Sacral Landscapes: Narratives of the Megalith in North Western Europe
Sanders, Jeffrey R
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The construction of archaeological narrative is influenced by a number of factors. Some come from within disciplinary boundaries, whilst others are traced from the wider influences of social, cultural or academic contexts. This thesis examines three areas identified as Neolithic ‘landscapes’, all of which have been the subject of archaeological investigation since the 19th century. The history of research of these areas allows an evaluation of how these disparate influences interact. In this way, the three landscapes act as an arena in which to explore aspects of the archaeological approach itself. This leads to a critical examination of the interpretative tools available to the archaeologist. How concepts such as ‘landscape’ are formed and affect discourse is explored. Wider themes of demarcation, typology and the underlying assumptions of research are investigated in relation to the interpretation of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of North Western Europe. The large span of time that these periods encompass allows exploration of change from the short to very long term, although this is not always utilised within archaeological accounts. The treatment of time is therefore considered in conjunction with explanations of change in prehistory. A powerful approach to time is suggested by combining aspects of the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Fernand Braudel and the potential for this is evaluated against the archaeological record of the three areas. How the assumptions of the archaeological approach are acted out within the historiography of each area highlights a number of recurring metaphors that are used to interpret the material record. These promote a portrayal of Neolithic life that combines with the range of influences from the history of archaeology itself to promote an idea of the prehistoric mentalité. A very durable and underlying type that constantly resurfaces in these accounts is the idea of the ‘sacral landscape’, which is the central topic of this thesis.