FUEL USE AND MANAGEMENT DURING THE MESOLITHIC:
Recent Approaches in Archaeobotany
Auréade HENRY, Isabelle THÉRY-PARISOT
In order to propose working models for the Mesolithic period, this paper presents recent developments in archaeobotany orientated towards the question of fuel management systems and how ethnographic studies and experimentation can enhance our understanding of past phenomena.
The importance of fire and its systematic use during the Mesolithic can be assessed through direct evidence, i.e. the recovery of burned materials with wood, stone, bone and plant remains being the most commonly encountered. The diversity of activities related to fire is also suggested by indirect testimonies, such as the presence of materials (or their processing traces on artefacts) for the production of which a thermic treatment is needed, such as birch tar, animal hides, etc.
In accordance with these observations, fuel management practices of Mesolithic societies were undoubtedly complex and culturally significant. However, they remain difficult to approach archaeologically: What kind of fuel was collected and for which purposes? What is the relationship between environment, fuel selection, hearth and site functions?
To cite this article
Henry A., Théry-Parisot I., 2014 – Fuel Use and Management during the Mesolithic: Recent Approaches in Archaeobotany, in Henry A., Marquebielle B., Chesnaux L., Michel S. (eds.), Techniques and Territories: New Insights into Mesolithic Cultures, Proceedings of the Round table, November 22-23 2012, Maison de la recherche, Toulouse (France), P@lethnology, 6, 65-83.
Bushmen arrows and their recent history:
Crossed Outlooks of Historical,
Ethnological and Archaeological Sources
François BON, François-Xavier FAUVELLE-AYMAR
Bushmen weapons were considered very early by ethnology: the vision of these nomadic hunter-gatherers walking away into the horizon of the Kalahari Desert, with their bows and arrows on their back, is one of the most iconic representations of this disappearing lifestyle.
Besides the technical values that were brought into play in the making of this equipment, their role as vector of social values has also been greatly illustrated. It has been shown, in particular, the way in which an arrow creates a link between the hunter and his prey, but also the interactions the arrow conveys between the user of the weapon and the social networks to which he belongs.
Nevertheless, most reference systems are based on the equipment of sub-contemporary and current populations, i.e. on those used by groups occupying a limited territory in the Kalahari Desert, straddling Botswana and Namibia. Yet, only a few decades ago, Bushmen occupied much vaster areas, corresponding to a large western half of Southern Africa, involving the exploitation of territories ecologically more contrasted than today. In addition, the socio-economic status of the ancestors of today’s Bushmen was, it seems, more diversified: groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers lived side by side with pastoralists (who also practiced hunting), and it is likely that both sides belonged, to a greater or lesser degree, to societies with close links between them.
Research works realised on several collections of bows and arrows kept in South African museums and compared with historical sources (travel accounts from the 16th to the 19th centuries in particular), also bring to light greater diversity: the diversity of the actual armoury (the spear, the club and the throwing stick in addition to the bows and arrows); diversity in the way the arrows are actually made; and the diversity of their supposed functions (from hunting to war). Behind such diversity, we can try to grasp the complexity of the recent history of the Bushmen populations.
To cite this article
Bosc-Zanardo B., Bon F., Fauvelle-Aymar F.-X., 2009 – Bushmen Arrows and their Recent History: Crossed Outlooks of Historical, Ethnological and Archaeological Sources, in Pétillon J.-M., Dias-Meirinho M.-H., Cattelain P., Honegger M., Normand C., Valdeyron N., Projectile Weapon Elements from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Neolithic, Proceedings of session C83, XVth UISPP World Congress, Lisbon, September 4-9, 2006, P@lethnology, 1, 341-360.