Today we have a guest post from Dr Peter Groom, who has written here before on the topic of experimental archaeology as part of our 'Applied Bushcraft' Series. He has recently published an excellent book based on his experiences of hunter gatherer living skills and has kindly shared his motivations for writing his novel with us on the BushcraftEducation blog.
Peter Groom has a PhD in Mesolithic Archaeology, is a freelance Experimental Archaeologist and Primitive Skills/Bushcraft practitioner, a founder member of the Mesolithic Resource Group and is the Course manager and principal instructor of the Environmental Archaeology and Primitive Skills course at Reaseheath College. He lives in Staffordshire.
Amongst other things I am an experimental archaeologist, using primitive skills and bushcraft to help us understand how our ancestors used to live. Some of my projects have included; stone bead making in Romania, tree bast experiments in Denmark, and Neanderthal birch bark tar production. In short, a range of exciting and fascinating projects. A major recent project for me has been to work on the west coast of Scotland trying to figure out how Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were living 8000 years ago. I did this by restricting myself to the resources and tool kit of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer so that I could I go through similar thought processes and experiences. Using experimental archaeology and primitive skills to fill in some of the gaps in the archaeological record, the human facets that are often missing.
Making and testing a wide range of fishing gear, I travelled thousands of miles over 4 years and started to feel like a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer; lugging fishing gear to remote sites, planning to maximise the use of tides, experiencing lousy weather. These experiences provided me with an insight into the world of the coastal hunter-gatherer, revealing the extent of organisation and knowledge that they must have had in order to fully utilise their environment. The planning needed to maximise returns, whether foraging, hunting or collecting resources. The environmental and ecological knowledge required; the places to find the best materials for a particular task, knowledge of seasons and the seasonal movement of species. When and where to be, at a particular place at a particular time. It is of course very difficult to understand the mind-set of someone who lived 8000 years ago, but by using some of those ancient hunter-gatherer skills together with experimental archaeology, we can move some way toward them. It is apparent that Prehistoric people had an extensive knowledge of raw material processing that many of us currently lack. I have a wide range of interests and experimental archaeology provides a fusion between my environmental knowledge, interests in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology and my fascination in the use of organic materials in Prehistory. Experimental archaeology/primitive skills are often used to engage public interest in our past, most notably through reconstruction or experiential learning.
With a view to further communicating our understanding of the Mesolithic I recently wrote a novel, The Hunter, The Dog Men and the House by the Shore.
I wrote the novel with three objectives in mind. Firstly to illustrate what a fascinating and diverse ecosystem we have lost in the UK since the Mesolithic. Secondly, to bring to the modern reader some idea of the lives of our Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, the food they ate, how they might have cooked it, how they travelled, the tools, the buildings, etc. Thirdly, to demonstrate the extensive skills and knowledge that our ancestors would have employed day in, day out, skills that most people now lack.
The novel is based on the latest archaeological research and is packed full of Natural History, Bushcraft and Primitive Skills. The story takes the reader on a journey through north-west England (what is now Cheshire and North Staffordshire), 8000 years ago in a landscape where aurochs, elk, wolf, lynx and wild boar roam. The main character is a lone Mesolithic hunter who works his way through this diverse and changing landscape. On his travels he encounters a range of characters; from traders to killers and ultimately meets his new mate who lives in a house by the shore.
The novel is available to purchase in a link on the left of the page.