Houses are a prominent part of the archaeological record in many phases and regions of the European Neolithic (see recent surveys in Hofmann and Smyth 2013), including notably the substantial timber longhouses of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) and its tradition. Just how long were such houses in use? How many houses may have been used at the same time? What kind of in-built features accompanied a longhouse? To contribute to these much debated questions, TOTL is investigating the potential of case studies in the central Polish lowlands, with the aim of refining the chronologies of flat settlements characterised by longhouses. We have two potential targets: the LBK of the later sixth millennium cal BC, and the Brześć Kujawski/Late Lengyel culture of the second half of the fifth millennium cal BC. Both contexts have numerous longhouses, though by the Late Lengyel period these had changed significantly in terms of layout, form and internal space, and so tracking shifts in the nature of houses and households, including their duration (Marciniak 2013), is another research goal.
Dating such houses directly presents many challenges, since floors and occupation surfaces are not preserved, and very few diagnostic finds or organic remains come from structural elements such as loam pits, refuse pits, postholes and foundation trenches. Normally, sequence is derived from material from associated pits and graves, pottery especially being ordered chronologically according to typology and/or seriation. In LBK studies, the idea of the independent farmstead or Hofplatz, replaced every generation or so, has been extensively used to provide further chronological structure (surveyed in Zimmermann 2012), though this has been challenged in recent times by alternative models of rows and clusters of longhouses respectively (Rück 2009; Czerniak forthcoming).
This work is a collaboration with Professor Arek Marciniak and colleagues of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and Professor Lech Czerniak and colleagues of Gdańsk University.
So far, we have submitted samples from the Late Lengyel site of Racot, near Poznań, excavated between 1984 and 1987 by Lech Czerniak. This has at least 15 typical trapezoidal longhouses, some of them arranged in pairs, and graves, and according to a combination of horizontal stratigraphy, pottery typology and a few existing radiocarbon dates, probably had three or possibly four phases of development, starting in phase IIa of the Lengyel Brześć Kujawski group (according to the Kujavian system). We are also investigating whether other Late Lengyel house complexes in the wider region are suitable for dating.
We are also assessing the potential of the large LBK site of Ludwinowo 7, near the Vistula river south of Toruń. This was excavated in 2000 and 2001 and then in 2008 and 2009 in advance of motorway construction, the investigations led by Anna Klaudel and Zenon Seroczyński with a small section of the site excavated by Joanna Pyzel, of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences (see description and discussion in Marciniak 2013; Pyzel 2013). The settlement covers at least 7 ha, with a minimum of 25 longhouses and associated pits occurring in two groups – east and west. It is possible to impose both Hofplatz and row layout on the longhouses here, but the main challenge here is to obtain a sufficiently large number of samples of short-life material, in order to date the six phases of occupation identified at the site through seriation of its decorated pottery. This may have to be supplemented by dating samples from a wider seriation of decorated pottery in the region, carried out by Joanna Pyzel in her PhD thesis. The regional sequence could then in turn inform the dating of the development of Ludwinowo 7.
TOTL team members Alex Bayliss, Alasdair Whittle, Alistair Barclay and Jessica Smyth visited Poznań in June 2013, with a follow-up trip by Jessica in October 2013 to look at archives in both Poznań and Gdańsk. Marta Bartkowiak and Mikołaj Lisowski in particular gave invaluable help with pottery and animal bone samples. This has been followed up by several video and telephone conferences with Arek. Further work in the form of multiple simulations by Alistair Barclay is ongoing.
Czerniak, L. forthcoming. House, household and village in the Early Neolithic of central Europe: a case study of the LBK in Little Poland.
Hofmann, D. and Smyth, J. (eds) 2013. Tracking the Neolithic house: sedentism, architecture and practice. New York: Springer.
Marciniak, A. 2005. Placing animals in the Neolithic: social zooarchaeology of prehistoric farming communities. London: UCL Press.
Marciniak, A. 2013. The society in the making: the house and the household in the Danubian Neolithic of the central European lowlands. In T. Kerig and A. Zimmermann (eds), Economic archaeology: from structure to performance in European archaeology, 47–63. Bonn: Habelt.
Pyzel, J. 2013. Change and continuity in the Danubian longhouse of Lowland Poland. In D. Hofmann and J. Smyth (eds), Tracking the Neolithic house in Europe: sedentism, architecture and practice, 183–96. New York: Springer.
Rück, O. 2009 New aspects and models for Bandkeramik settlement research. In D. Hofmann and P. Bickle (eds), Creating communities: new advances in central European Neolithic research, 159–85. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
Zimmermann, A. 2012. Das Hofplatzmodell — Entwicklung, Probleme, Perspektiven. In S. Wolfram, H. Stäuble, M. Cladders and T. Tischendorf (eds), Siedlungsstruktur und Kulturwandel in der Bandkeramik, 11–19. Dresden: Landesamt für Archäologie.
Local Partners: Adam Mickiewicz and Arek Marciniak (University in Poznań) and Lech Czerniak (Gdańsk University)
UK Team: Jessica Smyth, Alistair Barclay, Alex Bayliss, and Alasdair Whittle