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Research to discover how prehistoric people made their living

19 August 09

Research from Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, led by Dr Randolph Donahue, will explore how prehistoric people made their living in Italy at the end of the Ice Age, before farming became widespread.

The project involves more than 20 researchers from 10 universities and research centres in the UK, Italy and Germany, and is funded by a £334k grant from the Leverhulme Trust. The researchers will use high precision dating to accurately age occupation layers in archaeological cave sites; will identify which animals were being hunted by the prehistoric people through a detailed study of the bones recovered from the sites and use isotope analyses to identify if the hunted animals migrated seasonally. The researchers will also study the production and use of stone tools discarded at the sites to understand how prehistoric people were using the caves.

The results of these combined methods will evaluate which of two theories best explains the food procurement strategies of hunter-gatherers in Mediterranean Europe during the end of the Ice Age: that prehistoric people followed herds of animals year round in order to hunt them for food, or that people moved around the landscape far less by relying far more heavily on small animals, fish, and plants.

Lead researcher, Dr Randolph Donahue, said: "This project brings together cutting edge scientific analyses and traditional archaeological approaches for understanding the past. It will assist us in explaining how and why people shifted smoothly towards adopting agriculture in Mediterranean Europe following its introduction from the Near East."

The University of Bradford led study is in collaboration with Royal Holloway of London, University of London, University of Oxford, British Geological Survey, Max Planck Institute, University of Rome (La Sapienza), University of Florence, University of Siena, University of Pisa, and The Pigorini Museum (Rome).

19 August 09

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Further information for Media Enquirers

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Out of office hours call 07879 437996. Alternatively, e-mail or fax on (01274) 236280.