Ritual and Religion in Prehistory: Unit 7 Ancestor cults

7.5 Landscapes of the ancestors

The ties that bind people to places often involve the evocation of a sense of tenure to be renewed, rather than territory to be held. This tenure is often grounded in a sense of ancestry, sustained through origins myths and identified with the physical evidence of the past. For the Dande people of northern Zimbabwe, every feature of the landscape has ancestral associations. The ancestors of each lineage are ‘the owners of the land’, and ensure its rainfall and fertility. Though the ancestors have no material form, the graves of the chiefs link them firmly to the land.

In Neolithic Britain, kinship and ancestry were also of vital concern. This is best illustrated by the sacred landscapes of Avebury and Stonehenge, which reveal the dynamic relationship between the living and the dead.


To find out more, read Chapters 5 and 6 of your textbook and make notes in your blog.