Decaying flesh and instability of substances: rethinking Neolithic chambered tombs

Professor Colin Richards will speak about the nature of Neolithic chambered tombs and the decaying corpses within. In this seminar a new interpretation of Neolithic chambered tombs is offered, one that draws on the idea of decay as a transformative and potentially generative process. It will also introduce The third policeman by Flann O'Brien as providing an interesting way to rethink the nature of chambered tombs.

[ When


o Where

Room G4.02 - Orkney College UHI
East Road
KW15 1LX

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Joanna Rodgers

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HARC’s new annual research programme exploring the broad themes of Ruination and Decay, is now underway! We currently have a series of monthly seminars and events beginning in February 2019 and culminating in a two-day conference in December. The overall aim of the themed research programme is for HARC to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative events within the UHI network and introduce and involve people in different disciplines in different areas to a variety of approaches to ruination and decay. The first seminar in the series is led by Colin Richards, and is on the theme of “Decaying flesh and instability of substances: rethinking Neolithic chambered tombs”.

Neolithic chambered tombs are spectacular, well known and frequently visited  prehistoric monuments. They have a distribution across Scotland, Ireland and the west of England, many spectacular sites are also present in France, Scandinavia and Iberia. These monuments have been interpreted in number of ways but most people accept the designation chambered 'tomb' in some form or another as they are places of human burial. In the first seminar of the ruination and decay programme, the function  of Neolithic chambered tombs is problematised and a different interpretation offered which draws on the architecture and deposits found within them. Strange as it may seem, Flann O'Briens The third policeman provides an interesting example of how chambered tombs may be rethought in a different light.

No prior registration is required for this event.


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