Morten Ramstad, Tony Axelsson, and Anders Strinnholm
During the transition to the fourth millennium, large quantities of amber start being distributed over the landscapes of northern and north-eastern Europe. By exploring the handling and use of amber prior to and after the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, this chapter traces the transformation and cultural expressions connected to amber to gain insight into changing concepts of material culture, personhood, and materiality, transcending the evolutionary frameworks which dominate this period.
Angela Schlumbaum and Ceiridwen J. Edwards
This chapter begins by defining ancient DNA and providing a brief history of ancient DNA and its potential for archaeology, followed by discussions of the technological aspects of ancient DNA; ancient DNA methodology; and state of the art, advantages, and disadvantages of wetland/wet sites. Ancient DNA retrieval from waterlogged material remains poorly understood. In many cases, DNA is unfortunately completely destroyed. However, given the rapid evolution of technology, both of instrumentation and development of techniques (e.g., new methods to reduce inhibition), improved results from waterlogged material are expected in the future.
Mikhail M. Bronshtein, Kirill A. Dneprovsky, and Arkady B. Savinetsky
Remnants of one Paleoeskimo and several Neoeskimo cultural traditions have been revealed in the coastal regions of Chukotka since the mid-1940s. The Chukotka Paleoeskimo cultural tradition, discovered on Wrangel Island, is comparable with the Paleoeskimo cultures of North America—Old Whaling (Alaska) and Independence (Greenland). It existed from 1700 to 1400 B.C. The Neoeskimo tradition is represented in Chukotka by Old Bering Sea (OBS), Okvik, Birnirk and Punuk cultures, found on Chukotka’s shores from the south part of the Bering Strait to the mouth of Kolyma River. The earliest are dated to the end of the first millennium B.C., the latest to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D. Chukotka archaeological sources point to close bonds between OBS, Birnirk and Punuk peoples. It is highly probable that a syncretic OBS-Birnirk-Punuk cultural community emerged in Chukotka from the end of the first millennium to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.
Arkadiusz Marciniak and Joshua Pollard
The onset of the Neolithic brought with it the establishment of new relations between people and animals, principally, through domestication, a shift to acquisition and control of livestock. It enabled the management of animals’ reproductive and productive potential, including the exploitation of animals for their secondary products and applications (such as milk, wool and textile, and as providers of traction power or transport). Their management brought about new rhythms of life, new roles and responsibilities, new gender roles and patterns of inheritance, and new potentials for sociality and sharing. However, the presence of animals also contributed to increased social tension.
This chapter charts the trajectory of change of Jomon period clay anthropomorphic figurines in the Japanese archipelago. The earliest specimens embodied the perception of the body and female bodily experiences rather than accurately representing the body itself. Emphasis gradually shifted from the material embodiment of unmediated bodily perception and experiences to the visual representation of the body. Through this process, the subject of the representation expanded from the female body to the bodies of various categories of being, including animals and fantastic/supernatural beings, and the figurines came to embody the mutual transformability. These beings were networked to form an ‘animistic’ cosmology whose successful reproduction was metaphorically linked to that of human life and community. The decline of the symbolic role of the female reproductive faculty as the universal referent in the prayer for communal well-being led to the end of the Jomon clay anthropomorphic figurines.
In recent decades the analysis of figurines has been theorized within the broader context of archaeology and material culture, and they have lately become the subject of discussions concerning embodiment, sexuality, performance, personhood, practice, and process. Instead of being separated from other areas of excavation, figurine studies are now more likely to be embedded in interdisciplinary research and to be the subject of scientific research. This review chapter begins with a discussion of figurines as material things in themselves, rather than reflections or resemblances of other externalities. More than other kinds of material culture, we want to know what figurines meant for their makers, because they evoke something so distinctly human. I then outline particular case studies at the forefront in the archaeological context, detailing how novel, explicitly interdisciplinary research is making new types of knowledge possible. I conclude with a series of interlinked studies from the site of Çatalhöyük.
Ethan E. Cochrane and Terry L. Hunt
The archaeological record of Oceania stretches over one-third of the earth’s surface with the first humans entering Oceania 50,000 years ago and with the last major archipelago settled approximately a.d. 1300. Oceania is often divided into the cultural-geographic regions of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, but these divisions mask much variation, and they do not always accurately characterize the historical relationships among Oceania’s populations. Since the 1950s, archaeological researchers have investigated Oceania’s human and environmental past and have focused on colonization chronologies and the origins of different populations, the intensity and spatial scale of interaction between groups, and changes in social complexity through time and space with a particular concern for the development of chiefdoms. Oceanic archaeologists often use historical linguistics, human genetics, and cultural evolution models to structure their research on ancient Pacific island populations.
This article reviews the evidence and interpretation of the development of ritual traditions in the prehistoric Japanese archipelago prior to the appearance of Buddhism in mid-sixth century
Douglas J. Kennett
This article reviews archaeological evidence of the Archaic period (~7000–2000
The Atlantic has long held a key position within the broader question of the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in Europe. Archaeological evidence suggests significant variability between the different geographical areas of the Atlantic coast both in the visibility of the Mesolithic and its nature. Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Britain and Ireland, and Iberia are considered. Burials, monumentality, settlements, exchange practices, and subsistence economy vary widely, thus common patterns are difficult to discern. The background to transition to the Neolithic is thus highly variable, and it is not surprising that the Early Neolithic in these regions can also be rather different. It is also becoming apparent that a lack of chronological control over the data has led to inclusion in the discussion of sites which do not belong to the earliest Neolithic. Their exclusion lessens the apparent contrasts between the periods, allowing a new picture to emerge.
Cristina Castillo and Dorian Q. Fuller
The banana (Musa) is one of the world’s most important crops and the most valuable fruit in the global market. In the search for varieties that are more pest- and disease-resistant plant breeders are increasingly looking to the wild progenitors,—as understanding its evolution is key to genetic improvement. The banana was also an important economic crop in prehistory although it is difficult to track its history of domestication and evolution due to preservation issues, the lack of reliable species identification criteria and limited archaeological evidence. Just two archaeobotanical studies of macro-remains and phytoliths, in New Guinea and Cameroon, have provided reliable identifications and interpretations to help our understanding of the origins and evolution of the banana. But to track the spread and growing importance of this plant in the diet, across the tropics and through time, we need to combine information drawn from botany, genetics, linguistics and archaeology.
The Bandkeramik Longhouses: A Material, Social, and Mental Metaphor for Small-Scale Sedentary Societies
This chapter draws on the author’s archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork in Europe and New Guinea. It explores the role of houses among the first agriculturalists in Europe. The house provides the material framework within which corporate social groupings exist, and is a fundamental aspect of their identity. The basic uniformity of LBK buildings informs us of the mental templates of their creators, and can be explained with reference to their egalitarian social organization, which would have mitigated the risk of initial colonization, and which the house helped to maintain. There are also variations, discussed with reference to the modular layout of houses—their front, central and back components, in particular. A global hypothesis is proposed: the more ‘very variable’ components an architectural tradition has, the more rapidly the culture can transform itself. Inversely, the more ‘uniform’ components there are, the longer the principles and rules of the society may last.
Behavioural inferences from Late Pleistocene Aboriginal Australia: seasonality, butchery, and nutrition in southwest Tasmania
Richard Cosgrove and Jillian Garvey
Detailed research into marsupial behavioural ecology and modelling of past Aboriginal exploitation of terrestrial fauna has been scarce. Poor bone preservation is one limiting factor in Australian archaeological sites, but so has been the lack of research concerning the ecology and physiology of Australia’s endemic fauna. Much research has focused on marine and fresh-water shell-fish found in coastal and inland midden sites. Detailed studies into areas such as seasonality of past human occupation and nutritional returns from terrestrial prey species have not had the same attention. This chapter reviews the current level of published Australian research into two aspects of faunal studies, seasonality and nutrition. It describes the patterns from well-researched faunal data excavated from the Ice Age sites in southwest Tasmania. Concentration is on the vertebrate fauna found in seven limestone cave sites to examine any temporal changes to seasonal butchery and identify any differences between seasonally occupied sites.
Margarita Sánchez Romero
Care and socialization are practices included in what have been called maintenance activities, a set of works that entangle very specific and characteristic relations and identities. These activities involve the quotidian maintenance of human groups through care, socialization, provision, food processing, and cooking or the organization and maintenance of the living area. Such practices are vital for the reproduction, cohesion, and wellbeing of communities and involve a significant amount of specialized knowledge, experience, and technology. This chapter examines evidence from the European Bronze Age for care and socialization practices, offering new challenges and questions on issues such as children’s agency and identity and involvement in the processes of daily life.
Magdalena Antczak and Andrzej Antczak
Pottery figurines made by the indigenous peoples in precolonial times have been a relatively rare finding in the Caribbean. A few dozen recovered across the Greater and Lesser Antilles cannot ‘compete’ with the thousands known from the neighbouring mainland. The lack of sound contextual and chronological data has severely limited the role of figurines in the pageant of the region’s past. Rarely addressed in the archaeological literature, figurines have been the focus of scant substantial research. This chapter examines what is currently known about precolonial figurines in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and on the Southern Caribbean islands. It discusses the precolonial archaeology of the region in order to facilitate the overview of figurines which follows. The case studies are ordered diachronically and include Puerto Rico, Cuba, St Lucia, and the Los Roques Archipelago. Existing figurine interpretations are addressed and the chapter concludes with suggestions for future research.
This chapter provides an overview of Iron Age societies in the eastern Carpathian basin and lower Danube region, from the Great Hungarian Plain to the Black Sea, drawing on funerary and settlement data from the different regions. The first iron objects occur in Transylvania in the late Bronze Age, but ironworking only developed fully in the early first millennium BC. Throughout the period, the area was open to contacts with central Europe, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. The so-called Scythian and Celtic horizons in the Carpathian basin were both associated with newcomers, although the nature and extent of population movement remains open to discussion. In the north Balkans, a series of opulent graves and fortified settlements attests to the development of an aristocracy with strong ties to the Greek world, followed in the late Iron Age by the rise of the impressive but short-lived Dacian kingdom.
Terence N. D'Altroy
This article examines the prehistory of the Andean region based on archaeological evidence. It explains that the Andean region is one of the six places in the world where state society arose independently. The region's diverse small-scale societies domesticated virtually all of their animals, their food, and their industrial crops, and they began to settle in permanent villages between about 8,000 and 3 ,000
The Neolithic enclosures of central Europe have been controversially discussed for decades. Generally a combination of ditches, banks and/or palisades, the sizes and potential uses of these constructions vary regionally and over time. This chapter traces the development from the early Neolithic enclosures, generally associated with settlements, to the more formal Middle Neolithic roundels and the monumental enclosures of the Michelsberg and contemporary cultures, with their varied sizes and structural complexity. An overview of the architectural elements of different kinds of enclosure leads to a detailed interpretation of one site, Künzing-Unternberg, to illustrate the biographies and varied social contexts of these sites. This also forms the basis for attempts at recovering ‘natural categories’ of classifying enclosures in the Neolithic, before briefly discussing the range of possible functions.
The early Iron Age in the Aegean has traditionally been perceived as a period of decline, in contrast to the splendour of the palatial societies of the later Bronze Age, and concomitantly is often presented as a ‘Dark Age’—a time of regionalism and isolation. Recent investigations across the Mediterranean region are, however, revealing a different and far more complex picture. A considerable amount of human and material interaction occurred between eastern and western Mediterranean societies in the period 1100–500 BC, and people, objects, and ideas were not travelling only in one direction. Links between so-called ‘Mediterranean’ and other European societies are also undergoing substantial re-evaluation. Adopting a regional approach, this chapter explores the developments which transformed Iron Age societies in the Aegean and central Mediterranean, and also examines how regional trajectories interlinked and converged through cross-cultural encounters, resulting in substantial material (including technological), social and political innovations.