|25 September 2011
Excavation of islands around Britain to establish Neolithic origins
Archaeologists at the University of Liverpool are investigating three island groups around Britain to further understanding of why, in approximately 4,000 BCE, humans changed from hunting and gathering to agriculture.
Some scholars believe that this occurred due to colonists from the continent bringing farming and pottery-making skills with them, but others argue that the indigenous population adopted this new lifestyle gradually on their own.
Study has shown that the first colonists are likely to have arrived across the western seaways, but there has been very little excavation of the islands around this sea route.
Dr Duncan Garrow, from the University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, explains: "Neolithic is a term used for the period in our past when the shift from hunting and gathering wild animals and plants to a farming lifestyle occurred. This change happened at different times throughout the world - beginning around 10,000 BCE in the Middle East and around 4,000 BCE in Britain. How this process occurred, however, is still very much debated.
"We are excavating on the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly and in the Outer Hebrides, which form part of an important maritime zone that surprisingly has been given little scholarly attention in the past. We are constructing a database of all known 5th and 4th millennium occupation sites in and around each island group and starting a programme of radiocarbon dating to understand the chronology of activity within the western seaways.
Our oceanographic work aims to explore the environmental context within which this transition took place and how seafaring activities impacted on people's lifestyles. We hope that the environmental data will also be valuable to oceanographers and geographers for studying how the sea has changed over the centuries."
The team will also make their findings available to school children and the general public through the development of a series of web resources, including a navigation game on prehistoric seafaring.
Edited from PhysOrg.com (21 September 2011)
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