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"On stratigraphic grounds alone, the 'Linear Pottery Culture is the oldest, clearly identifiable Neolithic culture in Central Europe. It completely conforms to the classicable definition of a Neolithic society. Both pottery and ground-stone artifacts, as well as an agrarian way of life, are indisputable present. This statement does not preclude that some kind of stockbreeding and / or farming were practised in the preceeding period. .....a date of c. 5000 B.C.E. is generally accepted....."
(P.J.R. Modderman. The linear pottery culture: diversity in uniformity, 1988)

Prof. Dr. P.J.R. Modderman died April 2005. 


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(Nederlands)

 

Dutch Bronze Age index

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The Linear Pottery Culture in the Netherlands

What can you expect on this page?
  • Everything you always wanted to know about Dutch prehistoric life between 5500 B.C.E. and 4900 B.C.E.
  • Daily life, contacts, pottery, food from the first farmers
map Europe / spreading neolithic farmers

First some general historic information (vertaling)

Prehistoric life in the Netherlands starts about 250,000 years ago! The North Sea is dry and partly covered with a thick layer of ice.
35,000 Years ago Neanderthalers hunt all over Europe, and also near the Black Sea and in Isral.
25,000 Years ago Cro Magnon hunters live in caves in France (Lascaux) and Spain (Alta Mira).They make beautiful, mysterious paintings, perhaps to cast a spell on their prey? The last ice-age ends about 8,000 years B.C.E.
Then people start to live like farmers in the Middle-East. Their knowledge spreads all over Europe.

neolithic grindstone

The daily life
Imagine a big farm, 5300 B.C.E., as a part of a village in the southern part of the Netherlands. After waking up, I`ll try to blow the fire back to life again. My wife walks to the river to get water and some herbs for the tea. We mix some flour, water and honey and heat it for a delicious porridge... Now and then we also bake some flat breads or cookies on stones near the fire. Each morning my wife grinds the grains on a grindstone to make flour. It takes about 4 hours to grind 10 pounds of cerials, which is enough for 10 people for just one day!

I weed the small field with pees, grains, flax (linen!), lentils and beans. Instead of throwing all weed away, we use the eatable plants as vegetables at our diner (e.g. coltsfoot, dock, thistle-stalk).
We can only harvest the grains during 3 weeks in September. The right time to harvest is very important; when we start too early, the grain won`t be eatable, when we finish too late, too many grains have been falling on the ground.
And birds try too steal some grain, too, and not to mention bigger animals.
The provisions of our last harvest have all gone, so we have to gather some eatable plants until we can harvest again. It`s the same as with the slaughter of pigs, sheep, goats and cows. We can`t slaughter them unlimited, that`s why we also hunt and fish, although that doesn`t provide a lot: we`re mainly farmers. Some settlements even grow apple trees.
The 2 pigs make hungry noises as I climb over the fence to feed them with some weeds that are uneatable to us. As I climb over the fence they try to give me 'friendly bites'. The pigs are very strong, so I push them away. Pigs are very smart; when they are young, they can escaped simply by digging holes under the fences...

Other contacts.
We hear a few blows on a cow-horn. That`s the signal for a few men and me to join a group of hunters to perform a hunting ritual. skeleton We have trading contacts with them: we need some basalt stones for a good axe. The hunters travel a lot and know where to find basalt: a 3 days travel to the east. In return we join their ritual once in a while, so we better our good, essential contacts. Their magician welcomes us and we greet the others very friendly. We all know how important this ritual is. It`s the only way to influence the magical world around us; it`s the difference between life (a good prey) and death (no prey, injured hunters).

Pottery.
The hunters use hides with hot stones and cold water to cook in, but we use pottery. (That difference occurs while it`s far too heavy for them to carry the jars when they move to another territory)
I've planned to make some pottery. To do so, I use the yellow clay, some sand and water. Sand gives the clay a better quality. The results have to dry a few days, after which I wanted to bake it in an open fire. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and now it`s time to harvest the peas and cereals. Sometimes broken bowls aren't thrown away, but repaired (see picture below). It is possible to drill 2 holes next to the burst, after which a thin rope will hold the 2 sides to eachother.

neolithic potteryrepaired bowl

The linear pottery is beautiful.The rims are thin, mostly round (that`s stronger) and decorated with waves or spirals, lines as well as dots. In the beginning the shapes and decorations are :
-flat bases
-small open bowls
-tall jars with narrow openings ("amphorae")
-biconical shapes with a small vertical rim
-a very simple linear decoration

A bit later other forms appear ; small, short lines and imprints have been added ('music notes').
In succeeding phases, flat bases are changed into round ones; except in Poland. In the latest phases a dentated spatula could fill in the space between the lines with as many dots as possible.

Harvest.
The peas can be handled in a few ways:
-Young peas can be eaten as pod-peas,
-Ripe peas can be cut off the plants, shelled and dried (or eaten) ,
-Over-ripe plants can be pulled out of the earth and must dry.

The cereals we know are called 'emmer' (or 'emer') and 'hulled barley'. The emmer has bigger and more seads , so that`s my favorite grain.
The harvest process goes as follows: first we grab some 'ears' , then we cut the straws just below the ears with a piece of flint. We must dry the grain as soon as possible on a cow's skin by the wind and the sun. I've heard some people use a special dry-oven to dry the cereals. The drying process is important to prevent the cereals from moulding.
Then it's time to thrash the cereals; it's a way to reduce the volume of the cereals (for an easier storage). Now the small straws can be devided from the grain. That`s easy; put it all into a big pot, shake and the seeds (+husk!) will fall on the bottom. The storage will be in the same big pot, covered with a skin. Next spring it can be sowed.
When cereals get mouldered, they must be consumed as soon as possible. This time the husk must be removed from the grain. The easiest way is to roast it in a pot near the fire. The husks come loose and the grain softens (the grain then tastes delicious!). A settlement in the east (near the Neckar) even grows its own apples; the malus paradisiaca, which comes from West-Asia (West-Turkestan). Its fruit is small, but sweeter than from its European, wild, relatives.

 


 

Question: How do you make fire?

Answer: I know about two methods, but there are certainly more.
1st method: I try to keep the fire smouldering.So when I need fire, I just blow some oxygen towards the fire, together with some straw and twigs.
2nd method: I use the fire-bow,a small stick, a piece of wood and a tinder for cathing the sparks.The horizontal bow turns the vertical, hard, stick (e.g. ash-tree) around in a piece of soft, dry wood (e.g. linden tree). When it happens fast enough the sparks will fall in the tinder which will glow. Put some straw and wood on the tinder and there`s the fire.


 

Question:How do you make flint tools?

Answer: watch the sequences below and there 's someone who can explain more about flint knapping on this site

The University of Oslo, Norway, has made a study and (large!) report about all the details on working with flint.


I would like to thank the following persons for making this page as real as possible:
-J. Flamman
-G. Geertsema
-F.A. Hassan
-P.J.R. Modderman
-L.P. Louwe Kooijmans
-All other persons / institutes that gave information.

redball
Pictures below: ground plan and impression of an early neolithic house

early neolithic house

picture below: probable dates of Linear Pottery Culture in Austria: about 5550 - 4900 B.C.E.

calendar date

These webpages have been designed on December 1st, 1997 and they are updated on a regular base.

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