Houses, bodies and tombs

Richard Bradley

in Going Over: The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in North-West Europe

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264140
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734489 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy 144

Houses, bodies and tombs

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The house is among the features that are supposed to characterize early farming. Its presence implies sedentism, while its absence suggests a mobile pattern of settlement. That idea raises many problems. What applies to individual houses also applies to settlements. British archaeologists have been frustrated by their inability to locate what they had expected to find. If people were growing crops and raising livestock, then surely they must have occupied more substantial shelters than mobile hunter-gatherers, and their living sites ought to be easier to identify. That has been difficult to demonstrate, with the result that at different times a wide variety of earthwork enclosures have been claimed as permanent settlements; ditches and pits have been recruited as subterranean dwellings; and even mortuary monuments have been assigned to the living rather than the dead. This chapter argues that the survival of houses has been given an importance that it cannot support. It suggests that the reason why the field evidence poses so many problems is because the histories of the buildings in which people had lived were reflected by the ways in which their bodies were treated when they died.

Keywords: Neolithic; houses; dwellings; settlements; dead bodies

Chapter.  3916 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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