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Stepping Stones to the Neolithic? Radiocarbon Dating the Early Neolithic on Islands Within the ‘Western Seaways’ of Britain

  • Duncan Garrow (a1), Seren Griffiths (a2), Hugo Anderson-Whymark (a3) and Fraser Sturt (a4)
Abstract

The western seaways – an arc of sea stretching from the Channel Islands in the south, up through the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Man, and the Outer Hebrides to Orkney in the north – have long been seen as crucial to our understanding of the processes which led to the arrival of the Neolithic in Britain and Ireland in the centuries around 4000 cal bc. The western seaways have not, however, been considered in detail within any of the recent studies addressing the radiocarbon chronology of the earliest Neolithic in that wider region. This paper presents a synthesis of all existing 5th and 4th millennia cal bc radiocarbon dates from islands within the western seaways, including 50 new results obtained specifically for this study. While the focus here is insular in a literal sense, the project’s results have far reaching implications for our understanding of the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in Britain and Ireland and beyond. The findings broadly fit well with the Gathering Time model of Whittle et al., suggesting that the earliest dated Neolithic in this zone falls into the c. 3900–3700 cal bc bracket. However, it is also noted that our current chronological understanding is based on comparatively few dates spread across a large area. Consequently, it is suggested that both further targeted work and an approach that incorporates an element of typo-chronology (as well as absolute dating) is necessary if we are to move forward our understanding of the processes associated with the appearance of the first Neolithic material culture and practices in this key region.

Marchepieds vers le néolithique? Datation au C 14 du néolithique ancien sur les îles dans les limites des voies maritimes occidentales de la Grande Bretagne de Duncan Garrow, Seren Griffiths, Hugo Anderson-Whymark et Fraser Sturt

Les voies maritimes occidentales, un arc de mer qui s’étale des îles Anglo-Normandes au sud, remontant par les îles de Scilly et l’île de Man et les Hébrides Extérieures jusqu’aux Orcades au nord, ont depuis longtemps été considérées comme cruciales pour notre compréhension des procédés qui ont conduit à l’arrivée du néolithique en Grande-Bretagne et en Irlande au cours des siècles aux alentours de 4 000 cal av.J.-C. Toutefois, ces voies maritimes occidentales n’ont été examinées en détail dans aucune des récentes études traitant de la chronologie au radiocarbone du néolithique le plus ancien de cette région plus étendue. Cette étude présente une synthèse de toutes les dates au radiocarbone existantes pour les 5ème et 4ème millénaires cal av.J.-C. pour les îles dans le périmètre des voies maritimes occidentales, y compris 50 nouveaux résultats obtenus spécialement pour cette étude.Alors que nous nous concentrons ici sur le terme insulaire au sens littéral, les résultats du projet ont des implications riches de conséquences pour notre compréhension de la transition mésolithique-néolithique en Grande-Bretagne, en Irlande et au delà. Grosso modo les découvertes s’insèrent bien dans le modèle: Gathering Time (Whittle et al. 2011), qui suggère que le néolithique le plus ancien daté dans cette zone se situe dans l’éventail c. 3 900–3 700 cal av.J.-C. Cependant, on a aussi noté que notre compréhension chronologique actuelle repose sur un nombre comparativement petit de dates réparties sur une vaste zone. Par conséquent, nous suggérons que sont nécessaires à la fois de nouveaux travaux ciblés et une approche qui comprenne un élément de typo-chronologie (ainsi que des datations absolues) si nous voulons faire avancer notre compréhension des procédés associés à l’apparition de la première culture matérielle néolithique et de ses pratiques dans cette région clé

Trittsteine zum Neolithikum? Die Radiokarbondatierung des Frühneolithikums auf Inseln der “westlichen Seewege” von Großbritannien, von Duncan Garrow, Seren Griffiths, Hugo Anderson-Whymark und Fraser Sturt

Die westlichen Seewege – ein Meeresbogen von den Kanalinseln im Süden bis zu den Scilly-Inseln, der Isle of Man und den Äußeren Hebriden bis Orkney im Norden – werden seit langem als entscheidend für unser Verständnis der Prozesse gesehen, die zur Ankunft des Neolithikums in Großbritannien und Irland in den Jahrhunderten um 4000 cal bc führten. In die jüngeren Untersuchungen zur Radiokarbonchronologie des frühesten Neolithikums in dieser weiteren Region wurden die westlichen Seewege jedoch nicht detailliert einbezogen. Dieser Beitrag stellt eine Synthese aller existierenden C14-Daten des 5. und 4. Jahrtausends cal bc vor, die von Inseln der westlichen Seewege stammen, einschließlich 50 neuer Ergebnisse, die für diese Untersuchung gewonnen wurden. Auch wenn der Fokus dieser Forschung „insular“ im wörtlichen Sinne ist, haben die Resultate des Projekts weitreichende Auswirkungen auf unser Verständnis des Übergangs vom Mesolithikum zum Neolithikum in Großbritannien und Irland und darüber hinaus. Die Ergebnisse stimmen gut mit dem „Gathering Time“ Modell überein (Whittle et al. 2011), das nahe legt, dass das früheste datierte Neolithikum in dieser Region etwa in den Zeitrahmen 3900–3700 cal bc fällt. Jedoch muss auch festgestellt werden, dass unser gegenwärtiges chronologisches Verständnis auf vergleichsweise wenigen und über einen großen Raum verstreuten Daten basiert. Konsequenterweise wird vorgeschlagen, dass sowohl weitere zielgerichtete Untersuchungen notwendig sind als auch ein Forschungsansatz, der auch typochronologische Studien neben absoluten Datierungen umfasst, wenn wir unser Verständnis der Prozesse, die mit dem Auftreten der frühesten neolithischen materiellen Kultur und damit zusammenhängenden Handlungsweisen in dieser Region verbunden sind, verbessern wollen

¿Trampolín hacia el Neolítico? Datación radiocarbónica del Neolítico inicial de las “rutas marítimas del oeste” en las islas de Gran Bretaña, por Duncan Garrow, Seren Griffiths, Hugo Anderson-Whymark y Fraser Sturt

Las rutas marítimas del oeste – un arco marítimo que se extiende desde las Islas del Canal en el Sur, hasta las Islas de Scilly, la Isla de Man y de las Islas Hébridas a las Orcadas en el norte- ha sido crucial para comprender la llegada del Neolítico a Gran Bretaña e Irlanda en cronologías en torno al 4000 cal bc. Sin embargo, no han sido consideradas en detalle en los estudios más recientes sobre la cronología radiocarbónica del Neolítico Antiguo a una escala más amplia. Este artículo presenta una síntesis de todas las dataciones radiocarbónicas disponibles para el V y IV milenio cal bc de las islas que forman las rutas marítimas del oeste, incluyendo 50 nuevos resultados obtenidos específicamente para este trabajo. A pesar de que el objetivo es claramente insular en su sentido más literal, los resultados del proyecto tienen mayores implicaciones para nuestra comprensión de la transición Mesolítico–Neolítico en Gran Bretaña, Irlanda e incluso más allá. Estos resultados encajan con el modelo Gathering time (Whittle et al. 2011), sugiriendo que las primeras evidencias del Neolítico en la zona se situarían cronológicamente en el intervalo c. 3900–3700 cal bc. Sin embargo, debemos igualmente resaltar que la interpretación cronológica del fenómeno está basada en algunas fechas dispersas a lo largo de una extensa área. Consecuentemente, en el futuro serán necesarios estudios específicos y enfoques que incorporen elementos de tipo-cronología (al igual que la cronología absoluta) si queremos ampliar nuestra comprensión del proceso asociado a la aparición de las primeras evidencias de cultura material y de prácticas neolíticas en esta región.

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      Stepping Stones to the Neolithic? Radiocarbon Dating the Early Neolithic on Islands Within the ‘Western Seaways’ of Britain
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