Linear Pottery – Linearbandkeramik


The Linear Pottery Culture is another important strand of European prehistory: they may be a major ancestral component of modern Europe.  They showed up around 5500 BC on the Middle Danube, possibly stemming from the Starčevo culture in the Balkans.

LBK farmers often farmed near rivers  and loess soils. They grew emmer and einkorn wheat, peas,and lentils.  They raised cattle, goats, and pigs. They used flint tools, and traded flint over long distances, but weren’t yet using metals.

It is safe to say that the LBK culture was not, for the most part, a local development – local Mesolithic foragers adopting agriculture – because  their mtDNA was very different from those foragers.  ~80% of forager mtDNA was in haplogroup U, none of LBK mtDNA.

LBK mtDNA was also significantly different from that seen in modern Europeans. For example, 25% of LBK mtDNA was in the N1a haplogroup, but the current frequency of N1a in Europeans is lower by a factor of 100.

Something drastic must have happened to cause this genetic discontinuity.

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37 Responses to Linear Pottery – Linearbandkeramik

  1. K says:

    “Something drastic must have happened to cause this genetic discontinuity”

    So…..white people are blonde aliens?
    I knew it! Hitler was right!!

  2. I wonder how many times the population of Europe has been replaced/overrun since the Solutreans? (And how many old genetic markers do Basques exhibit?)

    In a completely unrelated thought, why do Europeans make such a big deal about the treatment of American Indians, given that they can hardly claim not to have replaced earlier populations.

  3. Difference Maker says:

    Uncontrolled immigration

  4. frumious says:

    Linear Potttery… good name for a marijuana legalization fundraiser band.

  5. Greying Wanderer says:

    I saw on the internets some graphs showing a dramatic drop in the LBK population



    There could be a lot of possible reasons for this i.e. over-farming, climate, invasion etc but it seems to me even if it wasn’t invasion initially all the other reasons could lead to invasion or simply repopulation from the outside i.e. the drop in population acting as a vaccuum.

    From the graphs it looks like the population recovered in Britain / Denmark first (funnelbeaker / megalithism) and so i think they were pulled into the center first, followed later by Kurgans (and the two merging into corded ware?) followed later again by Bell beaker archer-metalworkers from Iberia (merging again to form the basis of Hallstat / La tene?)

    So the basic pattern imo is neolithic farmers from the near-east expand into central europe along the Danube and from the Med coast and eventually hit a problem but not before they transferred knowledge of domesticated animals to populations around the periphery of their expansion. This either leading to rebound invasions from those periphery populations or the problem reduces the LBK population and that acts as a vaccuum drawing in the periphery populations.

    The reason this could square the genetic circle is if the proportions of neolithic (near eastern farmer) and mesolithic (indigenous forager) dna varied among these different populations. Just for illustration say:
    – LBK are 80:20 neolithic/mesolithic
    – Atlantic coast populations 50:50
    – Kurgans 20: 80

    Then the LBK base would be modified by three separate expansions from the periphery, Funnelbeaker, Kurgan and Bell Beaker.

    • Matt says:

      The recent Pickerell et al paper, on West Eurasian admixture in Khoi-San that seems to be driven by pastoralist expansion, suggests to me that pastoralists can, or must, venture further out than agriculturalists, particularly those with low capacity to terraform the local land to good farmland (e.g. bad quality axes, hard to clear forests) who expand in more of a dense, clumpy formation (as one densely farmed region becomes overpopulated, a new close by farmable region is found and is densely populated by the overflow) and always have lots of kin around them.

      Possibly the “cowboys” fan out and maybe mix more with the “indians” when the farmers don’t, so much. The farmers generally expand faster than the cowboys, but perhaps this is not always so.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “suggests to me that pastoralists can, or must, venture further out than agriculturalists”

        Yes, if you assume that where the neolithic farming package was developed the proportions of each component were optimal for getting the most out of the package – which i think is a reasonable assumption – then everywhere the first farmers spread where the full package was viable then they’d use the full package. They’d only need to shift the proportions to a more animal-centric package outside the optimal range of the crop part of the full package. However initially the optimal range may have been quite limited leaving the majority(?) of space for modified, more animal-centric packages.

  6. Greying Wanderer says:

    Forgot to add

    1) The LBK expansion happened during the climate optimum so that may have something to with some part of this story.

    2) I wonder if this may have been a recurring pattern all over. The first farmers expand into optimal (for neolithic farming) terrain leaving foragers to the surrunding more marginal (for neolithic farming) land. At some point the farmers hit a snag but not before they have turned the adjacent foragers into herders. It seems plausible to me the farmers may have done this literally i.e. recruited foragers to work for them as herders like the aboriginal stockmen in Australia.

    If the neolithic farmers expanded very fast into the optimal land but very slowly or not at all into surrounding marginal land then i think that would give enough time for the foragers to be turned into herders – especially if it the farmers who provided the training.

    3) That last effect – farmers training local foragers to herd animals for them – might be even more likely in situations where the farmers were outside optimal farming land. Why might they do that? Maybe Gold, Silver or Copper mining.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t another recurring theme – groups from first farmer populations creating a colony beyond the optimal farming range and recruiting local foragers to herd for them to provide food (voluntarily or otherwise).

    4) Although climate and invasion is more dramatic i wonder if before people figured out crop rotation farming must inevitably lead to regular population collapse. If the process is farm some land until it is exhausted and then move a short distance and start again then if there is a limited amount of viable farmland then as the population increases you eventually get to a point where there is no *spare* farmland left at which point everyong exhausts their land at once and the population collapses until the land recovers.

    This may also have been a recurring pattern with the first farmers.

    • RS says:

      Just casually and personally, I would tend to think agricultural breakdowns and other catastrophes of farming pops — epidemics, sociomilitary decay — more likely a thing than widespread use of foragers as herders by farmers. While hiring or enslaving others can certainly happen (Cochran has addressed it here), as a general rule why not put your own progeny in a job?

      I think foragers receiving inspiration to take up herding for themselves could also be likely, as you say.

      I wonder whether nitrogen is the only major issue in soil exhaustion, and whether all these groups had legumes, and whether all kinds of legumes — technically it’s done by bacterial symbionts of theirs — are pretty adequate in fixing atmospheric N2.

      From my understanding, many believe the agricultural practices of Nordish were not impressive around say 300 AD. So the idea of ham-handedness among early farmers seems plausible.

      Soil salinization can be an issue in irrigation farming, and possibly was so in Mesopotamia. I’ll take a wild guess that irrigation was perhaps not much of a thing over most of European space-time. I suppose erosion is a conceivable phenomenon.

  7. RS says:

    If you are interested in collapses, it’s intriguing to read about the Late Bronze collapse.

    This may be a thing of more affective than intellectual interest, but it just blows me away that classical Hellenes, even mainland ones, were living on top of bronze age Linear B tablets. In contrast to what Thucydides reckoned, many of the great cities were inhabited in bronze times — and I would guess that most likely some of them were present through much of the Greek dark age after the Late Bronze collapse. Maybe the Classicals encountered Linear B pieces on occasion — and perhaps even some of the Myceneans’ great constructions. But if so it was quite lost on them that Linear B was Greek, and it was lost on Thucydides that some great poleis were very ‘anciently’ peopled. (Thucydides calls himself a ‘modern’ in the English version I have, and I guess he was.) He thought there had been no real level of technological civilization in Hellas before rather recent generations — in which literacy had resumed with a different script, though he probably thought it had instead appeared for the first time. I guess if any Linear B tablets, or non-crude Mycenean constructions were known to the Attica of his day, he didn’t hear about it or believe it — or he supposed it to be rather recent.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “more likely a thing than widespread use of foragers as herders by farmers…why not put your own progeny in a job?”

      Yes, i’m mostly curious about the possibility of settlements being created by first farmers beyond their optimal farming range because they weren’t primarily farming settlements but founded instead in pursuit of some particularly precious resource: gold, silver, copper, special flint, ivory etc. I think settlements like that would be the most likely candidates for places where the farmers actively recruited and trained foragers to herd for them.

  8. A couple of R1b’s show up in now-Germany in the late neolithic.

    I think those are the earliest known. That seems a bit late for Kurgans, and for eventual R1b dominance in Basque and Welsh territories, but we can only go with what we find. Unless there there was Rib coming up Atlantic trading routes, which I haven’t checked on. That would explain the latter problem, anyway, but not replacement on the Rhine.

  9. says:

    RS – The city of Athens existed in Mycenaean times. The collapse of Mycenae was so complete that the classical Greeks seemed to have known nothing about it. In the space of less than a hundred years the number of settlements in the Peloponnese goes from about a thousand to a dozen or so. If the classical Greeks came across Linear B texts it would not have been very easy to
    recognize them as a form of Greek writing as they were written in a completely different script and the texts themselves were inventories and administrative records/correspondence. Also there were a lot of grammatical and vocabulary differences between them and any classical Greek dialect, particularly Attic Greek.

    • RS says:

      > In the space of less than a hundred years the number of settlements in the Peloponnese goes from about a thousand to a dozen or so.

      Sounds like a fun time to have lived. Do you happen to recommend any particular long texts on the Greek dark period and the bronze collapse in general?

      Intriguing that Egyptians didn’t mention the old Greeks to the classical ones. Well now, y’all remind me of somebody. I mean, not me personally. Pretty sure they had communications with the old-timers, but I don’t feel like looking it up. I guess the earlier Egypt had no tradition of objective-systematic history — or one minor enough to have been lost — they contemplated the transcendent, and left it to Herodotus to ‘father history’. They had chronicles of course, eg the Merneptah stele, and perhaps at least some ‘systematic-lite’ history of themselves in their general literature:

      The Prophecy of Neferti is an Ancient Egyptian discourse text set in the reign of the 4th dynasty Old Kingdom king Snofru (c.2550 BC), but was actually written during the early 12th dynasty (c.1991-1786 BC). The text is a pseudo-prophecy, i.e. one written after the event.

      Ur-ancient West Eurasia is a blast if you’ve thought only of the last 2500 years all your life.

      • Anonymous says:

        Intriguing the Egyptians didn’t mention the old Greeks to the classical ones.

        Zangger’s ‘The Flood From Heaven’ claims the Atlantis story is an Egyptian version of the Troy fight. Convinced me when I read it. So did Poul Anderson’s ‘The Dancer From Atlantis’ and old Poul wasn’t even a geomorphologist.

  10. j3morecharacters says:

    “Modern” Greek historians were aware that they had been others before them. The furtther in time they researched, the settlements were smaller and less impressive.

  11. Jim says:

    Mycenae had plenty of contact with the contemporary Egyptian dynasties. But there is a gap of about 500 years between Mycenae and Classical Greece. By the time Classical Greece starts to get underway Egypt was conquered by Assyria in 671 BC. Of course in ancient times few people took much interest in other peoples languages and it is very unlikely that there was any knowledge of Mycenaean Greek in Egypt at the time of Classical Greece so there was no reason for the Egyptians who were contemporaries with the Classical Greeks to have seen any connection between then and so other people mentioned in ancient records.

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  13. Jim says:

    RS – The names of many Greek cities such as Athens or Corinth are non-Indo-European so the original settlement of these places must go back to before the coming of the Indo-Europeans. They are even older than Mycenae.

  14. Jim says:

    RS – The ancient Egyptians were not particularly mystical. The source of all the Masonic and other mystical stuff is the Greek cult of Dionysus and the Greek mystery rites. It has nothing to do with Ancient Egypt. The supposed connection is purely fabricated.

  15. Jim says:

    RS -The classical Greeks were much more into mystical contemplation of the transcendent than the ancient Egyptians.

  16. Jim says:

    RS – There is a mystical literature in Egypt during Hellenistic times but the source of these writings is from Greek culture not from Ancient Egyptian culture. After Alexander conquered Egypt it’s culture was thoroughly Hellenized. If the Ancient Egyptians had ever come across someone like Heraclitus they would have thought he was bonkers. The Book of Revelations is very Greek. It’s the Greeks who were the source of most the mysticism in Western Civilization.

  17. RS says:

    > suggests to me that pastoralists can, or must, venture further out than agriculturalists, particularly those with low capacity to terraform the local land to good farmland (e.g. bad quality axes, hard to clear forests) who expand in more of a dense, clumpy formation (as one densely farmed region becomes overpopulated, a new close by farmable region is found and is densely populated by the overflow)

    Judging from the confused but detailed spiel linked below, stone-wielding early farmers in interior Europe would have slashed and burned: sounds like most people were doing that until para-classical times, and up north, later yet.

    Unless non-Med Europe was a hell of a lot drier than it is now, even pasture must mostly have been terraformed from forest. I haven’t circum-slashed a lot of trees with a stone axe, but it seems like it might go about equally well regardless of the forest type. Namely, not well. Maybe softwoods are easier. I can tell you I’d rather use metal. These guys probably spent three days drinking when they first got a real ax.

    “Rome was entirely dependent on shifting cultivation by the barbarians to survive and maintain ‘Pax Romana’, but when the supply from the colonies ‘trans alpina’ failed, the Roman Empire collapsed.”

    Is that true? I’d thought Egypt was the breadbasket, and maybe the enormous latifunda estates in Med lands, but I don’t know much. I do know the Western North was richer, and that some scholars suspect Germany’s produce was tepidly attractive to Romans pondering her subjugation.

    “It can be confirmed that early agricultural people preferred forest of good quality in the hillside with good drainage, and traces of cattle quarters are evident here.”

    Good quality — why, these were discerning men. I prefer low-quality things. The drainage issue could reflect crops having root-rot or other moisture problems: again, mighty damp in Europe, at least recently. As Gary Hart says, one wonders how well-adapted these domesticates were to northerly climes. Something has to explain the slowness of the spread of grain and animal culture, on the order of a km a year. The domesticates were struggling, and/or the domesticators were still only a little better than foragers in sociomilitary organization.

  18. I should have mentioned why I think the dates create a difficulty. Cheese seems to show up around 3500 BC in the eastern part of this region, but R1b doesn’t make it to Germany for another 700-1000 years. Lactase digestion would be a tidy explanation, but the dates make that difficult.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      I may have misunderstood what you mean but

      If first farmers had oxen primarily as draft animals then it would still make sense to milk them and dairy the results (as cheese doesn’t require LP). There’s no reason for dairying not to have started from very early times if they already had the oxen for other reasons – similarly with sheep and goats. They might not get much milk but it’s still worthwhile to use it.

      If/when the farming package shifted to include raising cattle (or a larger proportion of cattle) specifically for meat and milk production then that might create much larger quantities of milk – especially if they made the switch precisely because farmers in particular regions (e.g. Dinaric Alps and/or Atlantic Coast) found their oxen were growing faster and producing more milk than they did in other less rainy regions. They could still dairy it all but anyone who could drink it neat without problems had a source of basically free food i.e. food that took almost no work to produce.

      • bruce says:

        I wonder if there’s a ‘reindeer-blood tolerance’ or a ‘raw long pig’ or ‘raw snail tolerance’ equivalent to lactose tolerance that we all miss nowadays for lack of cannibals or even reindeer blood drinkers. Outside France, how many first world people even like snail?

  19. jamesd127 says:

    On the archaelogical evidence, bronze users genocided flint users. One culture replaced the other completely, and the earliest skeletons show isotope ratios indicating that they were born very far away, indicating conquest rather than cultural diffusion.

  20. RS says:

    What is transcendent or mystical? Is it cosmic unity? that nature loves to hide? is it states of trance and revelation?

    I don’t know unhellenized Egypt well enough to judge. I find the graphic art pretty wonderful, but haven’t looked at many pieces over and over. Heraclitus . . . now that’s something I have spent a few hundred hours with. Eleusis and Dionysian worship are pretty interesting, do you have any favorite texts? I don’t recall how much Burckhardt addresses those subjects – I was a hazy lad when I read him and I retain little.

  21. Greying Wanderer says:


    “I wonder if there’s a ‘reindeer-blood tolerance’ or a ‘raw long pig’ or ‘raw snail tolerance’ equivalent to lactose tolerance that we all miss nowadays for lack of cannibals or even reindeer blood drinkers. Outside France, how many first world people even like snail?”

    A particular food tolerance is only going to have a dramatic historical impact – like lactose tolerance probably did – if it’s a tolerance for a form of food that is available in abundance and possibly also only if at the same time other sources weren’t quite enough to survive on healthily e.g. after a change in the climate.

    • bruce says:

      >Only have historical impact if available in abundance and other sources weren’t quite-


      I think reindeer eating was a big enough deal in the Ice Age. A cup of blood soup at a time, you still have a herd next year. Like Mongols with horses. How well you get nourished, that’s where the tolerance would vary. And nowadays, how could we tell?

      Snail eating a big enough deal? Beats me. Safer to herd than mammoths. Maybe there are French statistics for modern tolerances.

      Cannibalism? No idea if it was ever a big enough deal. I’ve never heard of Neanderthal kuru. Unless that’s why the backs of their heads stuck out. And first world cannibalism is pretty much down to medical school hazing rituals, so I don’t see us figuring out the tolerance levels.

  22. RS says:

    > On the archaelogical evidence, bronze users genocided flint users. One culture replaced the other completely, and the earliest skeletons show isotope ratios indicating that they were born very far away, indicating conquest rather than cultural diffusion.

    Interesting. Cochran-Harpending theory, thought up in the context of the lactase persistence hypothesis of Indoeuropean dissemination, says locals should just adopt technologies themselves if they can do so expeditiously. Maybe these stoners were kind of slow. I don’t think Nordish lands were ecologically prone to support very socially and/or cognitively intense people until recently. Since then we’ve been on a hot streak, culminating as I see it in my oeuvre of commentary over at your blog.

    I mentioned before that stylish art appears 25,000 years ago in Southern France and about 1,300 years ago in Nordland, Nordish art of 500 AD being a snooze next to that of Jomon foragers who harnessed and rode the last of the dinosaurs, as portrayed in Kurosawa’s Godzilla. I have also seen a very lovely pot from the Balkans of several thousand years’ age. (Who can prove it was locally made, but it was not presented as atypical of the site and stratum.) Alleles for high culture were blowing up into Nordland and not germinating.

    In short, the stoners may have been too dim or fractious to deal with
    1. making quality bronze at scale
    2. making bronze into nice things that draw sap and blood
    3. rapidly advancing a robust critique of bronze-bearer privilege

    However, alternate views should be considered, in order to develop a poly-vocalic historiography that does not exclusively reflect traditional low-tetrahydrocannabinol modes of interpretation:

    Recent tooth enamel isotope research on bodies found in early Bronze Age graves around Stonehenge indicate that at least some of the immigrants came from the area of modern Switzerland. The Beaker people displayed different behaviours from the earlier Neolithic people and cultural change was significant. Integration is thought to have been peaceful as many of the early henge sites were seemingly adopted by the newcomers.

    This iron logic is attested throughout the ivy and silicon ages, but particularly abounds in silicon IIa layers of several Western European metropolises.

  23. reiner Tor says:

    I think that LBK farmers were probably black skinned Africans just like the Egyptian pharaohs (or Ludwig van Beethoven and Joseph Haydn), and that they were displaced by the racist whites we see today in Europe. The whites were using White Privilege to achieve this displacement.

    The memory of the original black African peoples who created all culture before being genocided was then suppressed by white racist historiography and archeology.

  24. Anonymous says:

    As for the archaeology of the archaeoi, it has been some time since I’ve read Homer (circa 700 BC?), but he seems to have thought of Egypt as some kind of over-advanced, semi-magical place. He must also have had some impressions of the far past that had originated in the actual material culture of those times, either through song or artistic depiction. Ajax’s shield is Mycenaean, as is a specific helmet invested with boar tusks he mentions once. He even knew of old war chariots, though he completely misunderstood their use-he believed they were used as carriers that people would rather get off in order to fight! As for Linear B, my guess is that if any classical Hellene ever found a tablet, he would have thought it was Egyptian rather than Greek.

  25. Steven C. says:

    The ancient Egyptians were very focused on ensuring themselves a good existence in the afterlife, less so on magic, demons and witchcraft. The Mesopotamians tended to believe that conditions of afterlife existence were out of their control and were far more interested in those latter areas. But both cultures tried to propitiate the gods.

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