1st Edition

Reading Between the Lines
The Neolithic Cursus Monuments of Scotland

ISBN 9781138913516
Published November 5, 2015 by Routledge
280 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Reading Between the Lines: The Neolithic Cursus Monuments of Scotland is the first systematic analysis of Scotland’s cursus monuments and is written by one of the foremost scholars of the Neolithic in Scotland. Drawing on fifteen years of experience of cropmark interpretation, as well as his involvement in several excavations of cursus monuments and contemporary sites, Kenneth Brophy uncovers some of the secrets of the Neolithic landscape.

While outlining the physical characteristics of the cursus, this book also addresses the limitations of this kind of typological description when applied to monuments which varied so remarkably in terms of materiality and size. Moving beyond a morphological account, Brophy considers what can be said of this diverse group of sites, and how they were actually built and used in prehistory, in light of several decades of aerial reconnaissance and excavation in Scotland. Through a close study of the differences, as well as the similarities, between these structures, this book offers a nuanced account of cursus monuments, finally allowing this important monument type to be better understood and placed alongside others of the period.

Offering exciting new ways of thinking about these enigmatic yet important monuments, Reading Between the Lines: The Neolithic Cursus Monuments of Scotland is an essential resource for students and specialists in British prehistory, providing an introduction to the Early Neolithic archaeology of lowland Scotland as well as a meditation on broader aspects of monumentality and architecture.

Table of Contents


  1. ‘The weirdest type of field monument in the country’

  2. How do you solve a problem like a cursus?

  3. Bust and boom

  4. Ditches and banks, pits and postholes

  5. Cursus world


  1. Grand designs

  2. Special places

  3. Remaking the land


  1. Rearranging trees

  2. Tracing lines across the land

  3. ‘The start of a tale already concluded’

Site list

References and further reading

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Kenny Brophy is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and Joint co-ordinator of the Neolithic Studies Group.