THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click
HERE

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Middle Neolithic Population Upheaval



 Artist's impression of an 8,000 year-old Neolithic settlement.  Nice little huts -- and note the stepped pyramid in the distance!!

 Some interesting info on the BBC web site recently -- apparently there is a move towards the idea that there was a major population surge across western Europe in the Middle Neolithic.  Obviously this has a bearing on our debates about the size of the Mesolithic population in Britain, and the extent to which there was continuity or transition from this largely hunting and gathering society into one that was much more numerous, dynamic and innovative -- leading of course into the period of the Beaker culture.  If these researchers are right, this great wave of settlement came from the east within a relatively short time span -- this might well have a bearing on the MPP theory of people coming from the WEST and carting lots of petrified ancestors with them on their journeys to the site of Stonehenge.

Quote:  "The team found that the genetic signatures of people from the Early Neolithic period were either rare or absent from modern populations. And only about 19% of the Early Neolithic remains from Central Europe belonged to the H haplogroup.  But, from the Middle Neolithic onwards, DNA patterns more closely resembled those of people living in the area today, pointing to a major - and previously unrecognised - population upheaval around 4,000 BC."

23 April 2013 BBC web site:

Making of Europe unlocked by DNA

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22252099

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17857641

Farming 'spread by migrant wave'


94 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Could it be such 'population surge' reflects the increase of arable land and favorable weather conditions around the same time?

There is, after all, a direct relationship between population size and farmland size. Based on this relationship, it may be possible to reconstruct the time-line of the evolution of the landscape from frozen tundras and wetlands to farm lands.

What this study may be telling us is prior to 4,000 BC the land may still have been evolving, coming out of the Ice Age. With ice sheets and glacial lakes dominating the landscape still. Certainly, population movements would have followed in the same direction as farmland growth. And clearly this had to be in the direction from south and central Europe westwards and northwards.

MPP as usual got it all backwards in his many and desperate efforts to explain the 'facts on the ground' at Stonehenge!

Kostas

geocur said...

Archaeogenetic studies showing a movement from the fertile crescent westwards during the Mesolithic /Neolithic transition have been around for over a decade , but what the Brotherton study confirms is the long held belief of emergence of the Bell Beaker culture in Iberia and thus a move west to east .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- please, please stop speculating and do some reading! The Holocene history of Britain is pretty well known -- don't waste everybody's time pondering on what might or might not have been going on climatically.......

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

How speculative is it to argue when new farm land develops in a region people move into it and populations surge? And if there is new evidence of a population surge this can be the result of new land now becoming available for habitation?

I am really getting fed up with your attitude! If anybody is wasting time here it is me trying to argue sense in your blog.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

That's perfectly fine, Kostas. It's the speculation about ice sheets and glacial lakes dominating the landscape of 4,000 BC that I am getting rather fed up with.

Anonymous said...

In the past 100 years culture and money has flowed from West to East. Yet the goods that support this cultural change has flowed East to West.

Consequently, if we use these standard 'simplistic' archaeological models on today's history it would be written that the indigenous people of Europe were replaced by far eastern people with the only evidence for this crazy theory being the broken Samsung TV's and Sony Xboxes in our rubbish dumps.


Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

How did new farm land form in Northern Europe 4,000 BC? I've listed when the land was previously covered by ice and water. Have I missed something?

Kostas

Dave Maynard said...

The landscape was covered with trees from the climax forest that developed after the end of the Ice Age. The only inhabitants were the Mesolithic hunter gathers who did not have the technology to change that landscape by agriculture. There is some evidence that they burnt areas to create a diversified vegetation to encourage different wildlife.

Without sheep and goat grazing to reduce the regrowth and the knowledge to cultivate and harvest crops, you will be one element of the environment, rather than the main factor in influencing it.


The population of hunter gathers would be very small, while agriculture could support much larger numbers, even if hunting and gathering were still a large proportion of the economy.

This is all pretty simple undergraduate stuff, look for example, at Evans, J.G. 1975. The Environment of Early Man in the British Isles. Paul Elek, London, ISBN 0 236 40047 9

Dave

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas, are you listening?

chris johnson said...

The Evans book is one of the first I bought when it came out and I still use it.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Dave,

Thank you for the lecture from “undergraduate textbooks”. Were these written after the most recent paper Brian posted? About the “population surge” 4,000BC? I was thinking only of this. Not what was believed to be known before this. And am seeking an explanation that makes sense. I argued such “population surge” would be made possible if at around that time more land was made available. And suggested one way this may have happened large-scale and rapidly 4,000BC is if some areas in Europe still covered by ice or water were now dry and arable for habitation. Somewhat analogous to what is happening now in Iceland and Greenland.

I am listening, Brian, for other possibilities! Rapid and extensive deforestation you say? That is a possibility. Want to commit to it?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

"The population of hunter gathers would be very small, while agriculture could support much larger numbers, even if hunting and gathering were still a large proportion of the economy."

If hunter gather numbers are small, why bother farming? Agriculture is more labour intensive than hunter gathering so what was the attraction, surely mankind would seek more leisure time rather than less unless'something' else is happening during this period.

http://persquaremile.com/2011/08/17/hunter-gatherer-populations-show-humans-are-hardwired-for-density/

According to this model Britain could accommodate about half a million people without farming which is about ten times larger than current estimations.

As for burning of forest to create farming land, this has been proven to be incorrect, in the Amazon where the government has deforested millions of acres under this same myth, they have found the land under trees and forest lack the fertile soil to grow anything but bushes and trees.

The current undergrads are told that this 'Neolithic Revolution' was created by migrants from the continent, unfortunately we have DNA that proves just 20% of the population were immigrants in the Neolithic and the domestication of animals such as dogs that are associated with farming began no later than 7500BCE as their bones have been found in domestic locations at Star Carr.

I suggest this 'simplistic' book Dave quotes should be confined to the bonfire of irreverence like most prehistoric books including MPP.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Dave,
… a follow-up question. You write, “The landscape was covered with trees from the climax forest that developed after the end of the Ice Age.”.

What landscape? If Salisbury Plain, what is the evidence for this? No references to texts or papers, please! Just the 'raw facts'.

You may choose to respond together with my other comments you have not responded.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- use Google, if you can't be bothered to get any of the texts. I do not want this blog filled up with info that is readily available already to those who do just a modest amount of research.

geocur said...

There is no direct evidence for the character of the landscape around Stonehenge in the early post glacial period .Everything is assumed or inferred .The best we have is the pollen from beneath the Late Neolithic bank at Durrington and molluscan evidence from beneath the Woodhenge bank ,both suggest a woodland environment

Constantinos Ragazas said...

@Geo, thanks as always for the info.
@Brian ...that wasn't too hard!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo is too kind. Doing a little reading isn't too hard either, Kostas. I can recommend it!

Dave Maynard said...

Kostas,
Look in John Evans' book (and many others) for information on post glacial sea level change and isostatic recovery, which may help your argument, but I don't think it is anywhere near the scale you think.

Change to a Neolithic way of life is always difficult to explain, many people have pointed out that Mesolithic hunting and gathering has few advantages over simplistic farming, the two economies must have gone along together for a very long time, possibly until very recently when population pressure pushed the prey out of existence and hunting became regulated. Think of medieval deer parks!

As for the emerging landscapes, unless you have the technology to exploit them, they are not much use to you. The early Holocene hunters and gathers could do nothing about the environment that was changing around them, yet it changed them as the woodland got thicker and sea level started to rise. They had to change, from the Maglemose to the later Mesolithic cultures, all shown in their tool types. It's a bit like not being able to have an economy in Wales based on designing Apps, until the Iphones have all been delivered from the east (to use Anonymous' analogy).

Anonymous,
It is hard to be sure of absolute numbers of population, population movement and DNA. This is my understanding of the evidence and how far it can be used as 'proof' and acceptance of that.

Don't forget I stopped looking at all this in the early 1980's, so I've probably missed out on a lot - I hear the big stories, but haven't time to follow it through into the detail.

The sustainability of the soil for arable agriculture following clearance depends upon the soil type. The Amazon rainforests rely on rapid recycling of the nutrients back into the forest to prevent them being lost in the heavy rainfall and acidic laterites. Slash and burn farming has always relied on use of the cleared area for a few years and then moved on as the soil resources were depleted. I remember a study that claimed the movement of Neolithic farmers across Europe from the east was determined by the time that any clearance could sustain then before moving further west. This was shown by the period of use of LBK settlements.

In the UK, there is evidence of the failure of soils even in the Neolithic and certainly in the Bronze Age, with the podsolization of thin soils, creating the heaths and moors. Personally, I think the emphasis on arable farming is over done, the Neolithic is more about new technology, keeping animals like sheep and goats and manipulating the environment around you with those animals, which creates cleared areas. You can plant cereals in those cleared areas, but it is hard work with little return and they have to be defended even from your own sheep.

I wouldn't want Evans' 'simplistic' book burned(metaphorically), it's had a big impact on me, as you can see above! I guess someone will be looking back at MPP's books in 30 or 40 years time in the same way.

Dave

chris johnson said...

The conventional distinction between hunters and farmers misses the herding culture for which there seems to be plenty of evidence from, say, Durrington Walls.

Even in mesolithic times I suspect people were smart enough to manage deer the way American hunters do today. They prepare a food plot of 25x25 metres to attract a herd - in mesolithic times acorns or hay would do the trick. Maybe this is what was happening at Vespasian's camp.

Aurochs are generally recognized to have been domesticated and bred into modern cattle. A Roman author spread the myth that these were fierce and untameable beasts but the genetic evidence tells that they were managed by humans.

The drovers showed that herds of animals can be moved over unfenced country in a managed way and likely these techniques were learned in the mesolithic and maybe even earlier. Look at the way the Sami manage their Reindeer.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Dave,

You seem to imply the population surge 4,000BC is entirely due to 'change to a Neolithic way of life'. It may be the other way around.

In my view, this population surge is best explained as due to the greater availability of food. And for the period we are talking about, the production of food was almost exclusively dependent on Nature and on arable land and weather. Nothing to do, in my humble opinion, with any greater technological advances needed by humans to grow more food, as you argue here:

“As for the emerging landscapes, unless you have the technology to exploit them, they are not much use to you.”


The same technology used to grow food on one acre of arable land could as easily be used to grow food on ten acres of arable land. Producing ten times more food which could sustain a ten fold increase in the people you can now feed. And this would result in a change of life-style. In 'settling down' to fixed dwellings and villages. No need to roam around from place to place hunting for food or sex.

I think we can rule out deforestation as a big factor in the greater availability of arable land 4,000BC. This thus leaves my suggested alternative: the draining of vast areas previously covered by ice and water. And this may have all happened just some 6,000 years ago, as this study seems to suggest.

Consider my arguments as “thought for food”.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

If the evidence for forests at Salisbury Plain is based on pollen count at Durrington, there may be other explanations for such evidence.

Pollen may have been carried and deposited there by glacier meltwater from the mountains where there were trees. Ever noticed the pollen collecting in a lake? Were the lake to dry up, the pollen would still be there. Were the trees there?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Kostas,
I suggest you take up alchemy, you stand a better chance of success with it.

TonyH said...

Kostas
The (virtually resident) expert on pollen matters on Salisbury Plain and the wider area is Mike J. Allen, of the Salisbury Riverside Project, who is based at Bournemouth University. Suggest you do a Literature Search and then READ some of what you discover. He has also been mentioned many times on this blog, and has contributed too.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon,

Were I to take up alchemy I would be in the company of giants, like Isaac Newton!

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Tony,

My comment on pollen and evidence of forestation at Salisbury Plain is in response to Geo's comment to me on 26 April 2013 22:41.

I think you will agree he is very well read on the subject!

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Chris is correct about hunting herds of Reindeer in the Mesolithic. These herds would have naturally returned to the tundra lands they thrive upon directly after the ice age had released the land about 10,000 years earlier than Kosta has estimated.

The animal bones and hunting weapons have been found and dated and are currently at the bottom of the North Sea. Mankind would have naturally followed these herds and hence the re-population of Britain as a consequence.

I do not believe that these creatures were 'enclosed' in anyway as they would become 'stressed' and as we have now founding out, stressed animals give out 'toxins' that are bad to humans if consumed.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/jan02/animal0102.htm

I would imagine these migrants would know this fact(as they understood and were more connected to nature and the environment than us) and consequently prefer to hunt naturally like the North American Indians, who probably did not suffer the same poisoning of the human food chain we suffered in the so called 'Neolithic Revolution' when these good practices were ignored by the introduction of farming.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Science/article646221.ece

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon of 28 April 2013 17:25,

The population surge 4,000BC is not MY estimate. But reported in the paper Brian posted. Perhaps you can explain the population surge 4,000BC.

Better plows, you say?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Kostas

The 'Neolithic Revolution' dictates a change in lifestyle and culture.

The previous 'healthy' lifestyle was replace by an unhealthy lifestyle (farming) this lead to permanent settlements and the start of villages as animals were herded and crops grown from the by-products of the animals.

This would naturally lead to an increase in population as it would favour larger families as more labour would be needed to tend the land. This model can be seen in the developing villages in Asia in the last century.

This then asks questions on child mortality rates and child preferences in this 'brave new world', that's why I call the current explanations to prehistoric societies 'simplistic' and nothing to do with the climate and tundra you have suggested.

chris johnson said...

There is a great paper authored by Dale Serjeantson, "Review of animal remains from Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in southern Britain 4000-1500 BC".

The evidence points to a society in which cattle herding predominated in a semi-nomadic fashion. (The cattle originated in Europe, not from local Aurochs). The emphasis of the herders would have been to "farm" the land for pasture. Doubtless the many trees cut down for Woodhenge and other sites would have aided this process.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon of 29 April 2013 09:29

I think you are arguing for “better plows”.

Which came first. The advance of “agriculture” or the change in “life style”? The “population surge” or “labor intensive farming”? I rather see these as happening coincidentally.

For me, “better plows” does not explain the “population surge”. But I concede it does for you. Yours is a modified version of the 'simplistic theory' you reject. Self-rejection is a bad think!

You and archeologists have this backwards.

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Kostas,
You say "Were I to take up alchemy I would be in the company of giants, like Isaac Newton!"

Only if you were successful, otherwise you are simply wasting your time.

chris johnson said...

The "big bang" in British agriculture is probably the import of good breeding stock - not the plough or even the plow. Changes were gradual over hundreds of years

John Evans describes the evidence for paleolithic Brits modifying the landscape for purposes of animal husbandry - so there is a strong probability that changing the landscape to suit the management of animals was not a new idea that started in the neolithic or even a new lifestyle.

The history of the British Neolithic in Stonehenge environs is more about stock keeping and animal husbandry than it is about plows, I believe. By the early Bronze Age sheep farming was the growth industry and stayed that way for thousands of years, along with pigs and cattle.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon of 29 April 2013 16:23,

Your concern for my time is touching! But is it my time or my ideas that concern you?

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

“changing the landscape to suit the management of animals” … I have often wondered about the prehistoric landscaping. I am still wondering!

“Surge” by definition is not gradual! Your thesis underminds your argument.

Kostas

chris johnson said...

Take a look at Dorian Fuller and Chris Stevens article in Antiquity Vol 6 from 2012. There is a good review on-line in www.farmingunearthed.wordpress.com dated september 17, 2012.

Fuller and Stevens argue that domesticated crops were introduced in the early British neolithic from 4000BC, but by 3300BC the economy was predominantly pastoral. The archeological record shows "a surge of wild plants". Stonehenge and other monuments were built by groups of mobile herders who came together on occasion for communal activities. The real agricultural revolution started around 1500 BC.

The hypothesis is that the climate changed around 3300 BC to be colder and dryer, so harder to grow crops. It changed again in the middle bronze age to encourage arable farming.


Jon Morris said...

The hypothesis is that the climate changed around 3300 BC to be colder and dryer, so harder to grow crops. It changed again in the middle bronze age to encourage arable farming.

Thanks for this Chris. I had come to this conclusion by independent means but had not seen any archaeological evidence or reasoning presented for it. Your note is very much appreciated. I'll try to get a hold of the article.

BRIAN JOHN said...

We needn't speculate too much about Holocene climate oscillations -- basically interglagial, more or less as today, sometimes a little warmer and sometimes a little cooler, with a distinct dip around the time of the Little Ice Age. There are thousands of studies in the literature. Here is a good summary:
http://www.devonkarst.org.uk/bone%20caves%20of%20plymouth%20&%20district/CAT_hp_Introduction%20Link%20Page%20to%20Time%20Chart%20Table.html

Anonymous said...

" Stonehenge and other monuments were built by groups of mobile herders who came together on occasion for communal activities. "

Nice idea unsupported with any evidence, particularly from the many thousands of historic herding societies in Asia and America. The organisational, reward and complex social hierarchy required for such monuments are beyond such simple cultures.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon of 30 April 2013 12:45

I couldn't agree with you more. I have been arguing the same point in Brian's blog for three years now! But 'true believers' continue to believe prehistoric men had it in their DNA to do great things. No organized society needed. They built it themselves! To paraphrase Mitt Romney's campaign mantra!

The same arguments re: capabilities of hunter-gatherers 12,000BP are made explaining Gobekli Tepe. Such intellectual incest can only create senseless monstrosities.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

“...by 3300BC the economy was predominantly pastoral. The archeological record shows "a surge of wild plants".

Myris' sublime Apollo is telling me the “priests” misread the evidence. The “surge of wild plants” around 3300BC does not imply a “predominantly pastoral” economy.

Such surge may have been the result of more arable land. It may also reflect a still meager population to take advantage of the new arable land.

If there is good land to be had, people will move in and farm it. If there were people to move in! We can take this as a self-evident truth. Don't you think?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

for UK viewers only.
a blast from the past
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0181bfw/Buried_Treasure_Stonehenge/
PeteG

chris johnson said...

Serjeantson's study reveals that NO fish remains are found. This is surprising as Avon/Kennet/Nyfer would have been rich with fish I take this to mean that there is a high probability that the herders had sufficient food resources from their animals. They did not need to go fishing (or arable farming) on any scale.

Anon's question on political organisation is very interesting. It seems to me that running a tribe of herders is quite complex, requiring a strong shared culture and willingness to negotiate and arbitrate and for small bands to cooperate.

As to whether tribes of herders are capable of organising things with major impact on the environment we probably need look no further than the Mongols.

My picture of SH folk is that they directed their surplus energies into monument building. They had time on their hands on regular occasions and the elders were wise enough to find something constructive for them to do. The "what" we can see - more evidence. The "how" and especially the "why" are what keeps us engaged.

geocur said...

Chris , the lack of fish in the diet where it might be expected is an odd one . Fish and sea birds were evident in the Mesolithic diet although both Thatcham in the Kennet valley and Star Carr had no evidence of fish consumption . It is just not found isotopically from the Neolithic to the Iron Age in Britain and Denmark and has been suggested as another example of the Meso -Neo transition

Anonymous said...

"As to whether tribes of herders are capable of organising things with major impact on the environment we probably need look no further than the Mongols."

Finding a few stones on the ground and standing a few upright to be carved on an overnight stop-off is not quite in the same league as Stonehenge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DeerstoneMGL.jpg

Although I'm sure Brian would love the idea.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

The lack of fish in the diet may also suggest there were no fish available. If there were, wont it be easier and less dangerous to fish than to hunt? And certainly the technology available at the time would have favored fishing.

The question is, why there were no fish available.

Kostas

TonyH said...

No one seems to know what happened to the bodies of the Mesolithic people in what we now call "Britain". There is said to be a mystery as to the disposal of their dead. "We know very little about what happened to the dead.....it seems these hunter-gatherers did not usually bury the corpse, or bury deposits of cremated bone. Their mortuary rites are mostly invisible archaeologically". [MPP, 'Stonehenge' 2012, page 194.

So are we really in any position to know that they didn't include fish in their diet, Geo et al?

TonyH said...

Geo: not sure what you meant when you said "fish and sea birds were evident in the Mesolithic diet although both Thatcham on the [mid-] Kennet valley and Star Carr had no evidence of fish consumption." Joshua Pollard in "Avebury: the Biography of a Landscape..." (2002)says of the Mesolithic middle Kennet, "a number of the larger sites might represent semi-sedentary occupations where Mesolithic groups made use of varied resources within an ecologically-diverse landscape. In contrast to the Upper Kennet Valley [closer to Avebury], fish may have been plentiful, perhaps forming an important part of the late Mesolithic diet (Richard Bradley, 1978. p 98)".

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris/Jon/Geo,

“The hypothesis [by Dorian Fuller and Chris Stevens] is that the climate changed around 3300 BC to be colder and dryer”.

I know Brian would rather have us not “speculate too much about Holocene climate oscillations”. But how can we avoid it if we are to seek truth in unexpected places?

The idea at 3300BC the climate changed to being colder fits the lack of fish in the diet at that time. Since, rivers and lakes and seas could have been frozen.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Look at the climate graphs, Kostas. Colder by a degree or two, at the most -- and rivers, lakes and seas could NOT have been frozen.

geocur said...

Tony ,I meant exactly that . The Thatcham and Star Carr data are specific , quoted in chap 15 “ The Beaker people Project :an interim report on the progress of the isotope analysis of the organic skeletal material “ in “Is There a British Chalcolithic “ .The Pollard and Bradley quotes are less specific with a clear conditionals “perhaps & may “ in the Bradley one and “might “ in the Pollard .

geocur said...

Tony ,the comment in relation to the Mesolithic was " no evidence of fish consumption " at two major sites .The evidence was not based on isotopes but from excavation .
The comment about the Neolithic etc was " It is just not found isotopically from the Neolithic to the Iron Age in Britain and Denmark "
The change , as was also mentioned , was in the Meso-Neo transition .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Are you refering to average global temperatures? If so, a difference of just 0.5 degree would melt the poles. The difference in average global temperatures between the Little Ice Age and the present is less than a degree. (see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png)

Furthermore, Brian, how do you explain the fish-free diet in the Neolithic UK? I offer a plausible explanation.

Kostas

TonyH said...

Geo: thank you for that clarification. This investigation into whether or not there was a British Chalcolithic period must be quite fascinating, having read just a flavour of it in MPP's 'Stonehenge' (another plug - Royalty share?).

Jon Morris said...

[i]Look at the climate graphs, Kostas. Colder by a degree or two, at the most -- and rivers, lakes and seas could NOT have been frozen.[/i]

Is that colder on average Brian: Do you know of any data which could suggest what the seasonal variation was?

geocur said...

Opinion is divided among the 19 papers in answer to the question in “Is there a British Chalcolithic ? ” very entertaining , informative and recommended .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

Don't be confused by Brian's comment! It was a spurious divertion to my sensible argument.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Spurious diversion, Kostas? Not sure what you are talking about here. Holocene temperature oscillation graphs for particular regions are based on all sorts of evidence -- and sometimes there will be anomalies. There is still a discussion about the Older Dryas cooling, for example -- how widespread was it, and was it even real? Climate change is a difficult area, as we all know. It stands to reason that a change of one degree in the Arctic, where tamperatures are close to zero, might make a big difference to the ice-covered area, whereas the same oscillation will have a minor effect in the middle and low latitudes.

GCU:Intwominds said...

Just seen the Flying Archaeologist.
In freeze frame some nice shots of SH and Avenue but all the rest was trivial reminded me of OU broadcasts in the 70s even their hair was correct.
Loved the bit about the boar's tooth was that Bali Ha'i playing in the background. ((Just loved that musical after Showboat (1930s bw film version)the best))
Was it a spoof, very clever, nearly had me fooled but even here in old Alexandria we know a joke when we see it?
Is the Avon a trout river?
M

chris johnson said...

Lots of interesting connections in this thread and it has helped my understanding. I had not fully realised the sudden change in the early part of 4th century BC - I guess this is what Geo means by the meso-neo transition? Nor the similarities between Britain and Denmark at the time. Nor the relatively warm climatic episode in Britain which is shown clearly in Brian's link.

I did not know the Mongols had any kind of megalithic tradition until Anon pointed it out. My perception is that the Mongols were capable of massive feats of organisation on occasion, in this case constructing and managing the biggest empire the world has ever known without a tradition of writing, cities, and other aspects of "civilisation".

It seems to me that herding is an optimal way of life given the vagaries of the British climate. It would be today had we a small population.

From what I understand of the DNA evidence as it pertains to Britain, the majority of the gene pool can be traced back to the mesolithic and especially so in western areas like Wales. The picture I have is of successive immigrants absorbing into the local population while bringing new ideas. In the historic record sometimes the immigrants, although small in number, were able to force their ideas on the indigents - Romans and Normans, for example. At other times the British have adopted voluntarily what seems sensible, like a good curry.

I wonder how peaceful the neolithic transition was?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

We are not talking about a degree or two difference in the local climate. But average global temperatures. And even a half degree difference in these could make a huge difference. You write,

“Climate change is a difficult area, as we all know.”

I agree! Thus the reason why we must always leave open the possibility of freezing conditions in the UK around 3300BC. What was the key point to this discussion thread. As the referenced study [by Dorian Fuller and Chris Stevens] argued. And Chris and Jon echoed. And I chimed in with my own thoughts about this. And how well it fits the 'facts on the ground'. Just another piece in the jig-saw puzzle that naturally fits my view on this.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- how many times must I repeat that your fantasy about freezing conditions on Salisbury Plain around 3300 BC is NOT matched by "the facts on the ground." I have not seen a single shred of evidence to support the idea. Please read the literature, and show some respect for it.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

My theory on Stonehenge does NOT depend on “freezing conditions on Salisbury Plain around 3300 BC”. Any time earlier or latter would do just fine!

I was only extrapolating Chris's comment, “The hypothesis [by Dorian Fuller and Chris Stevens] is that the climate changed around 3300 BC to be colder ...”.

You may wish to redirect your comments to Chris and Jon and the authors of this study.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- 20 deg C is colder than 21 deg C -- but what has that got to do with freezing conditions? This is all perfectly absurd.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

“20 deg C is colder than 21 deg C” is not a serious argument.

The “colder” in this study[by Dorian Fuller and Chris Stevens] has to do with the production of food. When the temperatures drop to freezing or close to freezing plants stop growing. I extrapolated to “freezing” to also account for the “fish-free” diet at around the same time, according to Geo's post.

But this dispute is getting absurd! So I'll stop.

Kostas

chris johnson said...

@GCU intwominds

Avon IS a trout river - a very good one by all accounts. It was also known for salmon.

geocur said...

The Stevens & Fuller paper on the abandonment of cereal production offers climatic deterioration as a possible explanation .The paper they cite as evidence “ Short climatic fluctuations and their impact on human economies and societies: the potential of the Neolithic lake shore settlements in the Alpine foreland “ Jorg Schibler and Stefanie Jacome notes that hot and dry as well as wet and cold conditions recorded as low and high atmospheric C14 concentrations respectively , coincide with periods of reduced cereal production and higher meat consumption .There is mention anything like nuclear winters or extreme conditions ,merely cold and all importantly wet .They also make the obvious point that conditions found in the study area would not have necessarily affected communities elsewhere .

TonyH said...

AIDE MEMOIRE
To those of us who are attempting to follow the line of thought relating to the oft-mentioned STEVENS & FULLER article in Antiquity, the full reference to how to read this occurs above, from Chris Johnson on 30 April 2013at 08.59.

Jon Morris said...

Here's the link:

Stevens and Fuller

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

Thanks for this link. It is clear from this study by Stephens and Fuller agriculture did not take hold in the UK till about 1500BC.

The study also claims the population in the UK from Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (3300 to 1500 BC) had declined. They believe such events (no arable farming and decline in population) had “a climatic impetus”.

So we have harsh weather conditions and decline in population in the UK at the time when all the prehistoric monuments were said to have been built.

Are these conditions favorable to the building of all the megalith monuments in the UK?

Is it “devious”, Stan the Bandit, to “doubt”?

Kostas

TonyH said...

As an analogy,does anyone know enough about British building and settlement history to comment on what happened in this sphere AFTER the decimation of its population in the 14th Century following the Black Death? In paricular, for example, to the construction of spectacular Cathedral and Church buildings?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Tony,

One man behind a bulldozer can move a mountain.

People did not built those “spectacular Cathedral and Church buildings”. Technology did!

Kostas

TonyH said...

Kostas

I used the word ANALOGY. This is not meant to be a direct COMPARISON.

Jon Morris said...

Are these conditions favorable to the building of all the megalith monuments in the UK?

Monuments may have been built as a direct result Kostas: It's not at all difficult to work up a plausible environmental explanation describing the root cause and subsequent purpose of most of these monuments: Some monuments in Ireland even have relevant explanatory drawings. Stonehenge may simply be an advanced but more abstract form of that same environmental concern.

I'll write it up one day. There's a very limited market for this sort of thing though.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Tony/Jon,

Analogies are fine. I use them all the time. Here, the comparison is between climate, population size and public works. And the point I am making is technology has to be thrown in that mix. And I claim neither technology nor the population size or environmental conditions (as this new study argues) favored the building of so many (thousands) of prehistoric monuments.

So, in my view, Tony's Medieval example just does not measure up to anything. Nor examples from any other periods, like Egypt and Easter Island. While Gobekli Tepe is totally flawed and mistaken.

And to argue modern men can do the work with primitive tools is a false comparison. Unless we believe human capabilities are encoded in human DNA. And not dependent and emergent in Civilization. Such a view, I feel, has a corrupting effect on our intelligence as a people and on the importance of Culture.

The political mantra by Mitt Romney, “we built it ourselves” seeks to devalue the role of society and our responsibility towards one another. So you see why I am so passionate over this issue. It is an important point that goes beyond Stonehenge.

Kostas

TonyH said...

Jon

"there's a very limited market for this sort of thing though" [speaking of possible environmental concerns in prehistoric days, leading to monumental constructions]

On the contrary, Jon, I would suggest that,amongst the younger generation, there would be a very large market for "a plausible environmental explanation", because of what the younger (and I include myself in this!) generation faces, with the melting of the icecaps and glaciers before our very eyes, often on Brian's Blog Posts.

Jon Morris said...

Hi Tony.

You could be right, but the ordinary market (journals and so on) will not publish on this subject unless ideas are supported by, or come from, an archaeologist: If there's serious interest in the late stage stuff (ie Stonehenge), I'll definitely move the others up on the 'to do' list.

Tim Darvill wrote to say that he agrees with some of the basic hypothesis (on the Stonehenge side) so I recently wrote back to say that there is a little more to it than just Stonehenge. However, the most interesting antecedent monuments, those which appear to have evidence of an environmental concern and a subsequent reasoning which would eventually lead to the construction of Stonehenge, are all in Ireland; so it may not fall into his area of interest.

Jon

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

Are you saying Stonehenge was built because of “environmental concerns”? Am I understanding you right? How so! Please explain …

Kostas

TonyH said...

Jon

You may already know, but it might be worth your while trawling through Tim Darvill's research interests. He appears to me to be a serious Neolithic scholar for most of his academic life, certainly for England and Wales, not so sure about Ireland, but by the very nature of the studies of the Neolithic, he probably is well versed in Irish Neolithic matters. Also, he's constructed an on-line comprehensive list of research studies by all and sundry related to Stonehenge & its greater landscape.

Jon Morris said...

Are you saying Stonehenge was built because of “environmental concerns”? Am I understanding you right? How so! Please explain …

Yes. That's correct; though Stonehenge is rather abstract compared to the others. But I can't see how an archaeologist would get funding to investigate this sort of thing unless he/she had some form of monopoly control. If I were to say what it's all about on a website, then any chance of passing over control to get funding (to find out if any of this is true) would be gone.

So I've tried to hold back a certain amount of it under confidentiality using the ploy of it being patent pending: Stonehenge's structure is, technically, patent pending and due for examination in the next month or two, but I wrote the claims of those two applications very narrowly so that there would be little commercial value behind them.

Jon Morris said...

Thanks Tony. Yes, I took a look, but mostly looked at his theories to see if the sequence would support or invalidate what he's already put in writing. His ideas are firmly in the support category, so there's no potential conflict. Difficult all this political stuff.

Ireland is also a bit tricky: Getting access isn't easy. However, they haven't said no, which came as a but of a surprise: I watched a TV program about it which said that all access was strictly forbidden.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

What Neolithic “environmental concerns”? By whom? And how can we know that? Was Stonehenge built to “ward off” the bad weather? Or to “celebrate” the sun? Such theory would certainly rival MPP's “the Avenue Stripes did it” theory. And it would be as much made up!

But if you are talking about a “marketing strategy” to capture a niche readership concerned about the environment, this makes good sense. But make it entertaining!

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

Kostas, if you don't read the replies that you are responding to, it makes you appear to have no interest in what others are saying.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

Be assured I read all the replies not once, but several times. What is said is not always what is understood. Thus the need for dialog.

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

OK. I'll try an re-phrase it: The hypothesis is that Stonehenge is a working geocentric model of their Universe. It's in the book if you want to go through the idea. If there is anything to this hypothesis, then it's really simple to develop a theory of why they would bother to build some types of monuments and show how this would eventually lead to a Stonehenge.

Essentially this is an environmental concern, but 'environmental' covers a lot of ground: It isn't a concern that you or I would recognise today because our world-view is very different. This concern, (though “Fear” would be a better word), appears to have very early monuments which are constructed to address the concern. Some monuments appear to have carvings which describe the concern in a pictorial form.

But getting funding to investigate anything new will be difficult in the current economic climate, so there's a series of steps that I think have to be followed to allow the best chance of it being investigated and/or published.

If the geocentric theory (for Stonehenge) gets little interest, then the “Fear” will make a marvelous basis for a novel, not least because the characters can go to the places and describe everything using real neolithic drawings. But I really doubt it would make sense to try to capture a niche readership concerned about the environment (if we're still worried about the environment by the time I get round to it).

geocur said...

Jon ,what carvings show the "concern " ?

Jon Morris said...

Hi George

The first novel introduced a lot of concepts that relate to both Stonehenge and the rest, so Knowth is the place I'd use because it contains every single descriptive drawing that I need to explain the ideas. The reasoning for other nearby monuments is then automatically generated, together with Knowth itself, as part of that logic.

If I was going to try to do a second 'Solving', it would be a bit more tricky, because I'd have to introduce some of the concepts from the novel which were not covered. I did plan to do this, which is why Solving is labeled as 'Volume 1', but not sure when I'll get round to writing this up now. When we last spoke about these drawings, I thought it would only be a year or two before I ran it by you. Since then, my work-load has gone up a lot (and mum's not well).

Jon

geocur said...

Sorry to hear about your Mum, Jon .
No rush with the other stuff .

TonyH said...

Jon

Your ideas and novel writing sound fascinating and I must properly find time for those.

In the meantime, sorry to hear about your Mum - mums are vitally important in the great scheme of life.

You may find it worthwhile to check out, if you don't already know her, details of Dr Nick Snashall. She is a National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site, but is also known as Nicola Ford, crime thriller writer. I have met her several times at Avebury whilst working as a N.T. Museum volunteer. Her website is:-

http://www.nicolaford.com/

She leads walks in the Greater Avebury & Stonehenge landscapes, and holds workshops, both via the National Trust.

Alex Gee said...

Studies of human remains found in Mendip caves demonstrate a largely terrestrial diet; despite the close proximity of the coast <4km.
This suggests that adequate food sources were available locally, negating all of the faf involved in fishing.

geocur said...

All the faf involved in fishing?
The alternatives were probably more labour intensive. What is intriguing is that the Mendip findings were typical for freshwater and coastal areas for millenia .

Jon Morris said...

Thanks Tony

I'll see if she's interested. Avebury falls into the same 'group' as Stonehenge, so it might pique the NTs curiosity.

chris johnson said...

Fishing does not have to involve a lot of faf. A couple of summers back a friend dropped a short net into the Baltic sea near Stockholm and next morning he had caught enough fish to feed a barbecue for 15 people.

Fishing is not as reliable as herding for day-in day-out sustenance but it would be tempting surely to feast occasionally on trout and salmon unless it was taboo.

The uniformity of the archaeologic record in many locations seems to indicate a strong cultural consensus.

Jon Morris said...

Here's a bit more on the Prototype trials:

Stonehenge: Prototype Test Runs

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- fishing in the Baltic is not quite that haphazard. I do it all the time. I know where to put the nets and when, and which nets are best for the fish we want to catch (mostly perch) -- others who do not have that local knowledge could spend a lot of time trying to catch fish, but end up going hungry.....