• Plants as persons: perceptions of the natural world in the North European Mesolithic

      Taylor, Barry; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2020-09-08)
      Amongst many hunter-gatherer communities, plants, animals and other aspects of the ‘natural’ environment, are bound up in, and gain significance and meaning from, specific cultural traditions. These traditions intricately bind the natural world into broader ontological understandings, which include concepts of animacy, the origins of the world, its structure and composition, and the behaviour of supernatural beings. Through these traditions, elements of the environment are imbued with an ontological significance that informs the way people perceive them, and how they interact with them through economic or ritual practice. There is a growing body of evidence that comparable traditions also structured the ways that hunter-gatherers interacted with their environment during the European Mesolithic. Much of the research has focused on the significance of animals, but this paper argues that plants were perceived in a similar way. Through a series of case studies from the North European Mesolithic, it shows how trees in particular were understood as powerful forces, playing active roles in people’s lives, and how interactions with them were mediated through prescribed forms of social practice