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Title: Assembling the dead : early Neolithic non-megalithic mortuary structures in Britain, Denmark and northern Germany
Authors: Ahlers, Mareike
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Long barrow monuments, which emerge during the Earlier Neolithic, mark a new conception of land, society and cosmology – ideological changes that accompanied the major economic changes heralded by the transformation of hunter-gatherer society to farmers. This research project primarily focuses on the mortuary features found underneath earthen barrows, and synthesises and reassesses the evidence from Britain and the northern Funnel Beaker Complex (TRB) in Denmark and northern Germany. Data has been systematically gathered from 159 British, 56 Danish and 47 German sites. Although some structures, such as split-post-arrangements show striking similarities throughout the distribution areas, the differences in the treatment of the dead are more prominent than the architectural commonalities. While collective and successive burials within one mortuary feature are seen as the norm in the British Isles, TRB sites are focused on single inhumation with separate successive mortuary structures. This thesis argues that TRB mortuary constructions reflected indigenous burial traditions, whereas the British Isles have seen more influences from continental Europe. It argues that, while there was a pan-regional set of cosmological beliefs that stretched throughout northern Europe and manifests in long barrow building, individual mortuary structures also exhibit a range of varied traits related to local concerns about relations with and between the dead. These individual communities were defined by their own agenda according to their specific religious and cosmological ideologies, and the acts of building and using mortuary structures reflected the variability of the treatment of the dead. The traditional oral knowledge, which was vital for the survival of prehistoric communities, could have been curated through ‘Big Man’ like individuals or groups who organised large scale monumental structures such as long barrows. These sites were the locales for the transfer of knowledge and reinforcement of cosmological ideologies through social interactions between the living and the dead
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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