In this short overview and summary, the aims of the work form the framework. The main problem identified in writing this book was the missing majority – the perishable aspects of material culture that rarely survive but that, more significantly, are missing from our thinking. The research presented here shows how an holistic approach can be used to put the missing majority back into archaeological thinking. It shows how plants and animals contribute to not just foods, but material culture, and do so in ways that integrate with subsistence practices and with the inorganic evidence from stone, pottery and metal, which survives far more often. The organic material culture component is a significant factor in broadscale shifts in lifestyles, and the material culture made from plants and animals deserves to be a feature of discussions and interpretations even when it is missing. The first aim was to raise awareness of the missing majority, the perishable

material culture of past societies and make the case for a more holistic approach to material culture. In Chapters 2 and 3, the missing majority has been explored in breadth, detail and full colour. Unusual plant materials in the modern world, such as tree bark, bast fibres and roots, have been discussed, and an augmented appreciation of how common plants such as nettles and bulrushes can be used has been presented. The range of usage of materials from animals, including sinews and feathers, fish skins and intestines as well as animals skins, and many different kinds of tanning technologies have all been outlined. Cordage and cordage technologies as sophisticated ways of meeting everyday needs for not just string but clothing, containers and shelters have been covered. This vast wealth of information has drawn on a wide range of examples and case studies from different parts of the world. Inevitably, this has been something of a whistlestop tour, but it has deliberately paused longer where the materials and technologies are less familiar. In this way I have hoped to increase knowledge and appreciation of the lesser known elements of the perishable material culture world. It is possible to write whole books on textiles, and many

have already done so; therefore I have dwelt less on the better known techniques, because more is known about them. Archaeologists have increasingly sophisticated techniques at their disposal, especially

at the level of biological and chemical markers. These issues will become more refined in the coming decade and contribute to a micro-awareness of some of the identifications of species and technologies. However, right now, a better appreciation of these sorts of issues on the ground in the field units, and the ideas of the excavators as directors and as diggers, will lead to a better appreciation of these finds, as more are discovered and appropriately handled from the ground and into the field base or lab environment where they can be further excavated in controlled conditions. The research here will raise awareness of the possibilities; a morass of dark plant remains may be a form of textile, a clump of rush material could be a twined rain cloak, an oblong clump of moss all that remains of a shoe stuffed with moss, a gelatinous ooze the precious remnant of a fat-tanned bag, an irregular soil stain a hide wrapping and a thin soil layer the remains of a reed thatch now preserved as a layer rich in phytoliths. I have also emphasized the beginnings of the chaîne opératoire and the object

biographies because material culture does not spontaneously form any more than food does. Archaeologists think of subsistence practices as direct connections to landscapes and places. For food, archaeologists consider seasonal exploitation, equipment, processing and storage as well as cooking practices and for each there is a sense of location and strategy. For animal and plant craft resources the same rich strategic issues exist: they need to be considered in the same way. Any animals obtained for food will also need to have their material culture usage factored in to plans and strategies. Just because a plant or tree is in one place does not mean it is always available as a good resource. Even plants that are green all year will have cycles of activity that may make them ‘at their best’ for the intended purpose only for a short period. Or the resource is available over a more extended period but the dry weather slot to stabilize them prior to storage means that the strategic exploitation has to be within a smaller window of time. People’s choices interweave with subsistence practices and other cultural aspects but they are strategies which are part of their cultural behaviour and on which their wellbeing relies. The opening phases of the chaînes opératoires have been given more attention here because they have more importance than commonly appreciated. By emphasizing places in the landscape, management cycles and exploitation strategies that form the start of material culture production the constraints and links with a resource taken from the landscape at a particular moment in time in a particular place can be given more prominence. Ideas about the intensity of that relationship and the management possibilities that could exist, from very early periods, have been explored and explained. There are new ways of seeing the landscape-people relationships, and interactions and these offer new interpretive possibilities. The second aim was to adopt an intensely practical understanding of the possible

roles of plants and animals in the formation of material culture repertoire, while emphasizing the social constructs of materiality and technological choices, and providing tacit and explicit knowledge in new approaches. My own intensely practical relationship with many of the specific chaîne opératoires in this book and the processing

of plants and animals, has informed every image and every word. It is my belief that the concept of materiality is enriched by this practical understanding, which interweaves pragmatic and social issues and opens up new vistas. Traditional craft practices are a rich source of information, but there is much more to be learned from engaging in these activities one’s self as well. Not all practices known in the world today were known and pursued by past societies. Conversely, not all possibilities known and pursued in the past are available and known today. This mismatch is inevitable, but this book has gone some way to redressing this balance, and bringing to the attention of a broad range of archaeologists and others a wealth of materials and technologies to serve many different purposes. There is no inevitable pathway of perishable material culture. The arguments here have not been reductionist or essentialist, but instead about interpretive possibilities and the broadening of the ideas about materiality and material culture production and use. The third aim was to demonstrate by examples and case studies how to extract

information about the missing majority from the inorganic artefacts and environmental data. The case studies presented throughout the volume and rounded off in the concluding chapters have demonstrated this holistic approach to material culture, interweaving the perishable and inorganic elements together, as a viable way forward. Wear analysis and impressions analysis are important tools to understanding perishable material culture. Overall, this book has set out an agenda, and it has shown that the prehistoric perishable material culture, absent from so much of the archaeological record, as the missing majority, was most probably rich, diverse and colourful. It gave people the means to express individuality and communal identities and relationships, and it took up large parts of their time and planning in the extraction and manipulation of resources from the environment. As people did these things they were also affected by them, and their relationships with the plants and animals in the environment were strengthened as part of that act of making. In some instances a case can be made for an intense relationship with particular species of plants and animals. What you do is a large part of who you are. And the making of material culture is an act of performing social identity at the level of person and community, in a very individual way. Finally, I would like to consider what different audiences might find useful from the

ideas expressed in this book. For academic archaeologists, I hope they find a way of envisaging the missing majority that allows them to engage with this, and to factor it into their excavation and survey strategies, and the overall interpretation of the evidence from a site or landscape. For environmental archaeologists and zooarchaeologists, I hope that they will more often consider, investigate and report the material culture possibilities of some of the wild resources and the dual nature of the food/raw material resources. For practical excavators, from students on training excavations upwards, I hope that they think again about trowelling through a slight anomaly that they can feel, or a slight shadow that is at the edge of what they can recognize visually. If this book has made just a couple more excavators think about what might be the consequences of that next trowelling action, then more organic material culture will be found, and added to the existing dataset. This will be a good

outcome. If craft practitioners are reading this book, I hope the sense of the richness of your own craft traditions comes off the page and into your hands. There is great depth to the history of human engagement with the plants and animals that make up our material culture world. The missing majority is significant, irrespective of how well or how often it sur-

vives. This research has shown that missing from the archaeological record is not a reason for perishable material culture to be missing from our thinking. The idea of plants and animals as material culture needs to ripple outwards through all the layers of archaeological data gathering, interpretation and presentation. Thinking about and discussing organic material culture only on the rare occasions when it is found misses out important facets of the cultural repertoire, and the relationships between the individuals of a society and between people and their environment. Plants and animals are about more than food. They sustain the soul, by also providing the material for making important practical and symbolic items, and forming a large part of who we are. Perishable materials along with stone, pots, and metals created smells, textures, tastes, colours and sounds that caught people’s attention and led their sensory worldview. People across the world today and in the past did not just eat, they made, and they used the plants and animals around them to interact with their world and with one another in complicated ways. The human interventions in the environment also shaped it, sometimes consciously but always interactively. Perishable material culture played a major role and it is well worth investigating the missing majority. You are indeed what you eat, and also what you make, wear, use and inhabit.