Divisions of raw material can be seen in relation to the environment in which people live, and to the human body and the ways in which materials are extracted and then processed by people. In different periods and environments plant materials have been exploited in many diverse ways. The social strategies within which materials are exploited affect possibilities, and much of the chaîne opératoire. Several concepts and frameworks can be brought into this understanding. The most useful are concepts such as taskscapes (Ingold 2000a, 2000b) and ways of placing actions within locations, and with links to sets of people. Experiential evidence strongly affected the groupings in this chapter. A combination

of size of plant and part used was used to group materials together. The other organizing principle was the kind of technologies associated with different plants. Rushes, reeds and sedges are plants, gathered whole by the armful or handful. The other major grouping of nettle, flax, hemp and cotton is associated with fibre production. Cotton is a seed-head fibre, but the others are all bast fibres. In all of these cases, bundles of material can be extracted from the environment as whole plants, or as gathered seed heads. Likewise, willow and flexible shoots as a category can be taken from the environment as bundles and gathered in the arms. Major differences from the same plant would be when more mature saplings and regrowth or mature trees are exploited. One example makes the point clear. Willow produces young flexible shoots that can be harvested and used after one year. Willow trees with regrowth of five to ten years are still flexible, and can be used in more structural ways. The trunk of a mature willow tree is in a different category. The tree would need to be cut down, and while the work could be done by one person, the material cannot be carried away easily, and in practice it becomes more likely that its exploitation is

on an entirely different scale than that of the smaller-scale exploitations of the same plant. Other categories are substances – such as saps, gums and resins – and tannins and dyes. In this way it is possible to try and conceive of a vast array of the kingdom of

plants as they relate to the human scale of exploitation, and the strategies for obtaining the material. The categories of raw material adopted here are broadly based around the following divisions: first wood as the main raw material, and then the bark and roots of trees. The exploitation of bark and roots lead then to discussions of plants as cordage, basketry and plant-based textiles, as well as gums and resins.