New techniques change views on first farmers in Early Neolithic Britain

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Life for the first people to settle down to farm in Britain was far more violent than previously supposed, research suggests.

Far from a peaceful expansion into empty and fertile lands, the transformation from hunter-gatherer to farming society was riven with conflict and change. New techniques have allowed archaeologists to pinpoint ages of Early Neolithic, long-barrow burial mounds more accurately, forcing them to revise virtually every assumption about Britain’s first farmers.

Early Neolithic society, dating about 3,900BC to 3,300BC, was much more diverse than previously realised, with differences between rites and beliefs noticeable in communities only a few miles from each other...

Four of the barrows assessed by the new dating were contemporaneous yet were all shut up in different ways, suggesting much more diverse beliefs during the era of how “ghosts and spirits” should be treated...

The new findings suggest that rather than commemorating long-dead tribal chieftains or heroes, the people were keeping alive memories of their friends and families.

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