The fertile plains of central and western Macedonia are of key importance for early Greek prehistory, and Nea Nikomedeia, dated to the end of the seventh millennium BC, has long been considered one of the earliest farming settlements in Europe. In recent years, surveys carried out along the periodically exposed shores of the artificial lake of Polyphitos, and rescue excavations imposed by large-scale public works in the region, have revealed over 30 Early Neolithic sites. They offer a welcome opportunity to examine the material remains, cultural preferences and origins of early farming groups moving from the south-east into Europe
Even the most democratic societies are rife with social and economic inequalities, as the current tension between the poorer "99%" and the richest "1%" vividly illustrates. But just how early in human events such social hierarchies became entrenched has been a matter of debate. A new study of skeletons from prehistoric farming communities across Europe suggests that hereditary inequality was an early feature, going back more than 7000 years ago.
Most researchers agree that social hierarchies began with the advent of farming. The earliest known farming communities are found in the Near East, dating back almost 11,000 years. Archaeologists have looked for evidence of social stratification in these societies with mixed results. Some early farming societies show signs that people played different roles and that some were buried with greater ritual—shuffling off this mortal coil with a number of elaborate "grave goods," including pottery and stone tools. However, there is little evidence that social inequality was hereditary or rigidly defined.
That seems to have changed sometime after farmers moved into Europe from the Near East, beginning about 8500 years ago during a period known as the European Neolithic. One of the best studied farming cultures is the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), which arose in what is today Hungary about 7500 years ago and spread as far as modern-day Paris within 500 years, after which it appears to have been superseded by other cultures.
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