Mesolithic Cultures: Interlude or Prelude?
The conventional division between the advanced Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic cultures, marked in the record of material equipment by major changes occurring after the middle of the ninth millennium b c , is an issue which has long stimulated debate and disagreement among European prehistorians. Not all archaeologists of the twentieth century have been willing to accept the independent existence of an intermediate phase between the advanced huntergatherer cultures and the first farmers, with a more or less decisive break occurring at the beginning of Flandrian times. Gordon Childe consented to a very limited use of the term ‘Mesolithic’ to cover material assemblages which plainly fell between the Upper Palaeolithic and the Neolithic. More recent scholarship, notably in Eastern Europe but increasingly in the West, takes a more elevated view of the significance of the cultures which held sway in early post-Glacial Europe. The Mesolithic has in the past few decades emerged as a vital stage in social and economic development. J. G. D. Clark expresses the view succinctly: ‘The time is now ripe to expound and justify the proposition that the Mesolithic, so far from being a dead end, was in fact an essential prelude to fundamental advance in the development of culture’ (Clark 1981: 7). As early as the 1950s, some scholars were viewing the Mesolithic as a period in which the first signs of much that emerged into the full light of day in the early Neolithic became visible. There are no breaks in prehistory (still less is there place for a hiatus) and it is from this standpoint that the archaeological record of the early post-Glacial period is to be regarded.