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Assembly and collection -- lithic complexes in the Cambridgeshire Fenlands. Evaluation of the prehistoric landscape features on Sizergh Fell, Helsington, Cumbria.

Landscapes, Monuments and Memory, 1st Edition

Fieldwork at Great Langdale, Cumbria, preliminary report. Fieldwork at Great Langdale, Cumbria, interim report. Gardom's Edge: a landscape through time.

Lezersrecensie van 'Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic'

Inhabitation and access: landscape and the Internet at Gardom's Edge. Lithic exploitation and use. Lithics and Early Neolithic enclosures.


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These identities are difficult to grasp, but many would have been brought into sharp relief during events at monuments. And this participation and understanding would not remain static. What could be done or said, where a person could or could not go, would change according to context and audience, as people got older, were initiated, became married or widowed.

This idea takes us beyond monuments themselves. Whilst acknowledging their power and the drama of ritual performance, we have to work between these settings and the landscapes of the everyday. Unless we explore the conditions under which people came together at important times and places, we cannot begin to understand the particular purposes they served.

We cannot ask how rituals were woven into cycles of routine experience, and we miss how routine itself was caught up in social reproduction. It is here that we encounter problems in both conventional and more avant-garde archaeological writing. Discussions of daily and seasonal life and of feast days and ritual are separated by changes in the questions we ask and the imposition of rigid divisions: Sacred and Profane; Ceremonial and Everyday; Public and Domestic.

Brought into play in the study of sites and artefacts, these divisions are also mapped out across regions.

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We maintain a distinction between sacred landscapes and the secular spaces of settlement and subsistence. This imbalance can be traced in a contrast of writing. The times and places of overt ritual are often explored through a rich and subtle vocabulary. Memory and movement are brought into focus, as are people and artefacts, and ways of speaking and acting can seem highly charged. This is often justified, but discussions of living and working can seem quite stark by comparison. Abstracted models or mundane descriptions, they often seem to obscure the character and craft of daily and seasonal life.

More often than not, we seem to imply that the landscape of routine is shaped solely by resource availability, risk and the practical constraints of topography. There is little discussion of the attitudes and values that were woven into daily and seasonal practice. Above all else, our accounts of settlement and subsistence are remarkably static. This again is something rarely explored. These distinctions say rather more about us than they do about people in the earlier Neolithic. We create, through our narratives, a division between Ancestral geographies of the Neolithic 9 sacred and secular.

We assume that these spheres can be bracketed off from one another: on one side a ritual world full of symbolic meaning; on the other, a pragmatic, common-sense world of getting on with things and making a living. The irony is that even in our own lives, these rigid divisions are a chimera. Whilst there are times and places that we recognise through formal rituals, our everyday lives are bound up by routines that are themselves symbolic.

The ways in which we use domestic space, take decisions and act as we work, shop or laze around; all are informed by values which go beyond simple questions of utility.

There are, in all contexts, right ways, right times, right places and wrong ones. This is how we become socialised and how social relations are reproduced. The ritual and symbolism of everyday life may be less explicit or obvious than that of more formal, sacred times and places— it often appears to us as common sense, or part of human nature—but it is all the more powerful precisely because it is taken for granted.

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Placed beyond question for much of the time, the values caught up in routine life help to reaffirm some of the familiar landmarks of the social world. Landscapes are subjective, understood as much by ways of acting as by ways of seeing. As such, they are contexts in which people can also question, baulk, negotiate and disrupt. So, alongside the study of the more formal times and places, we need to ask how the pattern and tempo of day-to-day life in the earlier Neolithic acted as a medium through which ideas and values were taken on board.

We need to understand how, under certain conditions, practical routines carried forward particular concepts of identity, community and authority. Once again, these ideas are easy to assert, and some might argue that a shift of focus is forced upon us by our evidence. By contrast, the traces of daily life can seem ephemeral, encouraging discussion at a more general level.


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Here we must be careful. There may be differences in the character of our evidence and in the scales at which it is resolved. In each case, however, we are dealing with traditions, ways of thinking and acting which can be followed across space and through time. We need to ask how those threads were woven if we are to have any chance of catching the purposes that each may have served. That question takes us back to Hambledon. Despite the level of survival and a wealth of excavation, there is much we do not understand and even more we cannot know about the significance that this place held for communities in the fourth millennium.

All we have are fragments. We assemble these in a world shaped by very different values and desires, and these, in 10 Settings and scenes their turn, shape the pasts that we write.

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Even so, the evidence is such that it may still be possible to trace some of the contours of the time. One thing at least is clear: any attempt to make sense of monuments like those on the hill must work at several scales. The characteristics of these places must feature prominently, as must the manner in which they changed over time. Also, the focus must be broader, following the more routine, dispersed traditions that curled round these enigmatic times and places. While there is much that will remain elusive, the sketches that follow try to catch something of what it was to inhabit what we call the earlier Neolithic.

He took a twist of dried meat from the bag at his side and drew his shoulders in towards the heat; a little further from the snow outside. Others sat close by, hands working back and forth unnoticed across hide and wood. Where the shadows met the wall, the older children listened absent mindedly, familiar with the path the tale would take.

There was no colour and no time, no smoke and no tracks.