Cardium Pottery, Printed-Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the Cardium edulis, a marine mollusk. The alternative names of Printed-Cardium Pottery (imprinted rather than inked) and Impressed Ware are given by some archaeologists because impressions with Cardium are not the only technique. As the culture evolved, it tended to practice other methods of impression, while keeping the general cultural traits and also the general aspect of the pottery (unelaborated, imprinted - never painted).
This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic: Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or some similar variation, which eventually extended from the western Balkan regions and Levantine coasts, such as at Byblos, to the eastern coasts of Spain, bringing an influence even as far as the Atlantic coast.
Only later would these Adriatic peoples adopt the Neolithic way of life fully, building villages, growing cereals and herding goats, sheep and cows. It was in this second phase that Cardium Pottery proper (printed with shells of C. edulis) made its appearance. In the last centuries of the millennium the ceramic technique degenerated and pivotal decoration began.
The most notable characteristic of this culture was their great navigation capabilities, demonstrated by finds of remains of species that can only be fished in the open seas. This seafaring nature would be essential in their ability to colonize large regions of the Mediterranean coasts.
The first advance was made towards southern Italy, settling first in Apulia and later in other areas of the south of the peninsula and Sicily, dwelling almost always in caves. Gradually the colonization advanced towards Latium, Tuscany, Sardinia, Corsica and Liguria, and they established some isolated outposts in the coasts of Provence.
Already in the 5th millennium BCE, this culture had expanded to SE France and eastern Spain. With some exceptions, archaeological evidence shows that this was mostly a process of aculturization of the native peoples of these areas than a massive migration. Beyond the coastal region, the culture expanded northwards along the Rhone valley and westward following the Ebro river. Further west, nevertheless, its influence is limited, though it undoubtedly plays a role in the (generally slow) development of the first Neolithic cultures of the Atlantic regions. Long barrows and other Megalith monuments in Northwestern Europe have frequently archaeological remains of pottery and other artifacts of this Culture.
At this time, Northern Italy was also colonized by peoples of this culture that came directly from the Balkans by land.
Once this expansion had ended, Mediterranean cultures evolved locally. In the west they are generally tagged as epi-Cardial Pottery cultures, while in northern Italy it evolved into the culture of Bocca Quadratta. In the Adriatic Balkans, three related cultures, (Hvar, Lisicici and Butmir), divided the territory.