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Ben Cullen prize for archaeology Antiquity paper

Published: Wed 27 Jan 2016

Archaeological research by 50th Anniversary Professor Francesco Menotti, post-doctoral researcher Dr Benjamin Jennings, and their Swiss partner Dr Hartmut Gollnisch-Moos has been awarded the prestigious Ben Cullen prize by the Antiquity Journal.

Ben Cullen prize for archaeology Antiquity paper

The research paper explores the relationship between climate and environmental change, and burial practices in Late Bronze Age (c. 1100 – 800 BC) lake-dwelling settlements in Switzerland. The lake-dwelling settlements were built, as their name suggests, either directly in the lake or immediately on the lakeshore. Often they were supported on stilts, or with perimeter log-cabin style foundations. Whether built above the lake or on the shore, their position made the inhabitants extremely vulnerable to flooding should the lake-water level rise.

Such a situation happened during the Late Bronze Age, with a generally cooler and wetter climate leading to rising lake-waters across the Alpine region. One solution would be for the inhabitants to move away from the lake, but as we are all aware, once people have invested time and effort in building a settlement, home, and livelihood, they are reluctant to leave without exploring every other solution first.

In addition to practical measures, including the construction of break-water barriers, the inhabitants on several villages, including Ürschausen-Horn, took the unusual course of burying the skeletal remains of a young child along the line of water incursion. Similar actions also occurred at Siedlung Forschner and Wasserbug Buchau, but at these sites only selected bones (i.e. the skull) were deposited. In each case the inhabitants appear to have been re-using remains curated and selected from burial locations elsewhere, re-depositing them in times of need as an extreme votive offering to ward off further water encroachment. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, their efforts were ultimately futile and they had to abandon their lake-settlements, but their problem solving attempts offer exiting insights into the Bronze Age mind set.

Professor Francesco Menotti, Anniversary Chair in Archaeology said: "We are all very pleased to have received such a prestigious prize, and hope that it will contribute to consolidate the already existing excellent reputation of the School of Archaeological Sciences here at Bradford."

The full paper, which will soon be open access, can be accessed through the journal website

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