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Schmidt 2022

Patrick Schmidt, Tabea J. Koch & Edmund February, Archaeological adhesives made from Podocarpus document innovative potential in the African Middle Stone Age. PNAS 119 (2022), e2209592119.


Studying the earliest archaeological adhesives has implications for our understanding of human cognition. In southern Africa, the oldest adhesives were made by Homo sapiens in the Middle Stone Age. Chemical studies have shown that these adhesives were made from a local conifer of the Podocarpaceae family. However, Podocarpus does not exude resin, nor any other substance that could have been recognized as having adhesive properties. Therefore, it remains unknown how these adhesives were made. This study investigates how Podocarpus adhesives can be made, comparing their mechanical properties with other naturally available adhesives. We found that Podocarpus tar can only be made by dry distillation of leaves, requiring innovative potential, skill, and knowledge. This contrasts with our finding that the Middle Stone Age environment was rich in substances that can be used as adhesives without such transformation. The apparent preference for Podocarpus tar may be explained by its mechanical properties. We found it to be superior to all other substances in terms of its adhesive properties. In addition, the condensation method that allows producing it can be recognized accidentally, as the processes take place above ground and can be triggered accidentally. Our findings have implications for establishing a link between technology and cognition in the Middle Stone Age.

Keywords: early Homo sapiens | transformative technology | organic artefacts | Stone Age engineering | complex/modern behaviors

Significance: This study addresses the earliest adhesives made in the African Middle Stone Age. We found a previously unknown way to produce an adhesive from Podocarpus conifer trees. Instead of collecting adhesive substances in nature, people produced tar by distillation. We identify two pathways for making tar, an above-ground method that is “discoverable” and a more laborious underground process requiring imagination and skill. The results have implications for our interpretation of early firebased technology in Africa. Podocarpus tar production is an excellent proxy for recognizing complex cognition in Middle Stone Age archaeological records.


Garry 2022

Robert F. Garry, SARS-CoV-2 furin cleavage site was not engineered. PNAS 119 (2022), e2211107119. <DOI:10.1073/pnas.2211107119>.

The immediate proximal ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 did not come directly from a bat to a human, but first evolved in an intermediate host. Two related lineages of SARS-CoV-2—lineage A and lineage B—first infected humans via the wildlife trade at the Huanan Market in Wuhan. For the ENaC hypothesis to be true, UNC or WIV researchers would have had to possess the direct SARS-CoV-2 progenitor isolated from another animal—not a bat.


Ford 2022

Anabel Ford, Ann Williams & Mattanjah S. de Vries, New light on the use of Theobroma cacao by Late Classic Maya. PNAS 119 (2022), e2121821119.


Cacao seeds, Theobroma cacao, provide the basis for a ceremonially important Mesoamerican food. Past efforts to identify cacao in ceramics focused on highly decorative vessel forms associated with elite ceremonial contexts, creating assumptions as to how cacao was distributed and who could access it. This study examines 54 archaeological ceramic sherds from El Pilar (Belize/Guatemala) of Late Classic (600 to 900 CE) residential and civic contexts representing a cross-section of ancient Maya inhabitants. Identification of cacao in ancient sherds has depended on the general presence of theobromine; we used the discrete presence of theophylline, a unique key biomarker for cacao in the region. Analysis was done by grinding off all outside surfaces to reduce contamination, pulverizing the inner clay matrix, extracting absorbed molecules, and concentrating the extractions. In order to obtain especially high selectivity and low limits of detection, our study utilized the technique of resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization coupled with laser-desorption jet-cooling mass spectrometry. This technique isolates molecules in the cold gas phase where they can be selectively ionized through a resonant two-photon process. Of the sherds analyzed, 30 samples (56 %) were found to contain significant amounts of theophylline and thus test positive for cacao. Importantly, cacao is present in all contexts, common to all Maya residents near and far from centers.

Keywords: Maya | cacao | archaeometry

Significance: In order to address the distribution of and access to cacao, 54 sherds from Late Classic Period Maya residential and civic contexts around El Pilar (Belize/ Guatemala) were tested for the presence of cacao. Positive identification of cacao requires that the technique of laser mass spectrometry detect a significant amount of the key biomarker of theophylline to signify cacao. Results show that cacao was culturally significant and widespread and found in civic and residential units regardless of size and location.


Gretzinger 2022

Joscha Gretzinger, Duncan Sayer & Stephan Schiffels et al. nature 610 (2022), 112–119.


The history of the British Isles and Ireland is characterized by multiple periods of major cultural change, including the influential transformation after the end of Roman rule, which precipitated shifts in language, settlement patterns and material culture1. The extent to which migration from continental Europe mediated these transitions is a matter of long-standing debate2–4. Here we study genome-wide ancient DNA from 460 medieval northwestern Europeans—including 278 individuals from England—alongside archaeological data, to infer contemporary population dynamics. We identify a substantial increase of continental northern European ancestry in early medieval England, which is closely related to the early medieval and present-day inhabitants of Germany and Denmark, implying large-scale substantial migration across the North Sea into Britain during the Early Middle Ages. As a result, the individuals who we analysed from eastern England derived up to 76 % of their ancestry from the continental North Sea zone, albeit with substantial regional variation and heterogeneity within sites. We show that women with immigrant ancestry were more often furnished with grave goods than women with local ancestry, whereas men with weapons were as likely not to be of immigrant ancestry. A comparison with presentday Britain indicates that subsequent demographic events reduced the fraction of continental northern European ancestry while introducing further ancestry components into the English gene pool, including substantial southwestern European ancestry most closely related to that seen in Iron Age France5,6.

Joscha Gretzinger, Duncan Sayer, Pierre Justeau, Eveline Altena, Maria Pala, Katharina Dulias, Ceiridwen J. Edwards, Susanne Jodoin, Laura Lacher, Susanna Sabin, Åshild J. Vågene, Wolfgang Haak, S. Sunna Ebenesersdóttir, Kristjan H. S. Moore, Rita Radzeviciute, Kara Schmidt, Selina Brace, Martina Abenhus Bager, Nick Patterson, Luka Papac, Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, Kimberly Callan, Éadaoin Harney, Lora Iliev, Ann Marie Lawson, Megan Michel, Kristin Stewardson, Fatma Zalzala, Nadin Rohland, Stefanie Kappelhoff-Beckmann, Frank Both, Daniel Winger, Daniel Neumann, Lars Saalow, Stefan Krabath, Sophie Beckett, Melanie Van Twest, Neil Faulkner, Chris Read, Tabatha Barton, Joanna Caruth, John Hines, Ben Krause-Kyora, Ursula Warnke, Verena J. Schuenemann, Ian Barnes, Hanna Dahlström, Jane Jark Clausen, Andrew Richardson, Elizabeth Popescu, Natasha Dodwell, Stuart Ladd, Tom Phillips, Richard Mortimer, Faye Sayer, Diana Swales, Allison Stewart, Dominic Powlesland, Robert Kenyon, Lilian Ladle, Christina Peek, Silke Grefen-Peters, Paola Ponce, Robin Daniels, Cecily Spall, Jennifer Woolcock, Andy M. Jones, Amy V. Roberts, Robert Symmons, Anooshka C. Rawden, Alan Cooper, Kirsten I. Bos, Tom Booth, Hannes Schroeder, Mark G. Thomas, Agnar Helgason, Martin B. Richards, David Reich, Johannes Krause & Stephan Schiffels


Franklin 2013

Norma Franklin, Who Really Built the Water System at Megiddo? The Ancient Near East Today 1 (2013), 7. <>.

Bronze Age. Therefore I believe that similar to sites such as Jerusalem, Tel Gezer, and Tel Gerisa, the great Megiddo water system was constructed during the Middle Bronze Age and that it served the citizens of the city for perhaps as long as a thousand years. This conclusion makes the works of the Kings of Israel slightly less grand but those of their Canaanite predecessors all the more impressive.

Lehmann 2010

Gunnar Lehmann & Ann E. Killebrew, Palace 6000 at Megiddo in Context, Iron Age Central Hall Tetra-Partite Residencies and the “B{\i}t-\U{H}ilani” Building Tradition in the Levant. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 359 (2010), 13–33.

Megiddo’s Palace 6000, traditionally attributed to the building activities of King Solomon, has long served as a hallmark of 10th-century b.c.e. monumental architecture. Following its initial discovery and excavation, Y. Yadin and others identified this building as one of several early southern Levantine examples of an Iron Age bit hilani. This term, appearing in Assyrian documents, has been interpreted by most scholars to refer to Iron Age royal residencies known from excavated sites in northern Syria and south eastern Anatolia. This paper presents a detailed stratigraphic and architectural analysis of Palace 6000 and examines the evidence regarding its identification as a bit hilani. We propose that Palace 6000 belongs to a group of southern Levantine Iron Age II public structures with a multipurpose “central hall tetra-partite “ plan that could function as a residency, palace, citadel, and/or tower. In our opinion, the origin of this distinctive tetra-partite plan is local and should be understood as developing out of the ubiquitous Iron Age four-room house tradition. In contrast, the bit hilani building tradition was confined to northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia. These two different architectural traditions, with their clearly defined geographical distribution, illustrate the regional character of Levantine societies and cultures during the early centuries of the first millennium b.c.e.

Shanks 1998

Hershel Shanks, Where Is the Tenth Century? Biblical Archaeology Review 24 (1998), ii, 56–60.

Archaeologists love destructions. They clearly demarcate one level from another. Sometimes they can be tied to a known historical event. At Megiddo, Stratum VA-IVB was destroyed. Was it destroyed by Shishak in 925 B.C.? If it was, obviously Stratum VA-IVB was a tenth-century city. Until recently it was nearly universally accepted that this stratum was indeed destroyed by Shishak. Ussishkin and Finkelstein now dispute this. According to them, an earlier stratum, Stratum VIA, a less impressive settlement, was the one destroyed by Shishak. Their proposed new dating “strips the United Monarchy of monumental buildings,” in Finkelstein’s words, not only at Megiddo but throughout the kingdom. It throws the period of the United Monarchy into what was previously regarded, archaeologically speaking, as the period of the Judges.

As part of his argument, Stager turns to Taanach, another city on Shishak’s conquest list. At Taanach there is no stratum comparable to Megiddo Stratum VIA. If Finkelstein and Ussishkin are right that Shishak destroyed Stratum VIA at Megiddo, then Shishak must have lied about conquering Taanach, as there was no city at Taanach contemporaneous with Megiddo VIA. There is a destruction level at Taanach, however, contemporaneous with Megiddo VA-IVB (as proved by both the pottery and nearly identical cultic assemblages, including altars, cult stands, and even a bowl full of sheep and goat knuckle-bones). Since there is only one stratum at Taanach that can qualify as Shishak’s destruction, the contemporaneous stratum at Megiddo (Stratum VA-IVB) must have also been destroyed by Shishak.

It is fair to add that beyond a colleague or two at Tel Aviv University, Ussishkin and Finkelstein have failed to convince their fellow archaeologists. Among those who reject the new chronology proposed by Ussishkin and Finkelstein are Israeli colleagues Amnon Ben-Tor and Amihai Mazar, as well as American colleagues Lawrence Stager, William Dever and Seymour (Sy) Gitin (director of the Albright School of Archaeological Research). Moreover, even Ussishkin and Finkelstein do not claim victory at this point. As Finkelstein has written, he cannot “prove his theory,” adding, however, that “neither would any scholar be able to prove the prevailing view.” At the present time, neither side, he says, can claim “a clear-cut verdict.” Each side, however, predicts that in time their side will prevail.


Powell 2022

Siobhan Powell, Gustavo Vianna Cezar, Liang Min, Inês M. L. Azevedo & Ram Rajagopal, Charging infrastructure access and operation to reduce the grid impacts of deep electric vehicle adoption. Nature Energy (2022), preprint, 1–14. <DOI:10.1038/s41560-022-01105-7>.


Electric vehicles will contribute to emissions reductions in the United States, but their charging may challenge electricity grid operations. We present a data-driven, realistic model of charging demand that captures the diverse charging behaviours of future adopters in the US Western Interconnection. We study charging control and infrastructure build-out as critical factors shaping charging load and evaluate grid impact under rapid electric vehicle adoption with a detailed economic dispatch model of 2035 generation. We find that peak net electricity demand increases by up to 25 % with forecast adoption and by 50 % in a stress test with full electrification. Locally optimized controls and high home charging can strain the grid. Shifting instead to uncontrolled, daytime charging can reduce storage requirements, excess non-fossil fuel generation, ramping and emissions. Our results urge policymakers to reflect generation-level impacts in utility rates and deploy charging infrastructure that promotes a shift from home to daytime charging.


Davies 1994

Graham I. Davies, King Solomon’s Stables—Still at Megiddo? Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (1994), i, 45–49.

Engberg 1940

Robert M. Engberg, Megiddo, Guardian of the Carmel Pass I. Biblical Archaeologist 3 (1940), iv, 41–51.

Engberg 1941

Robert M. Engberg, Megiddo, Guardian of the Carmel Pass II. Biblical Archaeologist 4 (1941), i, 11–16.

Feldman 2009

Marian H. Feldman, Hoarded Treasures, The Megiddo Ivories and the End of the Bronze Age. Levant 41 (2009), 175–194.

The magnificent collection of ivories found in an annex of the Stratum VIIA palace at Megiddo is often cited as illustrative of the internationalism characterizing the Late Bronze Age. This article reexamines the ivories from both a stylistic and archaeological perspective to provide a new reconstruction of their acquisition and deposition. Considering the diversity of the ivories’ styles, their incomplete and unreconstructible nature, and the presence of a large, articulated animal skeleton on top of them, I propose that the assemblage is best viewed within an interpretive framework of hoarding and ritual deposition at the end of the Bronze Age.

Keywords: ivories | hoards | ritual deposits | Megiddo | Late Bronze Age

Finkelstein 1994

Israel Finkelstein & David Ussishkin, Back to Megiddo. Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (1994), i, 26–43.

In any event, Stratum VB is followed by Stratum VA–IVB, which, almost everyone now agrees, is the Solomonic city. It was William F. Albright who, more than 50 years ago, observed that Strata VA and IVB were in fact contemporaneous and belonged to one city level. There are still problems in deciding what to attribute to Stratum VA–IVB, but there is general agreement that whatever is found in that stratum is part of Solomonic Megiddo. This is important because in solving the problems of the stratigraphy of earlier periods, we must work back from Solomonic Megiddo as well as forward from Late Bronze Age Megiddo (Stratum VII).

Harrison 2003

Timothy P. Harrison, The Battleground. Biblical Archaeology Review 29 (2003), vi, 28–35, 60–62.

In their stratigraphic reconstruction, P.L.O. Guy and the Chicago expedition assigned the impressive architectural remains of Stratum VA/IVB to the reign of Solomon (see, for example, 1 Kings 9:15), 062and attributed its destruction to Shishak’s 925 B.C.E. campaign. Their case rested in large part on the chance discovery of a stela fragment bearing Shishak’s cartouche. Although the expedition found the inscription in a dump adjacent to a trench excavated by the German engineer Gottlieb Schumacher earlier in the century, Guy was confident that it had come from the earliest stratum uncovered in the trench, namely Stratum VA/IVB.19

Though this stratum would appear to be the logical choice for the original location of the stela fragment with Shishak’s cartouche, the stratum’s formal architecture and evidence of destruction do not eliminate the possibility that the stela originated from another stratum. Guy’s description of its discovery, however, makes clear that Schumacher’s excavations in this area had not reached the destroyed remains of the preceding Stratum VI, rendering it an unlikely candidate for the settlement destroyed by Shishak’s army, as Israel Finkelstein, and Watzinger before him, have proposed.


Bar-Yosef 1999

Ofer Bar-Yosef & Steven L. Kuhn, The Big Deal about Blades, Laminar Technologies and Human Evolution. American Anthropologist 101 (1999), 322–338.

Despite the rapid expansion of archaeological knowledge of the Paleolithic over the past several decades, some generalized interpretive frameworks inherited from previous generations of researchers are remarkably tenacious. One of the most persistent of these is the assumed correlation between blade technologies, Upper Paleolithic industries, and anatomically (and behaviorally) modern humans. In this paper, we review some of the evidence for the production of early blade technologies in Eurasia and Africa dating to the late Lower and the Middle Paleolithic. The basic techniques for blade production appeared thousands of years before the Upper Paleolithic, and there is no justification for linking blades per se to any particular aspect of hominid anatomy or to any major change in the behavioral capacities of hominids. It is true that blades came to dominate the archaeological records of western Eurasia and Africa after 40,000 years ago, perhaps as a consequence of increasing reliance on complex composite tools during the Upper Paleolithic. At the same time, evidence from other regions of the world demonstrates that evolutionary trends in Pleistocene Eurasia were historically contingent and not universal.

Keywords: Middle Paleolithic | Upper Paleolithic | blade technology | human evolution | hominid behavior and capacities

Kramer 1949

Samuel Noah Kramer, Schooldays, A Sumerian Composition Relating to the Education of a Scribe. Journal of the American Oriental Society 69 (1949), 199–215.

This brief composition, which may have been first created as early as 2000 B.C., is one of the most ‘human’ documents excavated in the Near East; its relatively simple, straightforward words reveal how little human nature has really changed throughout the millennia. Thus we find our ancient schoolboy, not unlike his modern counterpart, terribly afraid of coming late to school ‘lest his teacher cane him.’ When he awakes he hurries his mother to prepare his lunch. In school he seems to misbehave and is caned more than once by the teacher and his rather sadistic assistants. As for the teacher or schoolmaster, his pay seems as meager then as it is now; at least he seems to be only too happy to make a ‘little extra’ from the parents in order to eke out his earnings.

Moreau 2020

Luc Moreau (Hrsg.), Social inequality before farming? The Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of social organization in prehistoric and ethnographic hunter-gatherer-fisher societies. McDonald Institute Conversations (Cambridge 2020).

I write this preface from the state of Wyoming in the US, a state where COVID-19 has not (yet) struck as hard as it has struck other parts of the world, but where we nonetheless have been under stay-at-home orders. Those orders have given me plenty of time to think about where we went wrong, which in the case of the US is a long list. Coincidentally, I also recently re-read Machiavelli’s sixteenth-century book, The Prince, a manual of how to ruthlessly crush opponents while administering (apparent) generosity to acquire the ‘love’ of the masses.

The calamity that is COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on modern society, exposing the weaknesses of its structure, laying bare the inequality between and within countries that Machiavellian leaders exploit and exacerbate for personal gain. Doing something about inequality is the challenge that will remain after COVID-19 dissipates.

Inequality is an old story, and one that we understand much better due to the efforts of anthropologists and archaeologists. It hasn’t been easy to arrive at this point. But the really hard work – implementing our knowledge – still lies ahead for us. This volume, and our prehistoric hunting and gathering ancestors tell us what needs to be done. And it is the most important work anyone could be doing in the world today.

Prell 2021

Silvia Prell, Lorenz Rahmstorf & Nicola Ialongo, Weights and Weight Systems in Tell el-Dab’a in the Middle and Late Bronze Age. In: Manfred Bietak & Silvia Prell (Hrsg.), The Enigma of the Hyksos IV The Changing Clusters and Migration in the Near Eastern Bronze Age, Collected Papers of a Workshop held in Vienna 4th–6th of December 2019. CAENL Contributions to the Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant 12 (Wiesbaden 2021), 437–455.

In this contribution we present weights from the Middle Kingdom, the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom (c. 1800-1200 BCE) from Tell el-Daba/Avaris. These data are a rare example of stratified sets of weights from an urban context in Ancient Egypt. As the data cover a time-span of more than six centuries, it is possible to investigate changes in material (from various types of stone to dark iron-rich sedimentary rock – ‘hematite’), in shape (from parallelepiped to sphendonoid) and in metrology. We test the weights currently known from the site through Cosine Quantogram Analysis and Frequency Distribution Analysis and compare them to weight sets from Middle Bronze Age West Asia and the Late Bronze Age East Mediterranean. On the basis of the limited data available, we conclude that the system represented by the sphendonoid weights of Tell el-Daba was compatible with both the ‘Mesopotamian’ (c. 8.3 g) and the ‘Ugaritic’ (c. 9.4 g) shekel. The adoption and use of weights with this specific morphology, material and metrology suggest that, by the advanced Middle Bronze Age, Egypt was much more incorporated in international trade than it had been before.

Rahmstorf 2020

Lorenz Rahmstorf & Nicola Ialongo, Sind Kannelurensteine Gewichte? Rätselhafte Objekte aus der Bronzezeit. Archäologie in Niedersachsen 23 (2020), 53–56.

Kannelurensteine sind somit ein weit verbreiteter Typus, der in der Regel keine Gebrauchsspuren aufweist. Die Verbindung mit Metallurgie kehrt in verschiedenen Regionen Europas wieder, was darauf hindeutet, dass die Form mit einer bestimmten Funk tion über ein sehr großes Gebiet verbunden war. Die Gewichtswerte sind quantitativ konfiguriert, was die statistischen Analysen sicher zeigen. Trotz aller Indizien fehlt einstweilen aber immer noch der schlagende Beweis, der eindeutig belegt, dass die Kannelurensteine wirklich als metrologische Gewichte genutzt wurden.

Schmandt-Besserat 1979

Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Reckoning Before Writing. Archaeology 32 (1979), iii, 22–31.

In most cultures the invention of writing is considered to be an event of the greatest significance artd its origin is often surrounded by fabulous legends.

My research demonstrates that, like all other human achievements, the origins of writing are humble and fortuitous. Writing did not come ex nihilo, but rather was a step in the evolution of a previous recording system based on small clay tokens which had been in use for millennia in the ancient Middle East.

Schmandt-Besserat 1980

Denise Schmandt-Besserat, The Envelopes That Bear the First Writing. Technology and Culture 21 (1980), 357–385.

About 200 spherical clay envelopes (including fragments) have been recovered in an area extending from Palestine to Iran, including Saudi Arabia. The seals impressed upon their surface indicate their formal character, and it seems clear that the tokens they contained stood for goods and stated liabilities. The envelopes would have remained of esoteric interest but for the discovery of their relationship to the invention of writing. Indeed, their evolution illustrates no less than the transition between an archaic abacus and writing according to the following sequence:

(1) the invention of envelopes to hold tokens of specific transactions;

(2) the impression of markings on the surface of the envelopes to indicate the shape and number of tokens included inside;

(3) the collapse of the envelopes into clay balls or tablets bearing impressed signs; and

(4) the elaboration of the impressed signs into incised pictographs.

The study of the envelopes therefore provides new insights into the origins of writing. It makes clear the process of its emergence from an archaic recording system based on tokens and throws light upon the fortuitous nature of its invention. It demonstrates that the cradle of writing was not confined to Mesopotamia but extended to the west as far as the upper Euphrates valley in Syria and to Elam at the east. The date of the events can be pinpointed to the Uruk IV period of 3200–3100 B.C.

In the light of this paper, it is no longer acceptable to believe that the Sumerians brought writing from a still unlocated ancestral homeland. It remains true, however, that the Sumerian civilization was preponderant during this period in the entire area involved and that the Sumerian bureaucracy must have been crucial in these developments, which were to bring profound changes to the human condition.

Schmandt-Besserat 1982

Denise Schmandt-Besserat, The Emergence of Recording. American Anthropologist 84 (1982), 871–878.

The cause(s) leading to the invention of a recording system has to remain a hypothesis. The appearance of the first counters, in the form of clay tokens, coincides in time and space with early manifestations of sedentary life and agriculture in Southwest Asia. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the need for recording was related to particular aspects of human adaptation to food production in that region. The incipient economy of redistribution by the means of ritual appears as a plausible stimulus for initiating recording. The preparation of feasts which necessitates the pooling of large quantities of foods may have represented a compelling motivation for group productivity and explains the intrinsic economic function of the counters. The diversity of products consumed at a banquet provides a logical explanation for the complexity of the system at its beginning (Firth 1959:319). The symbolism of the tokens had to be shared by all members of the community and the necessity for intergroup communication can account for a rapid dispersion of the idea of recording from group to group. Finally, the emergence of a suprahousehold decision-making organization which accompanied communal food storage and population growth, provided the authority necessary to implement a system of recording (Lightfoot and Feinman 1982:64; Fried 1967:111-120). As suggested by Lévi-Strauss, recording was more than a mnemonic device; it was a change in social interaction. The token system provided a means of control in an incipient redistributive economy (Goody 1978:148).


Guy 1932

P. L. O. Guy, Balloon Photography and Archaeological Excavation. Antiquity 6 (1932), 148–155.

Story or Book

Bicho 2021

Nuno Bicho, Social Inequality Before Farming? European Journal of Archaeology 24 (2021), 556–559.

Luc Moreau, ed. Social Inequality Before Farming? Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Social Organization in Prehistoric and Ethnographic Hunter-gatherer-fisher Societies (McDonald Institute Conversations. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archeological Research, 2020, xii and 320pp., 57 colour and b/w illustr., 25 tables, hbk, ISBN 978-1-913344-00-9)

While William Davis argues that ecology during the UP in Europe did not favor the emergence of social inequality, in Chapter 10 Matt Grove suggests that it would be a more parsimonious assumption in our field to use the concept of an ancestral state of inequality, since from the start there were behavioral differences (e.g. in art, prestige, craft specialization) among so-called egalitarian societies.

The issue now is, of course, not if there is/was inequality in hunter-gatherer-fisher societies —I mean, it is unequivocal, based on this volume, that inequality is part of the life of those societies, even if based on differences in gender, age, or just specialized skills as Doug Price has argued before (Price, 1995)—but if there was ever a Homo sapiens fully egalitarian society.

Davey 2017

Christopher | Davey, Three Stones Make a Wall. Buried History 53 (2017), 50–52.

Eric H. Cline, Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology, with illustrations by Glynnis Fawkes, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-0691166407, USD25

Popular histories of archaeology tend to be coffee table books with many coloured images. Professor Cline’s Three Stones Make a Wall: Story of Archaeology has returned to a nineteenth century format with high quality line drawings and an apparently undocumented text. If the reviews on Amazon are any indication, the modern generation appears to be quite partial to that arrangement.

Cline accepts Schliemann’s claim that he discovered the site of Troy but in fact Edward Clarke, also connected with William Gell, identified Hissarlik as Troy in 1801. The focus on ‘hits’ reinforces the public perception that archaeologists are driven to find the spectacular and have little interest in the mundane aspects of daily life, ancient and modern, and their meaning. The only thing that Cline is certain about is that the best finds on a dig will always be discovered on the last day of the excavation season. The information presented is uneven and works best when Cline is dealing with sites and material familiar to himself. The book’s stated aim to ‘encourage a wide public audience to help protect our inheritance before it is too late’ requires a much more sophisticated account.

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