Chronological and regional variability in Late Mesolithic narrow-blade lithic assemblages from northern Britain
Ritchie, Graham Andrew
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A marked change in character of Mesolithic chipped stone industries occurred c. 9200 BP. Early Mesolithic 'broad-blade' microlithic technology was replaced by Late Mesolithic 'narrow-blade' technology. Narrow-blade technology remained in use throughout the period c. 9200-5200 BP. Some changes are likely during this 4000-year period. Hitherto, however, it has proved difficult to identify chronological and regional variations within the British narrow-blade industries, based on stylistic and technical attributes. This is because most narrow-blade assemblages are surface collections which represent hundreds of years of human activity, concealing technological development over time. I have approached this problem by analyzing and comparing the lithic assemblages from securely dated sites from various parts of northern Britain, with the intention of re-defining Late Mesolithic typochronology. Six lithic assemblages from Late Mesolithic sites in northern England and western Scotland served as the primary source material. These assemblages were recovered from sites excavated by Clive Bonsall between 1974 and 1999: Monk Moors and Williamson's Moss in the Eskmeals region of Cumbria; Lon Mor, Kilmore and Ulva in western Scotland; and Low Hauxley in Northumberland. By undertaking a detailed quantitative typological analysis of each lithic assemblage, I have been able to examine chronological and regional variability in narrow-blade lithic technology. Patterns of variability in the primary and secondary technological components of the lithic assemblages have been explored, and I have fitted this data into a much broader context incorporating the greater body of narrow-blade lithic material excavated from northern Britain. I have also assessed the security and efficacy of the current 14C record for the narrow-blade Mesolithic using the S2AGES 14C evaluation scheme. Using this method, I have been able to identify and remove unreliable 14C dates from the typochronological model. Chronological variability in narrow-blade technology has been assessed using only reliable 14C evidence. I have therefore established a secure 14C foundation for future research in the narrow-blade Mesolithic, and the interpretative potential of narrow-blade material from northern Britain has been greatly improved. Finally, I have integrated the Mesolithic 14C chronologies of Britain and north-western Europe. The chronological and technological dimensions of the narrow-blade Mesolithic in northern Britain have been considered within a broader European context, and I have modelled the development of lithic cultures in Postglacial north-west Europe.