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The Later Prehistory of North-West EuropeThe Evidence of Development-Led Fieldwork$
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Richard Bradley, Colin Haselgrove, Marc Vander Linden, and Leo Webley

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199659777

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199659777.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 25 June 2022

Late Foragers and First Farmers (8000–3700 bc)

Late Foragers and First Farmers (8000–3700 bc)

Chapter:
2 (p.39) Late Foragers and First Farmers (8000–3700 bc)
Source:
The Later Prehistory of North-West Europe
Author(s):

Richard Bradley

Colin Haselgrove

Marc Vander Linden

Leo Webley

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199659777.003.0007

This chapter spans an important period division. It considers both the ‘Mesolithic’ hunter-gatherers of the study area, and the first ‘Neolithic’ farmers. The relationship between them is one of the most important issues to be investigated by prehistoric archaeology, but it is also one of the most contentious. The period between 8000 and 3700 BC saw the change from a reliance on wild resources to a new subsistence economy based on the ownership of domesticated plants and animals. It must have involved completely new forms of social organization. The transition between these phases occurred at different times in different parts of north-west Europe, but in all instances it is where two distinctive kinds of scholarship impinge on one another. To some extent the distinction between these kinds of research is determined by the kinds of evidence that are available. For the most part Mesolithic activity is characterized by hearths, scatters of stone tools, shell middens, and other food remains. In some regions there are graves, but traces of domestic buildings are comparatively rare. There is little sign of more monumental structures. The Neolithic period, on the other hand, is characterized by durable wooden houses, enclosures, mounds, and stone-built tombs, and by a much wider range of artefacts. This contrast has implications for the kinds of research that can be undertaken. With notable exceptions, students of the Mesolithic are most concerned with food production, settlement patterns, and lithic technology and place a particular emphasis on ecology and adaptation. Specialists on the Neolithic period do not neglect these fields, but they are also able to consider monumental architecture. Because they can draw on a wider range of data, their studies extend to ritual and social organization in a way that is more difficult to achieve in the archaeology of foragers. That contrast has become even wider with recent increases in the scale of fieldwork. Mesolithic sites contain comparatively few subsoil features and are difficult to detect by remote sensing or sample excavation.

Keywords:   art, cairns, coastal sites, dogs, fish-weirs, jadeite axes, long cairns, menhirs, roundhouses, slate

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