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Des ruines mégalithiques au chantier de construction : projets architecturaux, systèmes symboliques ou techniques, et modalités d'action sur la matière

Abstract : Megaliths often appear in the landscape as very large stones simply erected pointing towards the sky, resting on the ground or care-fully arranged within larger structures, but always defying weightlessness. The size or weight of the stones thus displaced strikes the imagination of our contemporaries, despite the somewhat rudimentary aspect that many, even today, implicitly attribute to such ruins. This concept of “primitivism”, born in the depths of the history of archaeological research, has long held back any truly detailed study of megalithic architectures. Over and beyond an undisputed heritage value, but too often perceived as petrified for eternity, megaliths are part of a dynamic perspective.We will begin by clarifying how many megaliths owe much to the implementation of two distinct modes of action on matter, one consisting of shaping a raw material, the other preferring to appropriate a natural (even “supernatural”) entity. The use of very large, rough stones is most often apparent in this second category, at least insofar as it is not the result of economy of effort on the part of those who built them.We will then illustrate the concept of the ‘architectural project’ applied to the study of megaliths. This will synthesise the notion of a conceptual project, intrinsically linked to the notion of «chaîne opératoire» dear to prehistorians, but also integrating all the actors involved in the process (such as social orders, symbolic constructs and the technical systems in which they are embedded), adopting an approach perhaps more common among historians or sociologists. The megaliths that are most prominent in the func-tioning of some of our contemporary societies are rarely named as such; elsewhere, too, their ostentatious character is sometimes well hidden.Examples of archaeological studies of the megalithic building site will also be presented. That will be an opportunity to showcase new methods of study inspired by ‘buildings archaeology’, using the latest techniques of 3-dimensional digital reconstruc-tions. It will be necessary to take into account the materials, the know-how and the stakeholders who have contributed to the reali-sation of such structures all composed partly of very large stones, though in different ways in each place. Shaping space, animating surfaces, constricting movement, mastering time, too, contribute to the materiality of the project.Precisely identifying the context of each of the megaliths that were built in distinct forms and in so many places around the world, at different times, and by communities who often did not know each other, was the challenge accepted by archaeologists more than fifty years ago; often in response to diffusionist theories or to unfounded comparisons. Much remains to be done to document better the material culture or, for example, to reconstruct burial practices within funerary monuments; archaeometry today offers many opportunities for studying what these structures hold for us, and their environment. Megaliths offer indirect evidence of the ability of a group to work coordinate their work-effort, and were frequently invoked in debates about the political organization of societies present or past. On the other hand, the archaeological study of these architectures has been neglected for too long: it is that point we wish to emphasise here.
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Submitted on : Monday, February 17, 2020 - 4:10:18 PM
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Luc Laporte. Des ruines mégalithiques au chantier de construction : projets architecturaux, systèmes symboliques ou techniques, et modalités d'action sur la matière. Megaliths of the World International Conference, Historial de la Vendée (France), 9-14 sept. 2019, Sep 2019, Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne, France. ⟨hal-02481700⟩



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