A note on propositions 12 - 14

Propositions 12 - 14 use the detailed data in Section 6, and the anthropological material in Section 8 as points of reference. There are two major influences on the approach taken. The first is anthropological observation, which suggests that it is common in modern less-developed peoples to have mortuary ritual founded on a usually structured belief system, which may find expression in a wide variety of ways (Bartel 1982). The interpretation of what is observed in modern societies is not always consistent or easy and is full of risk: this risk is therefore even greater in interpreting through the archaeological record the beliefs of peoples living 2000-6000 years ago. Nonetheless the anthropological template appears to be well researched, and its existence must be acknowledged in interpretation of beliefs among similarly less developed peoples in prehistoric southern Britain.

Secondly, the detailed studies evidence is believed to be sufficient in quantity, quality and detail to justify relating it to anthropological theory in the context of this research. In 3500bc-AD43 we are not dealing with a series of ad hoc archaeological events or a few individual examples. There is a collection of a large body of evidence through time that allows major patterns and models to be assembled, and high level statements to be made which may or may not have high levels of probability given the testing of hypotheses (to support or destruction). Much related to this section has already been tested in the course of examining Propositions 1-11, during which work there has been increasing reference to beliefs as work has progressed through the foci of community, status and ancestor-oriented behaviour.

The probability that the threads of belief connected with these elements may be much interwoven is becoming more evident. This section will extend the model for the belief system by examining further relevant evidence, and begin to bring all four behavioural foci together thereby.

As the hypotheses are about belief, they depend in part on the material evidence, and in part on its interpretation through the medium of anthropological study (and in this case the slight amount of literary evidence relevant to the latest period). The risks inherent in the latter have been referred to at several points in Section 2. (for example Atkinson's comments (1946; 1951b) on the fallacious assumption that modern primitive peoples preserve in vitro the culture of prehistoric periods). What would certainly be false is to suggest that an object used as a symbol in 4000BC always had an exact explanation in the anthropologically recorded symbolic use of the same object in the 20th century. What would appear reasonable, on the other hand, is to take an assemblage of indicators which commonly appear in both prehistoric and modern primitive mortuary ritual and disposal processes, and examine whether one general explanation is more likely than another.


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