The archaeology of variation: a case study of repetition, difference and becoming in the Mesolithic of West Central Scotland

Wright, Allan Dene (2012) The archaeology of variation: a case study of repetition, difference and becoming in the Mesolithic of West Central Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis comprises a regional synthesis of the diversity of the human experience in West Central Scotland during the Mesolithic period (c.7875-c.4200BCE). The research area incorporates the modern local authorities of Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. The regional profile has been constructed from a comparison of the lithic assemblages from mainland coastal and inland sites in a transect (c.2550km2) from Ballantrae and Girvan on the Ayrshire coast inland to Loch Doon, South Ayrshire and beyond to the Daer Valley in South Lanarkshire. Three other sites from South Lanarkshire outwith the transect have also been included in the study, namely Climpy, Powbrone and Weston. Reference has also been made to sites on the islands of the Firth of Clyde and at Loch Lomondside. The archaeological and environmental evidence from the Ayrshire coast has been considered, supporting the interpretation of probable sedentism at Girvan during the Late Mesolithic.
The theoretical structure can be distilled into two main themes, namely variation and technology which are folded into a cohesive framework by reference to the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze, and in particular his 1968 work Difference and Repetition. The concepts of repetition, difference and becoming have given meaning to variation as something more profound than a mere contradiction. In this thesis, these concepts have been recast to incorporate the chaîne opératoire. Firstly, variation in people and things are forged in the social dimension through repetition. Secondly, technology is understood as inseparable from the agent, where the people and things are both subject and object, and things may be understood as detached parts of people. It is by conjoining these enhanced constructs of variation and technology that people and things as technology inscribe the landscape to create a meaningful taskscape; referring to the notion proposed by Ingold in 1993. These concepts as becoming have been used to explore notions of identity, group identity, social boundaries and taskscape as inseparable qualities of Mesolithic lifeways.

Detailed technological analysis of the surface collections and excavated assemblages comprised within this study has confirmed the continuity of lithic practice across the greater part of the Mesolithic period. Subtle nuances have been recorded in technological choices made, and also in the composition of the lithic assemblages. The main variation lies in the choice of raw materials. The distinctions are more profound than the dominant use of flint at the coast and chert inland. Marked variations in both the colour and original cortical surface of raw materials are identified suggesting differentiated resources across the landscape and different groups of hunter-gatherers. The presence of flint at the inland sites is interpreted as representative of pioneer incursions. The variations in the assemblages of West Central Scotland, together with the cautious use of ethnographic analogy allow consideration of the cosmological significance of raw materials and the materiality of stone. The notion that the use of specific raw materials is culturally proscribed has been instrumental in the interpretation of hunter-gatherers groups who are either predominantly practising sedentism at the coastal lagoonal habitats of Girvan, or creating new group identities and adopting more mobile lifeways inland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: 13 digital appendices on the analysis of lithics are available on request. Contact:
Keywords: Mesolithic, West Central Scotland, regional synthesis,lithic assemblages, inland events, coastal events, Deleuze, repetition, variation, becoming
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Finlay, Dr. Nyree J.
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Mr A Dene Wright
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3310
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:06

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