Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and Mediterranean Island Ritual [Hardback]

George Nash (Editor); Andrew Townsend (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781785700507 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2016 | Language: English 304p, H279 x W215 (mm) black/white illustrations

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Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and Mediterranean Island Ritual


What constitutes an island and the archaeology contained within? Is it the physicality of its boundary (between shoreline and sea)? Does this physical barrier extend further into a watery zone? Archaeologically, can islands be defined by cultural heritage and influence? Clearly, and based on these few probing questions, islands are more than just lumps of rock and earth sitting in the middle of a sea or ocean.

An island is a space which, when described in terms of topography, landscape form and resources, becomes a place. A place can sometimes be delineated with barriers and boundaries; it may also have a perimeter and can be distinguished from the space that surrounds it. The 16 papers presented here explore the physicality, and levels of insularity of individual islands and island groups during prehistory through a series of case studies on Neolithic island archaeology in the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. For the eastern Atlantic (the Atlantic Archipelago) papers discuss the sacred geographies and material culture of Neolithic Gotland, Orkney, and Anglesey and the architecture of and ritual behaviour associated with megalithic monuments in the Channel Islands and the Scilly Isles.

The Mediterranean region is represented by a different type of Neolithic, both in terms of architecture and material culture. Papers discuss theoretical constructs and ritual deposition, cave sites, ritualised and religious aspects of Neolithic death and burial; metaphysical journeys associated with the underworld in Late Neolithic Malta and the possible role of its Temple Period art in ritual activities; and palaeoenvironmental evidence from the Neolithic monuments of Corsica.

The cases examined illustrate the diversity of the evidence available that affords a better understanding of the European-Mediterranean Neolithic 'island society', not least the effects of interaction/contact and/or geographical insularity/isolation, all factors that are considered to have consequences for the establishment and modification of cultures in island settings.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Towards an Island Narrative
George Nash & Andrew Townsend
    1. Collective spaces and material expressions: Ritual practice and island identities in Neolithic Gotland
Paul Wallin & Helene Martinsson-Wallin
2. Your House or Mine Tomb? Exploring the Interrelationship between Chambered Cairns and Settlements during the Orcadian Neolithic through the Ordering of Space
Christopher J. Kerns
3. An island archaeology of Neolithic Ynys Môn (Anglesey)
Gary Robinson
4. Uniformity and Uniqueness: the extraordinary Scillonian entrance graves
Laurie Waite
5. Ritual Competition in the Final Neolithic of the Channel Islands
Paul-David Driscoll
6. Establishing a diverse architecture: Contextualising the Delancey Park gallery grave, north-east Guernsey
George Nash
7. Re-viewing the Megaliths of Northern Guernsey
Kevin Jelly
8. Defying Expectations: Neolithic Life in the Isles of Scilly
Trevor Kirk
9. Rite to Memory: Neolithic Depositional Histories of an Adriatic Cave
Timothy Kaiser & Stašo Forenbaher
10. Moving Worlds: Memory, Mobility and Mortality in the Aceramic Neolithic of Cyprus
Paula L. Lutescu-Jones
11. Ritual and Religion in Neolithic Crete?
Alan Peatfield
12. Ancestors in the Rock: A New Evaluation of the Development and Utilisation of Rock-Cut Tombs in Copper Age Sicily (4000-3000 cal BC)
Jennifer Wexler
13. Journeys through the underworld in Late Neolithic Malta
Reuben Grima
14. Searching Beyond the Artefact for Ritual Practices: Evidence for Ritual Surrounding the Unclothed Human Body on Prehistoric Malta during the Temple Period
Andrew Townsend
15. The Neolithic in La Balagne, Corsica: an evaluation using palynological, geoarchaeological and landscape archaeological data
Keith N. Wilkinson, Nicholas P. Branch, Marcos Llobera, Nathalie A.F. Marini, Sylvain Mazet & Michel-Claude Weiss
16. Houses fit for deceased dwellers: Assessing architectural devices within the rock-cut tombs of North-Western Sardinia
Paola Arosio, Diego Meozz, Antonello Porcu & George Nash

Reviews & Quotes

"It is [the] comparative approach, of islands both north and south of the main European landmass, that is the volume's strength, as rarely have they been brought into direct comparison."
Penny Bickle
Current Archaeology

"In summing up; it is a worthwhile volume to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it!"
Tore Lomsdalen
Journal of Skyscape Archaeology (25/02/2019)

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