The Mesolithic as a period has been re-engaging public interest in recent years. South Yorkshire has played a key role in the early recognition of the period in Britain and in establishing a chronology for the period. However evidence in South Yorkshire is particularly challenging to research and manage. The period in this region is poorly understood as interpretations are largely based on a few limited excavations dated prior to the 1970s as well as many ‘findspots’ (which largely reflect patterns of differential survival and visibility). Despite excellent quality research into existing collections, interpretations have been constrained by the nature of the record and tend to recycle debates over comparisons between ad hoc assemblages dating back over half a century. As a result surprisingly little is understood about the distribution of Mesolithic activity across the region or what surviving evidence remains. There is nonetheless potential for a much improved understanding in the future, particularly through research into undisturbed sites of high integrity and/or those with organic preservation in certain locations, and for a much greater public interest and engagement with the distinctive character of the Mesolithic in the region. There are however serious threats. South Yorkshire, lying at the southern limit of upland bog formation, is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change on blanket peat. The subsequent influence of changes in vegetation and increased erosion on Mesolithic sites under peat will have an impact on research and management.
What makes the Mesolithic particularly challenging period to research and manage? In general terms:
These challenges are particularly acute in South Yorkshire because:
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