Chapter 11. Introduction. The archaeology of the last 9,000 years in Europe reveals remarkable transition. Events ranged from the first farmers to the Roman conquests.
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The archaeology of the last 9,000 years in Europe reveals remarkable transition.
Events ranged from the first farmers to the Roman conquests.
Included is the introduction of agriculture, innovation and use of metals, growth of regionalism and warfare, and the development of economically and politically powerful groups.
There is interest in this period today because many of the basic tenets of western civilization come from prehistoric Europe.
Languages, customs, traditions, and forms of government emerged in Europe during this period.
This period also allows the examination of the transition from small, simple bands of hunter-gatherers to large, complex states with thousands of citizens.
During the 8th and 7th millennia B.C., domestication and various forms of technology transformed European populations.
Introduced from Southwest Asia, domesticated plants and animals arrived in Europe shortly before 7,000 B.C.
Pottery and the use of mud-brick houses emerged by 6,500 B.C.
Many of the changes emerged in the southeast and eventually spread north and west.
Neolithic cultures flourished in southeastern Europe during the 6th millennium B.C.
Large settlements, elaborate religious systems, copper mining, and extensive trade networks appeared during this time.
Agriculture continued to spread across Europe.
The 5th through the 3rd millennia B.C. in Europe saw many technological and societal changes.
By the 4th millennium B.C., agriculture had spread throughout the area.
Neolithic societies in western Europe began to erect large structures.
Conflict and warfare were growing increasingly common.
Major innovations, such as the introduction of bronze, new weapons, the wheel, draft animals, the plow and ox cart, and the horse and chariot, appeared.
The second millennium B.C. was important for the Aegean area and beyond.
On Crete and in Greece, powerful polities emerged.
Writing systems, craft specialization, taxation, and extensive trade networks emerged.
Elaborate tombs of elite individuals are found in England, the Czech Republic, Spain, and southern Scandinavia.
The first millennium B.C. saw the emergence of the Iron Age.
The classical civilizations of Greece and Rome arose in the Mediteranean.
In Western Europe, Celtic and Germanic tribes were present.
Julius Caesar and his successors eventually overwhelmed the groups in western Europe.
Several European sites will be examined in this chapter.
Evidence of human occupation at Franchthi Cave in southern Greece dates back over 20,000 years.
The cave was located some distance from the sea with a fairly level plain in between.
Early inhabitants exploited a wide range of wild food resources, including large land mammals, marine life, and plant foods.
Year-round occupation may have occurred by 10,000 years ago.
Reliance on the sea increased, with large tuna representing about 50% of the animal remains during some periods.
This reveals seafaring abilities.
Franchthi Cave provides early evidence for the introduction of agriculture to the European continent.
After 7,000 B.C., domesticated plants and animals were present.
Sheep and goats, along with domesticated wheats and barley, were found.
Wild plant and animal species found at earlier occupation levels became less prominent in the diet.
Some stone blades show sickle polish, indicating that they were used to cut the stems of plants such as grasses and reeds.
The occupation area of the site increased at this time, with a population perhaps as large as 75 individuals.
Domesticated plants and animals appeared rather suddenly at Franchthi and must have come from the Near East.
This may have resulted from people moving into the area, bringing domesticates to Greece.
Another possibility is the adoption of domesticates by the indigenous peoples of southeastern Europe.
The domesticated products may have been introduced by seafarers.
The discovery and use of metals in the Old World was a relatively slow process.
A few small pieces of copper appeared in the Near East by 7,000 B.C.
Melting and casting of copper began in southeastern Europe and the Near East shortly after 5,000 B.C.
During the fifth millennium B.C., copper mines were opened in Yugoslavia and various copper artifacts found their way throughout much of Europe.
A cemetery near the city of Varna, on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, contained at least 190 graves in an area covering 1.6 acres.
The graves were simple rectangular pits dug to various depths, with red ochre spread over most of the burials.
About 14 pounds of gold were found during the excavation.
Additional grave goods made of stone, shell, and other materials were found.
Most of the burials at Varna were males, lying extended on their backs, with their heads toward the Black Sea.
A few women were buried in a flexed position on their right side.
No graves of children were present.
A limited number of grave goods were found with the bodies and in empty graves.
Several of the graves were distinctive.
Three empty graves contained life-size clay masks of human faces with some features made of gold.
Thousands of gold pins and other objects were found in these “mask” graves.
Another grave contained over a thousand gold objects weighing a combined 4.5 pounds.
Other graves also contained elaborate grave goods, including large quantities of gold.
The graves provide evidence for status differentiation in southeastern Europe at the time.
The graves may have been made for religious or political leaders.
The location of the cemetery points to the role of trade and exchange.
A frozen mummy from the Stone Age was found in 1991 in the high Alps , on the border between Italy and Austria.
The Iceman, nicknamed Ötzi, is the highest archaeological find in Europe, at 10,500 feet.
Shortly after his death, he was buried in snow, where his body was mummified through the drying processes of sun, wind, and ice.
Preservation of the body was remarkable, with most of the internal organs intact.
Examination of the Iceman’s body revealed a great deal of information about him.
He had tattoos on his back and right leg.
X-rays revealed several broken ribs and indicate that he suffered from arthritis.
His last meal, which he ate at least 8 hours prior to his death, included unleavened bread, some greens, and red deer meat.
Ötzi died between March and June around 4,300 B.C. at the age of about 50.
The Iceman was carrying an extensive amount of gear, including seven articles of clothing and twenty items of equipment.
Some of the items carried included a bow and quiver of arrows, a hafted copper axe, several flint tools, and a net.
His clothing included items made of animal skins.
One of the more interesting items he had was the almost pure copper axe, since this documents the widespread use of the metal during the latter half of the Neolithic period.
Some speculation can be made as to the Iceman’s origins.
He probably came from valleys to the south in Italy, less than a day’s walk away.
A piece of charcoal he carried came from trees that grew to the south of the Alps, and pollen from his intestines came from a tree which grew in the same area.
The food he ate suggest connections to a farming village.
The Iceman probably died from armed conflict.
He had deep cuts to his hand and wrist.
There was an arrowhead lodged in his back.
Charavines is an underwater site located between Lyon and Grenoble in southeastern France.
Excavations took place between 7 and 13 feet underwater.
The oxygen-deficient mud of the lake bottom preserved a remarkable array of food remains and other items.
There were two major phases of occupation at Charavines along the lakeshore more than 5,000 years ago.
Each building phase lasted 20-25 years, separated by about 3 years of abandonment.
From three to eight structures were built per settlement phase.
Houses were 40-50 feet long and 10-14 feet wide.
Low platforms of clay were built on the floors for the hearths.
The excellent preservation of specimens revealed that the diet of the inhabitants of Charavines was varied and nutritious.
Millions of fruit pits, nutshells, and seeds have been collected.
The occupants practiced farming, collecting, hunting, and fishing, with a sizeable portion of their diets coming from wild sources.
Evidence of meat from both domestic and wild sources was found, although about 90% of the meat by weight comes from the latter.
More than 80 different species of plants were found, including cultivated plants such as wheat, barley, flax, and poppy.
The manner in which food was raised and prepared can be determined from the site.
Whole dried apples were preserved at this site, along with baked breads and other materials.
Wooden spoons and whisks and baking stones for making breads were found.
Both gardens and fields were used for growing plants.
Cultivating tools were found as well.
Artifacts at Charavines provide information about technology and trade.
Many wooden objects, including bows and arrows, handles for axes, canoes and paddles, and others, were recovered.
Textiles and tools for cloth making were found.
Objects, such as flint used for daggers, revealed that trade from outside the region must have occurred.
Almost immediately after agriculture spread to western and northern Europe at the beginning of the fourth millennium B.C., farming societies began to erect massive stone structures, known as megaliths.
These structures usually involved burial areas which were buried beneath a mound of earth to create an artificial cave.
Tens of thousands of megaliths are found across Europe.
Radiocarbon dates indicate an age between 4,000 and 2,000 B.C.
Such structures provide evidence of the impact of agriculture on the inhabitants of western Europe.
Megaliths fall into three major categories.
Menhirs are large standing stones, erected either singly or collectively in a linear fashion.
Henge monuments, or circles, are defined by an enclosure, usually a circular ditch and bank, up to 1,600 feet in diameter.
A dolmen is a megalithic tomb or a chamber with a roof, which may have served “cults of the dead” for ancestor worship.
The construction of Stonehenge took place over a period of 1,500 years, from approximately 3,000 to 1,500 B.C.
The earliest stage of the monument was built between 3,000 and 2,900 B.C. and consisted of a circular bank and ditch, almost 330 feet in diameter.
The monument was extensively remodeled during a second building stage and the erection of a circle of upright timbers was added.
The third stage of construction occurred between 2,500 and 1,600 B.C., with huge columns of sandstone being quarried and dragged to the site.
One of the largest pillars weighs as much as 50 tons and was likely moved on oak rollers, then put into play using a system of scaffolding.
Stonehenge functioned in part as an observatory to record the summer solstice.
Some have argued that the site was an astronomical computer, used to record various lunar and stellar alignments.
The Aegean Sea ranges from the shores of Turkey to the east, Greece to the north and west, and the island of Crete in the south.
The rugged, barren conditions, without large areas of fertile farmland, meant that crops other than cereals had to be cultivated.
Grapes, olive trees, and sheep flourished on the rocky slopes of the islands.
Inhabitants in the area also must have relied on the sea for fish.
Seafaring and trade permitted the movement of goods and foods between the islands.
Crete was strategically located to act as middleman in moving goods between Egypt, Asia, and Europe.
The demand for wine, olive oil, pottery, textiles, and other goods enhanced the economic well-being of the people of the Aegean.
Bronze was discovered shortly before 3,000 B.C., and most of the early bronze objects were weapons.
Crete was a major center of development in the Aegean.
Minoan civilization reached its peak between 2,000 and 1,450 B.C.
Minoans dominated the Aegean through sea power and the control of trade.
The Mycenaeans on mainland Greece controlled most of the Aegean between 1,600 and 1,100 B.C. and took over Crete in 1,450 B.C.
The Cycenaean civilization was dominated by a series of citadels ruled by powerful warrior kings.
Episodic alliances among the citadels led to greater political, economic, and military power.
Knossos has an extensive group of ruins, buried under a low mound of soil and collapsed walls.
The first Bronze Age palace at Knossos was erected around 3,000 B.C.
A series of palaces was built of top on one another, each larger and more elaborate.
Knossos covered about 6 acres in a complex of buildings that included the palace and several residences.
Palaces were the centers of the Minoan state.
They were laid out and built according to a plan, with large, rectangular courtyards, private apartments, and enormous storerooms.
The complex of rooms housed and buildings housed many of the administrative, economic, and religious functions of the government.
Important craft workshops were also located in the palaces or surrounding areas.
Frescoes and murals decorated the walls of the palace and shrines were scattered throughout the palace.
Knossos and other Minoan cultures directed an extensive network of trade.
Many raw materials from abroad were found at the palace.
These materials were the foundation of the wealth and power in the Minoan state.
The palace of Knossos was destroyed at least twice during its history.
The first destruction occurred in 1,700 B.C. and was probably caused by a major earthquake.
The second period of destruction dates to 1,450 B.C., marking the end of Minoan civilization, perhaps at the hands of the Mycenaeans.
Conflict and warfare characterized the Bronze Age of Europe.
The early Greeks gained power over Crete and came to dominate the Aegean between 1,600 and 1,100 B.C., a time known as the Mycenaean period.
A warrior class emerged at this time.
A military presence is visible in the Bronze Age citadels of southern Greece.
The citadels, of which the site of Mycenae is best known, were fortified palace towns, located on high, defensible points on the landscape.
Burials were an important aspect of Mycenae society.
Early rulers of the citadel of Mycenae were buried in shaft graves.
Grave goods from the site are among the most spectacular finds from the Bronze Age and include precious metals and stone in the form of weapons, vessels, masks, and other objects.
One of the early graves contained more than 11 pounds of gold.
By 1,400 B.C., beehive-shaped tholos tombs were constructed for major rulers.
Mycenaean settlements were often heavily fortified.
Graveled roads for chariots and carts connected the towns and villages.
Massive walls, some up to 50 feet thick, surrounded many sites.
The stone walls of Mycenae encircle an area 3,500 feet in diameter.
Mycenaean palaces combined many of the administrative, military, and manufacturing functions of the kingdom within the residence of the ruler.
Workshops for crafts, guardrooms, storerooms, and kitchens were attached to the rear of the palace.
Surrounding villages supplied plant foods, meat, men, and materials to the lord of the citadel.
The reasons for the collapse of Mycenaean civilization remain a mystery.
Draught or outside conquest do not appear to be causes.
After 1,100 B.C., Athens began to assert its importance in Greece and the citadels of Mycenaeans fell into disuse.
Metals appeared later in the northern part of Europe than in the Aegean area.
Copper first appeared north of the Alps around 4,000 B.C. and bronze objects began to appear after 2,000 B.C.
The Aegean acted like a magnet for valued raw materials from the rest of Europe.
The Bronze age in Denmark and southern Sweden was marked by the quality of fine metal objects buried in many funerary mounds and caches.
Bronze Age barrows are found across southern Scandinavia.
In some instances, the barrows have survived, which allow a glimpse of the elite of Bronze Age society in northwestern Europe.
Individuals were buried dressed in their finest clothing and jewelry.
Borum Eshøj was one of the largest Bronze Age barrows in Denmark.
The original mound was almost 30 feet high and 130 feet in diameter.
Three oak coffins were found in the mound, containing an elderly man, a woman, and a younger man.
Graves goods, including bronze objects, were buried with the individuals.
Bronze Age barrows were built for the wealthier members of society and placed nearby where the living had died.
Most barrows in Denmark are located in areas of productive farmland, which is evidence of the important relationship between wealth and the control of agricultural resources.
The circular mounds were often placed on the horizon to emphasize the importance of buried individuals.
Since all bronze and gold in southern Scandinavia had to be imported, the amount of metal in burials provides some indication of the wealth of deceased individuals.
Iron making was discovered in Turkey shortly before 2,000 B.C.
Due to high melting temperatures, sophisticated furnaces and smelting techniques are required for reducing the ore.
The technology was probably a well-guarded secret for some time in order to gain military advantage.
Iron was initially used to make stronger, more durable weapons and later for making more practical tools and equipment.
The Iron Age in western Europe can be divided into two phases.
The earlier Hallstatt phase (800-500 B.C.) was centered in Austria, southern Germany, and the Czech Rebublic.
Salt and iron mines in these regions led to economic boom times.
The later La Tène period was centralized in eastern France, Switzerland, southern Germany, and the Czech Republic.
The Iron Age, the time of the Celtic tribes, came to an end in most of western Europe around 50 B.C. with the Roman conquest.
A distinctive Celtic art style was practiced throughout western Europe during the pre-Roman Iron Age.
Weapons, tools, jewelry, and everyday equipment were ornamented with the distinctive style.
Both Iron Age phases are defined primarily by styles of artistic depiction and decoration and by types of pottery.
The art style, along with certain religious practices and beliefs, was shared by several distinct societies in western Europe.
Vix, in northern France, is the site of a burial of an Iron Age princess.
The burial took place around 500 B.C.
The woman was on the bed of a ceremonial cart, which was placed in a large square chamber in the ground.
She was buried with a heavy gold collar and the tomb was filled with a wealth of exotic, funerary offerings.
The items found in the grave indicate the extensive trade taking place in Europe at the time.
Major rivers were important transportation routes.
Mont Lassois, directly above the grave at Vix, dominates the upper Seine Valley.
This was a main route of commerce between the western Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of eastern France, the English Channel, and the British Isles.
The richness of the grave goods suggests that the Greeks were giving gifts to the elite of Celtic society in order to obtain favorable trading status and secure commerce.
Maiden castle is one of the largest hillforts in Britain.
The site enclosed an area of 45 acres.
The largest settlements from the Iron Age in Europe are defended hilltops, found throughout southern Germany, France, and Britain.
These fortresses served as both population centers and retreats, distinguished by the fortifications that surround them.
The hilltop was first used around 3,700 B.C.
An enormous barrow was erected on the site during the same period.
Maiden Castle was the center of an elaborate landscape of henge monuments and other structures.
During the Iron Age around 500 B.C., fortifications were first constructed around a growing market center on the hilltop.
The first fort had one wall and enclosed about 15 acres.
Such hillforts had administrative, religious, economic, and residential functions.
Occupation could have been as high as 2,000-4,000 people.
Large pits were dug for storage, water reservoirs, and other purposes.
By 50 B.C., shortly before the first Roman invasion of Britain, the fortifications were enormously expanded, and the enclosed area inside the hillfort tripled in size.
Three enormous concentric banks and two ditches enclosing almost 45 acres were built.
Some of the walls were as high as 65 feet.
Over 20,000 slingshots were found in caches near the walls of the structure.
Maiden Castle fell to the Roman legions and their siege artillery in A.D. 43 after intensive fighting.
Hadrian’s Wall is located in northern England.
The wall runs 73 miles, almost across the complete width of the country near the Scottish border.
It was built in six years by legionnaires following the order of the Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D.
It was built primarily to mark the extent of the empire and to prohibit the movement of mounted warriors or stolen livestock.
The wall, 5 meters high and 3 meters wide, runs straight across a difficult landscape.
Structures were built alongside Hadrian’s Wall.
A deep ditch, measuring 10 meters across, ran in front of the wall.
A military road ran behind the wall.
Small castles were built every 1.5 miles, with two guarded turrets built between each castle.
Several major forts, homes to 500 or more soldiers, were located at the gates through the walls.
Vindolanda is the best known fort along Hadrian’s Wall.
The fort included a headquarters building, a commander’s residence, granaries, and workshops.
Viddolanda went through several stages of construction.
The fortifications included a deep, water-filled moat as part of the defenses.
The wall was in use until the end of the Roman empire.