A Multi-stranded Approach to Early Agricultural Practice in Europe
This chapter considers how the integration of different methodological approaches to crop growing conditions—stable isotope analysis of crop remains and ecological analysis of associated weeds—can refine social interpretations of Neolithic farming practice. Plant isotope values also constrain palaeodietary interpretation of humans and animals. Case studies from south-east, central and north-west Europe contribute to an assessment of diversity in the Neolithic. Often characterised as small-scale and labour-intensive, significant variation in early farming regimes existed even across the arable landscapes of individual settlements. Different communities developed distinct solutions to the problem of limited labour, manure and crop diversity. The absolute dietary importance of crops in early farming diets can only be assessed by taking actual stable isotope values of associated crop remains into account; initial results suggest that crop values were affected to varying extents by manuring, leading to the role of crops systematically under-estimated in standard palaeodietary interpretation.
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