The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain [Hardback]

Mike Parker Pearson (Editor); Alison Sheridan (Editor); Mandy Jay (Editor); Andrew Chamberlain (Editor); Mike Richards (Editor); Jane Evans (Editor)

ISBN: 9781789250640 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Prehistoric Society Research Papers | Volume: 7 | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 616p, H280 x W216 (mm) b/w and colour

The Beaker People


The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain presents the results of a major project that sought to address a century-old question about the people who were buried with Beakers a – the distinctive pottery of Continental origin that was current, predominantly in equally distinctive burials, in Britain from around 2450 BC. Who were these people? Were they immigrants and how far did they move around? What did they eat? What was their lifestyle? How do they compare with Britain’s earlier inhabitants and with contemporaries who did not use Beaker pottery? An international team of leading archaeologists and scientists, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, was assembled to address these questions. Around 300 skeletons were subjected to isotope analysis to explore patterns of mobility and diet, and 150 new radiocarbon dates were obtained. Dental microwear was examined for 64 individuals to provide further information about the food they had eaten, and new information on the sex and age of 201 people obtained. A comparative study was undertaken of the shape and size of Beaker users’ skulls and those of Neolithic people in the Peak District of England, to examine the long-held claim that there was a switch from long-headed to round-headed people with the appearance of Beakers. Tantalising evidence for head-binding among Neolithic people was found. The range of objects found in Beaker graves was reviewed. In addition, the Beaker People Project was able to incorporate the results of another project, focusing on Beaker users in north-east Scotland (The Beakers and Bodies Project) along with other recently obtained data, including ancient DNA results. Overall, new light has been shed on 369 people: 333 Beaker and non-Beaker users from the core 2500–1500 BC period, along with 17 from the Neolithic and 19 from after 1500 BC. While the genetic data provide convincing evidence for immigration by Continental Beaker users, the isotopic data indicate a more detailed picture of movements, mostly of fairly short distances within Britain, by the descendants of the first Beaker users. This lavishly illustrated book presents a body of data that will be vital to studies of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain for decades to come.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
French Language Abstract
German Language Abstract
Notes about radiocarbon dates and the use of the term ‘east Yorkshire’
1. Introduction
By Mike Parker Pearson, Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
2. Radiocarbon dates and their Bayesian modelling
By Mandy Jay, Michael P. Richards and Peter Marshall
3. Economy and society in Beaker-period Britain
By Mike Parker Pearson
4. The Beaker People Project individuals, their funerary practices and their grave goods
By Mike Parker Pearson, Stuart Needham and Alison Sheridan with Alex Gibson
5. Beakers and bodies in north-east Scotland: a regional and contextual study
By Neil Curtis and Neil Wilkin, with Margaret Hutchison
6. Aspects of human osteology and skeletal biology
By Chris A. Deter, Patrick Mahoney, Sarah E. Johns and Sandra Thomas
7. Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches
By Patrick Mahoney, Laura Chiu, Pia Nystrom, Chris A. Deter and Christopher W. Schmidt
8. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis
By Mandy Jay and Michael P. Richards
9. Sulphur isotopic analysis
By Mandy Jay, Olaf Nehlich and Michael P. Richards
10. Strontium isotopic analysis
By Janet Montgomery, Jane Evans and Jacqueline Towers
11. Oxygen isotopic analysis
By Maura Pellegrini, Mandy Jay and Michael P. Richards
12. Synthesis, discussion and conclusions
By Mike Parker Pearson, Mandy Jay, Janet Montgomery, Alison Sheridan and Stuart Needham
Appendix 1. The pre-2500 BC individuals
By Mandy Jay, Janet Montg omery, Mike Parker Pearson and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 2. The post-1500 BC individuals
By Mandy Jay, Janet Montg omery, Mike Parker Pearson and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 3. Details of findspot location, current location of the human remains and bibliographic
references for the skeletal material studied by the Beaker People Project
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 4. Location group, period, incidence of association with Beaker or Food Vessel and sex
and age identifications
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 5. Analytical and dating work undertaken for the Beaker People Project and the Beakers and
Bodies Project (plus other data used by these projects)
By Mandy Jay and Alison Sheridan
Appendix 6. Part 1. Details of the individuals studied in the Beakers and Bodies Project: findspot,
identifier, NGR, find date, associations and radiocarbon dates
Part 2. Osteological information and data on orientation and disposition in the grave
of individuals studied in the Beakers and Bodies Project
Both By Margaret Hutchison

Reviews & Quotes

"[…]page numbers do not convey the scale of the work that went into it […] the data assembled here will be invaluable as the challenge continues"
Mike Pitts
British Archaeology (10/02/2020)

"...this book is a highly valuable contribution to archaeological science. It presents material culture studies side-by-side with natural scientific studies for a successful integration of both domains to create an understanding of the big picture. The richness of the details and the background information provided is impressive."
Ralf Gleser
Archaeologische Informationen (06/09/2021)

"[T]he books makes a transformative contribution to our understanding of Beaker people in Britain"
Richard Madgwick
Archaeological Journal (09/12/2022)

"Was it worth waiting? Yes. Are the results significant? Yes. Is the book worth acquiring? Yes."
Marc Vander Linden
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (01/08/2019)

"This 600-page edited volume...continues the tradition for weudite, well- and sensibly illustrated tomes, and it sells it short to say this is 'yet another' important book...This consummate volume […] provides the full 'Beaker Experience' that must guide/control the answer to that question: Who thought a few old bones could say so much?"
Rob Ixer
Current Archaeology (01/08/2019)

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