In volume 295 of Antiquity M. Gkiasta et al. (2003) discussed the results of two sets of analysis carried out on a “new” database of radiocarbon dates: one for the whole of Europe examining the spread of the Neolithic, and one regional approach looking at the relation between Mesolithic and Neolithic dates. Although we are convinced of the potential of both approaches, we do have some major comments on the methodology.
First of all the analyses were conducted on a highly incomplete database. As the authors state on their p. 48, the analysed database currently includes over 2600 samples. Many of them, however, had already been collated in Gob’s Atlas of 14C dates (1990). Although the authors have included new dates, we do not believe that this has been done very systematically. For the Belgian territory, for example, virtually all the dates used in the article were those published by Gob – 16 Mesolithic dates and 30 Neolithic dates. The authors justify this by referring to the bad state of publication and public availability of radiocarbon dates in Europe. This certainly does not hold for the Belgian territory. In the last decade over a hundred new Mesolithic and Neolithic dates have been produced, the majority published in journals available world-wide such as Radiocarbon (Van Strydonck et al. 1995; 2001a), Antiquity (Crombé et al. 2002), Archaeometry (Cauwe et al. 2002) proceedings of the international congresses such as 14C and archaeology (Crombé et al. 1999) and The Mesolithic in Europe (Crombé 1999), and the IRPA- datelists (Van Strydonck et al. 2001b; Van Strydonck et al. 2002). The authors assert that these “shortcomings” to the database probably do not affect their conclusions. This is a rash and provocative statement, which minimises all recent progress in absolute dating of the European Mesolithic and Neolithic. We believe that for the Belgian situation a hundred new dates can make a difference. In recent years, for example, these new dates have allowed a thorough revision of Mesolithic chronology (Crombé 1999; Van Strydonck et al. 2001a) and a refinement of the (early) Neolithic chronology (Jadin & Cahen 2003). This will certainly also be the case for the other study-areas in Europe.