Narrativizing Difference in Earlier Bronze Age Society: a comparative analysis of age and gender ideologies in the burials of Ireland and Scotland

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling


A feminist-inspired gender archaeology promised to revolutionise how archaeologists talk about people in the past – to take us from what Ruth Tringham (1991: 94) memorably called “faceless blobs” to the kind of messy and complicated lives which we know that real people live. However, this has largely failed to materialise, and social ideologies have too often been sidelined. The statistical methods which have become our main tool reproduce homogenous models of past societies which are too often lifeless and flat. This thesis instead argues for a method which tacks between scales in search of nuance and alterity in gender and age ideologies in the past. My focus in this thesis is on the Earlier Bronze Age in Ireland and Scotland – often subsumed into wider European models. Mortuary practice is used as a lens to identify communities’ age- and gender-related concerns at the graveside. The analysis tacks between scales – the local, the regional and the general. Beginning with a statistical overview of 555 burials representing the remains of 810 people, 438 from Ireland and 372 from Scotland, several subtle trends are revealed relating to the age or sex of the deceased which hint at broad differences between categories of people. However, it is clear that few of these were absolute and something more complicated than binary gender or an age dichotomy was operating. Following this, a series of case studies of cemeteries from across Ireland and Scotland are introduced and discursively analysed, demonstrating the existence of local patterning in the social ideologies which mourners chose to stress. These are more subtle patterns than could be recognised in the first stage of analysis. The investigation of local groupings of cemeteries allows a consideration of wider regional influences. Ultimately, it is argued that these varying pictures reflect a world in which gender and age expression, and the experience of being a particular gender or age, were not universally guaranteed. Rather, local variation indicates that communities were interested in different narratives at the graveside, and the significance of burial practice would have been locally contingent. Finally, this picture is related to wider models of Bronze Age society developed with central Europe or southern Britain in mind, and it is shown that practice in Ireland and Scotland reflects significantly different realities.
ForlagUniversity of Cambridge
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2020


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