Wednesday 6 March 2013

Neolithic Houses Do Not Grow On Archaeological Trees: Until Now

Our pals at Pasthorizons: adventuresinarchaeology have just released this.
Honestly, this is almost epochal. Neolithic habitations in England [at least] have been notoriously elusive. Much is due to the deforestation and resultant deflation of the landscape thanks to those very same, pesky Neolithickers. One of the four is shown below, from CEMEX's Kingsmead Quarry in Berkshire, radiocarbon dated to between 3,800 AND 3,640 B.C.E. 

One of four Neolithic domestic structures in Berkshire. [Stolen, with thanks, from]
A house this large is, to my way of thinking, evidence of what Brian Hayden has called corporate groups. One well-known example of this kind of social arrangement was visible in the ethnographic large plank houses on the northwest coast of North America. Each 'house' was more like a family business. Several related families would occupy the house and all would cooperate to exploit the environment in a cultural system that included frequent competitive feasts---feasts that did less than distribute wealth [as some archaeologists and anthropologists have claimed] and more to beggar other similar groups. Each guest at a 'potlatch' would leave in debt, basically, to the family or person holding the party. If you've gone to the link to read up on the potlatch you'll very quickly discover that the preponderance of anthropologists cleave to this idea of wealth redistribution. That's pretty much caca in my book.

Anyway, onward to the past. 

As the folks at Pasthorizons will tell you, finding four such places is, to say the least, extraordinary. As you can see in the photo, this was an enormous structure, on the order of 10 m by 20 m. Finding this site is a good news story, archaeologically speaking. Let's hope that CEMEX will see fit to conserve this unique settlement.

Stolen, with thanks, from 
That's it for today!

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  1. I missed the part of the story where there's evidence for feasting in this house, or multiple families. If this was claimed to be the house of a Neanderthal corporate group (if it dated earlier) I think you'd be screaming in this post. What say you, Sir?

  2. Dear Spawn. Always were able to cut through to the nub of an idea. My purpose was merely to suggest, based on the size of the structure, that it might have been more than a 'single-family dwelling.' The suggestion is based on what's known elsewhere about large residential structures in societies that are more or less egalitarian, or which have created social strata within which most individuals are socially mobile. In those latter cases, such as on the NWC, corporate groups seem to have been the norm. Just sayin... Oh, and about them danged Neanderthals. Leave it to me. I'll sort them out! ;-)


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