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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Ritual and Monumentality in North-West Europe: Mid-6th to Mid-3rd Millennium BC (PGHC11073)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe megalithic and ceremonial sites represent some of the most tangible prehistoric remains in North-West Europe and many interesting and contrasting views occupy much of the megalithic research agenda. In general the course aims to provide students with an in-depth exploration of a major pan-European prehistoric phenomenon addressing major archaeological themes such as landscape, architecture, society, cosmology, death and beliefs.
Course description The evidence for burial and ritual practices of the Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic in Europe has changed dramatically over the past two decades. New discoveries and different theoretical approaches have altered our understanding of these early funerary and ritual traditions in Europe. The course aims to provide students with an exploration of this new evidence and consider the issues of the social significance of burial and ceremonial activities. Topics addressed in the course include: burial traditions of late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, Neolithic stone settings and long barrows, megalithic chambered tombs, megalithic art, body treatment, enclosures, and the ethnography of megalithic societies in Africa and South-East Asia. Through these topics the course will discuss broader issues of the archaeology of ritual space and practices, and the relationships between landscapes, architecture, beliefs, deathways and social change in Europe from the 6th to the 3rd millennium BC.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a detailed and critical command of: the theoretical approaches which, from the mid-19th century to the present, have underpinned the archaeological study of megaliths and other ceremonial sites; the archaeological evidence (on regional/cultural basis) of monuments in order to explore the relationships between function, architectural design, burial and other practices, art and other rituals
  2. Demonstrate an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning the interpretation of the function of megaliths and other ceremonial sites within the natural and cultural landscapes of North-West Europe and to set these against the background of our own changing theoretical perspectives over the last century and a half, and conceptual discussions about dynamics of social and cultural change from the mid-6th to the 3rd mill BC as seen through the prism of ritual and monumentality
  3. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form in seminar discussions, by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course
  4. Demonstrate in seminar discussions originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy
Reading List
Adams, R.L. & Kusumawati, A. 2011. The social life of tombs in West Sumba, Indonesia. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 20(1), 17-32.

Bloch, M. 1971, Placing the dead: tombs, ancestral villages, and kinship organisation in Madagascar, Seminar Press, London.

Bradley, 1998. The significance of monuments. London: Routledge.

Lewis-Williams, D. & Pearce, D. 2005, Inside the Neolithic Mind: Consciousness, Cosmos and the Realm of the Gods, Thames and Hudson, London.

Midgley, M. 2005. The monumental cemeteries of prehistoric Europe. Stroud: Tempus.

Reilly, S. 2003. Processing the dead in Neolithic Orkney. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 22(2), 133-154.

Richards, C. 1993. Monumental choreography: architecture and spatial representation in late Neolithic Orkney. In: C. Tilley (ed.), Interpretative Archaeology. Berg, Exeter, Explorations in Anthropology Series, 143-178.

Robin, G. 2010. Spatial structures and symbolic systems in Irish and British passage tombs: the organisation of architectural elements, parietal carved signs and funerary deposits. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 20(3), 373-418.

Ruggles, C. 1999. Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Scarre, C. 2011. Landscapes of Neolithic Brittany. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 344 p.

Shee Towhig, E. 1981. The megalithic art of Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thomas, J. 1993. The hermeneutics of megalithic space. In: Tilley, C. (ed.), Interpretative archaeology. Exeter: Berg, 73-97.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsRitual Monumentality Europe
Course organiserDr Guillaume Robin
Tel: (0131 6)50 9963
Course secretaryMr Gordon Littlejohn
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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