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Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association

Chapter 9. Placing the Physical and the Incorporeal Dead: Stonehenge and Changing Concepts of Ancestral Space in Neolithic Britain

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Abstract

The abodes of the dead or the ancestors are not always those places where mortal remains are laid to rest. This chapter investigates how we might identify prehistoric monuments, ostensibly not funerary in character, as being places of the ancestors. It examines the case of Stonehenge within the context and landscapes of Neolithic Wessex to explore the symbolic significance of the wooden and stone materials out of which the great monuments of the Neolithic in England were constructed. This concern with “materiality” is extended to the ceramics of that period, showing that similar structuring principles were in use not only in the contexts of use for certain ceramic styles but also in the tempering agents added to their clays. This is an attempt at a contextual archaeology in which the duality of structure and agency is central to understanding the prehistoric past.

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