I research in several areas of archaeological science. These include the development of dating methods for bone beyond the range of radiocarbon, novel applications of dating methods, and the use of isotopes in the reconstruction of human lifeways. My current research focuses on uranium-series disequilibrium dating and the chronology of modern human evolution, and is providing insights into the timing of the appearance of the earliest anatomically modern humans in Africa, and the disappearance of the last Neanderthals in Iberia. In parallel, my work on dating of Palaeolithic cave art has shown the oldest dated cave painting to be in Iberia, at least as old as the arrival of modern humans to the region and has significant implications for the evolution of symbolic behaviour.
My interest in applications of strontium isotope analysis to human migration and animal herding studies, has resulted in a large scale isotopic survey of 3rd Millennium BC Saxon-Anhalt in Germany; the positive identification of Princess Eadgyth's remains in Magdeburg cathedral; and a genetic and isotopic study of a late Neolithic nuclear family. I have worked on the development of laser ablation multi-collector mass spectrometry methods that can now be successfully employed to measure intra-tooth variation of strontium isotopes at high spatial resolution, and which are being used to reconstruct herding practices at Neolithic Swiss lake villages. I have also worked on provenance studies using lead isotopes in copper, bronze and also gold artefacts.
Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins
Affiliate research group(s)
Centre for Applied Human Origins Research, Centre for Applied Archaeological Analyses, Osteo-archaeology
EUROTAST is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN), supporting a new generation of science and humanities researchers to uncover and interpret new evidence on the history and contemporary legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. The network will be running for four years from 2012 to 2016, and will enable 13 PhD researchers in history, archaeology, social anthropology and population genetics to work collaboratively across disciplines to provide new perspectives on this history.
Clive Gamble and Alistair Pike were awarded a grant of £163,228 from the Leverhulme Trust to investigate "Seasonality, mobility and storage in Palaeolithic hunting societies". This three year project examines one of the tipping points in deep human history, the first appearance of stored foods. The appearance of this ability in human history transformed the peripatetic lifestyles of people living by hunting and gathering. Storing food also opened up the way to domesticating plants and animals by enabling the capture of food via an annual harvest. This development created a whole new lifestyle that turned food into economic power.
Cave art is one of the most important sources of information regarding symbolic behaviour and belief systems during the Palaeolithic. This project will employ uranium-series disequilibrium dating of calcite over-growths to investigate its origin and evolution.
The technology underpinning food-storage is thought to have originated in Europe at least 30,000 years ago, during the strongly seasonal climates of the Upper Palaeolithic. However, food storage has never been convincingly demonstrated from the archaeological evidence. This project investigates the seasonal mobility of Gravettian-era hunter gatherers and their main prey in an attempt to demonstrate securely whether or not food storage was practised and address the key question: Was the presence of stored animal foods necessary for the complex settlements, art and social identities seen at the Gravettian sites of Dolní Věstonice-Pavlov and Kostenki?
This collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Bristol and Southampton, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, aims to reconstruct changing cattle herding patterns in the period 2800 BC to 4300 BC using cattle teeth from the well dated deposits of Swiss lake village settlements. Isotopic approaches, including laser ablation Sr isotope analysis, can track cattle movement on a seasonal basis and reveal changing patterns of herding and transhumance in response to a changing environment and innovations such as the introduction of dairying.
Promoting digital solutions to rock and cave art research
This 18 month project (2014-2015), funded by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, aims to advance rock art research through the application of state-of-the-art imaging technologies.
Professor Alistair Pike
Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
Room Number: 65/2233
Telephone: (023) 8059 7295
Facsimile: (023) 8059 3032