Review - 100 key words on Neolithic Europe

  • Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2022 11:24
  • Published: Thursday, 22 December 2022 11:23
  • Written by Jean-Olivier Gransard-Desmond translated by Kathleen Kownacki and Maura Schmitt)
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Book coverThe richly documented and illustrated work La Préhistoire du Jura et l'Europe néolithique en 100 mots-clés (Prehistory of the Jura and Neolithic Europe in 100 key words) by Pierre and Anne-Marie Pétrequin , published by Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté in the Cahiers de la MSHE Claude Nicolas Ledoux collection, takes a look back on forty-five years of archaeological research in the Jura. With this general survey published in June 2021, readers can retrace the history of the first farmers between 5300 and 2400 BCE.

Prehistory of the Jura and
Neolithic Europe in 100 key words

The work itself

Book coverTrained in ethnoarchaeology in New Guinea, the work’s authors offer an original reading of the historical trajectory of the first farming communities between 5300 and 2400 BCE, when microregions – here, the Jura and Saône valley – were deeply linked to complex systems of movement of objects and ideas. Within prehistoric Western Europe, these long-distance movements were fueled by social competition, discrimination and religion. One hundred key words from the archaeological vocabulary allow us to explore different social interpretations hidden behind the objects and behaviors of Neolithic populations. Published with support from the Regional Office of Cultural Affairs Burgundy Franche-Comté (Direction régionale des affaires culturelles Bourgogne Franche-Comté), the Ain Valley Archaeological Center (Centre archéologique de la vallée de l'Ain) and the Center for Human and Environmental Sciences Claude Nicolas Ledoux (Maison des sciences de l'homme et de l'environnement Claude Nicolas Ledoux), the publication consists of three richly illustrated volumes that reveal complex Neolithic societies throughout Western Europe. It is a magnificent work that will delight both specialists in these geographical areas and archaeologists interested in ethnoarchaeology.

Methodology used

The one hundred key words constitute the backbone of the three volumes and structure the book. The authors begin with an introduction dealing with the development of knowledge about the European Neolithic era between the years of 1835 and 1970, before presenting their own approach and a historical overview of the societies of the time. They then go through each key word, chapter by chapter. In this way, the authors take us through different aspects of these societies, ones ranging from material to spiritual, starting with pottery, clothes, environments, cuisine, etc., up through symbolic aspects, with symbols of power, beliefs and the concept of death. Each chapter is richly illustrated with maps, diagrams, reconstructions, samples of materials, and graphics that allow us to go beyond the text.

The authors

Anne-Marie Pétrequin and Pierre Pétrequin are ethnoarchaeologists specializing in the Neolithic era, emeritus research directors at the CNRS and members of MSHE Claude Nicolas Ledoux in Besançon. Pierre Pétrequin led excavations near Lac de Chalain and Lacs de Clairvaux (Jura) from 1970 to 2008, as well as an ethnoarchaeological project in New Guinea. Their research then led them to focus on the development and spread of large Alpine axes dating from the European Neolithic period. They received the National Archaeology Prize in 1992 for their work on the Neolithic coastal habitats of the French Jura, the CNRS Silver Medal in 1993 for their ethnoarchaeological work, and the Europa Prize in 2010 from the Prehistoric Society for their work on Alpine axes across Europe.

Pierre Pétrequin and Anne-Marie Pétrequin, La Préhistoire du Jura et l'Europe néolithique en 100 mots-clés, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté n°1500, Les Cahiers de la MSHE Ledoux n°44, Centre archéologique de la vallée de l'Ain n°45, June 2021. 1938 pages over 3 volumes, illustrated with photographs and diagrams. Format: 21 x 29.7 cm ISBN: 978-2-84867-846-7 / ISSN: 1772-6220 Price (with tax): €133 on the publisher's website. Genre: Scientific documentary - publication
See the table of contents for the 3 volumes on Maison des Sciences de l'Homme et de l'Environnement Claude Nicolas Ledoux's website - and an introduction to the book.

ArkéoTopia's opinion

Layout 5/5

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The work's rational organization progressing from the material (pottery, food, hunting, movements, etc.) to the spiritual (symbols of power, beliefs and attitude to death) allows us to associate the material aspects with the spiritual ones and thereby to support the work's conclusions. In addition to illustrations, which are great tools in themselves, each chapter includes its own bibliography. The table of contents is made up of the 100 key words mentioned in the title, which form the backbone of the study's contents. By including the complete table of contents in each volume, it is possible to go back and forth between the three volumes, allowing researchers to move easily between the topics.

Illustrations 5/5

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Sketch reconstructing a Lake Geneva village in 4000 BCERich and varied illustrationsColor illustrations are abundant and quite varied, with maps, photographs, drawings, diagrams and graphs. It is also nice that black and white copies of old documents have been included, enabling readers to make comparisons between what was known before versus now. As the online introduction makes clear, this richly illustrated documentation allows readers to go beyond the work's text.

Resources 5/5

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Photographs of alpine jade samplesReconstructing how something was made - the chaine opératoireEach chapter has its own bibliography as well as a wealth of illustrations consisting of:

  • maps breaking down the topics specific to the chapter,
  • ethnographic photographs, as well as production lines for several objects, in black and white or color,
  • reconstruction sketches as well as photographs of places, clothing, etc.,
  • photographs of material samples taken under the microscope at different scales,
  • as well as classic timelines, diagrams, graphs and statistics.

The third volume contains the complete bibliography, a geographical index, maps on Neolithic settlements in Franche-Comté, as well as an inventory of settlements and chapter notes, which is useful for working with the first two volumes.

Archaeological relevance 5/5

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Decay, a fundamental resource for archaeologistsGiven the topic, the work is of course 100% archaeology-centered, with an added ethnological dimension. However, it should be noted that it also highlights aspects of archaeological research that are not often mentioned, such as:
  • representing production lines or manufacturing stages through photographs and drawings,
  • and above all, the decay of contemporary human works, such as those of the first Chalain experimental houses, a fundamental part of understanding deposits and stratigraphy of older remains.

Suitability for the target audience 5/5

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Ethnographic comparison on the number and variety of arrows according to the age of the ownerWith abundant illustrations, various reading levels and a layout designed for information retrieval, the book is obviously intended for students and scholars working on the Franche-Comté Neolithic period, who will be able to discover previously unpublished documents. It will also be of interest to archaeologists working on prehistory in general, as well as those interested in archaeological theory. Because of the richness of its documentation, it will also be of interest to non-specialists of all kinds who wish to better understand current events related to the history of our societies.

General opinion 5/5

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This is a remarkable publication with a price that is easily justified, even if it restricts its access to research laboratories and other institutions. In addition to the editorial quality of the book, its scientific and methodological richness make it an essential reference. Although it is aimed at students and researchers specializing in the European Neolithic period, anyone working on prehistory in general will be equally interested in this work, as will archaeologists interested in methodological, theoretical and ethnological issues.

In the age of digital technology, it's nice that such a publication is still possible. In addition to the fact that the user is assured of having the resource regardless of future technological developments, the size of this document lends itself more easily to paper than to a screen. Some people may wish that digital resources were included in this release. They must remember that the work involved would have required an equivalent amount of work to digitalize the text. It is therefore up to them to put the information contained in this magnificent work into digital form.
Additional reading in French


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