Key research questions

Research questions specific to South Yorkshire develop broad national and regional frameworks within the evidence specific to the region. These frameworks include the English Heritage Research Strategy for Prehistory, East Midlands Research Agenda (Knight, Vyner and Allen, 2012), Mesolithic Research and Conservation Framework (Blinkhorn and Milner, 2013) and the Research Framework for Holocene Lithics (Lithics Studies Society, Gardiner 2004). Naturally that evidence changes through time, and thus new questions can open up. For example the current record doesn’t include any evidence for Mesolithic art or for burial (as such evidence is extremely rare) but if such evidence is recovered in the future new questions can be introduced.

In general terms research directions follow three main related themes, within which specific questions can be addressed.

  • [LANDSCAPE] Mesolithic people in their environment and landscapes – the Mesolithic environment, how people moved around and adapted to environments, and how they in turn influenced their environment, and the social use of landscapes
  • [CHANGE] Changes in time and space in the Mesolithic – contrasts between different areas and regions in terms of cultures and activities, how things changed through time (such as changing in hunting economies, or in how people exploited environments or with the transition to the Neolithic)
  • [EVIDENCE] Our evidence – its limitations, how to make best use of it, and how to protect what we have and expand what we know
Figure 11. Schematic for key research themes

Specific research questions

  1. People and ecology: How can we improve our understanding of environmental changes, and how people were influenced by and influenced their environment? [LANDSCAPE]
  2. Landscape distributions: What can existing distributions of collections and/or new surveys tell us about activities in the mesolithic in different locations within the region (such as the relationship between the limestone area around Creswell Crags and the pennine uplands) and in a wider context, and what can they tell us about the social use of the landscape? [LANDSCAPE]
  3. Structures: What evidence for structures (hearths or dwellings) exists in either existing collections or new surveys or excavations, how do such structures compare to those found nationally and what can they tell us about the period? How do these structures related to stratified and unstratified deposits? [EVIDENCE] [CHANGE]
  4. Changes through time: How can we refine our chronology? For example how can existing evidence (eg any charcoal in existing collections) and evidence from new excavations (eg recovered charcoal) contribute to questions about how cultures change through the period? [CHANGE]
  5. Researching assemblages: How can studies of artefact production, experimental reconstruction and comparisons between collections contribute to our understanding of how activities varied in time and space? To what extent can we determine the provenance of raw materials used, and what might this tell us? [LANDSCAPE] [EVIDENCE]
  6. Bias and recovery: What mesolithic archaeological resource remains hidden? (eg under collivium or peat) And what is the nature of the preserved resource? How can we improve our knowledge of the distribution of activities in the mesolithic and methods of recovery of new sites? [EVIDENCE] [LANDSCAPE]
  7. The potential for new material: How can sites with high integrity be identified, particularly under peat in the uplands and raised mires? What can these tell us about activity at these sites? What is the potential for recovering organic material from sites such as Sutton Common or Thorn Moor? [EVIDENCE]