5. Conclusion

Of course re-cycled stone was a fundamental utility in prehistoric Britain in Ireland and well beyond. And as we remain so ignorant of so much of it, how could it possibly be a scholarly irrelevance? I have argued at length elsewhere how we might advance an appreciation of the re-cycled resources of these superficial deposits, by encouraging children and adults to observe and to collect and record unusual stones, just as they do artefacts (Briggs 2003). It is recognised that considerable finance would be needed to evaluate that resource and set it qualitatively or quantitatively on an equal footing with the evidence so far determined about the implements. But to do so would give it more enduring value for both archaeologists and geologists.

By now, I believe everyone concerned with provenancing stone implements or charged with interpreting the archaeological evidence will appreciate the complexity of the component parts of their chosen study and the depth of our ignorance about them. It is difficult to see how any discipline seeking recognition as a science in the 21st century can now excuse itself from initiating a serious programme to address that gap in our knowledge, which, if ignored, will remain a fundamental requirement long after I am gone.

The problem is, that given a choice between the two interpretations available, most archaeologists prefer the more romantic story of long-distance travel, the foreknowledge of prehistoric peoples on the whereabouts of geological outcrops; trade and exchanges through a variety of social or religious motives, or even of magic – anything seems preferable to the suggestion that our peasant ancestors scavenged the fields for re-cycled rock. This is far too simple and mundane an explanation for today's sophisticated academe.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 29 2009