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Resolving the Issue of Artefact Deposition at Star Carr

  • Barry Taylor (a1), Ben Elliott (a2), Chantal Conneller (a3), Nicky Milner (a2), Alex Bayliss (a4), Becky Knight (a2) and Mike Bamforth (a2)...
Abstract

Since its publication in 1954 Star Carr has held an iconic status in British Mesolithic archaeology. The original excavations at the site recorded a large assemblage of bone and antler tools from a sequence of peat deposits at the edge of the Lake Flixton. Over 60 years later this remains the largest assemblage of bone and antler artefacts of its date in Britain and has been an invaluable source of information for life in the early Mesolithic. However, the interpretation of this material has been the subject of intense debate, and the assemblage has been variously described as the remains of an in situ settlement, a refuse dump, and the result of culturally prescribed acts of deposition. Fundamentally, these very different ideas of the nature of the site depend on differing interpretations of the environmental context into which the majority of the organic artefacts were deposited. This paper presents the results of recent work at Star Carr that helps to resolve the debate surrounding both the context of the assemblage and the motivations that lay behind its deposition.

RÉSUMÉ

Résoudre la question des dépôts d’artefacts à Star Carr, de Barry Taylor, Ben Elliott, Chantal Conneller et Nicky Milner

Depuis sa publication en 1954 Star Carr a joui d’un statut iconique au sein de l’archéologie mésolithique britannique. Les premières excavations du site ont documenté un grand assemblage d’outils en os et bois de cerf d’une séquence de dépôts tourbeux en bordure du paléo-lac de Flixton. Plus de 60 ans plus tard, il reste le plus grand assemblage d’artefacts d’os et de bois de cerf de sa datation en Grande-Bretagne et a constitué une source inestimable de renseignements sur la vie au mésolithique ancien. Toutefois, l’interprétation de ce matériel a fait l’objet d’un intense débat, et l’assemblage a été diversement décrit comme vestiges d’une occupation in situ, tas d’ordures, et résultat d’actes de dépôt culturellement prescrits. Fondamentalement, ces très différentes idées de la nature du site reposent sur des interprétations divergentes du contexte environnemental dans lequel la majorité des artefacts organiques a été déposée. Cet article présente les résultats des travaux récents à Star Carr qui contribuent à résoudre le débat entourant à la fois le contexte de l’assemblage et les motivations qui font suite à son dépôt.

ZUSSAMENFASSUNG

Eine Lösung für die Frage der Artefaktdeponierung in Star Carr, von Barry Taylor, Ben Elliott, Chantal Conneller und Nicky Milner

Seit der Publikation im Jahr 1954 hat der Fundplatz Star Carr einen „Kultstatus“ in der Archäologie zum britischen Mesolithikum inne. Die ursprünglichen Ausgrabungen dokumentierten ein großes Ensemble von Werkzeugen aus Knochen und Geweih aus einer Abfolge von Torfschichten am Rand des Paläo-Sees Lake Flixton. Auch nach mehr als 60 Jahren stellt es das größte Ensemble an Knochen- und Geweihartefakten dieser Zeitstellung in Großbritannien dar und bildet eine unschätzbare Informationsquelle für das Leben im frühen Mesolithikum. Die Interpretation dieses Fundmaterials unterlag jedoch einer intensiven Diskussion, und das Ensemble wurde wahlweise beschrieben als die Überreste einer in situ-Siedlung, als Abfallhaufen oder als Resultat kulturell vorgegebener Deponierungshandlungen. Grundsätzlich hängen diese sehr unterschiedlichen Vorstellungen über den Charakter des Fundplatzes von den verschiedenen Rekonstruktionen des ökologischen Kontextes ab, in den die Mehrzahl der organischen Artefakte deponiert worden waren. Diese Beitrag präsentiert die Ergebnisse der jüngsten Arbeit bei Star Carr, die hilft, die Debatte um den Kontext der Assemblage und die Beweggründe, die hinter seiner Ablagerung liegen, zu lösen.

RESUMEN

Resolviendo el problema de la deposición de los artefactos en Star Carr, por Barry Taylor, Ben Elliot, Chantal Conneller y Nicky Milner

Desde su publicación en 1954 Star Carr se ha convertido en un icono de la arqueología del Mesolítico británico. Las excavaciones originales en el yacimiento documentaron un gran conjunto de útiles en hueso y en asta en una secuencia de depósitos de turba en las orillas del paleolago Flixton. En los últimos 60 años continúa siendo el mayor conjunto de artefactos en hueso y asta de su cronología en Gran Bretaña, y ha constituido una fuente de información inestimable para la reconstrucción de los modos de vida en el Mesolítico inicial. Sin embargo, la interpretación de este material ha estado sometida a un intenso debate, y el conjunto ha sido descrito de forma variada como un asentamiento in situ, como un vertedero o como resultado de actos de deposición ordenados culturalmente. Básicamente, las distintas hipótesis sobre la naturaleza del sitio dependen de diferentes interpretaciones sobre el contexto medioambiental en el que se ha depositado la mayor parte de los artefactos orgánicos. Este artículo presenta los resultados de trabajos recientes en Star Carr que ayudan a resolver el debate que rodea tanto el contexto de la asamblea como las motivaciones que subyacen a su deposición.

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