As in Life, So in Death? Identity, Gender, and Age in Neolithic Britain


Interpretive models for identity for the British Neolithic have been heavily focussed on group identities e.g., ancestor veneration, relational personhood, and house societies. While these theoretical frameworks for social organisation are undoubtedly important, they do not consider individual identity and the taxonomies which create it such as gender, age, and ethnicity. As identity taxonomies are deeply intertwined with social, cultural, and political factors then research into these could be crucial in improving understandings of British Neolithic society. One of the key reasons for this neglect of individual identities is the general nature of most British Neolithic funerary assemblages, i.e., commingled and disarticulated. This creates certain challenges when attempting to develop ideas regarding individual identity because specific individuals are difficult to recognise. The lack of attention to individual identities and their associated taxonomies for the period means that there is a large gap in knowledge in areas such as gender, age, status, kinship, etc. This blind spot for individual identity in the British Neolithic is what this thesis aims to rectify. The research focuses on the two key identity taxonomies of gender and age. To access elements of individual identity within the funerary record an innovative approach was developed for analysing it. The British Neolithic funerary record in its entirety was collated into a database and data from this was separated into two areas, lifeways, and demographic representation. This enabled comparative analyses to be conducted, which assessed divergences in the health, diet, mobility, and funerary rites between males, females, and different age groups. The results of this allowed new insights to be established regarding the lifeways and deathways of different demographic groups. This was then used to propose new interpretations regarding how biological sex and age may have affected individual identities during the British Neolithic

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