MLitt Material Culture and Artefact Studies (University of Glasgow)
MA (Hons) Archaeology (University of Glasgow)
BA (Hons) Humanities (University of Hertfordshire)
The Gregory Building,
Telephone: +44 (0) 141 330 5690
Materiality and Ritual Practice in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Landscapes of Western Scotland
Summary of research
Studies of materiality have become increasingly important as a subject of archaeological research for the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of north-west Europe, yet they often emphasise the materiality of monumental architecture over that of artefactual evidence. In addition, whilst archaeological discourse foregrounds the importance of rituals in relation to monuments, the physical properties of matter produced by such activities, their transformation and their patterns of deposition have received far less attention. These studies also tend to neglect the vital role played by ritual practitioners who not only wielded considerable power in prehistory, but were intermediaries between the spiritual and the physical.
My research attempts to investigate how ritual practice is manifested at megaliths through the material study of monuments and artefacts in their landscape settings. Methodological strategies include reviewing source literature and examining artefacts in conjunction with an investigation of the aesthetic, geological and phenomenological characteristics of megaliths during non-invasive fieldwork. This will involve examining the relationship between monuments and landscapes, the materiality of megalithic architecture and artefacts, associated patterns of deposition and the interplay between monuments and the senses.
This research provides a welcome addition to current studies of materiality because it emphasises the importance of artefactual evidence at megalithic sites. As materialisation embodies the transformation of rituals into physical matter, an investigation into ritual practice will also facilitate a better understanding of ritual. By incorporating a variety of interdisciplinary, theoretical approaches whilst utilising a strong empirical data set, I hope to demonstrate how a study of the materiality of megalithic architecture and artefactual remains can provide a crucial insight into activities undertaken at megalithic sites. Such an inquiry will also establish links between monument and performer, thereby re-connecting the settings of sacred places with the actions of spiritual people.
Dr Nyree Finlay
'Sexing the buried: Ambiguous Gender Identities in Archaeology', Paper presented at the 'Return to Gender' Conference, University of Glasgow, November 2006
- Prehistoric archaeology of north-west Europe particularly the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland
- Archaeological theory especially approaches to ritual practice, landscapes, materiality, identity and gender