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Time Signatures: The Temporality of Monuments in Early and Middle Neolithic Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2020

Richard Bradley
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, Whiteknights Box 227, Reading RG6 6AB, UK. Email: r.j.bradley@reading.ac.uk
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Analysis of radiocarbon dates has established the chronological contexts of three kinds of Neolithic monument in Britain: long mounds or long cairns, causewayed enclosures, and cursuses. It is more difficult to appreciate how such structures developed over time. The building of a barrow or cairn was sometimes the final act in a place that had already experienced a longer history. The construction of the monument brought activities to an end, and the site was effectively closed. Individual sequences were shorter than once thought but might be repeated at different locations over several hundred years.

On the other hand, the construction of causewayed enclosures according to a widely accepted template occurred almost simultaneously. Once those earthworks were established some went out of use, but a few others were adapted and changed so that they could play an increasing variety of roles over a longer period. The same contrasts are illustrated by cursuses. Timber structures in the north had finite histories before they decayed or were destroyed by fire, whilst earthworks had a wider distribution and enjoyed a longer currency. A similar approach might shed light on later monuments, including henges, stone circles, and round barrows. It is important to consider how the chronologies of all these structures are related to past conceptions of time.

Résumé

RÉSUMÉ

Signatures du temps: Temporalitédes monuments de la Grande-Bretagne du Néolithique ancien et moyen de Richard Bradley

Une analyse de dates au C14 a établit les contextes chronologiques de trois types de monuments néolithiques en Grande-Bretagne: les tertres allongés ou longs cairns (long mounds’), les enceintes à talus et fossé (causewayed enclosures’), et les cursus Il est plus difficile de comprendre comment de telles structures se sont développées au cours du temps. La construction d’un tertre ou d’un cairn était parfois le dernier geste à un endroit qui avait déjà fait l’expérience d’une longue histoire La construction du monument mettait un point final aux activités et le site était effectivement fermé. Les séquences individuelles étaient plus courtes qu’on ne l’avait imaginé à à un certain temps mais pouvaient se répéter en différents lieux sur une période de plusieurs centaines d’années.

D’un autre côté, la construction des enceintes s à allées empierrées, selon un modèle communément accepté se déroula presque simultanément. Une fois que les travaux de terrassement furent accomplis certaines cessèrent d’être utilisées mais quelques autres furent adaptées et modifiées si bien qu’elles purent jouer une variété foissante de rôles sur une plus longue période. Ces mêmes contrastes ont illustrés par les cursus; les structures en bois dans le nord avaient des histoires limitées dans le temps avant de tomber en ruines ou d’être détruites par le feu tandis que les travaux de terrassement avaient une répartition plus étendue et jouissaient d’une plus longue durée de vie. Une approche similaire pourrait nous éclairer sur des monuments plus tardifs, y compris tels que les cromlechs, les cercles de pierres dressées et les tertres ronds. Il est important de considérer comment les chronologies de toutes ces structures sont liées à des conceptions anciennnes du temps.

Zusammenfassung

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG

Zeitsignaturen: Die Zeitlichkeit von Monumenten im frühen und mittleren Neolithikum Großbritanniens, von Richard Bradley

Mit Hilfe der Auswertung von Radiokarbondaten konnten die chronologischen Kontexte von drei Arten von neolithischen Monumenten in Großbritannien festgestellt werden: von Langhügeln („long mounds“ oder „long cairns“), von „causewayed enclosures“ und von „cursus“ Monumenten. Wie sich derartige Architekturen im Lauf der Zeit entwickelten, ist schwieriger zu bewerten. Das Errichten eines Hügels war manchmal der finale Akt an einem Ort, der bereits eine längere Geschichte erfahren hatte. Der Bau des Monuments führte Aktivitäten zu einem Ende und der Platz wurde endgültig versiegelt. Individuelle Sequenzen waren dabei oft kürzer als zunächst angenommen, doch könnten sie an verschiedenen Stellen über mehrere hundert Jahre wiederholt worden sein.

Andererseits wird weithin akzeptiert, dass causewayed enclosures fast zeitgleich angelegt wurden. Sobald diese Erdwerke fertiggestellt waren, wurden einige davon nicht weiter genutzt, während andere angepasst und verändert wurden, so dass sie über einen längeren Zeitraum eine wachsende Zahl an Rollen spielen konnten. Die gleichen Unterschiede sind bei cursus-Monumenten erkennbar. Holzstrukturen hatten im Norden begrenzte Biographien bevor sie zerfielen oder durch Feuer zerstört wurden, während Erdwerke eine größere Verbreitung hatten und länger in Gebrauch waren. Ein vergleichbarer Ansatz könnte Licht auf spätere Monumente werfen wie z.B. Henges, Steinkreise und runde Hügel. Es ist wichtig zu bedenken, wie die Chronologien all dieser Strukturen mit vergangenen Zeitvorstellungen verknüpft sind.

Resumen

RESUMEN

Tiempos distintivos: la temporalidad de los monumentos en el Neolítico inicial y medio de Gran Bretaña, por Richard Bradley

El análisis de las dataciones radiocarbónicas ha permitido establecer el contexto cronológico de tres tipos de monumentos neolíticos en Gran Bretaña: los túmulos alargados (‘long mounds’ o ‘long cairns’), los recintos de fosos (‘causewayed enclosures’) y los cursus. Sin embargo, es más difícil apreciar cómo estas estructuras se desarrollan a lo largo del tiempo. La construcción de los túmulos alargados fue, en ocasiones, el evento final, en un lugar que contaba previamente con una larga historia. La construcción del monumento supuso el final de las actividades y el sitio fue efectivamente cerrado. Las secuencias individuales fueron más cortas de lo que inicialmente se consideró, pero podían repetirse en diferentes lugares durante varios cientos de años.

Por otro lado, la construcción de los recintos de fosos atendiendo a la gran variedad de casos bien aceptados debió ocurrir prácticamente de forma simultánea. Una vez que estas construcciones fueron establecidas, algunas de ellas quedaron en desuso aunque en otros casos fueron adaptadas y modificadas de tal manera que jugaron una gran variedad de roles durante un gran período de tiempo. El mismo contraste se ilustra en los curcus. Las estructuras de poste de madera en el norte tuvieron historias previas a su degradación o destrucción por el fuego, mientras que los movimientos de tierra tuvieron una distribución más amplia y disfrutaron de una mayor popularidad. Un enfoque similar podría arrojar luz sobre los monumentos posteriores, incluidos los henge, círculos de piedra y los túmulos redondos. Es importante considerar cómo las cronologías de todas estas estructuras están relacionadas con las concepciones pasadas del tiempo.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Prehistoric Society, 2020

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