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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

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

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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.

In collaboration with colleagues from Cambridge we will advance the science to test a model that food storage first occurred in Europe 30,000 years ago. This will be done by applying powerful isotopic techniques to the evidence for climatic and seasonal variation that is contained in animal teeth and independently compare this to the growth ring data from charcoal. Second, we will assess the significance of these data in terms of the changes stored foods allowed in settlement size and the expression of complex cultural behaviour. We will be analysing samples from the Czech Republic, Southern Russia and the Ukraine. The spectacular art from these sites featured prominently in the Ice Age Art exhibition at the British Museum earlier this year. The ceramic figurines that were on display form the subject of another Leverhulme Grant awarded to William Davies, also at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, and where Dr Becky Farbstein is the Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dr Alex Pryor joins the project as its principal researcher. Alex obtained his PhD from Cambridge and has specialised in the palaeoenvironments of the Upper Palaeolithic. In particular he has pioneered the application of stable isotopes to archaeological questions and has published on the role of plant foods in Ice Age Europe.

Related research groups

Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins
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