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Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Dr Janet Montgomery

Neil, Samantha, Evans, Jane, Montgomery, Janet & Scarre, Chris (2016). Isotopic evidence for residential mobility of farming communities during the transition to agriculture in Britain. Royal Society Open Science 3(1): 150522.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Development of agriculture is often assumed to be accompanied by a decline in residential mobility, and sedentism is frequently proposed to provide the basis for economic intensification, population growth and increasing social complexity. In Britain, however, the nature of the agricultural transition (ca 4000 BC) and its effect on residence patterns has been intensely debated. Some authors attribute the transition to the arrival of populations who practised a system of sedentary intensive mixed farming similar to that of the very earliest agricultural regimes in central Europe, ca 5500 BC, with cultivation of crops in fixed plots and livestock keeping close to permanently occupied farmsteads. Others argue that local hunter–gatherers within Britain adopted selected elements of a farming economy and retained a mobile way of life. We use strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of tooth enamel from an Early Neolithic burial population in Gloucestershire, England, to evaluate the residence patterns of early farmers. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that early farming communities in Britain were residentially mobile and were not fully sedentary. Results highlight the diverse nature of settlement strategies associated with early farming in Europe and are of wider significance to understanding the effect of the transition to agriculture on residence patterns.