Modern Humans (Homo Sapiens) reached Europe from Africa about 40,000 years ago. They quickly replaced the other hominids – Neanderthal, Homo Heidelbergensis – already living here. A few years ago Kay and I had our DNA tested as part of national geographic’s human genographic project. My prehistoric ancestors were probably among these early Europeans.
Today we visited Pfaulbauten, an open air museum and UNESCO world heritage site where archeologists have reconstructed neolithic (ca. 5000 BC) and bronze age (ca 1500 BC) dwellings, tools, fabric and pottery based on finds in the area. The buildings were built on wooden piles driven into the soft lake bottom in shallow water near and on the shore. There are more than 100 such sites in western Europe.
Because the artifacts were deposited in the water the finds here included not only pottery and later bronze objects but wooden parts of structures, fabric, animal and human remains, and even food.
The site is amazing, giving a very tangible picture of what life might have been like for my ancient ancestors. Of course there is no way to know and any conjecture is fraught with possible romanticism. But my impression was one of a relatively peaceful and egalitarian society particularly in the stone age before specialization led to class stratification. Very few weapons for warfare were found here from what I can tell. Certainly life would have been filled with hard work but, as I looked out onto the lake from the edge of the village a deep sense of peace came over me. It was the same feeling I used to get camping in the wilderness far from any electric light or gas engine. I can imagine neolithic people having that same feeling everyday. When we think of the stone age, images of grunting cave men might come to mind but this was not the life of neolithic (new stone age) Europeans. They cultivated grain, fired pottery in kilns, made fabric and jewlery, and kept domesticated dogs, horses, pigs, cattle, goats and sheep and, as you can see, built houses.
The flint, bone, stone and wood tools were quite sophisticated.
As Kay and I had lunch in a café we thought what a great way to end our trip!
And so it goes. Tomorrow we travel by ferry, bus and train back into France with a couple of hours stop in Zurich, then on to Lyon the next day and then a plane for home. I’ll probably write one more post as we go but the end is in sight. It seems like such a long time since we were with Ann and Mark in Lyon. If I’m honest I’d have to say that travel just isn’t as exciting for me as it once was. In the last 20 years Kay and I have gone to Europe 7 times. Every time the crowds are bigger and it’s harder to find the real gems although we’ve still managed it. Nevertheless it’s been a very good trip. So thank you, dear reader, for coming along with us. I’ll save my last thoughts for the final post.