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Causewayed enclosures
#1
An apology if this is an amateurish question. I am not a professional but have a casual interest. I have been reading up on causewayed enclosures. Lots of sources refer to causewayed enclosures as places of ritualistic significance rather than defensive. Such conclusions appear to be supported by evidence that feasting took place at the sites and that they are not always in the best defensive positions.

An English Heritage publication states:
Quote:Causewayed enclosures usually contain a sparse scatter of pits and post-holes. They were probably not permanently occupied (Figure 5). Modern investigations have supported early interpretations which compared them to fairgrounds: places where dispersed social groups could gather episodically on neutral ground to reaffirm their sense of community through a range of activities including feasting, crafts, and the performance of rituals associated with death. On occasion, certain enclosures were briefly used for defence (Figure 6). But not all enclosures hosted the same activities and sometimes the evidence is difficult to interpret. Some experts see the creation of the monument as an end in its own right, the construction project itself serving to give the builders a common focus.

Despite the above, amateur instinct tells me that these structures are more likely to have been primarily built as defensive structure into which communities would move should they become aware of an imminent attack by another group. The positions might not have been the best defensive position but perhaps they were the most easily accessible for the local populous, as threats might come at short notice.

Is there evidence or a bigger picture that I am missing?
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#2
Yep.

Its a long time since I've studied them , but from what I remember, the class of 'causewayed enclosures' covers several different types of 'site' with similar recognisable properties including rings of pits/ big ring ditches interrupted by causeways. Several have been excavated across the country, down south mainly I think. Interpretations vary from site to site with some interpretated as being mainly defensive and some as ritual. Reading the individual excavation reports would give you a better idea, as long as you bring your critical brain. Also, not read all of these, but I imagine that they'd have good summaries of present thought and you could trawl the bibliographies for references for the site reports.

Causewayed enclosures. Mercer, R. J. (Roger James), Princes Risborough : Shire, 1990.
The creation of monuments : neolithic causewayed enclosures in the British Isles Alastair Oswald, Oswald, Alastair. Swindon : English Heritage, 2001.

Enclosures in Neolithic Europe : essays on causewayed and non-caueswayed sites edited by Gillian Varndell and Peter Topping. Oxford : Oxbow, c2002.
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#3
I'm not sure that I've seen one that is convincingly defensive. The problem is that causeways: if you're going to build a defensive enclosure, why make it so difficult to defend by keeping the causeways? Many of the excavated ones seem to have been recut, with the causeways preserved and maintained. That said, these things are a part of a continuum of related sites.


Plus, the new Bayesian statisitical analysis of these monuments indicates a spread across the UK & Ireland within a couple of hundred years, and then the monuments were used for c.150 years. That short lived use might suggest more ritual than functional: if they were defensive they might always be useful. I haven't read the new book yet, I've just read the article on it in British Archaeology.


Whittle, Alasdair , Healy, Francis & Bayliss, Alex (2011) Gathering time : dating the early Neolithic enclosures of southern Britain and Ireland. Oxford; Oxbow books.
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#4
What would future archaeologists make of the short lived american forts of the 18th/19th centuries? were they ritualistic due to the lack of evidence they were attacked? I could imagine a period of unrest in the early neolithic as farming communities started taking over land where clans/tribal groups used to hunt.
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#5
There is evidence that American forts were attacked. http://www.sott.net/articles/show/232667...-fort-site
And remember the Alamo.
Plus, how do the dates of farming, sedentism and causewayed enclosure tie up? Is there really a relationship? I might have to read that book to find out...
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#6
it would be a mistake to view any two such enclosures as having had exactly the same function or meaning to the people who built them or even the people who later used them. the modern concepts of 'type' and 'function' will probably not advance our understanding of what went on and why. the more we dig the more interesting it becomes
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#7
Oxbeast - dont you mean Bayesian statistics applied to radiocarbon dates?

Also not all causewayed enclosures have been dated or dug......or found I suspect! So be wary of others interpretations of incomplete datasets!

P. Prentice - spot on! Although function has just a big a place in the past as it has now!
Also categorising sites (or landscapes) is a useful first step towards understanding as long as (as with all things) the limitations/basic assumptions of the technique are fully understood and incorporated into interpretation.
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#8
Quote:Oxbeast - dont you mean Bayesian statistics applied to radiocarbon dates?
Yes, that is what I mean.

Quote:Also not all causewayed enclosures have been dated or dug......or found I suspect!

Well, yes. But you've got to use that data that you have, otherwise you'll never have any theories or draw any conclusions.
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#9
Jack Wrote:........ function has just a big a place in the past as it has now! .....

dont think i can agree with this statement simply because it will always occur as an imposition based on an insufficient dataset and different people will have drawn different meaning from any place or situation - even with some commonalities
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#10
There is another article on Gathering Time (etc) for the non-professional/academic in teh latest edition of Current Archaeology 259, October 2011, 12-19. Naturally it concentrates on the dating and wider implications rather than the monuments themselves.
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