The earliest Neolithic cultures in central and northern Europe, communities that rapidly established themselves on the loess lands of the major river valleys from the Czech Republic to the North Sea coast during the 5th millennium bc. A second rapid expansion northwards around the rim of the Carpathian Basin and into Poland and the Dnieper region of the Ukraine took place in the early 4th millennium bc. Some limited outward expansion from these areas can be seen in, for example, central France and the Paris Basin, but it was the post‐LBK communities who were responsible for moving off light loess‐based agricultural lands. It is thought that the LBK developed initially from the Körös Culture of the northern Balkans.
The LBK is named after its distinctive decoration applied to round‐bottomed bowls and jars: incised and sometimes painted wares with linear designs that include curvilinear, zig‐zag, and meander patterns. Later styles take in stroke‐ornamented and punched ornament in the form of small pits. Among other elements of material culture are stone shoelast adzes and a microlithic stone industry.
Settlements of the LBK are highly distinctive and very similar throughout the spread of the culture. They are mainly situated on the edge of river floodplains and are dominated by clusters of rectangular houses—small villages. The houses are typically 8 m wide and up to 40 m long. Some are simply dwellings, others are dwellings with a barn attached, still others have three components in the form of a central dwelling with a barn at one end and a byre at the other. All were timber‐framed, represented archaeologically as sets of postholes and slots. Round about are borrow pits for taking clay to make wattle and daub walls. The villages were long‐lasting, and while it used to be thought that LBK farmers practised slash and burn farming so that they returned to the same village at intervals of perhaps a century or so, this is no longer accepted, and it seems that most villages represent the simple process of periodic house replacement so that there were always perhaps five to ten structures standing at any one time. Richard Bradley has argued that the houses were left to collapse naturally when no longer required, and that the decayed remains of these longhouses provided the inspiration for the construction of long barrows by later communities in more northerly parts of Europe. Some LBK villages were open sites, but others, such as Köln‐Lindenthal in Germany, were set within ditched enclosures.
The LBK economy was based on cattle husbandry and the cultivation of cereals, mainly wheat and barley. Cemeteries are relatively few, but where excavated comprise inhumations and cremations in flat graves, some with grave goods. Also known as Bandkeramik, Linear Pottery Culture, or Danubian I Culture.