Biographies of Enclosure in Global Context

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Cross-culturally, naturally occurring hilltops, terraces, and other prominent locations have been the focus for long-lived and/or recurrent human activity. These places have frequently been enclosed with ditches, ramparts and palisades, creating culturally-prescribed arenas for human action. The practice of enclosure frequently forms just one element in the complex biographies of such places and is not always necessarily related to defence. At various points in their biographies, such places might be social and/or political centres, elite residences, centres of exchange, liminal zones where communication could be made with the gods, spirits or ancestors, funerary sites, or places of refuge. Despite the potential interpretive gains to be derived from cross-cultural analysis of the biographies of enclosed places, attempts to critically compare sites in different temporal and geographical contexts have been generally lacking. This session will address this lacuna, drawing on research from several parts of the world. Papers will focus on biographical approaches, the agency of natural places, and the role of enclosure in materialising social memory and identity.

Geographic Keywords
EuropeNorth America - SoutheastAFRICA

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Biographies of enclosure: an introduction (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Armit.

    The papers in this session explore the extended biographies of prehistoric enclosures, bringing together researchers from several geographical areas and periods. Although archaeologists have been drawn by the often monumental qualities of prehistoric enclosures, the act of enclosure was frequently just one episode in long-lived and/or recurrent patterns of human activity at significant places in the landscape. The European focus on the concept of the ‘hillfort’, for example, has tended to...

  • Broxmouth biographies: Roundhouses as mnemonic devices in Iron Age Scotland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lindsey Büster.

    Broxmouth hillfort in SE Scotland saw continued occupation for almost 800 years (c. cal. 600 BC - AD 200), during which around 30 generations of inhabitants shaped the settlement and its surroundings. Activity at Broxmouth can be broadly split into six (both enclosed and unenclosed) phases, the last of which (c. cal. 200 BC - AD 200) is characterised by re-enclosure, and well-preserved roundhouses of timber and stone. The form, fabric and development of the roundhouses over time suggest that...

  • The dawn of Iron Age societies: hillfort morphodynamics in the NW Mediterranean (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexis Gorgues.

    Hillforts are a typical feature of the Iron Age settlement patterns of the north-west Mediterranean (Southern France and North-East of Spain). Their morphology appears as relatively homogeneous, and gives a prominent importance to the domestic sphere, the stone ramparts being often the only clearly communitarian building. The development of these agglomerations –quite small according to central European standards- is broadly contemporary with the beginnings of Greek colonization and with the...

  • Debating early urbanization in temperate Europe: From Heuneburg to Bourges (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Manuel Fernandez-Gotz.

    The genesis of large fortified central places is one of the most important phenomena in Later Prehistoric Europe. In Temperate Europe, the origins of urbanism have long been identified with the emergence of the Oppida of the 2nd-1st centuries BC, considered to be the ‘earliest cities north of the Alps’. However, large-scale research projects carried out over recent years have started to challenge this long-established view, to the point that nowadays it is possible to assert that the term...

  • Emergence of Place: the Great Circle of Fort Center, Glades County, Florida (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Colvin.

    In South Florida, earthen enclosures represent some of the earliest and largest communal monuments. At around 300 meters in diameter, Fort Center in Glades County, Florida contains one of the largest enclosures in the entire Southeast. As the earliest recorded earthwork at Fort Center, I argue the construction of the Great Circle acts as a trigger and anchor for coalescence and the establishment of place. Since this event occurs during a period of long term fisher-hunter-gatherer practices,...

  • Hillforts of the Eastern Hallstatt Circle. Central places, fortified areas or something else? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hrvoje Potrebica.

    One of the most prominent landscape features of the Hallstatt Culture that more or less stands for the Early Iron Age of the Central Europe are hillforts. They are usually located on prominent spots in landscape and surrounded with some kind of fortification. This paper will try to combine geographic and social contextual analysis of these enclosures and create complex model of their meaning within cultural and physical landscape of the Iron Age communities. Usually they are interpreted as...

  • History runs through it: A biography of gorges in Bokoni, South Africa (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Maria Schoeman.

    Stonewalled enclosures and associated terraces embody the intersection of Bokoni gorge biographies and broader social history. The complex biographies of the gorges include being ritual spaces marked by rock art, iron smelting sites, refugia and strongholds. Many of the uses did not substantially alter the gorges, but in the troubled times of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in southern Africa pre-colonial farmers used stonewalling to reconfigure several gorges in Bokoni. The stonewalled...

  • Labor, Materials, and Ritual Knowledge: Erecting and Erasing Middle Woodland Enclosures in Southern Appalachia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alice Wright.

    Middle Woodland geometric enclosures are among the most complex earthen monuments ever built in Eastern North America. Well-known 19th century maps have long provided archaeologists with a view of their shape, size, and scope, in their final forms. However, because relatively few of these enclosures have been systematically excavated, their early life histories and the ways they may have evolved through time remain enigmatic. In this paper, I seek to document a more complete biography of...

  • Monumental Biographies: Structure and Agency in European Hillfort Construction (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Harold Mytum.

    European hillforts contrast greatly in scale and complexity, and different regions of the continent have experienced varied historiographies of research. Using a few key examples to illustrate the different approaches to hillfort monumentality, this paper addresses the contrasting emphases on function and meaning seen in such studies. Particular focus will be placed on three aspects, through the theoretical lens of structure and agency: the role of earthwork construction in the creation of...

  • Negative and "Natural" Monumental Spaces: Ditches and Sacred Groves in Pre-Colonial West Africa (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Neil Norman.

    This paper builds on recent archaeological efforts to theorize the active role landscape features had in framing social relations, delineating zones of safety and inclusion/danger and exile, and marking spaces where cosmological actors tend to reside. In the coastal forests of pre-Colonial West Africa, ditch features and sacred groves did such social work, and as such; these powerful and liminal features held prominent positions within the kingdoms of West Africa. This paper explores massive...

  • Palisaded Enclosures and Political Complexity in the Eastern Woodlands of North America (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stefan Brannan. Jennifer Birch.

    Earthworks and enclosures have a long history of construction and use in the eastern Woodlands of North America. However, the development of palisaded enclosures around permanent settlements occurs concomitantly with the transition to maize horticulture, the transition to settled village life, and an increasing concern with boundary maintenance. In this paper, we employ data from Northeastern and Southeastern North America to examine how processes of enclosure transformed the relationships...

  • Places of Power and Passage: hillforts and monumental landscapes in the early Iron Age of central and south-eastern Slovenia. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Philip Mason.

    The early Iron Age (EIA) landscape in central and south-eastern Slovenia is dominated by hillforts and barrow groups. These monumental structures express and symbolise elite power in the landscape. Despite traditional emphasis on outside agency in the formation of these landscapes, it will be shown that the EIA landscape incorporated and transformed many places of the preceding Late Bronze Age (LBA) landscape, often through monumentalisation. The expansion of hillfort settlements coincides with...