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7.3 The Neolithization model for the south-east of the Netherlands

The results of the site-typological analysis of the sites in the core region of Venray are supplemental to the ideas on the Neolithization process in the south-east of the Netherlands, as investigated within the framework of the Meuse Valley Project. The observed changes in site types, and consequently in the settlement and exploitation systems, appear to indicate a very gradual introduction of the agrarian way of life in this part of the Northwest European plain. In the nearby loess area a completely agrarian society in permanent villages comes into existence with the arrival of the Bandkeramic around 5400 BC. In the succeeding phases of the Rössen and Michelsberg cultures as well, there are clear indications from both settlement structure and palaeobotanic data for an almost completely agrarian society (Bakels 1990; Clason 1971; Louwe Kooijmans 1993b).

This model sharply contrasts with the developments in the more northerly coversand and river areas. As in the core region of Venray, little influence can be discerned of the Bandkeramic and Rössen habitation and the Mesolithic traditions and habits continue for almost 1000 years. But changes do occur with the arrival of the Michelsberg culture. Materially this area gives rise around 4400 BC to a society that may be called Neolithic, as it uses pottery and polished stone axes. Economically there are agrarian products, but probably as only one of the components in a food economy still based to a large degree on fishing, hunting and gathering. A term used for this type of economy is 'very broad spectrum' (Louwe Kooijmans 1993a; 1993b). The exact reason why these agrarian products have first been added to the Mesolithic way of life is hard to determine. It may be that a widening of the food base and therefore a lowering of the chance of food shortages is the basis for this (Wansleeben & Verhart 1990). It is equally likely that social prestige was paramount in the introduction (Verhart & Wansleeben, in press). The addition of agriculture and animal husbandry to the food economy had, however, numerous consequences for the mobility, settlement structure, group size and group composition, food requirements and social organization. As a result of all these factors together, a process of ever-increasing food production and intensification appears to have been started; a process that was by no means over by the end of the Neolithic. In the Beaker period there is a relatively extensive form of agriculture with a short fallow period (bush-fallow, Carlstein 1982; Fokkens 1986) and a more-or-less independent animal husbandry. Only later will there be a completely mixed farm, with permanent use of the plaggen soil and highly labour-intensive fertilization by utilizing the sheep-folds. Such a process of intensification, although started in the Michelsberg phase, was affected over time by all sorts of internal and external factors and shaped by the (voluntary) choices of those involved.

[Intensification model]
Fig. 58 Cause and result are interrelated: a model of increasing intensification during the Neolithization process


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