From Mesolithic to Neolithic modes of thought

Alan Barnard

in Going Over: The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in North-West Europe

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264140
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734489 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy 144

From Mesolithic to Neolithic modes of thought

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This chapter begins by outlining two proposed modes of thought, which are characterized by opposite perceptions in at least four domains: saving versus consumption (which reflect notions of time and work); decision-making and political hierarchy; degree and kind of kin category extension; and notions of land, place, and settlement. All of these have implications for understanding group structure, transhumance, migration, and so on. The chapter then addresses the question of whether Mesolithic thought persisted into the Neolithic. It argues that mode of thought is much slower to change than mode of production. Social relations retain the structures of hunter-gatherer times if these are deeply rooted in cultural understandings of sociality. The existence nearby of agro-pastoralists does not make former hunter-gatherers think more like agro-pastoralists; it may even accentuate the differences in their thinking by making each side more aware of what makes them, say, Mesolithic or Neolithic.

Keywords: hunter-gatherers; foraging; saving; consumption; decision making; political hierarchy; category extension; social relations

Chapter.  5154 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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