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This article is based on an EAA session in Kiel in 2021, in which thirteen contributors provide their response to Robb and Harris's (2018) overview of studies of gender in the European Neolithic and Bronze Age, with a reply by Robb and Harris. The central premise of their 2018 article was the opposition of ‘contextual Neolithic gender’ to ‘cross-contextual Bronze Age gender’, which created uneasiness among the four co-organizers of the Kiel meeting. Reading Robb and Harris's original article leaves the impression that there is an essentialist ‘Neolithic’ and ‘Bronze Age’ gender, the former being under-theorized, unclear, and unstable, the latter binary, unchangeable, and ideological. While Robb and Harris have clearly advanced the discussion on gender, the perspectives and case studies presented here, while critical of their views, take the debate further, painting a more complex and diverse picture that strives to avoid essentialism.
Excavated over two centuries ago, the Upton Lovell G2a ‘Wessex Culture’ burial has held a prominent place in research on Bronze Age Britain. In particular, was it the grave of a ‘shaman’ or a metalworker? We take a new approach to the grave goods, employing microwear analysis and scanning electron microscopy to map a history of interactions between people and materials, identifying evidence for the presence of Bronze Age gold on five artefacts, four for the first time. Advancing a new materialist approach, we identify a goldworking toolkit, linking gold, stone and copper objects within a chaîne opératoire, concluding that modern categorisations of these materials miss much of their complexity.
Artificial illumination is a fundamental human need. Burning wood and other materials usually in hearths and fireplaces extended daylight hours, whilst the use of flammable substances in torches offered light on the move. It is increasingly understood that pottery played a role in light production. In this study, we focus on ceramic oval bowls, made and used primarily by hunter-gatherer-fishers of the circum-Baltic over a c. 2000 year period beginning in the mid-6th millennium cal bc. Oval bowls commonly occur alongside larger (cooking) vessels. Their function as ‘oil lamps’ for illumination has been proposed on many occasions but only limited direct evidence has been secured to test this functional association. This study presents the results of molecular and isotopic analysis of preserved organic residues obtained from 115 oval bowls from 25 archaeological sites representing a wide range of environmental settings. Our findings confirm that the oval bowls of the circum-Baltic were used primarily for burning fats and oils, predominantly for the purposes of illumination. The fats derive from the tissues of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms. Bulk isotope data of charred surface deposits show a consistently different pattern of use when oval bowls are compared to other pottery vessels within the same assemblage. It is suggested that hunter-gatherer-fishers around the 55th parallel commonly deployed material culture for artificial light production but the evidence is restricted to times and places where more durable technologies were employed, including the circum-Baltic.
The appearance of Beaker pottery in Britain and Ireland during the twenty-fifth century bc marks a significant archaeological horizon, being synchronous with the first metal artefacts. The adoption of arsenical copper, mostly from Ireland, was followed by that of tin-bronze around 2200 bc. However, whilst the copper mine of Ross Island in Ireland is securely dated to the Early Bronze Age, and further such mines in the UK have been dated to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, the evidence for the exploitation of tin ores, the other key ingredient to make bronze, has remained circumstantial. This article contains the detailed analyses of seven stone artefacts from securely dated contexts, using a combination of surface pXRF and microwear analysis. The results provide strong evidence that the tools were used in cassiterite processing. The combined analysis of these artefacts documents in detail the exploitation of Cornish tin during this early phase of metal use in Britain and Ireland.
No single environmental factor is a necessary or sufficient cause of mental disorder; multifactorial and transdiagnostic approaches are needed to understand the impact of the environment on the development of mental disorders across the life course.
Using linked multi-agency administrative data for 71 932 children from the New South Wales Child Developmental Study, using logistic regression, we examined associations between 16 environmental risk factors in early life (prenatal period to <6 years of age) and later diagnoses of mental disorder recorded in health service data (from age 6 to 13 years), both individually and summed as an environmental risk score (ERS).
The ERS was associated with all types of mental disorder diagnoses in a dose–response fashion, such that 2.8% of children with no exposure to any of the environmental factors (ERS = 0), compared to 18.3% of children with an ERS of 8 or more indicating exposure to 8 or more environmental factors (ERS ⩾ 8), had been diagnosed with any type of mental disorder up to age 13–14 years. Thirteen of the 16 environmental factors measured (including prenatal factors, neighbourhood characteristics and more proximal experiences of trauma or neglect) were positively associated with at least one category of mental disorder.
Exposure to cumulative environmental risk factors in early life is associated with an increased likelihood of presenting to health services in childhood for any kind of mental disorder. In many instances, these factors are preventable or capable of mitigation by appropriate public policy settings.
What can a body do? To answer Baruch Spinoza's question, we engage with posthumanist feminist concepts of nomadic subjectivity and relations with non-humans. Through an exploration of two ‘patches’, the Chinchorro Mummies of the Atacama Desert in South America and the burials at Wor Barrow in the Neolithic of southern England, we suggest that these approaches open up a new way of encountering past bodies. What capabilities do bodies, past and present, have? This question is one in which bodies’ capacities are revealed as immanent, historically contextual and emergent.
In this paper we argue that to understand the difference Posthumanism makes to the relationship between archaeology, agency and ontology, several misconceptions need to be corrected. First, we emphasize that Posthumanism is multiple, with different elements, meaning any critique needs to be carefully targeted. The approach we advocate is a specifically Deleuzian and explicitly feminist approach to Posthumanism. Second, we examine the status of agency within Posthumanism and suggest that we may be better off thinking about affect. Third, we explore how the approach we advocate treats difference in new ways, not as a question of lack, or as difference ‘from’, but rather as a productive force in the world. Finally, we explore how Posthumanism allows us to re-position the role of the human in archaeology,
Posthumanism is a growing field of interdisciplinary study that has emerged, principally in the last 20 years, as a broad church which seeks to reconceptualize human beings’ relationships with the world. At its heart, Posthumanism seeks to destabilize and question the category of ‘human’, which it sees as having previously been treated as transcendent and ahistorical. In its place, the figure of the posthuman aims to capture the complex and situated nature of our species’ existence, outside traditional dichotomies like culture and nature, mind and body, person and environment, and so on. From animal studies (e.g. Despret 2016; Wolfe 2009), via a rekindled attention to the material world (Coole & Frost 2010) to the cutting edge of quantum physics (Barad 2007), Posthumanism draws on a diverse range of inspiration (Ferrando 2019). This diversity also covers a significant internal dissonance and difference, with some posthumanists taking relational approaches, others arguing for the essential qualities of things, some focusing primarily on material things without humans and others calling for explicitly feminist investigations.
Flagellar dyneins are the molecular motors responsible for producing the propagating bending motions of cilia and flagella. They are located within a densely packed and highly organised super-macromolecular cytoskeletal structure known as the axoneme. Using the mesoscale simulation technique Fluctuating Finite Element Analysis (FFEA), which represents proteins as viscoelastic continuum objects subject to explicit thermal noise, we have quantified the constraints on the range of molecular conformations that can be explored by dynein-c within the crowded architecture of the axoneme. We subsequently assess the influence of crowding on the 3D exploration of microtubule-binding sites, and specifically on the axial step length. Our calculations combine experimental information on the shape, flexibility and environment of dynein-c from three distinct sources; negative stain electron microscopy, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). Our FFEA simulations show that the super-macromolecular organisation of multiple protein complexes into higher-order structures can have a significant influence on the effective flexibility of the individual molecular components, and may, therefore, play an important role in the physical mechanisms underlying their biological function.
Morning coffee is a common remedy following disrupted sleep, yet each factor can independently impair glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in healthy adults. Remarkably, the combined effects of sleep fragmentation and coffee on glucose control upon waking per se have never been investigated. In a randomised crossover design, twenty-nine adults (mean age: 21 (sd 1) years, BMI: 24·4 (sd 3·3) kg/m2) underwent three oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT). One following a habitual night of sleep (Control; in bed, lights-off trying to sleep approximately 23.00–07.00 hours), the others following a night of sleep fragmentation (as Control but waking hourly for 5 min), with and without morning coffee approximately 1 h after waking (approximately 300 mg caffeine as black coffee 30 min prior to OGTT). Individualised peak plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were unaffected by sleep quality but were higher following coffee consumption (mean (normalised CI) for Control, Fragmented and Fragmented + Coffee, respectively; glucose: 8·20 (normalised CI 7·93, 8·47) mmol/l v. 8·23 (normalised CI 7·96, 8·50) mmol/l v. 8·96 (normalised CI 8·70, 9·22) mmol/l; insulin: 265 (normalised CI 247, 283) pmol/l; and 235 (normalised CI 218, 253) pmol/l; and 310 (normalised CI 284, 337) pmol/l). Likewise, incremental AUC for plasma glucose was higher in the Fragmented + Coffee trial compared with Fragmented. Whilst sleep fragmentation did not alter glycaemic or insulinaemic responses to morning glucose ingestion, if a strong caffeinated coffee is consumed, then a reduction in glucose tolerance can be expected.
In this paper we explore ancient DNA (aDNA) as a powerful new technique for archaeologists. We argue that for aDNA to reach its full potential we need to carefully consider its theoretical underpinnings. We suggest that at present much aDNA research rests upon two problematic theoretical assumptions: first, that nature and culture exist in binary opposition and that DNA is a part of nature; second, that cultures form distinct and bounded identities. The nature–culture binary, which underpins much aDNA research, not only is a misunderstanding of our world but also results in placing archaeology and material culture in a secondary and subservient position to science and aDNA. Viewing cultures as distinct and bounded creates exclusionary, simplistic and singular identities for past populations. This stands in contrast to the work of social scientists, which has revealed identity to be complex, multiple, changing and contradictory. We offer a new way forward drawing upon assemblage thinking and post-humanism. This allows us to consider the messy and complex nature of our world and of human identities, and demands that we expect equally messy and complex results to emerge when we bring aDNA into conversation with other forms of archaeological evidence.
The lead cross supposedly found in the grave of King Arthur at Glastonbury Abbey is an icon of Arthurian studies (Figure 1). Its likeness, first published in William Camden's Britannia in 1607, reappeared in all subsequent editions of that widely read and influential survey, in derivative works including John Speed's History of Great Britaine (1611) and Jan Jansson's Novus Atlas (1646), in manuscripts such as Thomas Dineley's report of the 1684 progress of the Duke of Beaufort through Wales, and in countless publications, scholarly and popular, since. Only a minority of commentators would now champion the cross as a genuine relic of the historical Arthur, but even as a pious – or not so pious – medieval fake it may still have much to tell us about his cult. However, although it has been the subject of considerable speculation and debate, few firm conclusions have been drawn, and pertinent points have sometimes been buried within broader considerations of Arthurianism or Glastonbury. Moreover, in the absence of either the artefact itself or any alternative graphic source, the accuracy and authority of Camden's woodcut have been subject to relatively little critical scrutiny.
The present investigation sets out to reassess what we know and do not know about the object, its ‘discovery’, its purpose and its fate, to consider more closely the status of the woodcut and to take account of an important new piece of evidence, a hitherto overlooked variant drawing. It argues that both woodcut and drawing were based (not entirely reliably) on a sketch made by John Leland in the 1530s, now lost; and lends some support to the view that the cross itself was a monastic forgery of the late twelfth century. It also raises the possibility, however, that there was more than one cross, and that the item recorded by Leland and Camden may have been a late medieval replacement for the ‘original’.
The lead cross lay at the heart of what James Carley has highlighted as ‘perhaps the single most important event’ in Glastonbury's history: the recovery by the monks of Arthur's remains from their burial place next to the abbey church.
Assaf Nativ has written an interesting and, I think, important paper. It raises critical issues around the ontological status of ‘the archaeological’ and indeed about the purpose and aims of archaeology as a discipline. These are clearly topics that require consideration and critical analysis. His arguments are provocative, in the best sense, in that they will lead us to reflect on some of the basic foundations of what we believe archaeology to be. Such consideration is certainly necessary to disciplinary health. That said, and after some hefty reflection of my own, I have concluded that I disagree with much of the paper's argument. In the space afforded to me I aim to set out why.
It is notable how little gender archaeology has been written for the European Neolithic, in contrast to the following Bronze Age. We cannot blame this absence on a lack of empirical data or on archaeologists’ theoretical naïveté. Instead, we argue that this absence reflects the fact that gender in this period was qualitatively different in form from the types of gender that emerged in Europe from about 3000 cal BC onwards; the latter still form the norm in European and American contexts today, and our standard theories and methodologies are designed to uncover this specific form of gender. In Bronze Age gender systems, gender was mostly binary, associated with stable, lifelong identities expressed in recurrent complexes of gendered symbolism. In contrast, Neolithic gender appears to have been less firmly associated with personal identity and more contextually relevant; it slips easily through our methodological nets. In proposing this “contextual gender” model for Neolithic gender, we both open up new understandings of gender in the past and present and pose significant questions for our models of gender more widely.
A rare, intact Viking boat burial in western Scotland contained a rich assemblage of grave goods, providing clues to the identity and origins of both the interred individual and the people who gathered to create the site. The burial evokes the mundane and the exotic, past and present, as well as local, national and international identities. Isotopic analysis of the teeth hints at a possible Scandinavian origin for the deceased, while Scottish, Irish and Scandinavian connections are attested by the grave goods. Weapons indicate a warrior of high status; other objects imply connections to daily life, cooking and work, farming and food production. The burial site is itself rich in symbolic associations, being close to a Neolithic burial cairn, the stones of which may have been incorporated into the grave.
The growing interest in assemblages has already opened up a number of important lines of enquiry in archaeology, from the morphogenetic capacities of matter through to a rethinking of the concept of community. In this paper I want to explore how assemblages allow us to reconceptualize the critical issue of scale. Archaeologists have vacillated between expending energy on the ‘great processes’ of change like the evolution of humanity, the colonization of the globe or the origins of agriculture, and focusing on the momentary, fleeting nature of a small-scale ethnographic present. Where archaeologists have attempted to integrate different scales the result has usually been to turn to Annales-influenced or time perspectivism-driven approaches and their fixed, linear and ontologically incompatible layers of history. In contrast, I will use assemblages to examine how we can rethink both the emergence of multiple scales and their role in history, without reducing the differences of the small-scale to an epiphenomenal outcome of larger events, or treating large-scale historical processes as mere reifications of the ‘real’ on-the-ground stuff of daily life. As we will see, this approach also has consequences for the particular kind of reality we accord to large-scale archaeological categories.