Beyond the settlement grid: investigating social differences through archaeobiology in waterlogged sites

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Brigitte Röder
Thomas Doppler
Sandra L. Pichler
Stefanie Jacomet
Jörg Schibler
Britta Pollmann


Waterlogged sites represent an invaluable source of archaeological data. Houses dated to exact calendar years by dendrochronology yield countless artefacts and well preserved organic remains. In 150 years of research, a wealth of economic, environmental and chronological information on the circumalpine Neolithic and Bronze Age has been accumulated. The social historical potential of these sites has however been largely neglected, which is in part due to widely held preconceptions on prevailing social conditions drawn from common knowledge rather than research. Due to uniformly large houses arranged in rows, communities are generally perceived as being egalitarian and economically uniform.

In an interdisciplinary case study of the Swiss Arbon Bleiche 3 settlement on Lake Constance, the vast potential of the archaeobiological data from waterlogged sites for investigating social issues is explored. Statistical analyses of animal bones and botanical remains reveal several distinct economic strategies and/or dietary preferences, suggesting the existence of a socially diverse settlement community. Our results not only generate multifaceted social data but also contradict a number of preconceptions on lakeside communities. Methodologically, it becomes clear that archaeozoological and archaeobotanical remains are differentially biased by taphonomic processes and sampling strategies. These systematic differences will have to be addressed in further studies.

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Röder, Brigitte, Thomas Doppler, PichlerSandra L., Stefanie Jacomet, Jörg Schibler, and Britta Pollmann. 2013. “Beyond the Settlement Grid: Investigating Social Differences through Archaeobiology in Waterlogged Sites”. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology, October, 12-46.