A flair for imperfections | Can we see Mesolithic kids?

Keywords | Mesolithic, Stone age, Stone tools, Lithics, Children, Apprentice


A good article on PHYS.ORG by Karen Anne Okstad (15-Apr-2013) on one of my favourite subjects: childhood and apprenticeship in the Mesolithic—if not throughout prehistory.

“To most people, a useless flint axe is just that. To archaeologist Sigrid Alræk Dugstad (University of Stavanger), it is a source of information about Stone Age children.”

Read the article » | http://phys.org/news/2013-04-flair-imperfections.html

Suggested Reading

If you like the subject (and gender issues too), also read:
  • Ferguson, J. 2008. The when, where, and how of novices in craft production. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15(1), 51–67.
  • Finlay, N. 2008. Blank Concerns: Issues of Skill and Consistency in the Replication of Scottish Later Mesolithic Blades. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15(1), 68–90.
  • Ingold, T. 1993. Technology, Language, Intelligence: a consideration of basic concepts. In K. Gibsen and T. Ingold (eds), Tools Language and Cognition in Human Evolution, 449–472. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Johansen, L. and Stapert, D. 2005. Stone Age Kids and their Stones. In M. Sørensen and P. Desrosiers (eds), Technology in Archaeology. Proceedings of the SILA Workshop. Publishing from the National Museum Studies in Archaeology and History Vol. 14. Copenhagen.
  • Kamp, K.A. 2001. Where Have All the Children Gone?: The Archaeology of Childhood. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 8(1), 1–34.
  • Moore, J. and Scott, E. (eds). 1997. Invisible people and processes : writing gender and childhood into European archaeology. London; New York: Leicester University Press.
  • Sternke, F. 2005. All are not hunters that knap the stone – a search for a woman’s touch in Mesolithic stone tool production. In N. Milner and P. Woodman (eds), Mesolithic studies at the beginning of the 21st century, 144–163. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Sternke, F. and Sørensen, M. 2009. The Identification of Children’s flint knapping products in Mesolithic Scandinavia. In S. McCartan, R. Schulting, G. Warren and P. Woodman (eds), Mesolithic Horizons, 722–729. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past


Image credit: hans s | Foter | CC BY-ND

Very early Neolithic site | Londonderry N Ireland

derryLondonderry | Very early excavated Neolithic settlement that has been under analysis for a decade. Finds to go on show at the Tower Museum.

“A 6,000-year-old Stone Age village excavated in Londonderry has been heralded as being of global significance. The settlement is seen as of world importance as it is only the second of its type found in Ireland and is unique in the range of activities found to have been carried out there…”

» Belfast Telegraph 21 Feb 2013 | More UK Mesolithic sites & finds


Guest post | Mesolithic musings & the Howick home | Museums at risk

Dear microburins,

Photo Peter Robinson CC2.0

The “vertical pier” now Redcar Beacon | Photo Peter Robinson CC2.0

There aren’t many of us who blog about the Mesolithic, even fewer in north-east England. Here’s the latest read by These Bones of Mine (click to read) that calls out the pain and challenges of reduced heritage funding in the north-east. Heritage—sites, monuments, natural beauty, great museums, community projects—draw visitors and tourists who spend cash in the region. Most of our museums are free. There’s perhaps no fair balance between austerity and the need for inward investment (i.e. tourism and foot-fall generation), but many of us feel the knee has jerked too far in the wrong direction.

Economic recovery needs growth; growth needs nurturing and investment rather than continuous attrition? Social cohesion, a sense of belonging, societal participation and pride, “skin in the game” also require imaginative cultural and educational investment. So, for example, there are no museum-based archaeologists in the Tees area any more and two borough councils have no archaeological service whatsoever—including the one where the Saxon jewels and Roman villa were recently discovered. Ironic? They decided to spend tax-payers’ money on a “vertical pier”. Controversial?

Saxon JewelPerhaps there’s a sense of inevitability in a political climate where invasive development takes precedence over cultural asset management, social sciences and history are being side-lined in the curriculum, libraries are seen as liabilities, and heritage services are still being closed (Southampton is the latest)?


World Ends | Mesolithic dreamscape | Northern lights

Dear microburins,

Northern LightsWith the world ending today (21-Dec), and my perennial procrastination around lithic assemblage analysis (I promise 2013 would be better if it weren’t all ending today!) I wonder what our Mesolithic forebears made of this? How do you spin a story about green and purple lights for 6,000+ years if not 700 thousand years and more? What part of your social psyche does it re-enforce or challenge?

A Mesolithic child buried on a swan’s wing (Denmark)?


UK Mesolithic Sites and Finds | New page added

Go to the UK Mesolithic Sites and Finds pageA selective list of recent projects, excavations and discoveries. Includes websites where available and media coverage—look out for the “biggest, tallest, deepest, oldest” headlines.

Regional research frameworks, also included, provide a useful review of current knowledge across periods and heritage themes, archaeological assets, historical contexts, gaps in knowledge, research priority recommendations and extensive bibliographies.

Feel free to contribute more! | Go to the UK Mesolithic Sites & Finds page →


Up the creek without a paddle?

Mesolithic canoe Creative Commons 2.0Great story out this week. Decorated and painted paddles dating back to the Ertebølle “culture”—late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fisher—have recently been found in Horsens Fjord, Denmark. They were being damaged by strong ocean currents.

“The indispensable dugouts enabled the Ertebølle people to travel far and wide. They could even travel across ice in winter, so it was probably not uncommon for them to meet people of foreign origin.”

The paddles have been Carbon-14 dated to around 4700-4540 BC, the Middle period of the Danish Ertebølle period.

“The painted paddle blades bear witness to the decorations and colours which have undoubtedly been a regular part of everyday life in the Stone Age, but of which we only get the occasional glimpse.”

Read the article | Nov 2012 →
More pictures and coverage | Feb 2012 →
Some more visualisation images* of Mesolithic life →

* Creative Commons 2.0 licenses