An investigation into potential correlations between the placement of Neolithic Cursus Monuments and Large Herbivore Movement

Saunders, David John (2019) An investigation into potential correlations between the placement of Neolithic Cursus Monuments and Large Herbivore Movement. Doctoral thesis, University of Buckingham.

1403263 David Saunders - DPhil - July 2019 .pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (8MB) | Preview


This thesis identifies a very strong correlation between the placement and alignment of Neolithic Cursus Monuments with previous cattle movement and therefore makes an original contribution to the Cursus Monument debate. The thesis explores the proposal that a correlation exists between the placement of Cursus Monuments within the landscape and the movement of domestic cattle throughout that landscape. Any possible correlation between these monuments and the movement of Neolithic pastoralist communities within the area has not been well explored in extant research. Previous Cursus Monument studies have tended to focus on the construction or post-construction phases of the monument, rather than on the reasons behind a Neolithic community’s decision to locate and align these monuments where they did. The research in this study uses quantifiable data gathered by George et al (2007), who fitted GPS collars to American range cattle to determine the terrain over which cattle move, combined with GIS elevation and slope data from a GIS software programme supplied by Environmental Systems Research Institute. This has enabled a quantifiable examination of the landscape next to 50 Cursus Monument sites on or adjacent to the English chalkland belt to determine the movement of cattle, across the landscape at each individual monument site. Investigation into areas of natural restriction to the landscape and areas affected by winter flooding of pasture has enabled the identification of areas that could have aided cattle movement and husbandry at prime points during the early spring. The inclusion of boots-on-the-ground field observations across each of the 50 monument sites have helped overcome issues associated with previous studies where answers from a few ideal examples appear to have then been extrapolated to the rest. The linking of data on cattle movement (George et al 2007) to mainstream archaeological research has identified that the natural topography of the study group landscape has a very strongly correlation with the alignment of each Cursus Monument, where Cursus Monument sites appear to align with the potential route of cattle across the valley profile. It does not, however, appear to determine the precise location upon which the monument was constructed. Further investigation into areas affected by winter flooding of pasture, resulting in earlier nutritional grass growth upon which the cattle could feed, has identified that the precise location of Cursus Monument sites appears to have a strong correlation with these areas. The thesis identifies a strong correlation with cattle husbandry and determines individual factors such as association with spring meadows and an association with leading cattle to water which appear to have been significant factors in establishing the exact location for Cursus Monument sites. The thesis potentially suggests that Cursus Monuments commenced life as droveways, thereby perhaps identifying an initial practical function to the landscape prior to their probable ritual importance as Cursus Monument sites. A case study is undertaken to re-evaluate these ideas using research undertaken in the Milfield Basin in Northumberland, an area that appears to have had a droveway which did not develop into a Cursus Monument. Establishing a correlation between Cursus Monuments and earlier cattle movement opens the way for future study, through expanding the use of the methodology to upland Cursus Monument sites and Scottish Timber Cursus Monument sites.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Archaeology ; Neolithic Cursus Monuments ; Large Herbivore Movement
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Divisions: School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Economics
Depositing User: Nicola Button
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2022 12:22
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 12:22

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item