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and Useful: Mid-Holocene Stemmed Obsidian Artefacts from West New Britain,
Papua New Guinea
Prehistoric Foragers and Farmers in South-east Asia: Renewed Investigations at Niah Cave, Sarawak
Chariots of the Gods? Landscape and Imagery at Frännarp, Sweden
A Neolithic Trackway within Peat Deposits at Silvertown, London
Between Mountains and Sea: a Reconsideration of the Neolithic Monuments of South-west Scotland
Excavation of a Neolithic Wooden Platform, Stirlingshire
Making the Most of it: Late Prehistoric Pastoralism in the Avon Levels, Severn Estuary
An Investigation of Ancient Cultivation Remains at Hengistbury Head Site 6, Christchurch, Dorset
Taking the High Ground: Continental Hill-forts in Bronze Age Contexts
Rock-Art and the History of Puritjarra Rock Shelter, Cleland Hills, Central Australia
Landscape, Ecology and Mentalités: a Long-term Perspective on Developments in the Meuse-Demer-Scheldt Region
Visual Culture in Prehistoric South-east Italy
The Mesolithic Inheritance: Contrasting Neolithic Monumentality in Eastern and Western Scotland
Valuable and Useful: Mid-Holocene Stemmed Obsidian Artefacts from
West New Britain, Papua New Guinea
By Nick Araho, Robin Torrence and J. Peter White
Distinctive obsidian artefacts from West New Britain appear sometime before 3950 cal BC and terminate abruptly at 1650 cal BC. We propose that they had a wide range of meanings for their users and functioned in both utilitarian and ceremonial contexts, similar to more recent ground stone axes from Highland New Guinea. They therefore represent the earliest evidence for valuables in Papua New Guinea. Here we draw together studies of the technology, spatial distribution and chemical sourcing of the artefacts, along with considerations of fragility and brightness, to evaluate competing models for their function as utilitarian items and as exchange goods. Whereas many artefacts were probably useful tools integrated within a mobile settlement pattern, others were clearly reserved for special functions, and many may have operated in both the utilitarian and ceremonial spheres.
The paper describes the initial results from renewed investigations at Niah Cave in Sarawak on the island of Borneo, famous for the discovery in 1958 of the c. 40,000-year old 'Deep Skull'. The archaeological sequences from the West Mouth and the other entrances of the cave complex investigated by Tom and Barbara Harrisson and other researchers have potential implications for three major debates regarding the prehistory of south-east Asia: the timing of initial settlement by anatomically modern humans; the means by which they subsisted in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene; and the timing, nature, and causation of the transition from foraging to farming. The new project is informing on all three debates. The critical importance of the Niah stratigraphies was commonly identified - including by Tom Harrisson himself - as because the site provided a continuous sequence of occupation over the past 40,000 years. The present project indicates that Niah was first used at least 45,000 years ago, and probably earlier; that the subsequent Pleistocene and Holocene occupations were highly variable in intensity and character; and that in some periods, perhaps of significant duration, the caves may have been more or less abandoned. The cultural sequence that is emerging from the new investigations may be more typical of cave use in tropical rainforests in south-east Asia than the Harrisson model.
The rock carving at Frännarp has been known for a century and has been the subject of many reports, always concentrating upon the detailed representation of Bronze Age carts. A new recording of the site has revealed the existence of many faint carvings, including small carts, many discs, and also a number of paired animals for the well-known cart designs. Field surveys around the site show a dense concentration of burial and other monuments in the immediate area. The Frännarp site must have served as a special focus here and also for a wider cultural landscape, and a land-based route is identified which may have aided access from further afield.
Excavations at Fort Street, Silvertown, London revealed a short length of a prehistoric trackway constructed within the floodplain of the Thames. Two pollen profiles were obtained through peat together with four radiocarbon dates; two from the trackway itself, one from near the bottom and one from near the top of the peat. These dates indicate that the trackway was constructed in the Early Neolithic and that peat formation took place in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The trackway is of considerable importance in that it represents the earliest known structure of this kind yet discovered in the London area.
For many years the chambered tombs of south-west Scotland were considered important in understanding the origins of monumentality in Britain. In particular scholars focussed on the classification of these monuments in order to understand how ideas about the Neolithic may have spread along and across the Irish Sea. However, the classification of these monuments may be rather more problematic than was once imagined. Among other things, the excavation of a number of these monuments has revealed complex and diverse construction sequences. This paper presents the results of an examination of the landscape settings of the chambered tombs in south-west Scotland. It suggests that a landscape approach can assist in our understanding of the classification and use of these monuments. In addition, the setting of sites within the landscape can also inform us about the nature of the Neolithic in this region of Scotland.
Parks of Garden, a Neolithic site in southern Scotland, is located within a thin wedge of peat which abuts a ridge of glacial moraine that stretches across the Upper Forth river valley. The site comprises a rapidly constructed small wooden platform dating to 3340-2920 cal BC, within the Early Neolithic period of Scotland. The platform may have functioned as a transitory hunting hide and as a preparation area for hunting and gathering expeditions across the fen and into the salt-marshes of the local environment.
A combination of archaeological and palaeo-environmental field work in the Avon Levels, western England, has enabled a much better understanding to be reached of the complex Holocene sedimentation in this part of the Severn Estuary, and of the close relationship between the upper part of that sequence and opportunuities for exploitation of this wetland region during the later prehistoric and Romano-British periods. This paper explores that relationship, focusing in particular on two Iron Age to Romano-British sites. Both sites, at Hallen and Northwick, appear to have been short-lived and only seasonally occupied in order to exploit rich grazing but this occupation took place at different times and within rather different patterns of land-use. The paper concludes with an outline model for the human use of the Avon Levels from the Neolithic to Romano-British periods.
Excavations at Hengistbury Head Site 6 (Dragonfly Ponds) in 1984-5 uncovered a rare sequence of cultivation features, with pre-Late Iron Age to Romanon-British period spade marks and an associated cultivation soil underlying proposed Romano-British furrows and another cultivation soil. Keyhole excavations for soil micromorphological study of these features and soils were conducted in 1997 as part of a larger project on identifying and characterising prehistoric cultivation from soil indicators in the field and in thin section. Profile inversion indicators identified within the implement marks suggest that the spade-mark horizon may show 'double-digging', and that the furrows were probably created by post-Roman mouldboard ploughing. Excavation and soil micromorphology results are presented here, and the importance of the remains at Hengistbury Head to the study of ancient agricultural land use is discussed in terms of methodological issues.
was given as the Europa lecture for 2001.
Elaborate, religiously sanctioned relationships between people and place are one of the most distinctive features of Aboriginal Australia. In the Australian desert, rock paintings and engravings provide a tangible link to the totemic geography and allow us to examine both changes in the role of individual places and also the development of this system of relationships to land. In this paper we use rock-art to examine the changing history of Puritjarra rock shelter in western central Australia. The production of pigment art and engravings at the shelter appears to have begun by c. 13,000 BP and indicates a growing concern by people with using graphic art to record their relationship with the site. Over the last millennium changes in the surviving frieze of paintings at Puritjarra record fundamental changes in graphic vocabulary, style and composition of the paintings. These coincide with other evidence for changes in the geographic linkages of the site. As Puritjarra's place in the social geography changed, the motifs appropriate for the site also changed. The history of this rock shelter shows that detailed site histories will be required if we are to disentangle the development of central Australian graphic systems from the temporal and spatial variability inherent in the expression of these systems.
This study presents a survey of the long-term dynamics with regard to settlement and landscape in the Meuse-Demer-Scheldt region (south Netherlands/north Belgium), thereby using the results of several decades of intensive archaeological fieldwork. In a theoretical sense, this study is inspired by the work of historians from the French Annales school. We use a model of long-term agricultural cycles, set against demographic fluctuations, in an attempt to understand developments within the study region. At the same time, however, we aim to incorporate the social and ideational dimensions of these changes, which are linked to a specific ordering and arrangement of the landscape. Our particular focus is the radical transformation that occurred around the Middle and Late Iron Age, as this had a major impact on the ordering and arrangement of the landscape in later periods.
Using the approach of visual culture, which highlights the embeddedness of art in dynamic human processes, this paper examines the prehistoric archaeology of the Lecce province in south-east Italy, in order to provide a history of successive visual cultures in that area, between the Middle Palaeolithic and the Bronze Age. It is argued that art may have helped human groups to deal with problems in subsistence and society, including environmental changes affecting the cultural landscape and its resources, the breaking up of old social relations and the establishment and maintenance of new ones. More specifically, art appears to have become increasingly related to the expression of religious and even mythical beliefs, and in particular to the performance of ceremonies and rituals in selected spaces such as caves. This may reflect the existence of a long-term tradition of performance art in prehistory, involving performers and viewers, in which art helped to structure and heighten the sensual and social impact of the acting human body.
Generalised socio-economic models have in the past been applied wholesale to Neolithic monuments throughout Scotland without taking into account the country's diverse physical landscape and cultural histories. This paper explores whether regional variations in Neolithic monumentality can be paralleled with earlier Mesolithic disparities, and considers to what extent, with the introduction of agriculture, contemporary social systems and thus the ideology underlying monumental construction was affected by geographical factors. It is suggested that 1) contrasts during the Mesolithic between the western seaboard and the eastern lowlands/south-east Scotland continued throughout the Neolithic; 2) the different functions of monuments during the Early Neolithic were generally dictated by divergent topography in eastern and western Scotland; and 3) by the later Neolithic social hierarchies emerged in regions suited to agricultural development.
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