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7.2 Neolithization process

Archaeologically clear differences have been demonstrated between the settlement systems of the late Mesolithic, the Michelsberg phase and the Beaker period. Whereas in the late Mesolithic the base camps dominate almost completely, there is a large group of 'special activity' sites in the Michelsberg phase which afterwards, in the Beaker period, seems to have disappeared almost completely once again. The rise and fall of this type of site indicates changes in the settlement system. From mobility with a very regular relocation of the residential camps in the late Mesolithic, via a more logistical organization of settlements in the Michelsberg phase, towards a habitation with limited mobility in a small residential area at the end of the Neolithic. Similar changes in the economic activities may be linked to these.

There is a high mobility in the late Mesolithic, the base camp is regularly moved to exploit food sources on another site. In the relatively uniform Atlantic forest the transition zones of large geographical units (moorland-coversand, coversand-river valley) are particularly attractive. We should also bear in mind that the distances between the sites are very small. The entire core region of Venray is not much more than 15 kilometres from west to east. In the Michelsberg phase there is a much wider range of site types. To a fairly large degree the activities appear centred on a limited number of base settlements by the Meuse, and all of the surrounding countryside is exploited by way of numerous small base camps and special activity sites. Such a decline in residential mobility is consistent with the suggestion that in this phase agrarian food sources become part of the food economy. The occurrence of numerous 'special activity' sites in the Michelsberg phase, however, still indicates a wide range of activities outside the small (agrarian) base settlement. Hunting, fishing and gathering are most certainly still part of the food economy, as well as the agrarian activities. The continued decline in mobility and the almost complete disappearance of the special activity sites in the Beaker period indicate a further growth of agrarian food sources in the economy. By the end of the Neolithic, the agrarian sources of subsistence have gained the upper hand and there are small hamlets of single or several farmsteads in the coversand area, which appear to relocate only rarely.


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