Archaeology of Social Dynamics Unit (

About the lab

We study the social relations of the past human communities from an archaeological perspective. These relationships affect both intra-community (relationships between individuals) and inter-community behaviour (relationships between different communities). In all cases the synchronic variability of these relations as well as their diachronic dynamics are emphasized. This way, our attention is especially focused on the dynamics of social change, that is, on the transitions that took place throughout Prehistory and pre-medieval periods. In particular, we investigate the human-environment interactions, mobility and land-use, technical innovations, origins of agriculture, as well as changes in livestock practices and the integration of these processes in the set of socioeconomic dynamics.

Featured projects (11)

The main goal of the LITOcat project is to induce a research platform focused on the availability of siliceous rocks during Prehistory. With this aim in view, one of the first steps has been to create a reference collection regarding the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula.
Au cours de ces 20 dernières années, le développement des recherches archéologiques sur les dynamique des systèmes pastoraux d'altitude a engendré, tout au long du massif pyrénéen, la constitution d'une dizaine de zones ateliers interdisciplinaires, conçues comme autant de laboratoires d'étude des interactions entre les sociétés, leur espace et leur environnement, dans la longue durée. La quantité de données amassées (plus de 500 nouveaux sites) permet aujourd'hui de dépasser le cadre des monographies, pour se lancer dans une véritable approche comparée des trajectoires de ces territoires d'altitude. Ce projet, qui se fonde sur la modélisation et la création d'un Système d’Information Géographique, nécessite un important travail d'élaboration, technique et théorique, tant en termes de construction de la géodatabase que de formalisation des processus à étudier. Dans cette perspective, le réseau se fixe comme objectifs : 1. de construire et tester un SIG partagé sur un échantillon du corpus ; 2. d'élaborer les outils et les questions structurant la comparaison.
This research project focuses on one of the main turning points of human history: the diffusion of Neolithic. The adoption of agriculture and pastoralism had, indeed, led to great changes in the environmental sphere, in the social and economic organization of human communities and in their symbolic and cultural manifestations as well. Even if it is well established that the Near East was the first focus of the invention of farming, around X-IX milenium BC, the mechanisms and the paths of its spreading in the rest of the Mediterranean are yet to be unfolded. Current data suggest that it has been a relatively fast process, as between the 8500 and the 5200 BC the first domestic crops and animals appeared, in greater or less quantity, with more or less intensity, on a vast territory, from Turkey to Portugal. During the last decades, the origin of European Neolithic has been explicated as result of a diffusion process through two main axes: a Northern one, crossing central Europe, and a Southern one along the Mediterranean coasts. Such models have been built by comparing radiocarbon datasets and material remains, especially decorated pottery assemblages. More recently genetic analysis and agent-based models have been used as well. Despite that, the 14C database on which the model relies is incomplete and a critical review of the datings is required; in addition, poterry characteristics are very dynamic elements, so they can change considerably in a short lapse of time and over short geographical distances. These factors produced highly fragmented territories, characterized by with several different cultural groups, thus, making difficult the recognition of paths of diffusion. The current project is aimed to analyse the process of Neolithic diffusion through the Central-Western Mediterranean through three main proxies: 1) the analysis of the techniques and tools associated with the crop-harvesting and -processing tools. Those tools, emblematic of the Neolithic communities, are transmitted generationally with little changes; 2) the analysis of those tools has to be supported by an extensive program of radiocarbon dating, in which the following parameters has to be taken into account: type fo sample, sample provenance, C/N values, etc. Only a careful monitoring of the chronological framework will make it possible to test the research hypotheses; 3) a cross-analysis of the crop-harvesting/14C with the information proceeding from the environmental/ecological, the technological and the cereals consumed. Some preliminary results we have been obtanied from the analysis of sites form Spain, Portugal and Southern France, it has been possible to highlight two different paths of diffusion of the Mediterranean Neolithic: one along the coasts and one other possibly crossing the Balkans and Northern Italy (Ibáñez et al. 2008; Gibaja et al. 2014). Despite that, to prove and deepen our knowledge of such topic, this research focus should be extended to other areas of the Central Mediterranean and North Africa.
Human survival and success are substantially determined by the ability to move across the landscape and adapt. Consequently, ‘mobility’ is a crucial topic in historical and archaeological research. To overcome the seasonal scarcity of food and the related over-grazing of pastures, it is essential for animal husbandry to move across territories. However, the decision to allow or deny rights of way to mobile people and livestock depends on political judgements. How might these shape animal husbandry production, and society? The period between the Late Bronze Age and the Late Antiquity in the Western Mediterranean witnessed the development of complex societies with a high territorial component, the Roman conquest, and the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Animal husbandry reflects human decisions regarding the management of resources, and the study of livestock rearing in specific geographical locations is possible through the isotopic analysis of ancient animal teeth. Consequently, we can analyse whether the nucleation of power occurring during the Bronze and Iron Ages, the centralization in Roman times and the later re-fragmentation in Late Antiquity transformed animal husbandry production. Crucially, we can then understand how political systems and decisions shaped human mobility through investigating animal production. ZooMWest brings together isotopic chemistry, ancient DNA, zooarchaeology and geospatial analysis through four related work packages. Other than elucidating long term debates in archaeology –did transhumance exist in prehistoric Europe?–, this multidisciplinary and innovative project will create an open-access database of strontium and oxygen stable isotopes of the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. This database will enable us to refine geographic provenance to any discipline assessing the origin of matter, including geology, forensic studies, and the alimentary industry, as strontium and oxygen are present in many molecules, including organic tissues.
Researching violent social relationships in hunter-gatherer societies. In particular, the study of structural violence against women and its relation to sexual relationships and the regulation of reproduction.

Featured research (157)

The development of the economic activities inherent to the establishment of Neolithic farming activities entails an increasing technical specialization. This is often visible through the exploitation of specific resources, the development of suitable techniques for the manufacture of consumption goods as well as new ways of using and consuming them. We briefly present the main features of the technical productions carried out by the first Neolithic populations in the northeast of Iberia, trying to characterize the technical knowledge spent on all of them and making their signs of specialization clear.
Sixty-two 14 C dates are analyzed in combination with a recently established local floating tree-ring sequence for the Early Neolithic site of La Draga (Banyoles, northeast Iberian Peninsula). Archaeological data, radiometric and dendrochronological dates, as well as sedimentary and micro-stratigraphical information are used to build a Bayesian chronological model, using the ChronoModel 2.0 and OxCal 4.4 computer programs, and IntCal 2020 calibration curve. The dendrochronological sequence is analyzed, and partially fixed to the calendrical scale using a wiggle-matching approach. Depositional events and the general stratigraphic sequence are expressed in expanded Harris Matrix diagrams and ordered in a temporal sequence using Allen Algebra. Post-depositional processes affecting the stratigraphic sequence are related both to the phreatic water level and the contemporaneous lakeshore. The most probable chronological model suggests two main Neolithic occupations, that can be divided into no less than three different "phases," including the construction, use and repair of the foundational wooden platforms, as well as evidence for later constructions after the reorganization of the ground surface using travertine slabs. The chronological model is discussed considering both the modern debate on the Climatic oscillations during the period 8000-4800 cal BC, and the origins of the Early Neolithic in the western Mediterranean region.
The introduction and spread of the Neolithic “way of life” in Europe was a process that took several millennia, followed by different rhythms and displayed singularities in each geographic area. It was therefore a very complex phenomenon that, despite highly significant advances in research in recent decades, is yet to be fully understood. To deepen our understanding of the very early stages of the introduction of herding and agriculture throughout the Old Continent, the 1st Conference on the Early Neolithic of Europe was organised in Barcelona on 6–8 November 2019. The conference was a great success with more than 200 participants, creating a stimulating arena to discuss and debate, exclusively, the transition to the Neolithic in Europe. This special issue brings together 52 of the contributions presented in Barcelona, offering an interesting overview of the current state of research across Europe, from the Anatolia to the Algarve, highlighting the geographical, chronological and socioeconomic diversity of the transformation processes involved in the Neolithisation of Europe and providing useful starting points for future research.

Lab head

Xavier Terradas
  • Archaeology of Social Dynamics Unit. CSIC-IMF, Barcelona
About Xavier Terradas
  • My research focuses on the study of socioeconomic strategies carried out by the last hunter-gatherer groups and the first Neolithic peasant communities, as well as their dynamics of change, mainly in the western Mediterranean basin. I aim at investigating the study of technological innovations and technical skills in Prehistory, especially those related to raw materials sourcing, quarrying activities and the production of stone tools.

Members (15)

Juan José Ibáñez
  • Spanish National Research Council
Ignacio Clemente-Conte
  • Spanish National Research Council
Assumpció Vila
  • Spanish National Research Council
Ferran Borrell
  • Spanish National Research Council
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
  • Spanish National Research Council
Marta Portillo
  • Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) Institució Milà i Fontanals
Fiona Pichon
  • CSIC- Institució Milà i Fontanals (Barcelona)

Alumni (19)

Eneko Iriarte
  • Universidad de Burgos
Niccolò Mazzucco
  • Università di Pisa
Joao Marreiros
  • Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum - Archaeological research institute
Manuela Pérez
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona