No time out: scaling material diversity and change in the Alpine foreland Neolithic

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Ebersbach, Renate ; Doppler, Thomas ; Hofmann, Daniela ; Whittle, Alasdair (2017)

Within a project exploring the difference which high-precision chronologies make for narratives of the European Neolithic, this paper examines the place of material culture in the flow of social existence. In contrast to approaches based on imprecise chronologies and stressing gradual change, we examine increasingly high-resolution dendrochronological data in the Neolithic of the northern Alpine foreland, where sharp boundaries between material styles were not in evidence. While 60-year filters allow a more differentiated analysis of the relative distribution of Cortaillod and Pfyn pottery, higher-resolution dendrochronology enables a very detailed narrative of the rapid introduction of Corded Ware in the Lake Zürich area, highlighting significant differences between eastern and western Switzerland. At the scale of individual sites, Concise shows continuity of the local potting tradition, despite repeated episodes of outside influence. At the short-lived site Arbon Bleiche 3, pottery changes much less than diet. This reveals a complex pattern of exactly contemporary diversity, seen even more sharply at the very briefly occupied settlement of Bad Buchau Torwiesen II. To get at agency within the flow of social life, we need as much temporal and spatial detail as possible, close attention to the material, and approaches that allow for nuanced narratives.
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