5. Media for making the world? Conclusions and future directions.

Inevitably this account is beset with the limitations of a study (PhD research) which is not yet complete, and ultimately more detailed interpretations of the macro and micro analyses outlined will be developed in the future. However this work has still been able to highlight a series of key points. In particular it is clear that current narratives and means of interpreting the Mesolithic which seek to focus upon questions of economy, subsistence and tool typology can ultimately only replicate an understanding of the world that is specific to the modern west. Moreover regionally insular accounts of the period in the northern Irish Sea basin are similarly a consequence of the modern geo-political boundaries that have shaped studies in the area. In response to such problems this study instead suggests that a potentially useful approach may be to consider prehistoric conceptions of materials, places and identities as being fundamentally intersecting and continually in production, and that doing so can provide a series of more complex, socially situated interpretations of the material.

Furthermore, by exploring how such interpretations may be produced in practice, grounded in the material record, they act as a rejoinder to those who may suggest that interpretive, and particularly phenomenological approaches to the Mesolithic, can be produced only by projecting approaches that work in later chronological periods back onto the Mesolithic. Indeed by developing an explicitly phenomenological approach to the abundant Mesolithic material record (also discussed in much greater detail in Cobb 2007, forthcoming a) this work illustrates the extent to which Mesolithic studies are in fact critically placed to provide a detailed exploration of the potential of this philosophical approach beyond its traditional application, within the discipline, to landscape studies alone.

Of course it is imperative to stress that this work does not seek to dismiss the critical contribution that has arisen from work undertaken under other theoretical paradigms. Rather I argue that we must now concertedly seek to couple the wealth of information that already exists with that from a more interpretive, socially situated perspective. In doing so, by reviewing the literature and material collections for the period from the full extent of the northern Irish Sea basin, and combining this information with more sensual, socially nuanced considerations of the material, we can begin move beyond an insular understanding of the period, and instead explore the complex means in which people used their knowledge of places, materials and one another to continually make and understand themselves and their world.


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Last updated: Tues Oct 2 2007