Re-use and Recycle: the various lives of prehistoric monuments

Author(s): Erin McDonald

Year: 2015


There are innumerable examples throughout prehistory (and history) of ancient monuments repurposed for a variety of reasons, such as the legitimation of power, land ownership and ancestry, among others. Today, many people, in particular Neo-Pagans, attempt to identify with past peoples and to incorporate ancient sites into their modern day religious beliefs. Although not inherently bad, interpretations of ancient sites through a Neo-Pagan lens tend to gloss over archaeological evidence and interpretations of sites. In recent years, a greater emphasis on multivocality has emerged, and the question of how to incorporate modern peoples beliefs about prehistoric monuments into site interpretations and presentation to the public has arisen. If prehistoric communities reinterpreted and re-used monuments built by previous generations, then can Neo-Pagans’ understanding of those same monuments be viewed as just another iteration of a practice that has existed for thousands of years? Using case studies from Britain and Ireland, this paper explores modern people’s (including archaeologists’) relationships with past peoples and monuments, how such relationships help and hurt the preservation of sites and knowledge, and what the implications are for how past societies may have used and understood the ancient monuments in their own landscape.

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Cite this Record

Re-use and Recycle: the various lives of prehistoric monuments. Erin McDonald. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396074)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;