Recent breakthroughs in ancient DNA and isotope analysis are transforming our understanding of diversity, mobility and social dynamics in the human past. COMMIOS integrates these methods for the first time, on a scale not previously attempted, within a ground-breaking interdisciplinary framework, to provide a radically new vision of Iron Age communities in Britain (800 BC – AD 100) within their wider European context.

At the broad scale, we will conduct the first concerted programme of genome-wide ancient DNA analysis on Iron Age populations anywhere in the world (c. 1000 individuals in the UK), mapping genetic clusters to shed light on ancient populations and on their relationships to modern genetic patterning. Together with isotope analysis, and underpinned by both osteoarchaeological and cultural archaeological approaches, we will directly address critical issues of population movement and inter-regional connectivity in Iron Age Europe. We will utilise the power of these new scientific methods to examine the structure and social dynamics of Iron Age societies in Britain, including household and kin-group composition, the identification of familial relationships, gender-specific mobility, and the development of social inequalities. Previously the preserve of cultural anthropologists studying recent societies, we will draw these questions into the archaeological domain, opening up new areas of enquiry for prehistoric societies.

The scope and scale of the project represents a new departure for European archaeology, made possible by the coming-of-age of new analytical methods. Many of these have been pioneered by the project team, which comprises world-leaders in the fields of ancient DNA, isotope analysis, osteoarchaeology, chronological modelling and cultural archaeology. Although focused on Iron Age Britain, the project will establish a new benchmark for future analyses of other regions and periods in Europe and beyond.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and grant innovation programme under grant agreement No 834087