Architectural Studies

Prehistoric Architecture

Most of what is known about the prehistoric past stems from material culture. Indeed the classic subdivision of the prehistoric past is based entirely upon technological advances in tool materials: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and Iron Age. By definition any civilization that left textual records that can be interpreted by modern scholars falls in the historic rather than prehistoric era. But this leads to some odd classifications. For instance, when Egyptian hieroglyphics were deciphered, Ancient Egypt flipped from a prehistoric civilization to an historic one. And the same situation occurred with Ancient Assyria and Bronze-Age Mycenae. For this reason some scholars include civilizations like the Minoans, who had a writing system but one that has not yet been deciphered, as Historic—although of course in this case only the tools of archaeology and material culture studies can be employed rather than written records.

Prehistoric Megalithic Architecture in Western Europe (26 mins.):


Most of the surviving material culture from the prehistoric past is small, transportable items, but large-scale architectural sites have survived as well. Perhaps most famous of these venues is the large stone circle of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England.

“Rewriting Stonehenge’s History” (University College London, 2013, 8 mins.):

Stonehenge (video series featuring Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian, English Heritage, 2017, 10 mins. total):

The Avenue:

The Great Trilithon:

Appearance of the Stones:

Stone Working:


“New Interpretations of Stonehenge and its Surrounding Landscape” (Mike Parker Pearson, Beatrice de Cardi Lecture, Council for British Archaeology, Nov. 2015, excerpt, 14 mins.):

Prehistoric Architecture Quiz 

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