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Approaching the landscape dimension of the megalithic phenomenon in Southern Spain.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/11/2010
JournalOxford Journal of Archaeology
Journal number4
Volume29
Number of pages19
Pages387-405
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Although the megalithic phenomenon in southern Iberia has received attention since the mid-nineteenth century, there has been very little attention paid to the role that megalithic structures played in the organization of prehistoric landscapes. Just as in other areas of Europe, however, southern Iberian megalithic structures must have played complex roles in the social organization of landscapes that go far beyond their use as funerary containers. Using examples from our work in southern Iberia, we employ GIS-based spatial analysis to explore for the first time various aspects of the landscape dimension of these monuments. We discuss three case-studies for which fresh field data have been recently made available. In the first (Almadén de la Plata)we find patterns of association between medieval transhumance routes and megaliths, and we use cost-surface modelling to suggest that medieval routes may reflect earlier, prehistoric patterns of movement which in turn suggest that megalithic structures functioned in this area as waypoints within an emerging mobility system for people and livestock. In the second case (Aroche) we show correlations between the locations of megaliths and theoretical territories defined by isochrones and contrast this pattern with the distribution of non-megalithic funerary sites of the Early Bronze Age, concluding that the spatial distribution of megaliths in this region may relate to their role as landmarks. Lastly we describe a far more specific relationship which we have encountered in the Antequera region, where we believe we have identified a relationship between the orientation of the megalithic structure of Menga, a prominent natural feature and several newly discovered prehistoric sites. Together, these three examples suggest that the current focus on typology, chronology and contents in the study of Iberian megaliths needs to be matched with efforts to identify and interpret the often highly complex structure of the prehistoric landscapes of which they form an integral part.