The Neolithic and early Bronze Age in the Firth of Clyde

Hughes, Isobel Mary (1987) The Neolithic and early Bronze Age in the Firth of Clyde. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is a study of the record of the monuments of the Firth of Clyde region in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Six type monuments which were the foci of ritual and/or burial practices during this period are considered: chambered cairns of the Neolithic, stone circles, standing stones, cup-marked rocks, early Bronze Age burial cairns and unmarked burial monuments. A difference from previous work is the historical perspective of the research. This marks a departure from traditional period based studies, while investigation at a regional level avoids the restrictions of more localised research. The monuments are placed as far as possible in the context of the social relations and routines of everyday life in which they played a part, and transformations which took place are identified in a synthesis of the monument record through time. A catalogue of sites is provided. This was compiled in a form suitable for computer analysis, and a package of computer programmes prepared with specific purposes in view. Quantitative analyses of the frequency of occurrence, spatial distribution and relationship to eight locational factors are carried out for each of the type monuments at the regional level and for sub-regions identified within the study area. The results are discussed in the light of a systematic study of the effects on the formation of the archaeological record of social and economic development in the area of study over the last two hundred years, and in relation to the findings from reviews which are undertaken of the evidence of Mesolithic activity, of settlement and cultural evidence and of environmental studies. Additional insights are gained from considering the architectural form of the monuments in relation to meaning and function. One aspect of the study thus concerns the observation of changes in the relationships between the living and the past, or between the living and the dead, from the spatial location and topographical positioning of monuments, while another concerns the ways in which these are reflected in the architectural form and function of the monuments. It is found that the spatial division of the region in the Neolithic indicates that the chambered cairns do not reflect the full extent of settlement and farming, and that their occurrence, as occasional foci in the landscape, is closely related to land use traditions established in the Mesolithic. With the transition to the Bronze Age a different spatial division is seen to emerge in which stone circles are located in a small number of particular locations, whereas the burial cairns and unmarked burials occur throughout the region, and appear to be much more closely related to areas of settlement than were chambered cairns. Standing stones are known in association with both ceremonial and burial monuments, and their distribution also suggests areas of settlement. Many aspects of cup-marked rocks remain enigmatic, but they seem to represent ritual activity of a different kind, which may have taken place mainly in areas marginal to the main foci of other activities. The island of Arran is found to have played a distinctive role within the region. This cautions against regarding Arran as a typical example of monumentality on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. Traditions and practices were established in the Mesolithic which were seen to have contributed to this development. In addition it is likely that its physical prominence made it a natural reference point for the region, which through its central location was focal to maritime communications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Barrett, Mr. J.C. and Morrison, Dr. A.
Date of Award: 1987
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:1987-1174
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:35

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