Megaliths and Post-Modernism: The Case of Wales

By Fleming, Andrew | Antiquity, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Megaliths and Post-Modernism: The Case of Wales


Fleming, Andrew, Antiquity


'Our work here is open ... to new interpretations ... since anyone can visit these stones and experience these places themselves, make new observations and check old ones:

(Tilley 2004:219)

Eleven years ago, Christopher Tilley published A phenomenology of landscape: places, paths and monuments (1994). It has become a much-cited book. Tilley took the archaeology of landscape in a new direction, presenting a mode of field observation designed to explore his ethnographically based, persuasive characterisation of Neolithic sacred geography. He presented three case studies, two of which concerned the megalithic chamber tombs of south-west and south-east Wales. He suggested that significant numbers of these monuments were designed to refer to prominent hills, rock outcrops and watercourses, thus apparently offering evidence-based insights into Neolithic cosmological perceptions. Five years later, I argued that Tilley's findings could not be regarded as sustainable contributions to Welsh Neolithic studies (Fleming 1999).

More recently, in Places of Special Virtue (2004), written with Alasdair Whittle, Vicki Cummings has adopted Tilley's approach--with equally problematic consequences. I feel that I must now expound my critique at greater length. I will deal mostly with south-west Wales, and will use the abbreviation 'TC' to refer to the Tilley--Cummings approach where appropriate, abbreviating 'Cummings and Whittle' to CW.

South-west Wales

In south-west Wales, the TC approach mainly involves chiming that megalithic tombs deliberately 'referenced' rock outcrops located at various distances; a significant outcrop may have been immediately beside a tomb, a few hundred metres away, or on the summit of a distant hill. Occasionally links are claimed with springs or water courses. TC also discuss relationships between tombs and the sea. Cummings considers 33 sites in total, comprising a minimum of 40 monuments.

In cases where tombs are immediately adjacent to rock outcrops (24 per cent of the total, or 8 sites out of 33; Cummings & Whittle 2004: 29), it is hard to deny some kind of deliberate association. Whether this has to do with Neolithic cosmological beliefs is another issue; I will deal with these tombs later. In the case of linkages with more distant outcrops, however--and much of the TC thesis is based on these--the arguments are lacking in rigour. For reasons mostly to do with the tombs' state of preservation, the positions of entrances--or the directions which the tombs 'faced'--are frequently unclear. So TC cannot work with indicated 'alignments' or directions. But instead of regarding this as a good reason for using better quality data, in another research area, they have chosen instead to argue that a rocky outcrop or hill may be significantly associated with a tomb if it is simply visible from the site (although significance is also claimed when a target is invisible from a site, as in the case of the outcrop to the west-north-west of Carreg Samson; pace both Tilley 1994:99 and Cummings & Whittle 2004: 56). At Garn Turne (Cummings & Whittle 2004: 148), the invisibility of the Preselis is claimed to be deliberately contrived. TC have chosen to do their fieldwork in an area where the location of many tombs on hillsides (Cummings & Whittle 2004: 37, 87) virtually guarantees wide vistas of striking hills, rock outcrops and sometimes dramatic coastlines. It comes as no surprise that rock outcrops may be seen on the skyline from 12 sites, that is 36 per cent of them, or that 61 per cent of the sites, 20 in total, have a view of outcrops (Cummings & Whittle 2004: 88). (But 13 tombs out of the 33 are not related to outcrops at all; 2004: 29.) Tilley writes for the most part as if it is unnecessary to demonstrate that the claimed associations with distant outcrops are more than coincidental, whilst Cummings makes little more than gestures in this direction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Megaliths and Post-Modernism: The Case of Wales
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.