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Colloque | 2014
Fonctions, utilisations et représentations de l’espace dans les sépultures monumentales du Néolithique européen

Functions, uses and representations of space in the monumental graves of Neolithic Europe
Edited by Guillaume Robin, André D'Anna, Aurore Schmitt and Maxence Bailly

From Newgrange in Ireland to Hal Saflieni in Malta or Gavrinis in Brittany, Neolithic tombs are well known for their monumental nature. Far from being simple mortuary “containers”, only aimed at receiving dead bodies, these tombs are complex and multiple architectures that were designed to host elaborate burial rituals involving several actors and several ceremonial times and spaces. For archaeologists, the spatial organisation of these architectures and their contents is a thread to investigate and understand the burial practices and beliefs of Neolithic communities.

This volume results from a conference held at the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme in Aix-en-Provence on June 8th–10th 2011, and brings together contributions from 30 European specialists from France, UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Poland. Combining recent fieldworks and regional surveys, it explores the configuration of tombs architecture (megalithic chambered tombs, rock-cut tombs, cists under tumulus or cairns, barrows, etc.), the spatial organisation of bodies, grave goods and imagery, and the relationships between the tombs and their landscape setting. This European overview shows the different ways Neolithic societies thought, built and used the space of the dead in Europe from 5000 to 2000 BC. But it also offers and discusses ideas about the meaning of these spatial choices. What are the functions of the different architectural spaces within tombs? What was the role of natural landscape features around the monuments? What spatial patterns in tomb construction and use can tell us about social structures and practices during the Neolithic, and about the symbolic conceptions of Neolithic societies and their representations of the space of the dead?