighbouring regions. Oxford: British
Archaeological Reports.
AUGEREAU, A. 1993. volution de lindustrie du silex du V au IV millnaire avant J.-C. dans
le sud-est du Bassin parisien. Organisation techo-conomique du Villeneuve-Saint-Germain au
groupe de Noyen. Thse de Doctorat, Universit de Paris I.
BLOUET, V. 2005. Lindustrie lithique du site Nolithique ancien de Malling. In G. Auxiette &
F. Malrain (eds), Hommages Claudine Pommepuy, Revue Archologique de Picardie numro
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BOSTYN, F. 1994. Caractrisation des productions et de la diffusion des industries lithiques du
groupe nolithique du Villeneuve-Saint-Germain. Thse de Doctorat, lUniversit de Paris I.
CONSTANTIN, C. 1985. Fin du Ruban, cramique du Limbourg et post-ruban. Le nolithique
le plus ancien en Bassin parisien et en Hainaut. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
CONSTANTIN, C. & ILETT, M. 1997. Une tape terminale dans le Ruban Rcent du Bassin
parisien. In C. Jeunesse (ed.), Le Nolithique danubien et ses marges entre Rhin et Seine,
281300. Strasbourg: Actes du XXIIme colloque interrgional sur le Nolithique supplment
de lAssociation Pour la Recherche Archologique en Alsace.
CROMBE, P., PERDAEN, Y. & SERGANT, J. 2005. La nolithisation de la Belgique: quelques
reflexions. Bulletin de la Socit Prhistorique Franaise 36, 4866.
DUBOULOZ, J. 2003. Datation absolue du premier Nolithique du Bassin parisien: complment et relecture des donnes RRBP et VSG. Bulletin de la Socit Prhistorique Franaise
100, 67189.
DUCROCQ, T. 2001. Le Msolithique du bassin de la Somme. Lille: Publications du CERP n 7,
Universit des Sciences et Technologies de Lille.

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GRONENBORN, D. 1990. Mesolithic-Neolithic interactions. The lithic industry of the earliest


bandkeramik site Friedberg-Bruchenbrcken, Wetteraukreis (West Germany). In P. M.
Vermeersch & P. van Peer (eds), Contribution to the Mesolithic of Europe, 17382. Leuven:
Leuven University Press.
HACHEM, L. 1996. La faune rubane de Cuiry-ls-Chaudardes; essai sur la place de lanimal dans
la premire socit nolithique du Bassin parisien. Thse de doctorat, Universit de Paris I.
HINOUT, J. 1997. volution des ensembles industriels msolithiques dans le Bassin parisien par
lanalyse des donnes. In J.-P. Fagnart & A. Thvenin (eds), Le Tardiglaciaire en Europe du
Nord-Ouest, 119me congrs du CTHS, Amiens, 1994, 22333. Paris: dition du CTHS.
ILETT, M., CONSTANTIN, C., COUDART, A. & DEMOULE, J.-P. 1982. The late
Bandkeramik of the Aisne valley: environment and spatial organisation. Analecta Praehistorica
Leidensia 15, 4562
ILETT, M. & HACHEM, L. 2001. Le village nolithique de Cuiry-ls-Chaudardes (Aisne,
France). In J. Guilaine (ed.), Communauts villageoises du Proche-Orient lAtlantique
(80002000 avant notre re), 17186. Paris: Errance.
JEUNESSE, C. 1998. La nolithisation de lEurope occidentale (VIIeVe millnaires av. J. C.):
nouvelles perspectives. In C. Cupillard & A. Richard (eds), Les derniers chasseurs-cueilleurs
du massif jurassien et de ses marges (130005500 avant J.-C.), 20817. Lons-le-Saunier:
Centre Jurassien du Patrimoine.
LHR, H. 1994. Linksflgler und Rechtsflger in Mittel-und Westeuropa. Der Fortbestand
der Verbreitungsgebiete asymmetrischer Pfeilspitzformen als Kontinuittsbeleg zwischen
Meso-und Neolithikum. Trierer Zeitschrift 57, 9127.
LNING, J., KLOOS, U. & ALBERT, S. 1989. Westliche Nachbarn der bandkeramischen
Kultur: La Hoguette und Limburg. Germania 67, 355420.
MAUVILLY, M. 1997. Lindustrie lithique de la culture cramique linaire de Haute et de
Basse Alsacetat des recherches et bilan provisoire. In C. Jeunesse (ed.), Le Nolithique
danubien et ses marges entre Rhin et Seine, 32758. Strasbourg: Actes du XXIIme colloque
interrgional sur le Nolithique, supplment de lAssociation pour la Recherche
Archologique en Alsace.
MAUVILLY, M. 2000. Le matriel lithique du site de Rosheim Sainte-Odile (Bas-Rhin).
Premire partieobjets en roches siliceuses et apparentes. Cahiers de lAssociation pour la
Recherche Archologique en Alsace 16, 6781.
PLATEAUX, M. 1986. Lindustrie lithique des premiers agriculteurs dans le nord de la France.
In Chipped stone industries of the early farming cultures in Europe. Actes du colloque de
Cracow, Archeologia interregionalis, 22545.
ROZOY, J.-G. 1978. Les derniers chasseurs. Charleville-Mzire: Mmoires de la Socit
Archologique Champenoise.
ROZOY, J.-G. 1997. Territoires sociaux et environnement en France du nord et en Belgique de
14,000 6000 b.p. In J.-P. Fagnart & A. Thvenin (eds), Le Tardiglaciaire en Europe du
Nord-Ouest, 119me congrs du CTHS, Amiens, 1994, 42954. Paris: dition du CTHS.
ROZOY, J.-G. & SLACHMUYLDER, J.-L. 1990. LAlle Tortue Fre-en-Tardenois (Aisne,
France). Site ponyme du Tardenoisien rcent. In P. M. Vermeersch & P. van Peer (eds),
Contribution to the Mesolithic in Europe, 42333. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
TAPPRET, E. & VILLES, A. 1996. Contribution de la Champagne ltude du Nolithique
ancien. In P. Duhamel (ed.), La Bourgogne entre les bassins rhnan, rhodanien et parisien
carrefour ou frontires?, 175256. Revue Archologique du Centre supplment 14.

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Neolithic fragrances: Mesolithic-Neolithic


interactions in western France
GRGOR MARCHAND

THE OBJECT OF THIS PAPER is to consider the Neolithic transition of western


France through the relationships between communities of hunter-gatherers
and those of farmers. The intention is not so much to place farming pioneers
and natives in opposition, but rather to reflect on the traces left by the interactions between technical systems during the availability phase (Zvelebil &
Rowley-Conwy 1986). The area considered stretches from the Seine to the
Garonne, during the period in broad terms from 5500 to 4700 cal BC. The
meeting of the two main currents of the west-European Neolithic expansion,
coupled with the continued existence (chronologically ill defined) of
Mesolithic groups, created a mosaic process which we are only beginning to
analyse, region by region.
Western France is a region of peneplains and sedimentary basins, marked
by large rivers that are the main structuring elements of the landscape and
which provide rich biotopes. The Atlantic Ocean was also a fundamental geographical element for the prehistoric communities of the Armorican Massif,
as a purveyor of food and particularly of workable flint pebbles. The coast
was therefore the focus of numerous human occupations among which are a
number of shell middens. The importance of these marine economies, however, has long been over-estimated when attempting to explain the resistance
to change of the last Mesolithic communities. Recent work has demonstrated
that the impact of human communities was equally significant inland, where
they did not depend in any marked degree on the ocean (Gouletquer et al.
1996; Marchand 2003; 2005).
The situation I would like to present is made up of complex interactions
for which the natural environment forms a framework without ever becoming the main actor. These interactions will be approached via the extensive
technical transfers between Mesolithic and Neolithic systems. In interpreting
this material, we must be especially wary of taphonomic traps and biases in
the evidence, and these will be taken into account here.

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 225242, The British Academy 2007.

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Grgor Marchand

226

TAPHONOMIC PROBLEMS AND INFORMATION BIASES


For a long time, the Atlantic coast of France appeared as a Far West, where
every combination of archaeological elements was possible. This approach
gave birth to a variety of models of autochthonous change from Mesolithic
to Neolithic: a Neolithic developing from an extremely polymorphic
Mesolithic substrate, as for example on the edge of the Massif Central (the
so-called Roucadourian: Roussot-Larroque 1977; 1990); an Atlantic Cardial
based on a Sauveterrian substrate, as at La Lde-du-Gurp in Gironde
(Roussot-Larroque & Villes 1988); or a retarded Mesolithic, as for example
to the north of the Loire estuary (LHelgouach 1976). In effect, it seemed that
the great waves of Neolithic expansion had worn themselves out before
reaching the Atlantic shores. The whole scenario was, we should now admit,
incomprehensible and those hypotheses have today been discredited.
The present-day image of a Brittany steeped in folklore and economically
retarded has probably played a crucial part in giving rise to the idea of a
Mesolithic people unreceptive to the joys of agriculture. What is more, the
high density of Mesolithic sites in western Brittany is a result of the key role
accorded to amateur archaeologists (Gouletquer et al. 1996). By contrast, in
the south of France, the significance of surface sites is minimised compared
to that of rock-shelters and caves. The study of the Neolithic transition must
accordingly be approached warily, watching out for such present-day biases
and ways of thinking.
We must also take into consideration the geomorphological and taphonomic parameters that affect our corpus. With an estimated rise in sea-level of
10 m (Pirazzoli 1991), the coastline of the sixth millennium cal BC has completely disappeared in west-central France, where the continental shelf is
shallow. On the other hand, the shell middens of Brittany, set on rocky cliffs
bordering deep seas, have at least partially escaped that destruction.
Elsewhere, frequent discoveries of Early Neolithic evidence on the beaches of
the Vende or Aquitaine seem in my view to be attributable to conditions of
research, rather than to any prehistoric reality. Coastal marshlands, today
eroded by the sea, have fossilised these prehistoric traces, which can now be
collected on the beaches (Joussaume 1986). The ease of observation, and the
frequentation of these beautiful shores by archaeological prospectors, have led
to the over-evaluation of discoveries made along the sea shore. They are rather
too quickly taken to be Neolithic landing-places, in the manner of ancient
Greek trading-posts. When our eyes move inland, to favourable sedimentary
contexts such as the peat deposits of La Grange at Surgres (Laporte et al.
2000), we discover that Early Neolithic material is also present there.
These biases in what we know must alert us to the danger of overestimating the role of Mesolithic communities in the Neolithic transition.

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227

They oblige us to reassess the role of the ocean, which so often has been
conceived as a medium for rapid movement by boat in the Early Neolithic.
By contrast, the hypotheses presented in this paper could be qualified as
terrestrial models.

A STRONG MESOLITHIC IMPRINT


Stability of human communities in Brittany in segmented territories
In Brittany, our knowledge is no longer limited to the coastal strip that is so
well known through the shell middens of Tviec and Hodic. Intensive fieldsurveys led by Pierre Gouletquer and his team in Finistre in the 1990s
revealed a dense network of sites (Gouletquer et al. 1996); the available
corpus now stands at 62 sites with large-blade industries in Brittany, of which
16 have been more or less intensively excavated. Several elements lead us to
believe in a certain stability of territories that were of relatively reduced
dimensions (Fig. 1).
On the coast, the cemeteries of Tviec and Hodic reveal the high proportion of marine food in the diet. According to the work of Rick Schulting
and Michael Richards this indicates permanent occupations (Schulting &
Richards 2001). These results are seemingly corroborated by studies of seasonality on shellfish by Catherine Dupont, which suggest semi-sedentary or
sedentary occupations (Dupont 2003). Likewise, the structure of the lithic
industries reveals a significantly lower level of arrowhead production at shell
midden sites than at logistical sites on cliff tops (without shells). Finally, the
scarcity of stone materials of inland origin on the coast also pleads in favour
of acquisition territories turned towards the ocean. The organisation of
space inland seems to be identical, with large camps and small logistical sites.
It should be noticed that mobile settlements are always linked to potentially
navigable waterways and they never seek high or, in other words, defensive
positions.
On this ancient Massif, flint is found only along the coast, in the form of
beach pebbles. Late Mesolithic societies inland therefore resorted to a wide
variety of stone types in an economic system of a kind hitherto unknown in
this area. It is tempting to draw a parallel with the broad-spectrum economy
seen in subsistence behaviour. Systems for the distribution of raw materials
reached only up to 60 km; they were already much reduced in impact at distances of about 30 km. There seem to have been no contacts between north
and south Brittany; in any case, nothing leads us to believe in a territory of
seasonal exploitation on such a scale. Finally, three slightly different typological groups correspond closely to these relatively restricted ranges of

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Grgor Marchand

Figure 1. Distribution of several territorial indications for the final Mesolithic of Brittany:
symmetrical bitruncation styles and raw-material territories. Black square: geological sites.
Grey circles: Mesolithic sites.

around 30 to 50 km. The homogeneity of the technical system over the whole
of Brittany implies contact on a large scale, but we must suppose social and
cultural integration at levels other than that of a single group travelling
around the peninsula, such as through exchanges or periodic encounters. Do
these characteristics indicate economic stress or, on the contrary, an age of
abundance? The answer depends on the ideological options of the individual
archaeologist.
In the lithic industries, we can identify two successive typological facies
within the Teviecian: the Hodic facies at around 5400 to 5200 cal BC and
the Beg-er-Vil facies at around 5100 to 5000 cal BC. This later facies sees the
supremacy of symmetrical bitruncations (transverse arrowheads) and the
appearance of the convex-backed blade. This is markedly different in style
from what we know in the rest of France where asymmetrical points domi-

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nate (trapeze, triangle or point). The late date of the Beg-er-Vil facies makes
it a technical entity contemporary with the Early Neolithic of west-central
France and with the earliest Neolithic of Paris Basin. I shall argue below that
these technical mutations are probably the fruit of that coexistence. The
distance end to end of the Armorican Peninsula may also have favoured the
emergence of a stylistic particularism, rather as with an island.
Stability and multiple cultural influence in the Centre-West
In contrast to Brittany, the geographical openness of the centre-west resulted
in a great diversity of technical influences on the stone tools. The Retzian is
a technical entity discovered in the Vende and in Loire-Atlantique (Fig. 2).
Forty sites are known of which four have been excavated. So far, only one
date has been obtained, on charcoal, from the site of La Gilardire at Pornic.
This falls within the interval 56005260 cal BC (6520 120 BP: Tucson 8436).
The Late Mesolithic of Poitou, identified mainly at the site of LEssart at
Poitiers, is an entity in its own right defined by several typological features,
but is related to the Retzian. The external features which interest us here are
the transverse arrowheads of Chtelet and Montclus type. They originate in
the Impressed Ware sphere and rapidly become one of the main products of
bladelet working in the Late Mesolithic. It appears that the coexistence
between Mesolithic and Neolithic communities was long enough for the
Neolithic transverse arrowheads to become part of the Mesolithic technical
repertoire. Over time, rather than isolated extraneous elements they became
an important part of the Mesolithic arrowhead suite. The remainder of the
industry corresponds to the production norms of the Montbani type that is
found in the rest of France during the latest stages of the Mesolithic.
While we are able to demonstrate the limited extent of Late Mesolithic
territories in Brittany, economic data for the area between the Loire and the
Garonne rivers are extremely incomplete. The importance of marine foods in
diet is not so manifest as on the Breton coast, but the coastline of the period
has largely been destroyed by the encroachment of the sea. Several elements,
however, indicate a strong link to the aquatic environment. Recent work in
collaboration with Catherine Dupont, Yves Gruet and Michel Tessier in the
region of Pornic (Loire-Atlantique) has shown a system of small logistical
sites within a former estuary, but without any shell middens (Fig. 3;
Marchand et al. 2002).
At the heart of the Poitou region another type of settlement has recently
been discovered where activities seem to be characterised by the use of fire
(Fig. 4). On an island in the River Clain at LEssart, more than 50 stone
hearths and numerous dismantled hearths were excavated in 20032005,
extending across an area of approximately 2000 square metres. Over 75% of

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the flint had been burnt, making this an exceptional Mesolithic site; in
Brittany the corresponding figure for shell middens is around 2530%. The
poor bone preservation prevents us from determining exactly what the inhabitants were burning so relentlessly, but the proximity of the river suggests
activities such as smoking fish. Links with the sea and rivers remind us of
Brittany but may here have been associated with different economic structures. In the absence of preserved seeds or bones, it is difficult to address the
question of animal or plant domestication and we must remain cautious
about the lifestyle of these conveyors of final Mesolithic techniques.

THE EARLIEST NEOLITHIC


An ill defined Mediterranean current
In the course of palynological sampling, Lionel Visset and his team have discovered cereal pollen in the Morbihan, Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire and
Vende dating from between 7200 and 5800 cal BC (Visset et al. 1996; 2002).
These discoveries pose numerous problems, first, because the pollen comes
from coastal environments where it may derive from halophytic plants; and
also because the sedimentary contexts of the samples remain questionable.
Extremely sporadic and transient, these findings predate the earliest evidence
of plant domestication in France (the oldest of them predate the earliest
domestication in Europe), and thus constitute a chronological anomaly
which requires explanation. For the moment, they should be regarded with
considerable suspicion.
The earliest Neolithic impact detected through material culture comes
from the Impressed Ware cultural complex, originating in the north-west
Mediterranean. The traces are extremely diffuse. Fragments of pottery from

Figure 2. A: final Mesolithic sites in Western France; B: early Neolithic sites. 1. Tviec (SaintPierre-les-Quiberon, Morbihan); 2 . Beg-er-Vil (Quiberon, Morbihan); 3. Port-Nhu (Hodic,
Morbihan); 4. La Gilardire (Prfailles, Loire-Atlantique); 5. LEssart (Poitiers, Vienne); 6. La
Grange (Surgres, Charente-Maritime); 7. Le Cuzoul de Gramat (Gramat, Lot); 8. Les
Escabasses (Thmines, Lot); 9. Bellevue (Neulliac) and Le Dillien (Clgurec, Morbihan); 10. Le
Haut-Me (Saint-Etienne-en-Cogls, Ille-et-Vilaine); 11. Le Boulerot (Beaufort-en-Valle,
Maine-et-Loire); 12. La Bajoulire (Saint-Rmy-la-Varenne, Maine-et-Loire); 13. Btard
(Brtignolles-sur-Mer, Vende); 14. Le Rocher (Longueville-Plage); 15. Le Grouin-du-Cou (La
Tranche-sur-Mer, Vende); 16. La Grange (Surgres, Charente-Maritime); 17. Les Ouchettes
(Plassay, Charente-Maritime); 18. Germignac (Charente); 19. La Balise (Soulac-sur-Mer,
Gironde); 20. La-Lde-du-Gurp (Grayan-et-LHpital, Gironde); 21. Le Btey (Andernos-lesBains, Gironde); 22. Labri-des-Rocs (Bellefonds, Vienne); 23. Le Lazzaro (Colombelles,
Calvados).

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Figure 3. The former estuary of Pornic River (Loire-Atlantique), with Retzian sites on top of the cliff. The ancient sea level at -10 m
below actual corresponds to the -7 m level of the hydrographic map.

232

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233

Figure 4. LEssart at Poitiers (Vienne). A: map of the hearths on the site. B: Hearth 14. C:
Hearths 20 and 21.

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Grgor Marchand

surface collections and even charcoal, dated by radiocarbon to around 5400


cal BC, have been picked up on strands at low tide. The circumstances of discovery make it impossible to describe the technical systems, though we should
note that certain elements of the material culture are spread over a large
geographical area (Aquitaine, Poitou-Charentes, and the southern Vende;
Fig. 3). As for the lithic industry, Montclus and Betey arrowheads appear frequently to the south of the Marais poitevin. The former are usually found in
Cardial contexts and bear witness to a probable extension of those cultures
towards the north-west. The latter are the French equivalent of the triangles
and the segments with doble bisel retouch, well known in northern Iberia in
established Neolithic contexts (the Geometric Complex).
Colonisation by sea is a recurrent hypothesis in France, but it presupposes
sailing around the Iberian peninsula. Study of the Cardial industries of
Andalucia or Portugal (Carvalho 2002) reveals that they are radically different and obliges us to abandon this idea completely. The diffusion of Neolithic
artefacts is the result of an altogether different process, less romantic but
more realistic, involving a direct passage from western Languedoc towards
the centre-west, with perhaps a later contribution of elements from the Ebro
valley via the Pyrenees (Marchand 1999).
The presence of a Neolithic of Mediterranean origin is highly likely,
although its existence is mainly noticeable in the negative through its impact
on Late Mesolithic technical systems between 5600 and 5200 cal BC. The dates
obtained at Le Grouin-du-Cou in Vende for Early Neolithic material are
identical to that of the Retzian site of La Gilardire at Pornic, but the main
corpus of dates falls much later. Only with the site of Les Ouchettes at Plassay
in Charente-Maritime, c. 4700 cal BC, are we finally able to document the particular characteristics of the lithic industries of this early Atlantic Neolithic.
By this stage the lithic industries are already in a highly-evolved form, and
show virtually no link with the Mesolithic (Laporte et al. 2002). All dates for
the Early Atlantic Neolithic are contemporary with the Epicardial of
Languedoc, and the stylistic traits of pottery decoration are also convergent
with those of the latter group.
The Central European current: aspects of a colonisation
The extension towards the Atlantic of the Early Neolithic of Central
European origin forms another current of Neolithic expansion, whose nature
is more evident. The arrival of human groups in this case seems beyond question; that much is indicated by the evidence discovered at the sites, and above
all by the invariable character of material assemblages. The Late Bandkeramik
of the Paris Basin (RRBP) is now recognised on the Caen plain at Le Lazzaro
at Colombelles (Billard et al. 2004; Guesquire et al. 2000). Beyond Lower

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Normandy, the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain which follows the RRBP chronologically is itself well documented in the east of the Armorican Massif, at Le
Haut-Me at Saint-Etienne-en-Cogls (Cassen et al. 1998) and at Pluvignon-La
Bunelais at Betton recently excavated by Stphane Blanchet (Blanchet 2003). In
the lower Loire valley, the site of Le Boulerot at Beaufort-en-Valle excavated
by Bertrand Poissonnier, and numerous surface finds, also indicate a high
density of occupation (Cassen et al. 1999). Finally, recent finds of VilleneuveSaint-Germain sites (Bellevue at Neulliac and Le Dillien at Clgurec) in the
centre of Brittany near Pont-Ivy confirm the extension of that group westwards. Available dates fall at the beginning of the fifth millennium cal BC.
The trapezoidal house plans and ceramic styles are identical to those of
the classic Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sites. Extensive importation of flint from
the Paris Basin into the Armorican Massif immediately places the VilleneuveSaint-Germain in an economic cycle radically different from the Mesolithic
cycle, but one that continues up to the final Neolithic. It is interesting to note
the way in which the system spreads as the distance of importation increases.
Within an initial band, up to 100 km from the sources (a two to four days
walk), Villeneuve-Saint-Germain technology remains stable, with only an
increase in the role of the blades. It is effectively more economical to import
blades or preformed cores than raw material. Between 100 and 200 km, acquisition territories change and tools are made from local material, but still with
a wide range of imports. The transport capacity of the Villeneuve-SaintGermain system is hence greatly superior to that of the late Mesolithic, but
leaving aside this geological determinism, there are no perceptible links
between the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain and the Teviecian.
The two currents of Neolithic expansion evoked through their lithic
industries are very different in their technical traditions. In the RRBP/
Villeneuve-Saint-Germain case, the motor of diffusion seems to be the westward expansion of farming groups, who progressively adapt their economic
system to the environment. In the other case, nothing yet permits us to
associate a typological unit (Monctlus or Betey arrowheads, or pottery of
Mediterranean tradition) with a type of economy and a specific human
group.

MESOLITHIC/NEOLITHIC INTERACTIONS:
THE REVELATIONS OF TECHNICAL SYSTEMS
In the second half of the sixth millennium cal BC, Early Atlantic Neolithic
groups coexisted with others of Late Mesolithic type. Early in the fifth millennium cal BC such a coexistence links the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain and
the Teviecian communities only in Brittany. We shall leave to one side the

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Epicardial influences on the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain that are particularly


visible in ceramic designs, and which gave birth to what is sometimes known
as the Augy-Sainte-Pallaye style.
Can we grasp the nature of these interactions from archaeological evidence? The character of Mesolithic/Neolithic contacts cannot be determined
simply by demonstrating their contemporaneity, since the time-intervals of the
radiocarbon method do not allow the discrimination of short-term events.
The image of passive hunter-gatherers outside history is one consequence of
this unduly limited way of thinking.
The Neolithic transition is a functional revolution that completely metamorphoses the tool and its means of production. Its effects cannot be minimised and the Mesolithic and Neolithic techniques in western France differ
in the tools, their method of production and their network of stone supply.
Scrapers, burins and borers of the Neolithic tool-kit rarely cross the cultural
boundaries, which means that the function they fulfilled did not interest the
last hunter-gatherers. An exception must, however, be made for the backed
blades of the Teviecian Beg-er-Vil facies, models for which could be found in
the Mediterranean Neolithic. Finally, we must note that Neolithic tools could
easily have been produced by Mesolithic methods, out of local materials, but
the abandonment of the Mesolithic traditions was nonetheless radical. This
absence of porosity between technical systems does not extend, however, to
the arrowheads; killing is atemporal, cross-cultural and over-rated.
The example of the transverse arrowhead must first be considered. It
would seem that the Retzian Chtelet arrowhead, elaborated by flat bifacial
retouch, owes much to the Montclus type of the Cardial groups, produced by
abrupt then flat retouch. The function is the same, it is the way the arrowhead
is made that is different (Fig. 5). It is important to note that the Chtelet
arrowheads of the Retzian do not have any regional antecedents, and that a
Mediterranean origin is the only one possible. The direct adoption of
Montclus arrowheads into Mesolithic systems finds striking illustration at
LEssart at Poitiers, where they comprise approximately 20% of arrowheads in
a series of asymmetrical trapezes (Fig. 6). Such associations can also be documented in south-western France, for example in level 5 of Cuzoul de Gramat
in the Lot (Lacam et al. 1944), at Les Escabasses (Valdeyron 2000) and more
generally in the south-west. Finally, as its geographical position would predict,
the Retzian plays the role of interface between the Cardial and the Teviecian
in the adoption of transverse arrowheads. But once again, in Brittany this
technical concept is retranslated into the local technical language, here with
retouch that is exclusively abrupt.
The multiple metamorphoses of the transverse arrowhead can only be
understood if Mesolithic and Neolithic communities remained sufficiently
stable for archaeology to be able to perceive them, albeit the sites are of

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Figure 5. Technical transfer from early Neolithic to final Mesolithic in Centre-West: from
Montclus arrowhead to Chtelet arrowhead.

mediocre quality. The metamorphoses occur either through direct borrowing,


in Poitou or in Aquitaine, or by transfer followed by interpretation in the
Retzian and Teviecian. This partial porosity between Mesolithic and Neolithic
technical systemssometimes accompanied by misunderstandingsis not
the prerogative of Atlantic regions. In the current state of research, I am
almost tempted to reverse the classical conclusion; the Mesolithic areas of the
Atlantic Coast, both in Spain and France, seem less active in the Neolithic
transition than those of regions further to the east (Fig. 7). The Mesolithic
legacy can more easily be observed in the Early Neolithic of the central Paris
Basin, of western Languedoc (Barbaza et al. 1984) or of eastern Spain (JuanCabanilles 1985), than in western France. To return to the Montclus arrowhead and to complicate the pattern somewhat, we should note that it only
appears in the French Cardial and not in Italy. Its genesis owes much to the
local Mesolithic groups of Languedoc (the Gazel-Cuzoul group) as Jean
Guilaine, Jean Vaquer and Michel Barbaza have suggested (Barbaza et al.
1984). In this case, we have a pattern of multiple exchanges, first from
Mesolithic to Neolithic, and then from Neolithic to Mesolithic, as one
proceeds towards the west.
The adoption of transverse arrowheads is not a technical improvement or
an environmental adaptation, but rather a technical change depending on

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Grgor Marchand

Figure 6. LEssart at Poitiers (Vienne). Arrowheads. 16: Montclus arrowheads; 824:


trapezoids. Drawings by F. Blanchet.

cultural choice. The reason behind this change in arrowhead design evidently
lay in the symbolic domain and the success of the new form was dependent
on the social relations at the very heart of Mesolithic society. It supposes first
that Mesolithic communities had links of some kind with Neolithic communities: regular exchanges of goods in a complementary economy, integration
of Neolithic immigrants, or intermarriages. In this last case, if we suppose
that war and hunting are male functions, the Neolithic hunter or warrior
would go to the Mesolithic village in a matrilocal postmarital residence pattern. Whatever happened, it means that Mesolithic society is sufficiently open
to accept the emergence of this new ethnic identity in close spatial proximity
to its own. This partial adoption of Neolithic tools into the Mesolithic system supposes, too, an attractive conception of the Neolithic way of killing
and more generally a positive image of the new technical system. In other
words, changes in lithic technology may reflect a more general attractiveness
of the agro-pastoral way of life to Mesolithic communities. Only the lithics
have been preserved but we cannot exclude the exchange of other things such
as food or organic implements. The poor state of preservation seen in the

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Figure 7. Technical transfers of arrowheads in several areas of Atlantic Europe.

region leads to chronological imprecision and also to geographical uncertainty. It does not allow us to specify the location of each group in the wider
landscape: whether overlapping Mesolithic and Neolithic territories in a
small area (one in the valley, one on the plateau, and so on) or disconnected
territories across a no-mans land.

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Grgor Marchand
CONCLUSIONS

The archaeological observations presented in this article are to be placed in a


general perspective of the arrhythmia of the Neolithic transition, recently
formalised by Guilaine (2001). It seems to me, however, that the phases of
resistance and of the redefinition of technical entities are not limited only to
two or three stops on the continent. They can be observed at a regional scale
and are multiple in number. The expansion of the Neolithic was a process
that fed on those interactions, not to say one which only progressed via those
interactions. Arrhythmia is integral to this. Attempting to formalise the technological principles that are observed suggests that contacts between
Mesolithic and Neolithic communities form a coherent subject for study that
can no longer make do with references to isolated pieces, nor simply with the
acknowledgement that there is an overlap between the intervals of confidence
of the radiocarbon dates.
The imprecision in our mastery of time for this period may well prevent
us from getting close to these rhythms of change, but the technical exchanges
are sufficient in scale to be evident even after seven thousand years. The transfer mechanisms are particularly visible in the case of the arrowheads, as these
are objects which condense a maximum of successive technical actions and
where style best expresses itself. These transfers are to be placed within a general framework that recognises two contrasting techno-functional systems.
We have therefore to admit that the interactions mainly concern the areas of
hunting and warfare, both of which are potentially highly symbolic. Isabelle
Sidra (2000) arrived at similar conclusions in her study of the decorative
objects of animal origin in tombs dating from the early Middle Neolithic in
the Paris Basin.
I have been careful not to evoke the manner in which Mediterranean
Neolithic influences spread through western France. It goes without saying
that the impact of these earliest communities was slight; saying more than
that goes beyond the evidence that is available. Clearly there is still room for
more audacious models, for example ceramic-bearing communities living
exclusively by hunting and gathering, or again, groups of Retzian shepherds,
but these lack the slightest proof. Scattered elements from the Late
Mesolithic of the centre-west or of the Paris Basin are found throughout
Brittany as far as its western limit. Population movements may also have
included movements of hunter-gatherers in an intermingling that is still
impossible to describe.
If the smell of cereals from the seventh millennium seems to be a delusion
that afflicts only a few botanists, certain fragrances from Neolithic material
cultures apparently seduced the last Atlantic Mesolithic societies. To the
south of the Loire, we find ourselves in the paradoxical situation of grasping

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the earliest Neolithic by its effect on the Mesolithic, more than by its own
traces. The transition from the sixth to the fifth millennium cal BC was a
period of identity turmoil in Western France, which translated into technical
and cultural syncreticisms, following technical and symbolic logics that are
still to be explored. To conclude the process, it must be admitted that the
technical recomposition of the Middle Neolithic beginning in 4700 cal BC has
nothing more to reveal to us of the Mesolithic world.
Note. I would like to thank Alasdair Whittle for inviting me to the conference. I am
very grateful to Sheila Marchet for the translation, and to Chris Scarre and Rick
Schulting for interesting emendations.

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J. Guilaine & X. Gutherz (eds), Autour de Jean Arnal, 55100. Montpellier: Recherches sur
les premires communauts paysannes en Mditerrane occidentale.
ROUSSOT-LARROQUE, J. & VILLES, A. 1988. Fouilles pr et protohistoriques la Lde du
Gurp (Grayan-et-LHpital, Gironde). Revue Archologique de Bordeaux LXXIX, 1960.
SCHULTING, R. & RICHARDS, M. P. 2001. Dating women and becoming farmers: new
palaeodietary and AMS dating evidence from the Breton Mesolithic cemeteries of Tviec
and Hodic. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 20, 31444.
SIDERA, I. 2000. Animaux domestiques, btes sauvages et objets en matires animales du
Ruban au Michelsberg. De lconomie aux symboles, des techniques la culture. Gallia
Prhistoire 42, 10742.
VALDEYRON, N. 2000. Gographie culturelle du Msolithique rcent/final dans le sud-ouest
de la France. In Rencontres mridionales de Prhistoire rcente. Troisime session 1998, 2334.
Toulouse: Editions Archives dEcologie Prhistorique.
VISSET, L., CYPRIEN, A.-L., CARCAUD, N., OUGUERRAM, A., BARBIER, D. &
BERNARD, J. 2002. Les prmices dune agriculture diversifie la fin du Msolithique dans
le Val de Loire (Loire armoricaine, France). Compte-rendu Palevol 1, 518.
VISSET, L., LHELGOUACH, J. & BERNARD, J. 1996. La tourbire submerge de la pointe
de Kerpenhir Locmariacquer (Morbihan). Etude environnementale et mise en vidence de
dforestations et de pratiques agricoles nolithiques. Revue Archologique de lOuest 13,
7987.
ZVELEBIL, M. & ROWLEY-CONWY, P. 1986. Foragers and farmers in Atlantic Europe. In
M. Zvelebil (ed.), Hunters in transition: new directions in archaeology, 6789. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

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Changing places: monuments and the


Neolithic transition in western France
CHRIS SCARRE

RECENT DEBATES ABOUT THE Neolithic transition among British archaeologists have become polarised between two contrasting views of the process. On
one side are those who argue that the Neolithic way of life developed in a
piecemeal way, through the adoption and integration of novel features by
indigenous foraging communities. These features included not only cereals
and livestock, but ground stone tools, pottery and monuments. It has been
argued, indeed, that the change in material culture was more sudden than the
change in subsistence practices, and that in southern Britain agriculture may
not have become fully established until the Middle Bronze Age (Thomas
1999, 1517). On the other side of this debate are those who argue that the
transition to agriculture was rapid and probably traumatic, and that
Neolithic people subsisted mainly on cultivated plants and domestic animals,
and were fully sedentary (Rowley-Conwy 2004). Instead of invoking the
adoption of Neolithic features by indigenous Mesolithic communities, this
latter perspective favours a return to earlier models of population replacement, viewing the Neolithic transition (in Britain at least) as one of incoming farmers displacing and absorbing the native foraging communities.
Abrupt change is indicated by analyses of stable isotopes which reveal an
abandonment or neglect of marine food sources by Neolithic populations in
most areas of north-west Europe, even those living close to the coast, which
contrasts with the marine emphasis of Late Mesolithic coastal communities
(Schulting 2005; Schulting & Richards 2002a; 2002b).
The return to a more radical Neolithic transition implies that the development of monuments, too, must be reconsidered. In constructing monuments, the earliest Neolithic communities of north-west Europe established a
pattern of behaviour that set them apart from their Mesolithic antecedents.
This is not to deny that Mesolithic communities enculturated the landscapes
that they inhabited, attributing special and sometimes sacred significance to
rocks, trees, springs and caves. These may in a sense have become monuments through the activities and deposits that they attracted. The well
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 243261, The British Academy 2007.

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244

known example of the Stonehenge car park suggests indeed that the construction of post alignments may have a very long pre-Neolithic ancestry
(Cleal et al. 1995). Yet claims that the Oronsay shell middens, for example,
should be seen as Mesolithic monuments are problematic (Warren, this
volume) and Mesolithic demography may simply have been insufficient for
the creation of monuments on a significant scale (Rowley-Conwy 2004,
S84S85). Through their sheer numbers and variety, the monuments that
began to be shaped and constructed in north-west Europe from the fifth millennium cal BC represent a new phenomenon, one that must betoken the
emergence of a novel relationship between people and place.
How rapidly this new relationship developed remains uncertain, and several centuries may have elapsed between the introduction of pottery and
domesticates and the appearance of the first monuments in many areas. The
pre-monument Neolithic may have been relatively short: as little as two or
three centuries in Britain; perhaps as much as a millennium in Portugal (Jorge
2000; Whittle, this volume). In South Scandinavia, the time interval is less
clear. Radiocarbon dates for earthen long barrows cluster in the range
40003600 cal BC, although megalithic tombs (dolmens and passage graves)
first appear in significant numbers around 3500 cal BC (Persson & Sjgren
1995). It should be noted that the majority of long barrow dates in Persson
and Sjgrens list are on charcoal, and it is possible that the old wood
effect is making these monuments appear earlier than they should. A premonument Neolithic of one or two centuries would hence be perfectly
compatible with this information.
The suggestion that monuments were not a feature of the initial Neolithic
poses anew the question of the Mesolithic contribution to the earliest
Neolithic of Atlantic Europe. Put bluntly, are these monuments the consequence of contact and acculturation between incoming farmers and indigenous hunter-gatherers, as was envisaged twenty years ago (Kinnes 1982)?
If so, what was the nature of the Mesolithic contribution? Was it the
forms of the monuments themselves, or did it lie more generally in attitudes
to materials, places and landscape?

NORTH-WEST FRANCE
The appearance of pottery, domesticates and other classic Neolithic features
in north-western France is conventionally attributed to contacts in one of
two directions: either with the Epicardial communities of southern France
and the Ebro valley; or with the Bandkeramik and its successor groups in the
Paris Basin and Normandy. In the west French context the most significant
of these successor groups is that named after the site of Villeneuve-Saint-

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Figure 1. North-west France showing location of sites mentioned in the text.

Germain. This is marked by a scatter of small longhouse communities across


northern France as far as the borders of Brittany which may be dated to the
period 49004700 cal BC, and can plausibly be interpreted as a movement of
colonist farmers (Scarre 2003). One of the most westerly sites of this group
is Le Haut-Me near Fougres (Cassen et al. 1998). This had a classic

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trapezoidal longhouse, represented by the truncated remains of post-holes


dug into the loess. There was also a series of pits, in one of which a block of
local granite had been placed horizontally (Fig. 2). This block had also been
shaped at one end to give it a shouldered form, and the excavators suggested
that it was in fact a menhir that had stood alongside the pit before being
dismantled and lowered into it.
The Le Haut-Me menhir, if that indeed is what it was, may be an early
example of an anthropomorphic standing stone, a foretaste of the Breton
megalithic tradition that was to follow. The adjacent pit could have been a
grave, though no bone was preserved owing to the acidity of the soil. Like
many Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sites, Le Haut-Me also had a number of
polished stone rings, made mainly from locally available schist. One of the
stone rings at Le Haut-Me was, however, of serpentine that came probably

Figure 2. The Early Neolithic longhouse of Le Haut-Me (Ille-et-Vilaine) showing the shaped
granite slab recovered from the possible burial pit (after Cassen et al. 1998).

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from the Ile de Groix, off the southern coast of the Morbihan, where a serpentine production site is known. It seems therefore that the Early Neolithic
community of Le Haut-Me was obtaining raw materials from Late
Mesolithic groups in adjacent regions. More generally, it has been suggested
that the schist bracelets (and production sites) scattered across Brittany, and
destined for the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain communities, may have been produced in part by Mesolithic groups living close to the outcrops (Marchand &
Tresset 2004).
Other evidence of incipient monumentalism can be found to the south of
the Loire in the context of the Epicardial. If the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain
sites represent a westward expansion of longhouses, pottery and farming,
then the Epicardial south of the Loire may reflect the northward spread of
pottery and farming in association perhaps with circular houses (Laporte &
Marchand 2004). The earliest pottery of the region is generally held to derive
from the Epicardial of southern France; logically this should place these west
French sites in the late sixth or early fifth millennium cal BC, though the
radiocarbon evidence does not yet provide secure support. Radiocarbon
dates from the Grouin du Cou headland at La Tranche-sur-Mer on the
Vende coast overlap in the age range of 56005070 cal BC, although reservations have been raised about the relationship between the charcoal samples
and the Early Neolithic occupation (Cassen 1993; Joussaume et al. 1986). A
date range for these Epicardial sites of western France from the second half
of the sixth millennium cal BC into the early fifth millennium cal BC is
nonetheless most likely (Laporte 2005).
The most important of the Early Neolithic sites south of the Loire is Les
Ouchettes (Laporte & Marchand 2004; Laporte & Picq 2002). A pattern of
eight shallow postholes in the centre of the excavated area defined an oval
structure 7 m across which was interpreted as a house, though one of relatively insubstantial construction. To either side of the door were spreads of
pottery, and directly in front was a circular hearth dated to the mid-fifth millennium cal BC, although the ceramic parallels would be more consistent with
a date a few centuries earlier. It was close to the house on the western side of
the valley that possible traces of a monumental structure were found. A series
of seven limestone blocks lay along the foot of the slope, in some cases with
possible packing stones around them. Though both the age and the origin of
these structures remain open to question, they may be the remains of a fifth
millennium alignment of stone blocks (Laporte & Picq 2002).
Les Ouchettes is one of the key sites in the development of Neolithic
communities in western France, and the character of the pottery indicates
links with the south. One reading of the evidence might be that Neolithic features spread northward along the Atlantic coast of France through maritime
movement. Such movement could have involved small groups of colonist

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Chris Scarre

farmers setting to sea in skin-covered boats. It is equally possible, however,


that these maritime patterns are simply part of a long established network of
coastal connections.
This spread of Neolithic features might represent partly the movement of
people and partly one of ideas, techniques, social practices and (of course)
domesticates, that were quickly adopted by some indigenous communities,
and resisted or rejected by others. Above all, however, what we may be witnessing in this area south of the Loire, in the early fifth millennium cal BC, is
a renegotiation of social identities that may have been the consequence of
these changes.
At Germignac, a short distance inland from Les Ouchettes, were found
the disturbed remains of a double burial comprising a young adult female
and a child of 910 years, associated with 3288 shell beads and four perforated polished stone rings (Gaillard & Gomez 1984; Laporte & Gomez de
Soto 2001). The fact that the polished stone rings are not of schist distinguishes them from the stone rings common in Villeneuve-Saint-Germain
contexts. Burials richly furnished with shell ornaments are known from
southern France in Early Neolithic contexts, from the Paris basin in
Bandkeramik contexts, and from the Late Mesolithic cemeteries of Tviec
and Hodic in southern Brittany. The Germignac grave goods may hence
have framed a singular identity, one drawing perhaps on regional traditions
of some antiquity along with new ideas and practices from the east and
south. Though formally Neolithic by virtue of the polished stone rings, there
is nothing to exclude the possibility that the woman and child buried at
Germignac belonged to an indigenous community rapidly coming to terms
with a changing world.
Another kind of response is found at other sites in the same region. At La
Goumoizire on the east bank of the River Vienne, some 45 km south-east of
Poitiers, a small group of cist burials was discovered. These are among the
earliest Neolithic structures in this region, dating probably to the second
quarter of the fifth millennium cal BC (Airvaux 1996; Patte 1971). They were
small box-like structures of limestone slabs and cover stones, partially buried
in the ground. Access must have been via the roof, and it is possible that each
was covered by a small mound, though of these (despite recent new excavations) nothing survives. The cists held multiple inhumations: six adults and
two children in grave 1, six adults and an infant in grave 5. At first sight, it
may be tempting to compare grave 2 (containing two children) with the triple
child burial of Tviec C. A significant difference, however, lies in the fact that
many of the individual corpses had undergone a process of reduction and are
incomplete. In grave 5, and possibly in grave 2 also, bundles of bones from
other bodies had been placed underneath the principal inhumation to form a
kind of cradle for it.

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A second site in the Poitiers region is La Jardelle at Dissay, on the valley floor of the River Clain. The location is very similar to that of La
Goumoizire but at La Jardelle there are remains of ten cist graves, three of
them lying within elongated ditched enclosures that appear to have been
palisade trenches edging a low mound. Two of the three were excavated, and
the cist graves were found to contain traces of single inhumations, though
these had been badly disturbed by the plough (Fig. 3). Two of the structures
have dates of around 45004300 cal BC, and thus are perhaps a few centuries
later than La Goumoizire (Pautreau et al. 2003). The form of these elongated enclosures invites close comparison with the long enclosures or long
mounds of Passy and Balloy in northern Burgundy, which are dated to the
mid-fifth millennium BC (Mordant 1998). Thus here at La Jardelle, long
funerary enclosures suggest early links with the east. Once again we may be
seeing local communities in the process of framing new kinds of identities,
and drawing in the process on a diversity of traditions both indigenous and
extraneous.
During the course of the fifth millennium cal BC, these modest funerary
monuments south of the Loire are succeeded by long mounds and passage
graves that are often impressive in their size and construction. The earliest
may date to the middle of the fifth millennium cal BC (even earlier, if the dates
from Bougon are to be believed: Mohen & Scarre 2002). Recent excavations
at Priss-la-Charrire have revealed how in this particular case a massive
100-metre long mound containing two separate passage graves developed
from a small dry-stone rotunda enclosing a modest megalithic tomb (Scarre
et al. 2003). The Priss sequence suggests a process of growing and indeed
accretional monumentalism during the second half of the fifth millennium
cal BC, a process that may have had its origins in modest cist graves of the
kind seen at La Goumoizire.
The first Neolithic monuments of western France south of the Loire
appear on present evidence to date no earlier than the second quarter of the
fifth millennium cal BC. They are hence unrelated chronologically to the
Neolithic transition in this region, which must be placed at least half a millennium earlier. Thus in this part of western France, there must have been a
substantial pre-monument Neolithic lasting five centuries or more. It may be
significant that links can be drawn between the earliest cist graves and the
Cerny monuments of the Paris basin. It was in the context of those connections that new burial traditions appear to have developed. The same is true of
Normandy, where Passy-type monuments have been discovered in the Caen
plain, notably at Rots and Fleury (Chancerel & Desloges 1998). At Rots, as
at La Jardelle and La Goumoizire, stone slabs were used within the grave pit
to create a burial cist, a use of stone that is absent in the Passy monuments
of the Paris basin. These sites must accordingly be regarded as variations on

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Chris Scarre

Figure 3. The Neolithic cemetery of La Jardelle at Dissay (Vienne) (after Pautreau et al. 2003).

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MONUMENTS AND THE NEOLITHIC TRANSITION

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a theme, though one that cannot be traced back before the second quarter of
the fifth millennium cal BC.

BRITTANY
West of Normandy and north of the Loire, the peninsula of Brittany may be
viewed as a kind of cul-de-sac in relation to a Neolithic transition spreading
from the east and south. It was here, one might expect, that the two traditionsVilleneuve-Saint-Germain and Epicardialshould have met and
merged. The particular status of Brittany in this debate is enhanced by two
other factors: the number and scale of its Neolithic monuments, and the presence of Late Mesolithic cemeteries that allow the question of continuity to be
explored in a way that is not possible for adjacent regions.
The cemeteries of Tviec and Hodic, both today on small islands off the
southern coast of Morbihan, have frequently been cited as possible
antecedents for the Breton Neolithic tradition of monumental tombs (e.g.
Case 1976; Scarre 1992). The argument draws both on the presence of collective burials and on the construction of small cairns on top of the graves,
most notably at Tviec (Pquart et al. 1937). Tviec grave A had an edging of
small vertical stone slabs around the base of the grave pit, forming a rudimentary cist; Hodic grave K an arrangement of three flat slabs, two placed
horizontally over the head of the corpse, and a third standing semi-vertical
as if intended as a grave marker (Pquart & Pquart 1954). Cassen cites the
semi-vertical stone of Hodic grave K in discussing the standing stones of the
southern Morbihan, noting that the latter could themselves be the work of
the last Mesolithic societies, or of societies that had only recently become
Neolithic (Cassen et al. 2000, 2034).
The chronology of the Tviec and Hodic graves revealed by an AMS
dating programme places them in the second half of the sixth millennium cal
BC (Schulting 1999; 2005). This dating is especially significant as it makes
them contemporary with the earliest Neolithic south of the Loire. The flint
industries are attributed to the Tviecien, a Late Mesolithic grouping present
throughout Brittany and extending along the south coast as far as the mouth
of the River Vilaine (Marchand 1999; 2005; Rozoy 1978). Beyond the Vilaine,
in the area of the Loire estuary, the Late Mesolithic is represented by the
Retzien. Contact between these Late Mesolithic groups and the earliest
Neolithic communities south of the Loire is shown in a number of ways. In
the Retzien, alongside Mesolithic flint types, techniques derived from an
Early Neolithic of Mediterranean origin are present. In particular, the type
of arrowhead known as the armature du Chtelet indicates links with
Neolithic industries further south. The Retzien may indeed be considered the

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filter between the Breton Mesolithic and the Aquitainian Neolithic of


Mediterranean origin (Marchand 2005).
The most powerful evidence of contact between the southern Morbihan
and neighbouring Neolithic communities is the pit sealed beneath the long
mound of Er Grah that contained two complete cattle skeletons (Tresset
2000; 2005; Tresset & Vigne, this volume). Study of the remains indicates that
they had been partially defleshed but that the ligaments and vital organs had
been left in place. Radiocarbon dates place them in the final centuries of the
sixth millennium cal BC; that is to say, in a Late Mesolithic context. It is likely
that these cattle were obtained by the Late Mesolithic groups of the region
through contact with Neolithic communities south of the Loire. They predate the arrival of the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain communities from the east.
The careful deposition of the remains suggests that they were exotic imports,
similar in status perhaps to the cattle remains found in a Late Mesolithic
context at Ferriters Cove in southern Ireland (Tresset 2000; 2005: Woodman
et al. 1999). The discovery of two potsherds with rocker pattern decoration
beneath the passage grave of La Table des Marchand close to Er Grah
provides confirmation of contacts with southern Neolithic groups (Laporte
2005).
Given these southern contacts it is difficult to determine whether the
cemeteries of Tviec and Hodic should be interpreted exclusively in terms of
indigenous development among Breton Mesolithic communities or should
instead be seen as a response to external pressures and novel concepts. In
favour of the latter view is the fact that the cemeteries are found in exactly
that part of Brittany where evidence of such contacts has been found. This is
also the part of Brittany, with its estuaries and bays, offshore islands and
marine-focused Late Mesolithic subsistence economy, that would have been
most open to maritime contact with the Loire estuary and areas to the south.
It is also the area that is the main focus for the famous decorated standing
stones that may be the earliest of the Breton megalithic monuments.

STANDING STONES
Brittany is a land of many menhirs. Giot estimates the surviving number of
menhirs at probably between 1100 and 1200, with the three western dpartements of Morbihan, Finistre and Ctes dArmor being the richest in monuments of this type (Giot in Giot et al. 1998, 5312). Some are simple irregular
blocks of stone, only a metre or two in height, and scarcely distinguishable
from ordinary boulders; others, conversely, are tall shapely monoliths, such
as the famous menhir of Kerloas, at 9.5 m the tallest prehistoric menhir still
standing in western Europe. Its fine shaping, evident from the smoothed

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granite surfaces and the facetting visible on its narrower sides, has been compromised by the lightning strike that truncated its apex. Weighing some 90
tonnes, the Kerloas menhir is testimony to the organisation and commitment
of the Neolithic communities who erected it; the probable source of the
material is located 2.5 km downslope (Giot in Giot et al. 1998, 516).
An early date can be suggested for several of these menhirs. At Saint-Just
in central Brittany, three of the large quartz menhirs (nos 17, 19 and 20) of
the southern Le Moulin alignment were later enclosed within a rubble platform or cairn; hearths on the ground surface beneath the platform gave early
to mid-fifth millennium cal BC dates (5550120 BP (45704100 cal BC) foyer
2; 5660120 BP (47304380 cal BC) foyer 3; 570080 BP (49404430 cal BC)
foyer 4), and while the stratigraphic relationship is not beyond question they
may be taken to date the erection of the quartz menhirs (Le Roux et al. 1989,
267). The fallen menhir by the entrance to the northern passage at La CroixSaint-Pierre, a kilometre to the west, may be even earlier. Charcoal from its
socket gave a date of 607080 BP (52704740 cal BC) (Briard et al. 1995). A
similar date has been suggested for the menhir at Lilia on the north coast of
Brittany, which is within the current intertidal zone and is completely submerged at high water. Its visible height is a little over 2 m (2.05 m in Devoir
1912) and its summit is in fact 4.4 m below the level of the highest tides. If we
assume that the stone was originally erected on dry ground, it must have been
raised at a time when sea level was 6 m or more below its present level. A date
of the fifth millennium cal BC at the latest has been proposed on this basis (Le
Roux 1997; 1998). Against this proposal, the gradual tectonic uplift to which
northern Brittany is subject (Giot 1990, 9), together with uncertainties over
past tidal regimes in these deeply inset bays, urge a measure of caution.
The most numerous group of potentially early menhirs is located, however, not in central or western Brittany but in the southern Morbihan. Their
early dating rests on two lines of evidence. The first comes from the recent
excavations at Locmariaquer. These have revealed the sockets of an alignment of menhirs associated with an old ground surface, a long mound (Er
Grah), and the massive broken fragments of the Grand Menhir Bris
(LHelgouach 1997). The second is the recognition that several well known
megalithic monuments, mainly passage graves, incorporate menhirs or menhir fragments in their structure. This is an observation which has its origins
in the nineteenth century, when writers such as De Closmadeuc and De
Mortillet observed that many of the carvings seen in megaliths were partially
concealed by neighbouring stones and must have been carved before those
were placed in position. De Mortillet in particular concluded that certain
stones had originally been carved for a different purpose, but were subsequently reused (Cassen 2000; De Mortillet 1894). The more specific realisation that some had been decorated menhirs goes back to the period

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immediately before the First World War (e.g. Le Rouzic 1914), but took on a
new significance in the 1980s with the work of LHelgouach (LHelgouach
1983) and with Le Rouxs discoveries at Gavrinis (Le Roux 1984).
It would make for a neat and tidy narrative if the earliest menhirs could
be shown to be unshaped blocks of stone, close in form and appearance to
the natural boulders whose veneration and established significance may have
formed the inspiration for the whole standing stone phenomenon. The derivation of menhirs from natural boulders is a step that may easily be envisaged. Indeed, one could imagine that the raising of large unshaped monoliths
soon led to the grouping of similar blocks to create megalithic tombs and
chambers. In this way the veneration of natural boulders might be followed
by the raising of standing stones by early Neolithic communities. That much
is suggested by the example of Kerlescan, within the same region, where the
stone rows appear to have been created simply by levering up and arranging
in rows a series of natural blocks and boulders (Sellier 1995). In other
casesat Lostmarch on the Crozon peninsula, or at Saint-Just (Scarre
2002)rows of menhirs were clearly lined up on natural outcrops or pillars,
again suggesting that the purpose of the standing stones was to embellish a
feature already perceptible in the surface geology. Serge Cassen, too, has
remarked a relationship between alignments and rock outcrops in his study
of lesser known sites in the Carnac region (Cassen & Vaquero Lastres 2003).
The craggy landscapes of Brittany and indeed of other Atlantic coastlines
might thus be the source not only of many of the materials but also the inspiration for the whole megalithic tradition of Neolithic north-west Europe.
Against this seductive hypothesis, however, is the evidence that many of
the earliest menhirs were not brute blocks set on end but were elaborately
smoothed, carved and decorated. The earliest menhirs of the southern
Morbihan, for example, were not unshaped blocks; many of them carry
carved motifs, but no less noteworthy is the fact that their entire surfaces have
been shaped and smoothed. Even the massive Grand Menhir Bris, 20 m tall
and weighing 280 tonnes, was ground and pounded into a desired shape, with
clearly facetted surfaces.
There are in fact three groups of shaped menhirs in Brittany: in northwest Finistre, the Saint-Malo area and the southern Morbihan (Fig. 4) All
of them may have been carved and erected within a generation or so, at some
point in the early or mid-fifth millennium cal BC. The Morbihan and SaintMalo groups include decorated examples, and all three groups are relatively
close to the coast. If coastal traffic was important, then we may wonder
whether the creation of menhirs in the southern Morbihan might not have
inspired other communities to attempt similar feats. This would be especially
relevant if the massive effort represented by the erection of the Grand Menhir
Bris depended upon the drawing together of communities from across the

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Figure 4. Early decorated menhir traditions of Brittany.

whole of Brittany, and perhaps beyond. Is it possible that those who shaped
and raised the menhirs of Kerloas in Finistre and of Saint-Samson near
Saint-Malo had actually participated in the erection of the Grand Menhir
Bris?
If these are indeed the earliest Breton standing stones, then their form
would suggest an emphasis on artificiality, on the creation of something
striking, new and decidedly unnatural in appearance. The fact that the
shaped menhirs of the southern Morbihan can now confidently be assigned
to the fifth millennium cal BC opens the possibility that those of Bas-Lon are
equally early in date. That does not necessarily mean that they are the earliest menhirs of north-western Finistre, nor that shaped menhirs preceded
unshaped standing stones in this region. But it does suggest that no simple
sequence of unshaped to shaped stones (pace Tilley 2004, 85) can be applied.
Thus, rather than a smooth transition from the veneration of boulders and
outcrops, these particular Breton menhirs may have marked a distinct break

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Chris Scarre

with the past. Whether they are seen as axes or phalluses (Cassen et al. 2000,
65781; Le Pontois 1929, 71; Tilley 2004), they make no attempt to reproduce
natural rocky features.

CONCLUSION
The early menhirs of the southern Morbihan date probably to the middle
centuries of the fifth millennium cal BC, and a similar dating may be suggested for analogous monuments in other regions of Brittany. Long mounds
and chambered tombs began to be constructed at about the same time, or
very slightly later. Several authors, drawing overtly or implicitly on the apparent richness of the Late Mesolithic of southern Morbihan, have suggested
that some at least of the early menhirs were raised by Late Mesolithic people
or their immediate descendants (Whittle 2000, 253), by the very last
Mesolithic societies or by societies that had only recently made the transition
to the Neolithic way of life (Boujot & Cassen in Cassen et al. 2000, 203). The
implication of this conclusion is that the concept of the standing stone may
owe something to earlier understandings of the landscape, and to the veneration of natural features such as boulders and rock outcrops. There are many
ethnographic examples of these practices, such as the holy stone on the
Kanin Nos peninsula of Arctic Russia, venerated by the Nenets people who
deposited offerings at its foot (Ovsyannikov & Terebikhin 1994).
The derivation of the cult of standing stones from the veneration of natural boulders is in many ways entirely plausible, and boulders and outcrops
may indeed have provided the inspiration and meaning that lay behind the
construction of megalithic monuments. It remains difficult to determine
whether indigenous communities and beliefs played any significant part in
this process. South of the Loire, there appears to be an interval of several centuries between the Neolithic transition and the first monuments. It is difficult
to argue that these monuments represent the transformation of indigenous
practices that were materialised in new ways from the very outset of the
Neolithic. In Brittany, the sequence is less clear. The widespread distribution
of schist rings (Pailler in Cassen et al. 2000), and the recent discovery of
Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sites in the Morbihan interior (Marchand et al.
2006) may suggest that most of the Breton peninsula came within the ambit
of early farming communities during the early centuries of the fifth millennium cal BC, though some of the schist rings may date to the middle or later
part of that millennium (Pailler in Cassen et al. 2000). Pollen evidence from
the Kerpenhir core near Locmariaquer indicated a sudden and dramatic
decline in forest cover around the turn of the sixth/fifth millennium cal BC.
Although the evidence from this core has been disputed, the possibility that

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MONUMENTS AND THE NEOLITHIC TRANSITION

257

forest was cleared and cultivation begun several centuries before the first
standing stones were erected cannot be excluded (Visset et al. 1996).
Several of the motifs on the decorated standing stones suggest a Neolithic
attribution. It is true that the axe-plough has been reinterpreted as a whale,
and the quadrupeds considered either domestic or wild (Cassen et al. 2000;
Whittle 2000). The carvings of axes, however, are representations of an artefact (the polished stone axe) which is unknown from Late Mesolithic contexts. The long mounds that accompany, or shortly follow, the decorated
standing stones in the mid-late fifth millennium cal BC can also directly be
related to Neolithic forms. The plan of long mounds such as Le Manio 2 in
southern Brittany finds a close parallel in the plan of the Villeneuve-SaintGermain longhouse of Le Haut-Me (Laporte et al. 2002; Laporte & Tinevez
2004). This does not exclude the possibility of an indigenous contribution to
these new monument forms. Hodder, for example, argued in Brittany for the
subtle interlacing of indigenous principles and the Danubian principles of
social domination centred on the dramatic idea of linear monumentality
(Hodder 1990, 233).
Whereas in western France, south of the Loire, there appears to be an
interval of several centuries between the Neolithic transition and the earliest
monuments, in Brittany the evidence remains ambiguous. Indigenous beliefs
and practices may have contributed to the development of Early Neolithic
monument forms, but it is also possible that Late Mesolithic communities
had already themselves embarked on a process of transformation through
prolonged contacts with Neolithic neighbours. As much as a millennium may
have separated the first farming communities south of the Loire from the
Neolithic transition on the Morbihan coast. The process was one of renegotiation that may have encompassed relationships between people and people,
between people and places, and between people and material culture. It was
in the course of this that some communities began to commemorate the
deador perhaps the powers of placeby appropriating and manipulating
stones, earth and timbers. The monuments are novel in form, drawing on
ideologies of longhouse and axe. They represent something new, but do
they also draw upon the past, upon the beliefs and practices of indigenous
Late Mesolithic communities? The question is difficult to resolve, given the
contrasting materialisations of foraging and farming societies, and the
answer may well vary from region to region.
In seeking the origin of megalithic monuments, we have remarked how
the craggy landscapes of Atlantic Europe may have inspired their construction, as several authors have proposed (Bradley 1998; Scarre 2004; Tilley &
Bennett 2001). The new monumentality could as well have been the response
of incoming farming communities to these landscapes, however, as a transformation in the behaviour of indigenous foraging groups, who may have

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Chris Scarre

envisaged these landscapes in entirely different ways. The landscape beliefs of


Mesolithic communities might have played a role in the inception of megaliths, but the scarcity of Mesolithic monuments and the presence of a premonument Neolithic suggests that it was the advent of farming groups or
farming ideologies that laid the crucial foundations.

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The neolithisation of the Scheldt basin


in western Belgium
PHILIPPE CROMB & BART VANMONTFORT

INTRODUCTION
THIS PAPER FOCUSES on the neolithisation process in two different landscape
zones of the Scheldt basin extending over western Belgium: first, the northern
coversand lowland bordering the Atlantic coast and secondly the southern
loess area of Middle Belgium. Although the neolithisation of both areas
seems to have had a different course, there is evidence of continuous and
increasing contact and interaction between population groups occupying
each region. In the loess hill land, neolithisation can be distinguished in two
phases, separated by an archaeological hiatus of several centuries. The first
phase is related to the arrival of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) and the
Groupe de Blicquy (BQY), while the second is connected with the Michelsberg
culture (MK) occupation of the area. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine the place of local hunter-gatherers in this process. In the sandy lowland,
on the other hand, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers culturally belonging to the
Swifterbant culture seem to have survived much longer, probably until the
end of the fifth millennium cal BC.

LOESS HILL LAND


Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic
Around 5300 cal BC, the LBK arrives in the Scheldt basin. It is responsible
for the first hard evidence of a Neolithic way of life in that area. Settlement
sites of these first farmers have been discovered in three settlement clusters
(Fig. 1): first, in the Hesbaye region, on the eastern fringe of the Scheldt basin
and part of a larger LBK occupation territory including the Graetheide cluster in the Netherlands and the Aldenhovener Platte in Germany; secondly, in
the Kleine Gete area where only three sites are known at present; and thirdly,

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 263285, The British Academy 2007.

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Figure 1. Map of Belgium indicating the core-areas of the LBK and BQY (hatched zones) and the sites of Oudenaarde (1), Kerkhove (2) and Melsele (3)
which yielded isolated finds from the Early Neolithic. The grey shaded area corresponds to the loess area; the sandy lowland is situated north of it.

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 265

in the upper Dendre area, in the western part of the area and separated from
Hesbaye by a nearly 100 km stretch, devoid of settlements. Based on the
present data, including that recently gathered during archaeological followup of large infrastructural transects through the Scheldt basin, the number
and distribution of settlement clusters seem fairly reliable. The area in
between these three LBK territories, however, is speckled with stray finds dating from the Early Neolithic period, including adzes and typical LBK arrowheads (Jadin & Hauzeur 2003). A similar image is available for the Groupe de
Blicquy, i.e. the second Early Neolithic cultural group in the Scheldt basin.
The chronological relationship between LBK and BQY has been the subject
of a lively debate, with opinions ranging from an anterior position of BQY,
over a more or less complete overlap to an unquestionable posterior position
(Constantin & Ilett 1998). Recent radiocarbon dates and the spatial distribution of sites confirm the close chronological connection between the two
groups (Fig. 2). However, although recent radiocarbon dates show a possible
contemporaneity of BQY sites in the Upper Dendre region and the RRBP
sites in the Paris Basin (Jadin & Cahen 2003), the existence of a local overlap
between both groups remains an unanswered question (Jadin 2003, 70910).
In this light, the absence of contact finds, and several elements in the relative
chronology, hint at the slightly posterior position of the BQY sites. Apart
from two sites located near LBK settlements in the Hesbaye region, most
BQY settlement sites are located in the upper Dendre region. Similar to the
LBK remains, BQY stray finds such as schist bracelets (fragments) and
artefacts in a flint raw material typical for this group can be found all over
the loam region of the Scheldt basin (Jadin & Hauzeur 2003). Both groups
thus seem to have operated in or exploited the entire loess belt from their base
settlements in Hesbaye, Kleine Gete and Upper Dendre.
Remarkably, the number of stray finds beyond the loess cover is extremely
restricted and contrasts with the numerous LBK stray finds on the sandy soils
north of the loess in the Meuse valley (Verhart 2000, figs 1.1415). Two sites
deserve wider attention because of their location more to the north within the
loess region: Kerkhove (Cromb 1986) and Oudenaarde Donk (Parent et al.
1987). Both are situated along the Scheldt River, respectively on top of a Late
Glacial wind-blown sandloam ridge and on scroll bars. On the first site, a
shallow pit filled with some flint and pottery artefacts can be attributed to the
Groupe de Blicquy. It was disclosed on the western fringe of a 10 ha large field
surveyed with test trenches. Apart from this pit, no other features could be
attributed to the Early Neolithic. It cannot be excluded that the BQY pit is
the easternmost remain of a BQY settlement. Nevertheless, given the particular location of the site along the Scheldt River and some 20 km north-west
of the known settlement cluster in the upper Dendre region, it should rather
be regarded as a particular element in the (logistic) exploitation of the wider

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Figure 2.
account.

Summed probability distributions of the three chrono-cultural groups in the loess belt of Belgium. Only reliable dates are taken into

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 267

area. Another indication for this is the Early Neolithic grog-tempered vessel
that was found during the excavations of Oudenaarde Donk some 20 years
ago. Originally, it was published as a Middle Neolithic Epi-Roessen pot fragment (Parent et al. 1987), but a new reconstruction and study of the remains
revealed it to be of Early Neolithic age. Both fabric and morphology of the
vessel fit well with LBK and BQY pottery variability (Fig. 3). Unfortunately,
the precise depositional context of the vessel as well as its relationship with the
Late Mesolithic flint scatter that was found at the same spot remain unsure.
These two sites, both possibly belonging to the Groupe de Blicquy, can be
related to the northern contacts and interactions in this phase of the
Neolithic as were confirmed by BQY pottery fragments in Swifterbant context at Hardinxveld De Bruin (Raemaekers 2001, 147). The Early Neolithic
pottery found at Melsele Hof ten Damme (see below) should probably be
placed in the same perspective. One of the intriguing questions in this respect
is what role local hunter-gatherers of the loamy hill land played in this interaction. Unfortunately, data on the final Mesolithic occupation of the area are
extremely scarce. In addition to the few sites located in the river floodplains,
for example Oudenaarde Donk, most Mesolithic sites are known from small

Figure 3. Early Neolithic pot found at Oudenaarde Donk (photo PAMZOV).

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268

Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

surface scatters on sandy hilltops of the region; examples of such sites are
known at Oeudeghien, Ellezelles, Ronse-Muziekberg and Wodecq-Paradis.
Obviously, it is often impossible to determine the precise nature and age of
these sites, often being palimpsests. This frequently results in the idea that the
loess belt was virtually uninhabited by hunter-gatherers at the time of the
LBK arrival. Although taphonomy and post-depositional processes can partially explain the general scarcity of data (Cromb & Cauwe 2001; Gob 1990;
Vermeersch 1990), it is beyond doubt that the loess plateaux were at most
characterised by a fairly sparse hunter-gatherer occupation (Vanmontfort
submitted). Possibly, hunter-gatherer camps were concentrated along the
major rivers crossing the loess belt, in contexts that still remain underinvestigated. In any case, the location of LBK and BQY groups outside
hunter-gatherer core territory is in favour of a colonisation hypothesis.
Middle Neolithic
The last LBK and BQY radiocarbon dated sites end around 4800 cal BC.
While neighbouring regions, including the Paris Basin and Rhineland are
from that moment on occupied by post-LBK groups such as Cerny, Roessen
and Bischheim, the Belgian loess belt is characterised by a chronological hiatus until around 4300 cal BC (Fig. 2). Apart from the absence of radiocarbon
dated sites, this hiatus is particularly perceptible by the nearly complete
absence of Roessen Breitkeile, a common stray find in both loamy and sandy
contexts in the Meuse basin. Although the complete absence of occupation
during this phase is one of the possible explanations, it is extremely unlikely
(Cromb et al. 2005). Rather, it seems that the probably sparse occupation of
the region has become archaeologically invisible. This can be due to the particular location of settlement sites in the hardly explored riverine wetlands of
the loamy region, similar to the Swifterbant occupation in the sandy lowland
(and see below). It is also possible, however, that the lithic toolkit used during this period did not differ fundamentally from that of the post-4300 cal BC
Michelsberg people and that surface sites in this region cannot reliably be
dated to either of these periods. The difference with the Michelsberg sites that
have yielded substantial and datable features as a result of their enclosure
building activities might explain the absence of radiocarbon dates from the
period between 4800 and 4300 cal BC.
By 4300 cal BC, a completely different Neolithic to that of the preceding
LBK and BQY groups has set foot in the loess region. Concentrated
Siedlungskammer occupation of the Early Neolithic in two or three areas is
replaced by a fairly homogeneous distribution over the entire region and by
a hierarchised settlement pattern with enclosures and flint mines as central
foci (Fig. 4). Large dwelling structures with large and deeply planted posts are

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Figure 4. Map of Belgium showing the distribution of Michelsberg sites in the loess belt (grey shaded area) and the northern sandy lowland. Sites
mentioned in the text are: Spiere (1), Doel Deurganck (2) and Melsele (3).

THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 269

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

no longer constructed. Instead, the absence of clear house structures hints at


a more mobile settlement system with less permanent dwellings. Enclosures,
although their origin can be traced back to LBK times (Jeunesse 1996), have
become the monuments for which a gathering of labour force is implied.
In the contrast between the Early Neolithic way of life, as it was imported
by the LBK, and the hunter-gatherer existence, as it is presumed to have been,
the Middle Neolithic can be regarded as a converged state (Vanmontfort 2004).
Apart from the more mobile settlement pattern, several differences in the lithic
toolkit confirm this hypothesis, including the contrast between an expedient
common tool production and the specialised production of standardised tools.
This fits with the view of Thomas (1988) with regard to a second neolithisation
wave during the late fifth and early fourth millennia cal BC, once the Neolithic
had modified to a state more compatible with north-west European huntergatherer existence. However, from the lack of hunter-gatherer data or sites
from the period between the arrival of the LBK and the beginning of the
Michelsberg period at 4300 cal BC, it is impossible to verify or reject this
hypothesis. Nor can a co-habitation of hunter-gatherers and Michelsberg
groups be confirmed. A continuation of hunter-gatherer occupation till at
least the end of the fifth millennium cal BC has often been claimed for both
loess and sandy regions (and see below). The sites of the loamy region on
which such a claim is based are, particularly, Neufvilles (de Heinzelin et al.
1977) and Thieusies (Vermeersch & Walter 1980; Vermeersch et al. 1990),
where Mesolithic artefacts were found in the same strata as Michelsberg
remains. The site of Neufvilles, however, yielded only artefacts in secondary
contexts and a mixture of both older and younger occupation remains could
never be excluded. Two recently obtained radiocarbon dates from the site
confirmed this situation, with at least a mixture of Middle Mesolithic and
Middle Neolithic occupation remains (Vanmontfort et al. 2003). Also at
Thieusies, the mixture of residual Mesolithic artefacts and Michelsberg occupation remains cannot entirely be excluded. The particular, locally available
flint type that was used to produce the Mesolithic artefacts as well as the
typology of the microliths (mistletoe points commonly dated in the Middle
Mesolithic) even make this a very plausible hypothesis (Cromb et al. 2005).
With no proof of hunter-gatherer activities in the post-LBK era of the
loamy region, but with the recognition that it would be very hard to identify
their remains outside the riverine wetlands, the question can also be considered from the other side. If the Michelsberg culture in the Belgian loess belt
was not the result of local acculturation of hunter-gatherer groups, we
should be able to single out an exterior source for this culture group. Until
recently, however, the available data did not allow the detailed (stylistic) analysis that would shed light on such a topic. Most sites are known solely as
undated flint surface scatters, while pottery assemblages are generally small

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 271

and undated. The recently studied enclosure site at Spiere (Vanmontfort


2004; Vanmontfort et al. 2001/2002), on the other hand, did yield a remarkable set of pottery and flint artefacts, dating from the early post-4300 cal BC
period and allowing us to tackle this problem. Both technically and stylistically, the pottery occupies an intermediate position between the Chassen
septentrional of northern France and the Michelsberger Kultur of the
Rhineland, i.e. neighbouring cultural groups that came into existence at more
or less the same time (Vanmontfort 2004; Vanmontfort et al. 2001/2002).
Several elements of the lithic toolkit confirm this position, with leaf-shaped
arrowheads similar to those of the Rhineland Michelsberg culture and a flake
technology with flake axes and massive flake scrapers that are clearly linked
with the north-west French Neolithic (Vanmontfort 2004; Vanmontfort et al.
2001/2002). In the absence of an unambiguous source for the Belgian
Michelsberg culture, it seems likely that it was formed as a local adaptation
of a Middle Neolithic, strongly influenced by that of the northern Paris Basin.
Whether or not it was locally formed in an interaction between neighbouring
regions (Schier 1993; Vanmontfort 2004) or formed in the northern Paris
Basin (Jeunesse et al. 2004), and quickly migrated to the north after which it
was locally translated, is a question that can only be resolved with new sites
and reliable radiocarbon dates. The shape of the currently used calibration
curve with a plateau at the point of origin of most north-west European
Middle Neolithic groups, however, makes it unlikely that this dating technique
will ever be able to reach this resolution (Vanmontfort 2004, 300).

THE SANDY LOWLAND


The Late Mesolithic
In the northern coversand region, numerous sites can be dated to the Late
Mesolithic on the basis of techno-typological criteria, such as the presence
of different types of mainly broad trapezes and regular blade(let)s, some
presenting an irregular and discontinuous utilisation retouch (so-called
Montbani-blades). So far only a few of these sites have been excavated, for
example at Weelde (Huyghe & Vermeersch 1982), Brecht (Vermeersch et al.
1992) and Oudenaarde (Parent et al. 1987). Unfortunately, these excavations
have not yielded highly reliable information concerning the absolute chronology of the Late Mesolithic. The available radiocarbon dates have a rather
limited resolution due to problems with sample integrity (bulk samples, charcoal problems, and so on) and site integrity (bioturbated/mixed contexts,
palimpsests, natural features, and so on) (Cromb et al. 1999; Cromb & Van
Strydonck 2004; Van Strydonck et al. 2001). Therefore it remains currently

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

impossible to determine which Mesolithic sites in the sandy lowland were or


could have been contemporaneous with the Early Neolithic occupation of
the loess or loamy hill land.
In addition there are hardly any finds of Early Neolithic objects that
point to contact and interaction between both areas and communities. Apart
from a few isolated asymmetrical points with ventral basal retouch (so-called
LBK-points), only one specific find-context should be mentioned. It concerns
the wetland site of Melsele Hof ten Damme, situated in the Lower Scheldt
valley, which yielded a small number of pottery sherds with clear Early
Neolithic affinities. The latter (Fig. 5) are characterised by a burnt bone tempering and a decoration pattern consisting of small impressions made with a
two-pointed spatula (van Berg et al. 1992). Although the exact cultural attribution is not known so far, it is beyond any doubt that these potsherds belong
to an Early Neolithic pottery tradition. Unfortunately these potsherds were
found in a severely bioturbated, and hence mixed, horizon, which also
includes material evidence from older and younger occupation events. The
available radiocarbon dates from this find-layer, albeit mostly obtained on
charcoal samples, range between approximately 8000 and 3000 cal BC (Van
Strydonck et al. 1995). According to our own observations, made during a
short visit (PC), the archaeological material is an admixture of at least three

Figure 5. Decorated, bone-tempered potsherds from the site of Melsele (van Berg et al. 1992).

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 273

occupation events: a Late Mesolithic one, a Final Mesolithic one and a


Middle Neolithic one (see below). The bone-tempered potsherds might
belong to one of these phases, but could also represent a fourth event. In the
former case, they may be interpreted as exchanged items, while in the latter
case they might reflect extra-territorial visits from Early Neolithic groups (for
example stock-herders or hunters) down the Scheldt river. Unfortunately
it will never be possible to determine which scenario is the right one.
Nevertheless these pottery finds of Melsele, together with the ceramics of
Oudenaarde and Kerkhove further upstream (see above) and the Blicquy pottery found at Hardinxveld in the delta of the western Netherlands (Louwe
Kooijmans 2001), prove that the Scheldt valley already played a major role in
the diffusion of materials from the south to the north, from Neolithic to
Mesolithic occupation territory. This will increase even more in later times.
The Final Mesolithic (the Swifterbant phase)
An important change in the sandy lowland is the appearance of the first
locally produced pottery. According to the presently available data, pottery
was manufactured by local hunter-gatherers from at least the middle of the
fifth millennium cal BC onwards (Fig. 6). In view of the older dating of similar pottery in the adjacent parts of the Netherlands (Raemaekers 1999), an
earlier start cannot yet be fully excluded. Four wetland sites situated in the
Lower Scheldt floodplain near Antwerp have recently yielded numerous potsherds associated with Late/Final Mesolithic lithic assemblages, dominated
by small irregular trapezes and bladelets in Wommersom quartzite as well as
charred organic remains of wild resources, such as game (wild boar and red
deer), wild plants (hazelnuts, wild apples, sloe plums, acorns and berries from
hawthorn) and freshwater fish (mainly carp family). Three sites were discovered underneath thick layers of peat and alluvial clay during construction
works along the Deurganck dock at Doel (Bats et al. 2003; Cromb 2005;
Cromb et al. 2000; Cromb et al. 2004). The fourth site is the already
mentioned site of Melsele Hof ten Damme. So far only one site, Doel
Deurganckdok sector B, has been securely radiocarbon dated to the second
half of the fifth millennium cal BC (Van Strydonck & Cromb 2005). The
other sites are still undated (Doel sector-M) or badly dated (Melsele and Doel
sector-J/L).
The pottery of these four sites (Fig. 7) is mainly tempered with grog and
plant material, relatively thick-walled and fired in a reduced followed by an
oxidised atmosphere. Morphologically it is dominated by slightly S-shaped
vessels provided with a rounded or pointed bottom and to a lesser degree by
bowl-shaped vessels. Decoration is very restricted and mostly consists of
oblique incisions or impressions on the rim top (so-called Randkerbung) and

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

Figure 6. Calibrated radiocarbon dates from two Final Mesolithic (Swifterbant) sites in the
Deurganck dok at Doel. The food crust dates are on average a few hundred years older than
the dates on carbonised remains of seeds, fruits, bone and charcoal. Stable isotope analyses
(Craig et al. 2007) have clearly pointed out that this age-difference is due to the presence of some
amount of fish in the food crust samples.

round or oval knobs, which are nearly always unperforated. Perforated


knobs, a series of small perforations underneath the rim as well as series of
fingertop impressions, only occur incidentally. Typologically this pottery, in
particular the S-shaped vessels with conical bottoms, presents close similarities with the so-called (Early) Swifterbant pottery typical of The Netherlands

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 275

Figure 7.

Two almost complete vessels from the Final Mesolithic sites of Doel Deurganck.

(Raemaekers 1999) and to a lesser degree with the pointed-bottomed pottery


traditions from the Baltic coast (such as Erteblle and Narva) (Hallgren
2004; Timofeev 1998). A major difference with the latter is the so far total
absence of clay lamps in the Belgian assemblages. On the other hand there are
also clear similarities with the pottery from Early/Middle Neolithic cultures, for example with the Grossgartach/Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

cultures and the Roessen/Cerny cultures. These pottery traditions offer good
parallels for the Randkerbung and knob decoration as well as for the morphology of the bowl-shaped vessels. Although some influence might have
come from northern indigenous pottery traditions, it seems more likely that
the basic knowledge of pottery manufacturing was taken over from the
southern Neolithic traditions just mentioned. Probably here too, the Scheldt
valley was an important corridor in the diffusion of ideas and know-how.
This might also be true for the diffusion of other goods, such as cereals.
One of the sites excavated in the Deurganck dock at Doel (site sector B)
yielded a single cereal grain belonging to bread wheat (Bastiaens et al. 2005).
Despite the fact that this grain is not yet dated directly, it is clear from its spatial and stratigraphical position that it belongs to the second half of the fifth
millennium cal BC. The question arises how this cereal grain got to the site.
Was it locally produced or was it brought in from fields situated in another
location? In the latter case the question of where these fields were has to be
answered. The probability that agriculture was practised at the site itself
seems rather unrealistic, due to the wet environment and limited size of the
available dry land as well as the fact that only a single grain was recovered.
All four sites are indeed located on the highest parts of relatively small coversand ridges, surrounded by a swamp/peat fen that was occasionally inundated
by brackish water from the nearby Scheldt river (Deforce et al. 2005). It is
doubtful whether in such conditions (with limited dry grounds) farming
would have been possible. Arable fields might have been situated in nearby
locations outside the peat fen, but these have not yet been located. However,
it is questionable whether the pottery producing hunter-gatherers of the fifth
millennium cal BC also occupied the dry coversand area of western Belgium.
So far there is no clear evidence which points in that direction. According to
some scholars (Raemaekers 1999), the absence so far of Swifterbant sites in
the dry coversand landscape might be a result of taphonomic factors, such as
the bad preservation of weakly fired pottery in acid coversands, or the absence
of diagnostic lithic artefacts within the flint industry of the Swifterbant culture. The latter, however, is not valid, because the Belgian sites that are discussed in this paper yielded typical small trapezes which differ considerably
from Late Mesolithic ones (Cromb et al. 2002). An important argument
against an intense occupation and exploitation of the dry coversand area
during the second half of the fifth millennium cal BC is the observed trend
towards a decreasing number of sites already from the middle of the eighth
millennium cal BC, combined with a concentration along major river valleys.
Compared to the Early Mesolithic there is much less evidence for inland
occupation and exploitation during the Middle and Late Mesolithic. This
pattern has been observed quite convincingly in the north-western part of
Belgium (the area of Sandy Flanders) and could be related to major environ-

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THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 277

mental and/or social changes (Cromb et al. in press). In the Campine area a
similar shift in site location pattern was observed and could be linked with
climatic and hydrological changes during the Early Holocene period; rivers
only became a reliable water source from the Boreal period onwards
(Vanacker et al. 2001).
A third possibility regarding the origin of the bread wheat is that it was
obtained through exchange with contemporaneous Neolithic farming communities further upstream in the Scheldt valley. As discussed earlier, agropastoral groups belonging to the Epi-Roessen and Michelsberg culture were
already present from 4300 cal BC in the loamy upland as far as the border
with the coversand area. Interaction between both communities must have
been at least temporarily possible between c. 4300 and 4000 cal BC (see
below). Some scholars (Creemers & Vermeersch 1989; Verhart 2000, 11315;
Vermeersch 19878; Vermeersch 1990) have postulated interaction from the
presence of some Neolithic artefacts/ceramics on Late Mesolithic sites in the
sandy lowlands at Weelde, Dilsen, Meeuwen and Opgrimbie; a model has
been proposed in which Final Mesolithic hunter-gatherers tended the
Michelsberg cattle. Unfortunately this model is exclusively based on information derived from ploughed sites, whose chronological integrity remains
very questionable and difficult to evaluate. It is likely that they represent
mixed assemblages from Late Mesolithic and Michelsberg occupation phases
(and see below).
The Early Neolithic? (The Michelsberg phase)
Near the end of the fifth millennium cal BC an even more radical change in
the material culture occurred, which might be due to increased influence or
colonisation from the Michelsberg culture. Important changes can be
observed in both the lithic and ceramic inventories. New tool types appeared
(Fig. 8), such as leaf-shaped and transverse arrowheads, polished axes and
broad regular blades, as well as imported high quality flint, partly originating
from the flint mine sites in the loess area (see above). At the same time, typical Final Mesolithic tools and raw materials (for example Wommersom
quartzite) seem to disappear completely. Important morphological and technological changes also occurred in the pottery. New Michelsberg/Hazendonk
1/3-inspired vessels were introduced made of clay tempered with mainly
crushed flint (in the west) or quartz (in the east). Due to a too limited number of radiocarbon dates this transition in the material culture cannot yet be
dated precisely or securely. Nevertheless, the available dates strongly suggest
that the shift occurred most probably shortly before or after 4000 cal BC (Fig.
9). This is in agreement with dates from other north-west European countries,
where similar material changes have been observed, for example in southern

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

Figure 8. Lithic artefacts from the Final Mesolithic (top) and Early Neolithic (bottom) found
at Doel Deurganck.

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Figure 9. Calibrated radiocarbon dates related to the transition between the Final Mesolithic (Late Swifterbant culture) and the Early
Neolithic (Michelsberg culture) in the sandy lowland. The association between the radiocarbon dates and the Michelsberg finds at Melsele
Hof ten Damme remains hypothetical.

THE NEOLITHISATION OF THE SCHELDT BASIN IN BELGIUM 279

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort

England (Whittle, this volume), Scotland (Sheridan, this volume), southern


Scandinavia (Fischer 2002), and northern Germany (Hartz et al. 2002; Hartz
& Lbke 2004; Hartz et al., this volume).
Detailed information on the Early Neolithic settlements is not yet available, as most sites are documented only by small assemblages of surface
finds (see above), generally including just a handful of diagnostic Neolithic
artefacts. Extensive sites comparable to the Michelsberg settlements in the
loamy area, consisting of thousands of lithics spread over many tens of
hectares, are absent in the sandy lowlands. Based on the evidence of the
sealed Michelsberg site of Doel Deurganck dock sector C (Cromb et al.
2000), it can be assumed that Neolithic settlements in the coversand area are
much more discrete in surface- and find-density. The partially excavated site
of Doel yielded an assemblage of about 300 artefacts, of which only six or
seven were diagnostic ones. Other, more recent sites confirm that most
Neolithic settlements in the sandy lowlands were small, single house sites.
The site of Waardamme (Demeyere et al. 2004) may be a good representation of an average Neolithic settlement in the coversand area. It consists of
a single house plan, measuring 20.2 m long, and associated with a lithic
assemblage of less than 500 artefacts. Probably such settlements were relocated after some years as a result of the relatively quick exhaustion of the
sandy agrarian land. Such wandering farmyards are also attested for later
periods in the sandy area, in particular during the Early and Middle Bronze
Age (Roymans & Fokkens 1991). As these settlements were only occupied
for relatively short periods, they produced only small amounts of settlement
waste and are archaeologically less visible.
Another important problem is related to the introduction of the first
domesticates into the sandy lowland. The presently available data do not
allow us to date the appearance of the first domesticated animals or plants.
So far the only sandy site which yielded evidence of domesticated animals is
Melsele Hof ten Damme. In the mixed layer mentioned already, small burnt
fragments of cattle and pig (alongside wild game) were collected. Although
these have not yet been dated directly, they definitely must be older than the
sealing of the layer ultimately during the first half of the third millennium cal
BC. It is very tempting to link these bones with the apparently youngest occupation event of the site, which is represented by a (storage?) pit covered with
bark, some leaf-shaped arrowheads and flint-tempered pottery. This occupation phase is dated on two bark samples from the pit to the first half of the
fourth millennium cal BC and is probably related to a Michelsberg culture
occupation.

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Late Mesolithic

5500

sandy area

Late Mesolithic

Final Mesolithic
(Swifterbant)

Early Neolithic ?
(Michelsberg)

Comparison of the chronological schemes in the loess belt and the sandy lowland.

Early Neolithic
(LBK/Blicquy)

5000

Figure 10.

Middle Neolithic A
(hiatus)

Middle Neolithic B
(Epi-Roessen/Michelsberg)

(sand-)loamy area

4500

4000

3500

Cal BC

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Philippe Cromb & Bart Vanmontfort


CONCLUSION

There are still important hiatuses in the documentation of the MesolithicNeolithic transition of both the loamy and sandy areas of the Scheldt basin.
Nevertheless the difference in neolithisation process of both areas is beyond
any doubt (Fig. 10). The Neolithic way of life probably arrived as a package
in specific parts of the loess area from 5300 cal BC onwards and gradually
spread over the entire region ultimately around 4300 cal BC. It seems possible,
but far from proven, that the gradual spread during the early and middle fifth
millennium cal BC involved the uptake of local hunter-gatherers in the new
way of life. In the sandy lowland, on the other hand, the Neolithic was introduced more gradually and slowly. Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fishermen, albeit
living very close to the Neolithic frontier, probably persisted as long as c. 4000
cal BC. As a result of contact and interaction with southern Neolithic communities they started to make pottery around the middle of the fifth millennium
cal BC, but the biggest changes occurred only at the end of this millennium as
a result of a further northward expansion of the Michelsberg culture.

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Bruxelles: Archaeologia Belgica 230.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

The gradual transition to farming in the


Lower Rhine Basin
LEENDERT P. LOUWE KOOIJMANS

THE NETHERLANDS ORGANISATION FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH finances a


research programme directed to a new synthesis of the transition to farming
in the Netherlands, viewed in its wider geographical context, profiting from
the new wealth of data made available by modern large-scale field research.
The programme encompasses various projects: a critical approach to the sitebound evidence by Luc Amkreutz, a regional approach by Bart Vanmontfort
(Leuven), the first physical anthropological and isotopic study of the area by
Liesbeth Smits, the acquisition and distribution of raw materials and prestigious items by Leo Verhart, and a re-evaluation of the various sources of
palaeobotanical evidence from the delta district by Welmoed Out. This paper
is meant as a short interim report, anticipating the synthetic volume planned
for the year 2008. Comments are made especially on the seemingly parallel
developments at the other end of the North German Plain in the Baltic
coastal area.

THE LOWER RHINE BASIN


The Lower Rhine Basin embraces all of the Netherlands and Belgium
together with the adjacent parts of the Rhineland, Westfalia and Lower
Saxony (Fig. 1). We have chosen this arena for our research, since the presentday Netherlands are too restricted to give a sufficient overview of the cultural
phenomena in question and so to allow us to understand the processes of
interaction properly. It is even argued below that communities as far as the
German Baltic coast experienced similar developments.
The Lower Rhine Basin is the southern part of a wider long-term geological subsidence area, which centres in the southern North Sea, into which
a series of rivers discharge: the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt being the
most prominent. The Basin shows a distinct zoning. It consists mainly of a
flat sandy plain with Late Glacial coversands at the surface, sandy and
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 287309, The British Academy 2007.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

288

Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

Figure 1. The Lower Rhine Basin with the two major concentrations of sites, in the IJsselmeer
Basin and the Rhine/Meuse estuary. Hardinxveld (H) and Schipluiden (S) are two examples of
the exchange relations of the gradually transforming communities in the north with the farming
communities in the southern loess zone. Location of the Hde I site indicated in Lower Saxony.

gravely river deposits and occasional Saalian boulder clays in the subsoil.
These deposits have been pushed up to hilly ranges by the Saalian ice sheets
in some regions like the Veluwe district in the central Netherlands. The Basin
has hilly ranges along its southern margins with a zone of loess deposition to
the north of it, separating the hills from the sands. Essential for our research
is the extensive complex of Holocene deposits at the confluence of the lower
courses of the rivers mentioned, a complex consisting of clastic and organic
deposits of widely different facies, ranging from coastal marine sediments to
sphagnum bogs. It has been named the Rhine-Meuse Delta, although it
extends far beyond the sedimentation area of the rivers. This must have been
a region rich in natural resources, plant as well as animal, which were
exploited by people, who settled on dry outcrops or sediments, like river levees. The remains have been preserved below several metres of sediments that

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FARMING IN THE LOWER RHINE BASIN

289

were formed during the continuous rise of sea level and of the ground water
table. As such they became waterlogged but also not so easy to prospect.
We are generally inclined to stress the contrast between these wetlands
and the upland sands, but are nowadays more and more aware as well that
the low and gently undulating coversand landscape, intersected by numerous
wide and shallow brook valleys, also offered very diverse ecological conditions, comprising a considerable wetland component as well. The main distinction, as compared to the delta, is the presence of the stretches of light
and sandy soils on the coversand ridges, which will have been suited for crop
cultivation.

THE STUDY OF NEOLITHISATION


The study of neolithisation in this basin is the study of the extension of a
subsistence-based food production from the loess belt into the North
European Plain, into a landscape that will not have differed so much in
climatic terms (although more so in more northern latitudes), but will have
differed in other aspects, especially in soil conditions, vegetation and fauna.
It was a landscape with a high rate of ecological diversity, with a mosaic of dry
and wet microregions, and so was presumably an attractive ground for hunting, fishing and gathering, while the loess zone offered a much less differentiated and more densely wooded landscape, but well suited as it appears to the
early hoe cultivation of the Bandkeramik farmers and their successors.
While one party in the process (the early farmers) have become known in
detail from an early stage of research on the basis of their well preserved settlements, the other party (the foragers and their successors) have not, as a
result of the bad preservation of their upland sites and the invisibility of their
wetland locations. The upland flint scatters often have a palimpsest character
and hardly any organic remains have been preserved. This was a serious
drawback for the development of an appropriate model of the transformations that took place as a result of the interaction of both communities. It
was mainly the isolated items that found their way into the hunters land in
the north that demonstrated communication, but what went back in return
still completely escapes us. For some time the Hde I site in Lower Saxony
(Deichmller 1965; Raemaekers 1999, 72f) stood alone, but in the last
decades a series of stratified settlement sites have been discovered in the delta
wetlands, where organic remains have been preserved in large quantities, with
artefacts as well as discarded animal remains and plant food. These are the
basis for the definition of the Swifterbant culture (Figs 2 and 3). The sites
cover now the full trajectory in which the transition took place with the
exception of the relatively short phase of 44504100 cal BC. We profited

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

290
Northern France
East
West

Late

4000

Netherlands
South West Centre North

Rhineland

Lower Saxony
and Westfalia

2500

Bell

Beakers
Bell

European
All

Veluwe Type

Denmark

Beakers

VL 2b
2a

Single
3000

Single Grave

Beakers

Ornamented

Over

LBB

Grave

Vlaar-

Seine-Oise-Marne

4500

Stein

VL?

Wartberg

1b

3500
Chassen du
ChasseoBassin
Michelsberg
Parisien

5000

SW4

IV
Spiennes

III

4000

Hazendonk 3

Rijckholt

Michelsberg (MK)

SW 3

4500

Bischheim
Cerny
Blicquy

6000

Rssen

Hardinxveld

Villeneuve

Grossgartach

Ruban
Limburg
La Hoguette

5500

phase 2
Dmmer

6500

(early)

MK
Swifterbant S3

Epirssen

5000

phase 3

II
MK

5500

(northern)

(western) TRB

dingen
(VL) 1a
Hde 1

C14
BP

Belgium

cal.
BC
2000

f3

BL

SW 2

Erteblle
(ceramic)

phase 1

SW 1
f2

(aceramic)

Linear Bandkeramik

Limburg
f1
La Hoguette

Figure 2. Chrono-geographical scheme for the Neolithic in the Lower Rhine basin and adjacent areas. Update of a scheme originally presented in 1976. Stages covered by the Hardinxveld
and Hazendonk sites indicated with bars.

especially from the more recent discovery of new, highly informative wetland
sites during survey in advance of public works, while the funds to excavate
and analyse these sites properly are available as a result of the implementation of the Malta Convention in the Netherlands. There is, however, one
major problem in the use of these wetland data for our view of the neolithisation process, which is the extent to which these essentially wetland sites can
be viewed as representative of developments in a wider region, including the
uplands as well, or whether the new evidence should be seen as documenting
specific wet environment aspects of the former societies.
I concentrate in this paper mainly on the excavated evidence. This survey
is, however, just one in a long series of syntheses, like those by Keeley (1992),
Thomas (1996) and myself (Louwe Kooijmans 1993b; 1998; 2004). The latest
overview is given in the recent handbook on Dutch prehistory (Louwe
Kooijmans et al. 2005). Raemaekers (1999) made a thorough analysis of the
Swifterbant ceramics, as the basis for the proper definition of this relatively

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FARMING IN THE LOWER RHINE BASIN

291

Figure 3. Palaeogeography of the Dutch Holocene sedimentation area around 4200 cal BC with
sites mentioned in the texts and other selected locations outside the loess zone. 1. Bergumermeer;
2. Jardinga; 3. Gietsenveentje; 4. Bronneger; 5. Heemse; 6. De Gaste; 7. Northeastpolder; 8.
Schokkerhaven; 9. Urk; 10. Swifterbant cluster; 11. Hoge Vaart; 12. Voorschoten; 13.
Wateringen; 14. Schipluiden; 15. Rijswijk; 16. Ypenburg; 17. Bergschenhoek; 18. Hekelingen; 19.
Rhoon; 20. Hardinxveld; 21. Hazendonk; 22. Brandwijk; 23. Zoelen; 24. Ewijk; 25. Wijchen-het
Vormer; 26. Grave; 27. Gassel; 28. Kraaienberg; 29. Merselo; 30. Doel-Deurgancksdok; 31.
Weelde-Paardsdrank; 32. Meeuwen-Donderslagheide; 33. Geleen-Janskamperveld.

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292

Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

new cultural entity, and developed the argument of primitive communism to


describe and explain Swifterbant subsistence. Verhart (2000) followed the
process in the Limburg Meuse Valley on the basis of a systematic analysis of
the thousands of flint assemblages in that region. He stressed the attraction
which artefacts of the dominant farming group will have had for the hunters,
in explaining the wide spread of such items outside the farmers territories.
The extension of the Swifterbant complex in the Scheldt Basin has been documented by the excavations at Doel in the new Antwerp harbour (Cromb
2005; Cromb et al. 2002; see also Cromb & Vanmontfort, this volume).

THE LATE MESOLITHIC


Until a few years ago and for want of something better, similar developments
for the transition of hunter-gatherers to farmers to those supposed in
Denmark were presumed for the Lower Rhine Basin Late Mesolithic, i.e. a
shift to a more sedentary society with a strong seasonal exploitation system,
although archaeological evidence was almost non-existent and rather different from that in Scandinavia. Shell middens for instance were completely
absent.
The new sites and reflection on the older evidence tell us now that the Late
Mesolithic settlement system is characterised by site diversity as well as the
systematic and long-term use of specific locations in the landscape. This
holds for the wide artefact spread of Weelde-Paardsdrank, of which just one
small cluster was excavated (Huyge & Vermeersch 1982); it is the case with
the well-known Bergumermeer site, for which a time depth of roughly a millennium has been documented by radiocarbon dates (Lanting & van der
Plicht 19978, 136; Newell 1980); and Hoge Vaart, the first location excavated
in the modern capital intensive style, is also interpreted as an accumulation
of multiple use over an extensive period of time (Hogestijn & Peeters 2001).
All can be seen as normal base camps possibly of seasonal use. Another
type of site is formed by concentrations of hundreds of hearth pits, like
Marinberg (Verlinde in Louwe Kooijmans et al. 2005; Verlinde & Newell in
press), conceived as locations where specific processes were carried out, possibly related to food conservation. Similar sites are known from the earlier,
Boreal, Mesolithic as well. A third type is the butchering location of Jardinga
(Prummel et al. 2002), where game was dismembered. Since different animals
are documented and since the excavation is just a cutting of restricted dimensions in a valley floor, which has produced bones at other locations as well,
we feel permitted to consider the valley stretch as a micro-region with a special function in the settlement system. Verhart (2000, 55) could demonstrate
that communities along the Middle Limburg Meuse Valley shifted their activ-

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FARMING IN THE LOWER RHINE BASIN

293

ities between two micro-regions of different potential, the one along the river
valley floor, the other at a distance of 10 km, along smaller brooks.
The most detailed information, however, is given by two sites, close to the
village of Hardinxveld-Giessendam, excavated in 19989 in advance of the
construction of a new railway (Louwe Kooijmans 2001a; 2001b; 2003). They
appearedon the basis of a wide spectrum of palaeoecological indicators
to have been distinct winter base camp locations, the one used for five
centuries, the other for a millennium. They are pure Mesolithic in their lower
levels and reflect increasing Neolithic elements upwards through the stratigraphy. These are two Late Glacial river dunes with tops at c. -5 m below
Dutch OD, which were used as settlement locations in the extensive delta
swamps at a time when the water level was several metres lower than these
dune tops. The two sites are within 1 km of each other and in the main we
consider one to succeed the other, the Polderweg site being occupied mainly
in the earlier stages from 5500 to 5000 cal BC, and the De Bruin site continuing down till 4450 cal BC. The natural Holocene stratigraphy of the aquatic
deposits alongside the dune allowed the distinction of three main phases of
occupation and offered a wealth of ecological, economic and artefactual
information, since the occupants had used this zone as a rubbish dump. Main
subsistence activities in all phases had been hunting wild boar, trapping
beaver and otter (Fig. 4), fishing for pike, and fowling. There are several clear
winter indicators and negative scores on summer correlates, leading to the
conclusion of exclusive or dominant winter use of the site. The presence of
burials of people and dogs, the presence of women and children among the
human skeletal material (Fig. 5a), the extent of the site, and the broad flint,
bone and antler artefact spectra, are the basis for assuming a base camp function for a number of households, at least in the first phase (55005300 cal BC).
So the option of a settlement system with seasonal base camps of very long
term use has been substantiated at least for this single case of high quality
evidence. The model could be extended with the suggestion of summer residences in the upland margin zone, at a distance of 1020 km, which brings
the Dutch territorial pattern close to the Ringkloster-Norsminde model of
eastern Jutland (Andersen 19945, 503).
The communities were, in contrast, rather different as regards their material culture, as far as can be assessed from the preserved artefacts. This holds
at any rate for the antler industry with its unperforated T-axes and sleeves
with and without shaft holes. The slender wooden paddle blades are different
in design from those in the north as are important details of the dugout
canoe, found at the De Bruin site. The links were distinctly in a southern
direction as illustrated by the pointill design on one of the antler sleeves.
That is also documented by the sources of several classes of flint from the
southern chalk belt, by the most likely sources of large pieces of quartzitic

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

294
100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

elk/aurochs/horse/roe
red deer
wild boar

HardinxveldPolderweg
phase 1/2 + 2

HardinxveldPolderweg
phase 1

N=402 N=6799 N=344 N=1128

2600

Hardinxveld De Bruin phase 3

N=548

sea mammals
otter
beaver

4100- ..
3400

Hazendonk
levels 1-3

36003400

Swifterbant S3

36003400

Hekelingen 3

Ypenburg

32002800

Hazendonk
phase VL2b

Schipluiden

Voorschoten

3200

Ewijk
cal BC

Northeastpolder
P14

0%

32002800

41004000

40003400

47004450

51005000

55005300

N=623 N=1224 N=3530 N=603

N=534

N=571 N=3520

pig
sheep/goat
cattle

Figure 4. Faunal spectra from selected Late Mesolithic and Neolithic sites, 55003500 cal BC, in
the Holocene sedimentation area in two groups: wetland sites to the right and agricultural locations at the left. In both groups spectra are arranged in chronological order. Excluded are antler,
dog and all fur animals except otter. Indeterminate pig/wildboar bones are spread over pig and
wild boar according to the ratio of these positive identifications. The same holds for cattle/
aurochs. Four factors arise in the interpretation of these data: the stage in the process of neolithisation, the ecozone in which the site was situated, the possible differences in function of the site
in the former settlement system, and seasonality. The left group is considered possibly to reflect
the upland processes.
coastal
Schipluiden, Ypenburg, Voorschoten
river district
Ewijk
upland margin
Northeastpolder P14
estuarine, marshes
Hardinxveld, Hazendonk, Swifterbant, Hekelingen
Data from: Clason 1990; Gehasse 1995; Groenman-van Waateringe et al. 1968; Oversteegen
et al. in Louwe Kooijmans 2001b; de Vries 2004; Van Wijngaarden-Bakker et al. 2001 in Louwe
Kooijmans 2001a; Zeiler 1997 and in Louwe Kooijmans & Jongste 2006.

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FARMING IN THE LOWER RHINE BASIN

295

rock and small pieces of pyrite in the Ardennes and by the presence of unmistakable bone-tempered Blicquy type of pottery. We concludesince material culture must be seen as fully independent of wet environmental
conditionsthat the Hardinxveld community, being embedded in a southern interaction sphere, can be viewed as representative of the communities
north of the loess zone and north of the later agricultural frontier along its
margins.

FIRST FARMERS IN THE LOESS ZONE, 55004300 CAL BC


Traditionally the beginning of the Neolithic is marked by the extension of the
Bandkeramik culture from the early nucleus in Hessen, through the Rhine
corridor to the north.
There are a series of arguments to view this expansion first and foremost
as a colonisation. First, there are no microliths found in the rich material of
any of the large-scale excavations: neither in the Rhineland, nor in Dutch
southern Limburg, nor in its earliest stage, like the Geleen-Janskamperveld
settlement. Secondly, no transitional complexes between Mesolithic and
Bandkeramik are known, and thirdly, the whole Bandkeramik cultural
complex contrasts to everything we know of the late Mesolithic.
There are two arguments that this stage was preceded by a phase in
which these northern regions had contacts with farmer communities further south. One is the use of grey western flintmost probably from the
South Limburg chalk regionin the earliest Bandkeramik settlements to
south of the Rhineland Plateau. The second argument is the site of
Sweikhuizen, where people had left some La Hoguette pottery, a pottery
type present in the lteste Bandkeramik (earliest LBK) assemblages to the
south, but completely lacking in the slightly later ltere Bandkeramik
(early LBK) of the Rhineland and Limburg. The site shows that the La
Hoguette interaction sphere extended to the southern fringe of the Lower
Rhine Basin. Either these Hoguettiens or the indigenous Mesolithic will
have been the intermediary in the acquisition of western flint.
It might be superfluous to do so, but it should be stressed in view of some
recent discussion that all evidence points to permanent settlements in the
middle of clearances in the forests for fields for cereal cultivation. The labour
input in the sturdy houses, the communal surrounding enclosing structures
and the palaeobotanical evidence on weeds and crops are the main and
convincing arguments.
These most north-western LBK communities extended into the Belgian
Hesbaye, but not farther west, with the exception of the small Wange/
Overhespen enclave and a second cluster in Hainaut, that might best be

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296

Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

viewed as a pioneer extension from the later LBK community in northern


France. This pattern remained the same as material culture developed into
Rssen in the east and Blicquy in the west. Most of the Belgian loess zone
seems to have remained hunter-gatherer territory.

CONTACTS AND INTRODUCTION, 55004450 CAL BC


The interference of the Bandkeramik with the northern hunters was
restricted in extent and intensity. A zone of c. 30 km of the adjacent sand
seems to have been used for herding and/or hunting from Late Bandkeramik
times onward. Bandkeramik adzes found their way in small numbers farther
north, supposedly in a form of exchange. The well known Rssen Breitkeile
have a much denser and wider distribution all over the North European Plain
and as such demonstrate more intensive contacts andhidden behind these
wedgesother Neolithic elements and ideas. They were, however, rarely
deposited on settlement sites, Hde I in Lower Saxony being the rare exception in the Lower Rhine Basin (Deichmller 1965). The introductions can be
followed in some detail in the Hardinxveld stratigraphy. The rich material
allows us to believe that the lack of evidence in levels below the first occurrence of new elements really reflects a genuine absence of innovations at this
stage.
Most intriguing is a distinct LBK type of arrowhead, made on a
Rijckholt type of flint blade, from phase 1: so with a latest date synchronous
with the earliest LBK occupation in southern Limburg. One might even think
of the preceding phase for which a Hessen connection has been postulated
above. The arrowhead at any rate reflects not only southern links at this stage
but contacts with the agrarian communities there as well and so documents
the start of an availability stage, sensu Zvelebil (1986). The first pottery in a
local style is dated sharply at the Polderweg site around 5000 cal BC and
marks the start of the Swifterbant culture, a ceramic Mesolithic stage, comparable to evolved Erteblle, but three centuries earlier. The same stage has
been documented in the extensive excavations at Hoge Vaart, in the
IJsselmeer Basin (49004800 cal BC) and in the deposition at Bronneger,
province of Drenthe (48004600 cal BC). It has a counterpart in the early pottery from Schlamersdorf in the German Baltic coastal area, prima facie dated
to c. 5300 cal BC. A fresh water reservoir effect should, however, not be
excluded in this case, but the pottery certainly precedes the earliest Erteblle
ware in Denmark dated around 4700 cal BC (Andersen 19945, 42; Hartz
et al. 2002, 330; and see Hartz et al., this volume). Pottery seems to be present
at Hde I from the beginning of its occupation, c. 4700 cal BC (Lanting & van
der Plicht 19992000, 58; Raemaekers 1999, 89).

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Bones of domestic animals do not occur before phase 3, i.e. between


4700 and 4450 cal BC and more probably late in this phase 3 rather than
early (Fig. 4). All four domesticatescattle, pig, sheep and goatare represented in low numbers and document animal husbandry by this community. It must be doubted, however, whether the animals were kept on the site
itself. The pattern of deposition can better be explained by depositional
practices than by consumption, and so chunks of meat might have been
brought to the site from the upland and not the animals themselves, which
is also more in line with winter conditions in this marsh landscape. As far
as crop cultivation is concerned, in spite of sampling and wet sieving
directed to the recovery of cereals, no such remains were found. This simply
means that cereals if grown at allapparently were not brought in, like
the chunks of meat. Low percentages of domestic animal bones (2% and
cattle only) have similar ages, around 4700 cal BC, again at the German
Baltic coast, at the site of Rosenhof (Hartz et al. 2002, 327; and see Hartz
et al., this volume).
We must realise that the earliest occurrence of these agricultural indicators on isolated dune tops in the delta does not exclude an earlier introduction on the sandy uplands. The present archaeological evidence, however,
makes us more surprised about the early dates for the domestic animals than
about the absence of cereals, since the expansion of the Neolithic all over the
Belgian loess zone and to the north is dated to the phase of the Michelsberg
culture and not earlier, i.e. c. 4300 cal BC (and see Cromb & Vanmontfort,
this volume).

MICHELSBERG EXPANSION, 43003400 CAL BC


Turning again to the loess zone, remarkable changeseven disruptions
can be attested in the transition of the Rssen and Blicquy communities into
those of the Michelsberg culture (Vanmontfort 2004). It seems that Neolithic
society is restructured and that the basic unit shifts to a higher level, from the
village in a segmentary society towards groups for which supra-local enclosures have a central function, a development seen over wider tracks of western and northern Europe. It is in this stage, to be dated from 4300 cal BC
onward, that the wide spaces between the restricted Neolithic enclaves in
Belgium are filled in. Apparently both the Blicquy farmers and all final
Mesolithic groups transformed into Michelsberg and changed to a new way
of life. The Michelsberg complex also demonstrates an expansion towards
the north, beyond the loess zone, into the Limburg Meuse Valley and the
Mnster Basin. This means a northern shift of the old agricultural frontier
which must have had its effect on the local communities beyond.

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans


SWIFTERBANT AND HAZENDONK, c. 42003600 CAL BC

The period 45004200 cal BC is as yet not covered by any excavation, with the
exception of the Bergschenhoek fishing site, but the stage around 4100 cal BC
is documented by the earlier work at Swifterbant and the Hazendonk.
Detailed pottery analysis (de Roever 2004) demonstrates that the Swifterbant
area was exploited before this stage, people using outcropping dune tops as
temporary bases. Sites shifted to the levees of fresh tidal gulleys around 4100
cal BC when these became more or less fixed, only for people to leave these
locations again as the water level rose and the levees became too wet and were
silted over. In the main excavation, at the site S3, two synchronous hut locations could be traced on the basis of multiple renewed fireplaces and the distribution pattern of artefacts. These sites are, in spite of their setting,
certainly no simple fishing camps like Bergschenhoek. The animal bones document a wide range of hunting activities, with wild boar, beaver, red deer and
otter, in this order, being the most important game (Zeiler 1991; 1997). The
inhabitants raised pigs and herded cattle as well and these must have been of
roughly equal importance for the meat supply (Fig. 4; Zeiler 1997, table 3).
The exact ratios are difficult to establish, however, in view of the difficulties
in separating pig and wild boar and the discrepancies between the numbers
of identifications and bone weights. The spread of cereal remains (chaff and
grains) all over the place demonstrate that cereals were used as a food source
as well. The local group can on this basis be characterised as semi-agrarian
and be viewed as representing a next stage in the gradual process of neolithisation. It is, however, difficult to establish which function the site or sites had
in the settlement system: year-round occupation or summer camps only? A
few bones of swans and one bone of beaver are the scarce evidence for winter presence, but space does not allow a full discussion of this problem here.
The small and isolated dune top of the Hazendonk was intermittently
used as a settlement location from c. 4000 cal BC onward up till late Beaker
times. Domestic animals (cattle and pig) and cereals have been attested in
most phases, especially in the lowest levels. Cattle has a score of 14% of the
number of identifications in this phase, but later never more than a few per
cent of all bones (Fig. 4). The main activity of the occupants appears to have
been the hunting (or trapping) of beaver, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and
otter in rather diverging ratios in the various Neolithic phases. Seasonal indicators do not point to use of the Hazendonk site in a specific season, but
rather to its use at various times of the year (Zeiler 1991; 1997).
There are two competing interpretations for this site: a seasonal or permanent base camp versus a specialised hunting site. The first option would
imply that there would have been communities, which relied for their living
for the greater part on the exploitation of natural resourceswith fur

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299

animals like beaver and otter in a prominent positioneven as late as the


Late Neolithic, around 2600 cal BC, while groups in other parts of the delta
were predominantly or fully agrarian. The second option would mean that
the use of the dune tops for the exploitation of the marsh district would have
shifted in due course from a seasonal base camp function (as at Hardinxveld)
to that of a subordinate special activity site, linked to permanent settlement
elsewhere. The author prefers the second option, mainly because the first supposition seems rather unlikely, but also in view of the difference in flint procurement between the various Vlaardingen group settlements in the different
delta ecozones. The main problem, however, is the lack of evidence, especially of the supposed permanent settlements elsewhere on the sandy uplands
south of the wetland district. But both options would mean that a prominent
exploitation of natural resources continued up till the end of the Neolithic.
Another approach towards the start of crop cultivation has been the
detailed pollen analytic investigation of a kettle moor called Gietsenveentje
on the Drenthe Plateau (Bakker 2003). The earliest indications for arable
weeds and disturbance of the natural vegetation were dated to 4050 cal BC.
So the introduction of cereal cultivation seems for the time being to be
fixed at c. 41004000 cal BC by the presence of charred cereal grains and chaff
at Swifterbant S3 and in the lowest Hazendonk level, in combination with the
pollen evidence of Gietse Veentje. Again this date matches the first occurrence in the Early TRB assemblage of Wangels on the German Baltic coast,
in the form of charred grains and impressions in pottery, together with a faunal assemblage, consisting of about 50% of livestock bones, cattle as well as
sheep (Hartz et al. 2002, 328; and see Hartz et al., this volume).

SCHIPLUIDEN, A PERMANENT SETTLEMENT IN THE


COASTAL ZONE, 36003400 CAL BC
An important new anchor site for our view of the neolithisation process was
discovered in the subsoil of the former municipality of Schipluiden, close to
Delft at a depth of 35 m in the preparation of a new water purification
plant, and excavated in 2003 preceding its construction (Fig. 5; Louwe
Kooijmans & Jongste 2006). The results are complementary to and widen
those of earlier investigations at Wateringen (Raemaekers et al. 1997) and
Ypenburg (Koot in Louwe Kooijmans et al. 2005) in the same region.
Schipluiden involves a rather low (1.5 m) coastal dune, located in a vast
coastal plain, at c. 3 km behind the coastline of that time. The dune measured
c. 40120 m and was used as a settlement location in its full extent between
c. 3630 and 3380 cal BC. Similar settlements are known from locations in the
same Delfland district. This community is characterised by the so-called

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Figure 5. Overall plan of the Schipluiden site. Notable are the complex of wells in the north-west, the stretches of surrounding fences and the post
clusters all over the dune. Domestic refuse was found in a wide zone all along the south-eastern dune margin.

300
Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

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Hazendonk ware, a development in and beyond the southern zone of the


Swifterbant culture. As in earlier times their links were predominantly to the
south and east, as reflected in the sources of flint and stone. Material culture
here thus combined a native pottery tradition with a flint tool kit, including
flint axes, of strong southern (Michelsberg) affinities.
The Schipluiden settlement consisted of four or five households, each
having its fixed yard on the crest of the dune. The community surrounded the
entire dune with a fence halfway through the period of occupation, and subsequently maintained the fence by replacing stretches of it once or twice (Fig.
6). The construction of it is seen as a communal effort and as a purposeful
structuring of the settlement, separating the wild natural land outside it from
the domestic space, and possibly protecting gardens or fields that might have
been kept between the houses. It has been calculated that c. 2000 m of
straight wooden posts with diameters of c. 6 cm must have been brought to
the site for the construction of the first fence in a basically open landscape,
with only localised shrubs on the widely spread dunesa considerable effort.
This is the first time that the layout and character of a Neolithic settlement
could be determined to the north of the loess zone. So we should not consider
it as the beginning of permanent settlement, but merely as the earliest
documentation of this.
Extensive palaeoecological investigation and modern parallels for the
reconstructed landscapes show that the Delfland microregion must have been
a rich grazing ground and attracted people for that reason, in spite of the
risks of salt incursions from the nearby estuary now and then. People even
grew cereals on the salt marshes, but collected a wide range of fruits, tubers
and onions from the wild as well. Little can be stated about the relative
importance of crop cultivation, but more can be said about the meat supply.
In all phases domestic animals (cattle and pig only) account for c. 60% of the
number of identified bones, the remaining 40% mainly consisting of wild
boar and red deer (Fig. 4). The ratio is more favourable for domesticates in
bone weight (70%), seemingly reflecting a rather conventional Neolithic subsistence. The faunal evidence for fowlingmainly waterfowlis very rich
and we should not underestimate the role of fish in this setting between the
estuary to the south and the fresh water swamps to the east. That aquatic
resources were indeed of great significance is strongly supported by the isotopic evidence of human skeletal remains, pointing towards a fresh water
contribution of about half of all proteins (Figs 7a7b and 8; Budd et al. in
prep.). Carrying capacity calculations demonstrate clearly, moreover, that the
hunting of large mammals could only contribute 10% of the daily food for
the 10050 people that supposedly inhabited the region. This implies a contribution by cattle and pigs of not more than 20% and makes us conclude
that the subsistence of this community still had the character of what I once

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

Figure 6. Schipluiden fence traces in the field and an ethnographic reference in the Norsk
Folkemuseum, Oslo 1976. Photo by the author.

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303

Figure 7a. Hardinxveld, burial of an elderly woman in a Late Mesolithic tradition, c. 5500 cal BC.

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

Figure 7b. Schipluiden, tightly flexed burial of an adult man in a Middle Neolithic tradition, c.
3500 cal BC. Photos Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden.

called an extended broad spectrum economy (Louwe Kooijmans 1993a). We


conclude that the change in material culture preceded changes in settlement
system and the transformation of subsistence, at least in this coastal region.
The fact that these people settled in this region by free will, and that they
must have considered it attractive for their preferred way of life, implies that

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305

Figure 8. 13C and 15N values of human skeletal material from Schipluiden, compared to the
values of farmers, inland and coastal fishers. After Smits in Louwe Kooijmans & Jongste 2006.

we should not consider this economy an adaptation to specific conditions


but rather see it as representative for the period involved.

CONCLUSION
We have given priority in this contribution first and foremost to the presentation of the factual evidence and its interpretation, since we fully agree with
Peter Rowley-Conwy (2004) that some explanations of the MesolithicNeolithic transition have moved far away from this basis and can even be
contradicted by the data.
Our main conclusions from the foregoing accounts are:
1 There has been a long-lasting, static, frontier between the agricultural
world in the south and the hunter-gatherers in the north: a long availability
phase of about seven centuries between 5300 and 4600 cal BC.
2 The Neolithic was not adopted as a package, but piecemeal: the main
Neolithic cultural elements preceding the subsistence shift. So the adoption
of food production took place within societies of local origin and within the
point-based pot tradition of the Swifterbant culture (Table 1).

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Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans

306

Table 1. The neolithisation sequence in the Lower Rhine Basin represented by the first
occurrences of Neolithic elements in the Dutch and North German Plain.
cal BC

aspect

site, location

c. 3200

first fully agrarian faunal assemblages


(cattle 50%), Vlaardingen group
end of Swifterbant-Hazendonk pottery
traditions
permanent settlement, extended broad
spectrum economy
cereals (cattle 50%), crop cultivation
livestock (cattle, pig, sheep, goat 5%)
Neolithic flint blades
adzes (Breitkeile)
first local (point-based) pottery
first contacts

Ewijk, Voorschoten

3400
3600
41004000
4500
4800
49004800
5000
55005300

Schipluiden; Hazendonk
Schipluiden
Swifterbant S3, Gietse Veentje
Hardinxveld-De Bruin phase 3 (end?)
Hardinxveld-De Bruin phase 2
Hde I, Dmmer
Hardinxveld-Polderweg phase 2
Hardinxveld-Polderweg phase 1

3 There are striking parallels in this sequence of adoption between the


Lower Rhine Basin and the German Baltic Zone, where new research documents a similar and synchronous sequence. Both regions might be viewed as
just two areas where processes occurring all over the (intermediate) North
German plain have been documented by their favourable conditions for
preservation.
4 This sequence contrasts with the more abrupt changes in Britain on
the one hand and Denmark on the other, around 4000 cal BC.
5 The transition, finally, viewed in a wider geographical context, can be
seen as one piece in a mosaic of micro-regional transformations, being the
results of region-specific choices of hunter-gatherers in their contacts with
early farming communities.
Apart from the interpretational problems of the wetland sites, mentioned
above, there is another problem in establishing the domestic:wild ratio and
the application of the 50% criterion of Zvelebil (1986). The questions are:
1 Do we measure in numbers of identified bones or in bone weight, or
perhaps the isotope evidence for protein intake?
2 What species do we include in the 100% bone sum? Are dog, antler,
small rodents, birds included or excluded?
3 To what extent and on which criteria are pig and wild boar separated?
These matters play an important role when we compare faunal assemblages
identified by different zoologists at widely different times, as Raemaekers
(2003) did. He argued that neolithisation did not take that long, and that the
substitution phase must have ended around 3600 cal BC and not much later.
The 50% domestic boundary was passed for the first time in his Wateringen 4
site and the same is the case in the later Vlaardingen sites in agriculture-friendly
ecozones. This still leaves us, however, with the existence of locations devoted

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FARMING IN THE LOWER RHINE BASIN

307

for the greater part to the exploitation of natural resources in both phases. The
question of whether neolithisation ended 3600 cal BC or continued till the Late
Neolithic seems to be above all a matter of definition and choices.
The last question to be answered is why the communities in the Lower
Rhine Basin and perhaps the whole North German-Dutch Plain reacted so
cautiously to the new life style, in contrast to what happened earlier in the
loess zone and later in Britain, for example. I have earlier (Louwe Kooijmans
1998) suggested that there will have been a fundamental difference in attitude
to the natural environment between the fully domestic Bandkeramik and the
foragers of the North German-Dutch Plain. They just made other choices
because of this differences in attitude, but that never can be the sole explanation. The agricultural system which the Bandkeramik offered most probably
was not attractive enough to adopt. The transformation into Michelsberg
culture meant a new settlement system and possibly also a less rigorous agricultural system. It was at any rate eagerly adopted all over Britain and
Denmark, but still piecemeal and without any cultural disruption in the
Lower Rhine Basin, where the exploitation of the rich natural resources
remained the more attractive alternative.
Note. The author thanks Leo Verhart and Luc Amkreutz for their comments on an
earlier draft of the text, Liesbeth Smits for the use of Fig. 8, Walter Laan for making
the map in Fig. 1 on the basis of the NASA Worldwind data, and Medy Oberendorff
for Figs 2, 3 and 6.

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Mesolithic myths
GRAEME WARREN

GENERALISING COMMENTS ABOUT THE different models of humanity in the


Mesolithic and Neolithic are less appropriate than they once were. A perusal
of recent conference proceedings suggests that the Mesolithic is awash with
landscapes, monuments, natural places and ancestors (e.g. Bevan & Moore
2003; Conneller 2000; Fewster & Zvelebil 2000; Larsson et al. 2003; Young
2000). In fact, there is a sense that the Mesolithic is suffering from Neolithic
creep, with interpretations that are successful in one period being extended
back. It is important to be clear here, and my concerns are not parochial
boundary policing; the increased interest in the period has been exceptionally
stimulating. But the character of the evidence for the two periods creates significant differences in the nature of archaeological practice. Put simply, the
practice of landscape archaeology, especially in terms of the working
through of key theoretical concepts, is different for periods characterised by
such different data sources. This suggests that critical attention is required
when models effective in one period are imported into others. These difficulties are compounded when details of the archaeology of the recipient
period are not receiving due care. Furthermore, many general models are
founded on very old understandings of the nature of the economic base or
social process in the Mesolithic. These are open to major question. Finally, a
range of new interpretations of the Mesolithic suggests radically new possibilities for understanding going over. In this context it is appropriate to
stress that these new interpretations of the Mesolithic have grown from a very
fine-grained attention to materiality (e.g. contributions to Conneller &
Warren 2006), and they lead to the creation of a very distinct and original
archaeology of the Mesolithic.
I would like to substantiate some of these broad claims, and highlight
important new trends in Mesolithic archaeology, by presenting some myths.
Put crudely, myths are stories that help us to tell stories, or guide other
actions. Whilst myths may have their origins in a real event or process, such
stories also grow in the telling, and take on a life of their own. And myths, of
course, reveal much about the community within which they exist. With this
broad definition, I explore three myths of the Mesolithic. The first myth
Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 311328, The British Academy 2007.

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explores Mesolithic monuments. The second relates to analytical scale.


Finally, I explore myth in early Mesolithic Britain.

MESOLITHIC MONUMENTS?
One of the most persistent themes in recent reappraisals of the Mesolithic
has been middens. Once treated as little more than an indication of economic
organisation, middens are now the monuments of the Mesolithic, with attendant roles in funerary process, territorial claims and feasting (e.g. Cummings
2003; Pollard 1990; 1996). Iconic images, such as the view of Caisteal nan
Gillean, Oronsay, used as promotional material for the conference (Fig. 1),
have undoubtedly helped establish this equivalency. The distinctive profile of
this construction has been compared to many features; some have seen the

Figure 1.

Promotional material for the Going Over conference.

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shape of distant hills mirrored in the midden, others have suggested that the
shape is an evocation of a limpet (Mellars 2004). For many, however, the simplest comparison is with later prehistoric tumuli. This comparison, of course,
is not new. Symington Grieve recalled of a visit in 1880, that it was a remarkable object, evidently artificial, and gave the impression that it might have
been a place of burial (cited in Mellars 1987, 117), and excavated the mound
hoping to find Neolithic or Bronze Age burials. Such rethinkings of middens
have been important in shifting perceptions of Mesolithic archaeology, yet
they require critical attention (see debate between Cross 2001 and Woodman
2001). Here I focus primarily on the middens of Oronsay, which have
dominated discussion, set into a broader context.
The oft-reproduced 1881 photograph or engraving demonstrates the
remarkable conical mound of Caisteal nan Gillean I which at the time
included over 2 m of midden material. Yet this image is misleading, not
least because Caisteal nan Gillean is exceptional, even amongst the Oronsay
middens (Mellars 1987, 11718). The dominant mound is mainly a sand
dune, with a thick capping of midden, which was initially set in a complex
of dunes of unknown character. Many other large dunes may have existed
in the immediate vicinity; some may have also been focal points of activity.
Birch and hazel woodland was encroaching on the site. The sea was immediately beneath the midden. Furthermore, the importance of marine foods,
as well as the clear evidence of links to the mainland, suggest that sea passage was routine for Mesolithic communities (Mellars 2004; see also Warren
2000). A Mesolithic view of the middens was most likely from the sea. At
the least then, our icon is looking in the wrong direction, and this may be a
metaphor for our approaches to the transition. More critically, this view
radically misrepresents the later Mesolithic landscape. Clearly, these points
need substantiation.
The monumental status of the Oronsay middens is founded, at least in
part, in a perception of the middens playing a dominating role in the landscape. The Oronsay middens occupy a variety of landscape locations, but
many are reasonably prominent features today. Cnoc Sligeach is a conspicuous landmark on the north-eastern coast of Oronsay (Mellars 1987, 122),
located on a rocky outcrop above a grassy coastal plain, the two Caisteal nan
Gillean sites occupy commanding positions (Mellars 1987, 153), and Priory
is a well defined mound (Mellars 1987, 182), although it is important to note
Chattertons (2006) argument that most are capped by sand. However, it is
not clear that they were prominent in the past. The middens can only be
understood in their fifth millennium cal BC environment. As is well known,
sea levels were high, and many middens were located immediately adjacent to
the shores (for detail see Jardine 1987). At Cnoc Sligeach the midden would
have sat on a rocky outcrop almost cut off by the sea at high tide, mixing of

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midden and storm beach material in the lower parts of the section demonstrating just how close the sea was. That the sites were immediately adjacent
to the shore does not deny their monumentality, but it does shift our focus a
little.
Molluscan evidence shows that Cnoc Coig and Caisteal nan Gillean II
were constructed on dune surfaces with woodland in the immediate vicinity
(Paul 1987), and that woodland was encroaching closer to the midden locations during the period of occupation of both sites (Paul 1987, 102). Based
on island-wide models this is likely to have been a hazel and birch scrub
(Birks 1987). In fact, trampling in and around the edges of the middens may
have been responsible for maintaining an open space (Paul 1987). The
Oronsay middens are not exceptional in being located in woodland; parallels
are found throughout Britain, for example at Morton B, Fife (Coles 1971).
The middens were built on to accumulations of dune sand, some of which
had stabilised into land surfaces and contain evidence of earlier occupation.
Dune systems themselves are hugely dynamic, and extensive evidence of
spade cultivation in post-midden levels offers another example of landscape
transformation. The sand capping the middens is clearly a very dynamic land
form: the entire sequence of post midden levels at Caisteal nan Gillean . . .
represents a complex succession of deposition, erosion and soil forming
episodes (Mellars 1987, 176). For example, the trough between Caisteal nan
Gillean I and II that contributes greatly to the prominence of the two sites is
an erosive feature. To my knowledge detailed models of the fifth millennium
dunescape have not been constructed, and therefore assessing the landscape
location of the middens in their contemporary dunescape is very difficult.
The hints that are available suggest different associations than some
recent discussions might imply. Although some middens are found in higher
locations the details of formation suggest complexity. At Cnoc Sligeach, for
example, it is argued that: . . .the flattened area on the summit of the hill
served as the major focus of human activity on the site, from which the bulk
of the shell refuse was conveniently discarded down the steeper slopes of the
mound to the south and east (Mellars 1987, 205). At Cnoc Coig, Mellars discusses concentrated zones of shell deposition which accumulated immediately adjacent to both a major occupation structure and a complex succession
of superimposed hearths (Mellars 1987, 227). If anything dominated the
Mesolithic landscape it was not the midden. In fact, Chatterton argues that
looking more widely across Britain and Ireland many middens are rather
ephemeral: lodged into caves, or hollows of rock (Chatterton 2006, 114).
Questions of preservation are significant here (Finlayson 2006, 177), but few
of the British and Irish middens approach the scale of the southern
Scandinavian examples. The large oyster middens of the Forth estuary, for

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example, are complex multiphase features, which may largely date to the
Neolithic (Ashmore & Hall 1996; Sloan 1993).
These discussions suggest that the monumental role of Mesolithic middens may be exaggerated. Of course, many Neolithic monuments were constructed in woodlands, and many writers have stressed the significance of
clearings and tree throws (e.g. Brown 1997; 2000; Cummings & Whittle 2003;
Edmonds 1999; Evans et al. 1999), and monuments have been considered in
their marine context (e.g. Phillips 2003). It is clear that a detailed analysis of
the significance of Mesolithic middens within their contemporary landscape
could make a substantial contribution to our understanding of wider
processes. However, discussion of Mesolithic middens as monuments has
been undertaken without this detailed understanding.
Recent dating programmes also cast doubt on the funerary associations
of many Scottish middens in the Mesolithic. Burials from An Corran include
Iron Age individuals (Saville & Hallen 1994) and those from Rasochoille
Cave and Carding Mill Bay are often assumed to be Neolithic due to a
terrestrial diet and dates in the earlymid fourth millennium cal BC (e.g.
Schulting & Richards 2002a). It is important to be critical here. Most dates
for human bone from Scottish and Irish shell middens fall in the late fifth and
early fourth millennia cal BC, and it is not clear that there is any meaningful
distinction between Mesolithic and Neolithic in this context. But a simple
equation between middens and funerary associations for hunting and gathering communities in general stretches our data too far, not least because the
absence of organic preservation on the majority of sites means that we cannot be sure how other places compared to middens. Fragments of human
bodies appear frequently on Mesolithic sites in Europe, and occasionally in
Britain (Conneller 2006, with references).
Further problems exist with dominant models of funerary process on the
Oronsay middens that stress excarnation (e.g. Mellars 1987; Pollard 1996).
Meiklejohn and colleagues (2005) argue that the human remains from Cnoc
Coig are the result of two phenomena: first, a general European trend for
stray human bones to appear on Mesolithic sites with faunal preservation (a
random taphonomic phenomenon (Meiklejohn et al. 2005, 102); and second,
a deliberate pattern of deposition involving the bones of the hands and feet.
Most importantly, accounts of funerary practices there must include discussion of the placement of human finger bones on top of a seal flipper.
Conneller (2006, 161) argues that connections can be drawn between the representation of animal and human body parts throughout the middens and
that these lines of evidence suggest that parallels were being drawn between
the human body and analogous animal body parts. Cnoc Coig was therefore
a place where equivalencies between humans and other agents (animals) were

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established and where the specifics of these relationships can be analysed.


Arguably, our focus on monuments and excarnation, concepts familiar to us
from the archaeology of the Neolithic, has distracted us from these aspects
of our data.
A focus on monumentality has also deflected us from considering the
processes by which middens came into being: the presence of hearths and
working areas on top of uncomfortable and presumably smelly dumps of
shell and other refuse. Minimally, middens are composed of food waste, and
we have not accounted for the cultural significance of food (Milner 2006).
Middens are a deliberate creation, embodying repeated depositional acts
(Warren 2001). At times, it was important to undertake tasks amongst this
material. This provides links to other places in the Mesolithic landscape,
albeit ones that often fall into a different archaeological class of site: that is,
at sites that are not shell middens. At Newton, Islay (McCullagh 1991), for
example, during the seventh millennium cal BC a building with a pitched roof
and sunken floor appears to have been intermittently filled with midden
material, with fires and occupation on these surfaces. The excavators argue
that it is difficult to imagine how such deposits accumulated within an active
inhabitation, yet the fragile nature of the scorched gravel argues against redeposition of these contexts. It may be that occupation was intermittent
between phases within which the sunken floor area received midden material
(McCullagh 1991, 27). This suggests complex and intimately linked episodes
of deposition and activity. Broad parallels also exist at Kinloch (WickhamJones 1990) and Staosnaig (Mithen 2000). Many of the large post-defined
buildings (East Barns or Howick, for example) that have recently been discovered in northern Britain are also filled with midden deposits (Gooder
2003; Waddington et al. 2003). These patterns provide links between middens
and other sites. The processes involved in depositing culturally altered material and lighting fires within these accumulations appear to have been much
more significant to the Mesolithic occupants of Scotland than we have often
allowed.
These discussions imply that a rather different series of questions can be
developed for Mesolithic middens. It is not enough to call them monumental,
with all the echoes of Neolithic archaeology which this carries. Middens,
understood in the context of other Mesolithic sites, have the potential to tell
us how people understood the world and their place within it and how this
in turn guided their actions. This kind of context is vital to considering the
transition to the Neolithic.

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ANALYTICAL SCALE
My second myth concerns the analytical scale of narratives about the
Mesolithic and the transition to the Neolithic. Most models are constructed
at very broad spatio-temporal scales. Commonly, and teleologically, the
Mesolithic is defined as a period of time when hunter-gatherers were in transition to farming; or by increasing socio-economic complexity and complex
hunter-gatherers; or by increasing sedentism; or by population growth; or by
adaptation to woodlands, or the coasts. Many of these processes are interconnected, and many are seen as relevant to the end of the Mesolithic; in particular the link between maritime adaptations, sedentism and complexity is
often seen as pre-adapting hunter-gatherers to agriculture. The development
of these models within Mesolithic archaeology is picked up in discussions of
the nature of the transition and becomes embedded within them. As such,
they might be described as myths.
I say myths, because there is reason to question many of these generalisations. In Britain, for example, Penny Spikins (1999; 2000) has demonstrated
that traditional upland/lowland models of mobility are flawed. Even concepts such as sedentism are the subject of heated debate, with suggestions
that classic Erteblle sites may not have seen permanent occupation (Milner
2003; 2005a; 2005b; Rowley-Conwy 1998). Given the importance of notions
of sedentism in the Erteblle culture to constructions of Mesolithic complexity (Price 1985; Price & Brown 1985; Rowley-Conwy 1983; also Arnold
1996; but see Gould 1985; Warren 2005) and the transition, such reappraisals
are of great significance. Put simply, we know much less about the Mesolithic
than we think we do. The argument that the Mesolithic sees increased
exploitation of maritime resources over time, for instance, has often been
mobilised in recent discussions. Notwithstanding concerns about sample
sizes and what we can infer from isotopes (Barbarena & Borrero 2005;
Hedges 2004; Lden et al. 2004; Milner et al. 2004), such models misrepresent
the Mesolithic. Nicky Milner (2006), for example, argues that there is
much greater variation in the British and Irish record than most discussions
allow.
There is also significant spatial variation at differing scales, with arguments, for example, that the late Mesolithic of the Southern Netherlands
(Verhart 2000) is characterised by high levels of mobility, and minimal evidence for complexity. Likewise, recent reviews stress that the Mesolithic in
Britain and Ireland is not an impoverished rendition of continental themes,
but demonstrates a range of distinct expressions of ways of living as a
hunter-gatherer at this time (Conneller & Warren 2006). This variation is lost
in recent discussion, which may stress a multitude of ways of being Neolithic,
but rarely considers hunter-gatherer diversity in any detail.

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At times it seems that the success of models in some parts of Europe


becomes the template for how the transition in other areas should be
explained. The transition in Southern Scandinavia and the Baltic, for example, is understood in considerable detail. But it is not clear that this provides
a meaningful way of interpreting the transition in other areas. Again, the
issue here is not that preservation conditions in Britain and Ireland militate
against recovering evidence demonstrating social processes similar to those
understood in Scandinavia; there is no compelling reason that the evidence
should be of this kind. I have suggested elsewhere that the success of huntergatherers in the Baltic in negotiating the transition whilst retaining aspects of
hunter-gatherer social organisation may be distinctive (Warren 2004).
The stress on the large scale is most problematic in the distinction established between our archaeological accounts and the scales at which people in
the past lived their lives (e.g. Whittle 2003). This is highlighted by the increasing resolution of archaeological data. Skeletal analyses, for example, present
striking pictures of diet, migration and local complexity (e.g. Bentley et al.
2003; Budd et al. 2004; Price et al. 2001; Richards 2003; Richards & Hedges
1999a; 1999b; Richards & Mellars 1998; Schulting & Richards 2000; 2002a;
2002b; 2003; Wysocki & Whittle 2000; and contributions to this volume). But
all too often our accounts are based on normalised data at crude temporal
resolution: such as the economy of a shell midden that was occupied for a
thousand years (see Jones 2002). For example, recent isotopic analysis of
human bone from the late Mesolithic site of Ferriters Cove suggests a diet
heavily dominated by marine protein (Woodman 2004), whilst the faunal
assemblage from the site had included substantial quantities of terrestrial
mammals (Woodman et al. 1999): mainly boar, but including domesticated
cattle. It should not surprise us that sometimes the data from individuals
bears no clear comparison to the normalised picture. But it does, however,
raise a substantial archaeological challenge, especially given the key role
which considerations of site function, mainly based on aggregated analyses
of faunal remains, have played in the construction of models of Mesolithic
settlement.
Increased radiocarbon dates and statistical sensitivity allow exceptional
refinement of the chronologies of the transitional period, suggesting a framework in which we can try to understand the scales of the processes involved
for communities. But all too often issues of scale and process remain frustratingly abstract. Yet a range of work implies that scale is vital to our
attempts to make sense of the transition. Through the example of Petsos
Field, Kathy Fewster (2001) has demonstrated that we cannot think about
the transition without thinking about individual decisions: to farm or not to
farm, to move or to stay, what to build, and where to build it. Others have
stressed that the transition involves changes in both directions, and is not sta-

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ble (e.g. Armit & Finlayson 1992; 1996). For all of our stress on personhood
in the Neolithic (Jones 2005 with references), the constituting of identity in
the Mesolithic and the role of these people in structuring the transition
remain muted (although for an exception see Fowler 2004). Accounts of
change without agents are limited; reducing historical process to the playing
out of structures confuses the resolution of our evidence with the processes
existing in the past (Sahlins 2004). If the transition requires an understanding of agency then it necessitates a critical appreciation of the contexts within
which historical agency became possible. At present this is rarely explored in
our discussions.

MYTH IN THE EARLY MESOLITHIC


My third myth focuses on Mesolithic worldviews, and asks what role they
played in structuring the production, use and deposition of material culture.
Of course, interest in how Mesolithic people understood their landscape is
not new. In Britain and Ireland there have been increasing numbers of
accounts that highlight the importance of symbolism (e.g. contributions to
Conneller 2000; Fewster & Zvelebil 2001; Larsson et al. 2003; Young 2000).
Arguably these accounts are often insufficiently radical.
Recent years have seen yet another reappraisal of Star Carr, stressing
both the distinctive character of the site in its immediate landscape context,
and a broad suite of European parallels (Chatterton 2003; Conneller 2003;
2004; Conneller & Schadla-Hall 2003). Work in the Vale of Pickering has
demonstrated that Star Carr is a very unusual location. Shale and amber
beads, axes, barbed points and the famous antler frontlets are all either rare
or absent elsewhere in the Vale (Conneller & Schadla-Hall 2003, 102).
Chatterton (2003) has argued that the association of barbed points, antler
frontlets and beads is common across Europe, and sometimes appears to have
involved deliberate deposition into water. Conneller (2004) has argued that
the deposits at Star Carr suggest an interest in negotiating human-animal
relationships, especially through an interest in the heads of animals and
humans suggested by many artefacts. This is not to suggest that Star Carr is
a ritual site, simply that some aspects of activity there involved structured
deposition of particular kinds of material. But it implies that we cannot
understand Star Carr without considering the role of myth in the Mesolithic.
Turning our attention to the barbed points recovered on site allows further extension of the argument, In brief, 191 barbed points were recovered
from Star Carr of which 187 were manufactured on red deer antler with no
evidence for the use of roe deer or elk antler (Fig. 2). Although the function
of the barbed points is not known, antler is a resilient material, ideally suited

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Figure 2.

Barbed points from Star Carr (after Clark 1954).

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for uses involving impacts. But the selection of red deer is harder to justify on
practical grounds, and appears to be a deliberate choice. Indeed, at a
European level, bone barbed points are common (Blankholm 1994, 30, table
2). Conneller has argued that the barbed points can only be understood in
connection with the antler frontlets, noting that the tines may have been
removed from these not simply to make the frontlets lighter but in order to
provide raw material for barbed points. Therefore the life histories of the
frontlets were intimately linked with the technical actions of barbed point
manufacture (Conneller 2003, 83). Production of barbed points involved the
removal of a splinter blank and the finishing of this blank through sawing
and abrasion. Whilst there is plentiful evidence at Star Carr for the former,
and for the deposition of used and broken points, it appears that finishing of
blanks took place elsewhere. The production and deposition of barbed
points, therefore, are complex; and the complexity of this technical procedure
seems to emphasise the process by which the points were brought into being.
Gell has argued that the enchantment of technology is the power that
technical processes have of casting a spell over us (Gell 1992, 44), through
the ability of an agent to control the powers and forces of production. Often,
Gell argues, the power of objects is founded upon their becoming rather
than their being (Gell 1992, 46) and thus emphasis is placed on the process
of production. This model fits well with the complex history of barbed point
manufacture and deposition witnessed at Star Carr, where the enchantment
of technology appears to be connected to human-animal relationships, and
more specifically those between humans and red deer. Thus we cannot understand the production, use and deposition of barbed points in the early
Mesolithic landscape without considering the role of myth.
We can go further. The broadly contemporary sites found in the Kennet
valley, Berkshire, derive from the repeated occupation of a lowland riverine
environment over the long term. At the time, the Kennet was a braided
stream with an open floodplain overlooked by drier, sometimes wooded,
bluffs. The bluffs were a focus for occupation, but some activity appears to
have taken place on the floodplain (Ellis et al. 2003; Healey et al. 1992). Most
importantly, Thatcham appears to have been a location where some potentially unusual deposits were made, including human bone (Wymer 1962). At
Thatcham II an inverted red deer skullcap and antlers were found, standing
approximately 30 cm above the Mesolithic land surface, with a battered antler
beam propped against it, and knapping waste to one side (Fig. 3; Wymer
1962, 338). The skull appears to have been used as a prop in the manufacture
of stone tools through soft-hammer percussion. It is especially striking that
red deer skulls are generally rare at Thatcham (Wymer 1962); this was not
simply a convenient surface.

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Figure 3. Thatcham II, Berkshire. Inverted red deer antlers overlain with antler beam, tines
removed, associated with flint waste flakes and interpreted as a knapping station. Wymer 1962,
pl. XLVIII, reproduced with the kind permission of the Prehistoric Society.

This remarkable discovery has received surprisingly little attention. The


clear association between stone working and the head of an animal finds resonance with Connellers discussion of Star Carr. Following on from the argument that the enchantment of barbed point technology in early Holocene
North Yorkshire was achieved through association with red deer, the evidence from Thatcham suggests that, in some circumstances at least, early
Mesolithic stone-working was enchanted through similar processes. Myth
concretely structured the ways in which at least some stone tools were produced in the Mesolithic. Consequently, we cannot understand the appearance
of stone tools in the archaeological record without considering myth.
These arguments suggest strongly that myth played a very significant role
in Mesolithic life. This is, of course, no surprise. What will be surprising, to
some, is that the archaeological record allows us to examine this. That we have
not done so is simply a product of the kinds of questions we choose to ask.
It is important to think more radically about the implications of these
Mesolithic myths. In the examples above I have demonstrated that complex
symbolic associations between humans and animals played a role in shaping
the creation, use and deposition of archaeological material. And yet most
general models for interpreting what Mesolithic sites mean in terms of

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broader systems of settlement or social relations have paid little attention to


such issues. It is worth stating explicitly that, in far too many cases, we simply do not understand how the archaeological record came into being. This
is not an issue of taphonomy, although clearly this has a role. More crucially
we do not understand the cultural decisions lying behind the deposition of
material. As a consequence our generalising models are built on the weakest
of foundations and require complete reappraisal. Furthermore, it is clear that
a reinterpretation of the Mesolithic that adds a symbolic gloss to existing
models of economic or social complexity also lies on this poor foundation.
A new archaeology of the Mesolithic is required, from the base up.

CONCLUSIONS
I have argued that our understandings of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
have often failed to pay sufficient attention to Mesolithic archaeology. Recent
years have seen interest in the period, but at times, this has not engaged sufficiently with the characteristics of Mesolithic materials. We fail to understand the role of agency in the transition, not least because our approaches
cannot inform us of the conditions within which agency developed. New
trends in Mesolithic archaeology in Britain and Ireland are identifying new
questions and approaches which offer great potential in addressing such
issues. Importantly, one result of this is a distinctive series of interpretations
that do not sit easily with current models of the transition. A radically new
archaeology of the Mesolithic is beginning to fall into place. This in turn
demands a different view of the transition.
For example, and very simply, my three disparate myths of the Mesolithic
suggest that in the fifth millennium cal BC in the west of Scotland the use and
deposition of material culture were structured, in part, through specific
understandings of human/animal relationships, and included concern about
deposition of midden material. In particular, the striking association
between humans relying heavily on marine foods and a seal at Cnoc Coig suggests powerful equivalencies being drawn between the human and animal. At
the least, this suggests that the new relationships to animals involved in the
changes of the transition, perhaps especially in terms of cattle, most likely
presented a fundamental challenge to existing understandings of the world. I
have argued elsewhere that one way of understanding the presence of
Neolithic bones and material culture on Mesolithic shell middens in the
west of Scotland, is that these places played a role in occasional rites of passage that allowed people in transition to a new way of life to hark back to
older identities (Warren 2004); middens provided a way of negotiating the
transition.

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All too often in considering the transition to agriculture in north-west


Europe our thinking and writing fall into binary oppositions: Mesolithic or
Neolithic; hunter-gatherer or farmer; immigrant or indigenous; ritual or settlement. These categories have, for many years, provided convenient shorthands, that have allowed us to approximate to the processes existing in the
past. More recently, our analytical demands have become greater, and full of
confidence. We ask, and hope to be able to answer, questions about how individual lives were woven into and gave form to large-scale events and
processes. In a recent review, Peter Rowley-Conwy argued that in essence the
Mesolithic has been treated as a way of life and livelihood, the Neolithic as a
way of death and ritual. We must, however, accept that the Neolithic too had
a domestic way of life and that we have many data casting light upon it
(Rowley-Conwy 2004, 99). This slightly divisive characterisation misses the
point in two ways. First, it is not simply that we must look at life and livelihood in the Neolithic, but also at ritual in the Mesolithic. Secondly, and more
importantly, it is clear that we must understand how life and belief were
inseparable in both periods. It is only when we understand what life was like
in the fifth millennium cal BC that we have any hope of understanding what
we might mean by going over.
Note. I would like to thank Alasdair Whittle and Vicki Cummings for their work
in organising such a successful and interesting conference. I am grateful to Gabriel
Cooney for comments on a previous draft of this paper. Thanks also to the
Prehistoric Society for permission to reproduce Fig. 3. Any errors or inconsistencies
are solely my responsibility.

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The Neolithic sensory revolution:


monumentality and the experience
of landscape
CHRIS TILLEY

RECENT RESEARCH HAS STRESSED the fundamental role of monuments and


material culture as objectifications of new modes of thought and the changing character of social relations during the Neolithic. The Mesolithic/
Neolithic transition in Europe has been argued to have been primarily
neither technological or economic in character but a matter of changing ideologies or modes of thought mediated through material forms (e.g. Hodder
1990; J. Thomas 1991; 1996; Tilley 1996a). Thus if we are to talk about
causality the Neolithic was a matter of mind, a triumph of the will, a new set
of ideas, over matter and circumstances, a new way of organising social
labour and expressing relationships to others through monument construction, the symbolism of pottery and polished stone axes, and herding domesticates and tilling the soil. In north-west Europe the debate has focused on
whether a Neolithic way of life was adopted as a kind of package by final
Mesolithic hunter-fisher-gatherers, inspired from the outside through the
expansion of farming populations across Europe, or whether the adoption of
Neolithic elements was a highly localised, selective, differential and indigenous development, which is my own view (Tilley 1996a). Looked at on a
broad scale there were multiple transitions taking place at different times and
in different places, so much so that the very conceptual veracity of the terms
Mesolithic and Neolithic may inevitably be questioned. What we term the
Mesolithic and the Neolithic had hundreds, if not thousands, of different
manifestations. Are there any common themes?
If Neolithic communities did feel and think differently about the world
from those in the Mesolithic what caused the change? In this paper I want to
argue that a fundamental part of a new Neolithic mode of thought was
directly stimulated by fresh forms of sensory experience of place and landscape. If there was a Neolithic revolution, it entailed a sensory revolution in
which through altering the earth people transformed their own experiential

Proceedings of the British Academy 144, 329345, The British Academy 2007.

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Chris Tilley

330

conditions of existence in a fundamental way. A new sensory experience of


place and landscape and new modes of dwelling led directly to new ways of
thinking and new sets of cosmological ideas explaining the place of people in
the world.

FOREST CLEARANCE AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE


A fundamental feature of the Neolithic everywhere is woodland clearance,
whether this was to construct monuments, clear the land for settlements
and fields, provide grazing for animals, quarry flint or stone, or obtain
other raw materials. The character and extent of the forests that clothed
much of lowland Europe at the time of the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition
have been the subject of much debate. Rackham (1986) argues that the forest was virtually continuous, dark and dense, while others such as Moore
(2003) suggest that this is an exaggeration, with much local variation in the
character of woodland stands from those that were more dense and clothed
to those that were more light and open with glades and clear patches in
association with the varying character of soils, rocky areas, streams and
marshes, and so on. Woodland clearance, like most Neolithic traits, was
itself nothing new but was a tradition going back to the late Mesolithic
where areas might be burnt off and opened out to manipulate the forest
flora and fauna and stimulate browse for ungulates (Mellars 1976; Moore
1996; 2003; Simmons 1975). The primary difference appears to be the extent
of this woodland clearancefar greater and more extensive during the
Neolithicand its far more permanent character with many of these
woodland clearances being variously maintained by grazing domesticates,
the presence of permanent settlements, and marked by monuments.
Irrespective of whether or not the forested world of the Mesolithic was uniformly dense and dark, or more open and light, woodland clearance on a
fairly massive scale in some areas during the early Neolithic irrevocably
altered the environment and with this event new conditions for sensory
perception were created.
Let us try to imagine, for a moment, the great climax deciduous forests in
which the final Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities of north-west
Europe lived: a network of tracks, of small clearings, fire-burnt areas, streams
and river valleys, lakes and marshy areas, deep layers of leaf mould in places,
different hues of green, fallen trees and tree holes, strong contrasts between
shadows and bright shafts of sunlight penetrating the denser areas of the forest canopy, and huge, sometimes monumental, trees of individual character
that might be named and significant in themselves. Even if this was a landscape in which open areas existed, it was still one in which people were pri-

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331

marily forest dwellers: people who lived with trees and understood them, the
manner in which they grew and the resources which they could provide. The
collective use and management of trees was probably central to sustenance,
cosmologies, and the ordering of social life. Activities such as fire clearance
thus carried a heavy symbolic load during the Mesolithic and was not just
simply a matter of economic manipulation (Brown 2000; Edmonds 1999;
Moore 2003). For the late Mesolithic forest people, social relations were
structured in relation to the complex woodland mosaic itself, connecting
together social groups, game, the individual trees, grassland and clearances.
The forest constituted an entire field of meaning wrapped around old trees,
fallen trees and tree holes, clearings, regenerating areas, trees connected in
memory with specific events, trees providing shelter, firewood, a safe place to
sleep and a sense of home. Trees were intimately connected with the passage
of the seasons, the reckoning of time and human lifecycles: an extension of
the lives of those who lived among them. Some forest areas would be drier
and lighter and more open, others wetter and more impenetrable. A great
cosmic web would probably link persons and animals, trees and water, fish
and birds (for ethnographic examples see Garner 2004; Jones & Cloke 2002;
Rival 1998). These people were of and in the forest in just the same sense as
fish are immersed in the sea.
For the most part living in such a forest world meant that vision would be
subdued and limited to tens of metres or so, varying somewhat with the seasons (Fig. 1). Even being able to see as far as 50 m would, for the most part,
have been a long distance. The only long vistas that might be obtained would
be either from forest edge areas or from the tops of high hills across the forest canopy to the tops of other high hills, or, alternatively, looking out from
the coast across the sea or from the shore across inland lake and marsh areas,
or paddling along straight stretches of river and stream channels. It is precisely in such locations that we tend to find later Mesolithic settlements
throughout lowland north-west Europe: on the tops of high hills, on coastal
cliffs and by lakes and rivers.
For the most part, however, while moving through the forest, vision was
drastically curtailed. To the Mesolithic hunter-fisher-gatherers, sound and
smell and touch would have been as important, if not more important, than
vision in obtaining food and orientating themselves and symbolically relating
to the forest world. To hunt and gather food in such a world required the
fusion of all the senses, a co-mingling of the audible, the tangible, the visual,
and the olfactory. The experience of the world was thus in a primary sense
synaesthethic, for ones very survival might depend as much on sound or
smell as sight. Being able to hear a waterfall in the distance, or bird song, or
smell the presence of an animal would be fundamental. In many ways this
could be characterised as an intimate world in that most of that which could

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Chris Tilley

Figure 1. A Mesolithic pathway through the forest.

be experienced always had to be, quite literally, close to hand. The forest
world was a place of sensuous embodied intimacy.
If we consider the human senses in terms of their perceptive possibilities,
vision provides the greatest spatial reach; one can see much further than one
can hear or smell. To be able to touch requires things to be in reach of the

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333

body. What might be heard or smelt might often not be visible. To the
Mesolithic hunter an animal that could be heard or smelt would not be hidden. This contrasts with our modernist sensibilities in which a hidden thing
is almost always associated with that which we cannot see. In the forest world
sight could rarely be a distanciated gaze. The sense of vision would be associated with things that were close to the body and in many cases needed to be
closer than things that could be heard such as the sound of water, of bird
song, of people chopping wood.
The perceptive possibilities for experiencing the forest would have had
important consequences for cognition, for the way people dwelled and thought
about their world and their place in it. The forest would have been a smellscape,
a soundscape, a visionscape, and the tactile qualities of the vegetation would be
fundamental. Landscapes formed from sounds and smells and touch would
always have a sense of dynamism and movement: transitory and always changing but linked to memory and meaning. Only a more distanciated spatial gaze
from a hilltop across the trees might momentarily freeze such a world below
and make it appear static.
In a forested landscape the forms and shapes of hills, ridges, spurs,
escarpment edges, valleys and coombes can hardly be perceived (Figs 2 and
3). In southern England, for example, the presence of steep escarpment edges
in the chalk downlands so visually powerful today in the landscape would be
lost (Fig. 4). In the upland areas of south-west England such as Dartmoor or

Figure 2.
land.

A deforested area of the East Hill ridge, east Devon revealing the contours of the

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Chris Tilley

Figure 3. Forested area of the East Hill ridge, east Devon. Note how the form of the ridge is
completely obscured.

Figure 4. View across the northern edge of the chalk downlands of Cranborne Chase, southwest Wiltshire. Note the contrast between the form of the spur without trees in the foreground
and the tree-clothed escarpment edge in the background concealing its form.

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Bodmin Moor only the tips of the granite tors would be exposed amongst the
trees, invisible from below. Trees camouflage and reduce the sense of scale
and visual character of the landscape. From a boat one might see the shape
of a lake, but in the forest there would be no such equivalent experience of
the contours of the land; the shapes of the hills could not be seen.
Neolithic forest clearance on a large scale, in some areas, such as on the
chalk downlands of southern England (Allen 1995; 1997) permitted vision to
become, for the first time, the dominant sense in terms of spatial orientation.
The Neolithic ushered in a culture in which the visual became more and more
important in relation to the perception of the environment and, in particular,
the contours and forms of the land. This is not to suggest that Neolithic sensory experience was not equally synaesthetic at the hearth and in the home,
but that visual experience became dominant over all the other senses for the
first time in relation to what we can call landscape or the wider environment.
Let us consider this further.
Clearing the land of trees allowed its profiles and contours to be revealed
and in the process permitted a new visual perception of landscape which was
simply not possible before. Thus forest clearance, whatever the intention, had
the unintended effect of creating a new perceptual experience of the world. It
permitted for the first time the spatial fixity of the distanciated gaze over
greater and greater areas.
A characteristic feature of the early Neolithic in southern England is the
construction of monumental enclosures on hilltops: causewayed enclosures
such as Windmill Hill (Smith 1965; Whittle et al. 1999), Robin Hoods Ball
(N. Thomas 1964), Hambledon Hill (Mercer 1980), Hembury (Liddell 1936;
Todd 1984), Maiden Castle (Sharples 1991; and see Edmonds 1993 for a general review) and stone enclosures such as Carn Brea and Helman Tor (Mercer
1981; 1986) in the far south-west. The causewayed enclosures required the
hilltops both to be cleared of trees and extensive digging into the earth to
form the banks and ditches. The stone hilltop enclosures of the south-west
needed both tree clearance and the construction of encircling stone walls. In
both cases the processes involved were dual: removing the mantle of surface
vegetation and altering the surface of the earth through moving and accumulating materials. From the cleared high hill tops with enclosures it was
often possible to see other such enclosures. It was not just the enclosure
banks or walls that became visible in the surrounding landscape but the form,
contours and topographic character of the hills on which they were constructed. Building these enclosures thus revealed not just the monument itself
but also the form of the hills and landscape in which they were constructed.
The experience of the hill, cleared of trees, was as fundamental as the experience of the monument itself. Each complemented the other in a dialectical
relationship. Indeed, it can be suggested that hill and monument were each

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other in a relationship of mimesis. The experience of the monument was


simultaneously the experience of the hill and vice versa. For example,
Hembury (Fig. 5) was revealed as a dramatic spur of the Blackdown Hills in
Devon, Hambledon Hill was revealed as a clover-shaped hill island separated
from chalk downlands of Cranborne Chase to the east, Maiden Castle, in
south Dorset, as another hill island and so on.
A visual widening and opening out of the world thus went in tandem with
monument construction during the early Neolithic. We know that many early
Neolithic long barrows were constructed on grassland that had already been
cleared of trees before these monuments were constructed (e.g. Allen 1995,
56; J. Thomas 1991; Whittle 1993). Many, situated high up on ridge tops, were
meant to be seen from considerable distances away. That they should be intervisible was an important factor in their location and cannot purely be a
matter of coincidence (Griffith 2001; Tilley 1994). During the Mesolithic the
same hill tops were undoubtedly significant. Rather predictably flint scatters
are frequently found in these locations but monuments were not constructed
and forest clearance still remained limited or insignificant.
During the Mesolithic the landscape and its elementshuge trees, rocks,
waterfalls, caves, lakes and valleyswere in effect the monument. By con-

Figure 5. Hembury Hill, east Devon seen from the south. Trees now obscure the upper slopes
of the end of a dramatic spur on which the early Neolithic causewayed enclosure is situated.

Copyright British Academy 2007 all rights reserved

THE NEOLITHIC SENSORY REVOLUTION

337

trast, during the Neolithic the monument became part and parcel of the visible landscape and this could only happen in a culture in which visual perception had become extended and widened. For example early Neolithic long
barrows and cursus monuments are often deliberately built in places so as to
appear to be skylined from other barrows on Salisbury Plain and elsewhere
(Tilley, fieldwork in progress). This would make no sense if such monuments
were constructed in small and limited woodland clearances. During the
earlier Neolithic the landscape itself, now at least partially cleared of trees, was
no longer enough. It had to be permanently altered and marked by the presence of monuments. This was accomplished in two main ways. By mimetic
relationships the monument was designed to draw out and emphasise fundamental features of the contours of the land which had been revealed through
forest clearance. This is why, for example, long barrows characteristically run
along, rather than across, the spines of ridges, and megalithic tombs visually
reference and/or mimic the forms of nearby rock outcrops (Tilley 1994;
1996b). Pre-existing and enduring templates of experience are thus incorporated into the temporal event of monument construction which through time
becomes part of a durable, unchanging and timeless world. By marking relationships the monument, rather than directly referencing pre-existing features
of significance in the landscape, creates its own place as a symbolic reference
point. This appears to be the case for many of the smalland significantly
not very monumental or largelong barrows in southern England which frequently occur in landscapes which are not dramatically defined by striking
hills, ridges, rock outcrops, and so on. These monuments created a new set of
cultural reference points in the landscape adding to what was already there.
Monuments became the new vivid symbols of cosmic order and the landscape became structured and perceived in relation to them: cultural representations of order.
Whether the monument bears a mimetic or a marking relationship to landscape, its construction always involves the creation of a new sense of place that
later may provide a reference point for the construction of others. So in some
cases the primary relationship of the monument will be to pre-existing landscape features. In others the primary relationship will be to other pre-existing
monuments. Overall in the Neolithic there appears to be no grand scheme or
set of invariant principles at work. The significance of individual monuments
was localised, improvised and site-specific.
The act of constructing monuments was, however, clearly an attempt to
integrate and incorporate the world and to transcend the fragility of corporeal existence into an