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From Big Houses to Cult Houses: Early Neolithic Timber Halls in Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

Kenneth Brophy
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Gregory Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK, G12 8QQ, K.brophy@archaeology.gla.ac.uk
Corresponding

Abstract

This paper addresses a small group of Neolithic monuments recorded as cropmarks in eastern lowland Scotland that have been termed timber halls, the best known example being the large rectangular building, Balbridie. Three such sites have now been excavated, and all have been shown to date to the early centuries of the Neolithic and to have been largely similar structures; further possible examples in the cropmark record will be assessed, through looking at the use of the term ‘timber hall’ in Scottish archaeology over the past 40 years. The paper will also address a number of sites, mostly known as cropmarks, which have similar dimensions and architectural traits to these timber halls. Excavations, however, have shown them to have a very different form (for instance, probably unroofed), and to date to the latter half of the 4th millennium cal BC, several centuries later than the first timber halls. Drawing on excavation results, cropmarks, and evidence from outwith Scotland, this paper will discuss the changing form and function of the Neolithic ‘timber hall’ tradition in Scotland, arguing that roofed ‘big houses’ were later replaced by ceremonial and mortuary ‘cult houses’, drawing on social memory and tradition.

Résumé

Cette étude s'intéresse à un petit groupe de monuments néolithiques, répértoriés comme traces dans les récoltes dans les basses terres de l'est de l'Ecosse, que l'on a nommés ‘halles en bois’, l'exemple le plus célèbre étant un grand bâtiment rectangulaire, Balbridie. Trois de ces types de sites ont maintenant été fouillés et tous se sont avérés dater des premiers siècles du néolithique et semblent, en grande partie, être des structures similaires; on évaluera d'autres exemples possibles prèsents dans les archives de traces dans les récoltes, en examinant l'utilisation des termes: halle en bois dans l'archéologie écossaise de ces 40 dernières années. Cette étude concernera aussi un certain nombre de sites, essentiellement connus comme traces dans les récoltes, qui possèdent des dimensions et des caractéristiques architecturales similaires à ces halles en bois. Les fouilles ont, toutefois, montré qu'ils avaient une forme très différente (par exemple probablement pas de toit), et qu'ils dataient de la deuxième moitié du 4ème siècle av. J.-C. cal., postérieurs de plusieurs siècles aux premières halles en bois. A partir des résultats des fouilles, des traces dans les récoltes et des témoignages à l'extérieur de l' Ecosse, cette étude discutera des changements dans la forme et la fonction de la tradition des ‘halles en bois' en Ecosse, argumentant que les ‘grandes maisons’ couvertes furent plus tard remplacées par des maisons cultes cérémonielles et mortuaires, reposant sur la mémoire sociale et la tradition.

Résumen

Este estudio se concentra en un pequeño grupo de monumentos neolíticos en las tierras bajas del este de Escocia identificados gracias a marcas de cultivo, y que han sido denominados “Casas de Madera”. El mejor ejemplo es el gran edificio rectangular de Balbridie. A fecha de hoy se han excavado tres de estos tipos de yacimiento, y todos han sido datados a los primeros siglos del Neolítico, y exhiben estructuras muy similares. Otros posibles ejemplos conocidos gracias a las marcas de cultivo son evaluados a la luz de un análisis del uso del término “Casas de Madera” en la arqueología escocesa de los últimos cuarenta años. Este trabajo también trata de un cierto número de yacimientos, conocidos en su mayoría a través de marcas de cultivo, que presentan dimensiones y rasgos arquitectónicos similares a las de las casas de madera. Su excavación, sin embargo, ha revelado una forma muy distinta (por ejemplo, probablemente carecían de techo), y una fecha que se remonta a la segunda mitad el IV milenio a.C. cal., esto es, varios siglos después de las primeras “casas de madera”. A través de una elaboración de los resultados de las excavaciones, de las marcas de cultivo, y de evidencia procedente de fuera de Escocia, este trabajo debatirá la evolución en forma y función de la tradición de la “casa de madera” neolítica en Escocia, sosteniendo que las grandes casas techadas fueron sustituidas más adelante por casas cultuales, ceremoniales y mortuorias, basadas en memoria social y tradición.

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Artikel behandelt eine kleine Gruppe Neolitischer Monumente, die im östlichen schottischen Tiefland als Vegetationsverfärbungen erfasst und als Holzhallen bezeichnet wurden. Das bekannteste Exemplar ist das große rechteckige Gebäude von Balbridie. Drei dieser Fundstellen sind mittlerweile ergraben, besitzen größtenteils vergleichbare Strukturen und können in die frühen Jahrhunderte des Neolithikums datiert werden; weitere mögliche Exemplare, die als Vegetationsverfärbungen erfasst wurden, werden in dem Artikel untersucht. Dabei wird der Gebrauch des Begriffs, Holzhalle' in der schottischen Archäologie über die letzten 40 Jahre näher betrachtet. Weiterhin wird eine Reihe von Fundstellen untersucht, die vergleichbare Ausmaße und Architekturmerkmale aufweisen. Die Ausgrabungen haben aber gezeigt, dass diese letzteren sehr unterschiedliche Formen besitzen (sie besaßen z.B. sehr wahrscheinlich kein Dach) und in die zweite Hälfte des 4. Jahrtausends cal BC zu datieren sind, d.h. mehrere Jahrhunderte später als die ersten Holzhallen. Der Artikel baut auf den Ausgrabungsergebnissen, den Vegetationsverfärbungen und Funden außerhalb Schottlands auf, und diskutiert die sich verändernde Form und Funktion der Neolithischen, Holzhallen' Tradition in Schottland. Weiterhin wird erläutert, dass die mit einem Dach versehenen, Großhäuser' später durch zeremonielle Toten-‘Kulthäuser’ ersetzt wurden, wobei Themen wie soziales Gedächtnis und Tradition in die Analyse mit einbezogen werden.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2007

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