This paper argues for a change in how the concept of culture is perceived in prehistoric European archaeology. Rather than as a set of prescriptive and fixed norms, culture should be related back to the daily practice of actual communities, its prime context of reproduction. In this view, culture is an enabling medium, not a restrictive codex. We illustrate this point by comparing burial practices in settlements of the Neolithic LBK culture (ca. 5600–4900 cal bc) in Lower Bavaria and the Paris Basin. Instead of evaluating these burial episodes by how well or poorly they correspond to long-established research expectations, which were focused on defining LBK-wide “cultural norms”, we foreground the performative aspects of burial and trace the establishment of micro-traditions at specific sites. This shows that the most challenging questions connected with using the concept of culture in prehistory lie in the way in which it is enmeshed in and lends a basic framework to action at a variety of social scales, without ultimately determining its outcome.

Figure 1. Schematic map showing the areas discussed in this paper

These regions were settled by the first wave of Neolithic farmers belonging to the Linear Band Keramik (Pottery) Culture (LBK). LBK stretched across Europe from the Paris Basin in the west to Ukraine and Moldavia in the east. LBK culture lasted about 600 years from 5500 to 4900BC.

They are famous for their distinctive settlement structures, consisting of unique, easily recognisable long houses (see above) which seem to be an astonishingly uniform element of this culture throughout the vast territory of distribution.

lbk etc