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Monte Verde II in southern Chile is one of the most important, and debated, sites for understanding of the early peopling of the Americas. The authors present 43 radiocarbon measurements based on cores of sediments that overlie the archaeological deposits adjacent to the site. Statistical analysis of these dates narrows the deposition of the earliest sediments sealing the occupational layer to c. 14 550 cal BP. The consistency between the dates of the site's archaeological strata and its adjacent deposits allows not only consolidation of the site's chronology, but also illustration of how a multi-pronged approach can inform debates surrounding the peopling of new lands—in the Americas or elsewhere.
In Iran, studies of the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding have focused on early developments in the Zagros Mountains. Here, the authors present new zooarchaeological data from Hotu Cave, which throw light on sheep/goat management and domestication during the Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic transition on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. Gazelle dominate the Epipalaeolithic levels, while sheep/goat are most abundant in the Neolithic. Large quantities of perinatal sheep/goat remains from the Early Neolithic indicate that these animals were actively managed in or close to the cave. The results point towards the importance in Iran of local developments beyond the Zagros, adding nuance to the general model of domestication in South-west Asia.
Archaeologists have traditionally framed the impacts of natural disasters in terms of societal collapse versus cultural resilience. The 7.3ka cal BP Kikai-Akahoya (K-Ah) ‘super-eruption’ in south-western Japan was among the largest volcanic events of the Holocene. Here, the authors deploy a multi-proxy approach to examine how K-Ah devastated Tanegashima Island. While local Jōmon populations were annihilated, surrounding communities survived and eventually returned, adjusting their subsistence base to survive in the damaged environment. The article concludes that neither ‘collapse’ nor ‘resilience’ fully capture the complex dynamics of this process and that more research is needed to understand how disasters shape cultural trajectories.
Antequera in southern Spain is widely recognised as an outstanding example of the European megalithic phenomenon. One of its most remarkable features is the evident relationship between conspicuous natural formations and human-built monuments. Here, the authors report the results of their investigation of a tomb newly discovered at the site of Piedras Blancas at the foot of La Peña de los Enamorados, a limestone massif that dominates the Antequera plain. Excavation and multidisciplinary study, including geological, architectural and archaeoastronomical investigations, have revealed a complex funerary monument that is part natural, part built, part hypogeum, part megalith. The results emphasise the centrality of La Peña in the Neolithic worldview and encourage wider investigation of prehistoric place-making.
Studies of ancient Mesopotamian cities have long focused on their institutions. Here, instead, the authors draw on recent investigations at the third-millennium BC site of Lagash (modern Tell al-Hiba, Iraq) to explore urban density, economy and sustainability at one of the largest ancient urban centres of the region. Drawing on excavation, environmental and remote-sensing data, the authors adopt a multi-scalar approach, revealing dense urban occupation, with subdivision into distinct walled quarters, as well as evidence for multiple foci of intensive industrial production and the exploitation of a rich mosaic of surrounding micro-environments. The study emphasises how a combination of new field data and alternative research directions offers novel insights into early urbanism.
Across prehistoric Europe several techniques were used to produce salt, including solar evaporation and the briquetage method. Here, the authors focus on a third technique used in Romania and western Ukraine. Building on excavations at Băile Figa and a series of wooden troughs found there, the authors conduct experiments to elucidate how these objects may have been used in salt production: to drip water onto rock salt surfaces to break them up; or to filter and/or concentrate brine by decanting and/or heating. The results demonstrate the troughs are ineffective at concentrating brine, but highly efficient at breaking up rock salt and cleaning the brine of insoluble impurities.
Horses and chariots played a crucial social, cultural and military role in the emergence and development of early states in China. Little research, however, has explored the life histories of individual chariot horses or assessed their role as working animals. Here, the authors present a detailed zooarchaeological and palaeopathological study of eight adult male horses, used for pulling chariots, recovered from a single chariot-horse pit at the burial site of Shijia in north-western China. The characterisation of key osteological differences between chariot horses and ridden horses is offered as a contribution to the toolkit available for the archaeological investigation of human-horse interactions around the globe.
Dates differ by up to 150 years in the protracted debate around the chronology of the Middle Bronze Age Near East. Here, the authors present radiocarbon and ceramic evidence from destroyed buildings at Zincirli, Türkiye, that support the Middle Chronology. Ceramics from late Middle Bronze Age sites in Syria and Anatolia, and Bayesian modelling of 18 well-stratified radiocarbon samples from site destruction contexts attributable to Hittite king Ḫattusili I, indicate a date in the later seventeenth century BC. Since the Northern Levant connects the Mesopotamian and Eastern Mediterranean second-millennium BC chronologies, this evidence supports the convergence of these long-debated schemas, with implications for the start of the Late Bronze Age and the rise of empires.
Following their early domestication, broomcorn millet and rice (in East Asia) and wheat and barley (in South-west Asia) were subsequently adopted across Eurasia during the Bronze Age/early historic period. The precise timing and dispersal routes for this trans-Eurasian exchange, however, remain unclear. Here, the authors present archaeobotanical evidence from sites on the Caspian Sea's southern coast, demonstrating that broomcorn millet reached West Asia by c. 2050 BC and rice by c. 120 BC. These dispersals relate to two waves of globalisation and were based on two different mechanisms: an ‘infiltration’ model (broomcorn millet) and a ‘leapfrog’ model (rice). The results contribute to our understanding of the continental-scale connectivity of the late prehistoric/early historic periods.
Excavations in Rome have long focused on the early city; only recently has attention turned to the archaeology of the medieval and later periods. Here, the authors present a rare sixteenth-century context, dating to a time when European cities contended with repeat epidemics and implemented measures to control the spread of disease. A contextual approach to the assemblage leads to its identification as a ‘medical dump’ of clinical equipment, including glass urine flasks and ‘single-serve’ ceramics, many of the latter specifically produced for the Ospedale dei Fornari. Drawing on Renaissance medical treatises, the authors argue that this material represents the disposal of potentially infected objects, shedding light on urban waste-management practices.
Prehistory comprises millions of years and encompasses a diverse range of social, cultural, economic and technological practices. Despite its widespread public popularity, understanding of the chronology and developments of this vast expanse of human history is frequently anachronistic. Here, the author uses the results of museum visitor questionnaires and tracking surveys to assess public preconceptions of prehistory and engagements with museum displays. In addition, the article documents and explores 173 prehistory displays in museums in England, identifying trends in representation. The results point to some significant representational disparities affecting the display of prehistory and highlights some opportunities for reimagining museum prehistory displays.
Awareness of, and debate about, harassment, assault, bullying and intimidation (HABI) in archaeology has grown in recent years, but the issue remains under-researched. Here, the authors present the first Europe-wide survey to evaluate HABI in archaeological environments, from field to laboratory and classroom. The survey covers 18 forms of HABI, collecting more than 1000 responses from archaeologists of 49 nationalities. A total of 82 per cent of respondents report at least one HABI experience. The authors conclude that HABI is endemic in European archaeology, being experienced by all genders and ages, in multiple settings and countries. Documenting these behaviours is a critical first step to eradicating them and to achieving equity and safety in the discipline.
In a recent Antiquity article, Darvill (2022) proposed that the mid third-millennium BC Stage 2 sarsen settings of Stonehenge (comprising the Trilithon Horseshoe, Sarsen Circle and the Station Stone Rectangle) were conceived in order to represent a calendar year of 365.25 days—that is, a calendar identical in duration to the Julian calendar. In the present article, the authors argue that this proposal is unsubstantiated, being based as it is on a combination of numerology, astronomical error and unsupported analogy.
Debates about archaeological interpretation are always healthy and welcome, and when, as here, arguments are not killed off, they inevitably become stronger. Importantly, the comments by Magli and Belmonte (2023) serve as a reminder that reconciling conflicting theoretical perspectives is never easy when times are changing. Grounded in positivism, their critique draws upon assumptions that become justificatory assertions. For better or worse, archaeological thinking has moved away from the processualism of the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s—a key turning point being Hodder's (1984) review of positivism in archaeological interpretation and his call for more contextualised approaches. The authors might usefully have consulted this and other works before setting out onto the choppy waters of post-processual archaeology. Many of their points simply escalate questions posed in my original text (Darvill 2022), and they often fail to distinguish between suggestions, arguments and more solid interpretative statements. Notwithstanding, they neatly arrange their response around three issues that are here addressed seriatim.
Digital heritage and archaeology in practice comprises two companion volumes: Presentation, teaching, and engagement (from here on, PTE) and Data, ethics, and professionalism (DEP). The chapters present some of the outputs of the Institute for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice, based at Michigan State University and funded by the National Endowment for Humanities Institutes for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities programme.