Learning in the Mesolithic

Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations

The Stonehenge seminar on Monday night was a great evening with 6 varied presentations, as I outlined the other day, and a tribute to Buckingham's approach to their MA.

I thought the best piece of work was that outlined by Nick Jones with his exploration of the environmental (and sustainability) implications of house building on the Plain in Neolithic times, especially the transition from large long houses to smaller circular ones – from more communal to family-sized living.  Was this, Nick asked, forced on them by the exigencies of the availability of timber and other building materials, and the ways that these made some sort of houses more sustainable, and others less so?  It was a question which finds echoes in our own times.

The most interesting, methodologically-speaking, was the work of Pauline Wilson:

Towards a methodological framework for identifying the presence of and analysing the child in the archaeological record, using the case of Mesolithic children in post-glacial Northern Europe.

That is: how can we shed light on what kids got up to?  Children there were, of course, but they are mostly absent from accounts of meso- and neolithic times.

Maybe they were out there learning, Pauline suggested – preparing for their economic roles in later life – acquiring skills and competencies.  How very like us it all seemed.  Maybe these were the first forest schools and the outdoor classroom.  Perhaps it was learning through play.  I asked whether there might have been a curriculum.  Of course, no one can know.  However, if there were valuable skills and dispositions to be learned, then that might suggest, one way or another, an organisational conceptual frame, outline schemes of work, and favoured pedagogies.  I hope  they were spared quality assurance.  Pauline suggested that there might have been a sort of monitorial system where those children who knew more instructed the others.

Inevitably, this brought the Sabre-tooth curriculum to mind:

Benjamin HRW (1939) Saber‐tooth Curriculum, Including Other Lectures in the History of Paleolithic Education. McGraw‐Hill

You can find it here in all its sad wisdom.  Time for another version: the Auroch-tooth curriculum.


Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations


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