The neolithization of Europe reconsidered through the concept of the household


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Since the 19th century, the Neolithic period has been conceived as an inevitable stage of the history of human societies in Europe, taking place between the wild times of predation and the industrial civilization contemporaneous to the first prehistorians. The house is a central element of this model considered as proof of sedentarity, the end of nomadism and the beginning of social construction with the hearth drawing the household together. The lack of documentation relative to the architecture of several large geographical and chronological chunks of Neolithic Europe compromised, for a long time, any serious consideration of settlements in discussions about the way Neolithic societies were constituted, while the primacy accorded to Economy in the definition of the Neolithic led to a disregard of the settlement, seen as a sign of the accomplishment of the neolithization process.

The development of a sedentary way of life and the construction of perennial settlements are nevertheless the first signs of neolithization in the Middle-East and it is through structured village societies that this new way of life was disseminated to the Mediterranean shores. Taking into account settlements while discussing neolithization leads us to consider all dimensions of the process, and not only through the economic prism. It reveals that the neolithization process is not only the acquisition of farming and herding techniques, but also corresponds to the diffusion of an ideal village society, structured around exchange and a collective procurement of goods. Whether the first impacts of the Neolithic have been expressed by single emblematic tools, by domestic species, by ceramics and / or by long rectangular buildings, the neolithization process has only been fully accomplished when the model of the village society has been developed.

To cite this article

Gernigon K., 2016 – Villages before houses? The neolithization of Europe reconsidered through the concept of the household, in Chapdelaine C., Burke A., Gernigon K. (eds.), Household Archaeology – A Transatlantic Comparative Approach, Proceedings of the International Symposium, October 24-25 2014, Université de Montréal, P@lethnology, 8, 147-181.