Going Over: The Mesolithis-Neolithic Transition in North West Europe

Overview

The processes involved in the transformation of society from Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to Neolithic farmers were complex. They involved changes not only in subsistence but also in how people thought about themselves and their worlds, from their pasts to their animals.

Two sets of protagonists have often been lined up in the long-running debates about these processes: on the one hand incoming farmers and on the other indigenous hunter-gatherers. Both have found advocates as the...

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Overview

The processes involved in the transformation of society from Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to Neolithic farmers were complex. They involved changes not only in subsistence but also in how people thought about themselves and their worlds, from their pasts to their animals.

Two sets of protagonists have often been lined up in the long-running debates about these processes: on the one hand incoming farmers and on the other indigenous hunter-gatherers. Both have found advocates as the dominant force in the transitions to a new way of life. North-west Europe presents a very rich data set for this fundamental change, and recent research has both extended and deepened our knowledge of regional sequences, from the sixth to the fourth millennia cal BC. One of the most striking results is the evident diversity from northern Spain to southern Scandinavia. No one region is quite like another; hunter-gatherers and early farmers alike were also varied and the old labels of Mesolithic and Neolithic are increasingly inadequate to capture the diversity of human agency and belief.

Surveys of the most recent evidence presented here also strongly suggest a diversity of transformations. Some cases of colonisation on the one hand, and indigenous adoption on the other, can still be argued but many situations now seem to involve complex fusions and mixtures. This wide-ranging set of papers by leading specialists offers a comprehensive and authoritative overview of this fundamental transition.

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