Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Research Article

Spatial Structures and Symbolic Systems in Irish and British Passage Tombs: the Organization of Architectural Elements, Parietal Carved Signs and Funerary Deposits

Guillaume Robina1

a1 Dipartimento di Scienze umanistiche e dell'antichità, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Piazza Conte di Moriana, 8, 07100 Sassari, Italy Email:


Passage tombs are the most elaborate monuments that were built during the Irish and British Neolithic, not only because of their complex monumental architecture but also because they are the only type of tomb that has carvings and such a diversity of funerary objects. This article focuses on the spatial organization of these three components of passage tombs and identifies several recurrent structures that are classified into three groups. From these spatial structures, an abstract elementary model is proposed that helps to understand the conceptual principles and the symbolic significations that guided the construction, decoration and use of the monuments.

(Received February 22 2010)

(Accepted March 29 2010)

(Revised April 07 2010)

Guillaume Robin is a member of the Laboratoire Méditerranéen de Préhistoire Europe Afrique (CNRS UMR 6636, Aix-en-Provence, France) and is currently a Fyssen Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sassari (Italy). In 2008 he completed a PhD at the University of Nantes (France) on Irish passage-tomb art, which has recently published as a book (L'architecture des signes, 2009).