Bandkeramisch aardewerk

LBK pottery from Limburg used by the first farming communities, who immigrated from Eastern Europe (8 cm high, 9 cm diameter) | Tongeren, Gallo-Roman Museum, GRM 10785

Economy & Technology
c. 5,300 - 4,590 BC
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The Settlement of Rosmeer

The First Farmers

The fertile Haspengouw loamy soils were a magnet for the first farmers, who originated from Eastern Europe. In Rosmeer in Limburg archaeologists discovered one of the oldest agricultural settlements in the Low Countries.

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In the 1950s and 1960s archaeologists found on the Staberg in Rosmeersubdistrict of Bilzen in the south of the province of Limburg. the remains of sixteen oblong wooden houses. The dwellings turned out to be about 7,300 years old and were part of an extensive village. It was the dwelling place of the first farmers who settled in the district. They migrated from Eastern Europe to the fertile loamy soils which extended across present-day Germany, the South-East Netherlands and Central Belgium. Archaeologists dubbed those farmers the Linear Pottery Culture (Linear Bandkeramik or LBK). The name refers to the pottery that they were the first to produce and use. Those bowls were decorated with linear bands, filled with various motifs.

Dissel uit Rosmeer.

Tongeren, Gallo-Roman Museum, BH58

A stone adze, a kind of axe, found in the LBK settlement of Rosmeer.

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The First Farmers

The LBK-farmers from Eastern Europe introduced a new lifestyle into North-West Europe. Instead of hunting, fishing and gathering food they started growing crops, such as lentils, peas, linseed and grain. They also kept sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. That switch to agriculture and husbandry had taken place four thousand years before in the Middle East.

The farming families no longer led the nomadic existence of the hunter-gatherers. They lived in a fixed place near their fields and animals. In addition, both their livestock and their supplies needed protection against precipitation and wild animals. The light and easily transportable constructions which the native hunters used as shelter during their migrations, were not suitable for that. Instead, the farmers built durable wooden houses and storage sheds.

The lifestyle of the immigrants did not immediately have a great impact on the hunter-gatherers who had lived there for centuries. There were, though, contacts between the two groups. That is clear from the LBK- adzesstone tools for woodworking. found in the territory of the hunter-gatherers. DNA research also showed that marriage partners were exchanged between the two communities. Gradually the local population also took the first steps towards a full-time farming existence.

Focal points

Bandkeramisch huis in opbouw.

Wikimedia Commons, Rudolf Wild

LBK house under construction (reconstruction), actual scale.

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Around 5,300 BC, for the first time in West-European history, immigrant farmers built houses for permanent occupation. The hunter-gatherers who had inhabited the region for centuries, had always made do with temporary shelter made of vegetable material or tents made of animal skins.

Those houses consisted of a living space and a store room to keep the harvest in. In the middle was a hearth. The oblong dwellings were built of poles placed close together. They supported a roof of reed or bark. The walls were made of woven branches filled with loam. The farmers gathered the loam close to their houses. This created long pits, into which rubbish was later dumped.

The farming settlements consisted of various houses. This points to the fact that various families lived together. Their houses always had the same structure, but their size could vary. On the Staberg traces of no fewer than sixteen houses were found. The largest dwelling measured 6 by 25 metres.

3D reconstructie van een Bandkeramische nederzetting op de Cannerberg bij Maastricht.

Mikko Kriek

3D reconstruction of a LBK settlement on the Cannerberg near Maastricht.

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The LBK-farmers from Eastern Europe were looking for locations with fertile soil. They found them in the loamy soils in the valleys of the Meuse, Jeker, Heeswaterbeekrivers and brook in present-day Limburg.   and the upper reaches of the Demer. Their migration was gradual and took many generations. They brought their knowledge of growing plants (grain, lentils, peas…) and rearing animals (sheep, goats, cattle…) with them.

Probably the local hunter-gatherers and the first farmers did not encounter each other very often during those first few centuries. The fertile loamy soils on which the first farmers grew crops were largely ignored by the hunters. They preferred the sandy plains with rivers, where there was a greater variety of fish, game and edible plants. Those areas in turn were generally unsuitable for farming.

The local population adopted the lifestyle of the farmers only very slowly. The Linear Pottery Culture itself remained unchanged for a long time. The first farming settlements were very similar, wherever they appeared: everywhere the same oblong houses were built, the same crops and animals were grown and reared and the same kinds of utensils were used.

As the farming communities grew, contacts increased. The hunter-gatherers gradually adopted objects, customs and technological knowledge from the farmers, such as (the production of) pottery and certain stone implements. Eventually they would give up their nomadic existence entirely and also opt for a life as farmers.

Bandkeramiek Riemst
Brussels, Vlaams Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed, Geert Vynckier

Archaeological research on the LBK site of Riemst. The houses themselves were not preserved, but their structure is clearly visible in the form of soil discolouration where the wooden posts were placed in the ground.

Opgravingsplan Rosmeer-Staberg
Roosens, H. & Lux, G.V., ‘An Iron Age settlement on the Staberg in Rosmeer’, Archeologica belgica. 109, 1969

General excavation plan of the Rosmeer-Staberg site with an indication of LBK buildings.

Zicht vanaf de top van de Staberg naar het noorden.
Erwin Meylemans

View northwards from the summit of the Staberg.

Tarwe-aren (links) en aren van eenkoorn (rechts).
Mark Nesbitt

Wheat ears (left) and ears of einkorn wheat (right). Einkorn was one of the first kinds of wheat to be cultivated by human beings. The LBK farmers who settled in the valleys of the Meuse, Jeker, Heeswaterbeek and the upper reaches of the Dender grew, besides einkorn, also emmer wheat, lentils, peas and linseed.

Reconstructie van een nederzetting uit de Bandkeramische cultuur.
Kelheim, Archeologisch Museum, Wolfgang Sauber

Reconstruction of an LBK settlement.

Een selectie van aardewerk uit de sites van Wange-Overhespen (deelgemeente van Linter in Vlaams-Brabant). Herkenbaar zijn de typische ‘banden’, waarnaar de Bandkeramiek is vernoemd.
KU Leuven

A selection of pottery from the sites at Wange-Overhespen (sub-district of Linter in Flemish-Brabant). One can recognise the typical ‘bands’ after which these ceramics are named.

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