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Making ones way in the world: the footprints and trackways of prehistoric people

Bell, M. (2020) Making ones way in the world: the footprints and trackways of prehistoric people. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp304. ISBN 9781789254020

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Abstract/Summary

The book draws on evidence from landscape archaeology, palaeoenvironmental studies, ethnohistory and animal tracking to address the neglected topic of how we identify and interpret past patterns of movement in the landscape. It derives inspiration from recent writing about landscape, place and routes and anthropological concepts relating to movement. The premise is that archaeologists tend to focus on ‘sites’ while neglecting the patterns of habitual movement that made them part of a living landscape. It considers evidence for routes by which past communities moved through landscape, establishing connections between the foci represented by sites and creating axes of communication. These may be perpetuated over long timescales, creating landscape structures which influence the activities of subsequent generations. The ways in which routes are established by people are considered, including the effect of frequented routes by wild animals. Palaeoenvironmental and ethno-historical evidence from the American north west coast is drawn on to demonstrate how effects on vegetation by burning, grazing, faeces deposition, and transplantation can create readable routes along which there are favoured resources. European evidence provides hints of relevant patterns on a wide range of spatial scales. On the local scale are the Mesolithic footprint trails in the Severn Estuary which help to establish the locations of lost settlements and the habitual patterns of Mesolithic daily life. Wooden trackways in wetlands likewise provide evidence of favoured patterns of movement and past settlement location. Alignments of barrows, enclosure entrances, trackways through fields and sometimes the locations of major ritual complexes can provide evidence of district or greater scale patterns of movement. The supposed ancient origins of Ridgeways are critiqued, it is suggested that transhumant routes at right angles to topography may often be earlier and more significant. Scientific approaches to dating hollow ways are outlined. Ways in which more long distant routes can be identified are considered, both overland and at sea. It aims to position the neglected study of past routeways at the centre of archaeological discourse.

Item Type:Book
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:67596
Publisher:Oxbow Books

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