Monuments in search of a landscape : the landscape context of monumentality in Late Neolithic Malta
From the mid-4th to the mid-3rd millennium BC, the Maltese archipelago was characterized by a dense concentration of monumental activity. Archaeological research has generally focussed on the monumental buildings themselves, paying less attention to the environment that surrounded these structures. The present thesis is aimed at addressing this lacuna. The history of approaches to Maltese prehistory is reviewed, and it is argued that the neglect of the landscape setting is related to the practice of archaeology in a colonial context. Chapter 3 considers the physical characteristics and dynamics of the island environment. The landscape context of megalithic buildings is analysed using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) model of the archipelago. Chapter 4 uses a bivariate approach, while Chapter 5 uses multivariate techniques. A number of environmental variables that influence site location are identified, and a model for the choice of monument location is proposed. It is demonstrated that the location of megalithic monuments was closely determined by windows of opportunity in the natural landscape. The resulting insights into the decision-making processes of this period contribute to a better understanding of the priorities and values of the builders. It is argued that megalithic monuments played an important role in transforming natural divisions in the landscape into cultural units of organisation. The following chapters continue the analysis at a different scale, focussing on the buildings themselves. The organisation of architectural space and the deployment of images within these buildings are examined. It is argued that these spaces and images make ordered references to the island environment. This relationship may be better understood in the light of the landscape setting of the buildings. A fresh interpretative model for this evidence is proposed, where it is argued that these architectural forms may be better understood in terms of symbolic storage, movement and performance.