Social Memory and Prehistoric Sites in the Roman Empire – Mara Vejby

Social memory is not about reliving the past, but about defining the present and planning for the future within the shifting contexts of the past.  Interpretations of the past are therefore an important component of power, as control over ‘memories’ provides a selective control on the present.  Consequently, physical interactions with ancient sites, whether constructive or destructive, indicate a process of social memory as it is created, altered, and/or controlled.

Both ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’ take place in particular political and historical contexts within each society.  Within the contexts of the greater Roman Empire the presence of social memory is seen in the interactions with older prehistoric monuments within the landscape.  This paper will focus on the Roman material and Roman-age activity found at megalithic tombs in Atlantic Europe.  By exploring the nature and patterns of these interactions through the activity and deposits at these sites it will be possible to begin to discuss their significance.  Do the patterns indicate Roman use of Roman material?  Are there regional differences in the nature of interaction with these sites?  And how might all these reflect on the functions of social memory in Roman-occupied versus non-Roman-occupied territories, where Roman materials functioned within different social contexts?

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