broch plus

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Outline plans of five Iron Age sites in Scotland and one (West Brandon) in northeast England. All illustrate the importance of the round house in its different forms. Dun Troddan is a broch, and the defences at Clickhimin enclose another structure of this type. Kilphedir is a wheelhouse. Glenachan, West Brandon, and Hayhope Knowe are bounded by single or double palisades. At Hayhope Knoll there is also an earthwork enclosure. Information from D. Harding (2004).

A form of defended homestead peculiar to Scotland is the broch. Nearly 600 are known, almost all of them lying beyond the Highland Line, with over a hundred in Caithness. A broch is a tower, of drystone construction, the walls about 15 feet thick and the interior area anything from 30 to 40 feet in diameter. Few are more than 20 feet high, although the one at Dun Telve, Inverness-shire, is, even now, 33 feet high, and this in spite of its having been robbed over the centuries for building stone, a fate which has overtaken many of the others. The most famous, the largest and the best-preserved broch is that at Mousa, in the Shetlands, and this is 40 feet high. There was but a single door into a broch, and a staircase and other chambers were constructed in the thickness of the walls. They are often difficult to date individually, but in general terms they were being built in the last centuries BC and occupation in some cases, as at Dun Cuier, on Barra, continued on and off into the seventh century AD.

An aerial view of the broch on Mousa, in the Shetlands. The ruin in the rectangular enclosure is a house, the old Haa.

Round dry-stone defensive structure of the 1st millennium BC, examples of which are concentrated in Shetland, Orkney, Caithness and the Western Isles in Scotland. Traditionally the term `broch' has been restricted to the more elaborate circular examples of a diverse family of compact fortified buildings erected in the Scottish Iron Age; the famous broch of MOUSA forms, in effect, a type site. Mackie has attempted to regularize the term by selecting the technically sophisticated high hollow-built wall, which often contains chambers and a staircase to an upper floor, as a principal defining feature (Mackie 1965). However, Hedges (Hedges and Bell 1980) and others have argued that simpler round fortified structures such as the early (c. 600 BC) Bu Broch, Stomness, are also true brochs. A solution to this, partly semantic, problem is provided by Armit who argues that Mackie's elaborate brochs are best classified as `tower brochs' within a wider category of round houses, thus freeing the term `broch' to be used more loosely (Armit 1990). 

Traditionally, brochs have been consigned to a relatively brief interval after the 1st century BC. However, modern excavations have made this late dating seem unlikely, and even the developed `tower brochs' may have been emerging a century or so earlier. Recent explanations of the origins of the broch (e. g. Armit 1990) have discarded the idea of migrants from the south, preferring to stress local prototypes and the broch's functional and symbolic importance in the negotiation of power.

In the early centuries of the first millennium, native society was undergoing profound political and social change. We see in the heightened development of social inequality and hierarchy the emergence of what anthropologists might term a `chiefdom society'. The appearance of souterrains (large underground stores) in the eastern mainland is but one reflection of ongoing attempts to maximize the extraction of wealth from the land and concentrate it in the hands of the few. All over Scotland, small-scale power structures founded on face-to-face relations were being superseded by far-reaching systems of control, distant authority delegated to local leaders in return for a share of the tribute. The rise and fall of the famous brochs are an architectural manifestation of the beginning of this trend away from the intensive and towards the extensive exercise of power, as hierarchies of space within a settlement (internally differentiated sites of similar form throughout the landscape) were replaced by new hierarchies between settlements (major centres controlling dependent sites). Political units, however, remained comparatively small. Identity was vested at the level of the tribe whose members might have numbered only a few thousand.


The tendency to build self-contained circular enclosures reached its apogee in western and northern Scotland, and especially in the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland (Fig. 5.12). Unfortunately some of the strongest patterning has been obscured by disagreements about terminology and chronology (Armit ed. 1990; Armit 1992; Parker Pearson and Sharples 1996: chapter 12; D. Harding 2004: chapter 5).
Again the circular archetype was very important and extended from individual dwellings to more monumental walled enclosures. All these features were conceived on an impressive scale. They vary from the crannogs built in open water to small circular compounds, and from relatively insubstantial dwellings to massive domestic buildings, the most impressive of which - the brochs of the Scottish mainland, the Western and Northern Isles - resemble towers (Armit 2003b). Some of these structures are isolated but quite densely distributed and were surely designed to impress, whilst others can be found inside defended enclosures which contain a variety of other buildings. Many of them were distributed along the coast where there were a number of promontory forts (Armit 1992).

Here is another case in which large round houses may have been an important settlement form from an early stage of the Iron Age. Ian Armit (2003b) has argued that structures ancestral to brochs were built as early as 600 BC and that during the Iron Age stone houses in Atlantic Scotland became increasingly complex in design. True brochs seem to have emerged about 200 BC. They are interpreted as defended high-status dwellings, characterised by such features as internal staircases and guard cells. They must have had more than one storey, and there can no longer be any doubt that they were roofed. 

Some of the structural principles that characterise the brochs extend to other forms of defensive architecture: to some of the circular-walled enclosures known as duns and even to the monumental gateways of a number of the promontory forts in Shetland (Hamilton 1968; D. Harding 2004: 137-50). Another key element is the way in which domestic structures were organised. In some brochs there seems to have been a communal space with a hearth located in the centre of the building. It was ringed by a range of compartments which were divided from one another by partitions projecting from the interior wall. In Shetland and the Hebrides, this principle was expressed on a smaller scale in the distinctive dwellings known as wheelhouses (Parker Pearson and Sharples 1999: chapter 12). A number of these were built after the broch themselves, and it has yet to be worked out how far their histories overlapped. In any case there are important contrasts between them. 

Wheelhouses were sometimes set into the ground, whereas brochs were conspicuous monuments, and on certain sites the domestic accommodation was probably at first floor level (Armit 2003b: chapter 3). Wheelhouses were sometimes associated with souterrains, but the connection between storage structures and individual dwellings is entirely different from the more centralised system illustrated by hillforts in southern Britain.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The later Shang capitals at Anyang and Shangqiu are better known archaeologically. Anyang is thought to have been the sixth and final capital of the Shang dynasty. By around 1200 BC, the city comprised a metropolitan area of some 15km2, consisting of multiple occupation clusters spread along a 6km stretch of the Yellow River. Anyang was not merely a conglomeration of villages - large-scale residential foundations thought to be palaces have been found at Xiaotun, and tombs of a scale indicative of royal burial are present at Xibeigang, where a large number of inscribed oracle bones attest to a qualitative change in social organization. Three clusters of hangtu foundations have been identified at Xiaotun, a total of 53 individual foundations of which the largest is 2800m2. Storage pits containing the remains of grain, bronze weapons, oracle bones, and fine pottery have been identified around the palatial foundations. Craft workshops and commoner residences are also present, indicating that bronze casting and jade, shell, bone, and stone working were conducted in the area around the palaces. The Xiaotun sector is thought to be the administrative-ceremonial core of Anyang, administering a web of surrounding settlement clusters. 

One of the outlying sites that constitute the Anyang urban web is Xibeigang, where 13 monumental tombs have been excavated. All of these consist of a primary pit accessed by ramps that share the same orientation and have evidence of extensive sacrificial burials (including humans, dogs, horses, and other animals) associated with the burials of prominent individuals. Although these have been extensively looted, the FuHao tomb excavated at Xiaotun offers us a sense of the wealth of grave goods placed with prominent individuals. This tomb belonged to a wife of the ruler Wu Ting and contained 16 human sacrificial victims, six dogs, 7000 cowrie shells, and more than 1600 other items (bronzes, jades, oracle bones, stone objects, ivory carvings, pottery, and shell objects). 

More research is needed to clarify patterns of urban development in China, but it is clear that cities with populations exceeding 100 000 had developed by Eastern Zhou times (771-221 BC), when urban settlements exhibit a more nucleated character and a more consistent layout. By this time, the urban form included a walled inner city (wangcheng) that contained a palace, an outer city (guo), and a surrounding hinterland of suburbs (jiao) and farming hamlets (yie). Zhou cities were commercial centers with thriving craft industries and well-developed administrative hierarchies. 

It is undeniable that these cities developed out of millennia-long traditions of settlement organization. Longshan social development saw the appearance of walled compounds of a few hectares, possibly areas of elite residence and craft production that were surrounded by commoner settlement. By the mid-second millennium BC, China's largest sites covered several square kilometers and had sizeable precincts (sometimes walled) in which monumental architecture, palatial residences, ritual spaces, and storage facilities were located. Craft production appears to have become more specialized and was carried out on a larger scale in workshops outside of the inner city. Farmers lived in rural communities outside of the cities. It appears that the inner parts of these early cities were planned to a degree not seen at the urban periphery, which grew more organically in a number of linked settlement clusters.

Excavation of Jenne-Jeno (1974–1998)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The markets in Jenne-jeno c.1000 AD by Charles Santore.

American archaeologists Rod and Susan McIntosh significantly advanced our understanding of the archaeology of Iron Age Africa through their excavation of the mound at Jenne-Jeno, located on the upper Niger River Delta, in the modern African state of Mali. During the 1970s and 1980s, the impact of African political independence on archaeology was demonstrated by the initiation of numerous regional studies, which focused on local origins and developments. The sites of Jenne-Jeno (ancient Jenne) and Jenne itself spanned 2,000 years of occupation and, because of the archaeological work at the site, were subsequently inscribed on the World Heritage List. 

It was well known, and described in detail by Arab chroniclers, that between AD 800 and 1500 the wealthy and sophisticated Sudanese kingdoms of Ghana, Gao, Takrur, Tegdauost, and Mali dominated the western Sudan, between Lake Chad and the Atlantic Ocean, and the resources and trade routes farther south, and across central and west Africa. During the nineteenth century these Sudanic kingdoms became French colonies, and during the early twentieth century they were part of French West Sudan. Before the 1960s their historical significance was determined by their relationship with North Africa. 

This "Arabist perspective" meant that the cultural and political achievements of these Sudanic people were seen to be the direct result of their contact and trade with North Africa. French archaeologists and historians who worked in the region were responsible for this colonial attitude, but this does not diminish their contributions to its history and archaeology. The French identified, surveyed, and protected many of the major sites and compiled a detailed history of the region and its long relationship with the Arab/Berber world. They also began the rediscovery of the protohistory of western Africa and the Sudanic kingdoms and began to educate local African archaeologists after World War II. During the 1970s French archaeologist Raymond Mauny excavated the Sudanic kingdom sites of Koumbi Saleh and Gao. 

Nonetheless, until the 1970s the whole sub-Saharan nature of the Sudanic kingdoms was ignored. Instead, historians concentrated on its architecture, inscriptions, trans-Sahara trade, and imports, but rarely investigated the local context and content of these sites. Indeed, a rereading of Arab chronicles during this period reveals detailed descriptions of local pagan cults, fetishes, shrines, and sorcery, which were distinctly West African in provenance, but had neither been noticed nor investigated. It became obvious that if historical sources contained such different perspectives, then a scientific and thorough archaeological investigation and analysis of these sites was bound to come up with neglected evidence about the origins and development of complex societies in the Sudanic kingdoms before Arab contact. During the 1980s the consolidation of political independence in Africa impelled archaeological investigations to answer some important questions about the African past. 

Jenne-Jeno (or Djenne) was an important staging post on one of the wealthiest and most famous trade routes that operated across Africa over the past 500 years. Gold, mined to the south of Jenne, was transported to this river town, and then shipped in canoes to Timbuktu. From there it was sent via camel trains to North Africa, and then on to Europe. Jenne-Jeno also supplied the arid inland town of Timbuktu with most of its food in the form of cereals and dried fish. 

The excavation of the large, six-meter-deep occupation mound, and the analyis of data by the McIntoshes, revealed that the city of Jenne-Jeno was founded 2,250 years ago (ca. 250 BC) by iron-using people who herded stock; fished and hunted; grew rice, millet, and sorghum; and were also craftspeople and traders. The excavation of another two sites at Jenne-Jeno provided evidence that the city had grown rapidly throughout the first millennium AD until it covered, at its greatest extent, 76 acres in AD 850, when its population was estimated to be around 27,000 people. During this period Jenne-Jeno was surrounded by a 4-meter-high and 2-kilometer-long, mud brick defense wall. After AD 1200 Jenne-Jeno's population declined, and it was abandoned 200 years later. 

The excavation of Jenne-Jeno proved that urban settlement and a complex society (based on the creation of enough food surplus to trade for raw materials, such as iron and copper, via long distance and east-west trade in West Africa) had developed long before the trans-Saharan trade with the North African Arabs, which was documented as beginning after the ninth century AD. The idea that the Sudanic kingdoms were the result of contact with northern Africa was disproved, as was the idea that Black Africa was incapable of "civilization" without northern influences. Here was an indigenous, wealthy, Iron Age culture of great social, cultural, and political sophistication, in contact with and influencing the rest of West Africa a long time before the arrival of Arabs or Europeans.

Further Reading Connah, G. 2004. Forgotten Africa: an introduction to its archaeology. London: Routledge. MacIntosh, R. J. 2001. Africa, Francophone. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: History and discoveries, ed. T. Murray, 21-35. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. MacIntosh, S. K. 2001. Africa, Sudanic Kingdoms. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: History and discoveries, ed. T. Murray, 71-78. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. McIntosh, S. K., and R. J. McIntosh. 1980. Prehistoric investigations in the region of Jenne, Mali: A study in the development of urbanism in the Sahel. Oxford: BAR. Muzzolini, A. 2001. Africa, Sahara. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: History and discoveries, ed. T. Murray, 71-78. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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