Dr Penny Bickle
Lecturer in Archaeology



The main focus of my research is Neolithic Europe. I work at the intersection of science and theoretical archaeology, applying bioarchaeological methods to various sites and time periods to inform on issues of identity and social diversity. I am particularly interested in how we can use burial practices to uncover the social lives and lifeways of the earliest farmers in Europe.    

Penny first studied archaeology at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2002. After a year working in commercial archaeology in the UK, she chose to specialise in Neolithic archaeology, moving to Cardiff University to complete first a masters (2004) in the European Neolithic and then PhD (awarded March 2009) studying architectural change in Neolithic Northern France.

After a short spell in Berlin learning German, Penny returned to Cardiff to carry out postdoctoral research as part of an inter-disciplinary project. Running joint with the Universities of Durham and Oxford, the LBK lifeways project investigated the diet and mobility patterns of the first farmers in central Europe. After this project was completed in 2012, she took up a research assistant position on the Times of their lives project based at Cardiff. This project is applying Bayesian modelling techniques to radiocarbon dates to refine Neolithic chronologies across Europe. In 2013 Penny moved to the University of Bristol to work on a project examining the origins and spread of dairying in the early and middle Neolithic of central Europe. These postdoctoral positions involved working at the interface between more traditional archaeological methodologies and scientific techniques, as well as much travelling throughout Europe to carry out sampling of human and animal remains, artefacts and the local cuisines.   

Departmental roles

Direct of Studies MA and MSc Funerary Archaeology

Undergraduate Admissions Tutor

University roles

Student Life Committee



Penny’s research centres primarily on the lifeways of Neolithic people in Europe and how we can understand their daily routines, through the architecture they built, ways they used and responded to the landscape, and how they treated their dead.

More broadly she is interested in theorectical approaches to the past and how they intersect with scientific methodologies used to investigate material culture, social relationships and animal and human bodies.  


Penny is currently collaborating on two projects:

NeoMilk: the milking revolution in temperate Neolithic Europe (2013-2018)

The NeoMilk project will map the introduction and spread of dairy products with development of an agriculture dominated by cattle in the early Neolithic (Linearbandkeramik, LBK) in central Europe (Ukraine-France). Lipid analysis of food residues absorbed in LBK pottery will be carried out to provide a qualitative and quantitative assessment of diet (Theme 1, R.P. Evershed and Mélanie Roffet-Salque). A study of domesticated animals during the LBK will provide a more detailed knowledge of herd management, meat production and milking (Theme 2, A. Bentley, J.-D. Vigne, A. Outram and R. Gillis). The patterns of animal management and milk use will then be chronicled, mapped and correlated with environmental and cultural variation, to further investigate the implications of dairy products and a cattle-dominated subsistence system for the development of the Neolithic (Theme 3, V. Heyd, A. Marciniak, M. Thomas, P. Bickle and J. Smyth).

The project is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, P.I. Prof. Richard P. Evershed, University of Bristol, and is working with numerous collaborators from across Europe.


The times of their lives (2012-2017)

The Bayesian approach to radiocarbon dates allow archaeologists to model chronologies at high resolution, in some cases down to human generations or even decades. This is achieved by using ‘prior information’ (e.g. stratigraphy) to constrain the 14C dates and the rigorous selection of short-life material for dating. The Times of their lives project is applying the Bayesian framework to different types of sites and using a variety of different types of archaeological sequencing as ‘prior information’ across Europe, to provide much more precise chronologies for various Neolithic phenomena.  

The project is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, P.I. Prof. Alasdair Whittle, Cardiff University, and C.I. Dr. Alex Bayliss, Historic England, and is working with numerous collaborators from across Europe.

For more information please visit the project website: http://www.totl.eu


External activities


Peer Review College, Arts and Humanities Research Council (term 2015-2018)

Prehistoric Society, Elected Council Member (1 of 8 Council members, term 2014-2017)

Association for Environmental Archaeology

European Association of Archaeologists

Editorial duties

Member of Comité scientifique international for Gallia Préhistoire (term 2016–2020, 1 of 15 members)

Invited talks and conferences

September 2014: Investigating cultural diversity at the transition to agriculture in central Europe: pots, diets and identities

Department of Archaeology, Aarhus University

April 2014: Following the herd? Consumption, specialisation and variation in the early and middle Neolithic of central Europe

Bioarchaeology and archaeology in Neolithic Europe: the Carpathian Basin, Mainz, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum

March 2013: Investigating diversity in Europe’s first farmers: results from the LBK lifeways project

Association for Environmental Archaeology seminar, University of Bangor (Sponsored by AEA)

Media coverage

Media coverage for the LBK lifeways project

Guardian Website, 28th May 2012:

Your daddy’s rich …, inherited wealth may date back to dawn of agriculture Maev Kennedy

BBC News Website, 29th May 2012:

Cardiff uni claims evidence of Stone Age 'inequality'


Contact details

Dr Penny Bickle
Department of Archaeology
University of York
King's Manor

Tel: 01904 323935