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Agency, structure and environment

The book studies Neolithic burial in Britain by focussing primarily on evidence from caves. It interprets human remains from forty-eight Neolithic caves and compares them to what we know of Neolithic collective burial elsewhere in Britain and Europe. It provides a contextual archaeology of these cave burials, treating them as important evidence for the study of Neolithic mortuary practice generally. It begins with a thoroughly contextualized review of the evidence from the karst regions of Europe. It then goes on to provide an up-to-date and critical review of the archaeology of Neolithic funerary practice. This review uses the ethnographically documented concept of the ‘intermediary period’ in multi-stage burials to integrate archaeological evidence, cave sedimentology and taphonomy. Neolithic caves and environments and the dead bodies within them would also have been perceived as active subjects with similar kinds of agency to the living. The book demonstrates that cave burial was one of the earliest elements of the British Neolithic. It also shows that Early Neolithic cave burial practice was very varied, with many similarities to other Neolithic burial rites. However, by the Middle Neolithic, cave burial had changed and a funerary practice which was specific to caves had developed.

Society, economy and environment, c. 1300–1650

Tower houses are the ubiquitous building of pre-modern Ireland. A type of castle, the tower house was constructed c.1350–1650, and extant examples number in the thousands. This book examines the social role of the tower house in late medieval and early modern Ireland. It uses a multidisciplinary methodology to uncover the lived experience of a wide range of people. This enables exploration of the castle’s context, including how it was used as a social tool and in environmental exploitation for economic gain. By challenging traditional interpretations of the Middle Ages we find new evidence for the agency of previously overlooked individuals, and thus a new insight into the transition from medieval to modern. Each chapter in the book builds on the one preceding, to echo the movement of trade good from environmental exploitation to entry into global economic networks, keeping focus on the role of the tower house in facilitating each step. By progressively broadening the scope, the conclusion is reached that the tower house can be used as a medium for analysing the impact of global trends at the local level. It accomplishes this lofty goal by combining archival evidence with archaeological fieldwork and on-site survey to present a fresh perspective on one of the best-known manifestations of Irish archaeology.

Managing madness in early nineteenth-century asylums

An archaeology of lunacy examines the historic lunatic asylum from an interdisciplinary perspective, employing methods drawn from archaeology, social geography, and history to create a holistic view of the built heritage of the asylum as a distinctive building type. In the popular imagination, historic lunatic asylums were dark, monolithic, and homogenous, instruments for social confinement and punishment. This book aims to redress this historical reputation, showing how the built environment and material worlds of lunatic asylums were distinctive and idiosyncratic – and highly regional. They were also progressive spaces and proving grounds of architectural experimentation, where the reformed treatment practices known as moral management were trialled and refined. The standing remains of the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum system represent a unique opportunity to study a building-type in active transition, both materially and ideologically. When they were constructed, asylums were a composite of reform ideals, architectural materials, and innovative design approaches. An archaeological study of these institutions can offer a materially focused examination of how the buildings worked on a daily basis. This study combines critical analysis of the architecture, material remains, and historical documentary sources for lunatic asylums in England and Ireland. Students and scholars of later historical archaeology and built heritage will find the book a useful overview of this institutional site type, while historians of medicine will find the focus on interior design and architecture of use. The general public, for whom asylums frequently represent shadowy ruins or anonymous redevelopments, may be interested in learning more about the buildings.