Morten Ramstad, Tony Axelsson, and Anders Strinnholm
During the transition to the fourth millennium, large quantities of amber start being distributed over the landscapes of northern and north-eastern Europe. By exploring the handling and use of amber prior to and after the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, this chapter traces the transformation and cultural expressions connected to amber to gain insight into changing concepts of material culture, personhood, and materiality, transcending the evolutionary frameworks which dominate this period.
Arkadiusz Marciniak and Joshua Pollard
The onset of the Neolithic brought with it the establishment of new relations between people and animals, principally, through domestication, a shift to acquisition and control of livestock. It enabled the management of animals’ reproductive and productive potential, including the exploitation of animals for their secondary products and applications (such as milk, wool and textile, and as providers of traction power or transport). Their management brought about new rhythms of life, new roles and responsibilities, new gender roles and patterns of inheritance, and new potentials for sociality and sharing. However, the presence of animals also contributed to increased social tension.
The Atlantic has long held a key position within the broader question of the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in Europe. Archaeological evidence suggests significant variability between the different geographical areas of the Atlantic coast both in the visibility of the Mesolithic and its nature. Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Britain and Ireland, and Iberia are considered. Burials, monumentality, settlements, exchange practices, and subsistence economy vary widely, thus common patterns are difficult to discern. The background to transition to the Neolithic is thus highly variable, and it is not surprising that the Early Neolithic in these regions can also be rather different. It is also becoming apparent that a lack of chronological control over the data has led to inclusion in the discussion of sites which do not belong to the earliest Neolithic. Their exclusion lessens the apparent contrasts between the periods, allowing a new picture to emerge.
The Bandkeramik Longhouses: A Material, Social, and Mental Metaphor for Small-Scale Sedentary Societies
This chapter draws on the author’s archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork in Europe and New Guinea. It explores the role of houses among the first agriculturalists in Europe. The house provides the material framework within which corporate social groupings exist, and is a fundamental aspect of their identity. The basic uniformity of LBK buildings informs us of the mental templates of their creators, and can be explained with reference to their egalitarian social organization, which would have mitigated the risk of initial colonization, and which the house helped to maintain. There are also variations, discussed with reference to the modular layout of houses—their front, central and back components, in particular. A global hypothesis is proposed: the more ‘very variable’ components an architectural tradition has, the more rapidly the culture can transform itself. Inversely, the more ‘uniform’ components there are, the longer the principles and rules of the society may last.
This chapter provides an overview of Iron Age societies in the eastern Carpathian basin and lower Danube region, from the Great Hungarian Plain to the Black Sea, drawing on funerary and settlement data from the different regions. The first iron objects occur in Transylvania in the late Bronze Age, but ironworking only developed fully in the early first millennium BC. Throughout the period, the area was open to contacts with central Europe, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. The so-called Scythian and Celtic horizons in the Carpathian basin were both associated with newcomers, although the nature and extent of population movement remains open to discussion. In the north Balkans, a series of opulent graves and fortified settlements attests to the development of an aristocracy with strong ties to the Greek world, followed in the late Iron Age by the rise of the impressive but short-lived Dacian kingdom.
The Neolithic enclosures of central Europe have been controversially discussed for decades. Generally a combination of ditches, banks and/or palisades, the sizes and potential uses of these constructions vary regionally and over time. This chapter traces the development from the early Neolithic enclosures, generally associated with settlements, to the more formal Middle Neolithic roundels and the monumental enclosures of the Michelsberg and contemporary cultures, with their varied sizes and structural complexity. An overview of the architectural elements of different kinds of enclosure leads to a detailed interpretation of one site, Künzing-Unternberg, to illustrate the biographies and varied social contexts of these sites. This also forms the basis for attempts at recovering ‘natural categories’ of classifying enclosures in the Neolithic, before briefly discussing the range of possible functions.
The early Iron Age in the Aegean has traditionally been perceived as a period of decline, in contrast to the splendour of the palatial societies of the later Bronze Age, and concomitantly is often presented as a ‘Dark Age’—a time of regionalism and isolation. Recent investigations across the Mediterranean region are, however, revealing a different and far more complex picture. A considerable amount of human and material interaction occurred between eastern and western Mediterranean societies in the period 1100–500 BC, and people, objects, and ideas were not travelling only in one direction. Links between so-called ‘Mediterranean’ and other European societies are also undergoing substantial re-evaluation. Adopting a regional approach, this chapter explores the developments which transformed Iron Age societies in the Aegean and central Mediterranean, and also examines how regional trajectories interlinked and converged through cross-cultural encounters, resulting in substantial material (including technological), social and political innovations.
Vicki Cummings and Oliver J. T. Harris
The marble sculptures of the Cycladic early bronze age (c.3200–2000 bc) are reviewed, with the schematic and the more detailed Plastiras and Louros forms of the Grotta-Pelos culture and the canonical folded-arm type of the Keros-Syros culture (some more than 1 m in height) with its five well-defined varieties (Kapsala, Spedos, Dokathismata, Chalandriani, and Koumasa), and the rare musicians and seated figurines. The possibility of specific workshop styles or subvarieties is discussed (and preferred to the hypothesis of potentially identifiable ‘master’ sculptors). The use of the sculptures in houses, in graves, and in the special deposits at the sanctuary at Keros is discussed. The aesthetic esteem in which the sculptures have been held by collectors since the early twentieth century has given rise to looting, the destruction of archaeological context, and the illicit traffic in Cycladic antiquities.
Stefan Burmeister and Michael Gebühr
This chapter looks at the demography of European populations from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the Migration period, with a focus on central, northern, and north-western Europe. As well as cemetery data, it draws on contemporary textual and epigraphic sources, along with simulations. Given the diversity of societies in this large area and time span, regional variations are only to be expected. Palaeodemographic procedures and models are outlined, as well as the inherent problems of reconstructing prehistoric population profiles and densities. Age at death provides the starting point for reconstructing demographic composition, the life cycles of individuals generating mortality curves, which form the basis for calculating the age composition of the living community (expressed as a life pyramid). Divergences from the standard mortality curve or expected life pyramid, and variations between regions, require explanation, in terms of archaeological or cultural phenomena, migration being an obvious example.
This chapter focuses on Neolithic pits in Britain. Having outlined the variable character of evidence across space and time, it looks at how these sometimes enigmatic features have been interpreted over the years. The chapter also discusses the prominent role that the concept of ‘structured deposition’ has played in more recent accounts. It is suggested that, whilst undeniably valuable, this idea has in some ways curtailed other potential interpretations. The chapter ends by looking at some of the other avenues of investigation which can be explored, including what pits can tell us about the temporality of Neolithic occupation.
Sedentary life and the nucleated agglomeration of houses into villages are considered to be some of the most significant aspects of Neolithic culture. During the several millennia that the Neolithic period lasted in the Mediterranean, domestic space took many forms and was used in many different ways, always, however, within the sphere of a heterarchical organization and with communities undertaking more or less the same range of activities. The aim of the chapter is to present an overview of the available evidence in the Neolithic Mediterranean and discuss current and emerging research agendas for the study of domestic space.
Detlef Gronenborn and Pavel Dolukhanov†
The ‘Neolithic’ in central and eastern Europe is conceptionalized as a mid-Holocene broad transitional period during which a number of major changes occurred, namely sedentism, the introduction of farming and animal rearing as well as container pottery technology, both among farmers and hunter-gatherers. These new technologies and economies had arrived from outside, the Near East and possibly central and eastern Asia. At least partly, these innovations were brought in by migrating people whose movements may have been triggered by climate fluctuations.
This chapter examines Iron Age funerary and domestic archaeological sites, and economic and cultural developments from c.500 BC–AD 550/600, in the east Baltic region (present day Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). While the early pre-Roman Iron Age was to some extent a continuation of the late Bronze Age in material culture terms, many changes took place in the late pre-Roman Iron Age. At the change of era, new cultural trends spread over the east Baltic region, from the south-eastern shore of the Baltic to south-west Finland, which produced a remarkable unification of material culture over this entire region up to the Migration period. Differences in burial practices and ceramics, however, indicate the existence of two distinct ethnic groups, Proto-Finnic in the northern part of the region and Proto-Baltic to the south. Subsistence was based principally on agriculture and stock rearing, with minor variations in the economic orientation of different areas.
This chapter examines Iron Age cultural developments and population movements in the zone centred on the Oder and Vistula basins. Throughout the period, demand for Baltic amber promoted contacts with other parts of Europe, first seen in Italian imports and Hallstatt influences in the Lusatian culture. Much archaeological evidence for the various regional cultures is funerary (predominantly cremation cemeteries), allowing changes in social system to be discerned. After c.500 BC, increasing La Tène influence is apparent, with some areas experiencing Celtic settlement. In the Roman Iron Age, high-status burials along the ‘amber road’and prestige Roman goods indicate the emergence of a more hierarchical society, and ironworking reached near-industrial levels in the Holy Cross mountains. The chapter concludes by examining links between the archaeological record and documented population movements of the Migration period; the Wielbark culture of the lower Vistula region can be equated with the Goths.
Peter S. Wells and Naoise Mac Sweeney
Iron Age Europe, once studied as a relatively closed, coherent continent, is being seen increasingly as a dynamic part of the much larger, interconnected world. Interactions, direct and indirect, with communities in Asia, Africa, and, by the end of the first millennium AD, North America, had significant effects on the peoples of Iron Age Europe. In the Near East and Egypt, and much later in the North Atlantic, the interactions can be linked directly to historically documented peoples and their rulers, while in temperate Europe the evidence is exclusively archaeological until the very end of the prehistoric Iron Age. The evidence attests to often long-distance interactions and their effects in regard to the movement of peoples, and the introduction into Europe of raw materials, crafted objects, styles, motifs, and cultural practices, as well as the ideas that accompanied them.
Caroline Malone and Simon Stoddart
Figurative art developed in the Maltese islands during the Neolithic, as part of the Temple Culture that flourished c.3500–2500 bc. Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines, carved from stone or modelled in terracotta represented, not only a distinct Maltese identity but also significant artistic competence. From very large to very small, the material ranges from objects used in burials to immense statues that decorated temple interiors. Some anthropomorphic figures are dressed, others naked, some obese, others stick-like, and another category associated with mortuary sites is represented lying and sitting on elaborate beds. The figurative art appears to fall into distinct categories of anthropomorphic and domestic creatures, alongside more speculative representations that focus on cold-blooded reptiles and fish, or feathered birds. The potential to interpret this ‘art’ as representative of a layer cosmology is explored within the context of a Neolithic island society.
Fishing, wildfowling, and marine mammal exploitation in northern Scotland from prehistory to Early Modern times
Fishing, seabird fowling, and the exploitation of marine mammals persisted in settlements around the coast and islands of western and northern Scotland from prehistoric times until the twentieth century. Until the mid-first millennium ad most fishing focused on immature saithe and was carried out close to the shore, but from Norse times onwards intensive deep-sea fishing for cod took place and, in the Hebrides, a herring fishery developed. Seabirds were a minor but regular part of subsistence; some were harvested from breeding colonies and others caught more casually, often in association with fishing. Marine mammals provided food and oil; whalebone was an important raw material. As well as exploiting stranded whales, people hunted seals from their breeding sites and small cetaceans by herding them into bays and inlets.
In the first millennium BC, three major subsistence ‘belts’ can be distinguished in Europe: one around the Mediterranean, a second in temperate Europe, and the third in the north. Shifting colonization was still practised in places, but cereal farming was well developed across most of the continent, with less amenable soils now brought into cultivation. Farmers relied on at least two cereal crops, sometimes with millet cultivated as a third cereal, possibly for fodder. Cultivated legumes included beans, peas, and lentils, while linseed was the predominant oil plant, and was also used for textiles, along with hemp. Rare finds of exotica, such as walnuts, figs, vines, and spices were imports from the Mediterranean zone. Woodland exploitation is also considered. During the Roman Iron Age, new crops and agricultural innovations are seen in areas beyond the limes. Along with iron technology, these laid the foundations for the early medieval farming system.