About the BEAN network
The BEAN Initial Training Network is providing state-of-the-art training to early-stage researchers in the scientific disciplines of anthropology, genomics, simulations and modelling, biostatistics, demography, and prehistoric archaeology, as well as complementary skills in cultural heritage entrepreneurship, public outreach, and scientific publication.
Training opportunities in the BEAN network are embedded within a multifaceted integrated research programme investigating one of the most complex topics in modern anthropology: the Neolithisation of Europe. BEAN focuses on demographic questions surrounding the spread of the cultural, technological, and biological components of the Neolithic from western Anatolia and the Balkans to the rest of Europe.
The Neolithic Period
The term ‘Neolithic’ describes a novel human lifeway centred on crop and animal domestication and the construction of permanent settlements with special-use buildings. The Neolithic period marks the advent of settled farming life in Europe and is a crucial period in the genetic and cultural history of modern Europeans.
The transition from mobile foraging to sedentary farming first occurred around 11,000 years ago in the Near East with the cultivation of several edible grasses and legumes and the domestication of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, and spread throughout southwest Asia, reaching Europe by 8,500 years ago.
Anthropology and Archaeology
The emergence of agriculture and sedentary life was accompanied by an explosive increase in population size and growth rate, a phenomenon known as the Neolithic Demographic Transition. BEAN researchers in Belgrade and Paris are investigating the biological correlates of the transition using isotopic and morphological proxies for nutritional status and extertion patterns, and creating a database-informed demographic reconstruction of the expansion of Neolithic settlements westward from the Levant to the Balkans.
Neolithic communities participated in complex networks of economic and cultural exchange. BEAN projects in Istanbul and London are using complementary approaches to model the relationship between ceramic technology and patterns of social interaction, and tracing the movement of raw material and resources to delineate ancient regional networks of communication, mobility, and exchange.
Demographic processes affect patterns of variation in both genetic and cultural traits. To study these patterns, BEAN researchers in Mainz and Dublin are capturing and sequencing ancient DNA from Mesolithic and Neolithic remains representing key populations in Europe’s demographic history. Mitochondrial, nuclear, and Y-chromosome data will be used to infer past population movements and selection pressures, and to orient important demographic events and processes in time and space.
Computer Simulations and Modelling
BEAN projects in Geneva and London are integrating cultural and genetic datasets into a robust statistical framework to evaluate competing hypotheses of European population history. Our partners have developed computer programs which can incorporate diverse data streams into spatially-explicit models of the diffusion of Neolithic culture westward from Anatolia.