The organizational and structural dimensions of hunter-gatherer lithic technology : theoretical perspectives from ethnography and ethnoarchaeology applied to the Mesolithic of mainland Britain with a case study from northern England
The organizational (procurement, manufacture, maintenance/discard) and structural (composition, diversity, complexity) dimensions of contemporary hunter-gatherer technological strategies are discussed in terms of the selective advantages for limiting subsistence costs and/or risks. It is argued that where subsistence is primarily cost (energy) limited technological strategies differ from those employed where risk (time) is limiting. Anticipatory organizational strategies - embedded procurement and reduction, and curation - achieve their most significant role in time-stressed contexts where there are selective benefits in separating subsistence and technological schedules. Structural strategies-- function-specific tools, diverse tool-kits, complex tool design - offer selective benefits where the act of food procurement is time-stressed. If subsistence is time-stressed but cannot be effectively 'separated from technological schedules tools may be made both reliable (high component redundancy) and maintainable (readily repaired) - the latter being facilitated by limiting component design thereby enabling materials of varied quality to be employed. The implications of differing organizational and structural strategies for the formation of the archaeological record and for the lithic analyst are discussed. Evidence concerning the environment, chronology, economy, settlement and technology of the Mesolithic of mainland Britain is reviewed. For the Earlier Mesolithic an alternative to the Clark model of subsistence and mobility is developed, whilst multivariate analyses of stone tool inventories and evidence concerning the function, complexity and design of microlithic tools provides the basis for suggestions as to the character and significance of the Earlier-Later Mesolithic transition. Analyses of lithic debitage from sites in northern England provide evidence for embedded procurement and reduction strategies during the Earlier Mesolithic consistent with the expectations of a model where autumn was spent in upland valleys engaged in intercept hunting, winter was spent in lowland residences.