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This paper discusses the evidence for periodic human activity in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland from the late 9th millennium to the early 4th millennium cal bc. While contemporary paradigms for Mesolithic Europe acknowledge the significance of upland environments, the archaeological record for these areas is not yet as robust as that for the lowland zone. Results of excavation at Chest of Dee, along the headwaters of the River Dee, are set into a wider context with previously published excavations in the area. A variety of site types evidences a sophisticated relationship between people and a dynamic landscape through a period of changing climate. Archaeological benefits of the project include the ability to examine novel aspects of the archaeology leading to a more comprehensive understanding of Mesolithic lifeways. It also offers important lessons in site survival, archaeological investigation, and the management of the upland zone.
Excavations in marginal areas of the loess uplands in southern Poland have revealed that the northern periphery of the Sandomierz Upland was intensely colonised in the sixth and fifth millennia BC by Linearbandkeramik and Malice Culture Danubian communities. This research suggests that analogous settlement clusters may exist in other marginal regions of the Central European loess belt, previously thought to be uninhabited.
Globally, rock art is one of the most widely distributed manifestations of past human activity. Previous research, however, has tended to focus on the art rather than artists. Understanding which members of society participated in creating such art is crucial to interpreting its social implications and that of the sites at which it is found. This article presents the first application of a method—palaeodermatoglyphics—for the estimation of the sex and age of two later prehistoric individuals who left their fingerprints at the Los Machos rockshelter in southern Iberia. The method has the potential to illuminate the complex socio-cultural dimensions of rock art sites worldwide.
This paper reviews the Society of Antiquaries’ Evolution of the Landscape project, which started in 1974, and the project’s Sarsen Stones in Wessex survey. The survey was an ambitious public archaeology undertaking, involving c 100 volunteers led by Fellows of the Society during the 1970s. Its aims, objectives and outcomes are described in this article. The survey’s unique dataset, produced for the counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset, has now been digitised. Drawing on the dataset, the paper situates the Evolution of the Landscape project in the context of later twentieth-century British archaeology. It demonstrates the importance not only of individual Fellows, but also contemporary movements in academic and development-led archaeology, to the direction of the Society’s activities in this formative period for the discipline today, and shows how the Society’s research was engaged with some of archaeology’s most pressing cultural resource management issues.
The Khao Wong Prachan Valley of central Thailand is one of four known prehistoric loci of copper mining, smelting and casting in Southeast Asia. Many radiocarbon determinations from bronze-consumption sites in north-east Thailand date the earliest copper-base metallurgy there in the late second millennium BC. By applying kernel density estimation analysis to approximately 100 new AMS radiocarbon dates, the authors conclude that the valley's first Neolithic millet farmers had settled there by c. 2000 BC, and initial copper mining and rudimentary smelting began in the late second millennium BC. This overlaps with the established dates for Southeast Asian metal-consumption sites, and provides an important new insight into the development of metallurgy in central Thailand and beyond.
Animal domestication represents one of the most important advances in human history. Pigs (Sus scrofa) were domesticated multiple times in prehistory and are therefore ideal for examining how geography and culture shape the domestication process. The authors integrate zooarchaeological and isotopic data from Neolithic (c. 10 000–2000 BP) pigs from central China and the Lower Yangtze Valley to demonstrate two dominant domestication trajectories. In central China, pig husbandry intensified following domestication, corresponding with population growth and a shift in socio-economic organisation. In the Lower Yangtze Valley, however, increasing urbanism was associated with a preference for wild resources supplemented by the limited exploitation of domestic pigs.
A combined archaeobotanical and micro-refuse analysis is being implemented at two Early Neolithic tells currently under excavation in the Pelagonia Valley: Vrbjanska Čuka and Veluška Tumba. The first results suggest similarities with Greek sites that show a relatively broad crop spectrum.
Understanding socioeconomic inequality is fundamental for studies of societal development in European prehistory. This article presents dietary (δ13C and δ15N) isotope values for human and animal bone collagen from Early Neolithic Osłonki 1 in north-central Poland (c. 4600–4100 cal BC). A new series of AMS radiocarbon determinations show that, of individuals interred at the same time, those with copper artefacts exhibit significantly higher δ13C values than those without. The authors’ results suggest a link between high-status goods and intra-community differences in diet and/or preferential access to the agropastoral landscape.
Gosan-ri-type pottery (GTP) is a unique plant-fiber-tempered pottery from Korea and has only been found in Early Neolithic sites on Jeju Island. In this study, we conducted radiocarbon (14C) dating for one GTP sample and 10 charcoal samples collected from archaeological structures in which GTP was found in 2012. The measurement conditions, the internal quality assurance test, and the reliability test indicate that each 14C date is very reliable. However, the 14C dates of the charcoal samples were more accurate than that of the GTP sample due to contamination from younger humic acids. From the summary of all 14C dates of charcoal samples using the KDE model, we finally conclude that GTP was manufactured and utilized throughout the period 9610–9490 cal BP (7670–7550 BC) with 95.4% confidence level. This age corroborates the inference that GTP is the oldest known Korean Neolithic pottery.
During the Early Neolithic in the Near East, particularly from the mid ninth millennium cal BC onwards, human iconography became more widespread. Explanations for this development, however, remain elusive. This article presents a unique assemblage of flint artefacts from the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (eighth millennium BC) site of Kharaysin in Jordan. Contextual, morphological, statistical and use-wear analyses of these artefacts suggest that they are not tools but rather human figurines. Their close association with burial contexts suggests that they were manufactured and discarded during mortuary rituals and remembrance ceremonies that included the extraction, manipulation and redeposition of human remains.
The Neolithic to Bronze Age transition (c. 5000–3500 BP) saw dramatic socio-economic developments in ancient China. Complex polities emerged in many regions, only to decline and collapse by the end of the period. In the Central Plains area, however, these centuries laid the foundations for China's first dynasties. This article presents zooarchaeological, palaeobotanical and isotopic research from key sites of the Central Plains spanning the period c. 5000–3500 BP. The results demonstrate that, contrary to narratives of the climate-induced collapse of these polities, Central Plains agricultural regimes intensified and diversified during the Neolithic to Bronze Age transition.
This paper discusses whether a consideration of the capacity of rocks to affect humans in terms of their charisma or object-agency can aid in understanding identified variation in patterns of lithic procurement, distribution, and use. Lithic assemblages at sites dating to both the Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic in two separate areas of the central mountain plateau in southern Norway demonstrate use of locally available rock. Their use contrasts with that of flint which could only be sourced at the coast. While the use of flint in regions with a restricted range of available and suitable rock types is understandable, the presence of flint in regions rich in flint alternatives is more puzzling. In order to understand the choices and actions of prehistoric communities we must consider other factors, such as a sensorial exploration of the ability of raw materials to affect humans, together with the diverging ontological perspectives that shape human–material relations and the social situations of practice. This paper argues that, in addition to their straightforward utility, lithic raw materials had socially situated object-agency and inherent characteristics of charisma and that these exerted powerful influences on human choice, perception, and preference.
Prehistoric stone structures are prominent and well-studied in the Levantine desert margins. In northern Arabia, however, such structures have received less attention. This article presents the results of investigations of a 35m-long stone platform, first constructed in the mid sixth millennium BC, overlooking the oasis of Dûmat al-Jandal in northern Saudi Arabia. Excavation of the platform has yielded bioarchaeological and cultural remains, along with evidence for several phases of construction and intermittent use down to the first millennium BC. Analysis of the platform and nearby tombs highlights the persistent funerary and ritual use of this area over millennia, illuminating nomadic pastoralist lifeways in prehistoric Arabia.
The hyperarid climate of the central Sahara precludes permanent agriculture, although occasional temporary ponds, or etaghas, as a result of rain-fed flooding of wadi beds in the Tadrart Acacus Mountains of the Libyan Sahara allow the pastoral Kel Tadrart Tuareg to cultivate cereals. Geoarchaeological and archaeological data, along with radiocarbon dating and evidence from rock art, however, suggest a much greater antiquity for the exploitation of these etaghas. The authors propose that the present-day cultivation of etaghas mirrors attempts at flood-recession or rain-fed cultivation by late prehistoric Pastoral Neolithic groups, who first exploited residual water resources to supplement their pastoral subsistence practices.
In the nineteenth century, two Neolithic axe-heads were reported from the Michelsberg enclosure system at Kapellenberg. The recent identification of an unusually large tumulus, from which the axe-heads were almost certainly once recovered, reveals that socio-political hierarchisation, linked to the emergence of high-ranking elites in Brittany and the Paris Basin during the fifth millennium cal BC, may have extended into Central Europe.
In this article we present the fragments of a crucible and a possible tuyère that provide evidence of early copper metallurgy in Scandinavia at least 1500 years earlier than previously thought. The technical ceramics were found in a cultural layer containing Early Neolithic Funnel Beaker pottery dating to around 3800–3500 bc beneath a long barrow dating to 3300–3100 bc. The presence of a copper alloy in the crucible is confirmed by three independent X-ray fluorescence analyses using both a hand-held and a stationary instrument, SEM-EDS analysis of a cross-section, as well as a Bruker Tornado μ-X-Ray-fluorescence scanner (μ-XRF). The transmission of metallurgy to southern Scandinavia coincided with the introduction of long barrows, causewayed enclosures, two-aisled houses, and certain types of artefacts. Thus, metallurgy seems to be part of the new networks that enabled the establishment of a fully Neolithic society.
Isotope ratios of tooth enamel from ten Early Neolithic individuals buried in a long cairn at Whitwell in central England were measured to determine where they sourced their childhood diet. Five individuals have low Sr concentrations (11–66 ppm) and high 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.7164–0.7212). Three individuals have relatively low 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.712–0.711) and Sr concentrations ranging between 54 and 109 ppm. Two individuals have strontium isotope values that bridge the gap between the isotope compositions of these two groups. The high 87Sr/86Sr values are rare in human enamel and exclude sources within the biosphere of central England. Oxygen isotope values are comparable to those found within human archaeological populations buried in temperate regions of Europe. The strontium isotope results should be interpreted in the context of other evidence for migration from northern France to Britain during the Early Neolithic.
In order to assess late prehistoric human responses to climate change in the Western Loess Plateau (WLP), we investigated 13,567 charred plant seeds and 19 radiocarbon (14C) dates obtained from 41 late prehistoric sites in the upper Wei River valley. Based on these new dating results as well as their cultural attributes, these sites could be confidently divided into four chronological phases (Phase 1: Late Yangshao and Majiayao culture; Phase 2: Qijia culture; Phases 3 and 4: Siwa culture) but a significant gap was identified at ca. 3600–3000 cal yr BP in this region. Comparison of this interval to high-resolution paleoclimate records from Tianchi Lake suggests it could be attributed to the dramatic drop in temperature at this time. Accordingly, archaeobotanical evidence with a refined chronology shows the adoption of cold-tolerant subsistence cereal grains such as barley on the NETP (Northeast Tibetan Plateau). Drawing from various lines of knowledge (chronology, palaeoclimate, archaeobotany, and archaeology), it is reasonable to conclude that, even when confronting a similar magnitude of climate change, local human societies could vary tremendously. Different subsistence strategies were brought in by the trans-Eurasia culture exchange of prehistoric times.
The evolution of storage features in prehistory has been linked to larger socio-economic and demographic changes. The investigation of such an evolution in the archaeological record, however, is restricted in scope, both geographically and chronologically. This article offers a comparative approach to understanding the development of Neolithic to Late Iron Age (c. 5600–50 BC) farming communities in north-eastern Iberia, based on diachronic changes in the volume and shape of underground storage silos. Results indicate that variations in silo capacity and morphology correlate with archaeological evidence for long-term socio-economic changes within these prehistoric and protohistoric farming communities.
Archaeological research has documented the migration of Neolithic farmers onto the Tibetan Plateau by 4000 BC. How these incoming groups interacted, if at all, with local indigenous foragers, however, remains unclear. New archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data from the Zongri site in the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau suggest that local foragers continued to hunt but supplemented their diet with agricultural products in the form of millet. The authors propose that, rather than being grown locally, this millet was acquired via exchange with farmers. This article highlights how indigenous foragers engaged in complex patterns of material and cultural exchange through encounters with newly arrived farmers.