5.5.3 Raw material exchange

Exchange is here defined as in Renfrew (1977, 72), that is

... in the case of some distributions it is not established that the goods changed hands at all; [exchange] in this case implies procurement of materials from a distance, by whatever mechanism.

Once a territorial structure has been defined, it is possible via raw material studies to examine communication forms within and between these territories. This is usually carried out in the form of distribution analyses and with the production of fall-off curves as an important aid. The shape of fall-off curves may, for example, indicate whether exchange took place in the form of down-the-line exchange (gradually declining curve) or as directional exchange (multi-peaked curve; Renfrew 1977).

Analysis of artefact size and degree of repair and recycling with growing distance to the raw material sources may also shed light on this issue, as down-the-line exchange has a tendency to see artefacts shrink in size with growing distance. Indicators of raw material value within an exchange network are: numerical presence (a raw materials numerical presence in relation to distance to source); artefact size; artefact types (i.e. was a raw material mainly used for mundane tasks or as prestige objects); tool ratios; use-wear; and depositional patterns.

The finds from Upper Palaeolithic Howburn (Ballin et al. 2010a) are still in the process of analysis, but this case study of the site’s raw materials (dominated by exotic flints and cherts) is expected to shed light on early prehistoric exchange.