The Changing Face of Neolithic and Bronze Age Ireland: A Big Data Approach to the Settlement and Burial Records

Thomas McLaughlin, Nicola Whitehouse, Rick J. Schulting, Meriel McClatchie, Philip Barratt

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    21 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    This paper synthesizes and discusses the spatial and temporal patterns of archaeological sites in Ireland, spanning the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age transition (4300–1900 cal BC), in order to explore the timing and implications of the main changes that occurred in the archaeological record of that period. Large amounts of new data are sourced from unpublished developer-led excavations and combined with national archives, published excavations and online databases. Bayesian radiocarbon models and context- and sample-sensitive summed radiocarbon probabilities are used to examine the dataset. The study captures the scale and timing of the initial expansion of Early Neolithic settlement and the ensuing attenuation of all such activity—an apparent boom-and-bust cycle. The Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods are characterised by a resurgence and diversification of activity. Contextualisation and spatial analysis of radiocarbon data reveals finer-scale patterning than is usually possible with summed-probability approaches: the boom-and-bust models of prehistoric populations may, in fact, be a misinterpretation of more subtle demographic changes occurring at the same time as cultural change and attendant differences in the archaeological record.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages37
    JournalJournal of World Prehistory
    DOIs
    Publication statusEarly online date - 10 Jun 2016

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