Philipp Gleich

Goldberg III
Polycultural coexistence in Upper Swabia in the early third millennium BC?

Initial situation and problems

The early third millennium B.C. is characterized by the spread of wheel and wagon as well as the development of economically differentiated settlement systems as a horizon of innovation in the Central European Neolithic. In prehistoric research, this epoch in the Northern Alps is characterized by the development of numerous regional "cultural groups", each with its own material culture, in particular its own pottery practice. However, a closer look shows that the pottery is very heterogeneous even within individual settlements and regions and is interspersed with "influences" from near and far. The traditional archaeological cultural equation "one settlement = one pottery tradition = one social association = one cultural group" rarely seems to hold.

Source material and objective

This problem is exemplified by a number of Upper Swabian wetland settlements which have been assigned by archaeological research to the cultural group "Goldberg III" (SCHLICHTHERLE 1999). The source material of the dissertation is formed by the manifold, well dated and mostly unpublished vessel ceramic finds from these settlements as well as from selected comparative settlements from neighboring regions. Within the framework of the analysis, new theoretical and methodological foundations are developed for understanding the interaction of technological and stylistic practices, social groups, mobility, and exchange in the early third millennium BC north of the Alps.

Theory, methodology and hypotheses

Approaches from Pierre BOURDIEU's (1972) theory of practice are applied. According to his ideas, the framework of human action is negotiated in practice, i.e. in physical accomplishment. Handmade ceramic production offers a well-suited practice for visualizing such negotiation processes, since the production of a vessel requires a complex sequence of technical and stylistic decisions and maps learning processes.
The ceramic vessels will be studied using a "chaîne opératoire" approach, i.e., their production will be decomposed into individual levels of decision-making. In this way, "communities of practice" (WENGER 1998) can be identified, which are characterized by similar decision-making processes.
Overall, the following hypotheses are tested: In the early third millennium B.C. in the Upper Swabian settlements of the so-called "Goldberg-III-group" people lived together who had learned the craft of pottery production in different communities ("Communities of Practice"). This distinguishes the Upper Swabian settlements from contemporaneous settlements in Eastern Switzerland and at Lake Constance. The varying degrees of plurality in pottery practices must be understood against the background of factors that affect mobility and exchange among actors. These potentially include: transport geographic location of settlements in space, settlement duration, economic organization, and dependence of settlements.


P. BOURDIEU, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Sinzheim 42015[French original 1972]).
E. WENGER, Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity (Cambridge 1998).
H. SCHLICHTHERLE, The Goldberg III Group in Upper Swabia. In: H. Schlichtherle/M. Strobel (eds.), Aktuelles zu Horgen - Cham - Goldberg III - Schnurkeramik in Süddeutschland. Round table Hemmenhofen 26.06.1998. Hemmenhofen scripts 1 (Freiburg i. Br. 1999) 35-48.

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