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The Idea of Order: Circular Architecture in Prehistoric Europe

Albert Reckitt Archaeological Lecture, delivered by Professor Richard Bradley FBA, on 9 November 2011 (venue: The British Academy).

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This lecture is not about a period or a place; it is about an idea. Why did so many people in prehistoric Europe build circular monuments? Why did they choose to live in circular houses, when other communities rejected them? Why was it that those who preferred to inhabit a world of rectangular dwellings so often buried their dead in round barrows and worshipped their gods in circular temples?

The Idea of Order considers the significance of circular dwellings as well as circular mounds from the origins of agriculture to the Early Medieval period and from Central Europe and the Mediterranean at one extreme to Britain and Ireland at the other. It investigates why this architectural form remained important for such a long period of time and contrasts its distribution with that of rectilinear architecture in ancient Europe. It also considers the circumstances in which roundhouses and circular monuments finally went out of use.

About the speaker
Richard Bradley has been Professor of Archaeology at Reading University since 1987. His recent publications include a new analysis of ancient art in Europe, a book on the prehistory of Britain and Ireland, a study of ritual and domestic life in Neolithic to Iron Age Europe, and three volumes analysing traditions of Bronze Age monumental architecture in Scotland.