General objective and main issues raised
From materiality to space: monumental enclosures, exploited resources and territoriality during the Neolithic
The MK projekt’s intention is to study a key moment in our history, at around 4500 BC, which saw the onset of major economic, social, technological and cultural transformations in agricultural societies. The most striking feature is without doubt the appearance in the landscape of large sites enclosed by complex systems of ditches and palisades [poster EAA]. More generally one sees intensive exploitation of natural resources, stone, flint, salt, etc., and there are clear signs of social differences. The project looks more specifically at the causes, forms and consequences of these first mechanisms of social complexity in north-west Europe. The Michelsberg culture (MK), which extends from 4200 to 3600 BC from Normandy in the west to Saxony-Anhalt in the north-east, astride both France and Germany, was chosen for its abundant data, which has not previously been synthesized, and because there is a long tradition of French-German scientific collaboration, offering the possibility of exchanging methodologies.
- Transect Saxony-Anhalt/Normandy, detailed study areas and distribution of the Michelsberg culture (blue).
Methods or technologies used
Palaeoenvironmental studies, technological approaches and spatial analyses (databases, microscopic work, GIS)
The area sampled for study consists of a broad east-west transect from Normandy to Saxony-Anhalt. A general database groups together in a standardised form all information on archaeological sites (enclosures, C14 dates, topography, etc.), the environment (pollen analyses, mineral resources, etc.), and techniques (production and circulation of flint tools, production of bone tools, stock-raising, agriculture, salt exploitation, etc.). The aim was to understand how the territory was organised, between large central enclosures with multiple functions, ordinary settlements, funerary sites, and how the circulation of essential raw materials was controlled. The project thus involved targeted operations in the field (geophysical surveys, coring, trial trenching, excavation), laboratory studies and analyses (mineralogy, petrography, use-wear analysis, typo-technology, pollen analysis, radiocarbon dating, chemistry…), as well as GIS analysis of spatial information (georeferenced databases, models…).
Besides the shared tools (databases, GIS, technological approaches, magnetometry…) representing and assembling a unique documentary base on the Michelsberg culture (4200-3600 BC), the MK Projekt has provided new information on the natural environment and its development, as well as on the function and use of the first large non funerary monuments in relation to intensive exploitation, on a scale never reached earlier, of natural resources (flint mines) or strategic resources that had never previously been envisaged (salt from salt springs). Lastly, the project has enabled the development of new territorial models and novel hypotheses on the emergence of sociopolitical complexity.
The project and its results have given rise to 10 articles (including 6 in peer-reviewed journals) and 25 chapters of books, as well as about thirty contributions given in international conferences in France and elsewhere, notably at the EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), SAA (Society for American Archaology), IUPPS (International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences) and WAC (World Archaeological Congress). A specific session was organised at the EAA (Helsinki). Two monographs are in press and a third is planned, together with a French-German overview article. Lastly, the databasis are being made available on-line.