Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Fall 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Anthropology

First Advisor

Matthew E. Hill

Second Advisor

Katina Lillios

Abstract

This dissertation research is an archaeological investigation of the burial practices of the Irish Neolithic (4000-2500 BC) and Bronze Age (2500-1100 BC). Burial data from thirty sites are used in order to understand the relationship between the burial treatment of the dead (inhumation vs. cremation), artifact deposition, and faunal deposition with the age and sex of the dead. In order to understand how environmental variability affected the manner in which people constructed their views on identity, the sites were categorized based on two geographic regions, Region A and Region B. Region A refers to sites located in Co. Dublin, Co. Louth, Co. Meath, Co. Kildare, and Co. Wicklow, an area with many sites clustered together on land that was capable of supporting large communities, agricultural surplus, and is geographically located near important long distance trade routes with Britain and continental Europe. Region B refers to the remaining territory of Ireland. The results of the analyses are used to gain information on how burial was used by past populations to reflect social and economic status and how the communal perspective on status changed over time and how the surrounding environment affected the perspective of the people.

Previous research on late prehistoric Irish burials has relied on cultural-historical stereotypes of the past to understand the social and economic trends, lumping all data from Ireland as being the same, and even as the same as burial trends in Britain and continental Europe. Therefore, Neolithic Ireland is assumed to have consisted of egalitarian agricultural-based communities, which transitioned into societies with vertical hierarchy dominated by adult males in the Bronze Age because of the rise of metallurgical practices and long-distance trade (Bradley 2007; Waddell 2010). Typically, research interpretations are generated based on only one line of contextual data, rather than taking into consideration the multiple aspects of burial ritual, and environmental variability amongst sites is not considered a factor in socio-economic influences on burial tradition. This study seeks to demonstrate that by using multiple lines of evidence, regional and local differences of burial tradition can be identified which contradict general stereotypes of both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

The results of this study show that when multiple lines of evidence from burials are analyzed, general stereotypes of the manner in which socio-economic identity was manifested in the archaeological record during the Neolithic and Bronze Age cannot be applied to Ireland as a whole. Instead, the manner in which individuals are deposited and preserved in burial ritual is governed by isolated local traditions, rather than large, regional traditions. This is the result of regional variability in the environment, the arability of land, and the geographic positioning of sites near long-distance trade routes. This research demonstrates that large-scale explanations of social and economic changes in late prehistory and previous understandings of the role of burial ritual in socio-economic displays of identity need to be questioned and re-examined using more datasets to ensure a more thorough interpretation of the past.

Public Abstract

This dissertation research is an archaeological investigation of the burial practices of the Irish Neolithic (4000-2500 BC) and Bronze Age (2500-1100 BC). Burial data from thirty sites are used in order to understand the relationship between the burial treatment of humans, the artifacts with which they are buried, and the animals which are also deposited in the burials. The impact that the local environment had on the manner in which people constructed their views on identity was also taken into consideration, therefore the sites were categorized based on two geographic regions, Region A and Region B. Region A refers to sites located in Co. Dublin, Co. Louth, Co. Meath, Co. Kildare, and Co. Wicklow, an area with many sites clustered together on land that was capable of supporting large communities, agricultural surplus, and is geographically located near important long distance trade routes with Britain and continental Europe. Region B refers to the remaining territory of Ireland.

The results of the analyses are used to gain information on how burial was used by past populations to reflect social and economic status and how the communal perspective on status changed over time and how the surrounding environment affected the perspective of the people. This research demonstrates that broad explanations of the connection between burials and socio-economic status need to be re-examined and include multiple types of data to ensure a more thorough interpretation of the past.

Keywords

publicabstract, Bronze Age, Burials, Mortuary Studies, Neolithic, Ritual, Social Change

Pages

xxiii, 381 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 356-381).

Copyright

Copyright 2014 Keelin Baine

Included in

Anthropology Commons

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