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In this article we put forward an alternative account of the famous wristguards, or bracers, of the European Early Bronze Age. Combining new materialism with empirical microwear analysis, we study 15 examples from Britain in detail and suggest a different way of conceptualizing these objects. Rather than demanding they have a singular function, we treat these objects as ‘multiplicities’ and as always in process. This, in turn, has significant implications for the important archaeological concepts of typology and object biography and our understandings of material culture more widely.
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.
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.
This paper explores the potential of posthumanist feminism in archaeology. We find ourselves exhausted in the face of the continuing inequalities in our discipline and the volatile political times we live in, where discrimination and xenophobia, entangled with the patriarchy, create a toxic mix. In the face of this, we draw inspiration from ongoing activism within archaeology and the emergence of posthumanist feminism beyond archaeology. We consider the juxtaposition between activism in the discipline and the lack of engagement with the same issues in our theory. Posthumanist feminism is explored as a way to unite theory and activism. It connects to and builds on existing feminisms but is argued to differ in three ways: first, posthumanist feminism widens the scope of those for whom we should be working to achieve equality; second, it suggests radical shifts in our ontology are necessary to bring about equality; third, it develops an alternative approach to difference. We explore the potential for posthumanist feminism to reshape narratives about the past, the way we do archaeology, and archaeological activism. In each, the aim is to turn away from the majoritarian subject and to make space for multiple alternative voices to emerge and thrive in archaeology.
While the Early Neolithic chambered tombs of the Isle of Man are well known and the Late Neolithic has been clearly defined with reference to a distinctive suite of artefacts, little is known about the Middle Neolithic. This article reports on 17 new Neolithic radiocarbon dates from cremated human remains from the Isle of Man. These identify five burials in cists as Middle Neolithic and indicate new sequences of activity at cemeteries starting in the Middle Neolithic. Each of these sites is examined in detail. The dates also spur a reconsideration of the development of Ronaldsway pottery and the integration of Grooved Ware pottery and motifs into early 3rd millennium practice on the island. The paper ends with a consideration of the changing effects of mortuary practices throughout the Neolithic on the Isle of Man and a discussion of connections with Middle and Late Neolithic activity in Ireland and Britain.
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,
Recent analysis of Early Bronze Age human remains from Staarvey Farm on the Isle of Man has revealed a rare bone knife pommel and 20 other bone objects, offering insight into the importance of bone ornaments and artefact fittings at this time. This article adopts a relational typological approach to analyse the Staarvey burial and comparable assemblages, identifying patterns in the deposition of knife pommels in central and southern Britain. In exploring regional interaction in Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland, the authors refine and move beyond traditional typologies to trace types of both objects and practice. This approach allows them to consider multiple, overlapping spheres of funerary practice and their relation to identities at different regional scales.
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.
THIS PAPER DISCUSSES SOME preliminary results of the ongoing “Bronze Age Combat” project, which aims to reconstruct the fighting styles used in Late Bronze Age Europe (c.1200–800 B.C.) by linking the impact marks visible on archaeological swords, spears and shields to specific combat actions including strikes, blocks, stabs and throws. The research problem is being investigated through an innovative combination of experiments with replica weapons and wear analysis of archaeological weapons. The paper focuses on our sword research, paying special attention to field test methodology, the classification of combat marks generated during our experiments, and the wear analysis of a sample of archaeological swords from the Great North Museum: Hancock (Newcastle) and the Yorkshire Museum (York). The experimental and archaeological marks are then compared and contrasted with each other. This enables us to put forward original observations regarding swordsmanship and fighting practices in Late Bronze Age Europe.
For a long time, ideas of Bronze Age swordsmanship have been dominated by a number of misconceptions generated by a combination of early experiments with replica weapons and a simplistic use of morphological analogy. This state of affairs finds its raison d’etre in the history of twentieth-century archaeology, which focused on typology as the chief means for assessing the functionality of early metal objects. Moreover, prevailing ideas of prehistoric Europe as a fundamentally pacified world hindered research into ancient violence and warfare, particularly in the wake of World War II.
Academic interest in the practical uses of Bronze Age swords has arisen again in the last twenty years. Two principal strands can be isolated within this research tradition. The first championed the examination of combat-related edge damage on archaeological objects. The second focused instead on experimentation with replica weapons as a method to study ancient swordsmanship as a body-centred practice, which could be accessed through experiential learning and object engagement. Both approaches have had a fundamental role in overturning previous assumptions regarding the uses of Bronze Age weaponry, despite them proving slow to trickle down into mainstream archaeological literature.
Neither approach, however, is devoid of problems. On the one hand, examinations of combat marks have not been accompanied by targeted experiments to replicate them.
In this paper the notion of assemblage, as derived from the work of Gilles Deleuze, is explored in order to consider change in prehistory. An assemblage-based approach that draws on the concept of ‘vibrant matter’ is implemented as the means of understanding change. In this approach all materials are viewed as vibrant and in flux. These ideas are used to create a heterogeneous view of change where assemblages, or parts of assemblages, may change at varying speeds and rhythms and at many different scales. These ideas are explored through the case study of changing burial practices between 3000 and 1500 cal bc on the Isle of Man. I suggest that this kind of thinking allows us to study change differently, and explore the advantages of this approach for archaeology.
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