2.2 Constructing prehistoric 'origin myths'

Some attempts have been made by historians, archaeologists and 'heritage' managers to construct a sense of a homogeneous Europe through prehistoric 'origin myths'.

2.2.1 Prehistoric Europeans: our farming ancestors

A number of European projects (e.g. the Early Farmers Project) have taken prehistory as their topic and have built their work programmes around the terms used in the 'call for bids'. Such calls reflect the original objectives of the funding stream and, like Culture 2000, ask bidding projects to demonstrate how they will foster European common identity and integration. Marek Zvelebil has recognised these underlying objectives in both academic archaeology and more recent 'heritage' presentations. Zvelebil suggested that the change (described by archaeologists and anthropologists as the 'Neolithic revolution'), from hunter-gatherer cultures to farming cultures has been used, by those who wish to evoke a homogeneous Europe, as a defining moment in European civilisation (Zvelebil 1996, 145). Zvelebil looked at the theme of 'farmers as our ancestors' and concluded that Western or European society 'holds up' the first farmers as natural originators of civilised living because we understand the 'pastoral idyll' as a feature of civilised society. This construction of the past is closely related to a sense of European superiority over uncivilised barbarians (the hunter-gatherers).

Zvelebil's paper illustrated the divisive nature of European identity, setting itself up as the paragon of civilised living as opposed to barbarity. The 'Neolithic revolution' and its role as 'origin myth' was fertile ground for those European institutions that wished to evoke a homogeneous contemporary Europe.


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