The Timber Monuments of Neolithic Scotland

Kirsty Millican


Timber monuments form an important part of the Neolithic monumental repertoire, yet tend to play a relatively minor role in discussions of this period. This volume is an attempt to remedy this imbalance and, through an examination of the cropmark and excavation records, considers the variety of timber monuments built during the Neolithic period in Scotland. Recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as chance discoveries during excavations, most are found in eastern lowland Scotland, thoughthere are hints of a wider distribution. Dating suggests two episodes of timber monument building, with a division occurring around 3300 cal. BC, reflected in the construction of new forms of timber monument as well as the way in which they were treated. The differences between earlier and later Neolithic timber monuments likely reflect different ways of conceptualising and using timber monuments as well as changing values, meanings and ideals, reflecting wider social changes obvious within the archaeological record. Timber monuments, though, were much more than ground plans. They were important spaces and places used by Neolithic communities for many different purposes, closely tied to their location and context and reflecting changing relationships with the landscape and the environment. Therefore consideration of their materiality, landscape and context serves to enrich and expand interpretations of timber monuments and to break down the classifications they tend to be placed within, revealing greater complexity and variety. Ultimately timber monuments were one part of a wider Neolithic monumental repertoire, and the number and variety now recognised means they can no longer be considered secondary or derivative of monuments built of other materials. Instead, they must be considered on an equal footing with other monuments, their form, materiality and treatment informing us about some of the concerns, values and relationships of Neolithic communities.