Making Megaliths: Shifting and Unstable Stones in the Neolithic of the Avebury Landscape

2016-05-17T09:46:30Z (GMT) by Mark Gillings Joshua Pollard
This paper focuses upon the web of practices and transformations bound up in the extraction and movement of megaliths during the Neolithic of southern Britain. The focus is on the Avebury landscape of Wiltshire, where over 700 individual megaliths were employed in the construction of ceremonial and funerary monuments. Locally-sourced, little consideration has been given to the process of acquisition and movement of sarsen stones that make up key monuments such as the Avebury henge and its avenues; attention instead focussing on the middle-distance transportation of sarsen out of this region to Stonehenge. Though stone movements were local, we argue they were far from lacking in significance, as indicated by the subsequent monumentalization of at least two locations from which they were likely acquired. We argue that since such stones embodied place(s); their removal, movement and resetting represented a remarkably dynamic and potentially disruptive reconfiguration of the world as it was known. Megaliths were never inert or stable matter, and we need to embrace this in our interpretative accounts if we are to understand the very different types of monument that emerged in prehistory as a result.