Station: [204] Environment in the Neolithic Period

Wells not only provide information about the technical and cultural achievements of the period, they also contain a precious environmental archive.  Animal and plant remains, including fruit, seeds and pollen, insects and snail shells, or the bones of tiny vertebrates are preserved in the damp sediment within these wells.  They either came from the immediate area surrounding the well, or were thrown in by people. The medium-high columns in this exhibition space provide an overview of the animals and plants remains that have been found in the wells. They allow us to reconstruct the early Neolithic environment and type of farming.

When the first farmers and herdsmen came to Saxony via Bohemia, they found densely wooded alluvial lands and mixed oak forests.  The arable land had to be cleared and the timber was used for building houses. By looking at the ratio of the quantities of tree and grass pollens that have been found we can today verify that agriculture began in around 5,500 BC. The climate was very favourable at the time, being on average about 2 degrees Celsius higher than today and relatively dry. The early farmers settled in areas with particularly fertile soil.  Loess, a sediment that was formed during the Ice Age, provided a good basis for the podsor, or brown soil and chernozem, or black earth . The settlements were sited close to rivers and streams. But Water was not only needed for survival; the rivers were also used for transport. Catching fish, foraging, and hunting animals such as red deer, chamois and wild boar supplemented the diet.

For the first time in history, people began to use the natural environment in lasting ways for their own purposes. Sedentism and farming led to a marked growth in the population.  But this also entailed risks: living in close contact with domestic animals meant that the number of infections increased and the well sediments contain evidence of parasites that would have threatened their harvests and stores. This also made living in houses more difficult.