Session: #296

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Tracing Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers in Their Environment: Challenges and Perspectives for Prospecting Elusive Lifeways [PaM; Archaeological Prospection]
While advances in survey methods have been a boon for studying past landscapes, mapping traces of hunter-gatherers and their environment remains a long-standing challenge. Information on such lifeways, characterised by ephemeral land-use, is difficult to capture with any survey approach, particularly in stratified environments. This elusiveness is exacerbated when using non-invasive tools (such as geophysics or remote sensing), and strongly restricts identifying and characterising land-use patterns hidden in landscape-scale datasets.
The continually expanding archaeological prospection toolkit does, however, create new opportunities. Recent, well-structured integrated approaches show how accounting for the limitations of complementary survey methods as well as for the intricacies of the prehistoric record supports detailed palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, and can equally provide fine-grained site-specific insight into cultural activities. Still, such advances remain only peripherally integrated into Palaeolithic or Mesolithic archaeology, with particular consequences for development-led applications. While available survey toolkits have promise, their translation into daily practice remains variable, restricting the potential of ‘Malta archaeology’ for tapping into this archaeological resource. Although in some regions, finetuning prospection strategies has increased the amount of detected stone age sites, in other areas this number has stagnated or – e.g. following intensified farming practices – deteriorated.
In this session, we strive to bridge the gap between fundamental questions related to Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology, and established and novel survey approaches. We consider the contribution of archaeological prospection in its broadest sense: ranging from non-invasive techniques (e.g. remote sensing and geophysics), to minimally (borehole and direct-push) and highly invasive (test pitting) methods, complemented with spatial sampling strategies tailored to Palaeolithic and Mesolithic targets.
We welcome contributions on questions and solutions to the complexities of prospecting hunter-gatherer environments, and equally encourage discussing integrated survey approaches that combine traditional and emerging methods to investigate elusive types of the wider array of prehistoric land-use.
archaeological prospection, survey design, prehistory, landscape archaeology, geoarchaeology, hunter-gatherer archaeology
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic community; Archaeological Prospection community


Main organiser:
Philippe De Smedt (Belgium) 1,2
Erica Corradini (Germany) 3
Petra Schneidhofer (Norway) 4
Jeroen Verhegge (Belgium) 2,1,5
1. Department of Environment, Ghent University
2. Department of Archaeology, Ghent University
3. Institute of Geosciences, Applied Geophysics, University of Kiel
4. Department for Cultural Heritage Management, Vestfold and Telemark County Council
5. GATE Archaeology