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Dr Alexander Pryor 

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr Alexander Pryor is a Post-doctoral Researcher in Archaeology at the University of Southampton.

I moved to CAHO in April 2014, arriving from the Department of Archaeology in Cambridge where I studied for my undergraduate, MPhil and PhD degrees which I completed in February 2011. My PhD research used oxygen isotope analysis of faunal remains at European Upper Palaeolithic sites to investigate the impact of Dansgaard-Oeschger climatic cycles on inland continental hunter-gatherer groups. Following my PhD I remained in Cambridge working on a number of different projects, including most recently a Research Assistant position looking at plant foods in the Upper Palaeolithic led by Prof. Martin Jones (charred parenchyma and underground storage organs) and a Research Assistant position on a joint AHRC-Heritage Lottery Funded community archaeology project directed by Carenza Lewis.




Research interests

My primary research interests explore how Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers adapted to changing environments through time, including aspects of subsistence, colonisation and range expansion/contraction, and questioning how groups accessed the diverse range of resources needed to live a hunter-gatherer existence. My present research explores these topics by investigating the origins of food storage, which has been hypothesised as originating in Europe at least 30,000 years ago, during the strongly seasonal climates of the Upper Palaeolithic. While this scenario is plausible, however, food-storage has never been convincingly demonstrated anywhere during the Palaeolithic by direct, science-based evidence and has been discussed instead almost exclusively as a theoretical concept.

Working on a Leverhulme-funded project, led by Prof. Clive Gamble and Dr Alistair Pike, my research will use a combination of isotopic (oxygen and strontium) and archaeobotanical (charcoal studies) techniques in an attempt to securely demonstrate food storage using scientific techniques. The sites targeted for study are those where food storage has previously been suggested using proxy data (Dolní-Vĕstonice I and II; Pavlov I; Kostenki site 1; Kostenki site 11). The results will be used alongside ethnographic and theoretical arguments to engage with the central 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? The project will last for three years until March 2017.

Research Theme - Archaeological science and computing

Funded ongoing research projects - Food storage in Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer societies

Affiliate research groups

Centre for Archaeology of Human Origins Contracting, Centre for Applied Archaeological Analyses

Research project(s)

Food storage in Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer societies

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?

Seasonality, mobility and storage in Palaeolithic hunting societies (Funded by the Leverhulme Trust) 2014-2017

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.


Book Chapters

    Wilczyński, J., Tomek, T., & Pryor, A. (2016). Archaeozoological record. In M. Kaczanowska, J. K. Kozlowski, & A. Sampson (Eds.), The Sarakenos Cave at Akraephnion, Boeotia, Greece. Vol. II: The Early Neolithic, the Mesolithic and the Final Palaeolithic (Excavations in Trench A) (pp. 81-90). Krakow, PL: Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    Pryor, A. J. E., Sazelova, S., Standish, C., Gamble, C. G., & Pike, A. W. G. (2016). Season of death and strontium/oxygen isotope data for seasonal mobility of three reindeer prey. In J. Svoboda (Ed.), Dolní Vestonice II: Chronostratigraphy, Paleoethnology, Paleoanthropology (pp. 147-159). (The Dolní Vestonice Studies; No. 21). Brno, CZ: Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; Institute of Archaeology.
    Pryor, A., Stevens, R., & Pike, A. W. G. (2016). Seasonal mobility of the adult horse killed by hunters at Klementowice. In T. Wisniewski (Ed.), Klementowice. A Magdalenian Site in Eastern Poland (pp. 298-304). Lublin, PL: Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Marii Curie-Sklodowskiej.
Dr Alexander Pryor
Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

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