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identity of those growing within it.
As an example, consider what happened at death. The evidence consists
of body parts rather than skeletons. Carnivores played their part along with
other agents such as soil erosion and weathering. Rather than using
containers in the form of either pits or protective slabs (Chapter 6) to arrest
the process of disintegration, the process was in fact hurried along by using
stone tools to fragment the corpse.
Those in the childscape learned the landscape of habit into which they
would grow through the instruments and the activities of fragmentation.
For example, they experienced instruments in relation to other instruments,
sharp edged stone working softer wood to make spears. Short chains of
Did agriculture change the world? 233

connection established a metaphorical basis for immediate consumption of
the gifts from the environment.
The major association of instruments and containers was the fragmenta-
tion of animals and the cracking open of nuts and seeds. Fires were fed
but they were not unduly cared for. Childscapes were created constantly
throughout the environment, interlocking at each new locale with the adult
landscapes of habit and fused through the range of activities that comprised
the taskscape and which related child and adult, male and female in a
variety of gendered and aged material projects.
The social technology of the long introduction was a material project of
the open-air rather than the enclosed space. It was a world of landscapes
rather than places. The bulk of the archaeological evidence comes from
landscapes where fires were never lit, although if they had been they would
have been preserved. But even in such ˜featureless™ environments there
were rules that created sets of stone within a landscape, the patches among
the scatters as Glynn Isaac (1989) dubbed this distinctive signature, while
the nets so created were spatially short. Some interpretations of piles of
stones as huts are best regarded as accumulations that also follow the
rules by which place was created and memory inscribed. These same
locales are normally described in terms of hunting opportunities for single
large animals as well as herds. These animal ˜containers™ were an essential
element of the giving environment. They were fragmented, like the stone
tools, and distributed around the landscape. They were embodied through
consumption but this was not always in association with the hearths that
were elsewhere in the landscape.

Evidence from the long introduction

Some of the best evidence for the control of fire in technology™s long
introduction comes from Gesher Benot Ya™aqov, Israel (Goren-Inbar et al.
2004), where burning consists of wood fragments, tiny flint chips, nuts and
seeds. Here, 780,000 years ago, the paucity of burned items in the exca-
vated area and their clustered distribution led the archaeologists to infer
small, repeatedly used hearths. They conclude, ˜the domestication of fire
by hominins surely led to dramatic changes in behaviour connected
with diet, defense, and social interaction™ (Goren-Inbar et al. 2004:727).
This was undoubtedly the case but there is more to be inferred. Hearths as
containers create place through accumulation and at Gesher Benot Ya™aqov
234 Origins and Revolutions

this is indicated by the repeated use of particular settings in the locale to
build fires.
The repeated use of hearths 400,000 years ago is also found at the
lakeside locales of Schoningen in eastern Germany (Thieme 2005) and
among the fire features at Beeches Pit, eastern England (Gowlett 2005).
The evidence at Beeches Pit consists of small but distinctively coloured
patches of burnt sediment that are sometimes associated with fire-
cracked stones. Gowlett has drawn attention to a striking similarity at
both these open locales in the way hominins positioned the small
hearths along the edge of water bodies, away from the main scatters of
lithic materials. At one Schoningen locale, site 13 II-4, the accumulation
of lithic materials away from the lake shore forms a continuous spread
800 m in length with local densities of up to 150 stone fragments per m2
(Thieme 2005:Figure 8.3). The four hearths (Thieme 2005:Figure 8.8) lie
towards the lake, on the edge of this dry open area across which lie the parts
of at least twenty horse skeletons as well as a number of wooden artefacts,
including spears. The stone material is interesting since there is no
evidence for the initial stages of knapping (Thieme 2005:121) implying that
every piece was carried in from somewhere else in the Schoningen
Hearths in caves are also known from the long introduction but tend
to be isolated. At the Grotte du Lazaret, Nice (de Lumley et al. 2004), the
excavated surface UA 25 dated to 160,000 years ago contains a single well-
made hearth (ibid 2004:Figure 56), while nearby in two discrete locations is
a high density of broken flakes and a small, circular pile of broken animal
bones (ibid. 2004:Figure 51).

Splitting the container
Food resources, as discussed in Chapter 7, are a form of container.
Plants are poorly preserved but when waterlogged conditions allow, as
at Gesher Benot Ya™aqov, it is possible to see how important they were
(Goren-Inbar et al. 2002a). Animals provide the bulk of the data, their
importance partly explained by the value of meat and fat as high energy
foods that the expensive tissue of the growing brain fed on (Aiello and
Wheeler 1995). The importance for reproductive success of minimising
the risk of dietary failure and maximising food returns has also led to a
lively debate over the role of scavenging and hunting in the Old World
(Binford 1981; Bunn 1981; Marean 1998; Marean and Assefa 1999; Stiner
1994; 2002).
Did agriculture change the world? 235

Two of the key locales in this fluctuating debate are Ambrona and
Torralba in central Spain, where a conjuncture of Acheulean handaxes and
elephants gave rise to a big-game hunting scenario (Howell 1965), only to be
later re-interpreted as scavenging and river transport of the same bones
(Binford 1985; Shipman and Rose 1983).
The debate now seems to be resolved for this and other locales. Recent
´ ´
excavations at Ambrona by Manuel Santonja and Alfredo Perez-Gonzalez
´ ´
(Santonja and Perez-Gonzalez 2001) provide decisive evidence. In parti-
cular, the discovery of the remains of an elephant skeleton in layer AS3,
has allowed a detailed biographical study (Villa et al. 2005) under modern
conditions of recovery. The precise stratigraphic observations of how the
remaining parts of the elephant skeleton had been moved and buried,
combined with a microscopic examination of the bones themselves was
revealing. No traces of either carnivore tooth marks or cut-marks made by
stone tools were discovered. A few stone tools were found at the perimeter of
the scatter of elephant bones and several of them had abraded edges
showing they had been transported some distance by the river. Combining
the Ambrona evidence with the re-examination of claims for scavenging in
the common ground (Stiner 1994) has led Paola Villa (Villa et al. 2005) to
conclude that there are no sites in Europe which show that earlier
hominins, including Neanderthals, scavenged on a regular basis.
The Schoningen spears and the evidence for single large animal kills
of horse, as at Boxgrove (Roberts et al. 1997), puts hunting skills back
in the hands of hominins during much of the long introduction. Other
examples of a single butchered carcass found with stone tools include the
elephant carcasses at Aridos in the Jarama valley, Spain (Arqueologica 2002;
Raposo and Santonja 1995; Santonja et al. 1980; Santonja and Villa 1990);
Notarchirico (Piperno 1999) and other elephant localities in Italy (Mussi
For consumption to take place these containers had to be fragmented;
so much is obvious, but they were also accumulated, most dramatically
at the headland site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey (Scott 1980; 1986).
Here two large bone piles are preserved and they represent the actions
of Neanderthals 150,000 years ago who stampeded two small herds of
mammoth and woolly rhino over the cliff. Their project did not end there
but involved dragging and stacking skulls and selected limb bones under
the protective overhang. The rational puzzle is why go to this effort and
then not use the resources?
However, was hunting a material project that contributed directly to the
experiences of the childscape? It is unlikely that children would be allowed
236 Origins and Revolutions

at the base of the La Cotte headland when so many tons of mammoth and
rhino came tumbling over! The longer the period of child development the
more parents will protect their investment for sound evolutionary reasons
(Pianka 1978). But that is not quite the point. Once split open these frag-
ments were not placed in another container, such as a house or pit or stored
under a pile of rocks to keep other predators like bears and hyenas away.
Neither were they always brought to a hearth. Chains of connection were
short as measured by the degree to which they extended relationships across
an individual™s social landscape.

Where are the huts?
The dominance of instruments in the long introduction is well illustrated
by the problem of finding huts and shelters. No one disputes that caves were
used throughout the Old World. They acted as containers and within them
are found hearths. These are rarely superimposed on top of each other and
mostly single as at Grotte du Lazaret (de Lumley et al. 2004). Fragments of
stone and animal bone dominate as they do at the open locales. Hominin
remains from caves are nearly always fragmentary either because of post-
mortem disturbance or possibly because of intentional fragmentation by
the hominins themselves.
Central places have been proposed to counter the lack of huts and
shelters. These are defined in terms of the density and diversity of mate-
rial and form patches within the background scatters of archaeological
material across large areas. When Isaac (1978; 1989:Figure 4.14) proposed
this model he did not, however, see it as needing a hut or house as a
central focus for returning hominins but rather a shady tree or a rock
overhang with a watersource nearby. This, for example, may be the case
at the Eastern German locale of Bilzingsleben where the excavator Dieter
Mania (1990; Mania and Mania 2005) interpreted the evidence to represent
three oval huts by the lakeshore. The evidence, however, is open to other
interpretations (Gamble 1999:153À72), and while sets of stones, animal
parts and hearths and at least six rhythmically marked bones (Mania
and Mania 2005:110À13) were accumulated at the lakeshore locale, this
might have been around a burnt tree stump rather than in the confines of
a container. As Lewis Binford (1987) perceptively points out, by searching
for camp-sites as though we were doing an ethnographic study, archae-
ologists are in danger of missing the significance of the evidence they
have. Instead of places marked by huts there was an episodic use of the
Did agriculture change the world? 237

landscape that produced Isaac™s scatters and patches of stone and bone

Case study: Boxgrove, southern England 500,000 years ago
An example of this unfamiliar use of landscape can be found at the
Acheulean locale of Boxgrove (Pitts and Roberts 1997; Roberts and Parfitt
1999). This ancient landscape has exceptional preservation not only of
animal bones and a few skeletal elements of Homo heidelbergensis (Roberts
et al. 1994), but also of their spatial arrangement. When visited by hominins
500,000 years ago a grassy coastal plain existed in front of a collapsing sea
cliff. Following successful hunts of single animals, flint was collected from
the cliff, carried out onto the plain and knapped into bifaces. One element
that might be expected is, however, lacking from this pristine archae-
ological site. There are no hearths. Instead there are many clusters of stone
working, in particular around what might have been a waterhole where a
spring emerged from the base of the cliff. Neither are there any traces in
the fine-grained sediments of post-holes from which archaeologists can
reconstruct simple shelters and tents.
Matt Pope (2002; Pope and Roberts 2005) has studied the numerous
artefact scatters and patches in front of the cliff. In particular his work
focuses on explaining why some of these patches were rich in well-
finished stone bifaces (handaxes) knapped from flint taken from the cliff,
while others were very poor. The distances across the Boxgrove landscape
are short with flint artefacts found up to 250 metres south of the cliff line.
The decline in bifaces away from this topographic feature, the source of the
raw material, is very consistent even though the distances are so short.
Pope uses this fine detail to reconstruct a half million year old land-
scape structured by intentional actions. Within the Boxgrove landscape
there were places visited once, such as the single horse butchery locale,
site GTP17, and others such as the ˜waterhole™ in Quarry 1/B where he is
able to show that visits were repeated over several years. At the short-lived
gatherings such as the horse butchery locale few or no bifaces were found.
Eight blocks of flint were brought in to this locale, presumably by eight
individuals. Symmetrical, ovate handaxes were knapped as revealed by the
refitted flakes. But all eight handaxes were carried away from this locale and
deposited elsewhere. As Pope (2002:171) concludes, where artefacts were
released from the hand, and not used again, depended on those places
being visited more than once, implying the association of memories
with place.
238 Origins and Revolutions

figure 8.6. Excavations at Quarry 1/B at Boxgrove. A set of over 300 ovate handaxes
(inset) have so far been recovered from this part of the locale that may have been a
waterhole. The evidence from the stone tools and knapping activities reveals a dense, but
local net of connections.

One such site of memory is the ˜waterhole™ in Quarry 1/B (Figure 8.6)
about a kilometre west of GTP 17. Here in the Middle Units of these
freshwater deposits the excavators found not only the richest density of cores
and struck flakes but also a set of 321 bifaces, not all of them showing traces
of being used. Boxgrove bifaces (Marshall et al. 2002) are distinctive, ovate
forms of similar size and many bear a distinctive signature in the form of
a specialised re-sharpening flake struck from their tips. It is this similarity
that makes them a set. The Boxgrove hominins had repeatedly brought in
these bifaces to the waterhole no doubt alongside other items of material
culture such as horseflesh and the occasional antler and bone that was used
as a soft hammer to knap flint.
Are there any nets at Boxgrove? Here the evidence is plain. The raw
materials are local and the artefacts are dominated by instruments. The
distances travelled are small, of the order of 250 m, but the criss-crossing of
people between the cliff and the plain and the different elements they
carried in their hands and accumulated at agreed locales makes an intricate
web of invisible tracks. At the horse butchery locale the flint blocks and
the refitted tools form a net across the carcass when the conjoining pieces
are linked together.
Did agriculture change the world? 239

Biface rich assemblages as sets with rules
Pope (2002:286) argues that the structured pattern of landscape use he was
able to reconstruct at Boxgrove was one of the mechanisms by which
more complicated systems of land use evolved. Bifaces stood as proxies for
individuals (2002:28), assisting group cohesion through the daily routines
of fission-fusion. Bifaces provided cues to behaviour and responses as
hominins returned, indicating that 500,000 years ago culture was a hybrid
network involving relations between people and objects. At this time,
as predicted by the social brain graph (Figure 8.3), hominins were probably
using a form of language. But they also had a tradition of material
metaphors, encapsulated in the biface, that was already a million years old
by the time Boxgrove was visited.
Furthermore, this structured pattern of biface rich assemblages was
widespread in the Old World (Pope and Roberts 2005). Pope™s (2002) study
shows that as soon as the distinctive Acheulean bifaces appear about
1.5 million years ago in Africa (Leakey 1971) they were left at locales and on
landscapes according to the rule that re-visiting a locale entailed bringing
and leaving a biface. There was, if you like, a habit for getting rid of a
biface À or as I would put it, accumulating them at places. Moreover, using
the Boxgrove data from southern England, and comparing it to older
locales in Africa, Pope (2002) shows that the size of individual bifaces results
in their being treated differently. They accumulate in different parts of these
open landscapes.
At Aridos, Spain (Arqueologica 2002; Santonja et al. 1980) hominins took
the finished tools with them when they moved away from the elephant
carcass and deposited them elsewhere, a situation very similar to that
known from Boxgrove. At Aridos 1, the fact that at least two bifaces were
made on site but not left behind is shown by the discovery of distinctive
flakes, known as coup de trenchant (Manuel Santonja pers. comm.).
Elsewhere in Europe further examples have also been found where the
landscape is partitioned according to these rules of butchering the carcass
and accumulating sets of handaxes in other places (Gaudzinski and Turner
Much older patterns of biface accumulation in Africa have been com-
mented upon by John Gowlett (1991) for the Kenyan locales of Kilombe
(Gowlett 1996) between 800,000 and 1 million years old, various localities
at Olorgesailie (Isaac 1977; Potts et al. 1999) of comparable age, and
Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania (Potts 1988). Where the effects of deflation or the
hydraulic action of rivers and flash floods can be factored out, as they can at
240 Origins and Revolutions

Kilombe and Olorgesailie, then we are left with impressive accumulations
of bifaces. These comprised sets, based on raw material, size, morphology,
symmetry and parameters of knapping skill, that have been much discussed
(e.g. Gowlett 1996; 1998; Marshall et al. 2002; Potts 1991; 1993:331; Roe 1968;
1994; Wynn 1993; 1995). However, the similarity that produces patterned
sets for the archaeologist also results in a paradox in that the diversity of tool
forms is low but the variability within sets at a locale and regional level can
be considerable because of the range of attributes taken into account
(Gowlett 1998). On closer inspection many of the sets emerge as rather
fuzzy, and this may be another instance of archaeologists searching for
crisply defined sets and missing the fact that most of them are not. It
therefore comes as a relief to note a strong pattern that, in the vast majority
of cases, the raw materials for these bifaces is local, coming from no more
than 20 km away and normally much less (Feblot-Augustins 1990). The
exceptions to this finding have already been discussed (page 213).

The common ground, 100,000 to 20,000 years ago: an appreciation
The social technology of the childscape during the common ground is
marked by an increase in the use of containers as material proxies for the
body. And with these containers comes a sharper focus among the sets of
material culture. For example, hearths now appear regularly as sets in time
and space. In rock-shelters they were rebuilt and relit in the same place,
often over millennia, while in open locales they are found in neatly spaced
rows. Hearths were regularly made from sets of materials such as river
pebbles and slabs of stone and bone. Their presence was respected in
settlements where they were tended and altered during their life. The small
spatial patterns of everyday life were created around them.
The material project of creating a childscape had changed, confirmed by
the growing association between hearths and shelters. Sets of animal bones
and antlers, and later pits and semi-subterranean dwellings, were
accumulated at chosen locales. These were often closely associated with
graves and human bodies. These bodies were also contained, their
boundaries altered, as shown by widespread finds of ornaments, jewellery
and by inference clothing. The application of iron oxide pigments changed
the body™s colour just as wearing a fox-tooth necklace re-modelled the shape
of the neck or a dentalium shell cap modified the forehead of its wearer.
The childscape, the environment of growth, was replete with relation-
ships based on material proxies of the body. What changed during the
Did agriculture change the world? 241

common ground was the authority, from the standpoint of the childscape,
for making sense of the world: in particular the connections that containers
and instruments established between the childscape and the landscape of
In technology™s long introduction the landscape of habit was learned and
grown into through material metaphors of the body based primarily on
instruments. With the use of both containers and instruments the
childscape and landscapes of the common ground were revealed in more
familiar metaphorical detail, not only by building sets but also extending
the networks of relationships. In metaphorical terms the childscape was
˜fitted into™ the landscape of habit, rather than ˜gifted™ by it. As well as giving,
growth now established relationships, as illustrated by a new interest in
small animals that were rapid breeders.
The material project which points to these subtle changes concerns the
reproduction and growth of the body. Taskscapes now resounded with the
sights, smells and noises of the fragmentation and consumption of stone,
wood, resins and bones, as well as animals and plants, for the purposes of
enchaining locales to landscapes. For example, the manufacture of blades
rather than flakes (Chapter 7) was a social technology involved in extending
relationships in space and time. Not only could the body be reproduced
through material proxies but identity could also be distributed across time
and space.
The process was reflexive. Into the childscape came ˜exotic™ materials
and new categories of relationship that fitted things together and built them
up, as was the case with textiles and baskets (Chapter 7). Learning about the
larger social landscape was therefore supported, for those dwelling in the
childscape, by material metaphors that expressed relationships in terms of
how the body experiences being in the world of people and objects.
None of this happened instantaneously. During the common ground the
evidence for containers varied in time and space across the Old World.
There was no tipping point to suggest that spoken language guided that
change in authority. The social brain model predicts increases in group
sizes from 120 to only 150 in this technological movement (Table 8.2).
The role of language was significant during the earlier long introduction
and its appearance was not associated with the move to material metaphors
that during the common ground after 100,000 years ago came to emphasise
What is important, as discussed earlier in this chapter, is the varied
evidence from land and sea of extension to the social landscapes of
242 Origins and Revolutions

these hominins. An extension based upon the understanding of the world
beyond the childscape/landscape of habit and the relationships that
sustained it.
It was here during technology™s common ground that the ways in which
hominins constructed their identities changed. The rules of landscape and
locale that we saw with bifaces were now supplemented by rules of place.
Sets were grown and exported. Landscapes were harvested and tended.
The primary metaphor remained one of relationships based on a giving
environment, its authority now supplemented by the opportunity to engage
with another powerful metaphor, that of growing the body. But the
identities so created are still unfamiliar to us because the accumulation
and enchainment of sets and nets is closer to the work of bricoleurs
(Chapter 6).

Evidence from the common ground

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