Thursday, September 3, 2015

Early Neolithic settlement patterns and exchange networks in the Aegean

Agathe Reingruber
Documenta Praehistorica XXXVIII (2011)
(pdf Link)


The Neolithisation process is one of the major issues under debate in Aegean archaeology, since the description of the basal layers of Thessalian tell-settlements some fifty years ago. The pottery, figurines or stamps seemed to be of Anatolian origin, and were presumably brought to the region by colonists. The direct linking of the so-called ‘Neolithic Package’ with groups of people leaving Central Anatolia after the collapse of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B resulted in the colonization model of the Aegean. This view is not supported by results obtained from natural sciences such as archaeobotany, radiocarbon analyses, and neutron activation on obsidian. When theories of social networks are brought into the discussion, the picture that emerges becomes much more differentiated and complex.


During the Early Neolithic I:
● settlements appear in regions with a Mesolithic presence (Thessaly, Crete);
● huts are lightly built with thin posts and pise walls;
● burial customs are similar to those of the Mesolithic period (cremations and inhumations);
● microlithic stone tools were still in use, but produced by new techniques;
● Melian obsidian becomes more widely distributed.

During the Early Neolithic II–III and at the beginning of the Middle Neolithic not all raw materials, products, and social practices are adopted in all regions:
● no obsidian in the North until the Late Neolithic (after 5500 BC);
● no new types of cereal in Thessaly after 6200 BC;
● no stamps and only a few figurines in Southern Greece.

This regionalisation and the slow pace at which the Neolithic way of life spread into the Western Aegean (from 6500–6000 calBC) does not accord with a massive colonisation beginning in Anatolia. Instead, interrelated regional networks become visible upon which were founded the dissemination of the Neolithic way of life into the Aegean. The main actors were not colonists, but highly mobile, seafaring groups whose roots were in the Mesolithic.

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