Farming came to Central Europe in the early Neolithic age, about 7,500 years ago. Archaeologists call that period the “linear pottery culture” because the people of the time – who were settled in small villages and sustained themselves by primitive farming – made ceramic vessels with characteristic linear patterns.
However, as these people lived and died 7,000 years ago and left no written records, when it comes to knowing their beliefs and culture, we are largely in the dark. Hence, even the most eminent archaeologists have still often had no choice but to fall back on educated speculation.
Now fast-forward to 2006. A gang of road workers were digging at Schöneck-Kilianstädten, about 12 miles from the city of Frankfurt in Germany. Then, out of the blue, their tools turned up something from the earth that came as a complete shock. There, strewn in a ditch, the workers found a collection of human bones; and at that stage, of course, the age of the bones was impossible to know.