Thursday, 18 May 2017


    Avid readers, in fact any readers of this naissant blog, will recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned a paper "in press"; a result of a genome study of a number of "Beaker" individuals. Well it has, finally, been published! With about 90 co-authors it has taken some time but they eventually agreed the final draft. It transpires that Neolithic Iberia was largely insular, but that in the UK the arrival of the "Beaker Culture" was, indeed, a time of mass immigration. The builders of Stonehenge being replaced by peoples from Central Europe. It appears that Montelius, Childe and Marx may not have been so far wrong after all.

   This is one of the issues within our discipline. We seek to understand, yet refuse to do so. Past history impedes a true coalition of theories and we continue to box ourselves in to abstract pigeonholes, each ever more restrictive. Are we "New" or "Post-processual"? Constructive or structural, cognitive or interpretative, feminist or traditionalist, WST, assemblage or meshwork, scientists or philosophers? All, or none? Students seeking a good grade degree will conform to that which they are taught. A bias is instilled from the beginning and only the most innovative and forthright will dare buck the trend, at not inconsiderable risk both to their grades and reputation. Nobody likes a trouble maker. And yet........ 

   I suggest you read the paper, but ask you to consider this; only 170 individuals were subject to the study, from which some sweeping aspertions have been made. Picked up in the mainstream media it has been sensationalised. 

   Now imagine a similar DNA study in your home town. Are we really able to make such sweeping generalisations based on such a limited study? Would the study be limited to one ethnic population, or random..and in which case how does this apply to prehistoric remains? Read the paper and draw your own conclusions, but be critical of everything you read. 

The paper is available in Nature, 18th May, 2017, Vol 545, Iss 7654.