Why this website

Photo of an insurance disclaimer sticker on a car.
‘Insurance Disclaimer’. Copyright © Andrew Steinmetz 2008 – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped.

This site is the main result of the ‘outreach’ activities carried out as part of the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship Project titled IBERENCLOGIS.

Especially if you are an archaeologist, you may be wondering why this website has been made in the first place. If so, prepare yourself for a long disclaimer.

First and foremost, this is a site aimed at the general public and archaeology students. The approach chosen, the language used and the aspects stressed are intended as an exercise in communication with the non-initiated, not with the specialist. The public at large has showed time and time again that they are interested in the Prehistoric archaeology of Europe. There is a broad range of people who buy books, watch TV shows and consume Internet content on these topics, Stonehenge being by far the biggest centre of attention. However, the quality and accuracy of this content is not always the best, or is out of date. In some areas of Europe, Neolithic and Copper Age ditched enclosures are a key element in processes of social transformation, from the introduction of Neolithic practices to the appearance of social complexity. And yet, the general public is very much oblivious to all that. This website must be seen as a first step towards the dissemination of higher quality knowledge about these phenomena, primarily, although not necessarily exclusively, ditched enclosures. Other types of enclosures (walled, palisaded) may follow in time.

This approach entails some compromises, the most important being the risk of oversimplification. Do not expect a lengthy treatise. Some information is intentionally excluded to make important concepts easier to understand for non-specialists. We are doing our best to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible, but the results are not perfect for sure.

In particular, some colleagues may dismiss the notion of a ditched enclosure ‘phenomenon’ in Neolithic Europe altogether. We are using this term as a ‘natural category’ in the sense described by Jörg Petrasch when referring to Central European Kreisgrabenanlagen, although for convenience reasons we are broadening the category even more to include other enclosures:

The man characteristics of ‘natural’ categories are their fuzzy boundaries and the non-equivalence of their members, i.e. there are more and less typical examples. Psychological experiments have shown that categories are not defined by a list of simultaneously necessary and sufficient characteristics. Every single characteristic can, but does not have to be, present in a member of the category. Hence, the ‘fuzzier’ allocations connected to natural categories are less suitable for addressing many traditional archaeological questions. On the other hand, using these categories in archaeology has obvious advantages for interpretations privileging the function and meaning of monuments or objects. Since this is the case in the analysis of enclosures, it is understandable that all researchers on the topic have de facto tried to establish natural categories through their classifications, even though this has not been explicitly discussed.

Other archaeologists may see some resemblances to old-fashioned Diffussionism, with empty analogies based on purely formal similarities or parallels. However, what is shown here is not that in any way. We do not think, for instance, that building activity carried out in Central Europe during the Kreisgrabenanlagen boom between 4900 and 4700 BCE had a direct influence in the construction of causewayed enclosures in Britain between 3800 and 3600 BCE, or in the activities performed at Iberian enclosures in the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE. Quite the contrary, we defend the need for multi-scalar approaches which combine a focus on specific phenomena with an awareness of the wider context in which such phenomena appear and develop. Our emphasis is not on relationships –which, in some particular cases, may have existed–; it is on understanding local and regional processes of change within a broader frame of reference.

We do not question the uniqueness of each individual site, and it is entirely possible that each and everyone of them were built for their own reasons. But even if the purpose and nature of their construction were absolutely specific to each particular site or region, in complete isolation from the wider context, the fact remains that archaeologists in different countries and academic traditions are facing similar problems, and can benefit from an awareness of what their colleagues elsewhere are doing to deal with them. The negative consequences of academic isolation as regards methods and approaches is best exemplified in the history of research on Iberian enclosures (see eg Jimenez-Jaimez 2015). More advanced topics, with the glimpse of a regional approach, can be seen in some slides of the ‘where’ section of the website, nonetheless.

Lastly, this website has been conceived in a way that allows it to become a common platform for researchers to make their work known to a wider audience. The requirement to license all content, including images, under legal schemes that allow re-use with attribution (eg Creative Commons licenses and the like) greatly enhances the potential of such content to reach the general public, either directly or through projects like Wikipedia. Ideally, with time and enough contributions, researchers themselves might be able to use the site as a source for content that may be difficult to find, or hard to reproduce and adapt for their own work. For the launching of this website, much effort has been put, for example, in collecting images that were already online and suitable for re-use, but dispersed or stored in parts of the Web that researchers do not normally monitor in their search for resources (eg photos in Flickr.com).

And if you do not like what you see, you can always contact the authors and make your suggestions to improve it.