De-henging the henge: a biographical approach to Scotland's henge monuments

Younger, Rebecca Kirsty (2015) De-henging the henge: a biographical approach to Scotland's henge monuments. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2015youngerphd.pdf] PDF
Download (6MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


Henges are circular earthwork monuments built from the 32nd-17th centuries BC throughout the British Isles. Seen as a discrete monument ‘type’ since the early 1930s, they comprise a morphologically-varied group of sites. Excavations of henges have demonstrated them to be multi-phase sites which were repeatedly returned to, reused and rebuilt over thousands of years. The earthworks so often seen as the defining feature of henge sites are increasingly recognised as a ‘late’ addition to existing sites which were already long-established as significant places in the landscape.

The key aim of this thesis is to ‘de-henge’ henges, removing the focus from the final morphology of monuments to instead consider how henge sites were used and transformed throughout their lives. It reinterprets henge sites in Scotland, a previously neglected corpus of sites, using a biographical approach to understand the significance of the transformations effected at henge sites over time, and consider aspects of both tradition/continuity, and change/innovation over time. Henge sites are interpreted as places of commemoration where people encountered, mediated and re-negotiated their pasts and present.

The research explores relationships with the past and the creation of memory at henge sites during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age in Scotland. It is argued that this occurred through monument construction, destruction, rebuilding and reuse; but can be best understood by focusing not only on monumental architecture, but also on the (re)use of materials and material culture, the control and manipulation of sensory experiences of (monumental) spaces, and the relationships between henge sites and other spheres of prehistoric life and death, such as house architecture, farming practices, uses of fire and the burial of (fragments of) people and objects. The thesis discusses these themes through comparison of the biographies of case study sites from Scotland, and contextualises these with reference to henge sites elsewhere in the British Mainland. The reinterpretations of Scottish henges presented in the thesis, and the approaches used, represent a contribution not only to the study of henge monuments, but also have implications for the interpretation and understanding of prehistoric monumentality more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: henge, monument, commemoration, monument biography, Scottish Neolithic, Scottish Chalcolithic, Scottish Early Bronze Age
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Brophy, Dr. Kenny
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Ms Rebecca Kirsty Younger
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6456
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 12:15
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2015 13:08

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year