In this post we present and discuss officially published information on the expansion of the Neolithic Aegeans towards Western Europe & the Western Mediterranean.
We have consciously selected to cite the selected parts which follow, extracted from officially published material, in chronological order:
1. From the paper titled “The Origins of the Neolithic Along the Atlantic Coast of Continental Europe: A Survey”, by Pablo Arias (1999), we read:
“The transition to the Neolithic in Atlantic Europe was relatively late compared with the rest of the continent. The first Neolithic societies in Europe are documented in Greece at the beginning of the seventh millennium BC (Theocharis, 1973), and spread throughout the remainder of the Balkan Peninsula around 6250 BC (Whittle, 1996; Guilaine et al., 1999). After the consolidation of the rural farming populations in the Balkans, the expansion to the rest of the continent had varied rhythms and modes. Thus, during the first half of the sixth millennium BC, agricultural communities were established in three large areas that, because of their climates and soils, were particularly well suited for agriculture: the great central European plain, where farming groups coming out of the Danube valley rapidly colonized a sparsely populated area (Liming, 1988, p. 73; Milisauskas and Kruk, 1989; Stauble, 1995; Lenneis et al., 1996); the Pontic plains, where, in contrast, local hunter-gatherers slowly adopted the new way of life (Zvelebil and Dolukhanov, 1991); and the central and western part of the Mediterranean Basin, in which small population movements (some of them probably by sea) combined with fundamentally indigenous processes among hunter-gatherers, who were probably preadapted to agriculture by centuries of tight control over natural resources (Guilaine et al., 1987; Guilaine, 1994). The advance of the Neolithic away from these favorable zones was much more difficult, and its expansion into areas like the Atlantic coast of continental Europe was much slower.”
“The first evidence of the Neolithic in Portugal probably dates to the middle of the sixth millennium BC in western Algarve and the north of Estremadura, as is suggested by sites with Cardial ceramics in the areas of Figueira da Foz, Torres Novas, and Tomar. In fact, the oldest dates for the Cardial horizon in Portugal are in the second half of the sixth millennium BC. (…) Although evidence regarding subsistence is scarce, the recent excavation of the cave of Caldeirao (Zilhao, 1992) has demonstrated that from at least the last third of the sixth millenium BC, domestic sheep were present in the area”
“The Neolithic of the north of the Iberian Peninsula came from the Mediterranean Basin. In the middle centuries of the sixth millennium BC, agricultural groups who decorated their ceramics with impressions of cockle-shells (Cerastoderma edule, formerly Cardium edule—the so-called “Cardial” pottery) are widely documented in Mediterranean Spain, from Catalonia to Andalusia (Bernabeu, 1989). The influence of this new culture quickly penetrated to the interior along the Ebro valley, where Cardial ceramics date to the second third of the sixth millennium (Chaves and Forcas in Huesca, La Balma de la Margineda in Andorra, and El Pontet in Saragossa) (Utrilla et al., 1998). They appear at the fringe of the Cantabrian region by at least to 5000 BC, on the basis of the radiocarbon date from the bottom of level IV of Pena Larga, in Alava (I-15150: 6150 ± 230 BP; 5520-4540 BC) (Fernandez Eraso, 1997). This date is imprecise, but seems to be somewhat older than the first signs of the Cantabrian Neolithic. Cereal grains, domestic animals, and ceramics appear in the Cantabrian region at the beginning of the fifth millennium BC. However, there is no sudden change, but rather a transitional situation, at least during the first half of the fifth millenium. (…) the data suggest that throughout the entire fifth millennium, cultivation and herding were integrated in a social system which, culturally and economically, remained very close to Mesolithic. Indisputable evidence of the consolidation of the regional Neolithic does not appear until the period of the expansion of megalithic tombs, around 4250-4000 BC (Arias, 1997b).
Current data allow us to define the regional transition to the Neolithic as a slow and gradual process of change within indigenous societies, in which little or no role was played by the arrival of foreign populations. In fact, the oldest Neolithic sites occupy the same areas, and even the same caves, as those of the Mesolithic, and the two periods can hardly be differentiated by lithic industry, burials, or even artistic manifestations (Arias, 1991). Similarly, there was no radical change in subsistence with the appearance of domestic species, but rather a broadening of an already diversified economy. The addition of cultivation did not mean the abandonment of hunting and gathering, but, instead, coincides with their intensification. (…) How did, then, Cantabrian communities know about the new subsistence strategies and technologies that they began to adopt in the fifth millennium BC? Goats, sheep, wheat, and barley were not domesticated in Cantabrian Spain, nor did the local inhabitants invent ceramics. The key seems to lie in the existence of exchange systems with groups on the other side of the Cantabrian mountains, of which there are indications from the beginnings of the Mesolithic. These include very striking parallels in some technical and typological features that link them clearly with contemporary groups in the Ebro valley (Arias, 1991).”
“It tends to be assumed in the literature that the most important catalyst in the transition to the Neolithic in the French Atlantic coast was the arrival of new populations. Nevertheless, some observations suggest a more important role for hunter-gatherer groups. Thus, Joussaume (Joussaume et al., 1987) observed parallels between the distributions of impressed ceramics and of a series of geometric microliths, including the Chatelet point, characteristic of the Retzien, and some types from the Mediterranean basin (Montclus point, Jean-Cros point). This suggests the existence, at least from the Mesolithic, of exchange routes and contacts with the Mediterranean world, which should be kept in mind when explaining the arrival of innovations. Some also see the transition as a largely indigenous phenomenon (Cassen, 1993), and this is supported by the discovery, below the tertre of Lannec er Gadouer, in Morbihan, of a Mesolithic layer, with links to industries in the Loire valley and the Paris basin (Boujot and Cassen, 1997, 1998).
In any case, it seems indisputable that foreign groups did come to the French Atlantic coast and its surrounding areas, particularly in the northern sector, as indicated by the discovery at the site of Le Haut Mee, in northeastern Brittany, of a settlement characteristic of the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain culture, dated to the beginning of the fifth millenium BC (Cassen et al., 1998). One important implication of this is that the first local Neolithic communities coexisted with hunter-gatherers.”
“the transition to the Neolithic on the coastal region of the North Sea was a very complex phenomenon with varied tempos, depending on the degree of social development of the Mesolithic groups and the environmental conditions. We could define it as a mosaic process, in which the predominant role belonged to the indigenous groups, and in which there was a pause of about a millennium in the diffusion of agriculture. This probably contributed to the development of some interdependence between the hunter-gatherers and the colonists.”
“The earliest Neolithic in Scandinavia corresponds to the so-called Trichterrandbecher (TRB) culture. This archaeological complex, which begins shortly after 4500 BC (Midgley, 1992), rapidly spread across north central Europe, from Poland to the Netherlands, moving the agricultural border beyond the limits of the loess soils, where the first Neolithic had halted.
In southern Scandinavia, the first indications of this culture appear at the beginning of the fourth millennium BC throughout the formerly Ertebolle region. (…) it seems probable that the Scandinavian TRB culture was the result of a cultural transformation of Ertebolle groups under the influence of nearby agriculturalists. With the exception of rare contrary voices (Solberg, 1989), this is the generally held opinion of most specialists who have studied this issue (Schwabedissen, 1981; Fischer, 1982; Jennbert, 1985; Larsson, 1986; Price and Gebauer, 1990). This is not surprising given the current tendency to interpret the whole TRB culture as the result of a basically indigenous transition to the Neolithic (Hausler, 1975; Jankowska and Wislanski, 1991; Midgley, 1992). From this point of view, the expansion of the TRB to the north would not result from migration, but rather from the extension in space of the same process of change to societies that probably were already in contact in the Mesolithic.”
“No doubt, the ecological and environmental conditions in which the last hunter-gatherers lived were very diverse, and the chronology of the beginning of the processes is also varied, ranging from the middle of the sixth millennium BC (Portugal) to the beginning of the fifth millennium BC (Scandinavia). The influences and pathways by which innovations arrived in each region or its surrounding areas were also distinct. In the north, it was the LBK wave from central Europe, whereas in the south, it was mainly the Cardial horizon from the Mediterranean basin. Finally, the actual processes of change varied from region to region: immigrant groups seem to have moved into some areas, while in other zones, acculturation processes developed as a result of the presence of small foreign populations nearby, and in yet other regions, change was mainly an indigenous process, perhaps fostered by the circulation of objects and information between foragers and farmers. (…) the transition to the Neolithic along the Atlantic coast is a process in which, ultimately, the indigenous component predominated, even in regions such as the coast of Portugal, where there are possible indications of immigration. Thus, a model of population replacement, as proposed by Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza (1984) for the origin of European Neolithic, does not seem applicable to the Atlantic coast of the Continent.
The foundations behind some of the regularities cited above are quite obvious. The Mesolithic communities of the Atlantic coast lived, in general, in quite rich areas, and developed a very efficient economic system, seemingly well adapted to the available resources. One sign of their success is the high population densities probably reached at least by some of them. Another is the development of a sedentary way of life. Therefore, we find ourselves faced with perfectly viable societies based on hunting and gathering, for whom cultivation appears to have offered no short-term advantage. It did not provide them with better food, a more leisurely existence, or a sedentism, which many already had.
We should also note the tendency of all societies to maintain the fundamental aspects of their organization. The adoption of agriculture could have meant more than simply a change in economy. It might also have been a serious challenge to the entire system of social organization and power relations (Hodder, 1990; Thorpe, 1996). From this perspective, the delay of several centuries in the adoption of agriculture should be understood as a resistance phenomenon, not as an indicator of “backwardness.”
Furthermore, the adoption of some of the new techniques would not have been particularly easy. Except for Portugal (but cf. Kalb, 1989) and parts of Denmark, the areas occupied by the Mesolithic groups were not as suitable for cultivation as were the regions through which farming had expanded before the middle of the sixth millennium: the Mediterranean basin, with an environment that was similar to that where cereals and legumes were first domesticated, and the central European loess plains, which were fertile and easily worked. In Atlantic Europe, the potential farmer would have had to deal with too humid conditions and soils that were not very suitable for agriculture, from the periglacial sediments in northern Germany to the granite massifs of the Hercynian mountain range of the western regions of Iberia and France, passing through the boggy parts of the Low Countries.
In any case, the environmental conditions seem not to have been the determining factor since the human groups were able to adopt agriculture rapidly when they decided to do so. In fact, sociodemographic factors appear to be more important. While it is likely that the Neolithic groups colonizing central Europe found a sparsely populated region, along the Atlantic coast there probably were societies with population densities comparable to their own who could offer strong resistance to their advance, as seems to be documented in Belgium. (…) we should keep in mind that the changes along the Atlantic coast were not totally independent of the general development of western Europe during the sixth and fifth millennia BC. Although archaeologists tend to conceive of the societies we study as isolated entities, in most cases they were integrated in wide exchange networks of goods and ideas, reciprocally influencing one another up to some point. This probably existed long before the transition to the Neolithic, as the extension throughout Europe of phenomena such as Paleolithic parietal art or the Mesolithic manufacture of geometric microliths suggests.”
2. From the paper titled “From the Mesolithic to Early Neolithic in the Western Mediterranean”, by Jean Guilaine & Claire Manen (2007), we read:
“The transition from the Mesolithic to the Early Neolithic in the western Mediterranean is a stimulating subject for more than one reason. First, the region’s geographic position means that it is a case of ‘distant Neolithisation’ (between 2000–3500 km) from the presumed epicentre of Neolithisation in south-east Asia, around the Turko-Syrian border. Attempting to grasp the economic, social or symbolic differences compared with the ‘parent region’ is in itself a challenging exercise. Indeed, this remoteness, associated with the idea of a substantial and dynamic indigenous substratum, has frequently fostered the idea that this zone could have ‘toppled’ into the Neolithic by a process of acculturation of the native populations. For many years debates have in fact opposed upholders of a process of colonisation by maritime routes and those in favour of a transition merely due to cultural dissemination and local adaptation of farming or other aspects of the Neolithic.”
“The Final Mesolithic in the north-western Mediterranean presents some general characteristics: good knowledge of flint deposits, the obtaining of standard blades, use of the microburin technique, and trapezoidal or triangular microliths.”
“The chronological distribution of dates between Italy and Spain for the various facies of the late Mesolithic is clear; they are all situated between 6600 and 6000 cal BC”
“One domain in which the Mesolithic and early Neolithic populations in the western Mediterranean had common features, and which thus allows the hypothesis of a possible filiation to be proposed, is that of funerary contexts and mortuary rites. In both cases, the dead are rare and inconspicuous, and do not seem to be part of the ‘landscape’ of the living. In southern France a few individuals have been found buried in caves or shelters used as temporary dwellings during the Cardial or Epicardial. The phenomenon also existed in the Iberian peninsula where certain individuals were buried in dwelling-caves (La Sarsa), or in small peripheral cavities: El Carasol de Vernissa, El Barranc del Castellet, Cova Negra, Coveta del Moro, Cova dels Pilars, Cova del Frontó in Valencia, and Avellaner and Cova dels Lladres in Catalonia (Bernabeu Aubán et al. 2001;Bosch i Lloret & Tarrus i Galter 1990; Pla & Junyent 1970). It was not until the Catalonian Postcardial that the first Neolithic necropolis appears in that geo-cultural zone: ‘Caserna de San Pau’ (Barcelona). This type of situation echoes a model observed previously in the Late or Final Mesolithic in France, where practically no Castelnovian individuals have been found: one in the Epi-Castelnovian at Montclus (Ferembach 1976), and another at Le Rastel (Barral & Primard 1962).”
“One of the lessons learnt from research over the past twenty years is that the development of the Cardial Neolithic, previously considered to be the earliest culture of the southern French Neolithic, had been preceded chronologically by small settlements of populations with a clearly Italic origin. This anteriority seems to be confirmed by the radiocarbon dates of these sites which converge around 5800–5600 cal BC.”
“By its partly coastal geographical distribution, the Cardial remains a fully Mediterranean culture, in spite of its continental break-throughs. The only cultural horizon set on its eastern flank and likely to have provided a certain influx remains the Tyrrhenian Cardial (Latium, Tuscany, Sardinia and Corsica). (…) The Cardial can be envisaged as a native process resulting from the conversion of local populations to the new economy introduced by the ‘Italics’.”
“Unlike the Italic settlements, localised and of short duration, the Cardial is organised around large interactive territories (circulation of polished tools, flint materials and certain pots, bracelets, pastoral activities), which explain its geographic extension and its long duration.”
“The question of the Iberian Cardial will be considered more rapidly, for this culture is intrusive here and the question of its genesis does not arise in the same manner as in southern France. We do not know whether, in the Iberian peninsula, settlements of Italic origin exist as we have seen between Liguria and the Pyrenees. The Cardial is thus in Spain the vector of Neolithisation, a prolongation from the southern French core.”
“While a gradual emergence from a Cardial substratum can be acknowledged, we are obliged to recognise that the Epicardial has a character which makes it a fully autonomous culture, not a mere epiphenomenon. The idea of a peripheral component of the Cardial in its very essence cannot be excluded. Whatever the case as far as the mechanisms are concerned (Cardial filiation and/or a ‘peripheralisation’ process for the Cardial), the expansionist strength of the Epicardial is obvious. In the Mediterranean regions, from the Rhône to Andalusia, it finally eliminated the Cardial and covered the whole of the initially Neolithicised area. Its vitality, however, probably related to a certain demographic surge linked to agricultural expansion, led it to colonise large continental regions and to take the frontiers of the Neolithic well beyond the more limited Cardial sphere. Traces are found as far as the Alps (Grande Rivoire) and the Causse region. In the Iberian peninsula, this colonisation is in particular marked by its extension along the valleys of the large rivers flowing towards the Atlantic (Douro, Tagus, Guadiana, Guadalquivir). In so doing, the Epicardial is the vector of the Neolithic package on the central plateaus (Meseta). In western Andalusia and Portugal, the Mediterranean Epicardial appears in the form of a particular facies characterised notably by ornaments presenting panels with ‘spike’ incisions or impressions (Guilaine & Ferreira 1970; Zilhão 1992).”
“it is interesting to note that in the western Mediterranean the founding of settlements during the Early Neolithic did not lead to their continued existence over a long period (…) During the Cardial, sedentariness seems to have been relative, and the attachment to a given place was periodically called in question. (…) After a few hundred years, the various components which had participated in developing the early southern French and Iberian Neolithic seem to have blended in the Epicardial complex, thereafter the only one present throughout the western Mediterranean area.”
3. From the paper titled “Neolithic agriculture in the southwestern Mediterranean region”, by Leonor Peña-Chocarro & Lydia Zapata (2010), we read:
“When we address the topic of first agriculture in Southern Iberia and Northern Morocco, in fact we are dealing with the Mediterranean Far West, the cul-de-sac where Near Eastern domesticated crops ended up. How this process took place – via demic diffusion, adoption by indigenous Mesolithic people, or both- is still a matter of discussion. The presence of an indigenous hunter-gatherer population is well attested in southern Portugal, SE Andalusia and northern Morocco (among others, Arias et al. 2009 and Ramos, 2006) although with a hiatus in the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in some sites according to Aura et al. (2009). These populations eventually adopted domestic plant foods which were not gathered in the wild, that need to be cultivated (i.e. sown) and that are exotic in the Western Mediterranean.
If besides local hunter-gatherers, there were also other allochtonous people who might be involved in this process – or be the trigger of it – for example through a maritime pioneer colonization is something difficult to prove notwithstanding good cases such as the Portuguese coast (Carvalho 2008, Zilhao 2001).”
“In the literature on Neolithic agriculture from Andalusia, some authors give importance to gathering as a semi-agricultural practice and claim that there were some other models of agricultural production different from cereal agriculture. This is argued by the presence of wild foods such as: legumes, wild olive, lentisk, rosemary corns in Neolithic contexts (Ramos 2000). In consequence, an autochthonous process of transition to farming has been put forward, minimizing the importance of exotic and imported domestic plant foods. This point tries to stress the role of the autochthonous Mesolithic populations in the transition to farming and has recently been supported by claims of local domestication of cereals in Northern Africa that eventually might be the focus for the adoption of domestic crops in Andalusia (Molina Cano 1987, 1999, 2005).
Following Mason & Hather (2002) we understand that cultivation is the action that defines an agricultural practice. And we define cultivation as the act of planting a seed or other propagule in a new situation. This action does not equal the gathering of wild plants, a practice which human beings have been carrying out before an after cultivation took place. We accept that plant gathering was most probably important for local Mesolithic populations in southern Iberia although we must face that data to support this are extremely limited.”
“ “Wild plant-food procurement”, sensu Harris 1996, existed in Iberia before and during the Neolithic while domestic crops emerge in Iberia all of the sudden. Domestication processes and pre-domestic cultivation are not documented at all in Western Europe.”
“We think that gathering is not the same as agriculture or “semiagriculture”. Cultivation is an imported and developed phenomenon in Western Europe which most probably left little space to tests or experimentations – even if some of them such as the probable domestication of Papaver in Iberia may have been important to a continental scale. We have to remember that not only new cultivated plants arrive to the Western Mediterranean but also a whole set of “know how” related to agrarian practices and plant food processing – let’s only think on the long chaîne opératoire necessary to dehusk hulled cereals – as well as new cultural uses related to the availability and cooking of new foods.
The adoption of farming, comparing to the gathering of wild plants implied necessarily a big input in the storage of plant foods – probable but not attested during the Mesolithic – as well as important changes in the organization and division of human work, a bigger input of energy and work and the possibility of control and planning of the production. It must have also resulted in big increase in the availability of foods rich in carbohydrates which are so important in human diet. The technology related to food must have known radical innovations that most probably came along with the new foods.”
“Cultivated plants are present in Andalusia and Mediterranean Morocco at least from the second half of the 6th millennium cal BC. This region shows a diverse assemblage of crops, common to other regions of Eurasia, that support the idea of a mature early Neolithic agriculture with little margin for experimentation. We attest the same plants that are present in other areas of Europe and Northern Africa: free-threshing and hulled types of wheat and barley, legumes, flax and poppy. Among the cereals free-threshing wheats and naked barley are the most common types. With present data agriculture seems to us an imported and mature phenomenon from the Early Neolithic of the region. No predomestic agricultural practices related to these species are documented.”
4. From the paper titled “The Early Neolithic in the Iberian Peninsula and the Western Mediterranean: A Review of the Evidence on Migration”, by María Cruz Berrocal (2012), we read:
“The migration vs cultural diffusion debate has been run in almost every European region, while in the Levant the discussion has centered around the issue of continuity vs rupture. On the basis of existing evidence, the Natufian and preceding phases have been seen either as a revolutionary event or as a rapid response to changing conditions following a major socioeconomic crisis (Bar Yosef and Belfer Cohen 1992, pp. 39 40), or, more recently, as a long term process in which permanent communities were formed first, with farming subsequently emerging as by product of the necessity of feeding large numbers of people (Watkins 2010). These recent developments are particularly pertinent and should impact research on the Early Neolithic in Europe, which has always been seen as a function of the Neolithic in the Levant regarded as the ultimate source of any cultural, social or demographic process. But as Watkins (2008, p. 147) points out, the ‘Levantine Primacy Illusion’ (the generally accepted orthodoxy that the Levantine corridor is where the earliest cultivators, and plant and animal domesticates, are to be sought) still governs the debate, despite serious doubts as to its accuracy (Watkins 2008, pp. 149 150).
It is foreseeable that an abandonment of the ‘revolution’ paradigm in the Levant and an embracement of a view stressing a long term process will affect current migrationist paradigms in Europe, especially regarding the speed of the alleged migrations.”
“According to Keeley (1992, p. 87), again on the basis of radiocarbon dates, the migration was extremely rapid and took only 200-300 years from central to northwestern Europe. According to other accounts, LBK expansion ‘from the Hungarian Plain to the Netherlands …[and] the spread of farming through the British Isles, both extending over c. 1,000 km, occurred in less than two centuries’ (Bonsall et al. 2002b, p. 9).
Issues of chronological control when using radiocarbon for tracking short term events notwithstanding, this is an extremely short time and raises questions about the reproductive ability of farming communities (for instance). This has led researchers to emphasize the role potentially played by local communities in the Neolithisation process (see e.g. Bogucki 1996; Zvelebil 1989; Price and Gebauer 1992; Lemmen et al. 2011). In fact, the shifting features of the record at the regional scale (Oross and Bánffy 2009; see also: Zvelebil 1989; Bogucki 1996; Sherratt 2004) seem to be better explained by transitional processes in which foreign and indigenous elements interact in complex ways. Transdanubia is a particularly pertinent example, in which an ‘integrationist’ approach is used to account for continuity of subsistence strategies, and slow transformation seems to alternate with periods of dynamic transformation (Oross and Bánffy 2009).”
“it is generally agreed that the origin of the domesticates in the Western Mediterranean is in the Near East, since there are no native ancestors in the region (e.g. Zapata et al. 2004). The issue then has become to explain the east-west transmission of the domesticates, and in the Western Mediterranean, the relatively ‘abrupt’ appearance of the diagnostic features of the Early Neolithic in the archaeological record impressed pottery, both the Impressed Ware Culture (the Impressa) and the Cardial, together with the use of domesticates and traces of village life has been traditionally explained through colonization. Whether by land or by sea, it would be the arrival of people from the east that would trigger the Neolithisation process, or the transition from Mesolithic hunting and gathering to agricultural economies.”
“In short, the archaeology of the Early Neolithic in the Iberian Peninsula and the Western Mediterranean has traditionally been characterised by two conspicuous factors, which were present during the sixth millennium BC: the simultaneous appearance of pottery, domestic animals and plants (the ‘Neolithic package’); and the appearance of fully Neolithic ex novo sites, which can be relatively complex settlements, with significant structures such as ditches or clusters of pits.
These elements tend to ‘punctuate’ the landscape, rather than totally erasing the previous archaeological record. In the classic account of the Neolithic, mainly based on the archaeology of the Mediterranean basin, Neolithic and Mesolithic settlements and material culture share, broadly speaking, the same territory, but they largely ‘ignore’ each other for several reasons (a characterisation that has been subsequently demonstrated to be inapplicable in other areas of the peninsula with somewhat later chronologies).
This apparent lack of connection between the Neolithic and the previous record has been the key basis for proposing a colonization that would have introduced the new food producing techniques and way of life into the Peninsula. Later on, these new ways would have extended throughout the Iberian Peninsula (and for that matter, the rest of Western Europe), through direct and/or indirect acculturation”
“Ammerman and Cavalli Sforza’s (1984) ‘wave of advance’ put forward a slow terrestrial diffusion as the main vector of colonization: every new generation of farmers would have gained some land by moving a little bit further from their ancestors’ land, thus eventually reaching the westernmost extremes of Europe. However Zilhão (2001, 2003) noted that this process simply could not have happened in the Western Mediterranean, and especially in the Iberian Peninsula, because radiocarbon evidence supports a faster process than traditionally supposed. He proposed instead a maritime colonization the ‘maritime pioneer colonization’ model enacted by small groups of farmers sailing along the coast of the Western Mediterranean and settling in certain places, forming little agricultural enclaves that would trigger the Neolithisation process in those areas. This hypothesis has partially replaced the ‘wave of advance’ model in the Western Mediterranean”
“The alternatives to the colonization model, such as the ‘capillary’ or ‘percolative’ model (Vicent 1990, 1997; see also: Rodríguez et al. 1995; Hernando 1999), put the emphasis on social continuity and the role of hunter gatherers in the Neolithisation process. They did not rely on local domestication, but on the slow introduction of the Early Neolithic elements, domesticates and pottery, through interaction and exchange among hunter gatherers, who would use them as prestige objects.”
“Since none of the positions on the Neolithic is fully proved through the archaeological record, an epistemological argument may apply: the alternative models for Neolithisation that rule out migrations are theoretically stronger because they are parsimonious; they do not require unknown entities as actors, and they reduce the number of factors in the explanation (Vicent 1990).”
“In all of these models, population arrivals are the trigger for the Neolithisation process. The fundamental factors that would support the model (Bernabeu 2006, pp. 198 199) are:
(a) a clear east-west chronological gradient from Italy towards the Iberian Peninsula;
(b) a rapid pace of expansion;
(c) distinct genetic pools representing indigenous and the migrant populations;
(d) a well established expansion route (through the northern Mediterranean; but new works are proposing a southern pathway through Morocco); and
(e) a clear break with the Mesolithic.
In short, paleobiological, chronological, and archaeological evidence, especially a shared material culture type in the Early Neolithic, implying the existence of a ‘formative’ period (Bernabeu et al. 2009). It is important to make explicit that these criteria have been advanced by the migrationists in order to test their hypothesis, and the available evidence has mainly been produced within this migrationist matrix. But the evidence is not straightforward.”
“Cardial ware has been used as a demonstration of a pioneer maritime colonization, and also now as evidence of a fully agricultural society developing autochthonously. Thus it seems that migrationist models can be argued for or opposed independently of the materiality of the archaeological record.
For the moment, this record shows much more regional variability than would be expected under maritime colonization premises. Moreover, the Impressa pottery itself is still only weak evidence in support of the model. Its occurrence is very patchy, although always in combination with Cardial and other types of impressed wares, in a very few sites located in the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, some of them dubious according to the migrationist authors themselves: El Barranquet; Mas d’Is; Cova d’EnPardo; Cova de les Cendres; Cova de l’Or; Abrigo de la Falguera; and possibly Cova de la Sarsa (Bernabeu and Molina 2009; Bernabeu et al. 2009; García 2010). Under these circumstances, a claim to temporal precedence over Cardial ware is feeble (Bernabeu et al. 2009; Garcı´a 2010). In fact, the only acceptable interpretation at this point is that Cardial and Impressa are contemporaneous (see Bernabeu et al. 2009; Bernabeu and Molina 2009). This means that the dates for the Impressa in the Iberian Peninsula are much younger than those for the Ligurian Impressa ware, the alleged source for the former.”
“it would be desirable for researchers to produce a working scenario for the material culture, the pottery in this case, that demonstrates a migration model. Otherwise research seems to work on ad hoc proposals, especially because formal relationships within pottery (what resembles what, what comes from where, what is the formal origin of what) are given such a strong role that they are in themselves the explanation of the Neolithic. Thus, extremely scarce fragments of pottery disseminated in a few sites are able to effect a disproportionate impact on the model. In particular, we should reconsider why the fugitive appearance of pottery such as Impressa, not formally attested in the Iberian archaeological record, could possibly be taken as the material remains of an event that triggered such a rapid and massive historical process as the Neolithisation of the Iberian Peninsula. It is not more ceramic evidence that is needed, but more sophisticated theorisation about history and social processes.”
“As for morphometric data, (…) the results are not conclusive, first because the available samples are relatively small and widespread, and second, but very importantly, because these samples do not necessarily randomly represent the entire population: the crania belong to people who were interred, and we lack the criteria according to which someone could or could not be subject to this ritual. Thus we are unable to evaluate the biological variability of populations.
As for genetic data, there are a number of studies that deal with the European gene pool and the genetic evidence for migrations, either Palaeolithic or Neolithic. Their results are diverse; more interestingly, their assumptions, hypotheses and procedures are equally diverse.”
“This kind of analysis of current genetic patterns is limited by the difficulty in dating them. Even when dated, it is not easy to define the exact phenomenon being dated (origin of a genetic marker, arrival of a population, etc.). More interesting from our point of view is that most work assumes that there were two relevant migratory events in European population history (a Palaeolithic colonization/recolonization, and a Neolithic migration) that can explain the current genetic evidence. Therefore, the research is designed to assess which of the two events contributed more in this context.
Unfortunately, the results tend to be inconsistent and even contradictory, with estimations of migratory impacts in Europe, especially Neolithic migrations, varying widely”
“Sampietro et al. (2007) propose that cultural diffusion explains the Neolithic in Central Europe, while the Neolithic in the Mediterranean must be explained through demic diffusion, which is quite a reversal from all previous attempts to explain the LBK Neolithic. It is also problematic: Sampietro et al. (2007) have found no evidence of a Middle Eastern origin for the Catalonian Neolithic population they study. In fact, they have no means to falsify the hypothesis that the population did not arrive from elsewhere: they have no place of origin for it, and most importantly, they did not analyze ‘Mesolithic’ or ‘Palaeolithic’ Iberian populations. As happens with the works based on the null hypothesis of two migrations into Europe, Sampietro et al. (2007) work on the assumption that there was a Neolithic migration, but they cannot discard the hypothesis that Mesolithic and Neolithic could potentially be the same population.
Chandler et al. (2005) did analyze Neolithic and Mesolithic populations in Portugal. They found that the ancient Portuguese haplogroup frequencies are more closely related to Iberian and Mediterranean populations than to Near Eastern populations. This is true even for the early Neolithic population. It is also notable that the Portuguese Mesolithic and Neolithic samples contain no haplogroup J, that is, no marker of Near Eastern population input … However, the MDS plot shows that the Mesolithic and Neolithic populations are not themselves closely related. This comparison indicates that they are genetically distinct populations. (Chandler et a1 2005, p. 784)”
“A single, small group is unlikely to have been able to pursue a colonization strategy on its own. Different groups from different parts of the Mediterranean cannot be expected to be genetically homogeneous, as the authors imply. So if Mesolithic populations are internally more similar to each other than they are to Neolithic populations in Portugal, and vice versa, this might be taken as evidence against colonization, rather than in favour of it.”
“Fernández et al. (2010) analyzed an undefined number of samples in terms of their distribution per site, from 26 archaeological sites in the Near East, southern France and the Iberian Peninsula. Their results point to a break in the continuity of population both in the Near East and the Iberian Peninsula since the Neolithic (modern populations in both regions do not derive, apparently, from Neolithic populations), and to a contribution of population from the Near East into the Iberian Peninsula during the Neolithic. In another study (Gamba et al. 2011), cultural and genetic connections between northeastern Iberia and the Near East are again stressed, but the arrival of pioneering small groups from the Near East in an advanced moment of the Early Neolithic, as shown by the dates of Can Sadurní, contradicts other kinds of evidence, and does not fit well in any migrationist model for the Neolithic currently accepted for the Western Mediterranean.
This general overview shows that genetic and morphometric data present difficulties when used as independent arguments in the debate on the colonization of the Western Mediterranean: they do not yet allow us to choose between two hypotheses (see also Bocquet Appel and de Miguel 2002). The final interpretation of this kind of evidence, is, rather, a function of an author’s position, which may lead to circularity.”
“Data on morphology, genetics and diet is controversial because of its very nature (see, for instance, Evershed (2007) for a review of the ability of molecular archaeology to reconstruct diet, touching on the debate generated by Richards et al. (2003) on an abrupt change in diet at start of the Early Neolithic in Britain). Genetic and morphometric data, in particular, are totally dependent on unknown cultural practices, among which patterns of mating and inhumation are probably fundamental potentially creating genetic trends difficult to interpret in a simple positive/negative way.”
“New dates on short lived samples for the entire Western Mediterranean are evidently needed to advance the debate, especially as 14C dates tend to be used as primary proxies for social and historical processes.
The imbalance of dates among regions is evident, with the bulk of them located in the Iberian Peninsula. There is also a large imbalance in the distribution of dates by site, but they tend to be consistent internally in terms of their standard deviations. In fact, the whole corpus of dates appears fairly consistent, with no strangely old dates that could cast doubt on the quality of the evidence, or doubts due to statistical uncertainty in the calibration of the dates. In addition, no taphonomic or contamination processes can be invoked a priori. In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that these dates do not necessarily date archaeological contexts; they represent a set of independent events (the first remains of domesticates in the region). Therefore, we are not necessarily dating the ‘Neolithic’ (as for instance an ash layer would date an eruption). The argument revolves specifically around when exogenous domestic elements were first being used in certain places.”
“The Neolithic of southern Italy appears substantially older than the other regional groups. However, this area belongs to a different cultural zone, that of the Adriatic Impressed Ware, which does not appear to be particularly closely related to northwestern Italy, as best represented by the Cardial pottery (van Willigen 2007; see also Improta and Pessina 1998).
The most widely accepted origin for alleged immigrants from Italy into the Iberian Peninsula is the Italian northwest (Arene Candide), which appears to be geographically and temporally connected with southeastearn France (Abri Pendimoun). Domesticates were in use in this area earlier than in the rest of the Western Mediterranean.
The current gap between these dates and the oldest dates in the Iberian Peninsula is difficult to evaluate. Abri Pendimoun seems to point to a trend of gradual westward expansion of domesticates, but the gap could also translate into a break in the process. In either case, it is difficult to safely establish a direct relationship between the Iberian and the Italian dates, contra the cause effect relationship between the two areas established by the migrationist models. The statistical difference between east and west would contradict the basic assumption of the ‘maritime pioneer colonization’ model that, as a result of long distance navigation, ‘the dates for the first appearance of the Neolithic package are indistinguishable statistically from central Italy to Portugal’ (Zilhão 2001, p. 14180). The Neolithisation process in the Western Mediterranean might have proceeded at a much slower pace than was previously acknowledged (see also Manen and Sabatier 2003 for an analysis of 14C dates, also questioning the alleged rapidity of the process throughout the area). Moreover, genetic and material culture evidence do not allow us to establish a direct connection between the two areas, and specifically, a subsidiary relationship of the Iberian Peninsula to Italy, via colonizers.”
“the chronological difference between the dates from coastal and inland sites with traces of agriculture in the Iberian peninsula starts to fade (see also Rojo et al. 2008; Zapata et al. 2004; Stika 2005; Cerrillo 2005, 2008; Jiménez 2008; Alday 2009), and the Neolithic sites in the Spanish plateau are not necessarily found immediately by big rivers. The supporters of the migrationist hypothesis have consistently downplayed the Iberian Early Neolithic inland evidence on the basis of taphonomic arguments. They have implied that the Early Neolithic contexts excavated in the interior areas have problems that lead to anomalous early dates dates that, if correct, could subvert the maritime pioneer model. Thus, they have supported the idea of a ‘pure’ Neolithic on the coast, and a sort of secondary, ‘mixed’ Neolithic in the interior. The excavators of these early contexts on the interior interestingly enough, themselves supporters of the migrationist models have shown this evidence to be as ‘initial’ and ‘pure’ as any other (see Rojo et al. 2008; Jiménez 2008).”
“14C dates and material culture show connections between different regions of the Western Mediterranean in the Early Neolithic, along with a degree of independence in the formation of the Early Neolithic in the Iberian Peninsula. In the absence of clear direct material and chronological cause effect connections, the nexus (that is, migration of people) should be given less prominence in any explanation of the Early Neolithic.
The available record (ceramic variability, no clear spatial logic, possible gradualism together with penecontemporaneity in different parts of the Western Mediterranean a region spanning 1,000 km) should be explained through other plausible hypotheses.”
5. From the paper titled “Early Prehistoric navigation in the Western Mediterranean: implications for the Neolithic transition in Iberia and the Maghreb”, by João Zilhão (2013), we read:
“(Abstract) Early Neolithic sea voyaging and organized colonization of large islands involving crossings in the range of 100 km are well documented in the Eastern and Central Mediterranean. In the west, the distribution of obsidian from Tyrrhenian sources and the lack of human settlement in the Balearic archipelago until later prehistoric times suggest a pattern of contact, exchange and dispersal where navigation would have been restricted to small-scale, in-sight-of-land crossings and cabotage journeys. For the spread of farming into Iberia to have followed a North African route, the path of entry must therefore have been the Straits of Gibraltar, which presupposes an earlier emergence of the Neolithic in the Maghreb, where the associated impressed ware material culture in turn implies an ultimate origin in southern Italy and, therefore, the crossing of the Siculo-Tunisian Strait. In North Africa, however, the earliest directly dated domesticates post-date by several centuries similar evidence from Valencia, Andalucía and Portugal, while the presence of Pantelleria obsidian in the nearest mainlands substantiates prehistoric navigation between Europe and Africa in the central Mediterranean after ~7000 cal BP, only at a time when farming economies were already several centuries old in Iberia. The material culture similarities perceived in the Early Neolithic of southern Iberia and the Maghreb may indicate a North-to-South diffusion of farming across the Straits of Gibraltar but not the reverse.”
“In recent years, it has become clear that sea voyaging may well have deep pre-Neolithic roots in the Eastern Mediterranean (for a review, cf. Ammerman, 2010). Were the same to be true in the West, ponderous consequences would ensue for models of the emergence of farming, given that
(a) diffusion and migration can occur much more rapidly over open water than across mountain ranges and closed forests,
(b) the precision of radiocarbon dating in this time range implies that regional time lags below the one hundred year threshold are unlikely ever to be resolved, and
(c) apparent synchronicity and overall similarity in material culture can lead to issues of equifinality when assessing specific historical scenarios concerning the origins of and the routes followed by the domesticates and the diagnostic artifact categories first encountered in the archeological record of a given time/place.”
“the presence of obsidian from Melos in Mesolithic sites from other Aegean islands (e.g., Youra and Kythnos) and also from mainland Greece (Franchthi) implies routine navigation across open seas in pre-Neolithic times, possibly as early as the 12th millennium cal BP. The settlement of Cyprus and Crete shows that, soon after, navigation skills had already improved to the point of enabling eastern Mediterranean early farmers to undertake colonizing expeditions involving deep planning and the transportation of groups of people and cargo over maritime crossings in the range of 50 to 100 km (Broodbank and Strasser, 1991; Vigne and Cucchi, 2005).”
“The navigation knowledge and equipment documented in the Aegean must also have been a prerequisite for the colonization of Malta (Evans, 1977; Robb, 2001; Malone, 2003) in the Central Mediterranean. Here, the decorative patterns of the impressed ceramics from the earliest Neolithic (as documented at the key cave site of Ghar Dalam) allow us to trace the island’s initial settlers to the Stentinello culture of Sicily and Calabria, implying a sea crossing of ~80 km.”
“Further to the West, however, the pattern is different. Firstly, no obsidian from the Tyrrhenian islands has ever been found in Mesolithic sites of mainland Italy (Ammerman, 2010). Secondly, such large islands as the Balearics remained uninhabited during the Neolithic (Ramis et al., 2002). This is despite the distance between Ibiza and the adjacent Spanish coast being similar to that separating Crete from the southern tip of the Peloponnese and the sea crossing from Ibiza to Mallorca being about the same. On the other hand, the coastal location of the earliest Neolithic settlements and the presence in sites from mainland Italy, southern France and Catalonia of island resources, namely obsidian from Lipari and Sardinia (Tykot, 1996, 1997), are consistent with colonization via sea routes.”
“The earliest recorded occurrence of Pantelleria obsidian in continental Italy is at the site of Villa Badesso, in the province of Pescara (Tykot, 1996), which belongs to the Catignano culture dated to the 7000-6500 cal BP interval. Along the coast and adjacent hinterland of Valencia and Andalucía, however, agro-pastoral economies are securely documented from ~7500 cal BP (Bernabeu et al., 2009). Therefore, by the time when the presence in Italy of obsidian from Pantelleria (and, by implication, sea crossings to the island and, possibly, beyond it to North Africa) are ascertained, farming had already existed in Eastern and Southern Iberia for more than half a millennium, making the establishment of a route of diffusion and/or migration between Sicily and Tunisia irrelevant to explain its emergence.”
“no secure evidence exists for the settlement of Pantelleria, or for the quarrying of its obsidian, in the Early Neolithic or before that. In addition, no other sources of evidence support the notion that the stretch of sea between Italy and Tunisia was navigated in Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic times: no African raw-materials (e.g., ostrich eggshell) have been found in coeval sites of Sicily and southern Italy, and no Italian raw-materials (e.g., Lipari obsidian) have been found in coeval sites of Tunisia. A spread of the Neolithic into the latter directly from the northern Mediterranean landmass or any of the other islands of the Central Mediterranean with a documented Early Neolithic settlement would involve distances of at least ~150 km (if from Sicily), ~200 km (if from Sardinia) or ~300 km (if from Malta); however, we have no evidence for crossings of such magnitude occurring at this time anywhere in the Mediterranean.”
“That the Cardial culture extended into the Maghreb shores has long been known (Gilman, 1975), and the findings from Ifri Oudadane confirm this in a context that features significant stratigraphic integrity, assemblage coherence and consistent dating. By the same token, this site provides no evidence that a pre-Cardial Neolithic existed in the region. Therefore, we must conclude that, with present evidence, the earliest Neolithic of the Western Maghreb is of Cardial affinities and post-dates by a couple of centuries the emergence of farming in Iberia, now firmly set at ~7500 cal BP (Bernabeu et al., 2009). In this context, if stylistical similarities do exist in decorative style between the two sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, and if they are to be interpreted indeed as documenting the diffusion of people or ideas, then the inescapable conclusion is that such a diffusion occurred from North to South rather than from South to North.”
“The geographic distribution and mode of circulation of the obsidian from Lipari indicate that Early Neolithic navigation in the Western Mediterranean was a cabotage affair, effected over costal waters and mostly within sight of land. This evidence is consistent with the fact that such large islands as the Balearics remained uninhabited until the fifth millennium cal BP.
There is no evidence that obsidian from Pantelleria was being quarried and distributed to neighboring territories before 7000 cal BP, which implies that no evidence exists for Mesolithic or early Neolithic sea crossings between Sicily and Tunisia. A littoral Maghreb route for the spread of the Neolithic into the southern tip of Iberia ahead of its arrival in Southern France and Eastern Spain is therefore unsupported. The notion of a precocious emergence of the Neolithic in the westernmost Mediterranean, around 8000 cal BP if not before, cannot be supported either, thus making the hypothesis of a Siculo-Tunisian connection unnecessary to begin with.
By the time, ~7350 cal BP, when the Neolithic is securely documented in the Maghreb, it had already spread across most of Iberia, the Cantabrian strip excepted. At this time, ceramic styles on both sides of the Straits of the Gibraltar are consistent with their inclusion in a common Cardial culture area. This culture lacks any antecedents in Northern Africa but is preceded in the Northern Mediterranean by well dated farming/herding contexts featuring Impressa wares of Ligurian affinities. If anything, these chronological and material culture patterns indicate that, after diffusing from the Gulf of Lyon to Western Andalucía and Southern Portugal via cabotage along the northern shores of the Mediterranean, the Neolithic then spread via the same mechanism from these areas into the Western Maghreb, rather than the other way around.”
“Scattered, family-based, easy-fissioning and non-hierarchical in the West, farming societies of the Impressa and Cardial cultures would have lacked the scale and level of social organization required to put together expeditions involving targeted landfalls in previously reconnoitered territories located across significant open sea expanses. This hypothesis is consistent with the Western Mediterranean pattern of pioneer colonization inferred from the leap-frog pattern of dispersal suggested by the location of the earliest Neolithic settlements currently known along the Mediterranean and southern Atlantic coasts of Iberia.”
6. From the paper titled “Sardinian Obsidian Circulation and Early Maritime Navigation in the Neolithic as Shown Through Social Network Analysis”, by Kyle Freund (2014), we read:
“Debates about the prehistoric circulation of obsidian from the geological sources of Sardinia to mainland Italy and France are typically predicated upon assumptions concerning the degree of sophistication of early maritime technology. Due to the lack of direct evidence for early watercraft, scholars often rely on indirect evidence for the use of boats in prehistory, including the colonization of distant islands (Ammerman 2010; Broodbank 2006; Cherry 1990) and the procurement of obsidian from island sources throughout the Mediterranean (Freund 2013; Perlès et al. 2011). These studies work under the assumption that in order to travel to a particular island or procure obsidian from an island source people required boat technology. Although evidence exists for inland maritime navigation in central Italy in the sixth millennium BC (Fugazzola Delpino and Mineo 1995; Robb and Farr 2005:25–26), the earliest direct evidence for open-water sailing in the West Mediterranean is found at the second millennium BC wreck site of Pignataro di Fuori off the coast of the Aeolian island of Lipari (Ciabatti 1984). As a result of these limitations, West Mediterranean scholars are fittingly cautious in their interpretations about the degree of maritime mobility in the Neolithic (ca. 6000–3500 BC).
Concerning the distribution of Sardinian obsidian, scholars have typically emphasized the role of the intermediary islands of the Tuscan Archipelago in the exchange of obsidian ‘down-the-line’ (Renfrew 1969) from the geological sources of Sardinia along the coast to northern Italy and France (Figure 1; Hallam et al. 1976; Le Bourdonnec et al. 2010; Terradas et al. 2014; Tykot 1996:; Tykot et al. 2005:; see Léa 2012; Vaquer 2007 as exceptions). Although Neolithic obsidian consumption in southern France is notably distinct from Italian sites to the east in terms of the obsidian sources represented and in the relative quantities of obsidian present, scholars have been hesitant to suggest a more direct link between either Sardinia or Corsica and southern France.”
“While we do not deny that the people of southern France and northern Italy interacted with one another, we argue that strong similarities both in raw material selection and obsidian reduction strategies between communities in southern France, Corsica, and Sardinia have important implications, especially when considering the broader socio-economic circumstances of their occurrence. We argue that common traditions in how peoples of these regions procured and worked Sardinian obsidian strongly suggest that these communities interacted with one another. In order to test this hypothesis, we analyze the distribution of obsidian at 79 Neolithic sites dating from the sixth to fourth millennia BC. After collating previously published obsidian sourcing data, we use SNA (social network analysis) to identify the strengths of inter-site relationships through time based on common patterns of obsidian exploitation. As such, it becomes possible to reconstruct the relationships that mediated the distribution of obsidian throughout these regions.”
“The Monte Arci obsidian source in west-central Sardinia is often classified as a single “source,” but researchers have identified at least nine chemically distinct outcrops and secondary deposits (Lugliè et al. 2006; Tykot 1997), three of which are commonly reported in the archaeological literature. These include the geographically distinct SA, SB, and SC subsources. The differentiation between these subsources is archaeologically relevant because it has been shown that there were differences in these raw materials’ exploitation through time and space.”
“Despite the presence of Mesolithic populations on Sardinia and Corsica (ca. Seventh millennium BC; see Costa et al. 2003; Sondaar et al. 1995), it is not until the beginning of the Neolithic (ca. 6000 BC) with the introduction of the first farming communities to the islands that we see evidence of Sardinian obsidian procurement locally (Lugliè et al. 2007, 2008; Tykot 1996), and by distant communities on Corsica and mainland Italy (Bigazzi and Radi 1998; Tykot et al. 2003).”
“While the long-distance procurement of obsidian by Corsican and Italian communities does continue into the Chalcolithic (see Bigazzi and Radi 1998; Randle et al. 1993), there is a sharp fall-off in the number of sites in which obsidian has been reported. This diminishment in the use of Sardinian obsidian mirrors the exploitation of the other sources in the West Mediterranean in that obsidian consumption became a more local phenomenon, largely restricted to communities within the immediate vicinity of the various sources and subsources (Freund 2014).”
“In total, obsidian artifacts from 79 sites were analyzed, including 16 sites from the sixth millennium BC, 24 from the fifth millennium BC, and 39 from the fourth millennium BC.”
“Based on a network analysis of obsidian distribution at 79 Neolithic sites dating from the sixth to fourth millennia BC, our results uphold previous interpretations emphasizing the role of “down-the-line” exchange in the distribution of obsidian from the geological sources of Monte Arci to sites in Corsica and mainland Italy in the sixth millennium BC. However, by the fifth millennium BC, we argue that obsidian also reached southern France directly from Corsica. This is supported by the absence of SA obsidian at coastal sites in northern Italy and by similarities in source use and reduction strategies oriented towards the production of SA blades at sites in Corsica and southern France. While scholars have often been cautious in their interpretations about the degree of maritime mobility in the Neolithic, there is strong evidence that Neolithic mariners were capable navigators by as early as the fifth millennium BC, traveling upwards of 200 km across open water.
This study further underscores the role of French sites such as Terres Longues and La Cabre in the redistribution of obsidian to the surrounding areas. We argue that obsidian consumption in these regions was a restricted practice, where certain groups or individuals accumulated obsidian and used their control over esoteric knowledge as a means of institutionalizing their own power.
Our results therefore highlight a dynamic Neolithic landscape in the West Mediterreanean, an arena in which the procurement, reduction, and use of obsidian varied through both time and space. What begins in the sixth millennium BC as a relatively homogenous web of similarities becomes a multifaceted network of connections in later time periods. When contextualized within broader patterns of obsidian circulation and use, these results have important implications for debates surrounding Neolithic obsidian procurement, exchange spheres, and early maritime navigation.”
7. From the paper titled “A Common Genetic Origin for Early Farmers from Mediterranean Cardial and Central European LBK Cultures”, by Iñigo Olalde et al. (2015), we read:
“(Abstract) The spread of farming out of the Balkans and into the rest of Europe followed two distinct routes: An initial expansion represented by the Impressa and Cardial traditions, which followed the Northern Mediterranean coastline; and another expansion represented by the LBK (Linearbandkeramik) tradition, which followed the Danube River into Central Europe. Although genomic data now exist from samples representing the second migration, such data have yet to be successfully generated from the initial Mediterranean migration. To address this, we generated the complete genome of a 7,400-year old Cardial individual (CB13) from Cova Bonica in Vallirana (Barcelona), as well as partial nuclear data from five others excavated from different sites in Spain and Portugal. CB13 clusters with all previously sequenced early European farmers and modern-day Sardinians. Furthermore, our analyses suggest that both Cardial and LBK peoples derived from a common ancient population located in or around the Balkan Peninsula. The Iberian Cardial genome also carries a discernible hunter–gatherer genetic signature that likely was not acquired by admixture with local Iberian foragers.”
8. From the paper titled “Procurement strategies of Neolithic colouring materials: Territoriality and networks from 6th to 5th millennia BCE in North-Western Mediterranean”, by Jean-Victor Pradeau et al. (2016), we read:
“In the N.-W. Mediterranean area, the development of the Neolithic way of life during the 6th millennium cal. BCE is related to the spread of sailing pioneer groups.”
“After successive stages of cultural remodelling during the 6th millennium BCE, the agro-pastoral groups are well-implanted and reach the hinterland; at the end of the 5th millennium BCE, settlement and exchange networks gain increasing complexity, occurring diversified habitat status and relationships between them. During these two millennia, Neolithic groups had to deal with new environment, new resources and, sometimes, other people.”
“In Italy and Provence (South-Eastern France), the Neolithic pioneer groups belong to Impressed Ware culture. They settle in Adriatic area around 6000 cal. BCE and along the Tyrrhenian and French coasts between 5800 and 5600 cal. BCE (Binder, 2013). During the second half of the 6th millennium cal. BCE, the Neolithisation of Western Mediterranean is completed under the spread of the Western Cardial complex (Binder et al., 2008, 2014). Cardial traditions stay strong in Western Provence until 4700 cal. BCE (Epicardial and Post-Cardial), whereas after 5200 cal. BCE they evolve towards Square Mouthed Pottery (SMP) culture in Northern Italy and in Eastern Provence (Binder and Lepère, 2014). In Central and Eastern Provence, the Prechassey horizon, defined thanks to Salernes – Fontbregoua site (Binder, 1991; Luzi and Courtin, 2001), occurs between 4700 and 4350 cal. BCE and coexists with SMP influences in a few sites (Binder and Lepère, 2014, pp. 23-24). According to Nice-Giribaldi documentation, the southern Chassey rises in the second half of 5th millennium upon both Prechassey and SMP influences; Chassey culture (4300-3400 cal. BCE) is characterised by the variability of settlement status and functions and an increasing of the trade networks complexity (Binder et al., 2008; Binder and Lepère, 2014).
These cultural dynamics in North-Western Mediterranean Early and Middle Neolithic have been highlighted thanks to the recent excavation or reviewing of a set of reference sites like Finale – Arene Candide, Salernes – Fontbregoua, Castellar – Pendimoun and Nice Giribaldi.”
“While previous archaeological reports only include a few data on colouring series, complexe situations and distinct evolutions are revealed at Pendimoun and Giribaldi. At Pendimoun, from the first Early Neolithic to the Late Middle Neolithic occupations, the colouring materials imported are diverse and heterogeneous (oxidised marcasite, glauconitic alterite, oolithic iron stone), but widespread in the rock-shelter itself or in the close environment (less than 5 km). These results have to be considered in the context of a pioneer settlement (Impressa) and then seasonal occupations assigned to specific functions as burial activities, pottery and sheep pen (Cardial, SMP, Chassey). At Giribaldi, colouring materials series consists of close geological materials (glauconitic alterite) but also of two types of exogenous rocks, 70-90 and 60-70 km away (allochthonous bauxite and psammitic sandstone), and three minority rocks (parallochthonous bauxite, oolithic iron stone and azurite).”
“Neolithic pioneer have exploited various colouring materials as they set in North-Western Mediterranean area. Then, they required particular raw materials and developed specific procurement strategies, probably in regards of the projected uses of these artefacts. Indeed Pendimoun provided a unique bi-coloured anthropomorphic stone sculpture (Binder et al., 2014) and reddish-coloured ceramics have been evidenced in both Pendimoun and Giribaldi assemblages (Binder et al., 1993; Binder, 2004).”
9. From the paper titled “Modeling the role of voyaging in the coastal spread of the Early Neolithic in the West Mediterranean”, by Neus Isern et al. (2016), we read:
“The Neolithic transition in Europe spread at an average rate of about 1 km/y. (…) Current radiocarbon dates indicate a coastal spread in West Mediterranean Europe taking place at a much faster rate (above 5 km/y) than one would expect on the basis of the classical wave-of-advance model. An alternative approach is needed to explain this process. The maritime pioneer colonization model postulates a sea-based expansion that involves voyaging along the coast in the form of cabotage (with the possibility of making a short stop here and there along the way). (…) During the past 15 y, quality dates for the Early Neolithic in the West Mediterranean have continued to come in. As a result, the overall pattern is now more refined but remains consistent with the maritime pioneer model. (…) Voyaging during the Early Neolithic is well documented in the Eastern Mediterranean. From the distribution of obsidian artifacts in the Cyprus, Aegean, and Tyrrhenian basins, we know that its quantity tends to fall off with distance from a given source and that long-distance crossing of the open sea between these three basins is extremely rare. In short, it is fair to say that early voyaging in the eastern and central parts of the Mediterranean was kept on a comparatively short leash. (…) it is reasonable to think that the initial spread of the Neolithic in the west took place along coastal routes by first farmers ultimately coming from northwest Italy. (…) Although the models considered here are principally demic in character, such a fast coastal spread may well have entailed some interactions with local Mesolithic populations. Interaction can take place in a range of different forms, from exchanges of information and material culture to the adoption of farming as a way of life by a Mesolithic community.”
“Although the archaeological record for the Late Mesolithic in many areas of the West Mediterranean is still quite modest, there are Late Mesolithic sites on the coast of Portugal that provide good evidence of the side-by-side coexistence of late hunter-gatherers and first farmers over a fair arc of time. On the other hand, there is still a shortage of good evidence for the nature and temporal length of Mesolithic and Neolithic coexistence along the Spanish coast. On the Mediterranean coasts of France and northern Italy, the evidence so far does not support the idea of coexistence of any real length of time.”
“The initial spread of the Neolithic in the West Mediterranean shows a clear pattern: a rapid expansion that involved multiple points of entry along the coast. This pattern led to the formulation of a model based on voyaging, which provides both a confirmation and an extension of the maritime pioneer model (…)
(i) sea travel, as opposed to a land-based expansion, is necessary to explain the spread of the Early Neolithic in the West Mediterranean and
(ii) the best fit with the observed pattern of arrival times is one in which voyaging, in the form of cabotage, takes place by means of long-distance relocations.
These findings now make it possible to put forward distances of voyage dispersal in the range of 300–450 km. Although such distances might appear to be extreme (they came as a surprise to us), they are necessary to match the observed pattern of arrival dates. In fact, no value of voyaging below 300 km can fit with this pattern. (…) our results point toward a spread driven by small groups of first farmers who relocated by means of voyaging over distances of 300–450 km at the expanding front. Interaction with local hunter-gatherers, in the form of cross-mating, acculturation, or mutualism (or some combination of the three), would have facilitated the growth of farming populations and, in turn, their rapid spread in the West Mediterranean.”
10. From the paper titled “Evaluating the Neolithic Expansion at Both Shores of the Mediterranean Sea”, by João Pimenta et al. (2020), we read:
“(Abstract) During the Neolithic, human populations underwent cultural and technological developments that led to an agricultural revolution. Although the population genetics and evolution of European Neolithic populations have been extensively studied, little is known regarding the Neolithic expansion in North Africa with respect to Europe. One could expect that the different environmental and geological conditions at both shores of the Mediterranean Sea could have led to contrasting expansions. In order to test this hypothesis, we compared the Neolithic expansion in Europe and North Africa accounting for possible migration between them through the Strait of Gibraltar. We analyzed the entire X chromosome of 580 individuals from 20 populations spatially distributed along the North of Africa and Europe. Next, we applied approximate Bayesian computation based on extensive spatially explicit computer simulations to select among alternative scenarios of migration through the Strait of Gibraltar and to estimate population genetics parameters in both expansions. Our results suggest that, despite being more technologically advanced, Neolithic populations did not expand faster than Paleolithic populations, which could be interpreted as a consequence of a more sedentary lifestyle. We detected reciprocal Neolithic migration between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar. Counterintuitively, we found that the studied Neolithic expansions presented similar levels of carrying capacity and migration, and occurred at comparable speeds, suggesting a similar demic process of substitution of hunter–gatherer populations. Altogether, the Neolithic expansion through both Mediterranean shores was not so different, perhaps because these populations shared similar technical abilities and lifestyle patterns.”
“Neolithic migration and carrying capacity in Europe and North Africa were very similar, even presenting comparable speeds of expansion on both regions. This finding fits well with the existence of:
(1) maritime migrations that could potentiate a regular contact between both shores (Fernandez et al. 2014; Paschou et al. 2014) and
(2) favorable climatic conditions in both Southern Europe and North Africa that facilitated the adoption of the farmer lifestyle (Dunne et al. 2012; Manning and Timpson 2014; Olalde et al. 2015).
Archaeological data show that the introduction of the Neolithic in the Iberian Peninsula involved a pioneer expansion of the first farmers by sea (Zilhão 2001) and that this rapid expansion most likely occurred through long-distance dispersal (LDD) events along the coast (Isern et al. 2017). Furthermore, the archaeological evidence in North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula suggests a simultaneous arrival of the Neolithic by seafarers based on similar pottery and manufacturer techniques in both regions (Cortés Sanchez et al. 2012; Linstadter et al. 2012). Also, these results suggest a regular contact between western Mediterranean populations, which could be favored by their geographical proximity (through the Strait of Gibraltar) and are in agreement with our selected evolutionary scenario of reciprocal migration between both shores.”
“Archaeological evidence denotes a longer period of coexistence of hunter–gatherers and farmers in North Africa than in the Iberian Peninsula, which could be attributed to harsher environmental conditions for crops and cattle production and could lead to a slower Neolithization process by cultural assimilation”
“Interestingly, we did not find significant differences between migration rates of Paleolithic and Neolithic populations despite the larger carrying capacities and ancestral sizes presented in the Neolithic.”
“a recent study based on three X chromosome regions with little or no recombination where European populations were analyzed (Delser et al. 2017), showed evidence of pre-Neolithic expansions at 15–18 kya and diversity in one of the studied regions supported the existence of a Neolithic expansion around 10 kya.”
11. From the paper titled “One sea but many routes to Sail. The early maritime dispersal of Neolithic crops from the Aegean to the western Mediterranean”, by A. de Vareilles et al. (2020), we read:
“(Abstract) This paper explores the first maritime westward expansion of crops across the Adriatic and the northern coast of the western Mediterranean. Starting in Greece at c.6500 cal BC and following the coastline to the Andalusian region of Spain to c.4500 cal BC, the presence of the main cereal, pulse, oil and fibre crops are recorded from 122 sites. Patterns in the distribution of crops are explored through ubiquity scores, correspondence analysis and Simpson’s diversity index. Our findings reveal changes in the frequencies of crops as farming regimes developed in Europe, and show how different crops followed unique trajectories. Fluctuations in the diversity of the crop spectrum between defined areas are also evident, and may serve to illustrate how founder effects can explain some of the patterns evident in large-scale spatio-temporal evaluations. Within the broader westward expansion of farming, regionalism and multi-directional maritime networks described through archaeological materials are also visible in the botanical records.”
“Both Adriatic coastlines were colonized simultaneously (Biagi et al., 2005; Bocquet-Appel et al., 2009, 2012; Forenbaher and Perhoč, 2015; Mazzucco et al., 2017; McClure et al., 2014), initially by pioneer seafarers who led the way for larger, more permanently settled communities (Forenbaher and Miracle, 2005; Forenbaher et al., 2013). The advance into the Mediterranean also happened as a ‘leap-frog colonization’ (Guilaine, 2017; Zilhão, 2001), though it is calculated to have occurred at a faster rate (Henderson et al., 2014: 1297). Westerly sites dated to the early sixth millennium BC, such as Arene Candide in Liguria (Italy), Pont-de-Roque Haute and Peiro Seignado in the South of France and Mas D’Is near Valencia (Spain), are testimony to the rapid advance of the Neolithic (Manen et al., 2018a; Garciá-Puchol et al., 2017). Radiocarbon dates and material culture speak of varied temporalities, regionalism and numerous multi-directional maritime excursions through which connections with established settlements were maintained as new coastal areas were settled (Guilaine, 2017, 2018; Manen et al., 2018a, 2018b; Rigaud et al., 2018).”
“Spatio-temporal variations in the plant and animal diets are evident during the neolithisation of Europe, as packages are seen to change, not only with the spread of farming, but also in situ through time as pioneer communities became firmly established.”
“Explanations for changes in the suite of cultivated crops, as well as in the importance of particular crop species have been sought through social or cultural forces, and natural adaptations to changing ecological and climatic environments. Other explanations include the effects of different modes of inheritance, such as neutral drift (change resulting from the random copying of certain traits over others, and innovations – Hahn and Bentley, 2003) and homophily (whereby successful interactions between similar people are more likely than between dissimilar people – McPherson et al., 2001: 416), both of which may have resulted in reducing crop diversity during the first neolithisation”
“Starting at c.6500 BCE in Greece, we looked for the archaeobotanical traces of the first farmers to colonize the Adriatic and the north-western Mediterranean. Previous studies have focused on specific areas of the Neolithic Adriatic and European Mediterranean, or included coastal zones with inland trajectories for continental-scale analyses. However, it has been demonstrated that the crops cultivated along the maritime and inland routes of the European neolithisation developed independently (Gaastra et al., 2019), and whilst inland developments between SE Europe and the Linearbandkeramik are relatively well understood, little has been done to investigate the European maritime route”
“One hundred and twenty-two sites from the Aegean to the coast of Málaga, Spain (up to Cueva del Toro at −4.5423 longitude) are included in this research. Every effort was made to locate original archaeobotanical reports, although many, particularly from Italy, are not widely published. However, the regional reviews used are internationally accepted and care was taken to source any re-evaluations of site dates and details. Sites were chosen according to a strict chronological framework to represent the very first European westward maritime dispersal of cultivated crops. The four phases are divided into 500 year brackets, starting at c.6500 cal BC, and Phases 1 to 3 roughly correspond to renewed colonizations of coastal areas and the developments of new ceramic expressions. Phases 3 and 4 along the western northern Mediterranean are less distinct, representing both pioneer settlements of coastal zones and the second phase of habitation in others”
“The dataset comprises of 122 site/phases with records of domesticated crops. The crops included in this study are the main cereals and pulses cultivated during the Early Neolithic. Opium poppy and flax are also included to document possible early findings.”
“The 122 sites/phases are not evenly distributed between the three phases. Phases 2 and 3 have a similar amount of sites (n = 40 and 43 respectively), but Phase 1 only has 14 and the last Phase 25.”
“Barley, emmer, einkorn, free-threshing wheat, lentil, pea, grass/red pea, bitter vetch and flax are present throughout the investigated area.”
“The glume wheats emmer and einkorn are ubiquitous in Greece but their frequencies are seen to drop with the westward expansion of farming. They are only recorded from a third of sites in France and Spain during the final Phase 4. The almost exact opposite pattern is evident for free-threshing wheat, which is present in 36% (n = 5) of Greek sites (Phase 1) but 84% (n = 21) of French and Spanish Phase 4 sites. It is during c.5500–5000 cal. BC in northern Italy, France and Spain when both hulled and naked wheats appear to have been as frequent.”
“Although barley is present at almost every site, its high frequency may be misleading compared to those of the wheat types.”
“Lentil is present in all the Greek sites, and pea and bitter vetch in at least half of them. A sharp decline in frequencies is seen over Dalmatia and southern Italy, particularly for lentil (Phase 2). Bitter vetch then remains rare throughout the Mediterranean whilst the frequency of lentil continues to drop, whilst that of pea shows a slight increase. Although lentil is ubiquitous at the earliest sites in Greece, by the time the westward expansion of farming has reached northern Italy, France and Spain pea is more frequent.”
“The ubiquity scores for grass/red pea are not as high as those for pea but follow a similar pattern. The main difference is that grass/red pea is rarest from the latest sites. Broad bean and common vetch have relatively high frequencies during Phase 3. Indeed, broad bean is the third most frequent pulse in northern Italy, France and Spain during the first half of the sixth millennium BC.”
“Flax is present in low frequencies throughout the westward expansion of farming, though it is rarest from sites dating to the sixth millennium BC (Phases 2 and 3). Although relatively rare, poppy is the only crop to show a continuous increase in frequency from Phase 2 onwards. It is present across the western Mediterranean where it is recorded from central Italy (site 33), France (sites 78 and 85), Switzerland (sites 90 and 91) and up to Andalusia in Spain (sites 96, 108, 116 and 117).”
“Pioneer farming communities tended to be small, and lack of labour may have led to a preference in cereals that required less time and energy to process. Although little information is available for the western Mediterranean, entomological analyses suggest that cereal pests existed during the Early Neolithic in the Balkans and central Europe, but then seem to disappear quite early in the neolithisation process (Panagiotakopulu and Buckland, 2018). Contrary to the latitudinal gradient experienced during the inland spread into Europe, the neolithisation of the Mediterranean would not have been subject to significant climatic and seasonal variations. Consequently, and as emmer, einkorn and tetraploid free-threshing wheats are all suited to a Mediterranean climate, farmers may have been able to focus on crops that were better suited to their labour capacities. A reduced threat of pests, along with possible adaptations in storage facilities (Prat et al., submitted), may also have encouraged a focus on free-threshing wheat. The rise in naked cereals in the western Mediterranean pre-dates evidence for larger settlements and woodland clearings (Badal Garcıá et al., 1994; López Sáez et al., 2011; Jalut et al., 2000), suggesting that the change in focus was not caused by a possible shift from an intensive agricultural system to an extensive one based on a restricted range of cultivars.”
“Lentil and pea were part of the original suite of cultivated crops and were the two most common pulses in the Neolithic diet of southern Europe and SW Asia (Zohary et al., 2012: 77-87). They are found during all four phases, although they become less frequent during the westward migration of farming, particularly lentil.”
“Changes in diversity indices between Phase 1 and 4 are testimony to the arrhythmic nature of the migration (Guilaine, 2001), which included pauses for establishing settlements and perhaps building networks with other communities across the Mediterranean or further inland.”
“we suggest that climatic and environmental changes had minor consequences, and that crop packages were more influenced by founder effects and the nature of maritime trajectories. Our results support other archaeological evidence in depicting regional details and multi-directional maritime trajectories, within a broader westward maritime expansion of the Neolithic.”
NovoScriptorium: Let us now discuss analytically the above information.
a) It appears as a doubtless fact that there had been population movements from the East towards Western Europe and Western Mediterranean in various waves, during the Neolithic period, carrying with them the knowledge of the life-changing Neolithic innovations. One of the authors (Paper 3) writes: “domestic crops emerge in Iberia all of the sudden. Domestication processes and pre-domestic cultivation are not documented at all in Western Europe“, and “We have to remember that not only new cultivated plants arrive to the Western Mediterranean but also a whole set of “know how” related to agrarian practices and plant food processing“, and “The technology related to food must have known radical innovations that most probably came along with the new foods“. It is, therefore clear that (Paper 4) “Whether by land or by sea, it would be the arrival of people from the east that would trigger the Neolithisation process, or the transition from Mesolithic hunting and gathering to agricultural economies“.
b) One of the above authors (Paper 2) writes that the Fertile Crescent is “the presumed epicentre of Neolithisation in south-east Asia“. We couldn’t agree more on the word; “presumed“. The Early Neolithic in Europe, has always been seen as a function of the Neolithic in the Levant. But is it really like this? “As Watkins (2008, p.147) points out, the ‘Levantine Primacy Illusion’ still governs the debate, despite serious doubts as to its accuracy” (Paper 4). On this we couldn’t agree more. In our opinion, the Near Easterners or Anatolians had hardly anything to do with the expansion of the ‘Neolithic package’ towards the West. Instead, it appears that it was the Aegeans who brought to Europe the life-changing innovations. This statement does not intend to deny the possible ‘primacy’ of domestication of some species (plants and animals) in the Fertile Crescent. On the contrary. We fully agree. But we also fully disagree that the Near Easterners or Anatolians migrated towards Europe at any point during, at least, the Mesolithic and Neolithic. Starting from an imaginary movement towards the Aegean, which is a ‘key-point’ for many modern theories (which are exactly and only this: theories, and moreover, insubstantial ones). What the Archaeological record shows, so far, is a polycentric Neolithization in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Aegean sailors seem to have played a very crucial role in the spread of ideas and innovations, already since the Mesolithic. Actually, they were the only capable sailors of their epoch. How can someone seriously suggest a Near Eastern ‘migration movement towards the West’ while there is -so far- absolutely no evidence that there had been adequate navigational capabilities in the Near East during the Mesolithic and Neolithic? The same argument is valid for Anatolia, too. The Western coasts of Asia Minor belonged to the same ‘Cultural continuum’, i.e. the Aegeans – the same people. Of course, it cannot be excluded that, acting as ‘middle-men’, the Aegeans indeed brought some individuals or small groups of Near Easterner and Anatolian farmers (together with a series of domesticated species) on European shores – even in the Aegean itself. On the contrary, in our opinion, this should be considered as a certainty.
c) The Archaeological record suggests that the Aegeans did not replace the local European populations – in most parts of the Continent- but instead it seems that they taught the locals the latest innovations and lived among them for quite a long time. Since they must have been far less in numbers compared to the locals (in most regions, if not in all), they were eventually genetically ‘absorbed’ by the local populations at some point in History. As one of the authors writes (Paper 1): “We should also note the tendency of all societies to maintain the fundamental aspects of their organization. The adoption of agriculture could have meant more than simply a change in economy. It might also have been a serious challenge to the entire system of social organization and power relations“. We couldn’t agree more on this. Thus, this might suggest conflicts between locals and migrants. Indeed, this appears as a fact in the Archaeological record. One of the authors writes (Paper 11): “neutral drift (change resulting from the random copying of certain traits over others, and innovations – Hahn and Bentley, 2003) and homophily (whereby successful interactions between similar people are more likely than between dissimilar people – McPherson et al., 2001: 416), both of which may have resulted in reducing crop diversity during the first neolithisation“. Our best assumption is that there should have been some kind of homophily between the Aegeans and the rest of the Europeans. Let’s recall here the homogeneities which appear in the Archaeological record among various European Palaeolithic cultures, a fact that indirectly may also suggest some kind of homophily.
c) The societies we study, as one of the authors writes (Paper 1): “in most cases, were integrated in wide exchange networks of goods and ideas, reciprocally influencing one another up to some point. This probably existed long before the transition to the Neolithic, as the extension throughout Europe of phenomena such as Paleolithic parietal art or the Mesolithic manufacture of geometric microliths suggests“. Clearly, we are not dealing here with ‘isolated entities’.
d) Let us discuss now the very challenging issues of morphometry and genetic studies. As one of the authors writes (Paper 4): “As for morphometric data samples do not necessarily randomly represent the entire population – we are unable to evaluate the biological variability of populations“, and “As for genetic data, there are a number of studies that deal with the European gene pool and the genetic evidence for migrations, either Palaeolithic or Neolithic. Their results are diverse; more interestingly, their assumptions, hypotheses and procedures are equally diverse“, and also “the results tend to be inconsistent and even contradictory, with estimations of migratory impacts in Europe, especially Neolithic migrations, varying widely“. We couldn’t agree more. And this is the main reason why the NovoScriptorium Team prefers to rely mostly on the Archaeological Record rather than on ‘genetic studies’. Of course, we do not reject all of them a priori; we remain though careful and sceptical on the validity and the ‘aims’ of quite a few of them. In support of our position, from the same author we also read: “Sampietro et al. (2007) have found no evidence of a Middle Eastern origin for the Catalonian Neolithic population they study“, and “Chandler et al. (2005) did analyze Neolithic and Mesolithic populations in Portugal. They found that the ancient Portuguese haplogroup frequencies are more closely related to Iberian and Mediterranean populations than to Near Eastern populations. This is true even for the early Neolithic population“, and “It is also notable that the Portuguese Mesolithic and Neolithic samples contain no haplogroup J, that is, no marker of Near Eastern population input“, and “genetic and morphometric data present difficulties when used as independent arguments in the debate on the colonization of the Western Mediterranean“, and “The final interpretation of this kind of evidence, is, rather, a function of an author’s position“, and also “Data on morphology, genetics and diet is controversial because of its very nature“.
e) One of the authors writes (Paper 7): “The spread of farming out of the Balkans and into the rest of Europe followed two distinct routes: An initial expansion represented by the Impressa and Cardial traditions, which followed the Northern Mediterranean coastline; and another expansion represented by the LBK (Linearbandkeramik) tradition, which followed the Danube River into Central Europe“, and also “both Cardial and LBK peoples derived from a common ancient population located in or around the Balkan Peninsula“. It is rather strange that they don’t clearly refer to the Aegeans. There is -to date- no doubt that the Neolithic innovations in Europe expanded specifically from the Aegean towards the West. Another misplaced ‘generalization’ (‘the Balkans‘, ‘in or around the Balkans‘) to avoid the direct reference to the role of the Aegeans in the process.
f) As one of the authors writes (Paper 5): “the presence of obsidian from Melos in Mesolithic sites from other Aegean islands (e.g., Youra and Kythnos) and also from mainland Greece (Franchthi) implies routine navigation across open seas in pre-Neolithic times, possibly as early as the 12th millennium cal BP. The settlement of Cyprus and Crete shows that, soon after, navigation skills had already improved to the point of enabling eastern Mediterranean early farmers to undertake colonizing expeditions involving deep planning and the transportation of groups of people and cargo over maritime crossings in the range of 50 to 100 km“. We notice here another ‘generalization’ which is not really accurate; the only Eastern Mediterranean place where one would find capable navigators during the Mesolithic/Neolithic is -with to date evidence- the Aegean. It is also suggested that “Early Neolithic navigation in the Western Mediterranean was a cabotage affair, effected over costal waters and mostly within sight of land“. While we do not disagree completely, there are convincing indications that the Aegeans, already since the Mesolithic, had capable enough boats/ships. Then, they wouldn’t necessarily be restricted to use a coastal route towards the West, even though, understandably, this would be safier. One other author writes (Paper 9): “it is reasonable to think that the initial spread of the Neolithic in the west took place along coastal routes by first farmers ultimately coming from northwest Italy“, and “The initial spread of the Neolithic in the West Mediterranean shows a clear pattern: a rapid expansion that involved multiple points of entry along the coast“, and also “These findings now make it possible to put forward distances of voyage dispersal in the range of 300–450 km. Although such distances might appear to be extreme (they came as a surprise to us), they are necessary to match the observed pattern of arrival dates. In fact, no value of voyaging below 300 km can fit with this pattern. (…) our results point toward a spread driven by small groups of first farmers who relocated by means of voyaging over distances of 300–450 km at the expanding front. Interaction with local hunter-gatherers, in the form of cross-mating, acculturation, or mutualism (or some combination of the three), would have facilitated the growth of farming populations and, in turn, their rapid spread in the West Mediterranean“. The indications from the Mesolithic/Neolithic Aegean can reasonably support the existence of open-sea ships. Nowhere else in the Mediterranean -to date- can something similar be suggested during the discussed epochs. As for the ‘northwest Italy’ reference, let us recall what one of the other authors writes (Paper 6): “Despite the presence of Mesolithic populations on Sardinia and Corsica (ca. Seventh millennium BC; see Costa et al. 2003; Sondaar et al. 1995), it is not until the beginning of the Neolithic (ca. 6000 BC) with the introduction of the first farming communities to the islands that we see evidence of Sardinian obsidian procurement locally (Lugliè et al. 2007, 2008; Tykot 1996), and by distant communities on Corsica and mainland Italy“, while one of the other authors writes (Paper 8): “In Italy and Provence (South-Eastern France), the Neolithic pioneer groups belong to Impressed Ware culture. They settle in Adriatic area around 6000 cal. BCE and along the Tyrrhenian and French coasts between 5800 and 5600 cal. BCE (Binder, 2013). During the second half of the 6th millennium cal. BCE, the Neolithisation of Western Mediterranean is completed“, and one of the other authors writes (Paper 11): “This paper explores the first maritime westward expansion of crops across the Adriatic and the northern coast of the western Mediterranean. Starting in Greece at c.6500 cal BC and following the coastline to the Andalusian region of Spain to c.4500 cal BC, the presence of the main cereal, pulse, oil and fibre crops are recorded from 122 sites” and also “Both Adriatic coastlines were colonized simultaneously (Biagi et al., 2005; Bocquet-Appel et al., 2009, 2012; Forenbaher and Perhoč, 2015; Mazzucco et al., 2017; McClure et al., 2014), initially by pioneer seafarers who led the way for larger, more permanently settled communities“.
If we combine the above statements, it really leaves no doubt that the ‘pioneers from northwest Italy’ were actually of Aegean origin. What is very important, in our opinion, is the information that obsidian circulation in the Central and Western Mediterranean hadn’t taken place until the beginning of the Neolithic. Obsidian circulation in the Aegean is documented already since the Mesolithic (11,000-8,000 BC). This naturally leads us to suggest that the Aegeans are the ones who initialized the exploitation and circulation of obsidian in the rest of Mediterranean Europe. It must have been one of the ‘precious materials’ of the epoch, like copper, gold, amber, and the like later on. Yet again, we notice an ‘effort’ to avoid the direct reference to the role of the Aegeans in the process.
g) On top of all the above, we may now add another crucial element in the discussion: the Ancient Tradition, i.e., the Greek Mythology. As we have shown in a previous post, there are quite a few Greek Myths which have their roots -at least- in the Neolithic Age. The Myths we have examined clearly speak about a ‘Cultural continuum’ from the Aegean up to Northern Europe, something sufficiently supported by the Archaeological record for the Neolithic. Of course, they also speak about ‘visits’ / expeditions of the Aegeans in several parts of Europe. The (Neolithic Age) Myths by Pindar which we have recently presented speak about ‘visits’ in the northernmost parts of the Balkans and Central Europe.
It is very interesting and necessary to recall here some more Myths recorded by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Source used: ‘The Roman Antiquities‘, The Loeb Classical Library Edition). First, Dionysius, sourcing information from both Greek and Roman historians before him (1st c. BC) informs us that Italy was colonized by populations that came from the Aegean/Greek peninsula in a number of waves: (in chronological order) Aborigines, Pelasgians, Arcadians, Greek campaigners under the command of Hercules, and then the Trojans who had fled with Aeneas from Troy. We have seen from the papers presented above that it is undoubtedly accepted that, indeed, Aegean populations migrated in the Italian peninsula during the Neolithic (most certainly later on, too). We are glad to confirm the Ancient Tradition – once again.
Then, we read about an expedition of ‘Hercules’ (the name itself is not that important; in our analysis we rather choose to use it as an indication of Aegean population movements): “A few years after the Arcadians another Greek expedition came into Italy under the command of Hercules, who had just returned from the conquest of Spain and of all the region that extends to the setting of the sun“, and
“Hercules, who was the greatest commander of his age, marched at the head of a large force through all the country that lies on this side of the Ocean, destroying any despotisms that were grievous and oppressive to their subjects, or commonwealths that outraged and injured the neighbouring states, or organized bands of men who lived in the manner of savages and lawlessly put strangers to death, and in their room establishing lawful monarchies, well-ordered governments and humane and sociable modes of life. Furthermore, he mingled barbarians with Greeks, and inhabitants of the inland with dwellers on the sea coast, groups which hitherto had been distrustful and unsocial in their dealings with each other; he also built cities in desert places, turned the course of rivers that overflowed the fields, cut roads through inaccessible mountains, and contrived other means by which every land and sea might lie open to the use of all mankind. And he came into Italy not alone nor yet bringing a herd of cattle (for neither does this country lie on the road of those returning from Spain to Argos nor would he have been deemed worthy of so great honour merely for passing through it), but at the head of a great army, after he had already conquered Spain, in order to subjugate and rule the people in this region; and he was obliged to tarry there a considerable time both because of the absence of his fleet, due to stormy weather that detained it, and because not all the nations of Italy willingly submitted to him. For, besides the other barbarians, the Ligurians. a numerous and warlike people seated in the passes of the Alps, endeavoured to prevent his entrance into Italy by force of arms, and in that place so great a battle was fought by the Greeks that all their missiles gave out in the course of the fighting“, and
“After Hercules had defeated this people and gained the passes, some delivered up their cities to him of their own accord, particularly those who were of Greek extraction or who had no considerable forces; but the greatest part of them were reduced by war and siege. Among those who were conquered in battle, they say, was Cacus, who is celebrated in the Roman legend, an exceedingly barbarous chieftain reigning over a savage people, who had set himself to oppose Hercules; he was established in the fastnesses and on that account was a pest to his neighbours. He, when he heard that Hercules lay encamped in the plain hard by, equipped his followers like brigands and making a sudden raid while the array lay sleeping, he surrounded and drove off as much of their booty as he found unguarded. Afterwards, being besieged by the Greeks, he not only saw his forts taken by storm, but was himself slain amid his fastnesses. And when his forts had been demolished, those who had accompanied Hercules on the expedition (these were some Arcadians with Evander, and Faunus, king of the Aborigines) took over the districts round about, each group for itself. And it may be conjectured that those of the Greeks who remained there, that is, the Epeans and the Arcadians from Pheneus, as well as the Trojans, were left to guard the country. For among the various measures of Hercules that bespoke the true general none was more worthy of admiration than his practice of carrying along with him for a time on his expeditions the prisoners taken from the captured cities, and then, after they had cheerfully assisted him in his wars, settling them in the conquered regions and bestowing on them the riches he had gained from others. It was because of these deeds that Hercules gained the greatest name and renown in Italy, and not because of his passage through it, which was attended by nothing worthy of veneration (…) Some say that he also left sons by two women in the region now inhabited by the Romans. One of these sons was Pallas, whom he had by the daughter of Evander, whose name, they say, was Lavinia; the other, Latinus, whose mother was a certain Hyperborean girl whom he brought with him as a hostage given to him by her father and preserved for some time untouched; but while he was on his voyage to Italy, he fell in love with her and got her with child. And when he was preparing to leave for Argos, he married her to Faunus, king of the Aborigines; for which reason Latinus is generally looked upon as the son of Faunus, not of Hercules. Pallas, they say, died before he arrived at puberty; but Latinus, upon reaching man’s estate, succeeded to the kingdom of the Aborigines, and when he was killed in the battle against the neighbouring Rutulians, without leaving any male issue, the kingdom devolved on Aeneas, the son of Anchises, his son-in-law. But these things happened at other times“.
Despite some ‘poetic sauce’, the description of the Aegeans’ Western expedition seems to fit almost perfectly with the Archaeological record so far. More analytically the text refers to:
a) “a large force” (the Aegeans must have been indeed many in numbers)
b) “through all the country that lies on this side of the Ocean” (i.e. Spain, Portugal, France)
c) “destroying any despotisms that were grievous and oppressive to their subjects, or commonwealths that outraged and injured the neighbouring states, or organized bands of men who lived in the manner of savages and lawlessly put strangers to death, and in their room establishing lawful monarchies, well-ordered governments and humane and sociable modes of life” (the Aegeans acted not only as conquerors but also as pacifiers and civilizers. It is also testified that there had been connections and exchanges between the local populations already before the arrival of the Aegeans – this is observed in the Archaeological record)
d) “he mingled barbarians with Greeks, and inhabitants of the inland with dwellers on the sea coast” (exactly what we see in the Archaeological record; co-existence of the two groups and eventual absorption of the Aegeans by the locals)
e) “he also built cities in desert places” (this is most likely a reference to the completely new Neolithic settlements we observe in the Archaeological record)
f) “turned the course of rivers that overflowed the fields” (this is a clear reference to the ‘new techniques‘ – necessary for the ‘Neolithic way of life’- suggested by the Archaeological record, introduced by the Aegeans in their new homes)
g) “cut roads through inaccessible mountains” (this remains to be confirmed, but we could say that, indirectly, it may have been already; the rapid spread of the ‘Neolithic package’ by land could have been supported by such infrastructure)
h) “contrived other means by which every land and sea might lie open to the use of all mankind” (we cannot possibly hypothesize what ‘means’ are implied here; what is evident though in the Archaeological record is that Trade in Central and Western Europe became indeed more intense than before, and so did the mobility and connectivity of the peoples living in the area)
i) “he came into Italy … at the head of a great army, after he had already conquered Spain, in order to subjugate and rule the people in this region” (this means that Italy, even though there had been Aegeans living there for a long time prior to ‘Hercules’, was not solely populated by them – something rather expected. This is observed in the Archaeological record for almost all the places where the Aegeans moved to: almost all of them had already been inhabited by local groups of people)
j) “his fleet” (the Aegeans didn’t just have some boats / ships; as one would expect for such an expedition plan, a whole fleet was required. No surprise at all that they must have had it, as it is suggested by the Archaeological record – mostly indirectly)
k) “the Ligurians. a numerous and warlike people seated in the passes of the Alps, endeavoured to prevent his entrance into Italy by force of arms, and in that place so great a battle was fought by the Greeks that all their missiles gave out in the course of the fighting” (there are indeed some places where the Archaeological record suggests large concentrations of local hunter-gatherer populations during the epoch under examination)
l) “Cacus … an exceedingly barbarous chieftain reigning over a savage people, who had set himself to oppose Hercules … his forts had been demolished” (Cacus was a local Italian chief who opposed ‘Hercules’ and lost. What is interesting is that the Ancient Tradition speaks about ‘forts’ that the ‘barbarians’ had. Therefore, the knowledge of building was not something taught ‘from zero’ to the local populations by the Aegeans)
m) “carrying along with him for a time on his expeditions the prisoners taken from the captured cities, and then, after they had cheerfully assisted him in his wars, settling them in the conquered regions and bestowing on them the riches he had gained from others” (Here we are informed that there had been cities in Europe before the Aegeans’ Western expedition.We also learn of an Aegean army that, in the course of time, comprised various local European populations in it. These warriors were not only freed but also rewarded by ‘Hercules’. The important element here is that, under the Aegean influence / control, there had been movements of local European populations towards other lands within Europe – something which appears as a fact in the Archaeological record)
n) “Latinus, whose mother was a certain Hyperborean girl” (Latinus was the son of Hercules and of a Hyperborean girl, says the Myth. What is probably implied here is the mobility and connectivity of populations during the epoch under discussion, and the mingling of the various local European populations with the Aegeans, and also between them)
Let us now comment on the information provided by the Myth that the Aegeans of Hercules faught many battles in order to conquer the West.
During the last two decades there have been various excavations across the Continent which revealed the brutal truth of the Neolithic period; there had been many massacres, in many different places, mostly between ‘hunter-gatherer’ groups vs ‘farmers’. In the future, a separate post will be dedicated on this matter. For now, we can suggest a few representative publications – for the reader to convince himself that Neolithic Warfare did exist.
a) “Warfare in the European Neolithic“, by Jonas Christensen (2004)
b) “Skeletal evidence for interpersonal violence in Neolithic Europe: an introduction“, by Rick J. Schulting and Linda Fibiger (2012)
c) “The massacre mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten reveals new insights into collective violence in Early Neolithic Central Europe“, by Christian Meyer et al. (2015)
d) “A massacre of early Neolithic farmers in the high Pyrenees at Els Trocs, Spain“, by Kurt W. Alt et al. (2020)
After all the above, our conclusion is effortless really: some Aegean Myths constitute an actual description of the Neolithic reality of the Aegean and Europe. This immediately implies a few other things:
a) There must have been some kind of way of recording all this information. There are, indeed, indications – we may not speak of ‘proof’ just yet- for the existence of Writing across Europe during the Neolithic, with the oldest -possible- inscription coming from the Aegean.
b) The people who recorded these Myths during the historical times had no doubt that all these sets of stories belonged to their ‘National History’, i.e. that personalities like Hercules were their ancestors by blood.
c) In the Eastern Mediterranean, there is no other ancient nation of the historical times (e.g. the Classical era or the Bronze Age, where we trace the first indisputable evidence for Writing) which has such a set of stories. There is no Near Eastern / Anatolian Mythological or other reference that claims deeds like the ones the Aegeans boasted for.
a) The Aegeans of the Mesolithic/Neolithic were the same people as the Aegeans of the Classical era. This does not exclude mingling with other non-Aegean peoples. On the contrary, Greek Mythology clearly refers to many of them. The phenomenon is mostly reported to have occurred outside of their ‘main lands’ in the Aegean – e.g. Anatolia or the Balkans, where the Myths speak about various nations characterized as mixohellenes (i.e. a mix of ‘Hellenes’ with ‘barbarians’). Clearly, modern theories that suggest ‘complete population replacement’ (!) of the pre-Neolithic/Neolithic Aegeans by some imaginary ‘Eastern invaders’ during the Neolithic are not just ‘wrong’ but constitute a form of ‘Propaganda in Science‘, an attempt to force some kind of ‘holy-cow dogma‘, which is totally inacceptable for True Science. An even greater deviation from the -obvious- truth, is the suggestion that the Neolithic Aegeans had nothing (!) to do with the Bronze Age Aegeans or the Classical era ones. How dare you dispute the ‘National History’ of a people written in a time where modern notions like ‘Propaganda‘ and ‘Nationalism‘ did not exist? And as we systematically prove through our posts, this ‘National History’ is slowly but steadily confirmed by Modern Science. Do you know of any nation on Earth -well, at least any ancient and historical one- that would conserve the ‘National History’ of other nations/peoples as his own? And moreover, the stories of the -supposedly- ‘conquered’ peoples and for thousands of years? This is simply irrational and ridiculus.
b) We insist that the Ancient Tradition should be taken far more seriously by Modern Science. Instead of imagining some ‘ghost nation’ from ‘somewhere in the East’ that migrated in Europe and spread ‘Civilization’, look at the obvious and unquestionable facts; it was the Aegeans who did the job. And the most important thing? They had recorded the process in their collective memory. If you are honest, what else do you really need to stop forgering the History of Man?
c) Another Aegean Myth directly linked to the whole process of Neolithization is the one of Triptolemus which we have presented in a previous post. This Myth suggests that Agriculture spread from the Aegean towards the rest of the World. Obviously, ‘the rest of the World’ declaration is a poetic exaggeration. But the Myth in its core describes an Archaeologically recorded reality: indeed, Agriculture spread from the Aegean to vast parts of the Mediterranean and Western, Central and Northern Europe.
Last but surely not least, a comment on the way some Aegean Myths are recorded. There are many ways for Man to record events. In order to place them in a chronological order, usually, a reference starting date is used, depending on the epoch, the organization of each civilization, etc. Some Aegean Myths prefer to use other means though:
a) The use of the Astronomical map and of various, periodic, Astronomical phenomena
b) The use of special, not ordinary, without periodicity, Astronomical phenomena
c) Climatic and Geographical references
d) Detailed Fauna and Flora descriptions for specific regions and epochs
We have presented a few such examples in previous posts. And the question, naturally, arises: How could these people of old have realized, long before any ‘Science’ -as we know it- emerges, that, by using such descriptions, the Scientist of the Future would be able to roughly (or even exactly, if we deal with periodic or/and predictable Astronomical phenomena) estimate / calculate the Time intervals the various events took place? Of course, we do not have the answer for this – neither we dare to hypothesize one. But we will not remain blind on these facts either.
Research-Selection-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Philaretus Homerides, Maximus E. Niles, Isidoros Aggelos