Prehistoric foragers of the North Atlantic: Perspectives on lithic procurement and social complexity in the north Norwegian Stone Age and the Labrador Maritime Archaic
The complex hunter-gatherer debate is dominated by reductionist ecofunctionalist approaches. A critique of these approaches is developed from a postprocessual stance informed by structuration theory. The geographical locus of the study is the circumpolar zone. The north Norwegian Stone Age is the primary empirical entry point and the Maritime Archaic of Labrador is used for comparative purposes. Complexity is approached from the perspective of lithic procurement. North Norwegian chert sources are described and the distribution of chert is assessed through petrographic and geochemical analysis. Three conflicting interpretations derived from different paradigmatic contexts are presented: (1) an ecological model linking lithic procurement to mobility patterns, (2) an argument that lithic procurement is structured by a "big-man" political economy, and (3) a spatial-ideological model positing a contextual relationship between chert sources and rock carvings, seeing these as articulating a regional system of political-semiotic discourse. Traditional comparisons between the north Norwegian Stone Age and the Labrador Maritime Archaic emphasize similarities in social elaboration based on maritime adaptations. However, when structuration processes are compared, important differences in complexity processes are evident. These comparative observations raise additional challenges to ecofunctionalist reductionism.