Cursuses and related monuments of the British Neolithic
Excavated sites provide the morphological criteria for cursus identification. Two principal plans exist: type A (convex terminals), type B (squared terminals); and three structural forms: ditched enclosures, pit (?post) defined enclosures and linearbanks. Application to cropmarks reveals a continuum from very short (5Om) to greatly elongated sites (564Om), divisible into groups titled MAJOR and MINOR CURSUSES and OBLONG DITCHES. The latter grade into cropmarks of ovate and trapeziform plan necessitating initially common treatment as ELONGATED DITCHES. Some may represent former multiple round barrows but the principal oblong ditch range is set apart. To an even greater degree than cursuses these are concentrated in the Midland/East Anglian region. Despite 1st millennium bc dates for three sites (two European) the majority can be ascribed to the Neolithic. Two types of monument are indicated: long mortuary enclosures and turf built long barrows. Long mortuary enclosures are distinguished from palisade enclosures(mound features) and regarded like shallow flanking ditches elsewhere (eg Dalladies) as delimiting the intended barrow precinct. Mounds probably stood within some priorto plough erosion but the heavy demands of turf construction ensured that they attained monumental permanence in the Midland / East Anglian region. Bank barrows with nominal mounds may also have been common there (extended oblong ditches). They represent the other element needed for Later Neolithic cursus development. It is suggested that this ancestry best explains cursus purpose: as a temenos associated with ancestral/mortuary practices. Extreme proportions ensured siting on extensively, rather than intensively, utilized land (in some cases wooded) but exceptional demands on land and labour are indicated only in Wessex and East Yorkshire. AIthough cursuses were probably the earliest pan tribal monuments, the form seems to have been refined during the 2nd millennium in their early heartland to the virtual exclusion of henges.