Land and society : the Bronze Age cairnfields and field systems of Britain
This thesis considers the archaeological remains of field systems and cairnfields as evidence for changes in the relations between land and society during the second millennium BC. The theoretical argument aims to demonstrate that the relations between land and society were complex historical processes constituted through the mediation and transformation of structural conditions by social agents. The argument considers ideas, prevalent in critiques of modernity, that break down distinctions between modem and nonmodem, and between culture and nature. These ideas are applied to a theory of practice, which, it is argued, can best be served by allowing for the existence of nonhuman agency as a folk conc.ept within nonmodem ontologies. Based on this theoretical framework and using ethnographic examples, it is argued that the concept of 'land tenure' is a sociological term that equates closely with agency. The changing forms of land tenure that characterise the Bronze Age can be shown to have distinctive and regionalised historical trajectories. This is demonstrated in two case studies. (1) A study of the structural sequences of excavated cairnfields in northern England reveals that a clear distinction cannot be made between burial cairns and clearance cairns. There are many examples of formalised structural and depositional elements in the latter. This is interpreted as evidence that tenure was negotiated within wider collectives made up of a community and their ancestors. (2) Three studies, at varying chronological and geographical scales of analysis, were made of the coaxial boundaries on Dartmoor. In contrast to northern England, the ontological ties between small social groups and places emerged during the earlier Bronze Age. Therefore, the tradition of formalised boundaries, or 'reaves', developed in a landscape characterised by a fragmented and localised sense of place, which was integrated within wider social networks rather than displacing them.