3. Alternative approaches to early prehistoric movement

Let us firstly deal with the second of these challenges - how can we think and write in more engaging ways about people's movements?

'From their [hunter-gatherer] point of view both moral and physical movement, the religious journey and the economic quest for food, are part of the same process: namely living'
(Ingold 1986, 153; emphasis in original).

This statement - which like the models above is derived from hunter-gatherer ethnography - demonstrates that people's lives, their social roles, activities and their environment evolve together and unfold gradually as people move through the world one step at a time.

'[T]he world unfolds as individuals move along; phenomena are perceived and engaged with through the movements we make. The world is said to emerge and unfold at the same time the person emerges and perceives'
(Ingold 2000, 168).

It will be immediately apparent that this notion of movement is very different from the ideas of mobility discussed above. It paves the way for an approach that acknowledges that social, economic and ideological considerations are all inseparable parts of the processes of daily life, as for most small scale societies 'ideology forms a fundamental aspect of day-to-day subsistence activities and cannot be separated from economic concerns' (Tilley 1994, 68).

An example from North American ethnography highlights this relationship between subsistence, ideology, social forces and human movement beautifully.

'The Navajo journey is not, strictly speaking, a pilgrimage resulting in a transcendent experience; it is everyday existence ruled and protected by rites and precautions. He follows the path his forbears followed. They lead to places where there are rare and useful herbs. They avoid all places associated with death. They lead to altars and shrines, to places of natural beauty and good hunting. The Navajo returns from a journey - whether it occupies a day or a lifetime - with food and resources for the family'
(Jackson 1994, 203).

If we start viewing mesolithic hunter-gatherers as socially active human beings not confined by Cartesian principles, the two dimensional models of subsistence based procurement and mobility strategies give way to intimate accounts of journeys that people in mesolithic times embarked on and places they visited along them. However, we must also be careful to firmly ground such accounts in a 'rigorous engagement with [...] archaeological data sets' (Jordan 2003, 130). This leads us to the other challenge identified above, that of utilising the available material evidence for the study of mesolithic movement in imaginative and innovative ways. In recent years several promising new sources of evidence for mesolithic activity have become more accessible, as reflected by some of the other contributions to this themed issue of Internet Archaeology. Yet in many cases lithic artefacts remain nonetheless the backbone for much of our understanding of mesolithic lifeways, simply because they tend to be so much more common and widespread throughout early prehistory and across most parts of Europe. This is very much the case in relation to Irish mesolithic evidence where survival of organic materials dating to this period is extremely limited. Therefore my own research focuses on integrating lithic artefact and landscape evidence from a number of study areas within Ireland in order to understand the ways in which people moved in early prehistory. Space here does not allow me to provide a detailed outline of my research methodology, which I have discussed in other publications (Kador 2005, 110-111; forthcoming). I will therefore move straight to presenting some of my work on movement and mobility in early prehistoric Ireland.


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