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Major grant awarded to study first farmers in central Europe

5 January 2009

Cardiff Archaeologist Professor Alasdair Whittle, along with colleagues from Durham and Oxford and collaborators in Strasbourg, Mainz and elsewhere in Europe, have won £610,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to study the first farmers in central Europe. The interdisciplinary project combines archaeological research on Neolithic settlements and cemeteries as well as the very latest in scientific analysis on a wide range of human and animal remains.

Arts and Humanities Research Council Logo

The award is the largest ever made to Cardiff by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The sweep of the project will take in Alsace, southern Germany, northern Austria, the southern part of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and western Hungary.  The team will be looking at a large number of samples collected from Neolithic sites across this region and will employ a range of scientific techniques looking at isotope signatures that will provide information on diet and mobility.  One of the key questions will be wether the existing European population of hunter gatherers themselves settled down as farmers, or whether agriculture was brought in by immigrants from Turkey and the Near East. The answer may be a combination of the two.

Professor Whittle said: "It is very rare that this suite of techniques can be used together to gain a deeper understanding of several complementary aspects of past lifeways. The project is an important inter-disciplinary and international case study of diversity and its implications within a superficially uniform culture -  a problem repeated across many prehistoric situations."