Exchange in Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age (EBA) Ireland: Connecting people, objects and ideas
Ó Maoldúin, Ros
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The Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age (EBA) in Ireland were periods of great flux, out of which and into which, novel technologies and institutions emerged and were transmitted. This thesis combines analysis of the material culture from that period, with insight drawn from ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological research on exchange, to advance its aim of tracing and understanding that flux. It explicitly challenges assumptions of prehistory, that are either too reliant on experience of the modern western world, or are overly constrained by the academic paradigms in which they were conceived. The thesis begins with a study of past anthropological, archaeological and ethnoarchaeological approaches to, and perspectives on, exchange (chapter 2). It then considers the constraints and opportunities, natural and cultural, which communities engaging in exchange in prehistoric Ireland faced (chapter 3). The body of the thesis, rather than attempting a complete overview of the period, focuses on those aspects which were found to be most profitable to the study of exchange. It employs concepts such as chaîne opératoire, object biographies, materiality and intercontextual archaeology to analyse diverse aspects of material culture, such as metalwork (chapter 4), ceramics (chapter 5), objects of bodily ornamentation (chapter 6), burial monuments (chapter 7) and burial goods (chapters 5 & 6). This is followed by two regional case studies (chapter 8) in which it is possible to take a more complete overview of the Chalcolithic and EBA remains and where the role of exchange in the diachronic trajectories taken by the communities in those respective areas is considered. Finally, extrapolating back out to the broader picture, the insight from the former chapters is combined to facilitate discussion of the major trends in, and the particular or universal aspects of, exchange in Chalcolithic and EBA Ireland (chapters 9 & 10).