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Owing to a thick blanket of loess and other later geological disruptions, the earliest hominins to reach Europe are hard to find. To a handful of possible sites, our authors add a new assemblage of lithics with a clear local context and corroborated OSL ages. Ancient humans were present in what is now Romania between 300 000 and 400 000 years ago.
Traces of starch found on a large flat stone discovered in the hunter-fisher-gatherer site of Ohalo II famously represent the first identification of Upper Palaeolithic grinding of grasses. Given the importance of this discovery for the use of edible grain, further analyses have now been undertaken. Meticulous sampling combined with good preservation allow the authors to demonstrate that the Ohalo II stone was certainly used for the routine processing of wild cereals, wheat, barley and now oats among them, around 23 000 years ago.
The authors rewrite the character of Early Mesolithic settlement in Europe with their new research at one of its most famous sites. The picture of small mobile pioneering groups colonising new land is thrown into contention: far from being a small hunter-gatherer camp, Star Carr in 9000 cal BC extended for nearly 2ha and involved the construction of an estimated 30m of lakeside waterfront and at least one post-built house. With some justice, they suspect that the ‘small groups’ of Early Mesolithic Europe may have their rationale in the small excavations of archaeologists.
We are pleased to present the latest account of the sequence of burial and construction at the site of Stonehenge, deduced by its most recent excavators and anchored in time by the application of Bayesian radiocarbon modelling. Five prehistoric stages are proposed, of varied duration, and related by our authors to neighbouring monuments in the Stonehenge environs. While it may never be possible to produce a definitive chronology for this most complex of monuments, the comprehensive and integrated achievement owed to these researchers has brought us much closer to that goal. It is from this firm platform that Stonehenge can begin its new era of communication with the public at large.
Using a detailed excavated sequence and a broad range of south Andean sites, the authors show that changes in the bones of camelids and in the lithic assemblages offer an account of how animals were intensively exploited and ultimately domesticated between the sixth and fourth millennia BP.
Researchers in several continents have found that agriculture began not in major river valleys but up in the hills, where early farmers tended crops on alluvial fans and improved irrigation by building earth barriers across them. Here the authors reveal a similar process in the hills of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where early farming villages overlook the plains of the Punjab and Sindh, heartland of the later Indus civilisation. Today this is a troubled border zone, with difficult access on the ground, but our researchers make exemplary use of satellite survey to map the villages in their specific local environments.
The vivid engravings on vertical rocks at the desert site of Nag el-Hamdulab west of the Nile comprise a rock art gallery of exceptional historical significance. The authors show that the images of boats with attendant prisoners, animals and the earliest representation of a pharaoh offer a window on Dynasty 0, and depict the moment that the religious procession of pre-Dynastic Egypt became the triumphant tour of a tax-collecting monarch.
The early Neolithic rondel is a large curvilinear ditched and palisaded enclosure found in increasing numbers in Central Europe. It has close links with the tells of the Danube region, themselves highly suggestive instruments of the earliest Neolithic. Here the authors extend the distribution of rondels further to the north-east, with the discovery and verification of the first example in Poland. As they point out, it is aerial photography that made this advance possible and we can expect many more discoveries, given appropriate investment in the art.
You never know until you look. The authors deconstruct a kurgan burial mound in the Great Hungarian Plain designated to the Yamnaya culture, to find it was actually shared by a number of different peoples. The Yamnaya were an influential immigrant group of the Late Copper Age/Early Bronze Age transition. The burials, already characterised by their grave goods, were radiocarbon dated and further examined using stable isotope analysis on the human teeth. The revealing sequence began with a young person of likely local origin buried around or even before the late fourth millennium BC—a few centuries before the arrival of the Yamnaya. It ended around 500 years later with a group of different immigrants, apparently from the eastern mountains. These are explained as contacts built up between the mountains and the plain through the practice of transhumance.
The author sets out to explain why Maya cities are so dispersed, with a ceremonial core surrounded by spacious neighbourhoods. Using the case study of Xuch, and the judicious application of phosphate analysis, he shows that these were clusters of farmsteads, growing food. Tackling the apparent confrontation of town and country in the same settlement he urges us to reconsider ‘urbanism’ as being too narrow a term in archaeology. Solutions that combine food production and ritual can be seen as increasingly diverse. The paper provides valuable reflections for archaeologists studying settlement evolution the world over.
The shapes drawn out by the famous Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert are at their most evident from the air—giving rise to some famously fantastic theories about their origin. The new understanding offered here is the result of a piece of straightforward brilliance on the part of our authors: get down on the ground, where the original users were, and see where your feet lead you. Using stratigraphic and taphonomic reasoning to decide which lines were contemporary, they discover an itinerary so complex they can justify calling it a labyrinth, and see it as serving ceremonial progressions.
In this detailed study of fifteenth-century settlements in Argentina, the authors show how the Inka did not just use force, production and ritual to subdue the indigenous population. The conquerors' strategy included the re-ordering of settlement plans, routeways and landscape, class separation and even the imposition of a rigorous discipline on the indigenous vision, controlling what could be seen looking out or looking in. The material readings made in these South American examples have much to offer to archaeologists working in colonial periods elsewhere.
Game-boards carved on monuments offer an intriguing opportunity to track a certain mindset in time and space. In an earlier Antiquity article, the author showed us that mancala boards were carved on the Roman plinths at Palmyra by Arab soldiers. Here he takes us into Sudan, finding new mancala boards on the first-millennium pyramids at Meroe. With adroit detective work, he shows that these too are probably owed to military visitors, this time a group of nineteenth-century Turkish soldiers of the Ottoman empire—perhaps those assigned to help Giuseppe Ferlini to blow up and pillage the tombs.
Excavators examining breccia deposits are faced with the prospect of extracting finds from a material akin to concrete. Nevertheless such deposits are sometimes the only witness of early Palaeolithic occupation. Our inventive authors put aside the hammers, acids and explosives of earlier days, and used quarry techniques to cut the breccia into small blocks, which they then freed from their finds in the laboratory, using tools developed in palaeontology. As a result, they gathered a huge harvest of stone tools, bones and shells. It all goes to show that archaeological excavation is an exercise of infinite variety: to every problem, its solution; to every terrain, its method.
Bone points of two types, the one thin and poisoned and the other robust and not poisoned, are examined in this study of impact fractures. The bone points seem to have had similar experiences to stone points, producing fractures of a similar kind. Most of the fractures in the historical collection examined were caused by impacts. However, this early twentieth-century collection is not thought to be representative of contemporary fracture frequencies that occurred in hunting.
Does the curiosity of an archaeologist lead to encounters with forbidden things, inviting retribution? The learned antiquary M.R. James, writer of celebrated ghost stories, certainly thought so. In this vivid analysis, our author unearths the roots of James' impetus and compares it with that of his contemporary, Sigmund Freud. Of course, those days of paranormal terror are long gone, we are all rational now … or are we?
This important discussion about the use of radiocarbon to set up a narrative of temple construction on Hawai‘i arises from a recent paper published in Antiquity (2011: 927–41). It compares Bayesian and non-Bayesian solutions, and has implications that reach far beyond the Pacific.