Mesolithic Cultures

Hunter-Gatherer Complexity
Development of Ceramics
Hunter-Gatherer Complexity
“Hunter-gatherers move around alot and live in small groups”
Based on living, marginal groups such as the !Kung San and the
Much greater diversity.
Conditions for more complexity
Higher-than normal pop, concentrated in relatively small areas
such as river valleys, circumscribed by geography and neighbors.
More intense, diverse, specialized food gathering.
Food storage and preservation
Permanent and nearly permanet settlements, often linear.
Highly developed food procurement and processing
Divison of labor.
Simple social ranking.
More elaborate ritual and ceremonial beliefs.
Mesolithic in Europe
Mesolithic forest and coastal h-gs replaced
tundra reindeer hunters around 13,000 b.p.
Not impoverished as earlier thought but rich in wildlife
such as red and roe deer, many plant foods.
 Coast, estuaries very productive.
 Called affluent foragers.
Distinct cultures of the Upper Paleolithic covering
areas of over 38 k sq miles, but in the Holocene
reduced to 6 k sq miles and many different
zones and territories.
 European Mesolithic ended around 8,000 B.P.
with the spread of agriculture.
Discovery of a Mesolithic burial at
Mezzocorona, Trento, Italy
The modern town of Mezzocorona is located north of Trento, in the Adige valley, by the
northern margin of the Rotaliana plain, a fertile alluvial fan at the confluence of the
Noce stream and the river Adige.
In the Autumn of 1995 archaeological investigations were resumed in collaboration
with the Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali and the University of Trento, in order to
investigate the Mesolithic residual deposits. A one square metre trial trench was thus
excavated by the rockwall. Right at the end of the excavation period a mound of
stones was uncovered, just under the rockwall. Digging was concentrated in the area
of the foresaid mound of stones under which a burial dated to the late Sauveterrian
(early Mesolithic) was brought to light.
The burial was formed by a shallow grave,
oriented east-west; the eastern and western
walls were slightly inclined, whereas the
northern and southern ones were almost
 Inside the grave, a skeleton, probably of a
female aged over 30 years, lied in a supine
position. She was oriented east-west, with her
face looking south, her hands on the stomach
and her feet slightly on top of one another. Both
here head and feet were positioned above her
pelvic girdle. No grave goods were present.
 A preliminary analysis of the skeleton, which was
well preserved, showed that she had lost her
molar teeth from some time as the roots had
filled in naturally; possible bone paleopathologies on the lower and upper limbs were
also remarked.
NW Europe & Scandinavia
Maglemose Period (9500-7700 B.P.)
People lived in large huts with bark and wood floors on a
peat island near a lake.
Seasonal exploitation of rivers, lakes and terrestrial hunting.
Inland spring and summer settlements are represented by the
Ulkestrup site in Denmark.
Used canoes, one paddle was found preserved.
people fished with bone and antler barbed points, trapped birds
and hunted red deer, wild ox and pig.
In fall bands foraged for hazlenuts and other plants, elk
and other game were hunted, fishing less important.
Starr Carr, England
Starr Carr
Starr Carr in Yorkshire was a typical Mesolithic site in
 Around 9,500BP about 20 individuals inhabited the site.
 They used stone axes and adzes to fell trees, and made
a variety of barbed bone and antler spear points.
 Hunting was the main activity, with red deer, elk,
aurochs, and roe deer being the main prey.
Hunters used long wooden arrows tipped with small flint blades
that were set in the shaft with tree resin.
Dogs assisted in hunting.
Hazelnuts were collected in the autumn and perhaps stored.
Kongemose Period (7700-6600 B.P.)
 Baltic
sea coast sites, along bays and near
lagoons, exploitation of marine and terrestrial
 Segebro settlement (larger than earlier ones)
which is now submerged in brackish water.
 occupied
year round, but mainly in spring and
 carbon isotope analysis of human bone show that
fish and sea mammals were major diet.
Ertebolle Period (6600-5200 B.P.)
Culmination of Mesolithic culture, occupying coastal
settlements year round, wide range of food resources,
wide variety of tools.
Greater social complexity, such as cemetaries and
more diverse technology.
Vedbok Bogebakken cemetary had at least 22
people of different ages buried.
extended positions.
grave goods.
some showing evidence of violent death, such as
projectile points embedded in bone.
Southwest Asia
(Mediterranean and Middle East)
Transition to more complex hunter-gatherersKebaran cultures (14-12,000 B.P.).
 Small and highly mobile hunter-gatherer bands,
found in a wide variety of environments,
variation in tool kits.
11,000 B.P. significant environmental and vegetational
more concentrated stands of wild cereal grains
(emmer wheat, barley, etc.) and nuts (almonds and
harvestable over longer periods of time, less
temperature sensitive.
Franchthi Cave, Greece
Characterized by two new developments:
(1) the appearance of large quantities of fish bones,
particularly those of large fish;
(2) the appearance of substantially larger quantities
of obsidian from Melos as a material in the local
chipped stone industry.
These two developments were initially
considered to be closely related and to show
that the inhabitants of Franchthi Cave not only
sailed to Melos (150 kms. away) for obsidian but
also fished in deep water for the first time.
 There is still no pottery or architecture.
Burial at Franchthi
The earliest burial found at Franchthi is of
Mesolithic date:
25-year-old male buried in a contracted
position in a shallow pit near the mouth of the
 The pit was covered with fist-sized stones;
there were no burial goods; the young man
had died from blows to the forehead, but he
seems to have already been suffering severely
from malaria.
SW Asia
By 10,000 B.P. people began to more
intensively exploit these plant resources
called the Natufians.
 exploited
wild emmer and barley, nuts, gazelle
hunting also important.
 larger populations, more sedentary hamlets,
clear signs of social ranking .
Pottery in Ancient Times
Coil (vessel built from clay or with long
coils by hand).
 Mold (vessel built from lump of clay that is
pressed into a concave mold or over a
convex mold).
 Wheel (potter’s wheel invented in
Mesopotamia ca. 5,000 B.P.-clay rotated
on platform and formed with hands).
Clay Preparation
CLAYS can be found near the ocean or by
inland streams and ponds.
 The clay formed when tiny bits of dirt
carried by streams sank and settled in still
water ponds.
 Clays must be plastic enough to be rolled
into a coil and bent without breaking.
Adding Temper
TEMPER may be crushed
shell, sand, broken
pottery bits, or plant
Up to 1/10 of the clay
mixture can be made up
of temper for very fine
natural clays.
Tempering pottery makes
it able to take rapid
changes in temperature
when placed in a fire.
Pinch thumbs into the
center of a ball of clay.
Squeeze on the Inside
with your fingers on the
outside of the pot.
Continue squeezing and
rotating the pot until the
walls of the vessel are
about 1/4 in. thick.
2. Place the base in a
hollow in the ground, or
in a bowl
shaped vessel which can
be rotated easily by the
potter as the pot is built
The coils ore rolled between
the palms of the hands or
rolled against a flat surface in
a back and forth and center
to ends direction. Coils range
from 1/2 to 1 inch in
To be joined properly, the
coils should be roughened
using a moistened stiff brush.
This helps seal out any air
when the calls are squeezed
10gether, and helps keep the
coil moist while it is being
added to the pot.
Shaping and Smoothing
Shell edge or back of shell can be
stamped and/or dragged in the clay.
 Cord Wrapped Paddle: used to compress
the coils, leaving parallel impressions of
 Pointed Stick: used to make incised lines
or dots on a pot.
 Net and Textiles: a layer keeps dirt away
from the surface of a pot & leaves its
Shell Tool
Shell Tool
Cord-Wrapped Paddle
Paddle with wrapped cordage
Loose Netting
Pointed Stick
Punctations and Lines
Firing Structure
Firing Results
Four of the pots after firing -- the black marks on the
pots are not soot, they do not wash off... the marks are
from the differences in oxidation and reduction of the
clay; where the pot is orange, it was more open to the air
(oxidized); where the pot is black, the air was cut off
Otzi & Neolithic
Ice Man
Found by 2 hikers in 1991
 Originally thought to be the body of a modernday mountaineer who had died while out
 Named “Otzi” after the Otztaler region of the
Alps where he was found
The Otztaler Alps
A team of men, uneducated in archaeology or
recovery, chipped away at the ice unsuccessfully.
 Despite warnings that the corpse may be of
significance, no archaeologist was present as he
was dug up by a forensic scientist who used an
ice pick and a ski pole.
 Result of the recovery was damage to the right
leg of the body
Otzi’s Preservation
The body was never exposed to the surface of
the glacier before it was found
 There was no weathering of the skin or the
leather found with him
 No evidence of temperature changes
 The body was perfectly preserved due to the
constantly frozen climate
How Old is Otzi?
5300 years old
 Dates to the Neolithic
 This period is associated
with metal tools and
weapons, and sedentary
horticultural settlements
The Neolithic
Otzi carried many Neolithic goods and tools, including:
quiver with a bow and arrows, flint dagger, copper axe,
framed backpack, fire making kit, 3 layers of clothing,
dried fruit and other foods, bearskin hat, assortment of
fungi that could be used for medicinal purposes
Pictured above: (L) Copper axe (R) Flint Dagger
Objects found with Otzi
More Objects
More Clues about the Neolithic
Medicine and Ritual
 Tattoos-body art or therapy?
 Otzi’s last meal consisted of goat meat
and bread that was cooked in a charcoal
Who was Otzi?
First thought to be a farmer or Shepard or primitive
These theories have been thrown out due to the
absence of wool, and his tools and weapons were too
extensive for a farmer
Could not have been a hunter because most of his
arrows were broken and there were 2 points present,
also the bow was unstrung
Other theories that he was an outlaw, trader, Shaman, or
warrior have no solid basis or evidence.
The question of Otzi’s identity has yet to be resolved
Not the Primitive Cave Man
We do know that Otzi and his people were not
as primitive as we first thought.
 Well equipped for the cold climate, weapons
were strong, carried a “first aid kit” of fungi and
mosses known to have medicinal uses
What we do know about Otzi
He was unwell at the time of death
 Fingernail growth patterns show he was
very ill in the last 6 months of his life
 He had been infested with intestinal
worms and parasites that caused
 But these were not the causes of his death
How did Otzi die? There are several
Early theory was he suffered from hypothermia
and disease, however there is no medical
 2001-examiners announced the discovery of a
flint arrowhead that had gone unnoticed in initial
 Examiners probed the wound above Otzi’s left
shoulder to find the point, and presumed this
injury was the cause of death
Cold Case of Murder
Doctors theorize Otzi
had been struck from
behind with the arrow
 The arrow shaft was
missing-it probably was
pulled out by Otzi after
he was hit, leaving the
point embedded in his
 The point hit a vein,
causing a slow death
Arrow Entry
Murder Investigation
The injury no doubt played a major part in Otzi’s
 Otzi was definitely murdered- due to the angle
of the point embedded in him, he could not have
fallen on it, or was it self-inflicted
 Evidence that Otzi was involved in a struggle
before he died: gashes on his hands and body
match that of a blade he was carrying, as well
as bruises on his body as if he had been beaten
 Why was he murdered? No one knows.
Where is Otzi now?
He has been on display in various institutions
including the South Tyrol Archaeology Museum
in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy.
 He is preserved under conditions that mimic the
glacier in which he was found
 A “sandwich system” of sterile surgical cloth,
crushed ice, and 2 plastic foils with ice packs.
 Temperature of -6 degrees c and 99% humidity
Custody battle between two
Who does Otzi belong to?
 Austria vs. Italy
 He was first examined in 1991 in
Innsbruck, Austria but he was found on
the Italian side of the Alps
 Italy has the rights to claim him, build a
museum to feature him, and receive all
financial rewards from merchandise, etc.
An Interesting Twist
Was Otzi and early Austrian or Early Italian?
 Using the mineral composition of his dental
enamel and leg bone, the environment in which
his food was grown can be reconstructed.
 By comparing the isotopes of Austria and Italy
with his mineral composition it was concluded
that Otzi came from the South Tyrol area of Italy