The status of current research

Most of the HER record for the Mesolithic dates to a time when finds were actively destroyed through erosion (in the Pennine uplands) or agricultural practices (in the Magnesium Limestone). The timing of this recovery has thus severely constrained the usefulness of the current resource, with no modern excavations in the uplands and lithic collections, drawn from fieldwalking or eroding surfaces, being biased in both their location and their constituents

Most research has focused on interpretations of what are somewhat ad hoc collected assemblages. The earliest research, following peat erosion in the 1950s and 1960s, made perhaps the greatest impact on our understanding of the period. Publications by Radley (Jeffrey Radley, Tallis, and Switsur 1974), and Radley and Mellars (Radley and Mellars 1964) and later Jacobi (Jacobi 1978) revealed a distinction between an early and a late phase of the period on the basis of microliths (tiny worked points) as well as relationships between assemblages at different sites. Larger microliths were found to be typical of the early phase, made on raw material which travelled some distance.(such as from the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds) and with sites often found at generally lower elevation. Smaller microliths tended to belong to the later part of the period (reaching sizes down to a few mm in length) and tend to be made on local raw material, with recorded ‘sites’ often apparently of smaller dimensions.

Subsequent research, based on essentially the same collections, tends to follow these debates, adding explanations or refinements to discussions of key themes of mobility and chronology. Myers added an ecological and functional dimension to the discussion of why microliths changed in form (Myers 1988) for example. Proposed mobility patterns and how they changed have also remained a source of debate (Donahue and Lovis 2006). Key PhD research has included Reynier’s research suggested further chronological distinctions within the early Mesolithic (Reynier and Others 1997) whilst Preston’s research argue for alternative mobility patterns (Preston 2009). Cockrell (Cockrell 2016) has recently gathered together existing evidence and brought new concerns with relationships to landscapes (Conneller 2005) and to a movement away from defining seasonal rounds (Penny Spikins 2000) to the period. He highlights repeated occupation of certain locations and associations with rivers as sources of movement.

Finds of substantial structures at Star Carr in the Vale of Pickering and elsewhere (Conneller et al. 2012) illustrate the potential for further Deepcar like structures to be found in south Yorkshire itself, and to be excavated with modern methods.