Living Mesolithic Time: Narratives, Chronologies and Organic Material Culture

Ben Elliott, Seren Griffiths

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Abstract

British and Irish Mesolithic studies have long been characterized by areliance on broad-scale lithic typologies, both to provide chronologies, and in discussionof ‘cultural’ groups. More recently, traditional narrative structures—perioddefinitions of ‘Early’ and ‘Late’, or culture typologies—have been complementedby a host of other evidence. This has included new studies of site stratigraphy,evidence for seasonality, and material culture chaıˆne ope´ratoire chronologies,which place a greater emphasis on both temporal precision and the lived experiencesof Mesolithic peoples. This paper will consider how the study of organicartefacts forces these narrative scales into acute focus, and presents an opportunityto explore the challenges in synthesizing different forms of data. We discuss howthe evidence from sites in Ireland and Britain allows for new approaches, andhighlight some of the challenges that this evidence presents, not least the perennialissue of moving from site-specific data to broader narratives. While the nature ofearlier prehistoric evidence makes this an especially obvious issue for Mesolithicstudies, it is one which generally besets archaeology. We suggest that in order tomove beyond this in earlier prehistoric studies specifically, we need to make betteruse of all evidence sources, however seemingly prosaic, including antiquariancollections in museums, and chance and casual finds. Only by including the raft ofavailable data, and recognizing its utility beyond the sum of individual apparentlyuninspiring parts, can we begin to move from generalizing narratives to morenuanced archaeological understandings of past material worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-365
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018

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