Chipped stone variability and approaches to cultural classification in the Epipalaeolithic of the south Levantine arid zone
This thesis examines how our picture of the Epipalaeolithic of the southern Levant has been structured, what its evidential base is and how it has gained authority. Hitherto, research has focused on describing variability in microliths, the type-fossil of the period, in terms of archaeological cultures using typology. Narrative analysis was used in the first part of this thesis to explore the work of three main researchers in the field. This has shown that narrative strategies are indeed employed in archaeological texts to describe lithic and other data creating a picture of the period that relies substantially on ideas 'imported' from modern attitudes to the region and the relations of people within it. The techniques of narrative are used to pull together the disparate and conflicting data we work with into a unity of significance, embodying authority and plausibility. In the second part of the thesis, a study of 12 chipped stone assemblages from the Negev and southern Jordan was undertaken. Attribute analysis was used to explore variability within and between sites. This has revealed a complex and cross-cutting pattern of personal or local decisions taken within a context of wider norms, which has created very specific tool forms at individual sites. A picture of context dependent variability was discovered that has not been reflected in the traditional typological methods. This offers new ways of seeing the relationships between social organisations and material culture.