J Archaeol Method Theory 2017 9;24(4):1072-1149. Epub 2017 Jan 9.
Department of Archaeology and Conservation, Cardiff University, John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU UK.
Starting from questions about the nature of cultural diversity, this paper examines the pace and tempo of change and the relative importance of continuity and discontinuity. To unravel the cultural project of the past, we apply chronological modelling of radiocarbon dates within a Bayesian statistical framework, to interrogate the Neolithic cultural sequence in Lower Alsace, in the upper Rhine valley, in broad terms from the later sixth to the end of the fifth millennium cal BC. Detailed formal estimates are provided for the long succession of cultural groups, from the early Neolithic Linear Pottery culture (LBK) to the Bischheim Occidental du Rhin Supérieur (BORS) groups at the end of the Middle Neolithic, using seriation and typology of pottery as the starting point in modelling. The rate of ceramic change, as well as frequent shifts in the nature, location and density of settlements, are documented in detail, down to lifetime and generational timescales. This reveals a Neolithic world in Lower Alsace busy with comings and goings, tinkerings and adjustments, and relocations and realignments. A significant hiatus is identified between the end of the LBK and the start of the Hinkelstein group, in the early part of the fifth millennium cal BC. On the basis of modelling of existing dates for other parts of the Rhineland, this appears to be a wider phenomenon, and possible explanations are discussed; full reoccupation of the landscape is only seen in the Grossgartach phase. Radical shifts are also proposed at the end of the Middle Neolithic.