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Rock art in an inland cave on the island of Lifou, New Caledonia, has been radiocarbon dated. A cluster of early paintings date to 2500 years ago, soon after the arrival of the first settlers, who must have quickly gone inland probably in pursuit of fresh water, available near the cave. They left their mark on the cave in the form of numerous hand stencils. During the first millennium AD, later generations of artists used the same cave, drawing birds and a circular sign for water still recognised by the present community.
The authors review the significance of bracers by undertaking a detailed examination of their morphology, fragmentation, manufacture and wear. The results have a number of implications regarding their use and value and this is supported by the use of petrographic and geochemical analyses which suggest discrete patterns of raw material acquisition. A description of the technical methodology and appropriate data tables are available at http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/woodward.
Lapita pottery, the herald of the settlement of the wider island Pacific, turns out to have been painted with lime and clay, to give a red and white finish over the decorated surface. The find of a pot in Vanuatu, its sherds in different states of deterioration showed why painted Lapita has previously gone unrecognised. The author suggests that it was widespread from 1000 BC and reminds us that pottery was painted in China 7000 years ago.
The authors describe the first recognition of briquetage in Europe and the subsequent appreciation of the great prehistoric salt industry. Central to Iron Age production was the site of Briquetage de la Seille, where broken salt containers survive in mounds 12 metres high and half a kilometre long. New techniques map the source of brine, the workshops and the boilers. Salt production here knew two boom periods: the eighth to sixth and the second to first centuries BC.
Intensive survey and three sample sections at Jebel Gharbi in north-west Libya offer a new dated sequence of the environment, and the human presence within it, from the Middle Stone Age to the early Holocene. Hunter-gatherers were continuously active, including during the hitherto elusive Later Stone Age.
The author demonstrates that the complex images of rock art known as formlings depict or evoke the equally complex architecture of ant-hills. Presented in cutaway and full of metaphorical references, they go beyond the image into the imagination.
Investigating the use of land during the medieval period at the celebrated ceremonial area of Angkor, the authors took a soil column over 2.5m deep from the inner moat of the Bakong temple. The dated pollen sequence showed that the temple moat was dug in the eighth century AD and that the agriculture of the immediate area subsequently flourished. In the tenth century AD agriculture declined and the moat became choked with water-plants. It was at this time, according to historical documents, that a new centre at Phnom Bakeng was founded by Yasovarman I.
How did the Neolithic begin and develop in Southeast China? The author uses a highly detailed sequence of changes in sea-level, climate and vegetation to provide the back-drop – and some explanations – for the distinctive maritime community of the Taiwan Strait, whose descendants are thought to have colonised the Pacific.
The unusual assemblage of aurochs horn cores from the baths of Bourbonne-les-Bains suggests votive deposits. But were they? The authors describe the assemblage, date it to the later Roman to early medieval period, discuss its possible environmental and ritual connotations, but also raise the possibility that it relates to craft-workers making use of the hot water supply to work the horn.
The author presents new radiocarbon dates for chariot burials found in the region between Europe and the Urals, showing them to belong to the twentieth-eighteenth centuries BCE. These early dates, which pre-empt the appearance of the war chariot in the Near East, are transforming the ancient history of Eurasia and the early Mediterranean civilisations, pointing to the Volga-Ural area as an important centre of innovation for early Europe.
A new research project has revealed a fully specialised copper industry in south-west Iberia at the beginning of the third millennium BC. The settlement is rife with hierarchy: on the slopes of the hill copper-workers smelt and cast and have their own residential zone, while an incipient aristocracy occupies a small fortification at the summit and commands all the imports and means of transport. The author sees this social system as endemic to the new industry.
Ploughing is probably the greatest agent of attrition to archaeological sites world-wide. In every country, every year, a bit more is shaved off buried strata and a bit more of the past becomes unreadable. On the other hand, people must eat and crops must be planted. How can the fields be best managed to get the best of both worlds? Perhaps the most pressing need for resource managers is to know how quickly a particular field is eroding: negotiation and protection is then possible. Up to now that has been difficult to measure.
The new procedure presented here, which draws on the unexpected benefits of nuclear weapons testing, shows how variation in the concentration of the radioisotope 137Cs can be used to monitor soil movements over the last 40 years. The measurements allow a site's ‘life expectancy’ to be calculated, and there are some promising dividends for tracking site formation processes.
Excarnation – the exposure of a corpse for stripping and possible dispersal by birds and animals – is a burial rite known from ethnographic analogy. Detecting its occurrence in the past is another matter. Here the author proposes the marking of bones by dogs and other canids as evidence of excarnation, using a British Neolithic case study.
A well in the Jordan Valley shows that the Neolithic revolution included an understanding of underground water and how to access it. The excavation of the well in longtitudinal cross-section is also something of a revolution in fieldwork.