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Beaker People : Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain - Mike Parker Pearson

Beaker People

Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain

By: Mike Parker Pearson (Editor), Mandy Jay (Editor), Andrew Chamberlain (Editor), Jane Evans (Editor), Various Others (Editor)

Hardcover Published: 25th April 2019
ISBN: 9781789250640
Number Of Pages: 672

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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.

About the Editors

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).

Mandy Jay is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham where she specialises in the scientific study of isotopes and diet in prehistory. Andrew Chamberlain is Professor of Bioarchaeology at the University of Manchester. He specialises in the study of human remains from archaeological sites with research interests focusing on a range of questions in biological anthropology, science-based archaeology and palaeodemography.

Mike Richards is a lecturer at the Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada. His research interests include the evolution of human diets over time, especially the diets of Neanderthals and early modern humans, and the spread and adoption of agriculture in Eurasia. Current research includes developing new isotope systems for dietary and migration studies, using isotope analysis to explore and catalogue the range and nature of human dietary adaptations throughout the Holocene, and developing and applying isotope analysis in forensics.

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

List of illustrations and tables

List of contributors


Chapter 1 Introduction
Mike Parker Pearson and Mandy Jay

Chapter 2 Radiocarbon dates and their Bayesian modelling
Mandy Jay, Mike Richards and Peter Marshall

Chapter 3 Economy and society in Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain
Mike Parker Pearson

Chapter 4 Beaker funerary practices and grave goods in Britain
Mike Parker Pearson, Alex Gibson, Stuart Needham and Alison Sheridan

Chapter 5 Beakers and bodies in north-east Scotland: a regional and contextual study
Neil Curtis and Neil Wilkin, with a review of the osteological evidence from short-cist graves in eastern Scotland by Margaret Hutchison

Chapter 6 Aspects of human osteology and skeletal biology
Chris A. Deter, Patrick Mahoney, Sarah E. Johns and Sandra Thomas

Chapter 7 Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches
Patrick Mahoney, Laura Chiu, Pia Nystrom, Chris A. Deter and Christopher Schmidt

Chapter 8 Carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis
Mandy Jay and Mike Richards

Chapter 9 Sulphur isotopic analysis
Mandy Jay, Olaf Nehlich and Mike Richards

Chapter 10 Strontium isotopic analysis
Janet Montgomery, Jane Evans and Jacqueline Towers

Chapter 11 Oxygen isotopic analysis
Maura Pellegrini, Mandy Jay and Michael P. Richards

Chapter 12 Conclusions and synthesis
Mike Parker Pearson, Andrew Chamberlain, Neil Curtis, Jane Evans, Alex Gibson, Mandy Jay, Stuart Needham, Patrick Mahoney, Peter Marshall, Janet Montgomery, Maura Pellegrini, Mike Richards, Alison Sheridan and Neil Wilkin

Appendix 1 Neolithic individuals
Mandy Jay, Janet Montgomery, Mike Parker Pearson and Alison Sheridan

Appendix 2 The post-1500 BC individuals
Mandy Jay, Janet Montgomery, 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

Appendix 4 Location group, period, incidence of association with Beaker or Food Vessel and sex and age identifications

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)

Appendix 6 Part 1: Locational and dating evidence for the Scottish individuals studied by the Beakers and Bodies Project

Appendix 6 Part 2: Osteological, orientation and siding data for the Scottish individuals studied by the Beakers and Bodies Project

Appendix 7 Carbon and nitrogen isotope results

Appendix 8 Collagen quality data

Appendix 9 Sulphur isotope results

Appendix 10 Strontium and oxygen isotope results


Archaeology Data Service (ADS) electronic database
1. Access database
2. CT scans of teeth

ISBN: 9781789250640
ISBN-10: 1789250641
Series: Prehistoric Society Research Papers
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 672
Published: 25th April 2019
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 28.0 x 21.6  x 3.81
Weight (kg): 2.25

Earn 267 Qantas Points
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