“New Kids on the Block?”Reappraising
Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology
from Western Iberia Early Neolithic
received May 18, 2021; accepted September 16, 2021
Abstract: Western Iberia Early Neolithic has been described as an ultimate and very altered form of the
Mediterranean Neolithisation process. Despite its Atlantic position, this territory –corresponding mainly to
Central/Southern Portugal –is, in its physical and cultural geography, a Mediterranean landscape deeply
connected to a historical process arriving from beyond the Strait of Gibraltar. The presence of cardial pottery
led archaeologists to ascribe Portuguese Early Neolithic to a Mediterranean impressed Pottery cultural area,
and according to demic diﬀusion models, small pioneer groups carrying the Neolithic package originated
there. Recently, the archaeological record for the Western Mediterranean Neolithisation is becoming more
complex and longer lasting cardial dominance over the seas has been disputed. Previous Neolithic groups
seafaring the Mediterranean coasts with Impressa style pottery could have reached Iberian Peninsula
by 5600–5400 cal BC, proving that by the mid-sixth millennium, diﬀerent cultural entities were moving
in the Western Mediterranean regardless of their genetic features. The main goal of this study is to
disclose this cultural diversity in Western Iberia using a robust chronological database and debating
how diﬀerent proxies, like pottery styles and ancient DNA (aDNA), reveal it in Western Iberia. While
recognising the Mediterranean input to Western Iberia groups, mapping the variability and the signiﬁcance
of diﬀerent decoration techniques, such as cardial, false acacia leaf, impressed stripes, and using the aDNA
to identify continuities/changes in ancient populations are here as tools to understand when, who, and how
new kids came to the block. To do so, diﬀerent disciplinary boundaries are crossed, and some transdisci-
plinary critical aspects are also commented.
Keywords: Early Neolithic, culture and aDNA, Western Iberia, social identities, genetic groups
1 The Big Picture
The origin of the Neolithic way of life has been a core issue to European prehistory since the late nineteenth
century. Attending to its exogenous character, it led the Portuguese anthropologist António Mendes Correia
to assume that the Portuguese Neolithic could be the result of the arrival “(…)of frankly Caucasoid types (…)
perhaps corresponding (…)to the cultural wave that would have brought the polished stone, agriculture,
domestication of animals, and perhaps even the rudiments of ceramic modelling”(Corrêa, 1924,p.216)to
this westernmost area.
* Corresponding author: Mariana Diniz, UNIARQ, Department of History, Centro de Arqueologia da Universidade de Lisboa,
School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal, e-mail: m.diniz@ﬂ.ul.pt
Special Issue: THE EARLY NEOLITHIC OF EUROPE, edited by F. Borrell, I. Clemente, M. Cubas, J. J. Ibáñez, N. Mazzucco,
A. Nieto-Espinet, M. Portillo, S. Valenzuela-Lamas, & X. Terradas
Open Archaeology 2021; 7: 1660–1673
Open Access. © 2021 Mariana Diniz, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution
4.0 International License.
However, “When, how, and where did (…)Neolithic culture come from, (…)is a new problem that is
also obscure for other countries”(Corrêa, 1928, p. 116).
Decisive light on this matter was shed only in the 1970s by Jean Guilaine, who with O. Veiga Ferreira,
identiﬁed cardial pottery in Portuguese habitats and funerary caves, establishing, in spite of Portugal’s
Atlantic position, the North Mediterranean shore aﬃliation of the Western Iberia Neolithic (Guilaine &
Ferreira, 1970). However, the quantitative and qualitative impacts of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar were
soon understood by Portuguese archaeologists (Gonçalves, 1978; Silva & Soares, 1981). Not only core items,
such as agriculture and sedentary lifestyles, seem very elusive in the Western Iberia record (Arnaud, 1982)
but also cardial pottery –the nec plus ultra among Mediterranean inﬂuences –was rare and not typologi-
cally similar to the one found at other Iberian coastal areas (Bernabeu Auban, 2011; Carvalho, 2008; Diniz,
2007), exception made for some solitary and decontextualised vessels (Martins, Neves, & Cardoso, 2010,
Figure 7)and some extraordinary funerary wares (Diniz, 2009).
Although this cultural divergence was perceived mainly at a regional scale and by local archaeologists,
the cardial culture was charted as a homogenous entity sea spreading from the Ligurian Strait to Western
Iberia in less than 500 years. Cardial culture kept its status of the historical entity even when J. Guilaine
drew several arrhythmic lines on Neolithic Europe (2001)to identify the boundaries where the Neolithic
package suﬀered strong variations. The transition from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic was not suggested
Figure 1: Near East and Neolithic Europe map. Coloured areas represent diﬀerent Neolithic cultures, and black solid lines
represent the areas where cultural and chronological recomposition occurs, according to Guilaine (2001). The original map was
modiﬁed to include the Mediterranean/Atlantic transition around the Strait of Gibraltar –dotted line. This last Western
recomposition does not correspond to a chronological gap between Iberia Mediterranean/Atlantic façades, as documented in
other European areas.
Reappraising Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology 1661
as one of those areas (Figure 1), although some major diﬀerences can be detected between them, consid-
ering the material culture techno-typological choices underlying pottery and ﬂaked industries.
Recently, economic data on Western Iberia Early Neolithic largely increased (Davis & Simões, 2016;
López-Dóriga, 2015; Valente, 2016), leaving no doubt on the agro-pastoralist, exogenous, and Mediterra-
nean nature of the ﬁrst Neolithic groups. However, these, still scarce, direct data on economic patterns are
lacking for many sites, since not only climacteric features but also geological environments are not favour-
able to organic preservation in Western Iberia. This natural background is thus responsible for the role still
played by material cultural –sometimes as the only element –to infer social entities and identities of Early
Neolithic groups, which means that some speciﬁc artefacts –mainly pottery styles –are here considered to
reﬂect diﬀerent cultural groups.
However, this correlation between material culture, or speciﬁc artefacts, and archaeological cultures
immediately evoked an old agenda in which groups, or peoples –spread in time and space, along with their
objects –were the basic foundations for archaeological discourse, and such a conceptual framework under-
lies the maps of cultural areas as the one presented in Figure 1. This epistemological background is not an
innocent one and was partially rejected after WWII in a process led by Anglophones against culture-
historical archaeology and its major statements –like race and racism, physical and mental rankings
among humans –that allowed the emergence of a new and scientiﬁc archaeology (Clarke, 1968). However,
as often happens during epistemological revolutions, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, and
along with the rejection of several cultural-historical dogmas, the assumption that material culture
expresses cultural entities was also banned in some academic circles. But history, anthropology, sociology,
and archaeology themselves demonstrate à outrance that such an aphorism is an eﬀective social evidence
and not a mere ideological statement (Diniz, 2019; Kramer, 1985; Pikirayi, 2007; Woodward, 2007)since,
beyond their function, objects are also cultural creations that display messages about those who
Being so, a fundamental tension between centripetal and centrifugal forces seems to emerge around the
Early Neolithic Europe big picture. A contradiction arose concerning this large global process with a
common Near Eastern historical root, sharing the same bio-technological features –namely domestication,
polished stone, pottery, sedentism, etc. –and the diﬀerent ways of locally re-arranging these common
elements. Similarities and divergences between groups can be partially related to diﬀerent environmental
backgrounds, nevertheless latitude, altitude, and distance from the coastline cannot explain changes in
pottery decorative styles or lithic armatures typology detected in those areas.
2 Moving Closer
Recognising archaeological cultures relies upon an inventory of explicit similarities and diﬀerences
according to the focus applied on material records. The consistence of archaeological entities tends to be
stronger when described from a distance and explodes into countless diﬀerent things when more closely
examined. Moving from the Neolithic Europe big picture so clearly illustrated by Jean Guilaine’s maps to the
most detailed archaeological regional records, diversity emerges and the overall homogenous colour cov-
ering large areas occupied by a single culture shatters into several and smaller “cultural groups.”
If recipient’s decoration –both techniques and motifs –and recipient’s handles are considered, the
Western Iberia archaeological record –an area corresponding to Southern Portugal –presents diﬀerent
pottery traditions during the late sixth/early ﬁfth millennium BC. Those pottery groups were identiﬁed
through quantitative analysis of large assemblages, where the dominant and the peripheral decoration
motifs and techniques –as the impressed stripes style –could be recognised, but also through qualitative
information from sites with no quantitative data available. As expected, diﬀerent pottery traditions do not
represent hermetic assemblages, and even if some almost exclusive decoration areas are documented
reﬂecting strong regional preferences, the overall picture shows that some general motifs present large
distribution areas due to social interaction among groups (Figure 2).
1662 Mariana Diniz
In a closer observation, three main traditions can be identiﬁed in the area previously identiﬁed as a
cardial zone (Figure 3):
1. In Upper Estremadura and the Lower Mondego Basin, cardial pottery, albeit not as frequent as in Iberia
Mediterranean façade, is regularly present in and around the Limestone Massif, in funerary caves as
Almonda or Caldeirão, and in open air sites as Várzea do Lírio or Forno da Cal (Andrade, 2015; Carvalho,
Figure 2: Iberian Peninsula and Portugal main sites mentioned in the text: (1)São Pedro de Canaferrim and Lameiras (Sintra),
(2)Correio-Mor cave (Loures),(3)Lapa do Fumo cave (Sesimbra),(4)Nossa Senhora da Luz’cave (Rio Maior),(5)Santarém
(Santarém),(6)Almonda Spring cave (Torres Novas),(7)Caldeirão cave (Tomar),(8)Valada do Mato (Évora),(9)Cabranosa
(Sagres), and (10)Junqueira e Várzea do Lírio (Figueira da Foz). Cartography after Trabajos de Prehistoria and Boaven-
Reappraising Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology 1663
2008; Jorge, 1979; Zilhão, 1992, 2001). Frequently, cardial ware is reduced to very fragmented sherds,
with small and repetitive zigzag commissure impressions although, in some rare cases, a more baroque
decoration covered almost the entire vessel. Besides cardial pottery, other impressed, and sometimes
incised, motifs are documented in this area, such as boquique/punto y raya or false acacia leaf –a motif
Figure 3: Southern Portugal Early Neolithic pottery traditions. (1)Upper Estremadura illustrated after Santarém cardial vessel
(Matriznet.dgpct.pt),(2)lower Estremadura after Nossa Senhora da Luz –false acacia leaf vessel (Matriznet.dgpct.pt), and (3)
interior/Southern Portugal after Valada do Mato impressed stripes vessel (Diniz, 2007). Cartography after Boaventura (2009).
1664 Mariana Diniz
impressed (rarely incised), mostly in parallel lines below the rim, bringing to mind a branch of the bush it
is named after.
2. In Lower Estremadura, pottery tradition presents diﬀerent features: the scarcity, or even absence, of
cardial vessels in a pioneering area occupied by the middle of the sixth millennium cal BC (Table 1), and
the dominance of a diﬀerent motif –the false acacia leaf motif –associated with the presence of the pig
head perforated handles reﬂects the consistent identity of the area. São Pedro de Canaferrim (Sintra)
(Simões, 1999), Abrigo Grande das Bocas (Rio Maior)(Nukushina, 2015), or Lapa do Fumo (Serrão &
Marques, 1971), stand as paradigmatic cases since this particular motif, associated with those peculiar
handles, can represent more than 50% of the decorated pottery.
3. These two and indeed permeable worlds identiﬁed in Estremadura do not illustrate the entire diversity of
the Western Iberia Early Neolithic. In the interior/Southern Portugal, in the habitat of Valada do Mato
(Évora), where cardial pottery can represent only 2% and false acacia leaf does not reach 1%, a diﬀerent
pottery tradition was recognised. Here the pottery assemblage, one of the largest in the Iberian
Peninsula, with more than 6,000 sherds, sustained a quantitative analysis of decorations motifs and
techniques and allowed the identiﬁcation of meaningful patterns. At Valada do Mato, under the appar-
ently random decorative procedures that arose from the use of diﬀerent matrixes, the impression of
several lines, above and parallel to the rim, prevails, representing around 60% of the assemblage (Diniz,
2007). In addition, incised and combined motifs are present, and handles, abundant and also perforated,
circular or elongated, never appear as the pig head type.
These diﬀerent pottery traditions covering neighbour regions are, attending to the Early Neolithic
absolute chronology, synchronous. By the second half of the sixth millennium BC, using only short-lived
and almost exclusively cultural meaningful samples (Table 1), the spread of Neolithic groups throughout
Western Iberia territories is marked by the appearance of diﬀerent pottery styles, although the most ancient
impressed tradition is not documented in the area (Carvalho, n.d.).
In those diﬀerent areas, lithic assemblages, both ﬂaked and polished, are more uniform. Flaked indus-
tries rely heavily on ﬂint –either local or not (Cardoso, Carvalho, & Gibaja Bao, 2013; Carvalho, 2008; Diniz,
2007; Simões, 1999)–to produce mainly small bladelets, used with or without just marginal retouch.
Table 1: Chronological framework for Early Neolithic pottery styles
Archaeological site Region Pottery
Sample 14C date cal BC 2αReference
Almonda cave Upper Estremadura Cardial Homo OxA-28855 6280
et al. (2015)
Almonda cave Upper Estremadura Cardial Homo MAMS-18262 5360–5220 Olalde
et al. (2015)6319 ±22
Caldeirão cave Upper Estremadura Cardial Ovis OxA-1035 5480–5079 Zilhão (1992)
Caldeirão cave Upper Estremadura Cardial Homo OxA-1033 5296–4843 Zilhão (1992)
6130 ±90 BP
S. Pedro de
Lower Estremadura Acacia
Triticum OxA24835 6176
S. Pedro de
Lower Estremadura Acacia
Triticum OxA24906 5316–5078 López-
Dóriga (2015)6257 ±35
Lameiras Lapiás Lower Estremadura Acacia
Ovis OxA-29110 6494
5517–5374 Davis and
Lameiras Lapiás Lower Estremadura Acacia
Triticum OxA24832 6381
Correio-Mor cave Lower Estremadura Acacia
Homo Sac –1717 5422–5090 Cardoso (2006)
6330 ±60 BP
Valada do Mato Interior/Southern
Charcoal Beta-153914 5040–4790 Diniz (2007)
Reappraising Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology 1665
Among the most signiﬁcant tools, geometric armatures present dominantly the segment shape obtained by
abrupt retouch. This feature, along with the small blank dimensions, separates these Atlantic industries
from the Mediterranean ones, dominated by trapezoids on small blades, as detailed elsewhere (Diniz, 2007,
pp. 198–200). The sole exception seems to be Casas Novas, in the Lower Tagus, where trapezoids and
transversal armatures dominate the assemblage of this not securely dated open-air site (Gonçalves &
Polished stone tools are not abundant in all areas and appear as small adzes and axes with round or
oval sections, sometimes polished only near the edge.
From an economic perspective, all these agro-pastoralist groups depend, with variable importance,
upon animal/plant husbandry, although particular product weight and strategies should vary according to
speciﬁc environmental features. Although, due to taphonomic bias, organic materials are usually rare or
even absent, economic quantiﬁcations remain unusual.
However, more than the similarities arising from a shared economy, diﬀerence emerged from one of the
most signiﬁcant social creations as pottery styles are. From a broad visual perspective, those distinct and
profusely decorated ware assemblages found in Southern Portugal are part of the large impressed ware of
the Western Mediterranean horizon, as shown by Guilaine’s maps. However, diﬀerences in matrix selection,
using or using not a shell, and diﬀerences in motif design, vegetative motifs or repetitive impressed lines
around the vessel’s mouth, that even (post-)industrial personages can recognise were intentionally and
socially meaningful (Millán-Pascual, Martínez, Alonso-Pablos, Blanco, & Criado-Boado, 2021).
In the Iberia Peninsula, other areas of diﬀerence can be recognised, as shown by the repeated punto y
raya/Neolithic boquique in Central Iberia (Alday & Moral del Hoyo, 2011, p. 76; Alday et al., 2009)or by the
quantitative signiﬁcance of the almagra tradition in Andalusia (García Rivero et al., 2018; Rivero Galán,
1985). In fact, both boquique/punto y raya and almagra decorations are found outside their main distribu-
tion area, and although almagra pottery is rare in Southern Portugal, Early Neolithic, boquique/punto y
raya, is well documented during the entire timespan of the phase. So far, boquique/punto y raya technique
also appears in assemblages where cardial or impressed stripes seem the most signiﬁcant trait and is almost
absent from false acacia leaf sites (Cardoso, Silva, & Soares, 2008, Simões, 1999). However, in the area
herein discussed, the large geographic dispersion of punto y raya, combined with its large chronological
duration (Carvalho, 2018, Figure 2), depletes this technique of a particular chrono-cultural dimension.
In short, during the ﬁrst Neolithisation wave and despite a common Mediterranean origin, the main-
tenance/creation of new cultural canons in pottery production reﬂects an emerging diversity, expressed
through material culture, that will shape Early Neolithic traditions in Western Iberia. As mentioned above,
those diﬀerent pottery styles were apparently already deﬁned when the groups occupied a particular
region, and their main technical and aesthetical features stood as coherent, but in no case hermetic, entities
during the Early Neolithic phase.
As in a punctuated equilibrium model, the expansion of Neolithic groups is characterised by a sudden
eruption of diﬀerent cultural personalities that will persist between the second half of the sixth millennium
and the middle of the ﬁfth millennium BC.
This scenario, where diﬀerence is the main trait to describe Early Neolithic pottery assemblages, was
already identiﬁed in other regions (Bernabeu Auban, 2011; Valdiosera et al., 2018); however, during the
Middle Neolithic, by the end of the ﬁfth millennium or the ﬁrst half of the fourth millennium BC in Southern
Portugal, this diversity in ceramic was no longer present. At this moment, hemispheric plain potteries
without long necks or perforated handles replaced all previous traditions and, from an artefactual point
of view, Southern Western Iberia seems to be occupied by a single and homogeneous cultural entity (Neves,
2018)–as if previous local identity discourses merged into one.
3 Moving Inside
In the last decades, debates around Europe’s Neolithisation included genetic information as a new and
powerful but also handle-with-care, type of data (Frieman & Hofmann, 2019; Hofmann, 2015). By the
1666 Mariana Diniz
beginning of the twenty-ﬁrst century, prehistoric genetic history still relied on contemporary materials to
infer the genetic history of Neolithic populations (Richards, 2003; Semino et al., 2000; Underhill et al.,
2001). A decade later, archaeologists were confronted with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)and Y-chromo-
some analysis of prehistoric individuals, tracing back maternal lineages and male movements from the East
to the West, across the Mediterranean and through the continent. Recently, mtDNA and Y-chromosome
analyses were overcome by ancient genome-wide DNA analysis, which conﬁrms what was predicted by
archaeological data: (1)the eastern origin of some of the Neolithic population, mainly in SE Europe and (2)
the discontinuity and the complex interactions between exogenous agro-pastoralist and indigenous hunter-
gatherer groups after the former settled in a territory.
By the end of the twentieth century, cultural diﬀusion or percolation theories (Dennell, 1983; Rodríguez
Alcalde, Alonso Jiménez, & Velázquez Cano, 1995), already fragile and hard to sustain as the major cause of
Europe’s Neolithisation, were deﬁnitely abandoned since aDNA analysis demonstrated that both by land
and sea, not only plants, animals, and techniques, but also genes –which mean humans –spread during
However, the introduction of genetics into the archaeological debate and the use of next-generation
techniques to recreate the past deserve some epistemological reﬂexions (Downes, 2021; Hofmann, 2015)on
the potentials and dangers of this information –easily assumed as the last veil before truth by a community
that is always drawn by the transdisciplinarity of hard sciences.
It should be highlighted the resurgence of biological questions about the actors of the past after nearly
50 silent years on the matter. By the end of the last century, physical anthropology was indeed a regular tool
in archaeology, but this science, in the past so committed, kept a neutral tone when referring to human
beings focused in age, sex, pathologies, death causes, post-mortem gestures, and modiﬁcations (e.g. Duday
et al, 2009), thus avoiding controversial issues, such as phenotypic features, or eradicated topics such as
races. Today, genes once again reveal the colour, or pigmentation, of hair and eyes (Brace et al., 2019;
Olalde et al., 2015), geographic origins, and routes and pathways. Small-or large-scale migrations, inva-
sions, and population replacements return to archaeology at a time when (before, during, and after COVID-19)
human displacement on the Mexican/USA border, between East/West –South/North Mediterranean shores,
and over the English Channel is one of the most tragic catastrophes. In addition, science is in the right
ideological environment to quickly turn into policy. The fear of the other is stimulated and presented –even
by those responsible to communicate science –as natural, considering past invasions and conquests. When
translated into historical scenarios, genetic analysis apparently shows that large-scale genocides must have
happened, attending to gene replacement (e.g. Carlin, 2020), and media misuses of data demand a vigilant
attitude from the archaeological community (e.g. Criado, 2018).
Additionally, genetic data were brought to a non-geneticist’s world, hardly equipped to deal with its
biomolecular jargon and complex statistics tools or to argue and contradict the odd scenarios sometimes
proposed by genetics. In addition, archaeological samples were used in aDNA studies, and the archaeo-
logists, who possessed them, launched their sites (and names)into high-proﬁle journals. However, this
irresistible gateway to the ﬁrst league has very strict admission criteria, and the social processes that
underlie the genetic information are often undervalued. On occasions, hypotheses advanced to explain
genetic data seem historically unsustainable, such as the 100% replacement of the Y-chromosome in the
Iberia Peninsula around 2000 BC (Olalde et al., 2019), as Basílio (2020)recently stated.
Regarding Neolithisation processes, present-day aDNA results point to –as far as an archaeologist can
interpret the available information –a genetic scenario where “The ﬁrst Neolithic migrants that arrived in
Iberia had low levels of genetic diversity, potentially reﬂecting a small number of individuals…” (Valdiosera
et al., 2018).
The arrival of small groups is a common feature of the cultural spread because quick and long-distance
movements of large groups of people are very rare in historical periods and usually connected with
catastrophic situations –which is not the case. Small groups arriving by land and, in the Mediterranean/
Atlantic area, mainly by sea, in small canoes carrying domestic juveniles and fresh seeds, presenting a low
genetic diversity, suggest that a particular branch of a larger group reached and rapidly spread along the
Iberia façade and its interior.
Reappraising Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology 1667
This Iberian Early Neolithic low genetic diversity was coupled by an initial small and heterogenous
hunter-gatherer contribution to the gene pool (Brace et al., 2019; Valdiosera et al., 2018, Figure 2b; Villalba-
Mouco et al., 2019), which is according to the archaeological record where Mesolithic–Neolithic interactions
are not well documented (Diniz, Arias, Araújo, & Stjerna, 2021). The genetic data suggest that, during the
ﬁrst phase, a small, homogenous, and somehow closed population reached Iberia in a scenario resembling
the bottleneck situation that is frequently documented in human diasporas.
The same picture reveals when mtDNA is used to deﬁne Neolithic genetic history (Szécsényi-Nagy et al.,
2017). Early Neolithic data exhibit a low diversity in mtDNA, which increases during the Neolithic period
due to the growing inﬂux of local hunter-gatherer genes.
After c. 5500 BC, small groups with an Oriental/North coastal Mediterranean origin, attending to the
somehow unexpected late appearance of African genetic material (González-Fortes et al., 2019), arrived at
the Iberia Peninsula. These genetic groups, sometimes referred to by their mtDNA or Y-chromosome
haplogroup letters and numbers, are described when their wide genome is considered after their geographic
origin. Thus Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), Eastern Hunter Gatherers (EHG), Central Europe EN, and
Western Mediterranean EN become a familiar terminology for relating peoples and geographies, as races
did it in the past.
Figures illustrating genetic results, such as Figure 3, emphasise a (deceptively simple)dichotomous
world where hunter-gatherers and Early Neolithic groups appear as two discontinuous, and in themselves
uniform, entities with a large territorial expression. However, this genetically homogenous, small, and fast-
moving Early Neolithic groups present distinct patterns of material culture in deep contrast with those data
Figure 4: Genetic admixture between hunter-gatherers and Neolithic groups after Valdiosera et al. (2018). Unlike the diversity
observed in material culture (Figure 2), genetic analysis points to low variability within groups. Iberia’s Early Neolithic com-
munities present a considerably small amount of genetic information from previous hunter-gatherers.
1668 Mariana Diniz
4 Time After Time
Neolithic groups spread throughout Europe have been a topic under continuous debate over the last
50 years. Not only pathways but also the speed of Neolithisation are crucial to understand Europe’s change
from a hunter-gatherer’s land to an agro-pastoralist continent in around three millennia.
Ammerman’s and Cavalli Sforza’s seminal work in the 1970s estimated a European rate progression of
1.08 km/year, an increase rate of 1.52 in the Mediterranean, and a vivid acceleration in the Western
Mediterranean to 2.08 km/year (1971, p. 684). Thirty years later, using accelerator mass spectrometry
(AMS)dates and updated calibration curves, Zilhão (2001)estimates a much higher speed of around
10 km/year for the Western Mediterranean, recently supported by Davis and Simões (2016)using dates
from sheep collected in Lameiras –a site symbolically located less than 20 km NE from the Westernmost
end of Europe’s Neolithic journey.
This quick and, attending to the lack of evident environmental and demographic causes, still per-
plexing journey from East to West (Hofmann, 2020)seems almost simultaneously when measured the
Iberian Peninsula Eastern and Western façades: according to 14C timespans, both shores are occupied
around 5500–5400 BC (e.g. Diniz, Neves, & Martins, 2016; Martins et al., 2015), making the Mediterranean/
Atlantic frontier a cultural, albeit not chronological, Neolithic recomposition area.
This speed perfectly matches the genetic low variation –since time is also a fundamental feature of
genetic drift. However, it renders the described cultural variation unpredictable, attending to the short
period elapsed between the departure and the arrival points.
Regarding only southwestern Iberia, the area herein considered to outline the cultural drift, estab-
lishing contemporaneity between diﬀerent pottery traditions, became fundamental to reject the chief eco-
nomic argument, in diachronic terms, used to explain diﬀerence in the archaeological record.
Early Neolithic Western Iberia chronological framework, for which representative timespans are pre-
sented in Table 1, clearly demonstrates that the ﬁrst agro-pastoralist groups settled after c. 5400 BC pos-
sessed diﬀerent pottery traditions.
Those diﬀerent and long-lasting pottery styles match three regional areas: Lower Mondego basin/Upper
Estremadura –where cardial style is well documented; Lower Estremadura –where false acacia leaf domi-
nated some large pottery assemblages, as in Lameiras, and S. Pedro de Canaferrim (Simões, 1999, personal
information), where cardial could even be absent from the decorative repertoire, as in the Correio-Mor cave
(Cardoso, 2006); and Interior Southern Portugal –where cardial and false acacia leaf are present but
statistically insigniﬁcant when compared to the dominant parallel impressed stripe style, above the rim.
Few more data can be added to depict diﬀerences between those groups. Lithic assemblages do not
reﬂect the same diversity found in pottery, and, from an economic point of view, archaeographic and post-
depositional factors can aﬀect the overall picture. Husbandry is documented in every region, but agriculture
demonstrated by the presence of seeds is only attested in Lower Estremadura (López-Dóriga, 2015; López-
Dóriga & Simões, 2015). Its presence in Interior/Southern Portugal granitic areas, such as Valada do Mato, is
only indirectly conﬁrmed, and its absence in limestone areas of Upper Estremadura can indeed point to a
more pastoral economy in the area. Organic remains, exception made for Lameiras Lapiás, are usually very
rare, or even absent, inhibiting a quantitative analysis that could express the group’s economic identity.
So, the exaggerated and wisely condemned ceramographic tendency of this analysis is not only the
result of available data but also intended as it is admitted that pottery traditions are a powerful tool to
create, maintain, and communicate Identities among traditional societies, just as archaeologists stated
through typologies and cultural maps, long before Bordieu’shabitus (1972).
5 Moving in Between (As a Conclusion)
The population of Çatal Hüyük is in fact mixed, Eurafricans, descended from an Upper Paleolithic-like Combe-Capelle
man, formed about 59 percent of the population. Proto-Mediterraneans of ﬁner build (17 percent)are the second
Reappraising Pottery Styles, aDNA, and Chronology 1669
dolichocephalic stock, but the third group consists of brachycephalic Alpines (24 percent). Such a heterogeneous popula-
tion greatly accounts for the inventiveness and the quick advance of cultural activity seen, in every ﬁeld, at Çatal Hüyük.
From an archaeological point of view, reappraising pottery styles, aDNA, and chronologies from Western
Iberia Early Neolithic imply a debate using diﬀerent proxies, which sometimes do not point to the same
direction. Topics about the mechanisms used for crossing genetic data with historical phenomena emerge
as an old epistemological temptation surrounding the question if “(…)regional cultural groups could be
recognizable as genetic identiﬁable entities?”(Szécsényi-Nagy et al., 2017).
Using Çatal Hüyük as a paradigmatic case as demonstrated by Mellaart’s text, and more recently by
mitochondrial haplotypes (Chyleński et al., 2019), it becomes obvious that cultural identity coexists with high
anthropometrics and genetic diversity reﬂecting how diﬀering those traits can behave within a single group.
Also, in Early Neolithic Iberia, those diﬀerent proxies point to diﬀerent directions. The stories told by
genes and artefacts do not merge and a contradiction seems to emerge. Herein, the small dimension of the
founder groups and the low genetic diversity deeply contrast with the scenario of material culture diversity.
As if the founder groups –even if sharing a common framework –behave as staminal cells, almost imme-
diately developing into distinct cultural traditions.
Genes and artefacts reveal diﬀerent stories, and those trajectories are not easy to correlate. Nevertheless,
the appeal of replacing the old formula: archaeological cultures =races with the new one: identities =genes,
is indeed a strong temptation even when physical anthropology and genetic analysis reveal, as in Çatal Hüyük
or Neolithic Europe, that types, or genes, and culture are not equivalent entities.
“(…)Neolithic transition (…)across Europe resulted in a relatively low genetic variability in the reported
Neolithic genomes, which makes it diﬃcult to distinguish the Mediterranean and the Danubian routes of
expansion of Neolithic ways of life”(Villalba-Mouco et al., 2019, p. 1173).
However, this low genetic variability results into two large and unmistakable archaeological horizons,
namely Linearbandkeramik (LBK)and cardial. From pottery styles to burial patterns and dietary preferences,
early farmers behave as diﬀerent systems in North Europe, Central Europe, or Western Mediterranean.
Small sailing groups carrying similar genes gave origin to a diversiﬁed cultural landscape when material
cultural is regarded. Preferences for speciﬁc shapes, motifs, techniques, total or partial rejection of shapes, motifs,
techniques, gestures, and habitus maintenance or abandonment can be described under the identity label.
In Early Neolithic Iberia, during the ﬁrst settling phase, although genes are shared by the ﬁrst agro-
pastoralist groups, cultural diﬀerence appears to be intentional and considered a positive social issue.
However, the most diversiﬁed Middle Neolithic genetic picture –with a larger hunter-gatherer input,
with an occasional African genetic material –is from a material culture perspective linked with an unpre-
cedented homogenization of pottery morphologies and an almost mandatory lack of decoration.
After a ﬁrst Early Neolithic impulse to ﬁssion (Leppard, 2014), groups evolve towards a more genetic
diverse and cultural consistent fusion horizon. As people get more diverse, artefacts become more similar.
New kids arrived at the block, as archaeologists knew since the beginning of the twentieth century, bringing
with them traces of Anatolian-Aegean genes so oriental as the domestic animals and plants that would soon
totally re-shape the European cultural identity.
Diﬀerent from genes, an unconscious and durable heritage, culture can more actively be transformed to
create something new. Plastic materials –as clay –are a superlative and resilient way to express identities
as Early Neolithic artefacts reﬂect. Genes and culture do not follow the same paths, do not follow similar
paces, and do not share the same history (Bryc, Durand, Macpherson, Reich, & Mountain, 2015).
So, reappraising the past from those diﬀerent proxies requests an enlarge transdisciplinary debate
between accurate genetic analysis and intelligible social process as the way to achieve the eﬀective
multi-dimensional ontology of past events.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the editors and the reviewers for their careful reading and
thoughtful comments and eﬀorts towards improving this manuscript. To César Neves for his help with
1670 Mariana Diniz
Funding information: This work was ﬁnanced by Portuguese funds through FCT –Fundação para a Ciência e
a Tecnologia in the framework of the project UIDB/00698/2020.
Conﬂict of interest: Author states no conﬂict of interest.
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