A proper place for everything: the character and context of Beaker depositional practice in Ireland

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Title: A proper place for everything: the character and context of Beaker depositional practice in Ireland
Authors: Carlin, Neil
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/9438
Date: 2011
Abstract: In the late third millennium BC, diverse groups of people throughout Europe adopted aspects of a suite of objects and practices known as the Beaker phenomenon including crouched inhumations with grave goods and early metallurgy. How and why this happened has traditionally defied interpretation, but these questions are of key significance to wider understandings of the adoption of novel material culture over millennia. This thesis aimed to create a better understanding of the Beaker phenomenon through a regionally-specific study of the character and context of Beaker-associated depositional practices in Ireland. By examining the depositional choices that were made, insights were gained into the social roles of Beaker objects that help us to understand how and why these were adopted on this island. Existing interpretations of this phenomenon have almost exclusively been based upon findings from the funerary domain. The very wide range of contexts from which evidence for Beaker activities has been found in Ireland represented an opportunity to advance understandings of this phenomenon beyond this. However, no effort had been made to synthesise this information and hitherto, no in-depth study of the manifestation of the Beaker phenomenon in Ireland had ever been conducted, thereby resulting in much misunderstanding. To remedy this, details relating to chance discoveries of Beaker objects, as well as the results from old and new excavations were collated, reassessed, and synthesised. Then, the depositional treatment of Beaker-associated artefacts within each context including settlements, funerary monuments, ceremonial settings and natural places were examined. This revealed that the deposition of Beaker objects in Ireland was structured, selective, type specific, contextually specific and not the product of random acts. These deposits represent the residue of an interlinked system of social practices that were conducted in accordance with long standing traditions. In light of this, traditional interpretations linking the Beaker phenomenon and/or early metallurgy with either the emergence of social complexity or an increase in social stratification were critiqued. This research showed that Beaker-associated material culture played a vital role in facilitating the expression and constraint of personal and group identities, as well as local and international social relations during an era when travel, trade and other forms of international interaction were greatly intensified. It is demonstrated that this international suite of new ideas and objects including metallurgy were adopted and adapted because they fulfilled the distinctive needs of local communities. It was argued that these developments form part of a long sequence of gradual alterations in strategies of identity formation occurring throughout the third millennium BC.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Archaeology
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2011 the Author
Keywords: ChalcolithicBeaker phenomenonDepositional treatmentIrelandIdentity
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Archaeology Theses

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