Traditional archaeological ideas about Neolithic societies were shaped by questionable premises. The modern concept of social and cultural coherence of residence groups as well as the ethnic interpretation of ‘archaeological cultures’ fostered ideas of static and homogeneous social entities with fixed borders. Farming – as the core of the Neolithic way of life – was associated with sedentariness rather than with spatial mobility and cross-regional social networks. Furthermore, the widely used (neo-)evolutionist thinking universally assumed a growing social complexity and hierarchisation during prehistory. After all, such ‘top-down'–perspectives deprived individuals and groups of genuine agency and creativity while underestimating the relational dynamic between the social and material worlds. In recent years, a wide array of empirical results on social practices related to material culture and settlement dynamics, (inter-)regional entanglements and spatial mobility were published. For the latter the adoption of the relatively new scientific methods in archaeology like Stable Isotope Analysis as well as aDNA played a crucial role. Yet the question of possible inferences regarding spatial and temporal differences in forms of social organization has not been addressed sufficiently.
The aim of this volume is therefore to rethink former top-down concepts of Neolithic societies by studying social practices and different forms of Neolithic social life by adopting bottom-up social archaeological perspectives. Furthermore, the validity and relevance of terms like ‘society’, ‘community’, ‘social group’ etc. will be discussed. The contributions reach from theoretical to empirical ones and thematize a variety of social theoretical approaches as well as methodological ways of combining different sorts of data. They show the potential of such bottom-up approaches to infer models of social practices and configurations which may live up to the potential social diversity and dynamism of Neolithic societies. The contribution shed light on spatial mobility, social complexity, the importance of (political) interests and factors of kinship etc. We hope that this volume, with its focus on the Neolithic of Europe, will contribute to the ongoing critical debates of theories and concepts as well as on our premises and perspectives on Neolithic societies in general – and the practices of social archaeology as such.
Towards bottom-up approaches in social archaeological Neolithic research Maria Wunderlich, Caroline Heitz, Martin Hinz, Martin Furholt
II. Conceptual and methodological approaches to forms of social organization
Anarchy: Anthropological reflections on an unruly concept Till Förster
Negotiating power in Neolithic communities – The politics of cohabitation Martin Furholt
From ‘communities of practice’ to ‘translocal communities’. A practice-theoretical approach to mobility and socio-spatial configurations of Neolithic groups. Caroline Heitz
Ethnoarchaeology and agent-based simulation modelling as bottom-up approaches: Perspectives for archaeological research Maria Wunderlich/Julian Laabs
III. Material dimensions of social organization
The world in a village? Regional and supra-regional transmission of pottery-making practices in south-western Germany in the early third millennium BC Philipp Gleich
Tracing the evidence of Neolithic social groups’ mobility according to the ornamentation on ceramics from the Lysa Hora burial site Marta Andriiovych
Lausanne-Vidy: From Single to Social? Katharina V. M. Jungnickel
Perversion of the Pareto Principle: Using a bottom-up approach to study burial practices in the Late Neolithic Carpathian Basin Kata Szilágyi
IV. Scales and forms of social organization
Setting the ground for a village – communal organisation and space of the Early Neolithic site of Altscherbitz (Germany) Isabel A. Hohle
Same but different: cross-regional cultural entanglement during the first half of the third millennium BC – a view from Franconia Thomas Link
How wide are social frames of cultural diversity and mutual cultural influences? Aleksandr Diachenko/Iwona Sobkowiak-Tabaka
V. Afterthoughts, Reflections and Outlook
Purging our approach to Neolithic societies: a critical review of the terms, analytical categories and cultural concepts applied in research Brigitte Röder
Abandoning Neolithic societies – A practice-based approach Alexander Veling
Theory versus data. Dealing with the interpretive dilemma in the biomolecular era Maxime N. Brami
"Caroline Heitz has studied prehistoric archaeology, social anthropology and the modern history of Eastern Europe at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Since 2014, she has been a research and teaching assistant at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bern.
Within the scope of her PhD-project – and the SNFS-research-project ‘Mobilities, Entanglements and Transformations in Neolithic Societies of the Swiss Plateau (3900 – 3500 BC)’ – she is currently working on the phenomena of mobility, entanglement, appropriation and transformation in Neolithic pottery from the UNESCO-World Heritage wetland sites of Lake Constance and Lake Zurich.
Having a special interest in inter- and transdisciplinarity, she combines theoretical approaches from social anthropology with methods of archaeology and archaeometry in her research. She has co-authored a book on oral history entitled ‘Annäherung an die soziale Wirklichkeit der SS-Ärzte’, published papers on Neolithic wetland sites and is, with Albert Hafner, co-editor of the e-series ‘Bern Working Papers on Prehistoric Archaeology’. "
Maria Wunderlich is currently a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University.
She has obtained her Master of Arts in 2014 in Kiel, her Master thesis being awarded the archaeology award of the Archaeological Society Schleswig-Holstein. For her PhD-studies between 2014 and 2018 she was involved in the DFG-project “Equality and Inequality: Social Differentiation in Northern Central Europe 4300-2400 BC” as a research assistant. For her comparative thesis on “Megalithic monuments and social structures” she conducted ethnoarchaeological field work in Sumba, Indonesia, and Nagaland, North-East India. Being interested in social archaeology and comparative analyses, she combines different theoretical approaches with material data derived both in recent and archaeological contexts. She obtained her doctoral degree (Dr. phil) in 2018.
Martin Furholt is Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo, Norway. Before he was working as Research Fellow and Lecturer at the CAU Kiel.
His main research interests are the social and political organisation, mobility and community composition, local and regional social networks of Neolithic and Bronze Age communities in Southeast Europe, Central Europe, and Northern Europe. He conducted his Phd research on Baden Complex materials in Poland and Czech Republic, and his Habilitation thesis on the Neolithic and Chalkolithic of the Aegean Region.
He is currently conducting fieldwork on 6th millennium Neolithic settlement in Slovakia and Serbia, and publishes papers related to the ongoing 3rd millennium migration debate in Europe.
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