Abstracts N-P

Cass ny Hawin II: a Mesolithic Pit House on the Isle of Man
Aidan Parker, Oxford Archaeology North

In 2009, OA North discovered a Mesolithic pit house at Ronaldsway Airport comprising a sub-circular hollow, approximately 7m in diameter, containing a ring of postholes and an internal re-deposited gravel platform opposing, a north-facing entrance. Radiocarbon assays show that the house dates between c 8200-7950 cal BC. The house was 100% sampled and carefully excavated in spits, within 1m grid squares. It contained large numbers of flaked lithics and coarse stone tools, as well as a rich assemblage of charred plant remains, including the probable remains of a hazel-wood floor. The lithic assemblage comprises c 14,000 3d recorded struck flints and a further 8000 retrieved from sieving spoil from the grid squares. It appears that the remains have been fossilized in-situ when the house burnt down. The presentation will focus on the results of the detailed lithic analysis and the subsequent spatial analysis of the assemblage. This should permit the spatial dynamics of the building to be understood, in other words, how it was lived in.

Experimental production: developing understanding; developing engagement.
John Piprani (University of Manchester)

Within the past fifteen years understandings of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe have themselves transitioned. Before 2000 a narrative of cognitively superior modern humans acculturating cognitively inferior Neanderthals presented a coherent explanation of the evidence then available. However, as stratigraphic understanding and carbon dating has improved this explanation seems less tenable. As d’Errico and Banks (2014) have recently argued, the answer we are seeking is probably not a simple one. I think it is probably un-controversial to state that the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition is complicated, and comprehensive explanatory narratives are now a thing of the past. My research has focussed upon a transitional industry from this period, represented mainly by type fossils. Experimental production has been used to generate a technological context for these type fossils. Perhaps predictably, a number of issues emerged in relation to experimental production and I would like to explore their potential values here. In particular, I want to argue that when a craft person’s experiential understanding of a technology contradicts an academic’s analytical and contextual comprehension, therein lies a potential for growth. I will discuss three areas. Firstly, an analysis of the differing perspectives on opposed platform production. Secondly, review the value of an experimentally generated technological context for comprehending (more recently recovered) micro-debitage collections. Finally, discuss the role of performance in experimental archaeology, and in particular the value of visual, aural and haptic media generated. Explanatory narratives associated with these media can provide both an intellectual and experiential engagement with the complexity of the technology. Comprehension of complexity at this scale allows openness to the further idea: that an explanation for the period overall is also likely to be complex. Experimental production seems to be a tool with which we can engage more experientially with complexity, as well as contribute to understanding particular technological aspects of the period.

Unshackling the ‘châines’: A New Approach to the Technological Organisation of the British Mesolithic.

Dr P Preston (Lithoscapes)
Traditionally, lithic research is on a micro-scale – site by site basis, and British Mesolithic orthodoxy concentrates on a few key assemblages recovered from karstic lowland situations near to raw material sources. This has resulted in a restricted micro-scale/site based view of the Mesolithic technology/Châine Opératoire as linear, uniform and unchanging. In contrast, this paper attempts to assess the lithic technological organisation from both a micro-site based to a macro-landscape scale through analysing upland to lowland assemblages from Northern England from various geologies and environments. Evaluating the lithic data through a series of novel analytical and empirical models influenced by the principles of computer programming it offers an alternative view that shows that Mesolithic knapping strategies were substantially more flexible that has hitherto been appreciated. Consequently, it shows that Mesolithic technological organisation over the landscape was closely linked to the interplay of raw material availability, risk, mobility strategies and cultural practices. In turn, this paper will demonstrate that this resulted increasingly logistical reduction trajectories across the landscape with variable levels of onsite/offsite knapping and high levels of blade/let or tool importation, an increased occurrence of flexible knapping strategies that resulted in positive feedback loops and cyclical Châine Opératoires across the landscape.