Latest Issue: Issue 369 - June 2019
Research, Method & Debate
The early village at Çatalhöyük (7100–6150 BC) provides important evidence for the Neolithic and Chalcolithic people of central Anatolia. This article reports on the use of lipid biomarker analysis to identify human coprolites from midden deposits, and microscopy to analyse these coprolites and soil samples from human burials. Whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) eggs are identified in two coprolites, but the pelvic soil samples are negative for parasites. Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest Eurasian sites to undergo palaeoparasitological analysis to date. The results inform how intestinal parasitic infection changed as humans modified their subsistence strategies from hunting and gathering to settled farming.
Recent archaeological survey and excavation in China have demonstrated that large sites of the late fourth and third millennia BC were situated not on the Central Plains—where the later dynastic centres were located—but along the Yangtze and lower Yellow River Basins. Their decline in the late third and second millennia BC coincided with the growth of sites to the north of the Central Plains. Evidence for settlement size and a new chronology constructed from radiocarbon dates emphasise discontinuities in the geographic distribution of settlements, combined with continuity in cultural practices of ritual feasts and the use of symbolic jades.
Radiocarbon dating is paramount for chronologically defining the rise of polities in the Middle Bronze Age Carpathian Basin. This article presents a suite of new radiocarbon dates obtained from sites associated with the Early and Middle Bronze Age Maros Group, and its Late Bronze Age successors in the Tisza-Maros region of south-east Hungary, western Romania and northern Serbia. The results indicate tight chronological synchronisation of Middle Bronze Age settlements and cemeteries in the Maros region, while confirming the accuracy of ceramic-based relative chronology for the Szőreg cemetery.
Following a mid twelfth-century BC demographic crisis, Frattesina, in northern Italy, arose as a prominent hub linking continental Europe and the Mediterranean, as evidenced by the remarkable variety of exotic materials and commodities discovered at the site. Debate persists, however, about the extent to which migrants influenced the foundation and development of Frattesina. The authors present the results of strontium isotope analyses, which suggest significant migration to the site, particularly of elites, mostly from within a 50km radius. Among these non-indigenous people, the authors identify a ‘warrior-chief’, whom they interpret as representing a new, more hierarchical society.
The Must Farm pile-dwelling site is an extraordinarily well-preserved Late Bronze Age settlement in Cambridgeshire, UK. The authors present the site's contextual setting, from its construction, occupation and subsequent destruction by fire in relatively quick succession. A slow-flowing watercourse beneath the pile-dwellings provided a benign burial environment for preserving the debris of construction, use and collapse, while the catastrophic manner of destruction introduced a definitive timeframe. The scale of its occupation speaks to the site's exceptional nature, enabling the authors to deduce the everyday flow and use of things in a prehistoric domestic setting.
Artificial islets, or crannogs, are widespread across Scotland. Traditionally considered to date to no earlier than the Iron Age, recent research has now identified several Outer Hebridean Neolithic crannogs. Survey and excavation of these sites has demonstrated—for the first time—that crannogs were a widespread feature of the Neolithic and that they may have been special locations, as evidenced by the deposition of material culture into the surrounding water. These findings challenge current conceptualisations of Neolithic settlement, monumentality and depositional practice, while suggesting that other ‘undated’ crannogs across Scotland and Ireland could potentially have Neolithic origins.
Archaeological research on food-production systems has focused heavily on the origins of agriculture and animal domestication; the agricultural practices of early states are comparatively less well understood. This article explores archaeological evidence for crop cultivation, field-management practices and the use of farming implements at the Western Han (202 BC–AD 8) village of Sanyangzhuang in Henan Province, China. The authors analyse the implications of these practices for the newly developed smallholder mode of production. By combining diverse strands of evidence, this investigation provides new insights into the status of agricultural production in the Central Plains during the Western Han Dynasty.
Although there has been considerable scholarly interest in the nature of ancient cities, it has been difficult to identify and explore quantitative patterns in their design and amenities. Here, the authors offer a model for the relationship between the population size and infrastructural area of settlements, before testing it against measures of urban form in the Roman Empire. They advocate a more consistent approach to the investigation of settlements that is capable of not only incorporating sites with divergent physical forms and historical trajectories into the same model, but also able to expose their similarities and differences.
The ‘Portus Project’ investigates the social and economic contexts of the maritime port of Imperial Rome. This article presents the results of analysis of plant, animal and human remains from the site, and evaluates their significance for the reconstruction of the diets and geographic origins of its inhabitants between the second and sixth centuries AD. Integrating this evidence with other material from the recent excavations, including ceramic data, the authors identify clear diachronic shifts in imported foods and diet that relate to the commercial and political changes following the breakdown of Roman control of the Mediterranean.
Reccopolis, in central Iberia, is the only archaeologically identified town founded by Germanic newcomers on Roman soil during the challenging socio-political and environmental circumstances of the mid to late sixth century AD. Despite archaeological investigations, doubts have persisted concerning the nature and size of Reccopolis. Recent geomagnetic survey, however, has revealed a dense urban fabric, unexpected new royal palace buildings, an extramural suburb and one of the potentially earliest Islamic mosques in Iberia. Reccopolis now stands as an exceptional example of early medieval urbanism that challenges our perceptions of urban development in sixth-century Europe.
Archaeological investigations at Unisław in western Poland have revealed a previously unknown stronghold of the Teutonic Order—the first of its type discovered in Prussia. Comprising a timber-and-earth fortress erected on an older Slavic settlement, the complex functioned up to the AD 1320s, before being replaced by a masonry castle. This new evidence illuminates how such strongholds developed during the colonisation and formative years of the State of the Teutonic Order, and highlights the need for the reconsideration of assumptions concerning the associated architecture.
Despite more than three decades of feminist critique, archaeological scholarship remains predominantly focused on the exploration of patriarchal narratives and is, therefore, complicit in reinforcing structural inequalities. Questions must be asked of how the construction of archaeological knowledge affects representation and impacts upon our ‘archaeologies’. This article explores the relative absence of gendered approaches within archaeology through the lens of later medieval archaeology, with a micro-focus on castle studies in Britain and Ireland. Are there reasons for the silence in relation to gender in the archaeology of the later Middle Ages, and what lessons are there for bringing about a more inclusive archaeology?
In a 2017 article, Holen and colleagues reported evidence for a 130 000-year-old archaeological site in California. Acceptance of the site would overturn current understanding of global human migrations. The authors here consider Holen et al.’s conclusions through critical evaluation of their replicative experiments. Drawing on best practice in experimental archaeology, and paying particular attention to the authors’ chain of inference, Magnani et al. suggest that to argue convincingly for an early human presence at the Cerutti Mastodon site, Holen et al. must improve their analogical foundations, test alternative hypotheses, increase experimental control and quantify their results.
Located in the Fertile Crescent and at the head of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, the city of Basra is steeped in history. Close to the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, the territory of modern Iraq was occupied variously by Achaemenids and Seleucids, Parthians, Romans and Sassanids, before the arrival of Islam in the early middle ages. In more recent history, the city's strategic position near the Gulf coast has made Basra a site of contestation and conflict. This exposure to so many different cultures and civilisations has contributed to the rich identity of Basra, a wealth of history that demands a cultural museum able to present all of the historical periods together in one place. The original Basra Museum was looted and destroyed in 1991, during the first Gulf War. The destruction and loss of so much of Iraq's history and material culture prompted official collaboration to build a new museum that would represent the city of Basrah and showcase its significance in the history of Iraq. The culmination of an eight-year collaborative project between the Iraq Ministry of Culture, the State Board of Antiquities and the Friends of Basrah Museum, the new museum was opened initially in September 2016. Already established as a cultural landmark in the city, with up to 200 visitors a day and rising, the museum was officially opened on 20 March 2019. The author was fortunate to be present for this event and able to explore the new galleries (Figure 1).
Both volumes considered here represent these changes and offer lively insights into Neolithic societies in Greece, the Balkans and West Anatolia. At the same time, they demonstrate the growing developments in Greek Neolithic studies, the explosion of new data and the emergence of new research questions. Each volume has a distinctive focus, but they complement each other in more ways than one, e.g. in geographic, temporal, thematic and theoretical coverage. They both derive from international conferences held in Greece, one (Communities, landscapes and interaction) in Rethymnon, Crete in 2015, the other (Communities in transition) in Athens in 2013, and several authors have chapters in both volumes.
The organising entity is the Fondazione Paestum, which has a focus on comparative studies of colonial activity in the Mediterranean. The conference was just one of a series of extraordinary events and refurbishments that have taken place at Paestum recently; a second conference has just been published and a third is in preparation. The conferences are aligned with another major event at Paestum, and one of Italy's most important cultural tourism events, the Borsa Mediterranea del Turismo Archeologico (an international trade show for the travel and tourism industry). Paestum, a colony itself both in the sense of a Greek foundation, and then a Roman resettlement, is well suited therefore to host discussions that touch on mobility, hybridity and the interpenetration of culture as visible in the material record.
Whereas Sarr and Savoy (2018) focus on artefacts taken from various African countries after 1885, Incidental archaeologists, considers “the first four decades of the French conquest and pacification of Algeria under the authority of the French military Government General” (p. 24). Throughout the volume, Effros presents a convincing argument in which the social history of military infrastructure lays the groundwork for the future of the French civilising mission. She is clear about the magnitude of the task that the book is engaged in; it provides links between early French archaeologists and epigraphers and their place within the development of the disciplines. It also considers the ways by which romanticised narratives, created by French officers, about the classical archaeology of Algeria led to irresponsible destruction of antiquity, violence against local resistant populations and classifications that became constitutive of colonial archaeological interest and practice.
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Artefacts in quartzite have been found in a unique topographical location on the highest terrace of the Rhône Valley in France. These discoveries offer new opportunities for dating early European occupations.
The discovery of a burial pit at Uğurlu on the Aegean island of Gökçeada, in which bodies were deposited one on top of another, raises questions about whether this apparently careless discarding of the dead was local burial custom or a ceremonial ritual.
Settlement in Neolithic South-eastern Europe has traditionally been divided into tell sites and flat sites. The results of rescue excavations at Kyparissi challenge a strict dichotomy.
Sherds of the San Pedro pottery complex found in situ in association with new radiocarbon dates at the Real Alto site provide new insights into the origin of pottery technology in South America and cultural diversity during the Early Formative period on the coast of Ecuador.
Recent fieldwork on the river island of Khortitsa has revealed what may be the first-known causewayed enclosure in Ukraine.
The National Museum in Copenhagen responds to Søren Sindbæk's (2019) review of their revitalised Viking gallery, arguing that the new ‘Meet the Vikings’ exhibit increases public accessibility and engagement, while also reflecting contemporary research into Viking life.