The making of the British early Palaeolithic, 1880-1960
This historical study explores the character of interpretations of the British Palaeolithic record between c. 1880 and c. 1960, focusing on attempts to classify and order the Early Palaeolithic industries. Interpretations were developed through complex interactions between individuals and groups, who were influenced by a range of aims, expectations and research opportunities. The impact of their contributions was partly dependent upon academic standing and the style of approach taken within the competitive arena of day-to-day research. General expectations of industrial patterning were founded upon the Early Palaeolithic industrial sequence from Western Europe, particularly the chronological succession from the Somme Valley, France, where the hand-axe was the most notable artefact. The assumption of progression and the use of prominent type-fossils such as the hand-axe in classifying and ordering industries coloured interpretations of the British Early Palaeolithic sequence. This is evident even in the approaches to the naturally-fractured stones known as 'eoliths’. The idea of a single, progressive line of industries also fuelled argument over the position and affinities of the flake-rich Clactonian industry in the 1910s and 1920s. In the wake of rising uncertainties, the parallel culture scheme proposed by Henri Breuil achieved great popularity in the 1930s. The value of the Palaeolithic industrial sequence as a relative Quaternary chronology encouraged a complex interdependence between interpretations of the Palaeolithic and of the Quaternary sequence which helped to promote and to reinforce the new range of expectations that had been generated by Breui’s scheme. However, by the mid.l940s, the rigid chronological order of industries proposed by Breuil had been weakened. By the late 1940s, researchers doubtful of the accuracy, scale and value of his scheme, expressed a desire to move away from the constraints of chronology and typology and towards more ecological and anthropological interpretations.