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Title: Cursuses and Related Monuments of the British Neolithic
Authors: Loveday, Roy
Award date: 1985
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: Excavated sites provide the morphological criteria for cursus identification. Two principal plans exist: type A (convex terminals), type B (squared terminals); and three structural forms: ditched enclosures, pit (?post) defined enclosures and linearbanks. Application to cropmarks reveals a continuum from very short (5Om) to greatly elongated sites (564Om), divisible into groups titled MAJOR and MINOR CURSUSES and OBLONG DITCHES. The latter grade into cropmarks of ovate and trapeziform plan necessitating initially common treatment as ELONGATED DITCHES. Some may represent former multiple round barrows but the principal oblong ditch range is set apart. To an even greater degree than cursuses these are concentrated in the Midland/East Anglian region. Despite 1st millennium bc dates for three sites (two European) the majority can be ascribed to the Neolithic. Two types of monument are indicated: long mortuary enclosures and turf built long barrows. Long mortuary enclosures are distinguished from palisade enclosures(mound features) and regarded like shallow flanking ditches elsewhere (eg Dalladies) as delimiting the intended barrow precinct. Mounds probably stood within some priorto plough erosion but the heavy demands of turf construction ensured that they attained monumental permanence in the Midland / East Anglian region. Bank barrows with nominal mounds may also have been common there (extended oblong ditches). They represent the other element needed for Later Neolithic cursus development. It is suggested that this ancestry best explains cursus purpose: as a temenos associated with ancestral/mortuary practices. Extreme proportions ensured siting on extensively, rather than intensively, utilized land (in some cases wooded) but exceptional demands on land and labour are indicated only in Wessex and East Yorkshire. AIthough cursuses were probably the earliest pan tribal monuments, the form seems to have been refined during the 2nd millennium in their early heartland to the virtual exclusion of henges.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author, 1985
Description: This text has been updated and published by Tempus as ‘Inscribed across the Landscape – the Cursus Enigma’ 2006. In addition the gazeteer and survey is accessible through Archaeological Data Services;
Appears in Collections:Theses, School of Archaeology and Ancient History
Leicester Theses

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1985Lovedayrphd vol1.pdfVol. 1, Chapters I-XI14.17 MBAdobe PDFView/Open
1985Lovedayrphd vol2.pdfVol. 2, Chapters XII-XIV; Appendices; Bibliography7.35 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

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