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The Earliest Farming in Britain: towards a new synthesis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFarmers at the Frontier
Subtitle of host publicationa Pan-European Perspective on Neolithisation
EditorsKJ Gron, P Rowley-Conwy, L Sørensen
Publisher or commissioning bodyOxbow Books
Chapter19
ISBN (Print)9781789251401
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Oct 2019

Abstract

In the mid-20th century, the leading authorities were in no doubt that farming was introduced into Britain by immigrants from the near continent (Childe 1940, 40; Fox 1943, 84; Piggott 1954, 90). Farming methods were however thought to have been extensive. Domestic animals were viewed as more important than cereals, because cereal productivity was low (ibid.). In Denmark, Johannes Iversen (1941) had argued that the palynological evidence indicated that cereals were grown in temporary plots: fields were cultivated for just a couple of years before they lost their fertility, so the farmers then moved on and cleared a new patch of forest. Grahame Clark integrated this with the British evidence then available. Neolithic farmers, he argued, had no means of increasing soil fertility, but practiced shifting cultivation. The ard was introduced only in the Late Bronze Age, the heavy wheeled plough at the end of the Iron Age (Clark 1940, 19-20; 1945, 67; 1952, 97ff.). He proposed that cattle stalls inside houses were known only in the Iron Age, coinciding with the appearance of the plough; in the shifting cultivation phase cattle were not stalled (Clark 1952, 125).

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