Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The social context of prehistoric extraction sites in the UK
Author: Topping, Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 6898
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The social context of mines and quarries is fundamental to the interpretation of Neolithic stone extraction. Why did communities choose to exploit certain raw materials in preference to others which were often more accessible? To address this 168 global ethnographic studies were analysed to identify common trends in traditional extraction practices and produce robust statistics about the material signatures of these sites. Repeated associations emerged between storied locations, social networks and the organisation of extraction practices on the one hand, and features of the material world on the other (e.g. landforms, extraction practices, structured deposition), suggesting that we can now probably identify sites which were mythologised/storied locations, those owned, seasonally used, and those practicing ritualised extraction - all leading to product objectification. A second stage of analysis compared the ethnography to 223 global archaeological sites which produced similar patterning in the material record, while suggesting limits to interpretation. These constraints led to a revision of the interpretive framework which was then used to analyse the published excavations of 79 flint mines and 51 axe quarries in the UK and Ireland. This analysis suggested that many extraction sites were special places, deliberately distant from settlements. They followed common practices and assemblages were carefully deposited which the framework suggests reflects technical skill and ritualised practices, but also exclusivity – the sites probably controlled by clans or technical specialists. Previous analyses, particularly of stone axes, demonstrates that many extraction site products travelled long distances, were often unused and deposited in non-settlement contexts. Conversely, artefacts knapped from expedient surface sources are generally discovered in a domestic setting, which confirms the special nature of extraction sites and their products. Overall, this statistically-robust ethnographic probability analysis provides a more confident foundation to model the social context of extraction sites through detailed analysis of their structures and assemblages.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available