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Roll Me a Great Stone: A Brief Historiography of Megalithic Construction and the Genesis of the Roller Hypothesis

Harris, B; (2018) Roll Me a Great Stone: A Brief Historiography of Megalithic Construction and the Genesis of the Roller Hypothesis. Oxford Journal of Archaeology , 37 (3) pp. 267-281. 10.1111/ojoa.12142. Green open access

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Abstract

Summary The idea that prehistoric, megalith‐building communities used cylindrical, wooden rollers to transport enormous stones – the ‘roller hypothesis’ – is ubiquitous within archaeological literature and public discourse on megalithic architecture. The likelihood that such devices were actually used to transport megaliths during prehistory remains highly questionable, yet the roller hypothesis has now dominated discussions of the subject for some 400 years. At its heart lies the assertion that fewer people were needed to transport large stones with rollers than without them. A review of experimental and ethnographic studies of megalith transport casts doubt on this central claim and suggests that simpler, better‐attested and more reliable methods were probably used. So when and why did the roller hypothesis become so popular? The historiography of the idea reveals how its advocates succeeded in rationalizing it within wider, paradigmatic beliefs about their contemporary worlds and the deep past. The roller hypothesis is bound up in outmoded, even jingoistic perspectives of megalithic construction and the evolution of technology. To advance our understanding of megalithic construction a more critical stance is herein advocated.

Type: Article
Title: Roll Me a Great Stone: A Brief Historiography of Megalithic Construction and the Genesis of the Roller Hypothesis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/ojoa.12142
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/ojoa.12142
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10069133
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