Prehistoric Europe

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João Carvalho

Among the world's continents, Europe might be the one most thoroughly excavated by archaeologists. Prehistory is usually defined as the time before written language, which spread with Ancient Greece, and later the Roman Empire. Most of northern and eastern Europe got their first domestic written records in the Middle Ages, in many cases with the arrival of Christianity. Even after writing was introduced to an area, usually only a small elite could write, and as they wrote mostly about themselves, written sources to life of common people are scarce before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some ancient societies such as the Roman Empire had high literacy, but on the other hand, much pre-modern writing has been lost.
For some areas and times on the other hand we do have what appears to be writing but still can't make any sense of them. In Europe this is most famously the case for Linear A on Crete. This means that our knowledge of such cultures is the same as if we had no writing at all.