Further to my post about the Banc Llwydlos "village", I have come across this interesting article from a few years ago, dealing with settlement clusters in the Neolithic and Bronze age. It's a simple and unpretentious article, sticking to the facts and mercifully free of purple prose and fantastical claims relating to ritual structures and purposes. It examines many settlement clusters and refuses to get hung up on the matter of how a "village" should be defined. The author makes the interesting point that many of these small settlements seem to have been ephemeral. They were created, used for a while, and then abandoned. So he doubts that they were associated with the introduction of agriculture, or with the development of hierarchical societies. He thinks that they were created simply because people enjoyed social interactions and communal living, and because local conditions dictated the choice of a site -- with regard to good hunting or fishing, shelter or good access to routeways or river or mountain crossings. He doubts to that there were defensive considerations in most cases.
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 79, 2013, pp. 39–60 & The Prehistoric Society
A Consideration of Villages in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Ireland
By STUART RATHBONE
Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements in Britain and Ireland have, on occasion, been referred to as being prehistoric villages but there is little agreement as to what a settlement from these periods should consist of for it to be confidently identified as such. A particular problem is that the development of villages in Britain and Ireland is commonly seen as being a medieval phenomenon and most discussions regarding the essential characteristics of villages are centred on medieval evidence. This paper examines which features of a prehistoric settlement can be used to determine if the use of the term ‘village’ is appropriate, ultimately finding the number of contemporary households to be the primary concern. Sites which have been identified specifically as being Neolithic or Bronze Age villages are critically reviewed, as are a selection of sites where the designation may be appropriate but where the term has so far been avoided. The number of sites from both periods that could justify being identified as being villages is found to be low, and in all cases it seems that moves toward larger nucleated settlements are geographically and chronologically restricted and are followed by a return to dispersed settlement patterns. This curious pattern of the rapid creation and decline of villages at a regional level is contrasted with different explanations for the development of nucleated settlements from other areas and during other time periods, which revolve around economic and agricultural intensification, the development of more hierarchical societies and the increase in structured trading networks. They do not fit well with either our current perceptions of Neolithic and Bronze Age societies, or with the strictly localised moves towards nucleation that were observed. New explanations with a more local focus are found to be required.