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The Mesolithic Inheritance: Contrasting Neolithic Monumentality in Eastern and Western Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

Denise Telford
Affiliation:
44 Hamilton Place, Flat 3F1, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AX

Abstract

Generalised socio-economic models have in the past been applied wholesale to Neolithic monuments throughout Scotland without taking the country's diverse physical landscape and cultural histories into account. This paper explores whether regional variations in Neolithic monumentality can be paralleled with earlier Mesolithic disparities, and considers to what extent, with the introduction of agriculture, contemporary social systems and thus the ideology underlying monumental construction was affected by geographical factors.

It is suggested that:

• Contrasts during the Mesolithic between the Western seaboard and the Eastern lowlands/South-east Scotland continue throughout the Neolithic.

• The different functions of monuments during the Early Neolithic are generally dictated by divergent topography in Eastern and Western Scotland.

• By the later Neolithic social hierarchies emerged in regions suited to agricultural development.

Résumé

Dans le passé, on a appliqué sans discrimination des modèles socio-économiques généralisés à l'ensemble des monuments néolithiques écossais sans tenir compte de la diversité du paysage physique et des histoires culturelles de ce pays. Cette étude examine si les variations régionales dans le mégalithisme néolithique ont un parallèle dans les disparités mésolithiques antérieures et considère jusqu'à quel point, avec l'introduction de l'agriculture, les systèmes sociaux contemporains et donc l'idéologie sous-jacente à la construction de mégalithes a été affectée par des facteurs géographiques. On émet l'hypothèse que:

1) les contrastes qui existaient au mésolithique entre la côte ouest et les basses terres du sud-est de l'Ecosse se prolongèrent tout au long du néolithique,

2) les différentes fonctions des mégalithes au cours du néolithique tardif furent généralement dictées par une topographie divergente à l'est et à l'ouest de l'Ecosse, et

3) venu le néolithique final, des hiérarchies sociales avaient fait leur apparition dans des régions propres au développement de l'agriculture.

Resúmen

Modelos generalizados de tipo socio-económico se han aplicado en el pasado para todos los monumentos neolíticos en Escocia, sin tener en cuenta la diversidad física del paisaje y sus distintas historias culturales. Este trabajo investiga la posibilidad de que las variaciones regionales en la monumentalidad neolítica puedan ser paralelas a anteriores diferencias durante el mesolítico, y considera hasta qué punto, con la introducción de la agricultura, los sistemas sociales de aquella época, y por tanto la ideología en los que se basaba la construcción de monumentos, fue afectada por factores geográficos. Sugerimos que:

1) los contrastes durante el mesolítico entre la zona costera occidental y la planicie oriental/sureste de Escocia continuaron a lo largo del neolítico;

2) que las diferentes funciones de los monumentos durante la primera parte del neolítico por lo general estuvieron dictadas por la diferencias en topografía entre el este y el oeste de Escocia; y

3) que en la última parte del neolítico emergieron jerarquías sociales en las regiones más aptas para el desarrollo agrícola.

Zusammenfassung

In der Vergangenheit wurden generalisierte sozioökonomische Modelle auf sämtliche neolithischen Monumente in ganz Schottland angewandt ohne die unterschiedliche physische Landschaft und die verschiedenen Kulturgeschichten des Landes zu berücksichtigen. Dieser Artikel untersucht, ob regionale Variationen in neolithischer Monumentalität mit vorausgehenden mesolithischen Disparitäten parallelisiert werden kann, und diskutiert das Ausmaß, mit dem mit der Einführung der Landwirtschaft zeitgleiche Sozialsysteme und damit auch die der Errichtung von Monumenten unterliegende Ideologie von geographischen Faktoren beeinflusst wurden. Als Interpretation wird vorgeschlagen, dass erstens Gegensätze zwischen der Westküste und den östlichen Lowlands bzw. Südostschottland, die während des Mesolithikums bestanden, im Neolithikum andauerten; zweitens die unterschiedlichen Funktionen von Monumenten während des Frühneolithikums generell durch die abweichende Topographie in Ost- und Westschottland vorgegeben wurden; und drittens während des jüngeren Neolithikums soziale Hierarchien in jenen Regionen entstanden, die für eine landwirtschaftliche Entwicklung geeignet waren.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2002

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