Books : reviews

Alasdair Whittle.
Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds.
CUP. 1996

Dr Whittle reviews the latest archaeological evidence on Neolithic Europe from 7000 to 2500 BC. Describing important areas, sites and problems, he addresses the major themes that have engaged the attention of scholars: the transition from a forager lifestyle; the rate and dynamics of change; and the nature of Neolithic society. He challenges conventional views, arguing that Neolithic society was rooted in the values and practices of its forager predecessors right across the continent. The processes of settling down and adopting farming were piecemeal and slow. Only gradually did new attitudes emerge, to time and the past, to the sacred realms of ancestors and the dead, to nature and to the concept of community.

Unique in its broad and up-to-date coverage of long-term processes of change on a continental scale, this completely rewritten and revised version of Whittle’s Neolithic Europe: A Survey reflects radical changes in the evidence and in interpretive approaches over the past decade.

Alasdair Whittle, Frances Healy, Alex Bayliss.
Gathering Time vol 1: dating the early Neolithic enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland.
Oxbow. 2011

Alasdair Whittle, Frances Healy, Alex Bayliss.
Gathering Time vol 2: dating the early Neolithic enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland.
Oxbow. 2011

Penny Bickle, Alasdair Whittle.
The First Farmers of Central Europe: diversity in LBK lifeways.
Oxbow. 2013

From about 5500 cal BC to soon after 5000 cal BC, the lifeways of the first farmers of central Europe, the LBK culture (Linearbandkeramik), are seen in distinctive practices of longhouse use, settlement forms, landscape choice, subsistence, material culture and mortuary rites. Within the five or more centuries of LBK existence a dynamic sequence of changes can be seen in, for instance, the expansion and increasing density of settlement, progressive regionalisation in pottery decoration, and at the end some signs of stress or even localised crisis. Although showing many features in common across its very broad distribution, however, the LBK phenomenon was not everywhere the same, and there is a complicated mixture of uniformity and diversity.

This major study takes a strikingly large regional sample, from northern Hungary westwards along the Danube to Alsace in the upper Rhine valley, and addresses the question of the extent of diversity in the lifeways of developed and late LBK communities, through a wide-ranging study of diet, lifetime mobility, health and physical condition, and the presentation of the bodies of the deceased in mortuary ritual. It uses an innovative combination of isotopic (principally carbon, nitrogen and strontium, with some oxygen), osteological and archaeological analysis to address difference and change across the LBK, and to reflect on cultural change in general.