2. Theoretical Constructs

Ecological modelling of possible acquisition, breeding and consumption of livestock suggests a number of features relevant to discussion of exchange systems. In particular, and as noted by Case (1969), the establishment of cereals and livestock would have been precarious. For example, those bringing in or acquiring livestock from the Continent (whom I will call primary units, with one assumed here to be in East Yorkshire) would almost certainly have had need to replenish their initial flocks and herds with new stock brought from mainland Europe. Equally, secondary units (such as those in western Yorkshire and the Peak District) acquiring livestock from the primary one would have needed to replenish their herds and flocks either by 'trade' with the Continent directly, or with each other and/or the primary unit. Similarly, tertiary units (such as might be postulated to exist in the Lake District) would have been interdependent upon each other and/or the secondary ones. In short, the 'spread' of 'farming' would have required and been dependent upon a web of exchange and obligations of the kind postulated for the movement of axes.

Most importantly:

  1. the (theoretical) exchange network for the spread of domesticates based on primary-tertiary units does not require direct contact between the Lake District and East Yorkshire, rather it fits the model for the movement of axes described by writers such as Bradley and Edmonds (1993)
  2. the exchange network would have operated whether seed and livestock was being acquired or access to the domesticates was restricted to one of consumption of the kind hinted at by Thomas (2004, 121)
  3. equally, failure of crops or reduced numbers of livestock would have allowed the initial exchange patterns to be 'reversed' or renegotiated
  4. patterns of exchange would also change through time for other reasons e.g. following the establishment of farming everywhere
  5. in that context, while it is possible that initial acquisition of or access to the domesticates by indigenous groups might have utilised existing exchange patterns and social networks, the need for primary units of acquisition/dispersal may have imposed a new pattern of obligations and relationships with potential tensions.

It is also probable that a feature of the exchange patterns associated with access to consumption or the actual acquisition of the exotic domesticates would probably have been the existence of 'centres', with feasting and gifting part of the process. Moreover, part of the exchange associated with that feasting and gifting may have been the 'giving' of labour so that part of the domesticates package was monument building. Consequently, sites and buildings such as Balbridie (Fairweather and Ralston 1993) and Ballygalley (Simpson 1996) appear to correspond to what one might expect of a society/societies actively engaged in either consuming or spreading/acquiring domesticates.


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Last updated: Wed May 27 2009