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The Times of Their Lives: from Chronological Precision to Kinds of History and Change

  • Alasdair Whittle (a1) and Alex Bayliss (a2)


In preparing for the publication of the seven papers in the special supplement of Cambridge Archaeological Journal, we were concerned to find an outlet that could find a worldwide audience, as we believe that these papers have more than regional or period significance. That is a big claim. The case studies presented in the supplement are all of early Neolithic long barrows and long cairns of the fourth millennium cal. bc in southern England. Why should a study of the dating of constructions that held the remains of selected human dead, from a particular region of northwest Europe, at a particular point in the regional Neolithic sequence, have any wider importance? We offer two reasons. First, we are applying, perhaps for the first time to a group of monuments rather than to individual sites, a method for the interpretation of radiocarbon dates which enables much more precise estimates of chronology. Secondly, from this promise of far more robust and precise dating come many implications for the kinds of agents that we may wish to people our pasts, for the kinds of lives they lived, and for the histories that we can try to write about them. These are two developments, we suggest, which any archaeology needs to embrace.




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