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Building for the Dead: Events, Processes and Changing Worldviews from the Thirty-eighth to the Thirty-fourth Centuries cal. BC in Southern Britain

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  • Cotswold Archaeology, Cirencester, United Kingdom

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Our final paper in this series reasserts the importance of sequence. Stressing that long barrows, long cairns and associated structures do not appear to have begun before the thirty-eighth century cal. BC in southern Britain, we give estimates for the relative order of construction and use of the five monuments analysed in this programme. The active histories of monuments appear often to be short, and the numbers in use at any one time may have been relatively low; we discuss time in terms of generations and individual lifespans. The dominant mortuary rite may have been the deposition of articulated remains (though there is much diversity); older or ancestral remains are rarely documented, though reference may have been made to ancestors in other ways, not least through architectural style and notions of the past. We relate these results not only to trajectories of monument development, but also to two models of development in the first centuries of the southern British Neolithic as a whole. In the first, monuments emerge as symptomatic of preeminent groups; in the second model, monuments are put in a more gradualist and episodic timescale and related to changing kinds of self-consciousness (involving senses of self, relations with animals and nature, perceptions of the body, awareness of mortality and attitudes to the past). Both more distant and more recent and familiar possible sources of inspiration for monumentalization are considered, and the diversity of situations in which mounds were constructed is stressed. More detailed Neolithic histories can now begin to be written.
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... used over a short period beginning in the late thirty-eighth/early thirty-seventh centuries cal. BC 2007c;Meadows et al. 2007;Whittle et al. 2007a;Wysocki et al. 2007; see also Darvill 2004). General parallels have of course long been drawn between British Cotswold-Severn tombs and Irish court tombs and they, together with the 'Clyde' chambered tombs of south-west Scotland, do seem to present variations on a common theme, though the details are debated, especially as regards the perennial question of origins (Childe 1940;Corcoran 1969;Collins 1973;de Valéra 1961;Evans 1938b;Piggott 1954;Scott 1962). ...
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