The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain

The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain


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The Beaker People: isotopes, mobility and diet in prehistoric Britain presents the results of a major project that sought to address a century-old question about the people who were buried with Beakers a – the distinctive pottery of Continental origin that was current, predominantly in equally distinctive burials, in Britain from around 2450 BC. Who were these people? Were they immigrants and how far did they move around? What did they eat? What was their lifestyle? How do they compare with Britain's earlier inhabitants and with contemporaries who did not use Beaker pottery? An international team of leading archaeologists and scientists, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, was assembled to address these questions.

Around 300 skeletons were subjected to isotope analysis to explore patterns of mobility and diet, and 150 new radiocarbon dates were obtained. Dental microwear was examined for 64 individuals to provide further information about the food they had eaten, and new information on the sex and age of 201 people obtained. A comparative study was undertaken of the shape and size of Beaker users’ skulls and those of Neolithic people in the Peak District of England, to examine the long-held claim that there was a switch from long-headed to round-headed people with the appearance of Beakers. Tantalizing evidence for head-binding among Neolithic people was found. The range of objects found in Beaker graves was reviewed.

In addition, the Beaker People Project was able to incorporate the results of another project, focusing on Beaker users in north-east Scotland (The Beakers and Bodies Project) along with other recently obtained data, including ancient DNA results. Overall, new light has been shed on 369 people: 333 Beaker and non-Beaker users from the core 2500–1500 BC period, along with 17 from the Neolithic and 19 from after 1500 BC. While the genetic data provide convincing evidence for immigration by Continental Beaker users, the isotopic data indicate a more detailed picture of movements, mostly of fairly short distances within Britain, by the descendants of the first Beaker users. This lavishly illustrated book presents a body of data that will be vital to studies of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain for decades to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781789250640
Publisher: Oxbow Books
Publication date: 05/19/2019
Series: Prehistoric Society Research Papers Series , #7
Edition description: 1st
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Mike Parker Pearson is Professor of British Later Prehistory at University College London. A distinguished prehistorian he has been involved with many major projects, including leading the recent Stonehenge Riverside Project. His many publications include Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery (2012) and From Machair to Mountains: archaeological survey and excavation in Uist (2012).

Dr Alison Sheridan is Principal Curator in the Department of Scottish History and Archaeology at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Alison’s research focuses on the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland within their wider European context.

She has written extensively on the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, and as Co-Ordinator for Britain and Ireland in the French-led Projet JADE she has published on Neolithic axeheads from the Alps. She also specialises in the use of jet and jet-like materials, faience, amber and gold. Recent publications include “Jade. Grandes haches alpines du Néolithique européen. Ve et IVe millénaires av. J.-C. (with Pierre Pétrequin et al, eds, 2012 ); “Is there a British Chalcolithic?” (with Mike Allen and Julie Gardiner, eds, 2012), sections in “Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods” (Ann Woodward and John Hunter, eds, 2015), and “Amazing Amber” (with Andrew Ross, 2013). Alison was President of the Prehistoric Society 2010–2014.

Mindy Jay is an honorary research fellow in teh Department of Archaeology, University of Durham where she specializes in the scientific study of isotopes ion diet in prehistory.

Andrew Chamberlain is professor of Bioarchaeology at the University of Manchester. He specializes in the study of Human remains from archaeology site with research interests focussing on a range of questions in biological anthropology, science-based archaeology, and palaeodemography.

Jane Evans works for the Nerc Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (NIGL) of the British Geological Survey In Nottingham. She is an isotope geochemist specializing in the application of isotope systems to archaeological issues of provenance and diet.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
French Language Abstract
German Language Abstract
Notes about radiocarbon dates and the use of the term ‘east Yorkshire’
1. Introduction
By Mike Parker Pearson, Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
2. Radiocarbon dates and their Bayesian modelling
By Mandy Jay, Michael P. Richards and Peter Marshall
3. Economy and society in Beaker-period Britain
By Mike Parker Pearson
4. The Beaker People Project individuals, their funerary practices and their grave goods
By Mike Parker Pearson, Stuart Needham and Alison Sheridan with Alex Gibson
5. Beakers and bodies in north-east Scotland: a regional and contextual study
By Neil Curtis and Neil Wilkin, with Margaret Hutchison
6. Aspects of human osteology and skeletal biology
By Chris A. Deter, Patrick Mahoney, Sarah E. Johns and Sandra Thomas
7. Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches
By Patrick Mahoney, Laura Chiu, Pia Nystrom, Chris A. Deter and Christopher W. Schmidt
8. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis
By Mandy Jay and Michael P. Richards
9. Sulphur isotopic analysis
By Mandy Jay, Olaf Nehlich and Michael P. Richards
10. Strontium isotopic analysis
By Janet Montgomery, Jane Evans and Jacqueline Towers
11. Oxygen isotopic analysis
By Maura Pellegrini, Mandy Jay and Michael P. Richards
12. Synthesis, discussion and conclusions
By Mike Parker Pearson, Mandy Jay, Janet Montgomery, Alison Sheridan and Stuart Needham
Appendix 1. The pre-2500 BC individuals
By Mandy Jay, Janet Montg omery, Mike Parker Pearson and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 2. The post-1500 BC individuals
By Mandy Jay, Janet Montg omery, Mike Parker Pearson and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 3. Details of findspot location, current location of the human remains and bibliographic
references for the skeletal material studied by the Beaker People Project
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 4. Location group, period, incidence of association with Beaker or Food Vessel and sex
and age identifications
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 5. Analytical and dating work undertaken for the Beaker People Project and the Beakers and
Bodies Project (plus other data used by these projects)
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 6. Part 1. Details of the individuals studied in the Beakers and Bodies Project: findspot,
identifier, NGR, find date, associations and radiocarbon dates
Part 2. Osteological information and data on orientation and disposition in the grave
of individuals studied in the Beakers and Bodies Project
Both By Margaret Hutchison

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