1. Introduction

Together with new food procurement strategies, the emergence of the Neolithic in Europe involved significant technical innovation in all fields of material culture. Following the rate of spread of the Neolithic on the European continent, these technical shifts appeared earlier in south-eastern Europe than in north-western Europe, where the earliest Neolithic can be dated to around 5300 cal. BC in Hesbaye. The Linearbandkeramik is mainly present in the Paris basin in its last stage, around 5100 cal. BC, with the 'Rubané récent du Bassin parisien', followed by the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain-Blicquy culture between 4900 and 4700 cal. BC (Constantin 1985; Constantin and Ilett 1997; Dubouloz 2003). All the components of a Neolithic economy were brought into this region, with no apparent period of 'testing'. Nonetheless, a number of questions relating to cultural heritage, symbolism and identity can be addressed, since the Paris basin represents one of the margins of the 'classic' central European Linearbandkeramik.

Grinding tools, that is to say querns and grinders, provide a new approach to such questions. In fact, the onset of the early Neolithic of north-western Europe led to a complete renewal of grinding and pounding activities, in daily life as much as in the whole technical system. With agriculture and sedentism, cereals (Triticum monococcum, Triticum dicoccum and Hordeum vulgare) and flour became a major part of the diet (Bakels et al. 1985). Grinding stones became all the more necessary in Neolithic daily life, in terms of both subsistence and technology.

Table 1: Number of querns, grinders and flakes from each of the sixteen sites studied on Linearbandkeramik and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sites of the Paris Basin

Site culture no. houses querns grinders flakes
Berry-au-Bac 'le Vieux Tordoir' Lbk 6 10 5 5
Bucy-le-Long 'la Fosse Tounise' VSG 5 6 1 95
Bucy-le-Long 'la Fosselle' Lbk 15 21 2 221
Bucy-le-Long 'le Fond du Petit Marais' VSG 6 7 3 65
Cuiry-les-Chaudardes 'les Fontinettes' Lbk 33 39 8 498
Etigny 'le Brassot-est' Lbk 6 5 2 242
Gurgy 'les Grands Champs' VSG 3 3 2 4
Jablines 'la Pente de Croupeton' VSG 3 21 7 26
Moneteau 'Sur Macherin' VSG 5 5 1 0
Passy 'Sablonnière' VSG 6 12 2 242
Pontpoint 'le Fond de Rambourg' VSG 3 64 79 115
Poses 'Sur la Mare' VSG 10 28 8 600
Reims-Tinqueux 'la Haubette' VSG 3 2 1 70
Trosly-Breuil 'les Obeaux' VSG 4 21 15 474
Vignely 'la Porte aux Bergers' VSG 5 9 8 12
Villeneuve-la-Guyard 'les Falaises de Prépoux' VSG 4 7 9 46
Total 117 260 153 2732
Figure 1

Figure 1: Distribution of the the sixteen Linearbandkeramik and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain sites studied in the Paris Basin

The present study looks at sixteen settlements of the Linearbandkeramik and Villeneuve-Saint-Germain cultures of the Paris Basin (Fig. 1). It includes 153 querns, 260 grinders and 2732 flakes (Table 1) found in different contexts such as houses, rubbish pits, storage pits, hoards and, more rarely, graves. These grinding tools were recovered from a varity of contexts, which reflect the diversity of their function and their role in all the activities of daily life. Thus this technical shift is also accompanied by a tranformation of their functional and symbolic value. Through this article, we will examine and discuss how the technology and treatment of grinding tools, together with their association with specific structures, inform us about their status among the first agricultural populations of north-western Europe. This study aims at determining the status and role of grinding tools in the new technical system and the new symbolic dimension emerging during the early Neolithic of north-western Europe.


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