Neolithic Settlement Patterns in Europe

Small plot of land demonstrating slash and burn farming at the Telkkämäki Nature Reserve and Heritage Farm in the municipality of Kaavi in Northern Savonia, Finland (2013).Photo from Wikimedia Commons at:

Slash and Burn Farming

(Dec 29, 2022) Neolithic farmers used slash and burn farming in which they would cut down small trees, burn the land to produce a layer of fertilizing ash, and then farm it for a few years. When the grain yields started to diminish they would move on to the next plot of land. Twenty years might pass before the same plot of land could be farmed again. With this method they produced transient farms which produced grains and livestock. This must be contrasted with the more intensive farming practices of the bronze working Indo-Europeans who apparently had a more sophisticated crop rotation culture along with using animal manure for fertilizer. The Indo-Europeans had permanent farms with the corresponding warrior class land governance. 

The Neolithic farmers probably did not have plows until just before the Indo-European invasion and would not have had much in the way of heavy farm equipment because of their semi-transient culture. The exception would have been along the coast lines where fishing would have permitted permanent settlements with boats and nets. The inland farmers would have preferred lands with sparse and small trees for each cutting with stone axes as is found along marshy river valleys and moors.

The sense of place for Neolithic farmers was met by the megalithic monuments and dolmans which projected the power of ancestry over a general area.


Joshua Pollard and Frances Healy (Editors) from contributions by Frances Griffith, Frances Healy, Andy Jones, Andrew J. Lawson, Jodie Lewis, Roger  Mercer, David Mullin, Jacqueline Nowakowski, Joshua Pollard, Helen Wickstead and Peter Woodward  (2008) Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, in South West Archaeological Research Framework: the archaeology of south west England by Griffith, F, Healy, F, Lawson, A, Lewis, J, Mercer, R, Mullin, M, Nowakowski, J, Pollard, J, Wickstead, H, and Woodward, P. Online at:

Neolithic Longhouse from Lockerbie Scotland (3900-3700 BCE)

(Dec. 30, 2022) Neolithic farmers living inland typically lived in wooden longhouses as shown on the left. This one was located in what is now  Lockerbie, Scotland on a small rise overlooking a tributary to the River Annon which empties into the sea. This longhouse was orientated roughly north south, possibly to have the walls block the prevailing winds. Its main roof supports were the central pillars allowing the outer wall posts to be much smaller. All pottery and stone household tools were found along the walls.


Images from: Magnus Kirby with contributions by S Anderson, M Hastie, A Jackson, M Johnson, R McBride, D McLaren, P Northover, A Sheridan, J Thoms & G Warren Illustrations prepared by L Whitelaw, K Clarke, C Evenden & M O’Neil (2011) Neolithic and Early Historic timber halls, a Bronze Age cemetery, an undated enclosure and a post-medieval corn-drying kiln  in south-west Scotland. In Scottish Archaeological Internet Report 46, 2011. Online at:
Recent use of a travois behind a horse by native Americans on the western plains of Canada around 1920.
Byron Harmon postcard #536. "Indian Travois". Native American woman and children with horse and cart. Online at:

Use of Cattle for Food and Transport by Neolithic Farmers in Ireland Around 3500 BCE.

Comparative studies of bovine bones found at a Neolithic site in Kilshane, Co. Dublin show some had growth patterns indicating use in heavy pulling. Thus some of the Neolithic cattle were used for plowing and/or transport using a travois. Wheels seem to have arrived around the time of the Indo-European invasions.

In northwest Europe, the earliest evidence for draught cattle is provided by exceptional waterlogged finds from Scandinavia and Switzerland also dated to 3500 BCE. In southern Scandinavia, a cattle skeleton found in a bog and dated to 3650–3360 cal. BC displays pathologies on the metatarsals that can be related to heavy pulling. In Switzerland the Arbon-Bleiche 3 yoke, dated to 3384–3370 BCE is the earliest evidence of the use of a pair of cattle for traction


Fabienne Pigière, and Jessica Smyth (January 26, 2023) First evidence for cattle traction in Middle Neolithic Ireland: A pivotal element for resource exploitation. Plos One. Online at: