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Nathan Gubbins

Archaeology, University of Leicester

Thesis title:

Why did people bury things ? Understanding changing depositional practice from the Late Neolithic through the Bronze Age

What made people deposit objects in the ground during the Neolithic and the Bronze Age in Britain? Bronze Age deposits often centre around metal items and are referred to as ‘hoards’, whereas Neolithic equivalents tended to comprise multiple materials such as pottery, flint, and animal bones in different ways. 

Drawing on developing theoretical approaches, such as new materialism and assemblage theory, my study will offer a new interpretation of depositional practices through the Neolithic and Bronze Age, which acknowledges the complexity of the relationships that people had with material objects as well the potential agency of all things. This will build on, but challenge, Garrow’s (2012) critique of ‘structured deposition’ by better accounting for the processes integral to the emergence of depositional practices. Current understanding of deliberate burial of artefacts in the Neolithic has been largely influenced by the concept of ‘structured deposition’. Bronze Age depositional practices, by contrast, are often centred on the hoarding of metalworking in preference to other kinds of material. Hence, between the Neolithic and Bronze Age, researchers have conceptualised depositional practice in very different ways. It is crucial therefore that new theoretical research fully interrogates the nature of depositional practices and how they change across the Neolithic and Bronze Age. 

To do this I am exploiting three intensive regional case studies: East Anglia, Cumbria and Aberdeenshire. Furthermore, I question the divide that is often drawn between Neolithic and Bronze Age deposits by generating a narrative that uses a complex multi-temporal approach to time and change. This will add to recent research which has begun to recognise the complex nature of the transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age by producing a complex and nuanced history of depositional practices in the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Research Area

  • Archaeology


Gave Paper at the Neolithic And Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium