The Neolithic Toolkit – Archaeology Magazine

Source: The Neolithic Toolkit – Archaeology Magazine, by Andrew Curry
Also See: Recreating The Neolithic Toolkit, by ArchaeologyTV, on YouTube

How experimental archaeology is showing that Europe’s first farmers were also its first carpenters

Not too long ago, archaeologist Rengert Elburg found something that convinced him that “Stone Age sophistication” is not a contradiction in terms. It was a wood-lined well, discovered during construction work in Altscherbitz, near the eastern German city of Leipzig. Buried more than 20 feet underground, preserved for millennia by cold, wet, oxygen–free conditions, the timber box at the bottom of the well was 7,000 years old—the world’s oldest known intact wooden architecture. Elburg’s team at the Saxony State Archaeological Office removed the ancient well in a single 70-ton block, and brought it back to their lab in Dresden for careful excavation, documentation, and preservation.

When Elburg examined the wood, he could see not only tree rings but also tool marks. But with nothing to compare these ancient tool marks to, this evidence was hard to understand. Thus, he and a motley collection of archaeologists, amateur woodworkers, historical reenactors, and flintknapping hobbyists have been gathering each spring since 2011 for a most unusual workshop. Held in a forest just outside the town of Ergersheim in the southern German region of Franconia, it’s experimental archaeology with a serious purpose.

It turns out that “Stone Age” is something of a misnomer. It might be more accurate to call the millennia before the development of metallurgy the “Bone Age,” says Probst. “Bone and antler were actually the most common tools in the Stone Age. You’re already hunting or eating meat, so there are always bones around. Stone was more difficult to get, and had to be transported over many miles.”

Suicide by Culture – 250bpm

Source: Suicide by Culture – 250bpm

The original interview can be found here (in Slovak). The study itself is called “Tajní Vrahovia ” by JÁN ALÁČ and is in the process of being published.

In XIX. century the trend of having a single child took hold among protestants of the historical regions of Novohrad, Hont, Malohont and Gemer [in Slovakia]. … the system worked nicely for the first and the second generation. Families grew richer. Farms were consolidated. Living conditions improved. … The custom of having a single child survived even in the face of the risk of the child dying. And the children did die. The child mortality in XIX. century was high. … The farms grew enormous. People hadn’t the strength to take care of them. … This way entire lineages, hamlets and villages ceased to exist.

Decrease in population led to shortage of partners. While it was inconceivable before for a protestant girl to get a catholic husband, suddenly it became an option.

In 1929, a contemporary author writes: “And this plague is eating away Slovak protestants more and more, and especially in the places where people are richer. During agrarian reform people got forests, grazing lands and meadows. They are still working hard to get even more earthly possessions but they don’t want to have children. In one house there is a single kid, a boy. In another one, there’s yet another single kid, a girl. Big farmers both. They marry those young people and then only one house remains, only one family to die out.”

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race [Agriculture]

Source: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race | Discover Magazine, by Jared Diamond, from the May 1987 issue

recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered

Why did almost all our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopt agriculture? … How do you show that the lives of people 10,000 years ago got better when they abandoned hunting and gathering for farming?

Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? … It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors.

The progressivist view is really making a claim about the distant past: that the lives of primitive people improved when they switched from gathering to farming. Archaeologists can date that switch by distinguishing remains of wild plants and animals from those of domesticated ones in prehistoric garbage dumps. How can one deduce the health of the prehistoric garbage makers, and thereby directly test the progressivist view? … paleopathology

In the few cases where there are many skeletons, one can construct mortality tables like the ones life insurance companies use to calculate expected life span and risk of death at any given age. Paleopathologists can also calculate growth rates by measuring bones of people of different ages, examine teeth for enamel defects (signs of childhood malnutrition), and recognize scars left on bones by anemia, tuberculosis, leprosy, and other diseases.

Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5′ 9″ for men, 5′ 5″ for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5′ 3″ for men, 5′ for women.

from burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys … when a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A. D. 1150 … Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a theefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor. “Life expectancy at birth in the pre-agricultural community was bout twenty-six years,” says Armelagos, “but in the post-agricultural community it was nineteen years. So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive.” The evidence suggests that the Indians at Dickson Mounds, like many other primitive peoples, took up farming not by choice but from necessity in order to feed their constantly growing numbers.

There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. … Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease.

If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice?

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history.

Paul 🌹📚 Cooper on Twitter

Photo of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, with Christian stylite hut atop the ruins, taken in 1858.
1858 photo by Dimitris Konstantinou

 

“View of Athens from the river Ilissos” by Johann Michael Wittmer, 1833

It turns out that Christian ascetics known as stylites, or “pillar saints” are the explanation.

After Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, efforts were made in the 19th century to strengthen the national identity by harking back to the greatness of the Hellenic past. So in the eyes of the Greek authorities, this Christian addition had to go.

When is a ruin “finished”?
Who does the ruin belong to?
Can a ruin be ruined?