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Dr Frances Healy  -  F.S.A., F.S.A. Scot.


Dating causewayed enclosures. 2003–2007. The project has been undertaken jointly by Professor Alasdair Whittle (Cardiff University), Dr Alex Bayliss (Scientific dating Co-ordinator for English Heritage) and Frances Healy.

The fourth millennium cal BC in Britain is coming into sharper chronological focus. Change and development are increasingly visible within what was even recently seen as an almost undifferentiated early Neolithic hundreds of years long. This is the result both of the general accumulation of radiocarbon dates and of research projects which have targeted chronological questions.

Gains in precision have, however, been uneven. It is possible to date a few events in the fourth millennium to periods of 50 years or less. This makes it difficult to relate them to the bulk of the record which still floats between far wider limits. This level of resolution has been achieved for some long barrows and cairns, for some components of the Hambledon Hill causewayed enclosure complex in Dorset and for some components of Stonehenge.

Its achievement for causewayed enclosures, the first large-scale, communal monuments to be built by farming populations in Britain, would make it possible to answer questions such as those below.

  • Did causewayed enclosures begin to be built at the same time throughout Britain?
  • Or is there any geographical pattern?
  • Were enclosures in clusters used successively, concurrently, alternately?
  • How did their construction and use relate to that of other kinds of monument?
  • Did they all go out of use at the same time?
  • Or does the development of monuments in each area have its own dynamic?
  • What are the implications for contemporary society?

The project is funded by English Heritage and AHRC and the project value is approximately £300,000

Research Groups

British and European Neolithic archaeology.