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New book explores Neolithic island ritual

Image of the cover of Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and Mediterranean Island Ritual

Press release issued: 8 February 2016

Ritual life on Neolithic islands is the subject of a new book edited by Dr George Nash of the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and the late Andrew Townsend, who completed a PhD in archaeology at Bristol.

Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and Mediterranean Island Ritual explores what islands are and how indigenous communities coped with external influences, in particular, the way ritualised and symbolic ideologies moved across many kilometres of open water to colonise the way people behaved. 

The book comprises 16 thought-provoking chapters that explore the physical nature and levels of insularity of island life during later prehistory.

The selected case studies specifically target islands of varying size and resources within two large bodies of water, the Atlantic Seaboard and the Mediterranean Sea, and include papers on Cyprus, Crete, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Jersey, Guernsey, the Scillies, Anglesey, Orkney and Gotland.  Several of the papers have been written by former University of Bristol postgraduates.

The image for the front cover of the book, showing an evocative view of the Stones of Stenness in Orkney was taken by one of the contributors, author and photographer Diego Meozzi, who also provided a similar image for the cover of Van Morrison’s album The Philosopher’s Stone.  

Dr Nash said: “This book will be an important contribution to the study of island-life in Later Prehistory.  To date, little is known about how ideas and concepts were ‘transported’ to sometimes very remote outposts of the Neolithic world.  We hope that this long-awaited book can provided some, but not all of the answers.”    

Decoding Neolithic Atlantic and Mediterranean Island Ritual edited by George Nash and Andrew Townsend is published by Oxbow Books £38

About the authors

Andrew Townsend had a keen interest in island archaeology, having undertaken research on Malta and neighbouring Gozo, culminating in a successful PhD submission at the University of Bristol.  Sadly, Andrew passed away suddenly five months before publication of this book which provides a long-lasting legacy to his research and standing within the archaeological community.      

Dr George Nash is a research fellow within the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and has undertaken fieldwork on Anglesey, Guernsey, Jersey, Malta and Sardinia, mainly on burial-ritual monuments of the Neolithic. 

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