A Virtual and a Practiced Neolithic? Material Culture Symbolism, Monumentality and Identities in the West-ern Baltic Region

A Virtual and a Practiced Neolithic? Material Culture Symbolism, Monumentality and Identities in the West-ern Baltic Region
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     w   w   w  .     j   u   n   g   s    t   e     i   n    S    I    T    E  .     d   e A Virtual and a Practiced Neolithic? Material CultureSymbolism, Monumentality and Identities in the West-ern Baltic Region Martin Furholt  Abstract Besides the economic, technical and social innovations most Neo-lithic societies o the old world are separated rom Pre-Neolithic so-cieties by a new stage o the manipulation o material objects andstructures as media o symbolic communication. Since the Neolith-ic, the proportion o intentional production and use o material sym-bols clearly rises compared to unintentional symbol production. Par-ticularly the extensive symbolism on utilitarian, everyday arteactslike pottery is much more elaborated.Proceeding rom these observations, the early Neolithic period innorthern Central Europe / Southern Scandinavia, that is the time rom4100 to 3500 BC, is more or less a time o continuation o Pre-Neolith-ic behavioural patterns. At this time Neolithic innovations are knownand implemented, but not yet in a quantity that would practicallychange cultural behaviour and thus identity towards what has beendened as Neolithic above. It is probably not earlier than 3500 BCthat a real “Neolithic Package” consisting o large-scale monumentalbuildings storing cultural memories, an extensive and genuine var-iability in material culture symbolism, especially pottery and stonetool production, appear together with an increase o economic im-pact and supra-regional contacts. Thus it is possible to speak o a“Virtual Neolithic” preceding the “Realised Neolithic” since 3500 BC. Zusammenassung Neben Innovationen im ökonomischen, technologischen und sozi-alen Bereich ist das Neolithikum in den meisten Gegenden der altenWelt im Gegensatz zu vorneolithischen Gesellschaten durch einenneuartigen Umgang mit materieller Kultur als Medium der Zeichen-kommunikation gekennzeichnet. Seit dem Neolithikum steigt im Be-sonderen der Anteil intentionaler Produktion und Nutzung materi-eller Kultur als Zeichen gegenüber einer passiven, unintendiertenZeichenproduktion. Dies umasst ganz explizit auch den Bereich vonalltäglichen Gebrauchsgegenständen, wie es sich am deutlichstenim Bereich der Geäßkeramik zeigt.Als Konsequenz aus dieser Beobachtung können wir sagen, dassdie rühneolithische Periode Südskandinaviens und Norddeutsch-lands (FN I der Trichterbecherkultur) und damit die Zeitspanne von4100–3500 BC mehr oder weniger als eine Kontinuität von vorneoli-thischen Verhaltensmustern zu sehen ist. Zwar wurden in dieser Zeitbereits neolithische Innovationen eingeührt und benutzt, jedochin einem so geringen Ausmaß, dass dadurch noch keine wirksamenVeränderungen kultureller Verhaltenspraxis und somit der Identi-täten einhergegangen wären, die in die Richtung dessen gehen, was 17.September 2010corr. 07/2011      M   a   r    t    i   n    F   u   r    h   o    l    t    A    V    i   r    t   u   a    l   a   n    d   a    P   r   a   c    t    i   c   e    d    N   e   o    l    i    t    h    i   c    ?    M   a    t   e   r    i   a    l    C   u    l    t   u   r   e    S   y   m    b   o    l    i   s   m ,    M   o   n   u   m   e   n    t   a    l    i    t   y   a   n    d    I    d   e   n    t    i    t    i   e   s    i   n    t    h   e    W   e   s    t   e   r   n    B   a    l    t    i   c .   p   a   p   e   r   o    f    t    h   e    E   u   r   o   p   e   a   n    M   e   g   a    l    t    i    h    i   c    S    t   u    d    i   e   s    G   r   o   u   p    S   e   p    t   e   m    b   e   r    1    7     t    h  ,    2    0    1    0    w   w   w  .     j   u   n   g   s    t   e     i   n    S    I    T    E  .     d   e 2 wir „Neolithikum“ nennen. Erst ab 3500 BC sehen wir die Realisie-rung eines „Neolithischen Pakets“ mit Monumentalbauten zur Spei-cherung eines Kulturellen Gedächtnisses, mit einer extensiven undgenuinen intentionalen Zeichensprache in der materiellen Kultur,besonders im Bereich von Keramik und Steingeräten, einem deut-lichen Anstieg menschlicher Eingrie in die Umwelt und überregio-nalen Kontakten. Zur Veranschaulichung kann von einem VirtuellenNeolithikum (4100–3500 BC) gegenüber einem Realisierten Neolithi-kum (seit 3500 BC) gesprochen werden. Introduction Throughout the history o archaeological thought, concepts o what “the Neolithic” is have concentrated on dierent aspects. Start-ing with typological traits o material culture (Lubbock 1865), the o-cus shited to economy and technologies (Childe 1941), adaptationsto ecological actors (Binord 1968), social structures (Bender 1978),ideological patterns (Hodder 1990; Thomas 1999) and the empha-sis on cognitive patterns (Renrew / Scarre 1998). It has also becomeclear, especially in a global perspective, that these dierent aspectso a Neolithic do not necessarily occur in the orm o a package, andthat it denitely can not be linked to a single, revolutionary event oreven to a short period (Bellwood 2005). The denition o what kindo archaeological assemblages should be qualied as Neolithic doesnot only dier between regions, but is also based on the archaeol-ogists´ ideological premises. What is, or has been, seen as denitiveor the labelling o neolithisation in dierent regions is heavily de-termined by research history and available sources. In Western andNorthern Europe, the beginning o the Neolithic is more or less con-nected to the erection o burial monuments, a eature clearly absentin the Danubian or south-eastern European tradition o the Neolith-ic, where permanent settlements dominate the research. This dis-tinction is all the more interesting as we now know that the very on-set o the Neolithic in the Near East seems to have been marked bymonumental architecture (Schmidt 2000; Watkins 2008).This paper has a two-old purpose. Firstly, it is argued, in accord-ance with Renrew (1998) and others (Watkins 2004), that new wayso treating material culture, a new relationship o human agency to-wards matter, should be considered as a signicant innovation char-acterising the majority o the Neolithic societies in Western Eurasia.This will be discussed in regards to dierent Neolithic contexts, witha special ocus on the area o northern Germany and southern Scan-dinavia (“The Western Baltic Region” in the ollowing). Secondly, theocal point o this paper will be to evaluate the temporal setting o the impact o Neolithic innovations to social practice and individu-al identities in the Western Baltic Region. Here, the ocus will be ona quantitative perspective, arguing that the mere presence o inno-vations can not be seen as determinant or the shaping o new, Neo-lithic identities. Rather the scale o their practical implementation isthe critical actor. Diferent modes o communication via material culture Like many other (especially German) authors (Veit 1999; Holtor 1996; Müller 2009) dealing with monumentality I deem the concepto Cultural Memories (Assmann 1988; Assmann 1992) t to concretisethe term towards its character as a medium or communicating so-cially relevant meanings. I have argued elsewhere (Furholt i. pr.) that      M   a   r    t    i   n    F   u   r    h   o    l    t    A    V    i   r    t   u   a    l   a   n    d   a    P   r   a   c    t    i   c   e    d    N   e   o    l    i    t    h    i   c    ?    M   a    t   e   r    i   a    l    C   u    l    t   u   r   e    S   y   m    b   o    l    i   s   m ,    M   o   n   u   m   e   n    t   a    l    i    t   y   a   n    d    I    d   e   n    t    i    t    i   e   s    i   n    t    h   e    W   e   s    t   e   r   n    B   a    l    t    i   c .   p   a   p   e   r   o    f    t    h   e    E   u   r   o   p   e   a   n    M   e   g   a    l    t    i    h    i   c    S    t   u    d    i   e   s    G   r   o   u   p    S   e   p    t   e   m    b   e   r    1    7     t    h  ,    2    0    1    0    w   w   w  .     j   u   n   g   s    t   e     i   n    S    I    T    E  .     d   e 3 the material characteristics o a monument, namely collossality, visi-bility, durability and oten also uniqueness are to be seen as a meansto achieve the aim o an intentional communication o distinct mean-ings to a distinct group o people. Normally, monuments are denedas structures showing a clear surplus o meaning vs. unctionality, asthe possibility o a proane, unctional explanation o its eatures nor-mally leads to a rejection o the term monumentality (Furholt i. pr.).Jan Assmann´s concept o Cultural Memories is an adaptation o Maurice Halbwachs´ thinking, concerned with the social constitutiono memories and the signicance o a Collective Memory (Assmann1992, 34 .). As two variants o the Collective Memory Assmann distin-guishes the Communicative Memory and the Cultural Memory, usingthe metaphor o the uid and the solid. The rst is constituted in daily-lie communicative contexts. It is seen as highly uid and o a limitedduration, normally less than 80–100 years, three to our generations,as it is connected to the oldest living individuals in any given society(Assmann 1992, 50). In contrast to this, the Cultural Memory is durablebecause it is supported and maintained through rituals, regular collec-tive ceremonies and events and oten also connected to monumentalbuildings. The Cultural Memory is related to xed points in the distantpast and oten connected to – and supported by – ounding mythslinked to the identity o the collective (Assmann 1992, 59).Thus Assmann denes a concept about stable cultural memoriesthat are closely connected to collective identities. Although he, as anEgyptologist, deduces his model rom the early state societies o theNear East, it seems appropriate to generalise it, especially in respectto non-literate societies engaged in monumental activities. Talkingabout signication in a material world, such a generalisation seems justiable rom the perspective o semiotic pragmatism. I, as CharlesSanders Peirce has put it, meaning is determined by behaviourspractical outcome (Peirce 1931–35, 402; Oehler 2000, 14), then sure-ly the quantity o specic behavioural eorts connected to an objectis decisive or the contents o meanings signied in a given context.When a structure is judged to be monumental in the sense reerredto above, it is –by denition – intentionally created, collective eortsare deliberately concentrated without a unctional reason, but ratherserving the purpose o creating visible and durable meaning. Wheth-er or not these collective eorts are explicitly intended to be part o the message communicated, ollowing the pragmatic premise, theseeorts will in practice inevitably be an integral part o the memoriesconnected to the monument.From this perspective it seems appropriate to closely link AssmannsCultural Memory to the concept o Monumentality and we end upwith a general model o Monumentality where monumental build-ings are seen as media or the creation and maintenance o CulturalMemories, which again serve as means to create and maintain collec-tive Identities. In this way a model emerges that connects the materialcharacteristics o monuments to signication and identities.And what is more, when we incorporate the Cultural Memory con-cept to our model, we are on a more general level reerring to dier-ent modes o social communication, which may help us to get a broad-er understanding o the role o monuments in social reality. CulturalMemory is not restricted to material monuments, but relate to whatAleida Assmann calls “the Monumental” as a special mode o commu-nication, opposed to the Lieworld mode o communication (Assmann1991). It is easy to perceive the distinction o Cultural and Communi-cative Memory behind these concepts, Aleida Assmann hersel reersto Bachtin´s (1979, 229.) distinction o “the authoritative word” as op-posed to the “dialogic word”, the Monumental communication havingnormative, i not dogmatic power, being linked to group identity and      M   a   r    t    i   n    F   u   r    h   o    l    t    A    V    i   r    t   u   a    l   a   n    d   a    P   r   a   c    t    i   c   e    d    N   e   o    l    i    t    h    i   c    ?    M   a    t   e   r    i   a    l    C   u    l    t   u   r   e    S   y   m    b   o    l    i   s   m ,    M   o   n   u   m   e   n    t   a    l    i    t   y   a   n    d    I    d   e   n    t    i    t    i   e   s    i   n    t    h   e    W   e   s    t   e   r   n    B   a    l    t    i   c .   p   a   p   e   r   o    f    t    h   e    E   u   r   o   p   e   a   n    M   e   g   a    l    t    i    h    i   c    S    t   u    d    i   e   s    G   r   o   u   p    S   e   p    t   e   m    b   e   r    1    7     t    h  ,    2    0    1    0    w   w   w  .     j   u   n   g   s    t   e     i   n    S    I    T    E  .     d   e 4 sel-conception and thus perceived as being stable or xed, whereasthe Lieworld mode o communication is uid, more aected by andopen to changes by events and individual agency. The Monumental and the Neolithic mode o communication This notion o a Monumental mode o communication helps to un-derstand the role o Monumentality in early Neolithic societies. It seemsclear today that the early development towards sedentism, the proc-ess o neolithisation in the Near East involves a massive increase in themonumental mode o communication, not only expressed through theerection o monuments as such (Schmidt 2000), but in the whole useo material culture (Cauvin 2000). This argument meets the concept o external symbolic storage, put orward by Merlin Donald (1991), ColinRenrew (1998) and recently Trevor Watkins (2004). To cite the latter: “…hunter-harvester groups who had become sedentary, discovered the potential of the built environment to embody their ideas of whothey were…“(  Watkins, unpublished paper, reormulating a simi-lar statement in Watkins 2004, 105  ). Interpreting Watkins’ words, a major change in material cultureuse occurred when the built environment, or more generally, materi-al objects that were initially created without the intention to producea sign, were intentionally used or signication.To stick to the terminology applied here, in the early Holocene anew, Neolithic Mode o Communication via material culture is, i notcreated, clearly gaining higher importance, and this would be a morerequent application o an intentional orm o symbolism using ma-terial culture. Wiessner (1989) dened such an intentional symbolismas emblemic and assertive style in contrast to Sackett’s isochresticvariation, or unconscious drit style (Sackett 1982, 96; Binord 1963)that is explaining style mostly by the variation o learned behaviour,and thus more or less unintentional choice o dierent possible waysto reach comparable unctional ends.In addition to the rising scale o intentional symbolism in materialculture, its expansion into the realm o utilitarian, everyday arteactsseems to be a key eature characteristic or most early Neolithic soci-eties in western Eurasia. To use Assmanns concept, we see the expan-sion o the Monumental mode o communication into realms o theLieworld mode o communication. This may be best illustrated bythe – albeit rather exceptional – case o Çatal Höyük (Hodder 2006),where the wall paintings, plastic sculptures, and burials below oorplatorms clearly point to the incorporation o monumental com-munication into the daily lie domain o the domestic house. Moregenerally speaking, most Middle Eastern and south-eastern Europe-an early Neolithic societies are extensively using domestic, utilitarianarteacts, especially pottery to intentionally symbolise social mean-ings. Additionally, the interment o burials in houses or at least with-in the settlements is a common eature (Lichter 2001).In contrast, looking at the pre-Neolithic situation, it is obvious thatthe style o the great majority o utilitarian arteacts is mainly deter-mined by their raw materials and their unctions, the observed var-iance may be well explained by Sacketts isochrestic variation. Thiscircumstance is connected to the very slow velocity o ormal devel-opment in material culture observable in Palaeolithic times.This is o course not to claim that there was no intentional symbol-ism in material culture in the Palaeolithic. On the contrary, we know o elaborate art, we know ne ornaments and also decorated arteacts.      M   a   r    t    i   n    F   u   r    h   o    l    t    A    V    i   r    t   u   a    l   a   n    d   a    P   r   a   c    t    i   c   e    d    N   e   o    l    i    t    h    i   c    ?    M   a    t   e   r    i   a    l    C   u    l    t   u   r   e    S   y   m    b   o    l    i   s   m ,    M   o   n   u   m   e   n    t   a    l    i    t   y   a   n    d    I    d   e   n    t    i    t    i   e   s    i   n    t    h   e    W   e   s    t   e   r   n    B   a    l    t    i   c .   p   a   p   e   r   o    f    t    h   e    E   u   r   o   p   e   a   n    M   e   g   a    l    t    i    h    i   c    S    t   u    d    i   e   s    G   r   o   u   p    S   e   p    t   e   m    b   e   r    1    7     t    h  ,    2    0    1    0    w   w   w  .     j   u   n   g   s    t   e     i   n    S    I    T    E  .     d   e 5 But it has to be stated that the great majority o decorated arteactsare non-unctional ones, and thus there is still a very marked sepa-ration between the Monumental Sphere and the Lieworld Sphere.What is more, the cases where possible utilitarian, lieworldly arte-acts are decorated, are clustered in time and space. There is denite-ly an accumulation in the late Magdalenian, especially the Magdale-nien-IV-Horizon o Western Europe, in the 12 th to 11 th Millenium BC,o decorated, possibly unctional arteacts that were undecorated inearlier periods (Bosinski 1990, 197 .).This is clearly indicating that the term “Neolithic mode o commu-nication” is o course a simplication, as I am not arguing in an evolu-tionary way, and it may well be thinkable that comparable behaviour-al patterns have been present in several contexts beore the Neolithic,and indeed as we will see later on are not integral to all Neolithic socie-ties. The important point is, however, that the behavioural pattern de-ned here as the “Neolithic mode o communication”, the extensive in-tentional use o material culture, including unctionally and lieworldlyarteacts as a means o social symbolic communication, shows a clearincrease in practice in the early Neolithic o Western Asia and Europe. The Early Neolithic in South-Eastern and Central Europe When we turn to the earliest Neolithic societies in continental Eu-rope, dating rom 6500 / 6400 BC in Thessaly (Reingruber 2008, 317),we meet an elaborate symbolism that has its most marked expressionin the highly variable clay gurines (Mina 2008), but what is crucial isthe development o a genuine, highly variable and elaborate potterystyle (Fig. 1). It seems as i there is a short early period with only mono-chrome pottery (Reingruber 2008, 262; 291; 303), but ater a ew gener-ations the new medium o pottery is extensively used to play out a var-iant-rich language o orms and decorations, that is starting with theProtosesklo-Style (rom the 63 th century in Argissa, Sesklo and Achil-leion, see Gimbutas / Winn / Shimabuku 1989; Reingruber 2008, 317)and then, rom the 62 nd century BC with the Sesklo-Style (Reingruber2008, 317, who sees that phase starting later, at 6000 BC). The red-on-light painting may be derived rom southwestern Anatolia, but the mo-tis and newly evolving vessel orms are clearly genuine inventions.Early Pottery in the Balkans shows a similar elaboration. Againthere may be an early monochrome horizon at the start o the devel- Fig. 1. Example o an early Neolithic Pot-tery style showing a genuine, elaboratesymbolic language: Early Neolithic Paint-ed Pottery rom Argissa Magula, Thessal-ly, Greece (ater Reingruber 2008).  Abb. 1. Beispiel eines frühen neolithischenKeramikstils, der als genuine, elaborierteSymbolsprache anzusehen ist: Protoses-klo von der Argissa Magula, Thessalien (n.Reingruber 2008).
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