Interests: Culture evolution, computational social science, isotopic analysis of skeletal remains
The rise of complex societies from smaller groups is one of the major transitions in human prehistory. People may have differentiated themselves across multiple dimensions, including kinship, which may have been the earliest organising principle. To study this, we measure isotopes in archaeological skeletons from Neolithic Europe and Southeast Asia
Our paper in PNAS (2012), "Community differentiation and kinship among Europe's first farmers" showed that early Neolithic men had significantly less variation in mobility-related isotope signatures than the women, and that men with distinctive Neolithic stone adzes had the least variable signatures of all. It suggests these men had better access land for cultivation, and that the spread of agriculture laid the foundation for hereditary inequality in prehistoric Europe.
Bentley, R.A., M.J. O’Brien, K. Manning & S. Shennan (2015) On the relevance of the European Neolithic. Antiquity 89: 1203-1210.
O’Brien, M.J. & R.A. Bentley (2015) The role of food storage in human niche construction: An example from Neolithic Europe. Environmental Archaeology 20: 364–378.
Bickle P., R.A. Bentley, M. Dočkalová, L. Fibiger, R. Hedges J. Hamilton, D. Hofmann, I. Mateiciucová & A. Whittle (2014): Early Neolithic lifeways in Moravia and Western Slovakia. Anthropologie 52(1): 35-72.
Preshistoric Southeast Asia
In Thailand, we find isotopic evidence for prehistoric matrilocality dating back at least as early as the second millennium B.C.