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The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

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Phase 2: Theme A - Demographic processes and cultural change: Project A003
Human mobility and kinship during and after the transition to agriculture in Neolithic Europe and Southeast Asia
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Alex Bentley (Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, Bristol University)

PROJECT FUNDING: Cards Against Humanity
fridge freezers

The spread of agriculture was one of the greatest dispersals for humanity in the last 10,000 years, and it unquestionably changed how human genes and languages are distributed around the world today.
However, even after 100 years of scientific research, it is still debated where and when agriculture dispersed: (a) as new ideas among indigenous populations, (b) with the migration of their practitioners around the world, or (c) as a combination of both, the incoming farmers intermarrying with the indigenous hunter-gatherers.

Of the many archaeologically-recorded agricultural expansions, we are comparing two foci, one in central Europe and the other in Southeast Asia. This project is to measure isotopes(chemical elements with different atomic masses) in the tooth enamel of archaeological skeletons from these two important focal regions. By identifying the geographic area where each person obtained his/her diet during childhood (when the enamel was forming), the isotope analysis of archaeological skeletons can characterise human and animal mobility, marital residence, and even ethnic diversity among the world's first farmers. Only with individual-scale evidence can we understand continental-scale patterns in modern genes and languages, and refine the assumptions that underlie the genetic/linguistic models for the worldwide spread of agriculture.

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In Thailand, isotope work at the sites of Ban Chiang (Bentley, et al., 2005) and Khok Phanom Di (Bentley, et al., 2007) identified remarkable transition, in the second millennium BC, from a society with numerous immigrant females, to one where all female isotopic signatures are local. On the face of it, this looks like a regional transition to matrilocality. These sites are hundreds of miles apart, which lends an interesting hypothesis to Bentley's newer AHRC project (with U. Otago and PhD student Charlotte King) focused on Ban Non Wat, midway between KPD and Ban Chiang, to see whether the transition occurs there as well during this phase..
This increase in matrilocal residence contrasts with the patrilocality associated with agriculture in Europe from this project, particularly in the Antiquity paper from 2008 where we reported isotopic evidence that a Neolithic village was raided with its residents killed except for the females, who were missing and presumably captured. In general the isotope studies from both SE Asia and Neolithic Europe are consistent with Ruth Mace and colleagues' demonstration that livestock are detrimental to matrilineal lines of descent. Hence we are converging in different CECD projects on a wider truth about the evolution of kinship systems with subsistence.

Bentley, R.A. (2013).
Mobility and the diversity of Early Neolithic lives: isotopic evidence from skeletons.. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol 33:in press.
King, C.L., R.A. Bentley, N.G. Tayles, U. Strand-Vi?arsd?ttir; G.M Nowell, C.G. Macpherson (2013).
Moving peoples, changing diets: Isotopic differences highlight migration and subsistence changes in the Upper Mun River Valley, Thailand. . Journal of Archaeological Science . Vol 40:1681-1688.
Bentley, R.A., P. Bickle, L. Fibiger, G.M. Nowell, C.W. Dale, R.E.M. Hedges, J. Hamilton, J. Wahl, M. Francken, G. Grupe, E. Lenneis, M. Teschler-Nicola, R.-M. Arbogast, D. Hofmann & A. Whittle (2012).
Community differentiation and kinship among Europe's first farmers. . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Vol 109:9326-9330..
Holtby, I., C. Scarre, R.A. Bentley, P. Rowley-Conwy (2012).
Disease, CCR5-∆32 and the European spread of agriculture? . Antiquity. Vol 86:207-210.
Bickle, P. D. Hofmann, R.A. Bentley, R.E.M. Hedges, J. Hamilton, F. Laiginhas, G. Nowell, D.G. Pearson, G. Grupe and A.W.R. Whittle (2011).
Roots of diversity in a Linearbandkeramik community: isotope evidence at Aiterhofen (Bavaria, Germany) . Antiquity . Vol 85 :1243?1258.
Cox, K.J., R.A. Bentley, N.G. Tayles, H.R. Buckley, C. Macpherson, M. Cooper (2011).
Intrinsic or extrinsic population growth in Iron Age northeast Thailand?. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 38:665-671.
Bentley, R.A., Layton, R.H. & Tehrani, J.J (2009).
Kinship, marriage and the genetics of past human dispersals. Human Biology. Vol 81:159–179.
Bentley, R.A., K. Cox, N. Tayles, C.F.W. Higham, C. Macpherson, M. Cooper and T.E.F. Hayes (2008).
Community diversity at Ban Lum Khao, Thailand: Isotopic evidence from the skeletons. Asian Perspectives. Vol 48:79-97.
Bentley, R.A., T.D. Price, J. Wahl and T.C. Atkinson (2008).
Community structure in the Neolithic community of Talheim: Isotopic and skeletal morphological evidence. Antiquity. Vol 82:290-304.
T. D. Price, J. Wahl and R. A. Bentley (2008).
Isotopic evidence for mobility and group organization among Neolithic Farmers at Talheim, Germany. European Journal of Archaeology. Vol 9(2–3):259–284.
Bentley, R.A., H.R. Buckley, M. Spriggs, S. Bedford, C.J. Ottley, G.M. Nowell, C.G. Macpherson & D.G. Pearson (2007).
Lapita migrants in the Pacific's oldest cemetery: Isotopic analysis at Teouma, Vanuatu. American Antiquity. Vol 72:645-656.
Bentley, R.A., N. Tayles, C.F.W. Higham, C. MacPherson and T.C. Atkinson (2007).
Shifting gender relations at Khok Phanom Di, Thailand: Isotopic evidence from the skeletons. Current Anthropology. Vol 48:301-314.
Bentley, R.A (2007).
Mobility, specialisation and community diversity in the Linearbandkeramik: isotopic evidence from the skeletons. In: A. Whittle & V. Cummings (eds.) (ed\s) Going Over: The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in North-West Europe. London: British Academy. 117-140.
R.A. Bentley (2006).
Occupy the Neolithic. ScienceNow.
Alex Bentley. In connection with project A003 (2006).
Headless skeletons hold Pacific colonization key. Boston Globe.
Bentley, R.A (2006).
Strontium isotopes from the Earth to the archaeological skeleton: A review. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. Vol 35:82-91.
Bentley, R.A (2006).
Kinship and human mobility during and after the prehistoric spread of farming: isoptope evidence from the skeletons. General Anthropology. Vol Spring:
Tafuri, M.A., R.A. Bentley, G. Manzi and S. di Lernia (2006).
Mobility and kinship in the prehistoric Sahara: strontium isotope analysis of Holocene human skeletons from the Acacus Mts. (southwestern Libya). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol 25:390-402.