Rock Art and the Prehistory of Atlantic Europe: Signing the Land
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Along the Atlantic seaboard, from Scotland to Spain, are numerous rock carvings made four to five thousand years ago, whose interpretation poses a major challenge to the archaeologist.
In the first full-length treatment of the subject, based largely on new fieldwork, Richard Bradley argues that these carvings should be interpreted as a series of symbolic messages that are shared between monuments, artefacts and natural places in the landscape. He discusses the cultural setting of the rock carvings and the ways in which they can be interpreted in relation to ancient land use, the creation of ritual monuments and the burial of the dead. Integrating this fascinating yet little-known material into the mainstream of prehistoric studies, Richard Bradley demonstrates that these carvings played a fundamental role in the organization of the prehistoric landscape.
finds in south-east Spain they are absent from the Iberian peninsula. They are quite often found in Britain, but with the exception of a major concentration of axes in Brittany and a lesser group in western France, they do not occur elsewhere on the Atlantic seaboard. The particular connections that have been claimed belong to a developed phase in this sequence. These have a most distinctive character. They are almost entirely concerned with the design of chambered tombs and the kinds of
striking, the same types of material have a distribution that extends eastwards as far as Sardinia, Sicily and the Italian mainland (Coffyn, Gomez and Mohen 1981). The very existence of these links between the central and western Mediterranean contrasts with the virtual autonomy of the Iberian peninsula during the Copper Age and Early Bronze Age. The scale of long-distance interaction increased sharply during the period of the Atlantic Bronze Age (Ruiz-Gálvez 1987 and 1995). The process began
this is simply because the two methods provide information at quite different scales. We can show that the rock carvings were first created during a period which saw increased activity in the uplands, but it is unreasonable to expect a closer correlation. A more appropriate procedure is comparing the distribution of rock carvings with the distribution of artefacts. Again the available material has many limitations. With the sole exception of two sites described in Chapter 4, no British rock
carvings towards its distinctive profile. Twice a year, the setting sun can be seen descending the northern face of the mountain. Together with the winter solstice, those occasions would have divided the year into three equal parts (Bracken and Wayman 1992). Such practices may have been quite common. In western Scotland decorated standing stones seem to have been orientated on the movements of the moon (Ruggles 1984), and the cup-marked rocks found in recumbent stone circles may well have
particular resources, yet rock art may be created or renewed in the course of many different activities, from practical tasks like the collection of food to the most specialised ceremonies. In fact the distribution and spacing of ancestral sites proves to be remarkably sensitive to the character of the local ecology (Layton 1986). It would be just as wrong to dismiss the sacred character of the rock art as it would to divorce it entirely from the realities of land use. Not all rock art need have