5. Conclusions, Biographies of Stone and Landscape

Both the composition and spatial integrity of lithic scatters (relative proximity between lithic scatters and reuse of places in the landscape) suggest their long-term re-use. Therefore, lithics and lithic scatters are critical to accessing the biography of prehistoric places. This paper has contributed to the debate on the process of living in the prehistoric landscapes, termed more recently 'inhabitation' (Barrowman 2003; Hind 2004a; 2004b; Snashall 2002; Stuart 2003) or the 'dwelling' perspective (Ingold 1993). Unusually, quantitative lithic data has been deployed to provide evidence for change in the history and perception of occupation.

Here, prehistoric 'settlement' is perceived as a process, a series of acts by people to humanise the landscape. These acts would occur at different tempos depending on the number of people present and frequency of visits to an individual location. Artefact discard would be the result of a visit to a past location and the ongoing reworking of the social meaning of that place. Prehistoric settlement in this way can be termed a settlement 'cycle' or 'cycle of settlement' (Bond 2006, chapter 3). An active component is emphasised: the continued nature of creating place. Fluidity in construction, attendance and meaning is underlined, as with a degree of mobility, now more common in the way lithic scatters are interpreted. This is the case whether the specific prehistoric lifeways discussed were associated with hunter-gatherer, fisher or herder subsistence, or a combination of all or one economic mode (Darvill 2003; Edmonds 1995; Edmonds 1997; Edmonds et al. 1999; Whittle 1990; 1997; Zvelebil et al. 1992). The settlement 'cycle' may be crudely defined in four stages: use, re-use, abandonment, and then followed at a later time by further re-use (or rediscovery or revisiting known locales). A cyclical pattern is also argued by Edmonds (1987, 169-174; 1987, 35-36; 1997) and acknowledged by Thomas (1999, 18, 21, 23). These episodes are indicative of discrete human actions at lithic scatters. Discarded lithics are just one element, part of a complex palimpsest that was the prehistoric regional landscape: monuments, caves and trackways (Fig. 1).

To conclude, the multi-period properties inherent in lithic scatter data (English Heritage 2000; Schofield 1994; 1995; 2000; Zvelebil et al. 1992) can be put to good use to chart long term trends across space. This approach need not be viewed as coarse-grained and directly compared to the fine-grained analysis expected from excavated data (Thomas 1991, 14-15; 1999, 18). This comparison is unhelpful.

The temporal and spatial relationship exhibited in lithic data at both a macro and micro-scale, underlies the unique importance of this category of evidence. Given the time-depth exhibited in these lithic assemblages, the activity at each locale must have been linked to a rather special perception of time and place. Lithic scatters as humanised places must have been symbolically charged, attracting people over millennia. Six themes emerge:

Stone and landscape come together with research on lithic scatters enabling the writing of prehistoric biographies of artefact and place. These socially constructed places were the locus for the lives of past people. They were their destination, once arrived at, where people lived, played and met, worked, ate, slept and died. Without a more detailed consideration of these parts of the prehistoric landscape we are in danger of missing out on most of prehistory.


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