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Ashton N.,British Museum | Lewis S.G.,Queen Mary, University of London
Quaternary International | Year: 2012

There are now a growing number of sites with a range of proxies that enable a reconstruction of the human habitats of Early and Middle Pleistocene sites in northern Europe. This paper reviews the British record from these periods and concludes that humans were able to survive in a range of climatic and vegetational zones from the earliest occupation in the Early and early Middle Pleistocene. The likely source areas for colonising populations in southern Europe and the probable habitats to which they were adapted in these source areas is discussed. It is argued that colonising populations would need new strategies to cope successfully with northern latitudes, with technological innovations, such as clothing, shelter and possibly fire, being more likely than seasonal migration or physical adaptation. Finally, it is suggested that the earliest evidence prior to 500 ka reflects pioneering populations, perhaps of Homo antecessor, with only sporadic occupation of northern Europe. However, by 500 ka new technologies and other adaptive strategies enabled Homo heidelbergensis to have a more sustained occupation in northern latitudes. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source


Shapland A.,British Museum
World Archaeology | Year: 2010

Animal depictions are frequently treated by archaeologists either as direct reflections of human-animal relations or as symbolic of social realities. This paper offers a different way of conceptualizing animal depictions, as objects which mediate between society and human relationships with non-human animals. The focus here is on the large number of lions depicted on sealstones from Bronze Age Crete, despite there being no evidence (excluding the depictions themselves) that lions were present on Crete during this period. This paper examines how these depictions change over the course of the Bronze Age, and suggests links between iconographic features and knowledge of, and encounters with, real lions. It considers the interplay between the affordances of lions revealed in the depictions, as dangerous predators, and the affordances of the objects, as a means of social interaction. The Minoan lion is an animal which is neither reducible to its iconographic manifestations nor possible to understand apart from a network of material culture. © 2010 Taylor & Francis. Source


Stacey R.J.,British Museum
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry | Year: 2011

Residues from medicine containers in the collections of the British Museum have been investigated as part of a wider programme of scientific work on Roman surgical instruments. The cylindrical bronze containers are often described as instrument cases, but some contain materia medica, ranging from extensive extant remains of ancient preparations to possible minor deposits on the interior surfaces of the containers. Samples from seven residues have been analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify lipid, resin and carbohydrate components and by X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy to characterise inorganic materials. The results have provided evidence for ointments and powders or pills consistent with a medical purpose. The ingredients identified include beeswax, fat, conifer resin and gum-derived sugars, plus elemental carbon and lead and zinc salts. Particularly significant were the varied compositions of residues from four sections of a multi-compartment container. In one of these compartments, the beeswax seems to have been prepared as the 'Punic wax' described by Pliny. Experimental preparation of Punic wax following Pliny's method was undertaken in the laboratory and the product analysed to compare with the ointment residues. This paper discusses the GC-MS results of both the experimental material and the archaeological residues and their significance for the interpretation of the past intended applications of the medicines and the use of the containers. © 2011 Springer-Verlag. Source


Ashton N.,British Museum | Hosfield R.,University of Reading
Journal of Quaternary Science | Year: 2010

The lithic record from the Solent River and its tributaries is re-examined in the light of recent interpretations about the changing demography of Britain during the Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic. Existing models of the terrace stratigraphies in the Solent and its tributary areas are reviewed and the corresponding archaeological record (specifically handaxes) for each terrace is assessed to provide models for the relative changes in human occupation through time. The Bournemouth area is studied in detail to examine the effects of quarrying and urbanisation on collection history and on the biases it introduces to the record. In addition, the effects of reworking of artefacts from higher into lower terraces are assessed, and shown to be a significant problem. Although there is very little absolute dating available for the Solent area, a cautious interpretation of the results from these analyses would suggest a pre-Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 12 date for the first appearance of humans, a peak in population between MIS 12 and 10, and a decline in population during MIS 9 and 8. Owing to poor contextual data and small sample sizes, it is not clear when Levallois technology was introduced. This record is compared and contrasted to that from the Thames Valley. It is suggested that changes in the palaeogeography of Britain, in particular land connections to the continent, might have contributed to differences in the archaeological records from the Solent and Thames regions. © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source


Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IEF | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IEF | Award Amount: 171.74K | Year: 2010

This intra-European fellowship places the designated researcher at the hub of a collaborative interdisciplinary project combining chemistry, archaeology, maritime history and conservation to advance understanding of the technology and use of pitch/tar products in Medieval Europe and to evaluate their stability in archaeological and museum environments. Analytical chemistry techniques will be used to research the sources and technology of pitch/tar from a number of medieval shipwrecks. Material from the recently excavated Newport Ship will be a focus for the study. This unique assemblage offers scope for the investigation of ship building techniques and repair strategies alongside examination of differential preservation due to burial environment. Interpretation of the Newport material will be supported by co-investigation of pitch/tar from at least four further wreck sites with differing preservation conditions enabling the impact of both intra and inter-site variability in burial environment to be compared. Production and ageing of pitch/tar materials under laboratory conditions will aid interpretation of the archaeological material and allow the stability of the materials in different environments to be systematically evaluated. This research will provide vital knowledge for improving approaches to the care of pitch/tar materials in museum collections. The researchers background in resin chemistry and previous experience of maritime archaeological material provide an excellent match for the projects skill and knowledge requirements while offering plenty of scope for the acquisition of new competencies and broadening of experience. The host organisation offers a completely new form of working environment for the researcher and a multitude of opportunities for forging of professional contacts and relationships. It also offers the potential for wide dissemination of the research maximising opportunities for international transfer of knowledge generated.

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