The Mesolithic hunters of the Trentino: a case study in hunter-gatherer settlement and subsistence

Clark, Royston Helm (1999) The Mesolithic hunters of the Trentino: a case study in hunter-gatherer settlement and subsistence. University of Southampton, Faculty of Arts, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 356pp.


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This dissertation contributes to the understanding of Mesolithic settlement and subsistence
change through a regional case study of archaeological data from the Trentino in northern
It is argued in this thesis that in order to understand this period of hunter-gatherer prehistory,
it is necessary to examine both animal bones and lithic material. These represent the main
forms of archaeological evidence recorded from a series of valley bottom rock shelter and
open air high altitude sites in the Trentino. An interpretative framework using risk based
models is broadly applied to these data. Risk management is considered from the
perspective of maintaining necessary dietary levels, through maximising the nutritional value
of animal resources (animal bone data) and by tool technology (lithic materials). Butchery
data are considered as evidence for hunters obtaining important sources of nutrition,
including carbohydrates and vitamins, through marrow and bone grease extraction (e.g.
Speth 1991). Mesolithic stone tools are examined in terms of the risks of failing to kill or
capture hunted animals - through the application of 'maintainable' and 'reliable' aspects of
microlithic technology and its residue (e.g. Torrence 1989). The extraction and provisioning
of raw materials required to manufacture and repair hunting technology also provides a
regional perspective to stone tool using strategies.
Broadly, the rock shelters contain long term data-sets of animal bones and lithics. These
provide a diachronic perspective to subsistence change. The open air sites offer a contrasting
spatial perspective of Mesolithic settlement sites. Lithic material and site location, in
relation to the surrounding topography, provides a framework for interpreting subsistence
activities. The Grotta d'Ernesto cave provides further subsistence data related directly to ibex
and red deer hunting. The combined study of animal bones and lithics, together with longterm
and spatial perspectives provides a framework for then extending the scale of analysis
from site based to regional in scale. Changes in settlement patterns are related to
environmental processes that included increases in forest density, a reduction in mountain
pasture areas and increased resource diversity in the valley bottom areas. Early Mesolithic
subsistence is thus characterised as having a high altitude summer hunting component in
which significant numbers of animals were killed and processed, while the later Mesolithic
populations focused settlement and subsistence strategies in the lower altitude areas
throughout the year.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Digitized via the E-THOS exercise. Subsequently published by Archaeopress, 2000, ISBN 184171125X
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Archaeology
ePrint ID: 42319
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
1999Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2006
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:27

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