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Petrification in the Neolithic? Comparing the use of wood and stone in the architecture of Neolithic Britain and Ireland

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Chris Fowler


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This chapter explores the role of petrification in the course of the Neolithic in Britain and Ireland. While this period is famed for its megalithic architecture, monuments were also built in more malleable or less durable materials, including earth and wood. Some stone chambers resembled wooden ones, and some stone chambers and facades directly replaced an earlier wooden chamber and/or façade. Yet, some stone-built monuments were successively reworked over time – mounds were often added to incrementally, new chambers were built and sometimes older ones were blocked off in the process. The chapter considers: the effects of building in stone, including equivalences as well as differences between large stones and large trees; the diversity of ‘stone; the juxtaposition of the hard and enduring nature of large stone structures against the properties of other media transformed at monumental locales; and the tension between stability and change that this petrification provided. While we can identify times and places when petrification accelerated, there was no single, unidirectional or homogenous process of petrification across the entire region and period. The study argues that petrification is most useful when considering its relative character and contribution in wider changing prehistoric materialities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fowler C

Editor(s): Hüglin,S; Gramsch,A; Seppänen,L

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Petrification Processes in Matter and Society

Year: 2021

Pages: 81-97

Online publication date: 14/08/2021

Acceptance date: 20/04/2020

Series Title: Themes in Contemporary Archaeology

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-69388-6

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783030693879