To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The author uses a detailed analysis of lithic assemblages to propose a major social and economic change in the Pyrenees around 18 ky cal BC, roughly the watershed between the Lower and Middle Magdalenian periods. Nomadic groups begin to settle down, occupy loose territories, move raw materials over vast distances and specialise in manufacture for hunting and domestic use. These trends coincide with a cold period and an increase in grassland, the Heinrich Stadial.
The authors used knapping experiments to study the way that microburins are produced. Once thought of as signature pieces of the Mesolithic, these experiments suggest that they were by-products of a gradual technological development by knappers trying to make arrowheads that had no bulb of percussion — and were thus easier to haft. They make a case for an evolution already present in the late Palaeolithic and determined by practical, rather than cultural, social or environmental imperatives.
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.
Marvellous preservation of organic materials at the Neolithic site of La Draga in north-east Iberia include a range of wooden harvesting tools. The authors examine the wood and flint to describe a range of the earliest harvesting techniques and their diverse applications.
Examining the earliest grand mortuary monuments of the Neolithic, the authors question the assumption that they mark the resting place of society's higher ranks. Using the skeletal remains, the grave goods and the burial rites, they find no great differences in commemoration between the monumental cemeteries, with their long barrows, and the flat graves, without structures. In this analysis, the children proved to be the most vivid players: while the very young are largely excluded, some toddlers were selected to carry hunting equipment, a distinction shared with selected adult males. Some children were also laid to rest in the long barrows, with some adults. Thus hunting has a spiritual value for these agriculturalists, and whether inherited or marked at birth, the children signal something more variable and subtle than linear rank.
Aerial photography and excavations have brought to notice a major prehistoric ceremonial complex in central Scotland comparable to Stonehenge, although largely built in earth and timber. Beginning, like Stonehenge, as a cremation cemetery, it launched its monumentality by means of an immense circle of tree trunks, and developed it with smaller circles of posts and an earth bank (henge). A change of political mood in the Early Bronze Age is marked by one of Scotland's best preserved dagger-burials in a stone cist with an engraved lid. The perishable (or reusable) materials meant that this great centre lay for millennia under ploughed fields, until it was adopted, by design or by chance, as a centre of the Pictish kings.
The authors take us to the salt lakes of Villafáfila in north-west Spain, where they have demonstrated by excavation that salt extraction had begun by the second half of the third millennium BC. The salt pans uncovered were accompanied by copious amounts of decorated Beaker pottery, for which political and symbolic interpretations are proposed.
A massive Late Bronze Age fortified settlement in Central Europe has been the subject of a new and exemplary investigation by excavation and site survey. This prehistoric enclosure, nearly 6km across, had a complex development, dense occupation and signs of destruction by fire. It can hardly be other than a capital city playing a role in the determinant struggles of its day — weighty and far reaching events of the European continent now being chronicled by archaeology.
The author reports an object of modest appearance but great significance — a small bone beam for weighing precious commodities. Weighing indicates the regulation of quantities for exchange or manufacture and is thus a key agent of social and economic complexity. Well-stratified and dated to the early third millennium BC, this find puts the people of the Levant among the earliest to quantify mass. We are rightly urged to inspect faunal assemblages for similarly subtle modifications of bones.
Three wine jars in Tutankhamun's fabulously preserved burial chamber had been opened and placed east, west and south of the sarcophagus. By means of inscriptions, endorsed by residue analysis, the author distinguishes the contents as red wine, white wine and a high quality fortified wine, and goes on to argue for specific symbolic meanings for these choices in the context of religious change after Akhenaten.
The Greeks and Romans reproached the Phoenicians for the sacrifice of infants, and the excavation of cremated infants at ‘Tophets’ (named after the sacrificial site in Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible) seems to bear this out. However, the argument for infant sacrifice depends largely on a skewed age profile, and age is not easy to determine. The authors approach this problem with a battery of new techniques, showing that in the Tophet of Carthage the majority of the infants died between one and one and a half months. Sacrifice was thus very probable.
Comparing the records of fishing communities made in the sixteenth to twentieth centuries to the archaeological evidence of the sixth millennium BP, the authors propose a sophisticated prehistoric network for the coastal people of northern Chile. Residential seashore settlements link both along the coast to temporary production sites for fish, and inland to oasis-based providers of products from the uplands and salt flats. Sharing values and kinsfolk, the coastal communities must have travelled extensively in boats which, like their modern counterparts, made use of floats of inflated sealskin.
The authors describe the excavation and interpretation of an intact seventh-century high status burial at the Maya site of Nakum. The dead person wore an incised pectoral with an eventful biography, having started out as an Olmec heirloom 1000 years before. No less impressive was the series of votive rituals found to have been enacted at the tomb for another 100 years or more. The beautiful objects, their architectural setting and the long story they recount, offer a heart-breaking indictment of the multiple losses due to looting.
The authors compare pottery assemblages in the Marianas and the Philippines to claim endorsement for a first human expansion into the open Pacific around 1500 BC. The Marianas are separated from the Philippines by 2300km of open sea, so they are proposing an epic pioneering voyage of men and women, with presumably some cultivated plants but apparently no animals. How did they manage this unprecedented journey?
Through intensive archaeological investigation of temples in Hawai'i, the authors reveal a sequence of religious strategies for creating and maintaining authority that has application to prehistoric sequences everywhere. Expressed in the orientation and layout of the temples and their place in the landscape, these strategies develop in four stages over the course of a few hundred years, from the fifteenth to nineteenth century AD, from local shrines associated with agriculture to the development of a centralising priesthood serving the larger political economy.
Five wooden sculptures from the pre-contact Caribbean, long held in museum collections, are here dated and given a context for the first time. The examples studied were made from dense Guaiacum wood, carved, polished and inlaid with shell fastened with resin. Dating the heartwood, sapwood and resins takes key examples of ‘Classic’ Taíno art back to the tenth century AD, and suggests that some objects were treasured and refurbished over centuries. The authors discuss the symbolic properties of the wood and the long-lived biographies of some iconic sculptures.
A multi-disciplinary study of settlement in north-east Greenland found that life in this High Arctic zone was actually favoured by the climate brought in by the Little Ice Age (fifteenth–nineteenth century). Extensive ice cover meant high mobility, and the rare polynyas — small patches of permanently open coastal water — provided destinations, like oases, where huge numbers of migrating marine mammals and birds congregated. One such place was Walrus Island on Sirius Water, a veritable processing plant for walrus, where every spring Thule people stocked up meat supplies that would get the rest of the region through the winter. It was a further drop in the temperature in the mid nineteenth century that led to the region being abandoned.
The authors investigate the origins of the earliest script of the Cherokees, using inscriptions in the Red Bird River Shelter. Their analysis suggests that the engravings in the cave show the experimental creation of a syllabary (alphabet of signs). This in turn offers support for the historical notion that this writing system was not an ancestral practice preserved through missionaries, but an invention of the early nineteenth century; one that should be credited to the Native American pioneer scholar, Sequoyah.
By an interesting coincidence the village of Gilund in Rajasthan, north-west India was host to an important Chalcolithic settlement of the early third millennium BC and to some of the last indigenous potters still working in the twenty-first century AD. The author shows how her study of the prehistoric potters was enhanced by what she learnt from their modern successors, pointing out that she was only just in time. These potters will be the last to practice and in this respect ethnoarchaeology is itself under threat.