Farming and/or foraging? New environmental data to the life and economic transformation of Late Neolithic tell communities (Tisza Culture) in SE Hungary

Sándor Gulyás, Pál Sümegi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


The turn of the 6th and 5th millennia BC witnessed probably the largest economic and cultural transformation of SE Europe giving rise to a new techno-complex occupying the alluvial plains of the Tisza River and its tributaries in the southern parts of the Carpathian Basin. Representatives of the Tisza Culture were engaged in intensive farming complemented with foraging creating a complex system of hierarchical multi-layered settlements (tells). The favorable endowments of the sites with a large variety of multiple ecotones ideal for multifocal subsistence, as well as the introduction of new farming techniques ensured the establishment of long-term sedentary lifeways. However, according to the archeology, a major shift in subsistence happened toward the end of the Late Neolithic marking the terminal part of the evolution of the culture. Traditional crop cultivation was increasingly complemented with hunting, animal husbandry gaining importance. Other second-line resources like fish and shellfish followed the same pattern. Finally, tells were disintegrated and a new cultural group of the Copper Age emerged. The exact background of these transformations is still unknown. In order to see whether or not potential transformations in the local riparian environment had some role in shaping human behavior, a multiproxy paleoecological analysis was implemented on mollusk material of one of the largest tell sites of SE Hungary. Freshwater mollusks collected by humans in themselves characterize the quality of the water body from which they derive. They are also an excellent marker of socioeconomic response to environmental stress. According to our findings the emergence of new settlement phases and the intensified foraging could have been correlated with alteration of stream properties yielding successively higher floods. This was initially beneficial creating lush pasturelands for large bodied prey infiltrating the area during the referred period like aurochs, red-deer. But ultimately it might have reduced areas suitable for agriculture and living most likely leading to social disruption besides other cultural, social processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3323-3339
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Carpathian Basin
  • Foraging
  • Late Neolithic
  • Mollusks
  • Multiproxy paleoecological analysis
  • Riparian environment
  • Social & economic crisis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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