‘A veritable chauvinism of prehistory’: nationalist prehistories and the ‘British’ late Neolithic mythos

Barclay, G. J. and Brophy, K. (2021) ‘A veritable chauvinism of prehistory’: nationalist prehistories and the ‘British’ late Neolithic mythos. Archaeological Journal, 178(2), pp. 330-360. (doi: 10.1080/00665983.2020.1769399)

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Abstract

This article examines the interpretation and public presentation of a particular view of the supposedly ‘national’ role of monuments in a geographically restricted part of southern England – what we have termed the British late Neolithic mythos: that monuments in the Stonehenge area had a ‘national’, ‘unifying’ role for ‘Britain’ at a time when ‘Britain’ had a ‘unified culture’ and was isolated from continental Europe, and that as part of that process, animals for feasting were transported from as far as ‘Scotland’. We explore the trajectory of interpretative inflation, ‘possible’ > ‘probable’ > ‘certain’ > ‘sensational’ through academic and popular accounts, media releases, social media, newspaper articles, TV programmes, Research Excellence Framework impact reports, and the publications of the Arts & Humanities Research Council. We critically examine the evidence claimed to underpin this far-reaching re-interpretation of British prehistory. We examine the extent to which a priori assumptions can shape the interpretation of complex datasets and how unacknowledged nationalist and neo-colonialist thinking underpin its interpretation. We consider the way in which researchers have linked their work with contemporary politics – Brexit, a ‘united Britain’ isolated from Europe, perhaps to demonstrate ‘relevance, ‘impact’ and ‘reach’ to funding bodies. We conclude with some suggestions on ways forward including further research, and mitigating strategies.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brophy, Dr Kenny
Authors: Barclay, G. J., and Brophy, K.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:Archaeological Journal
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN:0066-5983
ISSN (Online):2373-2288
Published Online:23 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Royal Archaeological Institute
First Published:First published in Archaeological Journal 178(2): 330-360
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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