I recently argued this point in an essay for my Ba course and I used the
early monuments as an example. If we take Newgrange or Dowth as examples in
Ireland the question raised would be why did Neolithic man place such great
monuments upon highly fertile land if they were farming? My argument being
that the land close to the Boyne river would have been ideal for arable
production and by placing these 'houses for the dead' on such a site was in
fact taking the land out of comission.
If we turn to England itself you are quite right to suggest that there is no
evidence to support a transitional period however can we really believe that
the Mesolithic came to an end overnight and the Neolithic way of life began.
Tilley (1994) suggests that where no long barrows or causewayed enclosures
exist in southern Britain and Wales there is little or no Mesolithic
activity but where these do occur the evidence ofr such activity is
substantial. Now if we accept the dating of these monuments to the
early/middle Neolithic then we could suggest and argue for the transitional
period to be ongoing. The question arises as to whether we can argue for
this from burial practices or not. Edomonds 1999, Parker Pearson 1999,
Tilley 1994 all seem to do this. Tilley for example suggests that these
burial monuments were used to domesticate the prior untamed land. Again in
my opinion these arguments lead the reader to the idea that what we are
seeing is a transitional period.
Towards the end of The neolithic period burial practices changed and the
movement from multiple people interred such as at Newgrange or West Kennet
ended and more single or double burials occurred. I argued that this could
represent the shift from a pastoral way of life/ community living to a
sedentary ( yes that was what I meant in my last post )/family group way of
life. I also argued for the earlier monuments to be seen as permanent
marker points similar to the sign posts we have today and that they were
returned to at certain times of the year. Maes Howe for example which is
illuminated on the rising sun at the Winter Solstice.
The essay I wrote left me asking more questions than it answered. Where is
the evidence for the change from Pastoral to Sedentary if not in the
monuments themselves? Why have so few Mesolithic sites been discovered in
Britain compared to Western Europe and Ireland? Why should we assume that
Early/middle Neolithic man was sedentary when so little evidence is
available to support this idea?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Cole Henley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Languages in Prehistoric Britain
On Sat, 6 Jan 2007 21:52:10 -0000, Rob <[log in to unmask]>
>Am I right in suggesting by Neolithic way of life you mean the later
>Neolithic because there is evidence out there to suggest that the early and
>middly Neolithic period still saw seasonal movements rather than a Sedatary
>way of life
Assuming you mean sedentary rather than sedatary - unless Neolithic people
were indeed quite sedate (which I doubt).
I would say that stating early and middle Neolithic populations as mobile,
even seasonally, is a bit of a generalisation and I would argue reflects the
desire by most recent scholars of the British Neolithic period to see
continuity between the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, not because the
evidence suggests it (when it seldom does - particularly given the lack of
any Mesolithic-Neolithic transition sites in Britain) but because under the
current paradigm it is unfashionable to suggest that influences for change
might have been anything other than indigenous. I support that the
evidence, in Britain at least, is for a greater degree of sedentism in the
Later Neolithic than had previously been the case but I believe that it is a
generalisation to say that the Early and Middle Neolithic periods
But then that is another topic altogether...
No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.432 / Virus Database: 268.16.7/619 - Release Date: 07/01/2007