Seasons in the European Landscape
Glacial and interglacials.
A glacial refers to a time period with low temperatures, resulting in an expansion of the continental and polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers mainly in the northern and southern hemispheres. By definition we are still in an ice age (because the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist). Generally in the last few million years there has been several such periods with colder climate and extensive ice sheets over the North American and Eurasian continents. The most recent glacial started around 70.000 years ago and ended about 10.000 years ago.
Between each glacial period the climate was warmer. These periods are called interglacials. In Europe the present interglacial differs from previous ones by the presence of humans.
The Nigard glacier.
The caves of Lascaux
Lascaux is a complex of caves in south-western France famous for its cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne region. They contain some of the most well-known (Upper Palaeolithic) art, dating back to somewhere between 15,000 and 13,000 BC. They consist mostly of realistic images of large animals, including aurochs, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time.
The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures. Horses predominate in addition to cattle and bison . A smattering of other images includes seven felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls in the Hall of the Bulls. There are no images of reindeer, even though that was the principal source of food for the artists. This could indicate that the pictures are not hunting images and a recent theory suggests that the images are shamanic perceptions of power animals.
A painting referred to as "The Crossed Bison" and found in the chamber called the Nave is often held as an example of the skill of the Palaeolithic cave painters. The crossed hind legs show the ability to use perspective in a manner that wasn't seen again until the 15th century.
The Mesolithic period and the “pristine” Forests.
The Mesolithic ("Middle Stone Age") started around 8000BC. By the end of the last glacial,a period of great changes for northern Europe started. From 10.000 to 6.000BC the glaciers rapidly melted and caused the sea level to rise, creating what is now the North Sea and separating the British Isles from the mainland, the temperatures became warmer and northern Europe changed from a dry tundra into a wet, green land with trees that spread from it refuges in southern and central Europe, first only birch and fir but later also deciduous trees. Eventually most of Europe consisted of large woods, swamps, and bogs; around 4000BC the coastline reached its current position.
Many Ice Age animals (including the mammoth and the woolly rhino) became extinct, the reindeers, horses, and wisents (European bison) retreated to colder areas and were replaced by forest-animals like elks, deer, wild boars, and bears.This change stimulated the development of the bow, which already existed but was improved and used more often.
Mesolithic,reconstruction.(source:Worcestershire County Council)
Mesolithic cave painting.(source:Ulstermuseum.org.uk)
Britain's oldest house?(source:www.york.ac.uk)
During the Mesolithic period various hunter-gatherer cultures came into existence in northern Europe, like for instance the Gudenå culture in Jutland and the Maglemose and Kongemose cultures in Sjælland, many of this early Nordic cultures built small stone structures that are believed to have played an important role in their religion.
Most people in that time were nomadic hunter-gatherers who seasonally followed the herds but at some places they settled more permanently because they could find food there during the entire year (game, fish, berries, tubers, turnips, nuts, etc.).These types of food have been eaten throughout the human evolution and our bodies are completely adapted to them; scientists have even proved that this is still the best and healthiest food for humans to consume.
The Mesolithic people also made amber animal figures that they carried on a cord, this figures were sometimes sacrificed in bogs and may have had spiritual meaning, and the animal figures that were found so far are bears, elks, and birds.
The Neolithic period.
The Neolithic or "New Stone Age" that followed is the period of chipped-stone tools, and preceded the Bronze Age, or early period of metal tools. Most important was however the transfer to farming. It marks the beginning of a completely new period for mankind. The Neolithic was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, dependence on domesticated plants or animals, settlement in permanent villages, and the appearance of such crafts as pottery and weaving.
Bladelet from Thames Valley(near Reading, Berkshire).source:www.newarchaeology.com.
Agriculture (from Lat. ager, field, and colere, to cultivate)developed in the near East around 8000 BC and spread to Europe along the great rivers and along the Mediterranean coast around 5000 BC and spread to the rest of the continent in about 1000 years.The history of agriculture is the history of man in his most primitive, and most permanent aspect. Hence the nations of antiquity ascribed to it a divine origin; Brahma in Hindustan, Isis in Egypt, Demeter in Greece, and Ceres in Italy, were its founders. Humans learned to raise crops and keep domestic livestock, and were thus no longer only dependent on hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. Food cultivated and harvested was stored and could be used in winter and thus man could master the difficult winter season.
The cultivation of cereal grains enabled Neolithic peoples to build permanent dwellings and congregate in villages, and the release from nomadism and a hunting-gathering economy gave them the time to pursue specialized crafts.
Characteristic of the European Neolithic is the so called Megaliths (Dolmen, Dysse cromlech, anta, Hünengrab, Hunebed, quoits, and portal dolmen...). These huge stone graves are burial chambers, single-chamber raised tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones (megaliths) supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 BC to 3000 BC) and they are found in most regions of Europe.
Dolmen;can we call it architecture?
Early Farming Techniques.
The initial approach to develop agriculture was to cultivate wild plants. In contrast to wild grasses domesticated cereals do not scatter the seed. In this way we can recognize remains of old domesticated seed from wild ones. People realized that other plants were competing with their plants for the field, so they took to weeding the fields to make sure that only their plants were growing there.
Egyptians were great "farmers".
The Nile;The eternal river...
The first areas selected for cultivation was the easy and rich soil of river plains. When these obvious fields were used, the farmers looked to the forests and started clearing. Slash and Burn is an early and well known technique where the forest is burnt and the seeds are sown in the ashes. First, all the foliage in a section of a forest was cut down, creating a field. The remains were left on the ground. Then the field was set on fire, and the ash from the cut foliage enriched the soil. After some use the enriched soil became poor, and farmers cleared new fields.
Agriculture was the foundation of the Ancient Greek economy. Nearly 80% of the population was involved in this activity(source:www.mlahanas.de/Greeks)
Farming evolved slowly from early times until about 1700. In the 1700's an agriculture revolution took place which led to a large increase in the crop production. This increase of crops came about in a large part by little more then the final destruction of medieval institutions and the more general adoption of techniques and crops which had been known for a long time. Of importance was the adoption of crops from the "New World", such as corn and potatoes which produced a very large yield .
Can we carry more?(around 1800)
Hay mowing using horse power.
In the 1850's, the Industrial Revolution spilled over to the farm(agriculture) with new mechanized methods which increased production rates. Early on, the large changes were in the use of new farm implements. Most of these early implements were still powered by horses or oxen. These new implements combined with crop rotation, manure and better soil preparation lead to a steady increase of crop yield in Europe. The advent of steam power and later gas powered engines brought a whole new dimension to the production of crops. Yet, even as recent as 100 years ago, four-fifth of the world populations lived outside towns and was in some way dependant on agriculture. Even in 1970's Griggs suggests that half of the worlds working population are still employed in agriculture. Today, eight out of ten Europeans live in the cities fed by an industrial agriculture and by import of low-prize food from the Third World.