The construction of houses is a defining feature of the earliest farming communities in NW Europe, but we have a limited understanding of the role of the house in the development of Neolithic societies. How was the house constituted? How did dwelling in houses alter the composition of daily maintenance tasks? How did these changes effect social reproduction? This project will address these fundamental questions within the context of the British Neolithic. Starting from the premise that areas around houses are spaces defined by activities (cooking, craft activities etc.) the project explores how the house was defined through material practices. This will be achieved by reconstructing the character and spatial arrangement of those practices through the analysis of the tools used to conduct them. Tool use will be investigated by analysing: a) microscopic traces of wear characteristic of using tools on different materials (e.g. wood, bone, hide) b) residues left on tools (e.g. blood, minerals and plant starch).
Two case studies have been chosen that include the best-preserved Neolithic houses in Britain: a) the Orkney Islands where multiple settlements have been found with well-preserved stone-built Neolithic houses b) the Late Neolithic settlement at Durrington Walls that once housed the builders of Stonehenge. The case studies include a variety of settlement types (e.g. individual/aggregated, short-term/long-term). The analysis will show whether these different forms of settlements were associated with different ranges of technical activities. Ultimately the research will show how houses were used during their earliest developmental stage.
The scientific training that will be offered by the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University lies at the heart of this project. The training programme will develop new scientific skills for the researcher and significantly enhance his opportunities for career independence, whilst contributing to European research excellence.
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