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The role of the house in early Neolithic Ireland

  • Jessica Smyth (a1)
Abstract

The focus of this article is the use and abandonment of the rectangular timber buildings of the Irish early Neolithic, a period that corresponds roughly with the first half of the fourth millennium cal BC. While they do not represent the only remains of occupation at this time, the fact that they display a striking degree of homogeneity of size, shape and materials makes them an especially interesting part of settlement activity on the island. One particular feature of this patterning is the frequency with which early Neolithic timber buildings have been substantially or completely destroyed by fire. It will be argued below that this burning was deliberate and played an important role in the lifecycle – the creation, maintenance and destruction – of these buildings. To provide a context for this discussion, a more in-depth look will be taken at these distinctive buildings and at their form and function.

L’objet de cet article est l’usage et l’abandon des constructions en bois rectangulaires du Néolithique ancien en Irlande, une période qui correspond à peu près à la première moitié du 4e millénaire cal av. JC. Bien qu’ils ne représentent pas les seuls vestiges d’habitation de cette époque, ils se distinguent par l’homogénéité frappante de leurs taille, forme et matériaux, ce qui les rend extrêmement intéressants par rapport aux activités d’habitation sur l’île. Un trait caractéristique est la fréquence avec laquelle ces constructions en bois du Néolithique ancien ont été complètement ou en majeure partie détruites par le feu. Plus loin, nous allons soutenir la thèse que ces incendies étaient délibérés et jouaient un rôle important dans le cycle de vie – construction, maintien et destruction – de ces bâtiments. Afin de soutenir cette discussion, nous allons examiner de façon plus approfondie ces constructions caractéristiques ainsi que leur forme et fonction.

Zusammenfassung

Der Fokus des vorliegenden Beitrages liegt auf der Nutzung und der Zerstörung rechteckiger Holzgebäude des irischen Frühneolithikums, einer Periode, die grob mit der ersten Hälfte des 4. Jts. cal. BC korrespondiert. Während es sich bei ihnen nicht um die einzigen Siedlungsreste dieser Zeit handelt, macht sie der Fakt, dass sie in Größe, Form und Material ein hohes Maß an Homogenität zeigen, zu einem besonders interessanten Bestandteil der Siedlungsaktivität der Insel. Ein weiteres herausragendes Merkmal ist die Häufigkeit, mit der frühneolithische Holzgebäude weitestgehend oder komplett durch Feuer zerstört wurden. Es wird hierbei herausgearbeitet, dass die Verbrennung vorsätzlich erfolgte und eine wichtige Rolle im Lebenskreislauf dieser Gebäude – der Errichtung, der Erhaltung und der Zerstörung – spielte. Um einen Hintergrund für die Diskussion zu gewinnen, werden diese besonderen Gebäudebefunde sowie ihre Form und Funktion vertieft betrachtet.

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