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Supply and demand in prehistory? Economics of Neolithic mining in northwest Europe

Schauer, P; Shennan, S; Bevan, A; Cook, G; Edinborough, K; Fyfe, R; Kerig, T; (2019) Supply and demand in prehistory? Economics of Neolithic mining in northwest Europe. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology , 54 pp. 149-160. 10.1016/j.jaa.2019.03.001. Green open access

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Abstract

The extent to which non-agricultural production in prehistory had cost-benefit motivations has long been a subject of discussion. This paper addresses the topic by looking at the evidence for Neolithic quarrying and mining in Britain and continental northwest Europe and asks whether changing production through time was influenced by changing demand. Radiocarbon dating of mine and quarry sites is used to define periods of use. These are then correlated with a likely first-order source of demand, the size of the regional populations around the mines, inferred from a radiocarbon-based population proxy. There are significant differences between the population and mine-date distributions. Analysis of pollen data using the REVEALS method to reconstruct changing regional land cover patterns shows that in Britain activity at the mines and quarries is strongly correlated with evidence for forest clearance by incoming Neolithic populations, suggesting that mine and quarry production were a response to the demand that this created. The evidence for such a correlation between mining and clearance in continental northwest Europe is much weaker. Here the start of large-scale mining may be a response to the arrival by long-distance exchange of high-quality prestige jade axes from a source in the Italian Alps.

Type: Article
Title: Supply and demand in prehistory? Economics of Neolithic mining in northwest Europe
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2019.03.001
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2019.03.001
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Neolithic, Britain, Northwest Europe, Mining, Quarrying, Radiocarbon, Population, Land cover
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10072577
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