All cultural things
DOI link for All cultural things
All cultural things book
The construction of monuments in Early Neolithic Britain has been understood as a fundamental shift in the way people understood their place in the world. For many years the beginnings of monument construction were equated with the onset of agriculture (e.g. Clark 1966; Daniel 1962; Piggott 1954; Sherratt 1990; 1995). It now seems clear, however, that monuments may not be a consequence of economic change (Bradley 1993, 9-18; Thomas 1999, 16; Tilley 1994; 1996; Whittle 1996). Hodder, for example, conceptualised the beginning of the Neolithic as the ‘domestication of society’ (Hodder 1990, 30). This view of the Neolithic was directly concerned with oppositions between wild and domestic and culture and nature. The transformation of the wild into the cultural was seen to manifest itself in different ways throughout Europe; in Britain, monuments expressed the domestication of the wild, society and nature (Hodder 1990, 154). More recently, this approach has been criticised as it is evident that the dichotomy of culture and nature is a modern conception of
the world (Bender 2000, 25; Sharples 2000, 108; Tilley et al. 2000). Prior to the advent of geology as an academic discipline, the difference between natural and constructed features may have been rather ambiguous (Bradley 2000, 34). Archaeologists are trained to look at the world in a certain way and to distinguish between natural rock outcrops and artiﬁcial architecture, but this may not always have been the case. This ambiguity has been discussed by Richard Bradley (1998a) in relation to the portal dolmens of south-west England. Bradley suggests that these monuments were not simply imitating local tors, since portal dolmens occur in other parts of the landscape where such features are absent. They may, however, reflect an understanding of natural formations which was rather different to our own. He argues that people may have thought that these places were built, and the construction of Neolithic tombs was, in many respects, the continuation or recreation of an ancestral tradition (Bradley 1998a, 20).