EUROEVOL project wins Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF) Research Award

5 January 2016

EUROEVOL project wins Shanghai Archaeology Forum research award

The ERC-funded EUROEVOL project, led by Stephen Shennan, has received a Shanghai Archaeology Forum Research Award for 2015.

The Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF) Awards program recognises individuals and organisations that have achieved distinction through innovative, creative, and rigorous works relating to the human past, and have generated new knowledge that has particular relevance to the contemporary world.

The SAF Selection Committee consists of 40 world-leading experts representing different regions in the world. A total of 40 nominations (20 for each category, Field Discovery Award and Research Award) were initially short-listed with only those nominated projects with the highest rankings being selected for the final list of 2015 SAF Awards Program.

The aim of the ERC-funded Cultural Evolution of Neolithic Europe (EUROEVOL) project was to explain the patterns of stability and change associated with the spread and establishment of farming in Neolithic Europe in the light of perspectives on the workings of human cultures and societies derived from the evergrowing development and application of evolutionary theory in the social sciences, and in particular population ecology and life history theory.

14C dates: the spread of the Neolithic into Britain

The EUROEVOL project team needed to create a reliable measure of past population sizes over the long-term and on a large spatial scale, taking into account the shortcomings of the archaeological record. As the basis for doing this a spatial database was created including over 14,000 radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites for the period from 8000-4000 BP in western and central Europe. As well as the radiocarbon data, the project team also collected information on large numbers of archaeobotanical and archaeofaunal assemblages at the same spatial scale, together with data on pottery assemblages and on the incidence of flint-mining, monument construction and outbreaks of violence.

This unparalleled coverage made it possible to draw large-scale comparisons over space and time and enabled the project team to investigate whether subsistence patterns, cultural patterns, the construction of monuments, the incidence of violence and the digging of flint mines were related to population patterns. The project’s most important conclusion was that the introduction of farming to Europe did not lead to a steady improvement in living conditions and ongoing population increase, but was characterised by a pattern of ‘boom’ and ‘bust’.

A key aspect of the project was to make both the research results and the data available to all. The great majority of the articles published on the project are available on open access. The radiocarbon, archaeobotanical and archaeofaunal databases have been placed in UCL’s public research repository and all other data used in publications is available in the form of online supplements to the papers.

Video: Second Shanghai Archaeology Forum Opening Ceremony