Social Network Analysis of Passage Tomb Intervisibility


Passage tombs are widely regarded as the most homogenous prehistoric funerary monument class on the island in terms of their morphology, ornamentation, assemblage of finds, landscape siting and spatial clustering. Contextually, the archaeological classification of Irish megalithic tombs has identified court, portal and passage types as Neolithic with wedge tombs constructed in the later Bronze Age. The small number of single Neolithic burials (Linkardstown type) is excluded from this case study. The writer has examined the island\u27s passage tomb tradition from five perspectives - spatial cohesion, symbolism in elevation/height, landscape setting and vista, archaeoastronomy and intervisibility. Tomb intervisibility in the corpus of c. 230 extant tombs and possibly-related hilltop cairns (c. 50) was recorded by the writer during fieldwork. This relational data is treated here as a set of ties and analysed using a network-based approach. The analysis method draws on Social Network Analysis theory as the research tool. Tomb centrality is determined, yielding indices which rank these monuments according to this measure. Although the findings are preliminary, this technique brings a new focus to the landscape siting of the tombs and considers their potential as being sacred places having a broader social role in additional to being abodes of the dead. The hypothesis is that visibility and intervisibility may have constituted a visual network, were an integral part of information/knowledge exchange and may even have aided human movement and trade across the island

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This paper was published in Arrow@TUDublin.

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