An Imperial Impression: Roman engagement with prehistoric monuments in Wiltshire and the Peak District National Park
thesisposted on 14.01.2022, 13:24 by Philip J. Hughes
This thesis investigates the use of prehistoric monuments during the Roman period in Britain. There is a growing body of evidence that prehistoric monuments were significant to later societies (Díaz Guardamino, García Sanjuan and Wheatley 2015), yet such manifestations are largely neglected by orthodox models of cultural change examining Roman imperialism. Since the early 1990s, a consensus has emerged abandoning the linear, top-down imposition of Roman culture onto the people of the provinces, instead emphasising a varied picture of local acceptance, resistance and reworking of extant and incoming norms (Gardner 2013; Mattingly 2006). Given this, there is a need to integrate the use of prehistoric monuments our understanding of Roman Britain. To achieve this, this thesis analyses prehistoric monuments such as Palaeolithic and Mesolithic cave systems, Neolithic causewayed enclosures, long barrows, henges and stone/timber circle complexes, Bronze Age round barrows and Iron Age hillfort yielding evidence for Roman engagement in two case study areas focussed upon Wiltshire and the Peak District National Park. Consequently, this thesis explores how two areas inhabited in markedly different ways during the Roman period responded to the extant prehistoric monuments.
It does so from a perspective of non-representational analysis by employing new materialist theoretical ideas. In this way, the analysis that unfolds begins from a position that understands the material realm to be actively situated among active human agents. Consequently, rather than perceiving prehistoric monument engagement to be merely representative of diverse identities in the Roman period, or idiosyncratic and unusual practices removed from the realm of the everyday, it posits that monuments of the past actively co-constituted Roman identities through their relationships with other local archaeological phenomena (Van Oyen and Pitts 2017), such as contemporary settlement, funerary practices and coin loss patterns. In this regard, analysis is undertaken on the scale of landscape exploring the relationships between monument engagement and contemporary inhabitation, synthesising archival data and newly generated fieldwork. The strength of this approach is that it enables an understanding that extant prehistoric monuments were active material components of their Roman period landscapes (Cooper 2016).