The daily round (Archaeology of People) Part 2

Movements and tasks in the routine of residence

So far in this topic I have considered the importance of routines in general, and suggested, with the help of analogies, various aspects of embodied daily life which are normally neglected. The discussion so far has been rather out of context, lacking a sense of why such and such a way of doing things mattered in a given, specific situation: a lack of both agency and generative schemes and principles. On the other hand, routines of the kinds noted so far were part of what carried life forward from day to day. They could bring us closer to an endlessly repeated experience of the basic conditions of life, diverse and certainly not unchanging, but at the same time with enormous continuity built into them. As Bloch has noted (1998, 5), we are sometimes guilty of seeking too much diversity.Other authors have profitably explored what the processes, goals and contexts of technology can tell us (e.g. Dobres 2000; de Beaune 2000); my intention is briefly to consider movements and tasks, within patterns of residence, and then exchange and monuments, within lived-in landscapes.

Movements and tasks

Much has been made of the difference between mobility and sedentism. On the one hand, settling down and being more or less instantaneously sedentary have been axiomatically seen as part of the business of practising or adopting agriculture, over large swathes of Europe; farmers have not only stock to husband but crops to tend, and their houses show their attachment, physical as well as emotional, to place. On the other hand, there are areas, particularly Britain, where the evidence for both crop cultivation and residence is rather more fractured than in many parts of continental Europe (see Darvill and Thomas 1996; Fairbairn 2000). Partly from a British perspective, I have suggested that many situations in the continental European Neolithic were characterised by degrees of mobility, tethered but still often fluid and unstable. I subsequently suggested a perhaps more satisfactory spectrum of variation, from tethered mobility to short-term sedentism,which might do better justice to the regional and temporal variations evident in the archaeological record, including within Britain itself, and also Ireland (cf. Cooney 2000). I want briefly to reinforce this sense of a spectrum of variation. My central point here, however, is that it is not enough simply to declare a system sedentary or not sedentary, because the patterns of routine tasks and movements may serve to blur absolute differences, not least from the point of view of the socialities involved.

Ethnographically and historically, the majority of farmers seem to be sedentary. Many hunter-gatherers or foragers are mobile to varying degrees. There is variation among both sets (accepting for the sake of argument here that this is indeed a meaningful distinction). Some foragers, as on the north-west coast of America and elsewhere, had a sedentary existence, in situations of plentiful and scarce resources (e.g. Suttles 1990; Anderson and Smith 1996). While the lifestyle of some foragers can be characterised by high residential mobility, involving up to eighty moves per year (e.g. Politis 1996),5 others shifted principally between winter and summer ranges, and built structures in both, such as the coastal east Siberian Nivchi (Feist and Feist 1999). There are also well-documented cases of ‘mobile farmers’. The Foi, already noted several times, are one case in point, spending part of the year hunting in the remoter bush. The Raramuri, mixed farmers in the highlands of north-west Mexico, practise a bi-seasonal mobility, shifting from warm weather residences on or near the valley floor to winter residences on mountain slopes, more than a day’s walk away; houses are left with many contents intact, in the expectation of return (Graham 1994; cf. Tomka 1993). In another case, of the Tsembaga people of highland New Guinea, where people are located depends on a complex range of factors, from land transfers through clan and marriage arrangements, to the pulse of ritual cycles, which tend to attract people, over a scale of a generation, to the location where the heart of things was to be found (Rappaport 1968, 21-3).

Can these cases be regarded as any more than just anecdotal suggestions? There is probably variation within every system. Thus in the LBK, for example, the existence of both herders and hunters has been suggested in the Aisne valley site of Cuiry-les-Chaudardes.Houses with high proportions of hunted animals are small, while those with big numbers of domesticates are more substantial longhouses; both may be likely to occur together in longer-lived sites. Short-lived sites, at least in the Aisne valley, may mainly have had substantial longhouses and have lacked smaller buildings (Hachem 1995, 202). There are too many longhouses in many LBK situations, for the numbers of people implied by these great buildings are often not matched by quantities of material discarded (see Zimmermann 1995) or the scale of local environmental impact. The longhouse in other situations can be shown to be itself a special construction, going up under particular conditions including the cementing of alliances, and not just the inevitable adjunct of regular residence (A. Strathern and Stewart 1999); among the early Iroquois, it has been claimed as a ‘tool for sedentariness’ (Chapdelaine 1993, 184—5). The LBK longhouse was one of the principal means by which occupation of place was claimed, renewed and maintained. How it may have been used from season to season and from year to year remains a much more open question.

Elsewhere, the existence of the house in itself does not necessarily imply long-term sedentism (though it is also not incompatible with that). On the edges of the small (and relatively high) lakes of Chalain and Clairvaux in the Jura of eastern France, people in the later fourth millennium BC constructed a series of well-built structures, many probably with planked floors raised above wet surfaces. At Clairvaux station II, Pierre Petrequin and his colleagues (Petrequin 1989, 196) have plausibly suggested a woodland or forest milieu, inhabited by hunters or collectors, or shifting agriculturalists, who did not expect to use any one base and its buildings for much more than ten years at a time. This was of course not necessarily the same scenario as further east in other parts of the Alpine foreland, though in fact considerable use of wild resources and similarly short site durations can be seen in many of the earlier settlements there (e.g. Jacomet and Kreuz 1999, 299—310). Likewise in Britain, there is little doubt that quite substantial buildings were a recurrent feature of the fourth millennium BC. The recent discovery at White Horse Stone in Kent joins other examples such as Yarnton (Figure 2.5), Lismore Fields and Balbridie (Current Archaeology 2000; Darvill 1996). But the frequency and character of such structures remain unclear. There are in fact good grounds, based on radiocarbon evidence and ceramic associations, for seeing these large British structures as essentially early in the insular sequence (A. Barclay 2000), suggesting again that large buildings may have been part of the establishment of new practices. Their roles may have varied. While substantial deposits of cereals have been found at Balbridie and Lismore Fields (Fairweather and Ralston 1993; G. Jones 2000), there was very little debris of any kind at Yarnton (Hey 1997; Gill Hey, pers. comm.). Large areas have been excavated at Yarnton in the Upper Thames, and only one structure of this kind was found, along with a range of other features including small pits and scattered postholes, and finds in the tops of treethrow pits; funerary and ceremonial areas have been suggested alongside domestic spaces (Hey 1997).

This evidence from Yarnton and elsewhere is compatible with a degree of mobility in the pattern of settlement. Relocation at a lifetime scale can also be documented now by isotope analysis, for example the possible movement by an adult woman from an area of origin in the Mendips to her place of burial 80 km south-east in Cranborne Chase; the children or juveniles accompanying her in the Monkton-up- Wimbourne deposit may also already have moved between areas of different geology (Montgomery et al. 2000; and see above, on in-marriage).

Longhouse from Yarnton, southern England.

Figure 2.5 Longhouse from Yarnton, southern England.

What is at least as interesting from the perspective of routines is how much might have been shared in common between situations normally categorised as different on the basis of seden-tism or otherwise. Yarnton, LBK longhouses and Jura forest houses all share structured repetition. There are bases in which activity is maintained and repeated, be they large house or midden. There are activities ranged out into the landscape, as people attended to the businesses of clearance, herding animals, tending crops, procuring lithic resources, and so on. There may have been relatively little permanent dwelling in any one spot or structure at Yarnton, but it seems clear that the place was routinely used and belonged to an ordered suite of activities, perhaps both up and down the valley, and ranging to neighbouring uplands. In the same way, it seems unlikely that each inhabitant of every LBK longhouse spent every day within sight of it. The game hunted from Aisne valley LBK sites and in the Jura may have taken people far from their houses, as well as many of the animals herded. We may have exaggerated the differences between tethered mobility and short-term sedentism.

Routine movements imply changing socialities. The contrasts have already been noted between the intense sociality of the collective longhouse village and the bush existence of the Foi, and between the inturned family life of the single house and the interactions of dry season gatherings on the Amazon floodplain (J.F. Weiner 1991; Harris 1998; 2000). Routine movements imply structured separations, fragmentation and fission, followed by fusion and aggregation. The scales of interactions would have varied, from groups of perhaps at times hundreds of people, down to isolated individuals. People in situations of both tethered mobility and short-term sedentism must have been adept at negotiating face-to-face relationships, not least because the routines of daily life were so varied and complex. The many tasks involved in growing, tending and using cereals are a good case in point.

Cereals must have involved different bodies of people at different stages. A lot of research effort has gone into effective recovery techniques, species identification and history, and the detailed stages of crop processing (e.g. Hillman 1981, figures 5—7). Rather less thought has been given to the socialities involved, through the processes of clearance, tillage, planting, tending, harvesting, processing, storage and consumption.These must have varied throughout, a microcosm — in what may not have been a principal subsistence domain in many areas — of the shifting aggregations discussed above. Clearance was presumably labour-intensive. We know very little about gender-based divisions of labour in the Neolithic. One possibility, quite widely encountered in the ethnographic record, is that men were responsible for the initiation and creation of clearances, and women for their maintenance, as among the Foi (J.F. Weiner 1991, 5) or the Mende of Zaire (M. Leach 1992). The workforces assembled for clearance in primary and secondary woodland might also have varied (cf. Petrequin 1996). Tillage (or ground preparation), and planting might have taken fewer people, perhaps women. In southern Greece, such demands were also an opportunity for the positive assertion of female identity (Seremetakis 1991). Weeding and tending could have been the tasks of those who ranged less far, perhaps children and older people as well as women. Harvesting may have brought larger numbers of people together again, though there is enormous scope for variation depending on whether plots were held by closed groups such as households or more communally, were maintained year on year or just used briefly, or were part of regular subsistence or created for special purposes. Processing, storage and cooking could again have been the preserve of small numbers of people. Hypothetically, they might again have been the domain of women. The presentation, sharing and consumption of food might again have brought larger numbers of people together, the end of the cycle matching its beginning, though close commensality has been noted above, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest considerable variation in diet and cereal use anyway. I have suggested elsewhere that the fen-edge enclosure at Etton (Pryor 1998) is a good case in point.Pollen and insects indicate a partially cleared landscape, the enclosure being set on the edge of the braided and flood-prone valley bottom of the Welland. Cereal pollen is represented in the pollen diagrams, but insects do not suggest much by way of cultivated or disturbed ground immediately close at hand. Cereal remains were present, though not plentiful, in the ditches of the enclosure. In this one instance, itself perhaps a far from routine arena for special gatherings, cereals were just one, perhaps relatively minor part of a much more complex world.

Landscape as routine: procurement, exchange and monuments

These routines of shifting sociality would have been experienced by and through the body in varying ways, from the tasks requiring stamina, such as clearing wood, to those needing persistence rather than strength, such as sorting, sieving and grinding, and from the excitement of large gatherings to the tedium of repetitive and solitary activity. They would also have been experienced temporally in varying ways, as tasks followed one another through the seasons (Jacomet et al. 1989, fig. 74). This sense of variation through routine can be enhanced by considering wider landscapes.

Describing the Nukak in Amazonia (hunters, fishers and part-time horticul-turalists), Gustavo Politis (1996) has defined five territorial dimensions in which the Nukak perceive their landscape. The general kind of divisions sounds familiar and can be found widely in the literature, but the example is especially interesting because these are the terms within which the Nukak themselves operate. These range from the band territory and regional group territory to rarely contacted distant regions, known but virtually unvisited distant places, and finally, mythical or ideological territory. Nukak bands are residentially mobile over a few hundred square kilometres, with camps within this habitual territory linked by paths, and flexible limits partly defined by rivers. Regional territory may extend over 1000-2000 km2, within which individual band members may move quite freely, principally for social reasons, connected with ritual, gatherings, finding marriage partners and so on. Travel to distant regions is much rarer, and is sometimes done by smaller groups, including for valued raw material procurement (cane for blowpipes); these trips take people across the territories of other bands and regional groups. Beyond this, there are places known about but hardly ever visited, and then the territory of myth, part of Nukak cosmology (Politis 1996, 496).

There is no need to force this particular analogy on to Neolithic European evidence. Apart from all the other differences, the scale of Nukak mobility is probably considerably greater than envisaged even in the concept of tethered mobility. What may remain useful, however, is a sense of routine movements around and through the landscape, at varying scales and temporal rhythms, and for varying motives and tasks, including social ones. The enormous recent literature on landscape can be seen as offering a series of perspectives: landscape as identity, biography, history, memory, myth, metaphor, power, time, narrative, and so on (Cummings 2001). I would like here to follow the line of landscape as medium and context for action (Cummings 2001, 73), emphasising especially the routine nature of this relationship. Two kinds of examples may serve to illustrate this in the Neolithic context: the procurement and exchange of lithic resources, and, briefly, monuments. These also help to suggest varying scales of routine movement through the landscape.

In the case of Hienheim, a late LBK settlement in the Upper Danube valley, no lithic raw material was available in the immediate territory, but high-quality cherts were to be found within 8—11 km (de Grooth 1997). ‘Pre-cores’ and initially prepared cores were brought back to the settlement for further working, probably within a household context. The quantities of material used by each household in any one year were probably not large, but sources seem to have been exploited without restriction, and a flow of procurement maintained. In the case of the LBK settlements of the Aldenhovener Platte, in north-west Germany, Rijckholt-type flints from a series of deposits some 30 km or more to the west in Dutch Limburg were preferred to more immediately available lithics (Figure 2.6) (Zimmermann 1995). The quantities obtained were, however, small (going on what has been recovered and assuming there has not been unaccounted loss in deposition and subsequently). The tallies calculated for Laurenzburg 7 on the Aldenhovener Platte were some 124 flint pieces per household per year, weighing some 1.3 kg, of which 16 were formally retouched tools (Zimmermann 1995; de Grooth 1999, 733). The range from which this flint was procured contrasts with the small variations in pot decorative styles on the Aldenhovener Platte (Kolhoff 1999), which may suggest individual and more or less independent households rooted in one place. Procurement of lithics may have been embedded in wider routine movement, and it may have had varying motivation behind it, in part strongly social as described among the Nukak above.

Wider distributions can be shown, perhaps in some cases also by direct procurement but in other cases more probably circulating by exchange. In the case of Hienheim, chert did not travel widely at a regional scale (de Grooth 1997). By contrast, Rijckholt-type flint from Limburg was found as far away as Hesse and Baden-Wurrtemberg (Zimmermann 1995). At Bylany in Bohemia, lithics came considerable distances from a variety of sources and directions, principally Baltic erratic flint from perhaps 150 km to the north, and Jurassic Krakow flint from some 300 km to the east in southern Poland, but also in varying quantities through time other materials, including Swieciechow flint from some 475 km to the east in Poland, Tomaszow chocolate flint from about 700 km to the north-east in central Poland, Tusimice quartzite from about 145 km to the north-west in Bohemia, and Szentgal radiolarite from over 300 km to the south-east in north-west Hungary (Lech 1990; 1997). The details of this example show how acquisitions and distributions varied through time.

The distribution of known LBK settlements and lithic sources in north-west Germany and the south-east Netherlands.The Aldenhovener Platte is centred on the small Merzbach valley.

Figure 2.6 The distribution of known LBK settlements and lithic sources in north-west Germany and the south-east Netherlands.The Aldenhovener Platte is centred on the small Merzbach valley.

This is also evident in the case of the Hienheim region. In the Middle Neolithic phase succeeding the LBK, the extraction of attractive striped tabular chert from deep shafts began, for example at Arnhofen; on-site working was restricted to sites within 20 km of the sources; and finished blades and tools were distributed distances of up to 300 km to the north and north-west. Extraction in this phase has been interpreted as a short-term, seasonal male activity organised from the thirty or so settlements known within a 20-km radius, with distribution beyond this zone aimed partly at immediate neighbours, perhaps kin, and partly over a longer range as means of self-definition by exchange (de Grooth 1997, 94—5).

In nearly all LBK cases, axes and adzes came in from distant places. At Hienheim, amphibolite adzes, of uncertain origin, were the only lithic material to come in from any distance (de Grooth 1997, 93). Among the many case studies of the movement of axes, from the LBK of central and western Europe to the many stone sources exploited in Britain and Ireland, the example of eastern France is particularly useful, since it suggests the regularity of raw material flows, a routine movement between stone sources, settlements from which production was perhaps organised, and areas up to 150 km distant where finished axes ended up (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995; Petrequin 1993). The development of black pelite quartz from a source called Plancher-les-Mines at the southern end of the Vosges, on the north side of the Belfort Gap, is embedded in the wider history of the Neolithic at the southern end of the Rhine, northern and western Switzerland, and eastern France. The first exploitation of pelite in the context of LBK expansion in the region of the southern Rhine and eastern France in the later sixth millennium BC was on a small scale, and distribution was limited; other stone sources were much more in vogue. From c. 5000 to 4500 BC use of this source remained limited, while gradually there was a technical shift away from the dominant adze form of the LBK to that of the symmetrically cross-sectioned axe. By the later fifth millennium BC, the scale of production increased, with the first proper quarries. Settlements from which these were worked, to judge by the presence of roughouts and debitage, may have been from 20 to 40 km distant. Distribution, though not yet in great numbers, was up to some 100 km east and west, mainly within the sphere of ‘late Rossen culture’, but partly into the early Egolzwil group of north-west Switzerland (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995, 56—9). By about 4000 BC, the form of these attractive, dark, polished, often long axe blades was predominantly square-sectioned (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995, 61—2); it is possible to argue that it took time to unlearn earlier technical working habits, based on familiarity with other stone types, including Alpine rocks (Petrequin 1993, 52). By now the evidence suggests that settlements concerned with production or at least secondary working of extracted stone were to be found some 20-55 km from sources. Distribution was made for some 150 km east and west. The source seems to lie at this time at the junction of several cultural groups (at least as defined by pottery and other artefacts). Axes certainly seem to have passed, by whatever mechanism of movement was involved, quite freely into the different cultural groups to the east, with over half of axes in the very early fourth millennium BC phase at Hornstaad-Hornle I on the Bodensee, for example, being from this source (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995, 85). From about 3800-3700 BC, extraction of pelite seems to decline (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995, 113), and other stone sources take over in importance and popularity, in the case of the eastern Jura region first from the distant southern Alps and then from the immediate east (Petrequin 1993, 51-2). This seems to coincide with the further technical shift to sleeved axes, that is smaller blades held in an antler sleeve or sheath, in turn held in a wooden haft (Petrequin 1993, 53-7).

Even if it remains hard to distinguish between down-the-line exchanges, directed exchanges and direct procurement from a distance, here are routine movements at several of the scales noted already in the case of the Nukak, and presumably a great range of socialities, many of them perhaps male. It is not hard to multiply this sense of movement and flow. It has been suggested that salt could have been another resource regularly sought in eastern France (Petrequin and Jeunesse 1995, 65-6). At least in the quite high-altitude sites of the eastern Jura like those around the small lakes of Chalain and Clairvaux, there was much use of wild cattle, red deer, roe deer and wild boar (Petrequin 1993, 70; Petrequin 1989), which again must have required regular hunting trips across a wide range of territory.

Among the Nukak, the fifth dimension of territory described was that of myth. My last example in this topic therefore is the routine experience of special places and constructions. In the archaeology of western Europe, the literature on the Neolithic often refers to ‘monuments’ in particular. At this point, however, I want to keep the range of relevant sites and places as wide as possible, from special constructions regularly connected with the disposal and treatment of the dead, and with dealings with the ancestral and supernatural, to other constructions heavily implicated in social negotiations among the living, to natural places imbued with significance by people (Bradley 2000). This will thus cover not only cairns and barrows, but also enclosures, houses and natural places. My question here is the routine experience of these varied locations. Much discussion has revolved around their use at special times, but we have thought rather less about everyday settings (Figure 2.7). Clearly these varied. Monuments are not found everywhere, and their presence was presumably recognised as significant in the everyday world. There were sites set just out of sight on hilltops, like the Loughcrew passage graves in eastern Ireland (Fraser 1998), and others located in woodland and perhaps not visible from any distance at all, at least in summer, perhaps like the Windmill Hill and other enclosures.Many others may, however, have been locally inter-visible, such as long barrows in Cranborne Chase, Dorset (Tilley 1994, 156), and environmental evidence suggests that some long barrows, at least in the region around Avebury, were placed in cleared patches of land.Monuments were part of landscapes to which people had devoted labour and attention.

 The routine place of monuments: view of the Pembrokeshire coastal landscape, with Carreg Samson.

Figure 2.7 The routine place of monuments: view of the Pembrokeshire coastal landscape, with Carreg Samson.

Potentially special constructions were not built in any one area all at once; there was a gradual sedimentation of significance through time. As this process unfolded, people continued to move around their landscapes, passing routinely on other tasks these special places, few of which were absolutely removed from the spheres of regular movement. The example of the western Apache illustrates the morally significant naming of places (Basso 1984), but it is hard to envisage that people experienced special places and constructions only by speech and occasional participation in events such as ritual. Domains of myth, ancestral order, initiation (perhaps part of a landscape distant in the mind) and central social negotiation may have been routinely experienced in part by the active, moving, working body as it went about the patterns of daily life: as points on paths, as nodes of the landscape to be avoided, as part of the ‘topographical gossip’ by which people often seem to make their way around landscapes (Widlok 1997), or as locations associated with positive and negative emotions, including fear.

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