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Lake settlements, particularly crannogs, pose several contradictions—visible yet inaccessible, widespread yet geographically restricted, persistent yet vulnerable. To further our understanding, we developed the integrated use of palaeolimnological (scanning XRF, pollen, spores, diatoms, chironomids, Cladocera, microcharcoal, biogenic silica, SEM-EDS, stable-isotopes) and biomolecular (faecal stanols, bile acids, sedaDNA) analyses of crannog cores in south-west Scotland and Ireland. Both can be effective methods sets for revealing occupation chronologies and identifying on-crannog activities and practices. Strong results from sedaDNA and lipid biomarker analyses demonstrate probable on-site animal slaughter, food storage and possible feasting, suggesting multi-period, elite site associations, and the storage and protection of valuable resources.
A terrestrial (lacustrine and fluvial) palaeoclimate record from Hoxne (Suffolk, UK) shows two temperate phases separated by a cold episode, correlated with MIS 11 subdivisions corresponding to isotopic events 11.3 (Hoxnian interglacial period), 11.24 (Stratum C cold interval), and 11.23 (warm interval with evidence of human presence). A robust, reproducible multiproxy consensus approach validates and combines quantitative palaeotemperature reconstructions from three invertebrate groups (beetles, chironomids, and ostracods) and plant indicator taxa with qualitative implications of molluscs and small vertebrates. Compared with the present, interglacial mean monthly air temperatures were similar or up to 4.0°C higher in summer, but similar or as much as 3.0°C lower in winter; the Stratum C cold interval, following prolonged nondeposition or erosion of the lake bed, experienced summers 2.5°C cooler and winters between 5°C and 10°C cooler than at present. Possible reworking of fossils into Stratum C from underlying interglacial assemblages is taken into account. Oxygen and carbon isotopes from ostracod shells indicate evaporatively enriched lake water during Stratum C deposition. Comparative evaluation shows that proxy-based palaeoclimate reconstruction methods are best tested against each other and, if validated, can be used to generate more refined and robust results through multiproxy consensus.
Baltinglass is a multi-chamber Neolithic passage tomb in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, excavated in the 1930s. This paper presents the results of a radiocarbon dating programme on charred wheat grains and hazelnut shell found underlying the cairn, and on cremated human bone found within and near two of the monument’s five chambers. The results are surprising, in that three of the six determinations on calcined bone pre-date by one or two centuries the charred cereals and hazelnut shells sealed under the cairn, dating to c. 3600–3400 cal bc. Of the remaining three bone results, one is coeval with the charred plant remains, while the final two can be placed in the period 3300/3200–2900 cal bc, that is more traditionally associated with developed passage tombs. A suggested sequence of construction is presented beginning with a simple tomb lacking a cairn, followed by a burning event – perhaps a ritual preparation of the ground – involving the deposition of cereal grains and other materials, very rapidly and intentionally sealed under a layer of clay, in turn followed by at least two phases involving the construction of more substantial chambers and associated cairns. What was already a complex funerary monument has proven to be even more complex, with a history spanning at least six centuries.
Ireland has often been seen as marginal in the spread of the Neolithic and of early farming throughout Europe, in part due to the paucity of available data. By integrating and analysing a wealth of evidence from unpublished reports, a much more detailed picture of early arable agriculture has emerged. The improved chronological resolution reveals changing patterns in the exploitation of different plant species during the course of the Neolithic that belie simplistic notions of a steady intensification in farming, juxtaposed with a concomitant decline in foraging. It is possible that here, as in other areas of Europe, cereal cultivation became less important in the later Neolithic.
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