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The Canary Islands, 1000 km southwest into the Atlantic from Iberia, are close to the African coast; at the latitude of southern Morocco, they are far southern outliers to Europe as presently defined by its nation-states. The archaeology of their indigenous people, the Guanches, is caught up now in the contemporary politics of the Islas Canarias.
The obscure and ugly language of theoretical archaeology conceals as well as reveals fundamentals that no real practice of archaeology can actually escape. In this paper, revised from a plenary address at the TAG conference at Bradford last year, one of the cannier of the old hands puts some of those fundamentals into proper place.
A comparison of the evidence for the earliest scripts in different parts of the world suggests that an apparent preponderance of ceremonial; and symbolic usage should not be interpreted too literally. It seems to have more to do with archaeological preservation–the better survival in archaeological contexts of the durable materials preferred as vehicles for ceremonial texts–than with any deep-seated differences in the function of the scripts. It may well be that the earliest Chinese, Egyptian or Mesoamerican texts were largely as utilitarian in their application as those of Mesopotamia.
Some 9000 years ago the first European farmers established themselves in the empty plains of Thessaly, the only region in Greece that provided a reasonably assured harvest and was large enough for significant population growth. They flourished there and after more than a thousand years spread to the Balkans and beyond. The recognition that their success may have depended on the natural irrigation of river and lake floodplains leads us to a modified version of the wave-of-advance model of demic diffusion.
Three years ago, ANTIQUITY reported a first archaeological insight into the origins of Venice. The city's historical records, famously good and full for its flourishing, say very little about the beginnings. This second report includes direct evidence from Piazza San Marco, the heart of the city.
An account from Fracisco Pizarro's expedition tells of a trading raft encountered along the coast of Ecuador. It gives a rare first-hand record of the established exchange of fine craftwork along the north-western coast of South America. The excavation in 1992–3 of a Manteño-period workshop in Manabí Province gives a corresponding archaeological view of the making of these luxury goods.
The pollen record from an archaeological site provides the environmental background, while the animal bones illuminate its economy. Wild animal bones are also ecological indicators, and faunal spectra can clarify the status of animals whose place in the human economy is uncertain or changing. The status of the fallow deer in prehistoric Greece is explored from this viewpoint.
A timely book now in press explores the roles of drink and drugs in the lives of prehistoric Europeans. Here, an analysis of diagnostic forms in the megalithic art of Irish passage-tombs—with its spirals, lozenges and turning curves—develops the explorations of that visionary interpretation begun by Bradley in 1989.
In the Kumaun region of Uttar Pradesh, India, on the southern slopes of the Himalaya are cist burials, as well as megalithic monuments. Radiocarbon dates from the cists now hint at their going back to the 3rd millennium BC, and linguistic affinities would associate them with early Indo-European migrations into the western and central Himalaya regions.
New discoveries across the steppe zone of eastern Europe, and new dates relating to those discoveries, keep that oldest of archaeological puzzles, the Indo-European question, happily unanswered. A version of this paper was given at a 1994 meeting, on ‘Language, culture and biology in prehistoric central Eurasia’—its title a reminder that the biological view of Indo-European may again be a growing interest.
Dalmatia, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, is a region of contact between the several worlds of the early metal ages–the Danube region inland, the Adriatic coasts and beyond towards the sea. New finds from caves and burial mounds, and new radiocarbon dates help tease out complexities in the region's cultural order.
Recent excavations at the Late Bronze Age settlement site of Kalnik-Igrišče, northwestern Croatia, have brought to light evidence of small-scale bronze-casting. From that evidence, and the pattern of similar evidence from other sites in the southwestern part of the Middle Danubian Basin, conclusions can be drawn about circulation of metal and its control by an élite.
The archaeological record is dominated by the repeated object and the repeated event, so we search for patterns that explain the regular in general terms. But human societies are not like that; the mass is actually made up of individuals, and the engine of change more often at the margin than at the centre.
Crannogs, the artificial island habitations of the Scottish lochs and lakes, are once more a lively field of research. Following our 1993 report on the crannogs of southwest Scotland and their dates, here is news of crannogs on the Isle of Mull, again with striking dates.
In 1989, ANTIQUITY published the ambitions and methods of a remarkable project to automate and computerize the recording and analysis of artefacts from a very large salvage program in the western United States. Here is a follow-up that explains why the methods did not realize the ambitions, and questions whether those ambitions were well chosen.
In the December 1994 issue, we published a view by Meltzer, Adovasio & Dillehay of Pedra Furada, the large cave-shelter in northeast Brazil whose deposits may show a precocious human occupation of the New World. This further comment addresses natural and human agencies there, and how the research community can choose between several interpretations becoming available.