Making One’s Way in the World: identifying and dating prehistoric routeways

Author(s): Martin Bell

Year: 2017


Archaeologists focus on sites. This paper looks at ways of identifying patterns of habitual movement that made those sites part of a living landscape. It draws on palaeoenvironmental evidence, ethnohistory from the American North-West Coast and the micro-scale of human footprints. Patterns of movement by people and animals create structures within landscape, which influence the activities of subsequent generations and the perspectives from which they encounter and perceive landscape. Paths thus constitute a significant aspect of niche construction. Examples from British and European prehistory demonstrate that there are ways of identifying and dating prehistoric routes using the spatial relationship between monuments. Negative features, such as hollow ways, can be dated by their relationship to colluvial sediments from associated agricultural terraces using various scientific techniques (artefacts, molluscs, U-Series and OSL). The results challenge existing assumptions that the main prehistoric routes in Britain were ridgeways on hill crests. There is more evidence for the early origins of parallel systems of hollow ways crossing the grain of the landscape. It is proposed that these were associated with the activities of seasonal pastoralists. The paper outlines key themes from the writer’s recently completed forthcoming book Making One’s Way in the World.

Cite this Record

Making One’s Way in the World: identifying and dating prehistoric routeways. Martin Bell. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430447)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16720