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Therapeutic Landscapes of Prehistory: Exploring the role of archaeology in the promotion of present-day wellbeing

Nolan, C. (2020) Therapeutic Landscapes of Prehistory: Exploring the role of archaeology in the promotion of present-day wellbeing. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00104551


In recent years heritage professionals and researchers in the UK have been called upon increasingly to evidence the social value of the historic environment in terms of its effect on wellbeing. Previous research in this area has successfully demonstrated some of the wellbeing effects of heritage involvement, particularly with regard to the promotion of social and human capital. Nevertheless, it is still not entirely clear how heritage assets directly influence individual wellbeing. This ultimately begs the question of whether, in fact, the historic environment has an impact on wellbeing that is any different to other cultural forms or pursuits. Adopting a novel approach to the study of heritage-related wellbeing, this study suggests that a phenomenological inquiry into people’s lived experience of heritage assets may help to address these questions. Accordingly, it tests this hypothesis in the context of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS), the Vale of Pewsey, and environs in Wiltshire, UK. Through the application of phenomenological interviews, mindful heritage walks and reflective written participant accounts and photography, the study explores how individuals experience, interpret and value these prehistoric landscapes. This thesis presents the design, process and results of the qualitative research undertaken and considers the findings of this work in light of the theoretical frameworks and the results of other studies concerning heritage experience. In conclusion, it proposes that prehistoric archaeology, and the historic environment more generally, has a unique role to play in the promotion of present-day wellbeing , specifically in its ability to facilitate for some people a sense of ontological security, existential relatedness and existential authenticity. The research also demonstrates that the phenomenological methods applied can help participants to reflect more deeply on their embodied lived experience of the historic environment. As a result, the study suggests that such approaches combine to form effective methods for evaluating heritage experience and for the development of heritage-based therapeutic interventions.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Leary, J., Bell, M. and Bruck, J.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Archaeology
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:104551
Date on Title Page:September 2019


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