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Between Mountains and Sea: a Reconsideration of the Neolithic Monuments of South-west Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

Vicki Cummings
Affiliation:
School of History & Archaeology, Cardiff University, PO Box 909, Cardiff CF10 3XU

Abstract

For many years the chambered tombs of south-west Scotland were considered important in understanding the origins of monumentality in Britain. In particular scholars focused on the classification of these monuments in order to understand how ideas about the Neolithic may have spread along and across the Irish Sea. However, the classification of these monuments may be rather more problematic than was once imagined. Among other things, the excavation of a number of them has revealed complex and diverse construction sequences. This paper presents the results of an examination of the landscape settings of the chambered tombs in south-west Scotland. It suggests that a landscape approach can assist in our understanding of the classification and use of these monuments. In addition, the setting of sites within the landscape can also inform us about the nature of the Neolithic in this region of Scotland.

Résumé

On a estimé pendant de nombreuses années que les tombes à couloir avaient un rôle important à jouer dans la compréhension des origines du mégalithisme en Grande-Bretagne. Les érudits se concentrèrent en particulier sur la classification de ces monuments afin de comprendre comment des idées néolithiques avaient pu se propager le long et au-delà de la mer d'Irlande. Cependant, la classification de ces monuments risque d'être bien plus problématique qu'on ne l'avait imaginé à un moment. Entre autres choses, l'excavation d'un certain nombre de ces monuments a révélé des séquences de construction diverses et complexes. Cette étude présente les résultats d'un examen de la situation des tombes à couloir dans le paysage du sudouest de l'Ecosse. On suggère qu'une approche par le biais du paysage peut nous aider à comprendre cette classification et l'usage fait de ces monuments. De plus, la situation des sites dans le paysage peut également nous renseigner sur la nature du néolithique dans cette région de l'Ecosse.

Resúmen

Durante muchos años se ha considerado que las tumbas megalíticas a cámara del suroeste de Escocia son importantes para comprender el desa los orígenes del fenómeno megalítico en Gran Bretaña. En particular, los estudiosos se concentraron en la clasificación de estos monumentos para entender los mecanismos de difusión de ideas en el neolítico a lo largo y a través del mar de Irlanda. Sin embargo, la clasificación de estos monumentos podría resultar bastante más problemática de lo que alguna vez podíamos imaginar. Entre otras cosas, la excavación de un número de estos monumentos ha revelado unas secuencias de construcción complejas y diversas. Este trabajo presenta los resultados de un examen de la posición en el paisaje de las tumbas megalíticas en el suroeste de Escocia. En él se sugiere que un enfoque que preste atención al paisaje puede ayudarnos a entender la clasificación y uso de estos monumentos. Además, el emplazamiento de estos sitos en el paisaje puede ser también una fuente de información sobre la naturaleza del neolítico en esta región de Escocia.

Zusammenfassung

Seit vielen Jahren werden die Kammergräber Südwestschottlands als wichtig für das Verständnis des Ursprungs von Monumentalität in Britannien erachtet. Die Forscher konzentrierten sich vor allem auf die Klassifikation dieser Monumente um zu verstehen, wie sich Vorstellungen vom Neolithikum entlang der Irischen See und über diese hinweg verbreitet haben mögen. Jedoch scheint die Klassifikation dieser Monumente deutlich problematischer zu sein als angenommen. Hierfür spricht unter anderem die Entdeckung komplexer und variabler Bauabfolgen bei den Ausgrabungen einer Reihe dieser Monumente. Dieser Artikel stellt die Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung der Kulturlandschaft der Kammergräber in Südwestschottland vor. Er geht davon aus, dass ein Landschaftsansatz das Verständnis der Klassifikation und des Gebrauchs dieser Monumente fördern kann. Darüber hinaus kann die Platzierung der Monumente innerhalb der Landschaft uns auch Hinweise auf die Natur des Neolithikums in diesem Teil Schottlands geben.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2002

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