University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > PalMeso Seminar Series > Beyond status: rethinking the meaning of stone tools in Mesolithic burials

Beyond status: rethinking the meaning of stone tools in Mesolithic burials

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Abstract: Personal ornaments placed into Mesolithic graves are often interpreted as “prestige items” given to privileged members of society, resulting in a bias towards ornaments as a means of understanding symbolic mortuary behaviour, status, social identity, and society more generally. In contrast, stone tools, often found in the same graves are typically considered utilitarian items and have received far less attention. This has created a false dichotomy whereby personal ornaments funerary offerings are perceived as symbolic markers of identity, wealth and status, while the lithic tools are viewed as incidental/less symbolic inclusions: the residual debris from everyday life. Yet ethnohistoric accounts reveal the rich symbolic significance accorded to stone tools amongst different societies: from associations with the world of the dead to living beings with their own life course. Similar understandings may have existed in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic with female figurines made from flint, suggestions that stone tools may have at times been seen as animate or associated with major rites of passage, or ritually “killed” as part of the funerary process. This talk will introduce the AHRC -funded Stone Dead project which is investigating the diversity of roles lithic grave goods played in Mesolithic mortuary rites and rituals.

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This talk is part of the PalMeso Seminar Series series.

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