The early Neolithic tor enclosures of Southwest Britain

Davies, Simon R. (2010). The early Neolithic tor enclosures of Southwest Britain. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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Along with causewayed enclosures, the tor enclosures of Cornwall and Devon represent the earliest enclosure of large open spaces in Britain and are the earliest form of surviving non-funerary monument. Their importance is at least as great as that of causewayed enclosures, and it might be argued that their proposed associations with settlement, farming, industry, trade and warfare indicate that they could reveal more about the Early Neolithic than many causewayed enclosure sites. Yet, despite being recognised as Neolithic in date as early as the 1920s, they have been subject to a disproportionately small amount of work. Indeed, the southwest, Cornwall especially, is almost treated like another country by many of those studying the Early Neolithic of southern Britain. When mentioned, this region is more likely to be included in studies of Ireland and the Irish Sea zone than studies concerning England. Perhaps this is due, in part, to interpretations of Carn Brea and Helman Tor as defended settlements of people who relied upon agriculture for the bulk of their subsistence, conducted economic trade with other areas, and formed a quasi-political unity through warfare. This interpretation does not sit well with post-processual suggestions of a mobile, wild resource based early Neolithic, with the emphasis on cultural change, in neighbouring Wessex chalkland areas. The aim of this thesis is to re-examine the evidence from the southwest and to interpret it with reference to and in contrast with the potentially radically different interpretations of the Early Neolithic in nearby Wessex. By understanding the southwestern landscapes before the tors were enclosed, placing the tor enclosures in their cultural landscape contexts, using ethnographic analogy and re-examining the existing archaeological record, it is possible to achieve a better understanding of tor enclosures and to demonstrate their importance for understanding other elements of the Early Neolithic in Britain.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA)
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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