A landscape archaeological study of the Mesolithic Neolithic in the milfield basin, Northumberland
The primary objective of this thesis is the construction of a landscape-scale synthesis of past human behaviour during the Mesolithic-Neolithic in the Milfield Basin, Northumberland. Previous archaeological studies in this area have been dominated by site-based research with little account taken of the wider landscape setting, settlement patterns and land-use strategies. To acquire the appropriate 'landscape' (off-site) data this study has included a fieldwork component consisting of a 7km sampling transect which extended across the interfluve from watershed to watershed and sampled all the different environmental zones of the basin. This area, of nearly 6 million square metres, was systematically fieldwalked, geomorphologically mapped and test-pitted. A total of 146 test pits were opened to sample the subsurface lithic content and sediment stratigraphy of each of the different geomorphological slope types. The subsequent data was analysed in a G.I.S. environment and interpreted in combination with published palynological data, existing site-based archaeological data including the author's recent excavations at the Coupland complex. The method of acquiring, analysing and interpreting the fieldwalking data is an innovative contribution to landscape archaeology techniques and includes a model of lithic scatter slope displacement and archaeological inference for ploughed slope environments. The study culminates in a diachronic synthesis of Mesolithic-Neolithic behaviour together with associated thematic discussion. Consequently, this thesis contributes towards two areas of research: landscape archaeological syntheses and methodological/taphonomic studies. The principal findings of this study include new models of prehistoric settlement and land-use for this area, a re-evaluation of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, a reconsideration of the late Neolithic 'ritual complex' and the identification of processes affecting surface lithic scatters and their implications for subsequent interpretation.