Long Distance Exchange in the Central European Neolithic: Hungary to the Baltic

Article excerpt



Our understanding of the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the western Baltic has benefitted from recent research on sites in Denmark and northern Germany (e.g. Harff & Luth 2007). In the fifth millennium, coastal and lake shore sites indicate intensive use of marine and freshwater resources. Around 4200-4100 cal BC the first sheep, goat and cattle were introduced in north-western Germany (Hartz et al. 2007) and this was accompanied by new elements of material culture including pottery of the Funnel Beaker culture (hereafter FBC; also known as Trichterbecher or TRB). By c. 3950 cal BC these innovations were introduced to Zealand (Fischer 2002). Towards the east, information on this period of transition has been more limited, but new results from Pomerania are changing this picture. The onset of the Neolithic in the Baltic area was influenced by regular contacts between the late hunter-fishers and the early farming communities in the south (Fischer 1982, 2003; Klassen 2004; Terberger et al. 2009). Such contacts then developed further and copper objects began to reach the western Baltic from south-eastern Europe.

This paper examines the contacts between the southern and northern parts of Europe in the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC, focusing in particular on those between the Tisza valley (modern Hungary and Serbia) and the southern shores of the Baltic (Figure 1). At this time, the communities of the Baltic shore were essentially still culturally Mesolithic but receiving pottery and implements from southern parts that were culturally Neolithic or even Copper Age (Figure 2). Thanks to investigations of a site at Dabki in Pomerania, we can open a new window on the local Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, and we go on to explore the significance of the southern contacts in terms of cultural influence, migration and exchange.

Transition at Dabki 9

Dabki 9 is located on a former lake shore about 1.5km distant from the Baltic Sea coast in Koszalin district in Pomerania, Poland (Figure 3). Excavations in the 1980s encountered a predominantly Mesolithic occupation layer close to the former lake shore which was rich in stone artefacts, organic material and pottery fragments (Ilkiewicz 1989). New excavations in 2004 used a long trench to revisit the stratification and taphonomy, and to obtain a series of AMS dates. The layers close to the former lake shore were disturbed, but further away from the shore it has been possible to establish a reliable sequence (Kabacifiski et al. 2009; Kabacinski & Terberger in press).

Finds at the beginning of the sequence indicate that occupation started around 4900 cal BC, and Final Mesolithic material of the fifth millennium cal BC was present in larger quantities in the layer that built up (Figure 4, layer 3). This was followed by an Early Neolithic FBC phase which probably started ar around 4200-4000 cal BC (Figure 4, layer 5). The most intensive FBC occupation is indicated by FBC pottery fragments from the top of this occupation layer and they are directly dated to c. 3730 cal BC (Poz-18613: 4955 [+ or -] 35 BP) and c. 3710 cal BC (Poz-27412:4920[+ or -]40 BP) (calibration by calpal program: www.calpal.de). One sherd comes from a Funnel Beaker decorated with small knobs under the rim on the inner side of the vessel and is comparable to early FBC material from Lacko, voiv. Bydgoszcz and Flintbek in Schleswig-Holstein (Klassen 2004:159,333).

Numerous fish remains mostly from pike, and bones of beaver, red deer and wild boar demonstrate a hunter-gatherer-fisher economy for the final Mesolithic period. In contrast to earlier ideas (Ilkiewicz 1989; Zvelebil 1998) no undisputable remains of domesticates were present. A possible early cattle bone dates to c. 4240 cal BC but has to be tested by palaeogenetic analyses (Bollongino et al. 2005; Kabacinski et al. 2009). More than 20 T-shaped antler axes were found. …