Bayer, Olaf J
Lithic scatters and landscape: the Mesolithic,
Neolithic and Early Bronze Age inhabitation of
the lower Exe valley, Devon.
Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.
This thesis examines the inhabitation of the lower Exe valley, between the Mesolithic and the Early Bronze Age through the evidence of a series of surface lithic scatters. Research draws on recent confident approaches to surface lithic scatters which view them as key data for understanding the inhabitation of prehistoric landscapes. Theoretically it draws on the dwelling perspective and proposes that both the contents of lithic scatters (the stone tools and debitage of which they are composed), and their contexts (the locations in which they are found) are inseparable parts of the same whole, and are implicated in the processes through which prehistoric populations came to understood and create their worlds.
Research focuses on a small study area centred on the lower Exe valley, Devon. It is one of the most significant prehistoric landscapes in lowland southwest Britain and includes a large surface lithic collection spanning the Mesolithic to the Early Bronze Age. It also contains evidence for a number of contemporary monuments. Several methodologies are applied to the contents and contexts of the study area’s lithic assemblages. Methodologies utilised include lithic analysis, landscape phenomenology, LIDAR and vertical aerial photography, extensive geophysical survey and targeted excavation.
Four themes are explored in relation to the study area’s archaeological record:
• The character and composition of inhabitation
• The temporality of inhabitation
• Biographies of place
• Scales of mobility and contact
Results indicate the valley floor and its immediate western edge as a particular focus of activity during all periods. Against the background of increasing intensity and extent of inhabitation between the Mesolithic and Early Bronze Age, the repeated occupation of persistent places is noted. Repeated occupation of these locales is seen as key to the development of biographies of place which in turn act as anchors for subsequent acts of inhabitation and monument building. This thesis combines the analysis and interpretation of previously unpublished surface lithic assemblages, with the results of new archaeological fieldwork. At a regional level it has enhanced understanding of the prehistory of lowland Devon. In a wider context it offers a new theoretical and methodological approach to studying surface lithic scatters, and contributes to on going debates in landscape archaeology.
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