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This whetstone gained its beautiful and markedly contemporary shape as well as its highly polished surface through years and years of repetitive use. The size indicates that it was used by a sedentary farming society, as it is far too large and heavy to be carried around by hunter-gatherers.

Over the millennia of the Early Neolithic (6000 - 4500 B.C.) pioneer farming groups had become established in Europe, though they long remained an intrusive element in a continent still largely populated by hunters and foragers. During the next two millennia however, features of the farming economy were adopted much more widely by the indigenous inhabitants and a series of regional cultures resulted from the fusion of natives and later arrivals.

The foraging lifestyle all but disappeared, yet there was no uniformity between these farming communities. Although broad areas of similar cultural phenomena were created - such as the belt of megalithic monuments along the Atlantic coast - each of these areas had its own distinctive character, owing to the merging of farming and native populations. The emergence of these new groupings produced a greater diversity of European cultures than at any other period of prehistory, even though none could be described as more than tribal societies or simple chiefdoms. This increasing diversity provided new opportunities both for contact and for the self-conscious definition of group and individual identity, reflected in the archaeological record by a whole range of new monuments and types of artifacts.


- SHERRATT A., 'The Transformation of Early Agrarian Europe: The Later Neolithic and Copper Ages 4500 - 2500 B.C.', in: CUNLIFFE B. (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe, Oxford 1994.

Object information

Date and place:
Denmark or British Isles, Early Neolithic (ca. 6000 - 4500 B.C.), ca. 5000 B.C.
20 x 38 x 18 cm
Private collection, The Netherlands, since 2005; Acquired from Axel Vervoordt; Private collection Joseph J. Gerena, United States, since 1990.

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