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Neolithic of the Irish Sea zone

Vicki Cummings

Funded by the British Academy and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, I have been investigating the landscape setting of all of the early Neolithic chambered tombs in the Irish Sea zone. There are concentrations of early Neolithic monuments in west Wales, south-west Scotland and eastern Ireland, a diverse range of over 500 sites. Each site, however, seems to have been very carefully located in the landscape. In particular, I have shown that chambered tombs are repeatedly located in relation to mountains and the sea. I suggest that people were deliberately building sites in these landscape locations all around the Irish Sea. I have argued that this phenomenon does not relate to the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition, but to a reaction to this transition phase. I argue that the construction of monuments was a reaction to the arrival of new forms of material culture. In certain places, landscapes with a rich cultural history, it became appropriate to construct megalithic monuments. These monuments not only marked out key locations in a new Neolithic landscape but referenced previous conceptions of the world. Once constructed, these monuments then played a key role in the development of a Neolithic way of life, which, long-term, marked a radical departure from what had come before.

Publications

Cummings, V. forthcoming. A view from the west: the Neolithic of the Irish Sea zone. Oxford: Oxbow.

Cummings, V. 2007. From midden to megalith ? The Mesolithic/Neolithic transition in western Britain. In A. Whittle and V. Cummings (eds), Going over: the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in NW Europe. London: British Academy.

Cummings, V. 2007. Megalithic journeys: moving around the megalithic landscapes of Neolithic western Britain. In V. Cummings and R. Johnston (eds), Prehistoric journeys. Oxford: Oxbow.

Cummings, V. and Whittle, A. 2004. Places of special virtue: megaliths in the Neolithic landscapes of Wales. Oxford: Oxbow.