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The Lifeways project

Reconstructed LBK longhouse at Straubing Zoo, Bavaria.

Reconstructed LBK longhouse at Straubing Zoo, Bavaria.

The Linearbandkeramik culture (LBK), c. 5500-4900 cal BC, covered large areas of Europe north of the Alps (see map below), and has often been seen as a uniform population. Researchers are now beginning to debate local and regional economic and social differences, especially from the later half of the LBK onwards (ca. 5300 cal BC) (e.g. Lukes and Zvelebil 2004; Whittle 1996; 2003).

This project combines archaeological research on settlements and cemeteries (to look at social variability) with osteological analyses of human remains (to look at nutrition and health) and an extensive isotopic sampling programme of people and their animals. Isotope analysis (such as of strontium, oxygen, calcium, carbon and nitrogen) offers a powerful tool for the investigation of human and animal diet and provenance; signatures in teeth for example can record where people were brought up, which may not be the same as where they died. Previous research has also succeeded in identifying transhumance patterns for cattle (Bentley and Knipper 2005), and we are keen to expand on this aspect. Samples will be investigated from the southern area of the LBK distribution, in Alsace, southern Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Some research into isotopes has already taken place, mostly in southwest Germany (e.g. Price et al. 2001; 2006; Bentley et al. 2003) and at Vedrovice project in Moravia. However, this is the first time such a wide range of techniques is used to cover so large an area. We hope to show whether there were different social groups within the LBK, perhaps based on economic specialisation or provenance. Correlate this new information with existing studies on material culture, burial ritual and economy will show whether these groups also thought of themselves as having a particular, definable identity that they needed to express.

Distribution map of LBK culture from 5300 BC with key project study areas named. After Jeunesse 1997, 10.  36.5 Kb

Please click to enlarge map