For the last 50 years the site of Star Carr has retained a role of considerable importance within Mesolithic studies. Recent archaeological and palaeoenvironmental survey of the Vale of Pickering (Schadla-Hall 1987; 1988; 1989; Lane & Schadla-Hall forthcoming) permits an understanding of the regional context of Star Carr and indicates the site itself now needs to be re-evaluated. This paper will focus on the lithic evidence recovered during the recent excavations and field survey in order to explore the nature of peoples’ engagement with the landscape of the Vale of Pickering during the Early Mesolithic.
This paper discusses the relationship between the earlier prehistoric pattern of settelement in Atlantic Europe and the creation of rock art. It investigates the organisation of the Copper Age and Early Bronze Age landscape of north-west Spain using the evidence provided by the distribution, siting, and composition of rock carvings. It presents the results of field survey in three sample areas extending form the centre to the outer edge of their distribution. Althougt these drawings cannot be interpreted as illustrations of daily life, they may have helped to define rights to particular resources in an area which experienced abrupt changes of ground conditions over the course of the year.
Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Journal home page http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prehistoric/ This paper aims to offer a new analysis of the social dimensions of seafaring in the second millennium BC and a consideration of the role of seafaring in (re )creating the social order at the time through its economic, socio-political and ritual significance. It revisits the sewn-plank boats from Ferriby, Kilnsea, Dover, Calidcot, Testwood Lakes, Goldcliff and Brigg, and aspects of the way in which seafarers signified themselves and their world through their imagined relationship with the environment are illuminated. The study argues that in the Early Bronze Age, sewn-plank boats were used for directional, long-distance journeys, aimed at the ‘cosmological acquisition’ of exotic goods, and the contexts of these boats link the overseas journeys to the ancestors. In the Middle and Late Bronze Age, sewn-plank boats were used for down-the-line exchange, and fragments of sewn-plank boats were included in structured deposits, within or near river crossings, reflecting the idioms of transformation and regeneration which are well established for this period. Through the reconstruction of the boats’ crews, it is suggested that the development of a retinue was a prerequisite for the successful completion of the long-distance journeys, and the social identities that were cultivated during these voyages are recognised as a potentially important element in the rise of elite groups in the Early Bronze Age.
The Inland Niger Delta in Mali is scattered with thousands of tell-like dwelling mounds that testify to the rich archaeological heritage of this attractive occupation area. Little is known about the structure and evolution of this considerable settlement system. The general aim of the present research was to obtain a better understanding of the history of occupation of this region. The aim of the regional survey in the southern part of the Niger alluvial plain was to obtain an understanding of intersite relations based on the sites’ chronological, functional, socioeconomic and hierarchical differentiation and their participation in different trade networks. The main foci of attention in the Dia excavation were the sites’ roles in the earliest colonisation of the southern Inland Niger Delta, the transition from the Late Stone Age to the Early Iron Age, the introduction of crop cultivation and pastoralism and the early urban development of the site and the region. The two datasets showed two different perspectives: the regional orientation of a survey and the site-specific depth of an excavation. Another interesting aspect of this approach is that it enabled comparison of finds recovered in an urban context with the results of a geographical survey of the rural hinterland.
Detailed regional studies of dated alluvial formations in Greece confirm the Vita-Finzi alluviation cycle and favour climatic causation. A review of recent work in this field reveals substantial, if unexpected, support for the cycle, and archaeologists and geographers are urged to recognise its validity and concentrate on its very significant effects.
The well-known Palaeolithic site at Cuxton, Kent is situated on a remnant of Pleistocene terrace deposits of the Medway that have been known as a source of Palaeolithic artefacts since at least 1889, and have been the subject of two controlled excavations. The excavations produced a total of 878 stratified artefacts, including 206 handaxes, whose character was described by Tester (1965, 38) as being dominated by 'roughly made, pointed hand-axes with thick, crust covered butts', with some ovates and cleavers, and by Roe (1968), who placed the assemblage in his Pointed Tradition, Group I (with cleavers). The character of the Cuxton handaxe assemblage is therefore well established, but recently it has gained new importance in relation to a debate concerning the significance of variation in handaxe form (eg, Ashton & McNabb 1994; White 1998; Wenban-Smith et al., 2000).
This paper re-examines the handaxe assemblage in the light of this debate by testing the raw material model as to how far it explains the fossilised acts and decisions of hominid agents in specific, concrete situations. When the model is applied to Cuxton we find that it contradicts the clearly over-simplified prediction regarding raw material sources, but that they conform to the more important principle that nodule form influenced human technological choices and practices. Ecological variables such as raw materials, while not actually determining human actions, certainly imposed a set of boundaries within which hominids could reasonably act and which left a very real mark on assemblage level variation in the landscape.
This paper examines the spatial distribution of the human bone sample excavated from the Mesolithic shell midden site of Cnoc Coig on Oronsay in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. Although no burials were recovered the information from the apparently isolated bone finds has been significant. Two types of bone group are distinguished, one that resembles the widely reported ‘loose bone’ phenomenon that is widely recognised from European Mesolithic sites. The other, represented by two bone groups at Cnoc Coig, is, at this time, restricted to western Scotland. It is dominated by hand and foot bones and appears to represent purposive behaviour. We concentrate our discussion on the latter phenomenon and place it within discussion of the nature of the later Mesolithic in western Scotland.
Interpersonal violence is a powerful expression of human social interaction. Yet a consideration of violence in the past has done relatively little to inform our discussions of the British Neolithic. Here, we present the results of an examination of some 350 earlier Neolithic crania from mainly southern Britain. Of these, 31 show healed or unhealed injuries suggestive of interpersonal violence. We suggest a conservative estimate of 2% fatal cranial injuries, and 4 or 5% healed injuries. These data are used as a platform to discuss possible contexts for, and consequences of, violence. We argue that, regardless of its actual prevalance, the reality or the threat of interpersonal violence can have an important affect on both the behaviour of individuals and the structure of society.
No The occurrence of human remains in Iron Age domestic contexts in southern England is well-attested and has been the subject of considerable recent debate. Less well known are the human remains from settlement contexts in other parts of Iron Age Britain. In Atlantic Scotland, human bodies and body parts are found consistently, if in small numbers, in Atlantic roundhouses, wheelhouses, and other settlement forms. Yet these have remained unsynthesised and individual assemblages have tended to be interpreted on a site-specific basis, if at all. Examination of the material as a corpus suggests a complex and evolving set of attitudes to the human body, its display, curation, and disposal, and it is improbable that any single interpretation (such as excarnation, retention of war trophies, or display of ancestral relics) will be sufficient. Although the specific practices remain diverse and essentially local, certain concerns appear common to wider areas, and some, for instance the special treatment accorded to the head, have resonances far beyond Iron Age Britain.
This paper presents the results of new research into British Iron Age diet. Specifically, it summarizes the existing evidence and compares this with new evidence obtained from stable isotope analysis. The isotope data come from both humans and animals from ten British middle Iron Age sites, from four locations in East Yorkshire, East Lothian, Hampshire and Cornwall. These represent the only significant data-set of comparative humans (n = 140) and animals (n = 212) for this period currently available for the UK. They are discussed here alongside other evidence for diet during the middle Iron Age in Britain. In particular, the question of whether fish, or other aquatic foods, were a major dietary resource during this period is examined.
The isotopic data suggest similar dietary protein consumption patterns across the groups, both within local populations and between them, although outliers do exist which may indicate mobile individuals moving into the sites. The diet generally includes a high level of animal protein, with little indication of the use of marine resources at any isotopically distinguishable level, even when the sites are located directly on the coast. The nitrogen isotopic values also indicate absolute variation across these locations which is indicative of environmental background differences rather than differential consumption patterns and this is discussed in the context of the difficulty of interpreting isotopic data without a complete understanding of the 'baseline' values for any particular time and place. This reinforces the need for significant numbers of contemporaneous animals to be analysed from the same locations when interpreting human data-sets.
No Following Wheeler's excavations at Maiden Castle, the multivallate hillforts of Wessex came to be seen as responses to a specific form of warfare based around the massed use of slings. As part of the wider post-processual 'rethink' of the British Iron Age during the late 1980s and 1990s, this traditional 'military' interpretation of hillforts was increasingly subject to criticism. Apparent weaknesses in hillfort design were identified and many of the most distinctive features of these sites (depth of enclosure, complexity of entrance arrangements, etc) were reinterpreted as symbols of social isolation. Yet this 'pacification' of hillforts is in many ways as unsatisfactory as the traditional vision. Both camps have tended to view warfare as a detached, functional, and disembedded activity which can be analysed in terms of essentially timeless concepts of military efficiency. Consideration of the use of analogous structures in the ethnographic record suggests that, far from being mutually exclusive, the military and symbolic dimensions are both essential to a more nuanced understanding of the wider social role of hillforts in Britain and beyond.
The ancestry of the long mound has long been a key focus in debates on the origins of monumental and megalithic architectures in western France. Typological schemes and absolute dates have alike been invoked in support of different models of monument development, but with limited success. Recent excavations at Prissé-la-Charrière, a 100-metre long mound in the Poitou-Charentes region, have emphasised the importance of internal structure and the complex process of modification and accretion by which many long mounds achieved their final form and dimensions. Excavations have revealed an early megalithic chamber in a dry-stone rotunda, that was progressively incorporated in a short long mound, then in the 100 m long mound we see today, which contains at least two further chamber tombs. The wide range of monument forms present in western and northern France during the 5th millennium BC suggests that the issue of monument origins must be viewed in a broad inter-regional perspective, within which a number of individual elements could be combined in a variety of different ways. Consideration of seven specific elements, including the shape of the mound, the position and accessibility of the chamber, and the significance of above-ground tomb chambers as opposed to graves or pits leads us to propose a polygenic model for the origins of the long mounds and related monuments of western France.
The Perthshire stone circle of Croft Moraig was excavated 40 years ago and is usually taken to illustrate the classic sequence at such monuments in Britain. A timber setting, accompanied by a shallow ditch, was replaced by two successive stone settings. The pottery associated with the earliest construction was dated to the Neolithic period. A new analysis of the excavated material suggests that, in fact, the ceramics are Middle or Late Bronze Age. They provide a terminus post quem for at least one of the stone settings on the site. Further study of the evidence suggests an alternative sequence of construction at Croft Moraig, involving a change in the axis of the monument. It seems possible that other stone and timber circles were equally late in date and that their period of use in Britain and Ireland may have been longer than is generally supposed.
Levallois knapping debris is present beneath the sides of a disused tramway cutting connected to Lion Pit, West Thurrock, Essex. This occurrence, first recorded during the early 20th century, is in the basal gravel of the Taplow/Mucking Formation, which dates from the end of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 8. The relatively undisturbed nature of this knapping debris is confirmed by the incidence of refitting material, although finer debitage is absent, presumably winnowed out. The Levallois character of the assemblage is demonstrated by the occurrence of characteristic ‘tortoise’ cores and flakes with faceted striking platforms. The artefact-bearing gravel is overlain by >10 m of predominantly fine-grained sediments, including fossiliferous sands and massive clayey silt, as well as laminated silts, clays, and sands of possible estuarine origin. These are attributed to deposition under temperate conditions during MIS 7. To the south, a younger fluvial gravel, attributed to MIS 6, has been incised into the interglacial sequence. The top of the estuarine sequence has been affected by pedogenesis, both before and after its burial by an unbedded solifluction gravel.
In this article the evidence of pig exploitation in the prehistory of the Italian peninsula and Sicily is presented. Though some differences in pig morphology seem to have existed between different parts of the country, a broadly consistent diachronic pattern of change has emerged. In the Mesolithic fairly small wild boars (with bones quite large in relation to the teeth) lived in Italy. For most of the Neolithic pigs of a similar size and shape could be found across the peninsula but signs that a few changes in systems of pig exploitation had started occurring can be found at several sites. This is interpreted as most probably indicating the beginning of a slow and gradual process of domestication of local animals. The hypothesis that early and middle Neolithic pig husbandry relied mainly on imported animals can be fairly confidently refuted. Sometime during the late Neolithic and/or the early Bronze Age, practices of pig husbandry seem to have changed throughout the country, and a much clearer separation appears between the wild and domestic populations. The average size of domestic pigs decreased, probably as a consequence of a closer confinement of domestic herds, but wild boar size seems to have increased, possibly as a consequence of climatic change or of a release in hunting pressure. Recent Italian wild boars (of the traditional Maremman type) are, however, as small as their Mesolithic counterparts, a possible indication that habitat fragmentation caused by human demographic pressure brought about a further change in wild boar size.
In most societies, the presentation of human hair makes statements about projections of self, belonging, and difference. Drawing upon analogies from living traditions where hair makes an important contribution to symbolic grammars of personhood, this paper seeks to explore the evidence for symbolism associated with head and body hair in later European prehistory. This evidence is wide ranging, and includes the (exceptional) survival of hair in the archaeological record, iconography, and the equipment used for the management of hair. Questions are raised as to the manner in which hair may have been employed in visual languages, not only those associated with self-identity, but also in the presentation of ‘others’, whether social outcasts, sacrificial victims, shamed prisoners or special people, such as priests, shamans, or heroes. Issues of relationships between hair and gender are addressed, particularly with reference to iconography. The final part of the paper is concerned with the socio-political connotations associated with personal grooming and, in particular, the significance of adopting new, Roman, ways of managing hair in late Iron Age Britain.
Using the approach of visual culture, which highlights the embeddedness of art in dynamic human processes, this paper examines the prehistoric archaeology of the Lecce province in south-east Italy, in order to provide a history of successive visual cultures in that area, between the Middle Palaeolithic and the Bronze Age. It is argued that art may have helped human groups to deal with problems in subsistence and society, including environmental changes affecting the cultural landscape and its resources, the breaking up of old social relations and the establishment and maintenance of new ones. More specifically, art appears to have become increasingly related to the expression of religious and even mythical beliefs, and in particular to the performance of ceremonies and rituals in selected spaces such as caves. This may reflect the existence of a long-term tradition of performance art in prehistory, involving performers and viewers, in which art helped to structure and heighten the sensual and social impact of the acting human body.
The Lower Palaeolithic site at Elveden, Suffolk, was the subject of new excavations from 1995–1999. Excavations around the edge and in the centre of the former clay-pit revealed sediments infilling a lake basin that had formed in Lowestoft till, overlying Chalk, the till being attributed to the Anglian glaciation (MIS 12). The lake sediments contain pollen that can be assigned to pollen zones HoI and HoIIa of the early Hoxnian (MIS 11). Overlying grey clays contain ostracods, molluscs, vertebrates, and carbonate concretions. Together they are indicative of a fluvial environment in a temperate climate. AAR ratios (amino acid racemisation) on the molluscs also suggest correlation with MIS 11. Further indications of a fluvial context are indicated by thin spreads of lag gravel along opposite sides of the clay-pit, marking the edges of a channel. The gravel forms the raw material for the human industries which consist of handaxes, flake tools, flakes, and cores. Further artefacts are found in the overlying black clay, which is interpreted as a palaeosol that formed with the silting-up of the channel. The basin was further infilled with colluvial ‘brickearths’, which also contain artefacts that are probably derived from the underlying gravel. Further evidence of soil formation was identified in the ‘brickearth’. Coversands with periglacial involutions overlie the ‘brickearth’ at the top of the sequence. These probably formed in the last cold stage, the Devensian.
No Excavation at a cropmark enclosure in the Upper Severn Valley was undertaken to try and obtain material from which to provide relative and absolute dating for the site. Lying within an area rich in Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology and in close proximity to a proven long barrow, the conventional later prehistoric date postulated for the enclosure was questioned. Excavation proved the site to have been a ditched enclosure with internal bank and a possible gate structure. Post-pits ran inside the bank. Finds were few but radiocarbon dates from the floor of the ditch proved the early Neolithic credentials of the monument which seemed to have continued in use for at least some 500 years.
In late February and early March 2002, an archaeological watching brief at Lynford Quarry, Mundford, Norfolk revealed a palaeochannel with a dark organic fill containing in situ mammoth remains and associated Mousterian stone tools and debitage buried under 2–3 m of bedded sands and gravels. Well-preserved in situ Middle Palaeolithic open air sites are very unusal in Europe and exceedingly rare within a British context. As such, the site was identified as being of national and international importance, and was subsequently excavated by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit with funding provided by English Heritage through the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.
This report presents some of the initial results of the excavation. It sets out how the site was excavated, outlines the stratigraphic sequence for the site, and presents some provisional findings of the excavation based on the results of the assessment work carried out by project specialists and Norfolk Archaeological Unit staff.
The Plain of Macedon, North Greece, has seen remarkable changes in its physical geography during the Holocene. The significance of these changes for prehistoric and historic settlement is evaluated, with particular reference to the Neolithic site of Nea Nikomedeia. This reinterpretation contrasts dramatically with previous studies of the Plain's development and with the prehistoric environment postulated by the excavators of Nikomedeia.
For many years the chambered tombs of south-west Scotland were considered important in understanding the origins of monumentality in Britain. In particular scholars focused on the classification of these monuments in order to understand how ideas about the Neolithic may have spread along and across the Irish Sea. However, the classification of these monuments may be rather more problematic than was once imagined. Among other things, the excavation of a number of them has revealed complex and diverse construction sequences. This paper presents the results of an examination of the landscape settings of the chambered tombs in south-west Scotland. It suggests that a landscape approach can assist in our understanding of the classification and use of these monuments. In addition, the setting of sites within the landscape can also inform us about the nature of the Neolithic in this region of Scotland.