So, for knowing "what was it like?" I'd prefer something like Samuel Hearne's Journey to the Northern Ocean:
Amazon.com: A Journey to the Northern Ocean: Samuel Hearne (Classics West Collection) (9781894898607): Samuel Hearne: Books
to, say, E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande:
Amazon.com: Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (9780198740292): E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Eva Gillies: Books
Some of the "captivity narratives"—once a standard American literary form—are very interesting and suggestive. Here's one set:
Amazon.com: Captured By The Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870 (9780486249018): Frederick Drimmer: Books
There's a lot in there. For example, there's one in which a medicine man reads the bones and advises that the enemies on the opposite bank, seen by two jumpy women, were actually wolves. All the tribesmen trust him, so they just go to sleep. In the morning, he's proved to be correct. To be sure sorcerers among primitives almost certainly do use sleight of hand and prey upon people's superstitions, but sometimes there seems to be something more. In "our" view of things this can't happen—though, I'm not so sure myself—but it's interesting to get the feel of a society where such a view of things is just assumed to be true.
Palaeobotany—you could collect soil samples are the level of stratigraphy in which you're interested and see what seeds you can find in the soil. Other remains—snails shells, for example—would tell you whether you are dealing with forested land or cleared land.I know that there was a neolithic body found frozen in Switzerland, for example, where they were able to analyze the contents of the intestines to figure out diet, but what other data types are we working with? Outside of bones from campsites, and maybe a few other frozen bodies, how do we analyze eating habits of our ancestors?
You might also look for rubbish tips where people have discarded animals bones—the bones of which animals are there? You can also do isotopic analysis of human bone material. As you probably know, there are different isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Which proportions these occur in in bone depends on what the person has been eating—they'll be different for a predominantly carnivorous diet than for a predominantly vegetable diet.
I think you put your finger on it—it's what survives in the record. So we say Stone Age—because that's the material we find, and because the switch to bronze, then iron, tools seems significant in a number of ways. However, also common would have been objects made from wood and leather. These don't usually survive. The interesting thing about the Iceman is that, being frozen in the ice, other, perishable materials did survive.As for lifestyle, what data do we have besides modern research on hunter gatherer societies? Some stone tools? Some ceremonial burials?
The idea that, in trying to understand the past, we should look for ethnographic parallels is quite an old one. I guess we have a problem in that if I use an ethnographic parallel to illuminate a find from the past and then say "look at the match" I've gone in a circle. But I think you can find some suggestive phenomena. An expert on rock art, David Lewis-Williams, points out that the ethnographic parallels—rock paintings made by South African Bushmen and North American Indians—seem to have been done in trance. We might conclude that Palaeolithic rock art was probably also done in trance. There's some independent evidence for that, however. For example, superimposed on the animals painted are sometimes geometrical forms—these are rather like the "phosphenes" that people spontaneously see when going into trance.Are there any pieces that correlate to lives of modern hunter gatherers, are there any which seem to be in conflict?
Amazon.com: The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art (9780500284650): David Lewis-Williams: Books
I can't think of any evidence that points up a "conflict" of interpretation where people in the remote past seem to have been doing something very different from what contemporary hunter-gatherers have been observed to do. There may be, but I don't know of any.