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These regional relative chronological series are joined through comparison of types and contact finds, and a calendrical timescale then applied to the working structure using tree-ring dates if to hand (not normally the case) and by visual inspection of the available assemblage of radiocarbon dates, usually measured on less than perfectly selected samples.
The seeming solidity of such chronological constructions brings interpretive consequences.
This reveals a Neolithic world in Lower Alsace busy with comings and goings, tinkerings and adjustments, and relocations and realignments.
A significant hiatus is identified between the end of the LBK and the start of the Hinkelstein group, in the early part of the fifth millennium cal BC.
There then follows the Middle Neolithic sequence, covering much of the fifth millennium cal BC, from the Hinkelstein, Grossgartach, Planig-Friedberg and Rössen phases, on to the Bischheim, Bruebach-Oberbergen and Maps of the upper Rhine valley and surrounding regions, showing the maximum spatial extent of different styles of Early and Middle Neolithic ceramics (related pottery groups are shown only where undisputed contact finds demonstrate at least partial contemporaneity): a LBK, b Hinkelstein, c Grossgartach, Planig-Friedberg and Rössen, d Bischeim, e Bruebach-Oberbergen and f BORS (NMB: Néolithique moyen Bourguignon)Up till now, the absolute dating of these successive cultural phases in Lower Alsace and, more widely, across the upper Rhine valley as a whole, has been based on a small number of radiocarbon dates.
Moreover, a number of them, in particular those from the end of fifth millennium, were only indirectly fixed in time, through comparison with the better-dated sequences in neighbouring regions such as the Alpine foreland.
One aspect which the chronological charts of archaeology are good at is tracking regional variation over the long term but, given the lack of precision and difficulties in dating many of the existing schemes, currently this variation is usually only visible at rather coarse scales of resolution.
To unravel the cultural project of the past in much more detail requires much more effective means of observing and dating diversity and change.
To unravel the cultural project of the past, we apply chronological modelling of radiocarbon dates within a Bayesian statistical framework, to interrogate the Neolithic cultural sequence in Lower Alsace, in the upper Rhine valley, in broad terms from the later sixth to the end of the fifth millennium cal BC.) but aims to provide a similar generational chronology for prehistory.The Anglo-Saxon study was deliberately designed to combine the relative dating provided by seriation of artefact-types in grave assemblages with a suite of high-precision radiocarbon dates in formal Bayesian chronological models.We thus aim to counter by practical demonstration the, in our view erroneous and widespread, belief that precise chronologies can only be obtained by Bayesian chronological modelling of radiocarbon dates in situations where we have deep archaeological stratigraphies.It exploits methodology developed in a study of Anglo-Saxon graves and grave-goods (Bayliss et al.