Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WEAPON (Warrior Elites: Assessing their Presence and Organisational identity in Neolithic Europe)
Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31
Objectives of this Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA-IF) have been to reconstruct the isotopic biographies of those involved in violence in order to (a) assess the presence of “specialized warriors” in the Mid-Upper Rhine valley of northeastern France, particularly in the relevant late Middle Neolithic sites of Achenheim and Bergheim, b) detect dietary and/or residence shifts that help identify the factors behind violent conflict, and (c) investigate further socio-cultural implications of late prehistoric lethal confrontations in western Europe. This project has permitted the development of new ground-breaking microsequential analytical protocols for sequential palaeodietary and mobility studies in archaeology, providing unique ways to reconstruct past human life histories in detail.
WP1 comprised the ethics and the design of a sampling protocol in order to 1) meet all regulations requested by the institutions that held the archaeological remains, 2) prepare an optimized sampling strategy, 3) promote a less destructive technique, and 4) engage with other stakeholders and respect their perspectives. A guide for an anatomically sensitive dentine microsampling and age-alignment approach for human teeth isotopic sequences describing these improvements was published in 2020 with colleagues from the University of Oxford. The fellow has taught the principles of this methodology to junior and senior researchers from the Aix-Marseille Université (France), the University of Valladolid (Spain) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium).
WP2 involved the sampling of 135 archaeological human and animal bone fragments and 31 human teeth from 12 late Middle Neolithic sites from present-day Alsace region of northeastern France to reconstruct dietary and mobility practices and explore the early life histories (in particular paleodiet and mobility) of those involved in violence. WP2 also involved the sampling of 40 modern tree samples of the region to establish local baselines of biologically available strontium.
WP3 was sought to carry out stable isotope analyses of bone and tooth dentine collagen, and has provided 263 bone collagen carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, 565 micro-sequential dentine collagen carbon and nitrogen, and 99 macro-sequential dentine collagen sulphur isotope measurements. Sample preparation and collagen extraction was carried out at the LAMPEA (UMR 7269 AMU – CNRS – MC), France. Carbon and nitrogen isotope measurements were performed at the RLAHA of the University of Oxford (secondment, the partner organization), whereas sulphur isotope measurements were obtained at Iso-Analytical Ltd, United Kingdom.
WP4 was sought to carry out a multi-isotope analysis of tooth enamel and modern plants, and has provided a total of 93 strontium, oxygen and carbon isotope measurements from archaeological molars and 40 from modern trees. Cleaning, drilling and enamel powder collection were carried out at the LAMPEA, France. The chemical preparation and the obtention of measurements were carried out at the Bioarchaeology Lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (secondment, the partner organization), Belgium.
WP5 included the organization of an international online workshop entitled “Children of Cain: Identity and violence in late prehistory” on 5-6 October 2021 as closure of the Action, with the aim of bringing together experts who are using different approaches to address the extent of prehistoric violence and the identity of those involved in it. The first day (5th October) was devoted to a private meeting for the core team and other stakeholders of the WEAPON action. The second day (6th October) an open workshop was celebrated to congregate top experts in Neolithic violence, who led an enlightening debate.
WP6 focused on writing and dissemination. A guide for an anatomically sensitive dentine microsampling and age-alignment approach for human teeth isotopic sequences was published in 2020 in the Am J Phys Anthropol. A major synthesis of the WEAPON action will be submitted to the PNAS during the third trimester of 2022. Moreover, another two papers on more specific aspects will be submitted to specialized journals. Unfortunately, restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic have delayed the obtention of some results and their publication. Ultimately, a paper on La Hoya massacre site in present-day northern Spain, related to the extent of protohistoric violence, has already been published in Antiquity. The datasets collected during this MSCA-IF action will be accessible and enhance dozens of publications in the following years. Moreover, some preliminary results have been presented at major conferences, where the fellow also participated as organiser.
WP7 focused on researcher’s training and transfer-of-knowledge. The fellow has done two research stays in the partner organisations (University of Oxford and Vrije Universiteit Brussel), where she consolidated her isotope skills and built-up new contacts for ongoing and future projects. She also provided mentoring for early career researchers. The WEAPON action has also contributed to disseminate cutting-edge science to the broader audience through press releases and interviews for cultural webpages and magazines, major newspapers and social events. During the Action, the fellow secured €22,000 (as PI) in competitive research calls, became team member of three Spanish Government funded national research projects and was awarded the Research Prize 2020 from the Gobierno de La Rioja (Spain).
The project was managed under WP8.