Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Neolithic Mosaic on the North European Plain

The Neolithic Mosaic on the North European Plain. This essay examines the issue of migration among Neolithic peoples and how this shaped cultural developments during this period in Europe.

From the site:

The introduction of agriculture and the successful establishment of farming communities on the lowlands of north-central Europe between 5000 and 3500 B.C. (recalibrated dating) marked one of the most significant transformations of prehistoric society in this region. Many difficulties in the discussion of the establishment of agriculture in north-central Europe stem from an overemphasis on the distinction between "Mesolithic" and "Neolithic" as adaptive patterns. Such a distinction brings about the notion of a boundary between communities practicing these two strategies. It is clear that there was a "frontier" of sorts between these Neolithic groups and the local foraging peoples. Yet it was a permeable frontier, and once domesticated plants and animals became available on the lowlands of north-central Europe, a well-defined boundary between distinct social entities effectively ceased to exist. Moore (1985: 94) has characterized frontiers between sedentary farmers and mobile foragers as "a cultural mosaic of interspersed communities with varying subsistence and settlement requirements." The North European Plain between 5000 and 3500 b.c. (perhaps a bit earlier and perhaps a bit later) can be described in such terms, as a mosaic cultural landscape.

Postglacial Foraging Groups - By the early fourth millennium bc, some foraging communities in north-central Europe appear to have approached "low mobility", to use the term proposed by Bocek (1985). Examples of "low mobility" adaptations are known from many parts of the world, primarily in lacustrine, estuarine, and riverine environments, and there are many such habitats on the North European Plain with their attendant productivity and diversity. Wetland environments such as the Satruper Moor, the Dümmer basin, the Rhine/Maas delta, and perhaps the lake belts of north-central Poland, probably supported growing low-mobility hunter-gatherer populations by the middle of the sixth millennium B.C., although this hypothesis still needs further testing against the archaeological record.

First Stockherders and Farmers -- 5400-4800 B.C.The earliest food-producing communities to appear on the North European Plain were those of the Linear Pottery culture, or Linearbandkeramik), which had also colonized the loess belt across central Europe between 5400 and 5000 B.C. (recalibrated dating). There are three main clusters of Linear Pottery settlement on the North European Plain: the Kujavy region west of Poznan and south of Torun, the area along the lower Vistula north of Torun, and along the lower Oder river south and west of Szczecin. There are vast areas in which Linear Pottery settlements have not (yet?) been found, including the Pomeranian moraine belt, the Baltic coastal plain, and the glacial outwash areas west of the Elbe, but there is the potential for considerable change in this picture. For instance, prior to 1980, only a handful of Linear Pottery sites were known from the area along the lower Vistula north of Torun. Today, close to 200 have been discovered, thanks to the interest taken in them by a local university.

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