Relations of power : the Neolithic of central south-west England
This thesis argues that the traditional methods of archaeological research have had the effect of forcing the British Neolithic into a mould formed by modern western values. This orthodoxy might be challenged through the use of ethnographic material concerning the structure and operation of precapitalist societies. However, it is often the case that the variability of the ethnographic record is merely used to patch up archaeological explanations of the past. A methodology is therefore proposed in which anthropological theory is used in the construction of a model of Neolithic social relations in northwest Europe, and the archaeological evidence for the study area is used to detect contrasts with this model. It is recognised that lithic assemblages, faunal remains, mortuary practices and monuments cannot of themselves be sufficient for the development of an holistic view of a prehistoric society. Instead, each class of data can be used in much the same way as an historian might use a written text: to search for distortions and contradictions between each form of data and the general model. Having developed methodology, general theory and the European model in the first three chapters, each subregion of the study area is discussed. Subsequent chapters concern southern Wessex, the Mendip and Cotswold Hills, the Upper Thames Valley and the Avebury region. It is argued that a change can be discerned in Neolithic Europe from large social units articulated about kinship and the circulation of livestock and prestige items, to smaller communities whose external relations are more temporary and opportunistic in nature. Despite this, it is shown that in the study area considerable variability exists, seen in the settlement record, economic activities, mortuary practices and the building of monuments. This variability, it is argued, can be accounted for by variation in the social relations of production between different areas, and consequently in the forms of power and authority in operation.