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The Central European Route

The Central European Route

Knowledge of the Neolithic culture, and/or of the Neolithic package, spread from the Near East region to both adjacent and remote areas. In Central Europe, the earliest evidence of agriculture comes from archaeological records that date back to the mid-6th Century BC. The manner of the dissemination of early agriculture is described and explained in accordance with the various theoretical models, of which the best known are: the migration, the acculturation and the substrate models. The subject of the first model is the manner of dissemination through the colonisation of the area by newcomers, i.e. the bearers of the Neolithic package; while the second model represents the actual transfer of cultural innovations and ideas from one bearer to another within the context of intercultural exchange (i.e. representing the cultural transformation of the original population) and the third is thought of as being a compromise between the previous two. The latest substrate model is supported by archaeological discoveries in the Mediterranean area and by means of the anatomical analysis of human skeletal remains and of archaic human DNA and it is currently the most accepted model. In accordance with this model, Mesolithic hunter-gatherer populations living in Europe were apparently “enriched” both by accepting cultural innovation and based on the limited degree of colonisation by Neolithic populations. The meeting and the mingling of the two cultures, i.e. the hunter-gatherers and the agriculturalists, is also described by M. Zvelebil, an English researcher of Czech origin, in the form of transition phases: 1) the availability/accessibility phase, 2) the gradual substitution phase, 3) the consolidation phase in regard to new ideas, products and technologies.

The beginnings of the Linear Pottery culture, whose representatives at the beginning of the Neolithic period in Central Europe achieved the largest territorial expansion.
The beginnings of the Linear Pottery culture, whose representatives at the beginning of the Neolithic period in Central Europe achieved the largest territorial expansion, are sought for by most researchers in the environment of the Starčevo culture located in Transdanubia (the area west of the Danube that comprises present-day Hungary and Lower Austria). Marked in the picture are the important sites the research of which contributed significantly to understanding the settlement patterns and to other knowledge regarding the different societies that existed during the second half of the 6th millennium BC.

The crucial role on behalf of the countries of Central Europe was played by the Balkan and the Aegean regions in which it is still possible to encounter the oldest evidence of agriculture in the archaeological records dating from the middle of the 7th millennium BC. The Carpathian Basin and the northern Balkans that together comprised the cultural complex of the oldest exclusively European pottery (from the 6th millennium BC, i.e. the Körös culture) that was of considerable importance particularly for the development of the Czech lands in the early prehistory of agriculture. It is to the Linear Pottery culture (5500 - 5000 BC) that archaeologists refer to as being   the first known agriculture in Central Europe. This culture, during its epoch, stretched across the vast territory from what is present-day Ukraine to the Rhine River. Its bearers were choosing warmer low-lying areas with fertile soils for their settlements that were mainly located in the loess drifts that occur in the elongated belt to the north of the Alps.




Want to learn more?

  • Divišová, M. 2012. Current Knowledge of the Neolithisation Process: a Central European Perspective. Interdisciplinaria archaeologica. Natural Sciences in Archaeology 3 (1):141-153.
  • Price, T. D. 2000. Europe‘s First Farmers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zvelebil, M., and P. Rowley-Conwy. 1986. Mesolithic societies and the transition to farming: problems of time, scale and organisation. In Hunters in transition. Mesolithic societies of temperate Euroasia and their transition to farming, ed. M. Zvelebil, 167–188. New Directions in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.