Difficult individuals (Archaeology of People) Part 3

Society, culture and the moral community

If individuals are elusive, can we not simply stick to the larger entities to which they belonged and which they helped to constitute? Once upon a time, that would hardly have been problematic from a theoretical point of view. Since Durkheim, anthropologists had stressed the notion of the dominant, implicitly bounded collectivity, and went on to debate, for example in the era of the British structural functionalists (Kuper 1996), its internal workings, especially social relationships. Archaeologists at the same time, rather lamely, used the collective concept of the archaeological culture. Badly under-theorised, it nonetheless rather palely reflected some of the features of another major anthropological interest, in culture as pervasive symbolic system (Sahlins 1999; Kuper 1999). In archaeological as in anthropological culture, there were seen to be tradition, institutions and above all boundaries, which it took historical movements of people to disrupt or reform. Society, or culture, depending on one’s point of view (Kuper 1999), programmed its individuals, and could be seen as the proper object of study.

Now things are far less certain. It is far too glib to equate anthropological society or culture with archaeological culture, but the anthropological debates on these issues are important. Three examples from these are enough to illustrate the challenges. In his study of the Kachin of highland Burma, Edmund Leach (1954; for detailed commentary see, among others, Kuper 1996; Tambiah 1998) outlined a world of unbounded social relationships in contrast to traditional notions of bounded tribes and ethnic wholes set in the unchanging equilibrium of tradition and culture.


Over a long timescale, of some 150 years, Kachin communities were seen to oscillate between more egalitarian (gumlao) and more ranked (gumsa) political formations. Leach stresses the importance of the difference between ideal and actual behaviour, seeing kinship for example not as a set of fixed rules but as a model to be used and manipulated. As Leach puts it (1954, 8), ‘Every individual of a society, each in his own interest, endeavours to exploit the situation as he perceives it and in so doing the collectivity of individuals alters the structure of society itself’.

We have already seen how in her study of Mount Hagen people in Papua New Guinea, Marilyn Strathern (1988) has gone further and challenged the whole notion of society, contrasting our own western expectations with indigenous ways of thinking. The opening two sentences of The gender of the gift set the tone: ‘It might sound absurd for a social anthropologist to suggest he or she could imagine people having no society. Yet the argument of this topic is that however useful the concept of society may be to analysis, we are not going to justify its use by appealing to indigenous counterparts’ (M. Strathern 1988, 3). So, while it makes sense to talk variously in terms of sociality, unity, plurality and collective events, these cannot be reduced to collective society. While we see society as what connects individuals and the relationships between them, and individuals as ‘conceptually distinct from the relations that bring them together’, for Melanesians sociality can be both singular and plural (M. Strathern 1988, 13). Collective actions often give an ‘image of unity’. Nonetheless, Strathern is at pains to avoid a different opposition, merely replacing society versus individual, between ‘collective life as a unity, while singular persons are composite’. Rather than one dimension dominating or determining the other, the key transformations are homologies and analogies; ‘the bringing together of many persons is just like the bringing together of one’ (M. Strathern 1988, 13—14). The substance of the topic is thereafter concerned not only with contrasts in outsider and insider perception of these possibilities but how they are played out in gender relations and the fields of marriage, work and exchange. This leads (among many other points) to the conclusion that ‘collective actions should be seen as one type of sociality, and as one type it therefore coexists with another, namely that sociality evinced in particular, domestic relations. The relation between the two is that of alternation, not hierarchy. The values of one are constantly pitted against the values of the other’ (M. Strathern 1988, 319).

In his study of highland Burma, Leach was concerned to break the view that the boundaries of society and culture were the same (1954). In his later study of land tenure among sedentary agriculturalists in Sri Lanka, ‘custom’ (‘what men do, normal men, average men’: E. Leach 1961, 298) is also revealed as the outcome of actual behaviour on the ground rather than allegiance to determining and overriding rules (E. Leach 1961). In a long, critical, historical account of the anthropological concept of culture, the difference is sharply set out between a mainly American school of concern with culture as the pervasive collective symbolic discourse, within which social relationships are embedded, and a mainly British school of concern with social relationships, within which culture can be seen as the expression of the style in which these are played out (Kuper 1999). This is not the place to rehearse the historical account, going back to Parsons, Boas and earlier. The important core of the argument is the objection to the use of culture as ‘the hyper-referential word’, which can somehow replace specific analysis of ‘knowledge, or belief, or art, or technology, or tradition, or even of ideology’ (Kuper 1999, x). Opposing the view that ‘culture is . . . essentially a matter of ideas and values, a collective cast of mind’, held in a shared symbolic system, Kuper reflects the view of critics who argue that ‘both culture and identity are made up, invented, unstable, discursive fabrications. Every culture is fragmented, internally contested, its boundaries porous’ (1999, 239, 247).

Not everyone would agree. Sahlins, for example, has reiterated that culture matters, since ‘in all its dimensions, including the social and material, human existence is symbolically constituted, which is to say, culturally ordered’ (1999, 400). Even anthropological codgers like Boas and Linton recognised the inventiveness of tradition, and what Boas called ‘the lack of specific coherence between various aspects of culture’ (quoted by Sahlins 1999, 405). For him, all cultures are hybrid, hybridity being a genealogy not a structure, and sacred symbols (following Durkheim) ‘give a people commitment as well as definition . . . a sense of shared existence as well as determinate boundaries’ (Sahlins 1999, 411-13). In the same spirit, Taylor has argued for the ‘relative continuity of tradition’ (1996, 202), making a distinction between spectacular or extreme aspects within a culture and other compartmentalised or complementary perspectives; not everyone need experience the extreme states to be said to be part of a culture (1996, 210). ‘Culture may be little more than "a second rate orchestra playing a half remembered tune" without the benefit of a conductor . . ., yet we must still explain how and why everyone remembers the same tune, however inaccurately, and why the level of cacophony in any given ‘culture’ is in fact surprisingly low’ (Taylor 1996, 213).

If in a sense, despite these reservations, both society and culture have gone, or at least have been recast as problematic, where does that leave the notion of collectivity embedded in the archaeological culture? Archaeological culture has remained seriously under-theorised. In the post-processual or interpretive approach, material culture studies have come to replace interest in culture, which was more or less ignored as old hat in processual times. They rest uneasily on the composite base of, on the one hand, a universalised sense of basic grammar (derived ultimately from structuralism), and on the other, a sense of specific context and individual practice. Underpinning ethnoarchaeological studies have been limited in number and extent. Hodder’s studies (1982) of the intersection of three tribal/cultural groups near Lake Baringo, Kenya, are now over twenty years old, and anyway dealt with a spatially very small boundary area, largely at one particular moment in time. Not that there have not been many recent illuminating individual studies of particular categories of material culture (as just one example, see A. Jones 2000), but there has been little by way of theorising about archaeological culture as a whole: its boundaries, internal variability and especially the phases in which it changes and reforms. It is symptomatic perhaps that the terms of reference in a recent (very useful) study of metaphor and material culture (Tilley 1999) are distinctly limited. One exception has been to treat culture as though it can be inherited and transmitted like a virus, cultural traits being seen as self-reproducing entities (Cullen 2000). Though this does at least take the issues of wider culture patterning and of culture change seriously, at best it remains only a non-human analogy for the way people act and think, consciously or unconsciously, and at worst it removes any sense of human agency at all.

It is hardly therefore surprising to find the relevance being doubted of a model of widely shared culture for understanding what actually goes on. For example, the setting of the LBK longhouse and its usual material accompaniments, which are broadly similar over wide areas of central and western Europe, have been seen as simply that: a setting within which life was created and lived, a shared material vocabulary, with no common meaning across the LBK distribution (Thomas 1996, 135). But as Hodder has pertinently pointed out (1999, 134), we still have to answer the question of why the setting took a particular, recurrent form.

Rather than posit no common meaning in the widely distributed and shared material culture of the LBK, I would rather raise the question of scales (Figure 3.2). At one scale, action may be a matter of the individual, however constituted, but at another scale, action either by the individual or a collectivity may draw on a much wider frame of reference. Networks and histories are both relevant here. It is possible to model networks in a general or abstract sort of way. For example, Gamble (1999, tables 2.8 and 2.9, drawing on a number of sources including Boissevain (1974)) suggests an intimate, face-to-face network of a few people, offering ontological and emotional security; an effective network of up to twenty people, relatives and friends from lineage or residence, which deals with ‘the logistics of daily life’; an extended network of 100 to a maximum of 400 people, friends of friends, who can be drawn into the effective network if required, especially through the employment of ‘symbolic resources, organized through style and material culture’; and finally, beyond these scales of personal network, a global network, measured in thousands, defined by otherness, and containing casual acquaintances through to total strangers.

Models of networks; above, after Neustupnyl998, and below, after Gamble 1999.

Figure 3.2 Models of networks; above, after Neustupnyl998, and below, after Gamble 1999.

A similar, though independently derived scheme suggests that communities, groups of families and/or households, up to a maximum of a few such, lived together in community areas and were bound together by close social and emotional ties as well as shared practical imperatives (‘a relationship of assistance’). They were set around by a ‘world of otherness’, which sits between the communal world and the outer strange world, and consists of people and other beings (including the dead) who do not belong to a given community but share artefacts and symbols with it. The world of otherness consists also of overlapping circuits of otherness, and includes through these the ‘symbolic systems usually denoted as archaeological cultures’ (Neustupny 1998, 10-21).

For all their resonance, these schemes remain very general. They submerge history. Latour offered the dictum that the network is always local (1993), but the nature and history of the network must also affect what goes on at the local point. Cultural uniformity and variability themselves varied considerably. The uniformity of the LBK was far from absolute, with some regional patterning in both styles of house construction and mortuary rites (Coudart 1998; Jeunesse 1997), and more regionalised pottery styles in its later phases. In southern Britain, by contrast, there was considerable variability throughout the fourth millennium BC. There is no exact congruence, for example, between the distributions of pottery styles, cairns and barrows, and enclosures. Each of these can be broken down into local mixtures of style. The ceramic assemblage at any one site is usually a mixture of styles (Cleal 1992); the cairns and barrows within both larger and smaller areas such as the Cotswolds or the upper Kennet valley include a wide range of architectures; and even the ditched enclosures, which have long been seen as having regionalised characteristics (Palmer 1976), can better be seen as much more individualised (A. Barclay 2000). Thomas has referred to this as bricolage or a creative play, ‘the evocation of particular meanings from a potentially limitless repertoire’ (1999, 80, 96). But why should there have been so much uniformity in the one case, and so much variability in the other? The history of specific contexts has to be taken into account.The situation in southern Britain could also now be seen as a series of fusions, but operating in an insular setting in a rather different kind of way.

Not only does history need to be added to the model of networks, but a sense of the force of what was shared. I have already referred.This is especially important to counter the ego-centred nature of the networks discussed above (Gamble 1999), in which others exist around ‘ego’ in widening circles of emotional, practical or logistical, and political support. I want to underline the sense of what the moral community may have expected of smaller groupings and individuals who belonged to it, and thereby the sense of how this affected, constrained and directed what they did, attempted, thought appropriate or felt they could get away with.

In conducting relationships of exchange, it has been argued that the Maneo of eastern Indonesia are concerned for the response of others (Hagen 1999). Exchange among them is complex and important, objects circulating especially as marriage payments. Sociality in the sense of giving attention to others can be seen as an important factor, people being neither under some Maussian imperative always to give and to reciprocate nor guided solely by contingent self-interest. A disposition to generosity and an emphasis on expressing collective virtues by doing things openly have been part of Maneo sociality (Hagen 1999, 366, 372). ‘Moral sensibilities inform Maneo efforts to shape perceptions of actions and events precisely as a way to induce responsiveness and to mitigate the appearance of unresponsiveness’ (Hagen 1999, 362).

It has also been argued that the emotional correlates of giving and receiving should be considered, through the case study of the Rauto people of coastal southwest New Britain in Melanesia (Maschio 1998). Among them, the gift is something corporate, an important part of collective social time, linking the living and the dead. Identity is acquired through a ‘narrative of exchange’, which involves and evokes memory, emotion, custom and obligation. The person is contributed to by others, including through gifts; ‘persons are created by the gifts of others’ (Maschio 1998, 85—6, 96). At the same time, participation in these networks may also involve counter-feelings, of anger, fear of obligation (‘This is the road of custom, and it is a difficult road to travel’, as one Rauto man put it: Maschio 1998, 86) and vulnerability. Carrying life forward is also a matter of avoiding giving insults, being seen to be too successful or attracting envy (Maschio 1998, 92).


The idea of a moral network is not intended to imply unanimity, and the Rauto example shows the ambivalence, and accompanying emotions, experienced by individual participants. In different contexts, Victor Turner has explored the sense of communitas or heightened sociality and transcendent togetherness engendered in rites of passage and pilgrimage (V. Turner 1969). In his examples of procreation/ancestral and installation rites among the Ndembu of Zambia, the liminal phase of the rituals produced a kind of timelessness and inversion of normal states, which promoted an ‘anti-structure’ of communitas. Clearly, this should not stand as a model for all ritual. In other examples, ritual may begin to fail to communicate universally shared values. Among the Iraqw of Tanzania, for example, the ritual authority of male elders depends increasingly on legitimisation by older women, in order to mediate the protest of women as a whole (Snyder 1997). Turner’s studies do serve here, however, to show that the ways in which the force of a moral community could be revealed or created are extremely varied.

Community and household

The Rauto number some 2,500 people (Maschio 1998, 85), and the Foi, discussed earlier, some 4,000 people (J.F. Weiner 1991, 6). The number of participants in Ndembu procreation rituals, to judge from the photographs which accompany Turner’s text, appears to have been no more than tens of people (V. Turner 1969). It seems unlikely that we could conceive of the LBK, say, as a single, active moral network, given the distance from one side of its distribution to the other. The discussion above has tried to show, however, the importance not only of shifting and unstable senses of what it was to be an individual but of wider relationships and scales of interaction. In the final part of this topic, I want briefly to give a preliminary, further sense of the archaeological dimensions in which the moral network could be explored.

The idea of different scales might be articulated through the notion of the ‘circuit of otherness’ (Neustupny 1998, 20). According to this there are as many circuits as there are communities, individual circuits largely overlapping. Just as the network scheme discussed earlier validated above all the ego or individual person, so this seems to privilege the single scale of the community. It may be better to think of a network formed by concentrations of people, particular communities, and individual households. The archaeological record offers innumerable examples of uneven distributions, and the German term Siedlungskammer captures this well, even though its literal translation in English as ‘settlement cell’ implies something more fixed and mechanistic than I have in mind; settlement concentration may be better.4 This can easily be illustrated not only by the distribution of LBK settlement (e.g. Bogucki 1988; Luning 2000), but by groupings of sites among the varied waterside settings of the Koros culture (e.g. Jankovich et al. 1989), around particular lakes and other wet places in the Alpine foreland (e.g. Petrequin 1984), or from valley to valley in central southern England (A. Barclay 2000). We have tended to ignore the significance both of the spaces in between, and the dimensions of settlement concentrations as lived space. Neither was regular. There is much variation within the single example of the LBK. The early sites of Neckenmarkt in easternmost Austria and Strogen in the Horn basin of Lower Austria, for example, can be seen to belong to Siedlungskammern of respectively only ten and fourteen sites (Lenneis and Luning 2001). In the case of the Aldenhovener Platte in north-west Germany, the most intensively investigated single landscape of the LBK, ‘sites’ consist of varyingly constituted clusters of longhouses strung along smaller watercourses, over a settlement concentration whose total extent might have been at least 40 km in diameter (Luning and Stehli 1994; Luning 1997a). Little lay to the south for some 100 km, nor directly to the north, while there was another, smaller settlement concentration some 20 km to the west, that of southern Dutch Limburg.

In exceptional cases, it is possible to suggest very small units indeed, as in the rather later examples of the settlements around the isolated lakes Chalain and Clairvaux in the Jura (e.g. Petrequin 1989). The investigations of the Merzbachtal and other small stream valleys in the Aldenhovener Platte have shown how the concentrations of LBK longhouses could vary even along short stretches of watercourse. This example alone shows how the idea of community must be a flexible one, to which we can add those situations where there may have been traditions and practices of residential mobility or short-lived sedentism, as perhaps in parts of Britain. What was the community in the Merzbachtal: the whole stream valley, particular concentrations of longhouses, or the individual longhouse? The question seems impossible to answer, and its impossibility underscores the importance of a multi-scalar approach.

Houses are the final scale to consider here, since they could be taken to offer the possibility of better understanding of the households to which many individuals might have belonged and from which many communities might have been constituted. But things may not be that simple. There are often either too many houses or too few. And it proves to be as difficult to pin down the household as it is individuals and communities.

As far as structures are concerned, the archaeological record of the Neolithic period in central and western Europe can be seen as either house-rich or house-poor. In house-poor areas and phases, buildings were never completely absent, but are rare and in many instances hard to define. The Koros culture of the Great Hungarian Plain and the northern Starcevo culture west of the Danube are cases in point. Likewise, in western Europe in the fourth and third millennia BC, after the LBK and post-LBK longhouse tradition had lapsed, houses are scarce. In the case of southern Britain, as we have seen, there are good grounds for seeing such substantial buildings as do occur as early in the sequence of the fourth millennium BC (A. Barclay 2000).

By contrast, in house-rich times and places, houses come out of the ground, so to speak, in their hundreds. Not only that, but there appear to be far more than might be expected on any reasonable assumptions about the potential uselife of timber-framed structures. So in many LBK cases, the replacement rate seems unusually rapid. This has been little commented upon, perhaps because of the effort to win reliable site chronologies from difficult horizontal stratigraphies and unhelpful conditions of preservation. On the Aldenhovener Platte, for example, a sequence of fifteen phases can be entertained, covering some 400 years. Langweiler 8, the largest longhouse concentration in the Merzbachtal, was used throughout, except in the last of these phases, normally having no fewer than six longhouses (three in its first and four in its last) (Stehli 1994, fig. 36). That each phase is assigned a new set of structures is also striking; it seems curious that these substantial constructions, heavily built from prime oak, should not on this reckoning have lasted longer than twenty-eight or twenty-nine years. Similar observations can be made at most other longhouse concentrations of any duration. Likewise in the Alpine foreland, rebuilding followed rebuilding, and now that dendrochronology has provided precise reckoning of time, it can be seen that few of the generally small nucleated settlements lasted longer than a generation in any one phase, and often less.It is estimated that the houses in site VIII beside the small upland Jura lake of Clairvaux were built in the expectation of no more than ten years of occupation (Petrequin 1989, 494).

One can plead circumstances of preservation or changes in house construction techniques to explain the lack of visibility in house-poor times, and some of these arguments may be perfectly valid. One can note that lake levels varied, and may have directly necessitated short-term abandonments and therefore subsequent rebuildings. This is certainly a factor on large lakes directly connected to major water flows, but may not apply so forcibly to small lakes and hardly at all to marshy locations. But equally, we should give far more attention to the contexts in which houses were so frequently rebuilt. There seems to be an ideology of renewal at work, an ethos that required continuity to be affirmed and proclaimed in fresh building. In the Alpine foreland, siting a mere few metres distant – a little further from or higher than the water’s edge – would have removed the necessity for periodic abandonment and the need for rebuilding. The fact that the same behaviour can be found in the sites not on the larger lakes suggests that there was more to the situation than response to natural fluctuations in water levels.

The pollution of death might be seen as one factor that disrupted the continuity of the household (as noted in the previous topic). But deaths on their own may not have been potent in this way. There are many burials within LBK settlements (Veit 1996), and burials were also incorporated within the house-rich tells of the Great Hungarian Plain, as we have seen earlier in this topic. Conversely, there are very few burials or traces of human remains, even infants and children, within the settlements of the Alpine foreland. If deaths were disruptive, these may have been those of prominent household figures, perhaps something equivalent to the married pairs who are the founders of long-lived houses among the Zafimaniry of Madagascar (Bloch 1995b).

This may suggest that for all the physical solidity of the buildings, especially posts, walls and floors, house and household were fragile. The ambiguities of the longhouse community in Amazonia have been described as a series of tensions between competing dominant ideas: unilineal descent, hierarchy, exogamy, virilocality and agnatic residential groups on the one hand, but equality, endogamy and consang-uineal residential and territorial groupings on the other (S. Hugh-Jones 1995, 237). The Neolithic house and household might be regarded as alliances of unstable composition, with a potentially shifting membership, and liable to dissolution, provoked not only by the deaths of key members but also by innumerable other kinds of fission. This may also describe much of the character of the basic social grouping in house-poor places. The house was one way of keeping this fragile unity together. It was clearly successful as a social institution, seen in its survival (though not without modifications) for a millennium or so. It has even been suggested that something of its possible internal spatial organisation may have been carried on into the smaller house tradition of the Alpine foreland, from the late fifth millennium BC onwards. Petrequin (1989, 504) has argued that the layout of sites like Clairvaux II (dated between 3470 and 3440 BC), which consist of groupings of separate rectangular buildings, may hark back to the tripartite division of space contained within the single LBK longhouse. Whether or not the functional divisions claimed for the LBK house stand up to future analysis, the general argument is suggestive, and the power of the memory of the longhouse is well seen in the later tradition of the long mound (Bradley 1998a).

There are further complications. The household may itself have been quite varied. Two studies show some of the possibilities for difference under the same kind of roof. Extensive excavation over a number of years at the late LBK5 site at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes in the Aisne valley of northern France has produced over thirty houseplans across 6 ha; in five phases of occupation through some 150—200 years, a sequence based on ceramic decoration, there were normally six houses at a time (Ilett et al. 1982; 1986). Residual bone6 from the pits flanking the houses shows a series of structured differences (Hachem 1995; 1997; 2000). Houses can be divided into two broad categories, a smaller type up to 15 m long with one space or ‘room’ behind a cross-corridor, and a larger type with two or three such ‘rooms’ behind the cross-corridor. The bigger buildings have bigger quantities of waste bone. The smaller houses have the largest quantities of wild animals, while the larger buildings have the highest proportions of domesticated animals. There is further difference in the distribution of wild and tame animal species across the settlement, which is maintained through its life (Figure 3.3). Wild boar remains are particularly abundant in the northern part of the settlement, sheep in the western part, and cattle in the eastern part. These patterns have been taken to suggest a degree of specialisation within the settlement, in terms of hunters, sheep herders and cattle herders (Hachem 1997; 2000, 311). Something of the same suggestion has been made with reference to flint production in north-western LBK contexts (Keeley and Cahen 1989).

Bone preservation is normally much worse in LBK contexts than found at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes and the wider incidence of this kind of pattern is hard to follow. Elsewhere in Europe, for example in the south-east where the faunal evidence is richer, this kind of specialisation is not evident at early dates (e.g. Halstead 1996). There are perhaps other possible interpretations. From the distribution plans (e.g. Hachem 1995, figs 4—8; 1997, figs 14—17), it seems clear that the occupants of most houses used the full range of wild and domestic animals. The highest proportion of game in any one smaller house was just over 40 per cent, while the highest proportion of domesticates was 96 per cent (Hachem 2000, 310). From the fact that bone was preferentially deposited on one side of the buildings (Hachem 1997, fig. 8), it seems that animal bone was being used, either consciously as part of deliberate placings, or unconsciously as part of unthinking routine depositional practices, as a form of display.

Outline distribution of the structured distribution of dominant species at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes; circle sizes indicate relative abundance.

Figure 3.3 Outline distribution of the structured distribution of dominant species at Cuiry-les-Chaudardes; circle sizes indicate relative abundance.

The incidence of deer and aurochs is widespread but generally low (Hachem 1995, figs 6 and 8). The higher quantities of wild boar (which seem to correlate with the presence of dogs: Hachem 1995, figs 5 and 7) appear in part of the site which might be considered, apart from in the founding phase, as peripheral or on the edge. Was this where it was appropriate to emphasise active hunting, perhaps by younger men? Or were newly founded households placed most appropriately on the edges of the settlement, their occupants ranging more widely in the surrounding woodlands? Cattle were emphasised in the flanking ditches of the larger houses (though these vary in length), this could reflect differences in the circumstances of slaughter and consumption in communal feasts or meals, rather than economic specialisation per se, either because the larger households were more able to provide such generosity and hospitality, or because the larger houses were used principally or partly for communal gatherings. It is also possible that the differences were generated by varying circumstances through the life of the settlement, over several generations. Within the Aisne valley, it appears that smaller buildings were only built in the longer-lived sites like Cuiry-les-Chaudardes and Menneville, while shorter-lived and smaller sites like Missy-sur-Aisne had only larger buildings (Hachem 1997, 203). The larger buildings might have housed a number of social units, rather than a single, closed household, whose members acted in perfect unison at all times and through the generations. Variations in the deposition of animal bones may be related in part to the flux and flow of people into and out of the settlement, and to changes in ‘household’ composition. Variation between the deposited remains of the three main domestic species (cattle, pig and sheep) in the flanking ditches of longhouses can be seen in more detail at Berry-au-Bac (Chemin de la Pecherie) (Hachem and Auxiette 1995). Here at least, though the sample of buildings is small, there appears far more variation on either side of the larger houses (buildings 200 and 300) than beside the smaller structure 195 (Hachem and Auxiette 1995, figs 67—71). The household was not yet necessarily a fixed or stable institution.

A different sort of relation among houses can be seen in the case of site 3 on the lake of Chalain in the French Jura (Arbogast et al. 1995). Here, as in the other sites from this region already discussed, small concentrations of closely grouped houses were built and rebuilt following much the same kind of plan. Two successive levels, VIII and VI, dating to 3200—3170 BC and 3130—3100 BC respectively, have not only good bone preservation but also finds carefully plotted in relation to the houseplans (Figure 3.4). There were four houses available for study in the earlier phase, and three in the younger. These were rectangular buildings of roughly equal size, with raised floors originally holding clay hearths. The hearths were situated in the front portion of the buildings. Much food preparation seems to have taken place immediately in front of the buildings, the entrance being on one of the ends, or in the front portion; waste from a range of kinds of food is found at the front and under the front to middle parts of the buildings (Arbogast et al. 1995, fig. 2). Bones would have been subject to scavenging by pigs and dogs, and could also have been moved by localised flooding. Taking the patterns that result at face value, there are again differences between the buildings. In layer VIII in the centre of the house row, building C has a particularly high concentration of bone remains and also some antler working, while its neighbours on one side, buildings B and A, stand out for antler working and a concentration of bear bones respectively. However, while this might imply difference in terms of say household importance or seniority, there are many conjoins and matches among the bones under the houses, suggesting the existence of collective disposal areas (Arbogast et al. 1995, figs 12—13). The picture here might be of a single social unit, housed in separate but closely spaced buildings, and operating as a unity, rather than of adjacent but autonomous households.

Some patterns

Many different sorts of situation have been covered in this topic, which I end by bringing together some correlations. In the case of the Great Hungarian Plain, I suggested that individuals might have been more defined with the appearance of longhouses, and that there was perhaps more individualism still by the time of tell settlements. However, the sharpest definition of the individual came in the Early Copper Age burial grounds, at a time when there is very little evidence for the nature of houses or households.

Bone distributions across five separate buildings in level VIII, Chalain site 3 (late fourth millennium bc), French Jura. Clockwise from top left: all bones; deer; cattle; and boar; the lines indicate conjoins or matching bones.

Figure 3.4 Bone distributions across five separate buildings in level VIII, Chalain site 3 (late fourth millennium bc), French Jura. Clockwise from top left: all bones; deer; cattle; and boar; the lines indicate conjoins or matching bones.

In the LBK of central and western Europe, substantial, sometimes massive buildings, grouped in varying concentrations but normally free-standing, were accompanied by largely individual burials, either within the settlement or in burial grounds. Judging by the evidence of the Aldenhovener Platte (Luning and Stehli 1994; Luning 1997a) and elsewhere, such burial grounds may have served more than one settlement. Where there were closely grouped buildings in the Alpine foreland, we know little of the general mortuary rite. In southern Britain, the evidence is of rare, perhaps specialised, and early buildings, while collectivities are constituted in mortuary deposits of considerable variety, accumulated by differing processes and histories. The ways in which individualism could be seen and in which individuals could be defined in relation to others were diverse. Public rituals of affirmation, like the depositions at causewayed enclosures in southern Britain or the burials in the Early Copper Age cemeteries of the Great Hungarian Plain, were perhaps most pronounced where the residential complex was least defined or most unstable. This leaves the standing of the LBK settlement, so often taken as self-evidently fixed, closed and permanent, as problematic. In all cases, identity is hardly to be found in a single dimension.

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