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Fun but wrong

Does a cave beneath Pembroke Castle hold key to fate of early Britons?

Very cool. They’re talking of Neanderthals and Neolithic hom saps. Very cool indeed. However:

Scientists hope wealth of prehistoric material in Wogan Cavern in Wales is well preserved enough to reveal what really happened to our most ancient ancestors

That’s wrong. For, as far as we know and to an acceptable level of error the Neolithics were entirely wiped oout by hte Celtic invasion. So these folk may well have been – were, rather – early inhabitors of these isles but they’re not our ancestors.

10 thoughts on “Fun but wrong”

  1. Honestly… Not the only thing wrong in the article.. It’s… typically Guardian… levels of stupidity, not being helped by quoted idjits.

    But I wish them luck finding any useful DNA if that floor is indeed a buildup of stalagmite layers…

  2. as far as we know and to an acceptable level of error the Neolithics were entirely wiped oout by hte Celtic invasion.
    Do you not have a post publishing edit function, Tim?
    But don’t you think that’s unlikely? The original inhabitants had the agricultural toolkits specific to the areas & knowledge of the land. So they have a considerable advantage over the incomers. Genocide implies an agricultural surplus to wage genocide. And I have severe doubts about genetic evidence. Experience tells that science is very rarely about discovering the truth. More it’s competitive dominance game between scientists in search of status & funding. Lines of research & often the findings depend on who is winning the game.
    My preference would be the incomers & originals co-existed over a lengthy period, interbreeding until the genetic markers are so intertwined you can’t accurately separate them. The ‘genetic’ evidence is mostly just the outcome of scientists’ dominance games. And why the genocide when you can enslave & increase your agricultural surplus? Enslavement is probably the very first invention of civilisation. In fact you can’t have civilisation without it, apparently. There seem to be no civilisations or cultures didn’t practise it.

  3. “The original inhabitants had the agricultural toolkits specific to the areas & knowledge of the land.”

    As far as scholars can tell the neolithic farmers flourished in Britain for centuries but then began to give up using the land for arable and moved onto more pastoralism. Their population also seems to have declined heavily.

    Nobody knows why but one guess is that they simply eventually depleted nutrients in the soil. Another is that they suffered from a plague that killed lots and encouraged the rest to scatter.

    As for their replacement by the Ukrainian cowboys, the geneticists insist it’s true: “more than 90% of Britain’s Neolithic gene pool was replaced with the coming of the Beaker people”.

    Mind you, I have no idea how the Beaker people grew crops on land that had perhaps been depleted of nutrients. Maybe they had better dunging habits?

    When I was a lad archaeologists preached a dim, anti-Nazi, quasi-religious belief that mass population movements and replacements were a fallacy. (This was one reason I didn’t become an archaeologist: I preferred subjects where evidence played a larger role.)

  4. By the way: “more than 90% of Britain’s Neolithic gene pool was replaced”

    OK: say it was about 90% and that the other 10% corresponded largely to slaves. That’s plausible: Doomsday book reports 10% of the population of England as slaves.

  5. Wouldn’t it have panned out similar to the Yankee hordes invading the great plains? That’s a well documented story of what happened when a more advanced agricultural society moved in on stone age hunter gatherers.

  6. Na, Charlie, that corresponds more nearly to the neolithic farmers arriving and killing/eating/enslaving/assimilating the hunter-gatherers. Both lots were Stone Age but the neolithic chappies were farmers.

  7. Charlie is nearer the truth here. The Celts had metal weapons and tools and had just traversed the Continent. Where I used to live in Austria was loess rich soil and heavily cultivated by the Celts from circa 1800 BC. For a population the size of the Neolithics, they were only going to exhaust soils in specific isolated places.

    As to “great migrations” – yes they certainly happened, but not in massed columns of Celts of Avars, Magyars whatever. They were in dribs and drabs, joining up with brethren already settled or moving on. The process took hundreds of years, but we naturally telescope it to make sense of it.
    Even the Germanen crossing the Rhine/Danube line was a drawn out affair and the invasion of Rome by Goths was a case of elite armed units descending on a largely abandoned city.

  8. @dearieme
    hunter gatherers/farmers I think you may have a dichotomy there probably didn’t exist. Even into the middle-ages people got a considerable amount of their food from hunting & gathering unless they were living in towns. Heavens, even now there’s people gain a substantial portion of their sustenance from hunting/gathering in fully developed countries. In neolithic or even early metallurgic times people are not going to stop profitable activities as a fashion statement. At that period in western Europe agriculture only provides a slight advantage.
    I have a deep suspicion of “experts” because of their tendency to advance theses & look for evidence to support them while ignoring things that contradict. Even in western Europe now there’s plenty of areas you could live off the land if you know how. You’d be surprised how much is edible. These people then were real experts.

  9. Telescoping, Boganboy, old chap.

    What took 300 or 400 years in late Roman/ Dark Ages is happening on a far greate scale in a couple of decades.
    I suspect that the ‘elite armed units’ are already here.

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