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Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe

  • University of Gothenborg

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Significance For thousands of years, prehistoric societies built monumental grave architecture and erected standing stones in the coastal regions of Europe (4500–2500 calibrated years BC). Our understanding of the rise of these megalithic societies is contentious and patchy; the origin for the emergence of megalithic architecture in various regions has been controversial and debated for over 100 y. The result presented here, based on analyses of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chronologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggests maritime mobility and intercultural exchange. We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age.
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Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support
maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe
B. Schulz Paulsson
Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Edited by James F. OConnell, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, and approved January 3, 2019 (received for review August 1, 2018)
There are two competing hypotheses for the origin of megaliths in
Europe. The conventional view from the late 19th and early 20th
centuries was of a single-source diffusion of megaliths in Europe
from the Near East through the Mediterranean and along the
Atlantic coast. Following early radiocarbon dating in the 1970s, an
alternative hypothesis arose of regional independent develop-
ments in Europe. This model has dominated megalith research
until today. We applied a Bayesian statistical approach to 2,410
currently available radiocarbon results from megalithic, partly
premegalithic, and contemporaneous nonmegalithic contexts
in Europe to resolve this long-standing debate. The radiocarbon
results suggest that megalithic graves emerged within a brief time
interval of 200 y to 300 y in the second half of the fifth millennium
calibrated years BC in northwest France, the Mediterranean, and
the Atlantic coast of Iberia. We found decisive support for the
spread of megaliths along the sea route in three main phases.
Thus, a maritime diffusion model is the most likely explanation of
their expansion.
radiocarbon dates
Bayesian analysis
megalithic seafaring
There are 35,000 presently extant European megaliths, a
term which is derived from Greek μέγας (mégas), big,and
λίϑoς(líthos), stone.These include megalithic tombs, standing
stones, stone circles, alignments, and megalithic buildings or
temples. Most of these were constructed during the Neolithic
and the Copper Ages and are located in coastal areas. Their
distribution is along the so-called Atlantic façade, including
Sweden, Denmark, North Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium,
Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, northwest France, northern
Spain, and Portugal, and in the Mediterranean region, including
southern and southeastern Spain, southern France, the Islands
of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta and the Balearics, Apulia,
northern Italy, and Switzerland. Interestingly, they share similar
or even identical architectonic features throughout their distri-
bution. Megalithic graves were built as dolmens and as passage
or gallery graves (Figs. 1 and 2). Thousands of anthropogenic
erected stones either stand isolated in the landscapes or were
arranged as circles or in rows. There is evidence all across
Europe for an orientation of the graves toward the east or
southeast in the direction of the rising Sun. The question
therefore arises whether there was a single, original source from
which a megalithic movement spread over Europe or regional
phenomena developed independently due to a similar set of
conditions. Earlier research provided two very different answers
to the question of origins. During the later 19th and the first two-
thirds of the 20th centuries, archaeologists such as Montelius (1),
Childe (2, 3), and Daniel (4) proposed models of a single origin
of megaliths from which they then expanded by a process of
diffusion. Thus, Montelius (1), in the Ex Oriente Lux Zeitgeist of
the late 19th century, advocated for the Near East as a potential
region of origin. Childe (5), building on Montelius, supported
theideaofadiffusionoforiental cultureby maritime ex-
change. According to Childe (6), the expansion was supported by
a megalithic religion of migrant priestly elites who settled down
long enough among local societies for the new ideas to take root.
He proposed a route from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic
northwest across the Pyrenean isthmus and an onward dissemi-
nation of the megalithic tradition from there to Britain and then
later over the sea route around Spain and Portugal. Later, Childe
(2, 3) expanded his theory about the spreading of a megalithic
religion along the coastlines of western Europe by way of mis-
sionaries or prospectors. With the introduction of radiocarbon
dates and processual approaches, the idea of an independent
emergence of the same kind of stone architecture in several re-
gions arose, because early C14 results did not support the dif-
fusion model. Renfrew (7) was the first to exploit the new
chronological results and proposed five independent nucleus
centers, including Portugal, Andalusia, Brittany, southwest
England, Denmark, and possibly Ireland for the emergence of
megaliths in Europe. The model of an independent emergence
of megaliths in several regions and sedentary, immobile farming
communities has remained dominant in the research literature
since then (810). However, since the 1970s, the number of C14
dates of megaliths has expanded enormously. It is therefore
timely to test the two prevailing interpretative models in the light
of this new evidence.
For this end, we investigated the fine-grain temporal pattern
for the emergence of megaliths in Europe with the analysis of
2,410 available radiocarbon dates taken from premegalithic,
megalithic, and nonmegalithic but contemporaneous contexts
(Dataset S1). Radiocarbon dating is a two-stage process in-
volving isotope measurements and the calibration against similar
measurements made on dendrochronologically dated wood.
For our time horizon, it normally provides precision ranges of
100 y to 300 y with 95% probability. To build a chronological
For thousands of years, prehistoric societies built monumental
grave architecture and erected standing stones in the coastal
regions of Europe (45002500 calibrated years BC). Our un-
derstanding of the rise of these megalithic societies is con-
tentious and patchy; the origin for the emergence of megalithic
architecture in various regions has been controversial and de-
bated for over 100 y. The result presented here, based on
analyses of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chro-
nologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggests
maritime mobility and intercultural exchange. We argue for the
transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating
from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology
and seafaring in the megalithic Age.
Author contributions: B.S.P. designed research, performed research, analyzed data, and
wrote the paper.
The author declares no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDeriv atives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
This article contains supporting information online at
1073/pnas.1813268116/-/DCSupplemental. PNAS Latest Articles
megalithic sequence as precisely as possible, we adopted a
Bayesian modeling approach, which is applied here to a wide
region, using the program OxCal 4.1 (11, 12). We combined
measurements with archaeological information relating to
stratigraphical contexts, associated cultural material, and in-
formation on the burial rites, to narrow the time intervals for the
calibrated ranges. In a first important step, we reviewed critically
the 2,410 samples, including measurements from the 1960s up to
the present, to determine the quality and reliability of the sample
contexts. For each site with available radiocarbon results and a
suitable sequence, we constructed one-phased or multiphased
models with phase boundaries (Datasets S2 and S3) taking into
consideration the detailed stratigraphic information (13). The
posterior density estimates expressed as probability distribu-
tions in the text and in the figures are given by convention
in italics to distinguish them clearly from simple calibrated
radiocarbon dates.
The radiocarbon dates suggest that the first megalithic graves in
Europe were closed small structures or dolmens built above-
ground with stone slabs and covered by a round or long mound
of earth or stone. These graves emerge in the second half of the
fifth millennium calibrated years (cal) BC within a time interval
of 4794 cal BC to 3986 cal BC (95.4%;4770 cal BC to 4005 cal
BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M7-2 to M29-4), which can be reduced
most probably to 200 y to 300 y, in northwest France, the
Channel Islands, Catalonia, southwestern France, Corsica, and
Sardinia. Taking the associated cultural material into consider-
ation, megalithic graves from Andalusia, Galicia, and northern
Italy presumably belong to this first stage (Fig. 3). There are no
radiocarbon dates available from the early megalithic graves in
these regions, or their calibrated ranges show an onset extending
into the fourth millennium cal BC, as is the case for Galicia. Of
these regions, northwest France is the only one which exhibits
monumental earthen constructions before the megaliths (SI
Appendix, Fig. S2). The Passy graves in the Paris Basin have no
megalithic chamber yet, but are impressive labor-intensive
structures with a length of up to 280 m. These graves seem to
be the earliest monumental graves in Europe; the first individual
buried in the Passy necropolis died in 5061 cal BC to 4858 cal BC
(95.4%;5029 cal BC to 4946 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M1-4).
Somewhat later, the first monumental graves emerge in Brittany,
and especially in the region of Carnac, in the form of round
tumuli covering pit burials, stone cists, and dry-wall chambers.
The first building phase of the tumulus St. Michel in Carnac is
dated to the time interval 4782 cal BC to 4594 cal BC (95.4;4724
cal BC to 4618 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M4-2 to M4-4).
The earliest megalithic grave chambers in Brittany, such as
Tumiac, Kervinio, Castellic, St. Germain, Manio 5, Mané
Hui, and Kerlescan (1416), emerge within this horizon as an
architectonic feature of monumental long and round mounds.
For these early megaliths, no radiocarbon determinations are
available. It is only possible to limit the time interval of con-
struction to the Ancient Castellic horizon based on the typo-
chronological considerations of the grave goods and according to
Ancient Castellic contexts with associated radiocarbon results
ranging from 4794 cal BC to 3999 cal BC (95.4%;4770 cal BC
to 4034 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M7-2 to M7-7).
In Catalonia, in the Tavertet region, early megalithic graves
emerged during the same time interval, even contemporaneous
with the graves in Brittany. A reevaluation of the available ra-
diocarbon results yielded a dating of the construction of these
graves not before 4722 cal BC to 4068 cal BC (95.4%;4581 cal
BC to 4267 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M24-33). A part of these
data exhibit an inbuilt age (Dataset S3,M24-28 to M24-32) (ref.
13, p. 128). On the northeastern side of the Pyrenees in southern
France, early megaliths are either isolated in the landscape or
arranged in necropolises as at Najac and Camp del Ginèbre. The
unmodeled ranges of three radiocarbon results for human bones
from the necropolis of Najac 4328 cal BC to 3979 cal BC (95.4%;
4318 cal BC to 3995 cal BC) (Dataset S1,830 to 832) suggest
burials within this time horizon. Along the central Mediterra-
nean coasts and north Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and
Corsica, small necropolises are found with early megalithic
graves. The grave goods from the Li Muri necropolis on Sardinia
are attributed to the Late Neolithic San Ciriaco horizon, and,
according to the radiocarbon results from the San Ciriaco layers
in the settlement of Contraguda, it is possible to limit the
emergence of these graves to a time interval from 4733 cal BC to
3986 cal BC (95.4%;4471 cal BC to 4005 cal BC,68.2%)
(Dataset S3,M29-1 to M29-4). There are further clusters with
potential early megalithic graves documented in the central
Mediterranean in northern Italy, for example, in La Vela-
Trento, or Maddalena di Chiomonte-Torino and possibly Apu-
lia (6). However, for these, there are no radiocarbon dates
available yet. Based on the archaeological material, they are
likely dated to the second half of the fifth millennium cal BC.
From the southwest Iberian Peninsula in Andalusia, the Algarve,
and the Alentejo, we find more of these possible early megaliths
In the northern half of the western Iberian Peninsula, there
are early megaliths, concentrated mainly in Galicia. So far, these
Fig. 1. Dolmen de las Ruines, Catalonia. Photo courtesy of B.S.P.
Fig. 2. Haväng dolmen, Scania. Strikingly, the architectonic concepts of megaliths
are similar or even identical all over Europe. Photo courtesy of B.S.P.
| Schulz Paulsson
have been dated to the very end of the fifth millennium cal BC, if
not later. Most of these dates are from charcoal, and many
represent termini post quos values due to the inbuilt age of the
wood or unsure contexts. From Chan de Cruz 1, a possible
construction or usage date from 4080 cal BC (CSIC-642,
5210 ±50 BP, 4144 cal BC to 3961 cal BC, 68.2%; 4230 cal
BC to 3947 cal BC, 95.4%) (Dataset S1,2014) is available.
Small stone chambers with no access and single or double
inhumations are diagnostic for the early megalithic stage in the
fifth millennium cal BC. In the last third of the fifth millennium,
the earliest chambers with access are attested as dolmens and
passage graves (Fig. 4). These graves could be reopened for re-
peated burials, and this marks the beginning of a new practice for
the whole of Europe: the construction of graves for successive
depositions of human remains over centuries. The earliest known
accessible megalithic grave with reliable radiocarbon dates is
located in central western France in the necropolis of Prissé-la-
Charrière, Deux-Sèvres. The beginning of burial activities at this
dolmen is calculated at 4371 cal BC to 4263 cal BC (95.4%;4358
cal BC to 4275 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M20-2). Structures
transitional to passage graves are documented for Brittany and
for the long tumulus or tertre of Lannec er Gadouer with a ra-
diocarbon sequence which pinpoint this transition to 4503 cal BC
to 4103 cal BC (95.4%;4432 cal BC to 4233 cal BC,68.2%)
(Dataset S3,M5-8). Contemporaneous accessible megalithic
graves are known from northern Corsica on the Monte Revincu
dated at 4327 cal BC to 4266 cal BC (95.4%;4302 cal BC to 4273
cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M27-5).
On the western Iberian Peninsula, date ranges for the onset
of accessible structures are calculated for the Estremadura at
3844 cal BC to 3383 cal BC (95.4%;3658 cal BC to 3432 cal
BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,M33-1), for the Alentejo at 3743 cal
BC to 3521 cal BC (95.4%;3673 cal BC to 3567 cal BC,68.2%)
(Dataset S3,M34-5), and for Beira at 3883 cal BC to 3782 cal
BC (95.4%;3837 cal BC to 3796 cal BC,68.2%)(Dataset S3,
M35-19). Similarly, the earliest megaliths with entrance in
fourth millennium cal BC. The earliest known megalithic
grave in southeast England, Coldrum, is calculated at 3971 cal
BC to 3805 cal BC (95.4%;3960 cal BC to 3880 cal BC,68.2%)
(20), and Parknabinnia on the Burren in Ireland at 3885 cal
BC to 3440 cal BC (95%;3715 cal BC to 3530 cal BC,
68%) (21).
The subsequent centuries are a time of megalithic stasis and
reuse of ancient megalithic graves. With the exception of the
gallery graves in Belgium, there is no evidence for movements or
new megalithic regions added at this time.
Finally, an even later megalithic expansion occurred in the
second half of the fourth millennium in northern Germany and
southern Scandinavia (2224). In the Mediterranean, there is
a megalithic revival in the second millennium cal BC in the
Fig. 3. Map showing dates estimated for the start of megaliths in the different European regions, with 95% probability (68% probability in brackets). Italic
bold type is used for date ranges of the posterior density estimates based on samples from megalithic contexts, regular bold type is used for simple calibrated
radiocarbon dates from megalithic contexts, and regular italic type is used for the probabilities of the posterior density estimates associated with the earliest
cultural material in the megaliths.
Schulz Paulsson PNAS Latest Articles
Balearic Islands, Apulia, and Sicily. These are associated with
the Bronze Age and/or with the Bell Beaker phenomena (25).
The radiocarbon results suggest that megalithic graves emerged
within a time interval of 200 y to 300 y in the second half of the
fifth millennium cal BC in northwest France, the Mediterranean,
and the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Northwest
France is, so far, the only megalithic region in Europe which
exhibits a premegalithic monumental sequence and transitional
structures to the megaliths, suggesting northern France as
the region of origin for the megalithic phenomenon. For the
remaining regions with an early megalithic proliferation in
the fifth millennium cal BC (such as Catalonia, southern France,
Corsica, Sardinia, and probably the western Iberian Peninsula
and Italian mainland), megaliths are found occurring in small
clusters. These are exceptional grave forms for this period in
their respective regions, at a time when subterranean cists, pit
burials and hypogea (dug-out subterranean burial chambers)
were still the most common burial rites. A fresh expansion oc-
curred during the first half of the fourth millennium cal BC when
thousands of passage graves were built along the Atlantic coast
of the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland, England, Scotland, and France.
Their distribution emphasizes the maritime linkage of these so-
cieties and a diffusion of the passage grave tradition along the
seaway. The passage graves mark a radical change of burial rites,
along with other economic and social changes in Europe. In the
second half of the fourth millennium cal BC, the passage grave
tradition finally reaches Scandinavia and the Funnel Beaker
areas. Again, there is evidence for the spread of megalithic
architecture along the seaway. The first known passage graves
in Scandinavia were built on the western coasts of the Swedish
Islands Oland and Gotland, which are both situated in the
Baltic (23).
We have thus been able to demonstrate that the earliest
megaliths originated in northwest France and spread along the
sea routes of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts in three
successive principal phases (Fig. 5). Their expansion coincided
with other social and economic changes of Neolithic and Copper
Age societies beyond the scope of this article. The older gener-
ation of archaeologists were correct concerning a maritime dif-
fusion of the megalithic concept. They were wrong regarding the
region of origin and the direction of the megalithic diffusion. The
megalithic movements must have been powerful to spread with
such rapidity at the different phases, and the maritime skills,
knowledge, and technology of these societies must have been
much more developed than hitherto presumed. This prompts a
radical reassessment of the megalithic horizons and invites the
opening of a new scientific debate regarding the maritime mo-
bility and organization of Neolithic societies, the nature of these
interactions through time, and the rise of seafaring.
3971-3805 cal BC
(3960-3880 cal BC)
4295-3495 cal BC
(3800-3560 cal BC)
3885-3440 cal BC
(3715-3530 cal BC)
~4200–3600 cal BC
3013-2626 ca BC
(2918-2696 cal BC)
3504-3349 cal BC
3409-3364 cal BC
3635-3112 cal BC
3619-3351 cal BC
3400-3050 cal BC
3121–2619 cal BC
3030–2704 cal BC
1913-1692 cal BC
(1878-1753) cal BC
4503–4103 cal BC
(4432–4233 cal BC)
4371–4263 cal BC
(4358–4275 cal BC)
~1800-1200 cal BC
~3500-2900 cal BC
3463-2913cal BC
(3153-2930 cal BC)
3961-3432 cal BC
(3943-3500 cal BC)
2472-839 cal BC
(2441- 1306 cal BC)
3844-3383 cal BC
(3658-3432 cal BC)
3743-3521 cal BC
(3673-3567 cal BC)
3883-3782 cal BC
3837-3796 cal BC
3500-3300 cal BC
3944-3638 cal BC
(3796-3652 cal BC)
3475-3417 cal BC
(3462-3432 cal BC)
4327−4266 cal BC
(4302−4273 cal BC)
Fig. 4. Map showing dates estimated for the start of accessible megaliths as dolmens and passage graves in the different European regions, with 95%
probability (68% probability in brackets). Italic bold type is used for date ranges of the posterior density estimates based on samples from accessible
megalithic graves, regular bold type is used for simple calibrated radiocarbon dates from accessible megalithic graves, and regular italic type is used for the
probabilities of the posterior density estimates associated with the earliest cultural material in dolmen or passage graves.
| Schulz Paulsson
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. I thank members of the AMS facilities in Trondheim
(Norwegian University of Technology and Science) Marie-Josée Nadeau
and Pieter Grootes, Johannes Müller (Kiel University, Germany), Kristian
Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg, Sweden), John Koch (University of
Wales, United Kingdom), and Jonathan Horwitz (Åsbacka, Sweden) for
critical feedback on the work. This project received funding from the
graduate school Human Development in Landscapes, Kiel, Germany, and
the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation program un-
der the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement 706034. The content of
this study does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union.
Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the report lies
entirely with the author.
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| Schulz Paulsson
... According to this conventional view from the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, the spread of megaliths to Europe came from sources in the Near East through the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast. [10], [11], [12] As far as can be concluded today, megalithic construction came from the southeastern Mediterranean, from the area of present-day Libya and Palestine, where it emerged in various forms as early as the 5 th millennium BC (in the Sahara desert, the age of one megalithic temple is estimated at around 5,000 BC). The oldest European megalithic culture arose on the Iberian Peninsula, and then very quickly spread to the area of present-day France, Italy, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, all the way to the remote Orkney and Shetland Islands, north of Scotland, where megalithic buildings were also erected. ...
... This is supported by the results of DNA analysis, which showed that people came to England and Ireland from the Iberian Peninsula, over the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean coast. [3], [9], [10], [13] e-ZBORNIK ...
... [1], [10] During the later 19 th and first two-thirds of the 20 th centuries, archaeologists such as Montelius (1905), Childe (1925,1940,1950,1958) and Daniel (1960) proposed models of a single origin of megaliths from which they then expanded by a process of diffusion. Montelius advocated for the Near East as a potential region of origin, Childe, building on Montelius, supported the idea of a diffusion of "oriental cultures" by maritime exchange. ...
Giant stone structures all over the world, with their millennia-old age, size, durability, construction method that surpasses the technical capabilities of ancient cultures, but also with a mysterious purpose, have aroused the interest of experts and the general public for years. Megalithic architecture, which is part of the eponymous culture, the longest-lasting and most widespread building culture in human history, is characterized by the placement of monumental stone blocks of various shapes - megaliths, single or grouped into different structures/buildings. This overly broad definition includes Neolithic (and later) megalithic monuments (dolmens, menhirs, cromlechs and others), but also later structures of the so-called "more advanced architecture", which had architectural features, built from megaliths of regular geometric shape, weighing tens and hundreds of tons. These structures are often popularly called "cyclopean", which some authors contest by using that name only for the so-called "Mycenaean civilizations/ cultures". Therefore, the authors decided to use the universal name "giant stone buildings" and divide this broad topic into separate papers, trying to encourage readers to further study the extensive available literature in search of answers to the many doubts that we all still have...
... The Neolithic expansion and the following resurgence of huntergatherer ancestry in populations in Iberia, Central Europe, and Great Britain might have created a large geographic area of very similar genetic ancestry (Fig. 2). Alternatively-or additionallythe Atlantic sphere of influence connecting Western European megalithic cultures (to be taken up later in the Bell Beaker phenomenon and beyond) could have induced a high degree of mobility in said region (38,60,61). More clearly interpretable signals emerge later in the third millennium in Iberia with the arrival of Steppe ancestry-well visible through mobility vectors pointing to the far Northeast for individuals like I3239 (36). ...
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The recent increase in openly available ancient human DNA samples allows for large-scale meta-analysis applications. Trans-generational past human mobility is one of the key aspects that ancient genomics can contribute to since changes in genetic ancestry-unlike cultural changes seen in the archaeological record-necessarily reflect movements of people. Here, we present an algorithm for spatiotemporal mapping of genetic profiles, which allow for direct estimates of past human mobility from large ancient genomic datasets. The key idea of the method is to derive a spatial probability surface of genetic similarity for each individual in its respective past. This is achieved by first creating an interpolated ancestry field through space and time based on multivariate statistics and Gaussian process regression and then using this field to map the ancient individuals into space according to their genetic profile. We apply this algorithm to a dataset of 3138 aDNA samples with genome-wide data from Western Eurasia in the last 10,000 y. Finally, we condense this sample-wise record with a simple summary statistic into a diachronic measure of mobility for subregions in Western, Central, and Southern Europe. For regions and periods with sufficient data coverage, our similarity surfaces and mobility estimates show general concordance with previous results and provide a meta-perspective of genetic changes and human mobility.
... Dolmens are the oldest stone architecture erected by humans to monumentalize their funerary spaces. They are collective or individual tombs with a trousseau associated with the megalithic phenomenon from the 5th millennium to the 3rd millennium BC [1], with permanence and/or reuse reaching up to the 2nd and 1st millennium BC [2][3][4]. The trousseaus are made up mainly of chert (flint) and, in some places, obsidian, and other minerals. ...
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The analysis of spectral reflectance data is an important tool for obtaining relevant information about the mineral composition of objects and has been used for research in chemistry, geology, biology, archaeology, pharmacy, medicine, anthropology, and other disciplines. In archaeology, the use of spectroscopic data allows us to characterize and classify artifacts and ecofacts, to analyze patterns, and to study the exchange of materials, etc., as well as to explain some properties, such as color or post-depositional processes. The spectroscopic data are of the so-called “big data” type and must be analyzed using multivariate statistical techniques, usually principal component analysis and cluster analysis. Although there are different transformations of the raw data, in this paper, we propose preprocessing by means of an affine transformation. From a mathematical point of view, this process modifies the values of reflectance for each spectral signature scaling them into a [0, 1] interval using minimum and maximum values of reflectance, thus highlighting the features of spectral curves. This method optimizes the characteristics of amplitude and shape, reduces the influence of noise, and improves results by highlighting relevant features as peaks and valleys that may remain hidden using the raw data. This methodology has been applied to a case study of prehistoric chert (flint) artifacts retrieved in archaeological excavations in the Andévalo area located in the Archaeological Museum of Huelva (Huelva, Andalusia). The use of transformed data considerably improves the results obtained with raw data, highlighting the peaks, valleys, and the shape of spectral signatures.
... Megalithic burials appeared as early as 4500 cal. BCE in continental Europe, but current radiocarbon dates indicate that the phenomenon began much later in the UK and Ireland (Schulz Paulsson, 2019). These monuments range from long barrows to stone cairns, each with their own subsets and typologies (see Barrett, 1988). ...
A statistical study comparing osteological and ancient DNA determinations of sex was conducted in order to investigate whether there are sex biases in United Kingdom and Irish Neolithic megalithic burials. Genetic and osteological information from human individuals from 32 megalithic sites in the UK and Ireland dating from 4000 to 2500 cal. BCE was collected and statistically analyzed to test whether there is a true over‐representation of males at these sites. The published dataset from the study by Sánchez‐Quinto et al. in 2019 was initially analyzed before being refined and included in a larger dataset. Osteological analysis of sex bias was limited to adults with available sex estimations, and genetic analysis limited to published data Two sites consistently returned significant p‐values suggesting a potential over‐representation in osteological males at one site (Knowe of Midhowe, Orkney) and genetic males in the other (Primrose Grange, Ireland). Cumulative statistical analyses point towards a male bias in the representation of sexes in Neolithic megalithic burials, but these results do not reflect the site‐by‐site and regional variation found in this study. The interpretation of sex bias, that is, the over‐representation of one sex over another ‐ depends on other socio‐cultural variables (e.g., kinship) and the emphasis placed on statistical significance. The trend towards males being over‐represented in Neolithic megalithic burials is not as clear as previously thought, and requires further testing and data collection to uncover.
... Whether the fifth millennium BCE direct contacts between France and Iberia suggested by the variscite occurred by land or sea is at present unknown. The possibility of long-range maritime voyaging along the Atlantic Seaboard during the Late Neolithic has been suggested repeatedly (Callaghan and Scarre, 2017;Cassen et al., 2019;Schulz Paulsson, 2019). A recent analysis of the painted boats at Laja Alta (Cadiz) suggests sailing seafaring during the first half of the fourth millennium BCE (Morgado Rodríguez et al., 2018). ...
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The scientific study of Neolithic monuments holds fundamental keys to the analysis of early social complexity. This is often impeded by the challenges involved in understanding their temporality and, particularly, their initial construction dates. This problem is most severe in monuments that were not predominantly used for burial and went on to have long biographies in which activity in later periods obliterated the material record of the earliest phases. That was certainly the case of the Menga dolmen, part of the Antequera World Heritage site (Málaga, Spain), and one of the most remarkable megaliths in Europe, for which, after nearly 200 years of explorations and research, no firm chronology existed. The research presented in this paper shows how this problem was tackled through a multimethod, scientific, and geoarchaeological approach. The analysis of 29 fresh numerical ages, including radiocarbon determinations as well as optically stimulated luminescence, thermoluminescence, and uranium-thorium dates, led to the successful establishment of Menga's construction date and the subsequent contextualization of the monument within the social and cultural background it arose in. Placing the dolmen in the context of its time of “birth” introduces entirely new possibilities for its interpretation, both in terms of local and supralocal social and cultural processes.
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The thousands of dolmens and long barrows spread across the Danish landscape are the earliest long-lasting expressions of architectural monumentality in Scandinavia. A series of new AMS dates on human skeletal material from several of them leads to a clarification of the generations-long debate on the relative chronology and typological evolution of this group of monuments. Earthen long barrows were raised from ca. 3700 cal BC. That is at least two centuries later than the arrival of such elements of the Neolithic world as funnel beaker pottery and domestic cattle to the region. The practice of using large stones (megaliths) for burial chambers was present by 3600 BC. Classical ‘Urdolmen’ were built alongside various types of more complex dolmen chambers during the period ca. 3600-3400 BC, after which passage grave were erected.
Archaeologists often use data and quantitative statistical methods to evaluate their ideas. In this chapter, the authors provide a simple explanation of Bayesian statistics. They compare it to the more widespread null hypothesis significance testing approach to contextualize the Bayesian statistical framework. The authors provide a simple example to illustrate how archaeologists use data and the Bayesian framework to compare hypotheses and evaluate their uncertainty. They review how archaeologists have applied Bayesian statistics to solve research problems related to radiocarbon dating and chronology, lithic, ceramic, zooarchaeological, bioarchaeological, and spatial analyses. Bayes' theorem is an algorithm for obtaining the value of a conditional probability statement, when one knows its inverse. The reliable construction of chronologies is an integral part of all archaeological research. Training in probability theory and coding alone will not change a discipline, but together with an encouragement to formalize thinking they might.
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Threatened by increasing natural and anthropic pressures, the archaeological heritage is the subject of scientific knowledge and protection measures. However, archaeological surveys are very difficult - if not impossible - to carry out in forest or submerged environments. In this context, this thesis aims to evaluate the contribution of airborne LiDAR and hyperspectral data for the detection and characterization of archaeological structures, as these data have shown their interest in providing new information under the canopy or in shallow waters. For that purpose, we have developed new visualization approaches, and automatic detection methods based on deep learning. First, we used topographic LiDAR data to detect and characterize archaeological structures dating mainly from the megalithic period, in a terrestrial context in the Carnac region (Morbihan). Then, we evaluated hyperspectral imagery in a submerged context in the megalithic site of Er Lannic (Morbihan) and in the Molène archipelago (Finistère). The results showed the interest of multi-scale analysis and machine learning approaches applied to numerical models derived from LiDAR data, in particular under forest cover. We also demonstrated the original contribution of hyperspectral imagery for the detection and characterization of structures in shallow waters, thus opening up new perspectives for the archaeological exploration of submerged landscapes.
Menacé par des pressions naturelles et anthropiques croissantes, le patrimoine archéologique fait l’objet d’enjeux de connaissances scientifiques et de mesures de protection. Or les prospections archéologiques sont très difficiles à mener dans des environnements forestiers ou immergés. Dans ce contexte, cette thèse vise à évaluer l’apport des données LiDAR et hyperspectrales aéroportées pour la détection et la caractérisation de structures archéologiques, ces données ayant montré leur intérêt pour accéder à des informations inédites sous la canopée ou sous l’eau. Pour répondre à cet objectif, nous avons développé de nouvelles approches de visualisation et de détection automatique basées notamment sur le deep learning. Nous avons d’abord exploité des données LiDAR topographiques afin de détecter et caractériser des structures archéologiques datant principalement de la période mégalithique, en contexte émergé sur la région de Carnac (Morbihan). Puis nous avons évalué l’imagerie hyperspectrale en contexte immergé sur le site mégalithique d’Er Lannic (Morbihan) et sur l’archipel de Molène (Finistère). Les résultats ont montré l’intérêt des approches d’analyse multi-échelles et d’apprentissage automatique appliquées aux modèles numériques dérivés des données LiDAR, en particulier sous couvert forestier. Nous avons aussi montré l’apport original de l’imagerie hyperspectrale pour la détection et la caractérisation de structures en zone de petits fonds, ouvrant ainsi de nouvelles perspectives quant à l’exploration archéologique de paysages submergés.
In the last 20 years, the growing availability of radiometric data has led to profound changes in the archaeological study of cultural and social processes in European Late Prehistory. In this paper, we examine how the combined use of spatial analysis and Bayesian modelling can further contribute to an enhanced interpretation of the temporality of a major social phenomenon: the “megalithisation” process in Iberia. For the first time, it is possible to compare hypotheses regarding the start date, speed and direction of the spread of this major process for the whole of Iberia, and not just for selected regions or single sites.
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Approximately 2700 radiocarbon results are currently available from European megalithic contexts. The interpretation of these 14C dates is often difficult. It is not easy to connect many of them from their archaeological context to the construction or the burial phase of the graves. This paper focuses on the megaliths of Scandinavia-a special megalith region-as it is the only place in Europe with 14C dates directly referable to the construction of the passage graves, the graves have good bone preservation, and new dating sequences are available. Some 188 14C results are now available from Scandinavian passage graves. In Sweden, new data suggest that these graves were built from the first half of the 35th century BC onwards. The 14C dates from birch bark as filling material between dry walls make it possible to build a sequence for the construction phase of the passage graves in Denmark from the 33rd century BC onward. With an interpretative Bayesian statistical framework, it is possible to untangle the nuances of the differences for the origin and the spreading of the megaliths in the different regions, to define, together with the archaeological remains, possible cultural-historical processes behind these phenomena and to discuss diffusion versus convergence. © 2010 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.
If radiocarbon measurements are to be used at all for chronological purposes, we have to use statistical methods for calibration. The most widely used method of calibration can be seen as a simple application of Bayesian statistics, which uses both the information from the new measurement and information from the 14 C calibration curve. In most dating applications, however, we have larger numbers of 14 C measurements and we wish to relate those to events in the past. Bayesian statistics provides a coherent framework in which such analysis can be performed and is becoming a core element in many 14 C dating projects. This article gives an overview of the main model components used in chronological analysis, their mathematical formulation, and examples of how such analyses can be performed using the latest version of the OxCal software (v4). Many such models can be put together, in a modular fashion, from simple elements, with defined constraints and groupings. In other cases, the commonly used “uniform phase” models might not be appropriate, and ramped, exponential, or normal distributions of events might be more useful. When considering analyses of these kinds, it is useful to be able run simulations on synthetic data. Methods for performing such tests are discussed here along with other methods of diagnosing possible problems with statistical models of this kind.
The wide availability of precise radiocarbon dates has allowed researchers in a number of disciplines to address chronological questions at a resolution which was not possible 10 or 20 years ago. The use of Bayesian statistics for the analysis of groups of dates is becoming a common way to integrate all of the ¹⁴ C evidence together. However, the models most often used make a number of assumptions that may not always be appropriate. In particular, there is an assumption that all of the ¹⁴ C measurements are correct in their context and that the original ¹⁴ C concentration of the sample is properly represented by the calibration curve. In practice, in any analysis of dates some are usually rejected as obvious outliers. However, there are Bayesian statistical methods which can be used to perform this rejection in a more objective way (Christen 1994b), but these are not often used. This paper discusses the underlying statistics and application of these methods, and extensions of them, as they are implemented in OxCal v 4.1. New methods are presented for the treatment of outliers, where the problems lie principally with the context rather than the ¹⁴ C measurement. There is also a full treatment of outlier analysis for samples that are all of the same age, which takes account of the uncertainty in the calibration curve. All of these Bayesian approaches can be used either for outlier detection and rejection or in a model averaging approach where dates most likely to be outliers are downweighted. Another important subject is the consistent treatment of correlated uncertainties between a set of measurements and the calibration curve. This has already been discussed by Jones and Nicholls (2001) in the case of marine reservoir offsets. In this paper, the use of a similar approach for other kinds of correlated offset (such as overall measurement bias or regional offsets in the calibration curve) is discussed and the implementation of these methods in OxCal v 4.0 is presented.
Radiocarbon dating of 32 stratigraphic samples aided by Bayesian analysis has allowed the author to produce a high precision chronology for the construction and development of a continental Neolithic long barrow for the first time. She shows when and how quickly people living on the shore of the Baltic adopted pit graves, megalithic chambers and long barrows. Better than that, she provides a date for the famous cart tracks beneath the final barrow to 3420-3385 cal BC. Although other parts of the package - ploughing and pottery - are late arrivals, her analysis of the global evidence shows that Flintbek remains among the earliest sightings of the wheel in northern Europe.