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Colour out of space: colour in the construction and usage of monuments of Neolithic Atlantic Europe.

Foreman, P., 2019. Colour out of space: colour in the construction and usage of monuments of Neolithic Atlantic Europe. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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FOREMAN, Penelope_Ph.D._2019.pdf



Colour is a fundamental human experience – if not a universally constant one. There are, after all, individuals who are colour-blind to various degrees, or even those that see extra colours. However, there is something about the perception and categorisation of colour that is near uniform across humanity, as evidenced by Berlin and Kay’s Basic Color Terms and studies into the key mechanisms of colour vision. Deeper still, it seems to be the case that specific colours re-appear in human art, iconography, ritual and folklore as a leitmotif running through our cultural evolution; that is, the colours red, white, and black. Evidence for this significant triad, as well as other colours showing repeated and deliberate selection, has been gathered and analysed. A summary of the literature on this is presented in this, along with a review with existing work on colour, and why the materiality and material semiotics of stone are important to this research. The aim of this research is to survey a sample of Neolithic monuments across Atlantic Europe, and see if there are any commonalities, significant patterns, and demonstrable signs of specific colour selection that may hint at colour being an important part of Neolithic cosmology – regionally, locally, or culturally. There has been some work touching upon this concept, most recently and notably at the Clava Cairns and sites on Arran; this study will develop this existing research and deepen the understanding of colour use in the Neolithic. In order to see if the fascinating possibilities raised in these works has broader Neolithic context, this research will study sites in similar levels of detail at locations across Atlantic Europe. This will include many styles of monument, from stone circles to passage graves to long barrows to stone rows, in order to evaluate colour significance across a broad range of monument building traditions. Colour was recorded via both human perception and through the use of a digital recording device, custom designed for this project. Recording these colours using a digital tool achieves two things: namely, to go some way towards compensating for the fallibility of the human visual cortex, and to provide a vector for the material properties to speak without being directly interpreted by a human intermediary. This taking into account of the material agency of the stones themselves played a key role in understanding the networks of influence that colours may have had on Neolithic peoples, and how this could have affected their cosmologies. The main stage of this research is six case studies of groupings of Neolithic monuments across the Atlantic façade of north western Europe. Discussion is focused through a lens of these findings along with studies into ethnographic parallels on colour use, stone provenance, and materiality among early farming societies. Using the methodology refined by the initial pilot studies, these six regions are examined for patterns and connections, and analysed both within their own regions and in a wider context, to enable statements on the importance of colour to Neolithic monument builders to be made.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:neolithic; colour; atlantic europe; megaliths; monuments
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:32670
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:27 Aug 2019 13:34
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:17


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