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Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Prof Chris Scarre

Scarre, Chris (2009). Stony ground: outcrops, rocks and quarries in the creation of megalithic monuments. In Megalithic Quarrying: Sourcing, extracting and manipulating the stones. Scarre, Chris Oxford: Archaeopress. 3-20.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

In his famous 1872 volume “Rude Stone Monuments” architect James Fergusson commented on the inherently peculiar nature of megalithic architecture, which chose to employ large stone slabs that were frequently unmodified and unshaped. Subsequent studies of the megalithic slabs themselves have focused mainly on their geological origin and the distances over which they had been transported. The materiality of the slabs and they way that they were extracted from their source material has been only rarely addressed, although megalithic ‘quarries’ have occasionally been identified, and the deployment of glacial boulders in North European monuments is a well-known phenomenon. Even beyond the glaciated zone, extensive spreads of natural boulders may have characterised large areas of western Europe during the earlier Neolithic. Some megalithic monuments were built directly from such scattered blocks. In the majority of cases, however, the megalithic slabs can be shown to have been cut away from cliffs and outcrops, exploiting natural fracture planes. Whether quarried slabs or detached boulders, what unites these sources of stone is that they were surface exposures, visible features of the early Neolithic landscape that may already have been places of special significance.