The Second Phase of Neolithization in East-Central Europe

By Nowak, Marek | Antiquity, September 2001 | Go to article overview

The Second Phase of Neolithization in East-Central Europe


Nowak, Marek, Antiquity


Introduction

The first Neolithic, Linearbandkeramik agropastoral groups north of the Carpathian and Sudeten Mountains appeared c. 5500 cal BC (all dates are given calibrated). LBK sites are known from the Paris Basin to the western Ukraine. However, they aggregate mostly in small agricultural enclaves distinguished by highly fertile soils. I suggest describing those enclaves as old-agricultural. So, in effect, most of central Europe was still unaffected by Neolithic groups, between 5600 and 4800 BC. This situation remained unchanged after the disappearance of LBK; Stichbandkeramik and Lengyel-Polgar groups extended agricultural areas to a very modest degree.

During the LBK and post-LBK period, the Mesolithic communities were living in territories between the old-agricultural enclaves (FIGURES 2, 3, 4). Such communities were characterized by microlithic flint tools and foraging subsistence. Their survival until c. 3500 BC is taken for certain by many scholars (e.g., Kozlowski 1989: 201-22) in the whole region, not just in a few `Polish' Ertebolle sites (Galinski 1990; Ilkiewicz 1989; Kobusiewicz & Kabacinski 1998). The main territories of late Mesolithic settlement were lowland areas of Pomerania, the Masurian Lake District, NE Masovia, Great Poland, Lower Silesia and some regions of central Poland.

[GRAPHS OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Another tradition -- the Forest Neolithic (Rimantiene 1992; Kempisty 1983) -- appeared in the northeastern part of Poland by the second half of the 5th millennium BC. The economy was predominantly foraging, although some farming was known. Their clay vessels had a technologically and stylistically specific style, resembling Ertebolle. The Neolithic flint industry was not identical with the Mesolithic industries. For example, it contained a modest amount of microliths, and many specific tools with bifacial retouch. So, the Forest Neolithic cannot be simply considered a `pottery Mesolithic'.

A significant enlargement of the areas occupied by farming societies took place during the first half of the 4th millennium BC. This phenomenon was connected with a new set of artefacts, called Funnel Beaker Culture (TRB). Sites of the TRB have been found not only in the previously mentioned old-agricultural enclaves. By contrast, perhaps a majority of TRB sites come from other ecological zones. In other words, from c. 3900 BC onwards, the settlement with TRB pottery had filled almost all east-central Europe. The late Mesolithic groups survived only in some remote enclaves until c. 2500 BC. This opinion, however controversial (Schild 1998), relies on [sup.14]C dates (FIGURE 3), typology and finally the occurrence of pottery in Mesolithic context.

Therefore, it was neither the LBK nor post-LBK groups but the TRB ones that made the Neolithization of east-central Europe almost complete. My objective is to clarify the causes and the course of this transformation that thoroughly changed the face of this part of Europe, focusing on palynological data. I hope this will add a new perspective in reconstructing this transformation.

Palynological reconstruction

The main subject of my analysis is the pollen profiles localized outside the old-agricultural enclaves (FIGURES 1, 5), examined during the 1980s and '90s. Profiles from within such enclaves serve as a comparative background.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

 BC        1           2           3           4           5

2500
        [C] *mpc    [C] *p      [A] p       [B] *pc     [B] *pc
3000    [C] mpc     [C] *p
                    [C] *p
3500    [C] mpc     [C] *p                  [C] mc
        [C] *mp     [C] *p      *           *c          [A] *m?
4000    [C] *mp     [B] *pc     *           *
        [C] *mp     [B] *mp     *
4500    [C] *m      [B] *mp     *           [B] *p
        [B] +m      [B] *mc
5000    [B] +       [B] +       +
        [B] +       [A] +       [A] +
5500    [B] +       [A] +       [A] +
        [B] +       [A] +       +
6000    [B] +       [A] +

 BC        6           7           8           9           10

2500
                                            [B]         [A] pc
3000                [C] *pc     *           [B] *p      [A] pc
                    [C] *p                  [A]         [A] m? … 

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