The Neolithic in Europe




The European Neolithic period, as it is commonly understood, ‘begins’ with the widescale adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry, and ‘ends’ when bronze tools come into common use (signaling the beginning of the Bronze Age). The exact time frame in which these two events occurred varies from region to region.

It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that archaeologists began to recognize that the ‘thunder-stones’, ‘elf-arrows’, and ‘giant’s tears’ that littered the European landscape were not the products of supernatural beings, but the artifacts of early-modern humans lifestyles. This realization marked the beginning of the archaeology of prehistory.

These objects from Bryn Mawr College’s Art and Archaeology Collection were collected from across Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe. Most were purchased in the late 19th century by William S. Vaux, a dedicated amateur archaeologist and Main Line native.

Because this collection was compiled when prehistoric archaeology was mainly the domain of individual enthusiasts, rather than universities and museums, we have little information about the specific contexts of these objects. For this reason, they are grouped according to the national boundaries of the modern nations in which they were collected. However, the tools themselves illustrate how stone technologies developed and diffused throughout the continent over millennia.