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Neolithic Community Differentiation: Can Archaeological Evidence Connect With Rich Models?

Monday, August 26, 2013
12:00 AM
room 2009, Ruthven

Community differentiation is a fundamental topic of the social sciences, and its prehistoric origins in Europe are typically assumed to lie among the complex, densely-populated societies that developed millennia after their Neolithic predecessors. The evolution of this heterogeneity seems an appropriate application for complexity science, but archaeological data are always sparse. Can sparse evidence ever connect to such rich theory? If there is hope, one well-evidenced region is early Neolithic Europe, which has been studied by archaeologists, linguists, and geneticists for over a century. After a broad outline, I will present some of the new isotopic evidence for human mobility and differential land use in the early Neolithic within a patrilocal kinship system. This can be put in context with other large-scale projects that are obtaining bioarchaeological and genetic evidence for diversity and specialization, which suggest that models from the complexity sciences may offer new explanations for how such differentiation evolved. Testing these models rigorously remains the exciting challenge.

Professor Alex Bentley, Bristol University