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The Nature of Mesolithic Activity at Selected Spring Sites in South West England

Davis, Rona (2012) The Nature of Mesolithic Activity at Selected Spring Sites in South West England. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the nature of Mesolithic activity at five spring sites in south-west England. The springs have unusual properties and the lithics associated with each site have been assessed in order to investigate whether they are indicative of unusual, or even ritualistic, behaviour related to the property of the spring. As well as lithics, some of the springs are associated with other types of material culture and in some cases features such as pits are also present. This thesis brings together the different classes of archaeological evidence and situates their study within the context of the spring and the wider landscape. Recently in Archaeology there has been an increasing interest in the significance of ‘natural places’, which has led to topographical features being seen as important, and sometimes even sacred, places in the landscape. By contrast, in Mesolithic studies, natural features such as springs are often predominantly viewed in a functional sense, as a source of potable water and a convenient focus for settlement. Occasionally however some sites, such as the Hot Spring, Bath one of the case studies presented here, have been suggested to be evidence of Mesolithic ritual behaviour. These polarised views usually arise from an analysis of lithic attributes and the contexts in which the lithics are found. The more unusual the context, and the better the quality of the artefact deposited into them, the more likely it will be equated with ‘ritual’ behaviour. The unusual nature of the five springs examined here: two hot springs at Bath Spa and three tufa depositing springs at Langley’s Lane, Somerset, Cherhill, Wiltshire and Blashenwell Dorset, allowed that premise to be questioned and the results have demonstrated that aspects of mundane and ritual behaviour are virtually indistinguishable from the lithic record alone. Yet whilst there is a variance in the treatment of materials at springs with similar properties there are also certain commonalities between them, which may suggest that shared beliefs underpinned Mesolithic cosmologies, at least in the south-west region. The springs of this study were features in what were dynamic Mesolithic landscapes and the findings suggest the practices that were carried out reflected and embodied that dynamism. Mesolithic activity at springs remains an understudied topic within British archaeology, despite the potential these sites offer to engage with theoretical concepts such as landscape, praxis, belief and cosmology. This study has attempted to redress this imbalance and reinforces the potential of springs to elicit information that will enrich current knowledge of Mesolithic lifescapes and landscapes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment
of the University’s requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
A print copy of this PhD thesis is available on Level 4 at The Hive.

Uncontrolled Keywords: archaeology, Mesolithic activity, South West England, spring sites
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Science and the Environment
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2015 08:48
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2015 08:48
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/3637

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