a1 Department of Geography University of Newcastle Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU
a2 Department of Archaeology University of Durham Science Laboratories Durham DH1 3LE
The key argument presented in this article is that a threefold temporal sequence can be recognized in the deployment of cup and ring marks and that these changes can throw new light on the nature of ideological evolution in northern Britain during the Neolithic. It is proposed that the initial phase relates to the symbolic portrayal of the ideological beliefs which constituted the ‘Neolithic’ (c. 4000–3200 BC) by mapping them on the landscape via outcropping bedrock. During the second phase (c. 3200–2000 BC) the significance of this symbolism is thought to be appropriated, as it is reworked into ‘man-made’ megalithic constructions which ‘monumentalize’ the landscape under the aegis of increasingly overt human control. By the third phase (c. 2000–1800 BC) a disjuncture is apparent in both the function and meaning of the cup and ring tradition culminating in its expropriation as human control of the natural world becomes more fixed.