Neolithic Farming in Central Europe: An Archaeobotanical Study of Crop Husbandry Practices, C.5500-2200 BC

Neolithic Farming in Central Europe: An Archaeobotanical Study of Crop Husbandry Practices, C.5500-2200 BC

Neolithic Farming in Central Europe: An Archaeobotanical Study of Crop Husbandry Practices, C.5500-2200 BC

Neolithic Farming in Central Europe: An Archaeobotanical Study of Crop Husbandry Practices, C.5500-2200 BC

Synopsis

Neolithic Farming in Central Europe examines the nature of the earliest crop cultivation, a subject that illuminates the lives of Neolithic farming families and the day-to-day reality of the transition from hunting and gathering to farming.Debate surrounding the nature of crop husbandry in Neolithic central Europe has focussed on the permanence of cultivation, its intensity and its seasonality: variables that carry different implications for Neolithic society.Amy Bogaard reviews the archaeological evidence for four major competing models of Neolithic crop husbandry - shifting cultivation, extensive plough cultivation, floodplain cultivation and intensive garden cultivation - and evaluates charred crop and weed assemblages.Her conclusions identify the most appropriate model of cultivation, and highlight the consequences of these agricultural practices for our understanding of Neolithic societies in central Europe.

Excerpt

This book is concerned with the nature of early farming in central Europe - in particular the methods used to grow crops. Current perceptions of crop cultivation in central Europe during the Neolithic vary widely and include models of transient and permanent cropping, small-scale hand tillage and large-scale cultivation with the ox-drawn ard, farming of floodplain alluvium and higher ground. Debate over crop husbandry reflects conflicting views of the way in which farming spread from the Near East to Mediterranean and temperate Europe, the mobility of early farming communities, the extent of social differentiation among households and the goals of crop production. the aim of this book is to address these conflicting views of early crop husbandry by analysing the extensive archaeobotanical dataset available from Neolithic sites (c. 5500-2200 BC) across central Europe, in particular the loess belt and Alpine Foreland.

The general intention of this book, therefore, is to bring a substantial archaeobotanical record from central Europe into the mainstream of archaeological discourse on European prehistory. the approach used is to interpret the archaeobotanical data in terms of an explicit methodology for reconstructing crop husbandry practices, and to evaluate previously suggested models of crop husbandry in light of the archaeobotanical evidence. Non-specialists may be surprised to find that this analysis is not based on the crop species themselves, but rather on close attention to the arable weeds that grew and were harvested with certain crops. It is this 'weed' evidence that reflects the fundamental 'agency' of crop growing - the time chosen to sow crops, measures taken to encourage growth, the permanence of cultivation areas in the landscape, and so on. These choices, in turn, provide a rich source of evidence for the everyday life and longer-term transformations of past societies.

Archaeologists seeking to refine their accounts of agricultural practice beyond the listing of domesticated species from archaeological sites soon face a real methodological problem. Explicitly constructed models based on relevant features of plant and animal ecology are needed in order to relate bioarchaeological assemblages back to management regimes, and such models

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