The holistic approach advocated in Chapter 1 explained that, although a large part of material culture is missing, it nonetheless existed and aﬀected many of the other categories of material culture that survive more frequently. In particular the stone and ceramic evidence from sites can be used as ways of further exploring the organic material culture. In addition, many tools are used to work organic material, so if functional analysis by usewear traces or by analogy can be deployed, then tools and devices are important sources of evidence for the kinds of perishable technologies that may have been taking place. There are other less straightforward ways of exploring these relationships between organic and inorganic material culture. One of these is the phenomenon of skeuomorphism. Skeuomorphs are objects that allude to, by their features, an item made in a diﬀerent material. These issues are explored below, and a foundation laid for thinking through the material culture from a site in a more holistic way. The ﬁnal part of the chapter uses this approach to investigate the whole sense of material culture from the British Neolithic site of Etton, a causewayed enclosure in East Anglia, England. The basic premise is that, although artefacts are studied by archaeologists in categories that are deﬁned by materials (for example, ﬂint, pottery and metalwork), that is not how they existed in life. In life they were an integrated complex web of relationships between edge tools for working other materials, containers of many diﬀerent materials for diﬀerent purposes, and clothes and structures to keep people warm and safe. This whole material culture was bound up with people’s ideas, identities and beliefs, and for most of prehistory people used materials that were around them in the environment, or for which they could exchange goods. This holistic approach to the ‘missing majority’ is underpinned by ethnographic and experimental data. It is also a way of thinking through from the known facts of a site, to interpretive possibilities. Those
possibilities can be opened up to include the missing majority in ways that show new evidence trails and lend themselves to further investigations. The holistic approach advocated here, therefore, crosscuts diﬀerent specialisms as they exist within archaeology, and also the boundary between evidence and interpretation. In much the same way that periods and regions have common themes in styles of pottery and stone tools, so these broader themes will exist in perishable material culture traditions. Therefore it is possible to use some particular sites to stand as examples of what might be happening on sites with a lesser range of material culture preserved. A key feature of the holistic approach is to put back some idea of the missing majority, and make it part of people’s thinking, and to show that when this approach is applied, the whole is more than the sum of the parts.