The Creation of Monuments: Neolithic Causewayed Enclosures in the British Isles

Article excerpt

Alastair Oswald, Martyn Barber & Carolyn Dyer. The creation of monuments: Neolithic causewayed enclosures in the British Isles. xii+172 pages, 132 figures. 2001. Swindon: English Heritage; 1-873592-42-6 paperback 30 [pounds sterling].

MARTYN BARBER, DAVID FIELD & PETER TOPPING. The Neolithic flint mines of England. xiv+95 pages, 46 figures, 1 table. 1999. Swindon: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England; 1-873592-41-8 paperback 25 [pounds sterling].

There is a new and welcome trend in the publication of books on the British Neolithic. In part it is led by an excellent series from English Heritage (EH) and its partner, the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) (RCHM). So far, two titles have been published, Flint mines and Causewayed enclosures, and more are in production (although delayed by the recent merger of the two organizations). Future titles may include Henges and Barrows.

For too long, Neolithic studies have been characterized by speculative summaries dominated by ritual, or by short papers in collected volumes which, by their nature, are also summaries. Here, at last, we have some really excellent presentations of Neolithic sites and themes, carefully organized, and profound in their treatment of both detail and generalities. Each volume explores one class of site on a national scale, and examinse their definitions and background, their past history and the development of research. In Flint mines, the raw material, use, location and nature is discussed and presented against the solid background of new field survey, before an analysis of the `Role of flint mines in Neolithic society'. Of the many potential sites (54), only 10 were found to be genuinely Neolithic mines, a fact that may confound traditionalists. The Conclusions are followed by useful appendices containing a site gazetteer and radio carbon dates. Causewayed enclosures follows a similar structure, focusing on definitions and understanding of the constructional elements that underlie the many forms of site across Britain. The distribution patterns and topography of enclosure sites fill a chapter amply illustrated by plans and diagrams. …