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PREHISTORY

The prehistory of the Low Countries describes the period from about 250,000 BC. until the first writings appear in the area commonly referred to as the Low Countries.
Between 100,000 and 10,000 BC. Neanderthals lived throughout Europe and therefore also in the Low Countries, succeeded and partly seconded by early modern humans. In the Ardennes, a flint quarry was found for Mousterian objects, which were mainly made and used by the Neanderthals, dating from about 80,000 years ago. The Magdalenian culture was situated there about 18,000 years ago, adjacent to a large uninhabited area until 13,000 years ago. From the Mesolithic (10,000 years ago) a northern and southern cultural sphere was distinguished, with the major rivers as a dividing line.

The first Neolithic agricultural settlements date back 6,500 years. Subsequent cultures distinguished themselves by a transformation of their material culture. Contacts with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers created mixed or semi-agricultural communities. The transition to the Bronze Age happened around 2000 BC. In the Iron Age, the Low Countries were dominated by Celtic, resp. Germanic cultures.

The presence of the Romans in Belgium started around 50 BC. and spanned a period of nearly 5 centuries. The Romans had formed a world empire in that period, stretching from the Rhine and Danube in the north, Britain in the west, the Sahara in the south and the region of the Euphrates and Tigris in the east. Within this Roman Empire was the Provincia Gallia Belgica, which included an area in the Netherlands south of the Rhine, almost all of present-day Belgium, parts of Germany west of the Rhine and present-day northern France above the Seine. Roman Belgica covered a much larger territory than the modern Kingdom of Belgium, and the most important places in Roman Belgica were in France and Germany. The collective name for the tribes in Gallia Belgica became Belgae.

Varying units formed under Celtic-Germanic and Roman influences respectively. Subsequently, under the impulse of Christianization, they evolved into larger empires with an increasingly feudal structure. The rise of the cities led to an increase in wealth, but also a shift in power and fragmentation. Attempts at centralization alternated with tendencies towards autonomy.

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