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Early Neolithic human assemblages from southern Britain

Mick Wysocki with Alasdair Whittle (Cardiff University)

This research effort is underpinned by the conviction that excavated and archived human skeletal material should be treated as a primary research resource, in much the same way as other fundamental components of the archaeological record such as ceramics, lithics or indeed monuments. Initially working as research assistant to Alasdair Whittle, funded by a Leverhulme Institutional Award, and subsequently with the benefit of his advice and encouragement, four key initiatives were identified. Firstly, that much material from excavations spanning the best part of a century had never been fully reported or catalogued ( in some cases not at all). Such assemblages and many others that had previously been published required review and revision following up-to-date analytical procedures. Secondly, that extensive taphonomic examination and analysis of peri- and post-mortem bone modifications was necessary first step to understanding formation processes and shedding light on issues surrounding Neolithic mortuary ritual and practice (see Figs. 1 & 2). Thirdly, that a bioarchaeological approach had the potential to inform and enliven debate and understanding about Neolithic lifeways, gender divisions, childhood and regional diversity. And finally, that none of the resultant data would be of value without a rigorous and comprehensive dating programme. These approaches are beginning to bear fruit in recent results and publications: (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?jid=CAJ&volumeId=17&issueId=S1  ).

 

stone blade incisions on human bone

Stone blade incisions on human bone specimens from the Coldrum, Kent, Neolithic chambered tomb indicating peri-mortem dismemberment/disarticulation (photos: M. Wysocki).

stone blade incision on human bone

Stone blade incisions on human bone specimens from the Coldrum, Kent, Neolithic chambered tomb indicating peri-mortem dismemberment/disarticulation (photos: M. Wysocki).