Documenta Praehistorica XXXI

Neolithic Studies 11


David Lubell

Are land snail a signature for the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition

Edible land snails, representing food remains, are frequently very abundant in late Pleistocene and early-middle Holocene archaeological sites throughout the circum-Mediterranean region. As such, they appear to represent a signature for a broad spectrum subsistence base as first conceived bz Flannery in 1969, and therefore must be in some way related to the transition from foraging to food production. This paper investigates the implications that can be drawn from the presence of these snails through information on their ecology, biology, behaviour and nutritional value as well as the behaviour of the prehistoric human groups who collected and consumed them.

Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel and Jerome Dubouloz

Expected palaeoanthropological and archaeological signal from a Neolithic

A s signal of major demographic change was detected from a palaeoanthropologicaldatabase of 68 Meso-Neolithic cemeteries in Europe (reduced to 36 due to a sampling bias). The signal is characteriyed by a relatively abrupt change in the proportion of immature skeletons (aged 5-19 years), relative to all buried skeletons (5 years +). From the Meso to the Neolithic, the proportion rose from approximately 20% to 30%. This change reflects a noticeable increase in the birth rate over a duration of about 500-700 years, and is referred to as the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT). Another category of independent archaeological data, on enclosures (N =694), which are interpreted as a response to population growth within the social area, reveals a similar signal at the same tempo. If this is a true signal, we should expect it to be detected also in all the independent centresof agricultural invention worldwide. The NDT is at the historical root of the pre-industrial populations that would gradually spread across the Earthand which are now rapidly disappearing.

Pavel Dolukhanov and Anvar Shrukov

Modelling the Neolithic dispersal in northern Eurasia

Comprehensieve lists of radiocarbon dates from key Early Neolithic sites in Central Europe belonging to the Linear pottery Ceramic Culture (LBK) and early pottery-bearing cultures in the East European Plain were analysed with the use of the x2 test. The dates from the LBK sites form a statistically homogeneous set, with a probability distribution similar to a single-date Gaussian curve. This implies the rate of expansion of the LBK in Central Europe being in excess of 4 km/yr. Early potter-bearing sites on the East European Plain exhibit a much broader probability distribution of dates, with a spatio-temporal trend directed from the south-east to the north-west. The rate of spread of pottery-making is in the order of 1 km/yr, i.e., comparable to the average expansion rate of the Neolithic in Western and Central Europe.

Amy Bogaard

The nature of early farming in Central and South-east Europe

This paper summarises models of crop and animal husbandry in Neolithic Europe and reviews the relevant evidence from three regions: the western loess belt and Alpine Foreland; the Great Hungarian Plain; and the southern Balkans and Greece. Intensive mixed farming (small-scale, labour-intensive cultivation integrated with small-scale herding) emerges as the most plausible model across these regions. Such continuity is in some ways counter-intuitive given climatic variability across Europe and archaeological diversity in settlement and house forms etc. It is argued that variability in the form of Neolithic settlements (nucleated versus dispersed, 'tell' versus 'flat' sites) should be understood not as a reflection of radically different farming practices but rather as different social permutations of the same basic farming and herding pattern.

Mihael Budja

The transition to farming and the 'revolution' of symbols in the Balkans. From ornament to entoptic and external symbolic storage

In desimplifying the logic of colonisation and transition to farming we discuss huntergatherers' and farmer's symbolic structures in the Balkans and Carpathians. Particular attention is paid to the concepts of 'revolution of symbols', 'external symbolic storage' and 'signs of all time'. Our basic premises are (1) that ceramic technology and the principles of fragmentation and accumulationwere not the exclusive domains of farmers and, (2) that the hunter-gatherers' symbolic structures and the process of transition to farmingwere not exclusive and competitive but rather correlative in maintaining control and power within society and over the frameworks of external interactions and exchange networks., but strong parallels between the Near-Eastern and Greek Neolithic.

Luiz Oosterbeek

Archaeographic and conceptual advances in interpreting Iberian Neolithisation

Prehistoric research has evolved, in the last decade, from a mere collaboration of disciplines into a new, trans-disciplinary, approach to Prehistoric contexts. New stable research teams, involving researchers with various scientific backgrounds (geology, botanic, anthropology, history, mathematics, geography, etc.) working together, have learned their diversified "vocabularies" and methodologies. As a main result, a more holistic approach to Prehistory is to be considered. Previous models of the Neolithic on the Atlantic side of Iberia were focused on material culture and strict economics (this being an important improvement concerning previous typological series). Current research became open to discussing the meaning ofconcepts like "food production", "chiefdom" or "territory". It also dropped the "Portuguese/Spanish" frontier that pervaded previous models (to the limited exception of some interpretations for megaliths). Finally, new and important data is now confirming that the "Cardial Neolithic" coastal spread was only one, and a minor element in the Neolithisation of the western seaboard.

Mary Jackes and Christopher Meiklejohn

Building a method for the study of the Mesolithic Neolithic transition in Portugal

This paper focuses on the agricultural transition in Portugal and on demography across this transition, concentrating on two key skeletal samples, the Mesolithic shell midden of Cabeco da Arruda and the Neolithic burial cave of Casa da Moura. It extends our previous work on the demography of the transition and the methodology surrounding its determination. We explain our method for determination of the number of individuals in samples where whole skeletons cannot be used. We then concentrate on the estimation of fertility, placing it within limits of biological feasibility, sample inadequacies, and vagaries of age assessment. From our analysis, which includes an examination of historical issues with the sites, we argue for regional population continuity between 8000 and 6000 cal BP, and suggest that Neolithic life-ways slowly intensified, founded on important elements deriving from the late Mesolithic, with changes that included increased fertility through shortening of the birth interval

Julian Thomas

Current debates on the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Britain and Ireland

In this contribution I address a series of recent publications which present revisionist accounts of the beginning of the Neolithic in the British Isles. New evidence suggests that we need to reconsider issues of population movement, diet, mobility and residence patterns. However, I conclude that a return to a model of colonisation by an agricultural population from the continent is premature, and seek to stress the distinct patterns of change that characterised Britain and Ireland respectively.

Chaohong Zhao, Xiaohong Wu, Tao Wang and Xuemei Yuan

Early polished stone tools in South China evidence of the transition from Palaeolithic to Neolithic

The appearance of polished stone tools has been taken as one of the important indicators of the beginnings of the Neolithic. Early polished stone tools excavated in South China are discussed in this paper. The polishing technology developed from stone tools with polished blades to whole polished stone tools. Different kinds of polished stone tools appeared at different times. The earliest polished stone tools are axes, adyes and cutters, with only the blades polished. They date to 21000 - 19000 cal BP. The whole polished stone tools appeared thousands of years later. The relationship of thepolishing technology with other factors during the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic should be discussed after more detailed information has been obtained.

Michel Louis Seferiades

Neolithisation in Mongolia: the Mesolithic-Neolithic site of Tamsagbulag (Dornod district)

The article outlines the first results of the French Archaeological Mission to Mongolia centered on the Neolithic. The topics discussed include general aspects of the initial Neolithisation in Eurasia, and the use of state-of-the art archaeological techniques in studies of Prehistory, with special reference to the Mesolithic/Neolithic interface, as exemplified by a survey and excavations in the area of Tamsagbulag site (Eastern Mongolia, aimak/district of Dornod) originally investigated by a Soviet-Mongolian mission directed by Professor A. P. Okladnikov, a renowned Russian archaeologist.

Paul Halstead

Farming and feasting in the Neolithic of Greece: the ecological context of fighting with food

Fine Neolithic ceramics from Greece are widely interpreted in terms of ceremonial eating and drinking, while the spatial organisation of settlement suggests that such commensality played a significant role in shaping social relationships. Faunal evidence implies consumption of many domestic animals inlarge-scale commensality and supports the view that this promoted competition as well as solidarity. This paper explores the ecological context of such 'fighting with food'. Feasting, and ceremonial consumption of livestock, was enabled by and helped to reinforce domestic strategies of surplus production and labour mobilisation that were driven as much by 'economic' as 'political' imperatives.

Dimas Martin-Socas et. al.

Cueva de El Toro (Antequera, Malaga-Spain): a Neolithic stockbreeding community in the Andalusian region, between the 6th and 3th millennia BC

The occupation evidence shown by the cave El Toro, is that of a unique stockbreeding community in the Andalusian region. The calibrated dates for this occupation period go from the second quarter of the sixth millennium up to the second millennium BP. There is also evidence of occasional occupation throughout later millennia up to the Hispano-Muslim period. The nature of thisoccupation is determined by the close link between the cave and the community which occupied it, both continuously and periodically. Throughout the occupation levels, the community's skillful control of technical processesand its remarkable knowledge on how to transform local primary resources, have shown that this community reached a high level of technological development. However, its main economic activity was related to agricultural and farming exploitation, particularly to stockbreeding.

Maria Dolores Camalich, Dimas Martin-Socas, Pedro Gonzales, Antonio Goni and Aquede Rodriguez

The Neolithic in Almeria: the valley of Almanzora river in Vera basin

The valley of Almanzora River and Vera Basin (Almeria) shows an intense dynamics of occupation in Prehistory; particulalry between the Early Neolithic and the Late Bronze Age. Several factors, such as recurrent associations betwen diverse productions - including the presence of cardial-impresed in Cabacicos Negros (Vera) - and the distinctive characteristics of the type of accupation, indicate that the oldest phase of occupation took place during the andalusian Early Neolithic. The socio-economic pattern is defined both by expoloatation of numerous resources in an area of variable size, and by the temporary occupation of settlements, with seasonal or periodical variations. The constant mobility was aimed at obtaining different subiststence goods, as well as obtaining and/or transforming primary resources for manufacturing crafts and exchanging excess production with communities in the same area or from other regions.

Simona Petru

Usewear analysis of Mesolithic and Neolithic stone tools from Mala Triglavca, Trhlovca and Pupicina pec

ABSTRACT - In this paper the results of the usewear analysis of Mesolithic and Neolithic stone tools from three cave sites - Mala Triglavca and Trhlovca in the Slovenian Karst and Pupicina pec in Croatian Istra will be presented. Stone tools were examined under the light microscope at 50 - 200 x magnifications, and some additional physical and chemical analyses were undertaken. Various uses of the tools were determined and conclusions regarding the economies at those sites were drawn.

Andreja Zibrat Gasparic

Archaeometrical analysis of Neolithic pottery from the Divaca region, Slovenia

The results of the mineralogical and chemical analyses of pottery from the Neolithic period from the Divaca region are presented. Pottery samples from two rock shelters, i.e. Mala Triglavca and Trhlovca, were included in the analyses, as well as sediment samples from other rock shelters, caves and rivers around this area. The mineralogical and chemical composition of the ceramic is uniform in most of the samples; the differences between the clay pastes of the vessels are in the use of a tempering material, mostly calcite grains. The sediment samples, especially from the cave deposits, point to a local production of the Neolithic pottery on the Karst plateau.

© Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana 2005
Last update: 16.02.2005