Inequality existed even in stone-age: Study

Inequality existed even in stone-age: Study

Inequality existed even in stone-age: Study

It seems inequality that deprives some groups from having equal status in the society is nothing new. In fact, the class-system existed even in the Neolithic era more than 7,000 years ago, according to a new study.

By studying over 300 human skeletons from burial sites in central Europe, researchers from the University of Bristol found that farmers buried with tools had access to better land than those buried without.

This is the earliest such evidence of differential land access among the Neolithic farmers, the researchers said. The team which carried out strontium isotope analysis of the skeletons, which provides indications of place of origin, found 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.

It shows those buried with adzes had access to closer and probably better land than those buried without, they said. "The men buried with adzes appear to have lived on food grown in areas of loess, the fertile and productive soil favoured by early farmers," said Alex Bentley, a Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University.
"This indicates they had consistent access to preferred farming areas," he was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

According to the researchers, early Neolithic women were more likely than men to have originated from areas outside those where their bodies were found. This is again a strong indication of patrilocality, a male-centered kinship system where females move to reside in the location of the males when they marry, Prof Bentley said.

This new evidence from the skeletons is consistent with other archaeological, genetic, anthropological and even linguistic evidence for patrilocality in Neolithic Europe. The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have implications for genetic modeling of how human populations expanded in the Neolithic, for which sex-biased mobility patterns and status differences are increasing seen as crucial, the researchers said.

"Our results, along with archaeobotanical studies that indicate the earliest farmers of Neolithic Germany had a system of land tenure, suggest that the origins of differential access to land can be traced back to an early part of the Neolithic era, rather than only to later prehistory when inequality and intergenerational wealth transfers are more clearly evidenced in burials and material culture," Prof Bentley said.

"It seems the Neolithic era introduced heritable property (land and livestock) into Europe and that wealth inequality got underway when this happened," he said. "After that, of course, there was no looking back: through the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Industrial era wealth inequality increased but the 'seeds' of inequality were sown way back in the Neolithic," he added.