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Rocks of Ages: Tempo and Time in Megalithic Monuments

  • Chris Scarre (a1)
Abstract

Chronology remains a problematic area in prehistoric archaeology but the increasing number and precision of radiometric dates begin to suggest patterns that can be resolved down to the scale of individual lifetimes. The study of megalithic monuments has benefited from these developments but remains hampered by the indirect relationship between the materials that are dated and the structures themselves. Drawing on evidence from France, Scandinavia, and Iberia, it is nonetheless arguable that available patterns of dates suggest an event-like tempo to the construction of megalithic monuments, with large numbers being built within relatively short periods of time. This has implications for typological models and for the social context in which such monuments were designed and built.

La chronologie constitue toujours un sujet problématique pour l'archéologie préhistorique, cependant les progrès dans les datations radiométriques au niveau de leur précision de plus en plus haute nous permettent aujourd'hui de percevoir des régularités jusqu'à l'echelle de la durée de vie individuelle. L'étude des monuments mégalithiques a beaucoup profité de ce progrès scientifique mais elle se trouve toujours freinée par le caractère indirect du rapport entre les matériaux qui sont datés et les structures mégalithiques elles-mêmes. La considération de quelques séquences de la France, des pays scandinaves, et de la péninsule ibérique nous amènent à proposer que les datations maintenant disponibles laissent apparaître l'hypothèse selon laquelle la construction de monuments mégalithiques suivait un rythme non régulier, avec beaucoup de monuments construits pendant des périodes chronologiques assez reduites. Cette constatation apportera des implications significatives pour les séquences typologiques ainsi que pour le contexte social dans lequel des monuments ont été conçus et materialisés.

Zusammenfassung

Chronologie ist nach wie vor ein problematisches Feld der Prähistorischen Archäologie, doch die steigende Zahl und zunehmende Präzision radiometrischer Daten beginnt Muster anzudeuten, die bis auf die Ebene individueller Lebensspannen aufgelöst werden können. Die Untersuchung megalithischer Monumente hat von diesen Entwicklungen profitiert, wird jedoch auch weiterhin von der indirekten Beziehung zwischen den datierten Materialien und den Strukturen selbst behindert. Auf der Basis von Daten aus Frankreich, Skandinavien und der Iberischen Halbinsel ist es dennoch denkbar, dass die verfügbaren Datenmuster ein ereignisförmiges Tempo der Konstruktion megalithischer Monumente, mit einer großen, in relativ kurzer Zeit errichteten Anzahl von Anlagen andeuten. Diese Beobachtungen haben Auswirkungen auf typologische Modelle und auf den sozialen Kontext, in dem derartige Monumente entworfen und errichtet wurden.

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