Inequality Dates Back to Stone Age: Earliest Evidence Yet of Differential Access to Land
Hereditary inequality began over 7,000 years ago in the early Neolithic era, with new evidence showing that farmers buried with tools had access to better land than those buried without.The research, carried out by archaeologists from the Universities of Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), May 28.
By studying more than 300 human skeletons from sites across central Europe, Professor Alex Bentley and an international team of colleagues funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council uncovered evidence of differential land access among the first Neolithic farmers – the earliest such evidence yet found. Strontium isotope analysis of the skeletons, which provides indications of place of origin, indicated that men buried with distinctive Neolithic stone adzes (tools used for smoothing or carving wood) had less variable isotope signatures than men buried without adzes. This suggests those buried with adzes had access to closer -and probably better- land than those buried without.