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Revisiting the Individual in Prehistory: Idiosyncratic Engraving Variation and the Neolithic Slate Plaques of the Iberian Peninsula

  • Jonathan T. Thomas (a1), Grant McCall (a2) and Katina Lillios (a3)

Abstract

Experiments in replicating facsimiles of Late Neolithic engraved slate plaques from southwestern Iberia suggest that variation related to fine-motor skills is greater between individual engravers than within the work of a single engraver. This implies that the work of different individuals producing certain classes of material culture may be distinguishable on the basis of repetitive, idiosyncratic traits. These studies also generate otherwise unobtainable information about the experience of plaque making. We examine past and present methodological attempts to differentiate unconscious, individual styles from intentional, culturally mediated styles, and discuss why in some cases it is extremely difficult to separate such variation. We explore the link between individual variation and theoretical notions of the individual, and its implications for understanding the organization, transmission, and shared expression of ancient social practices.

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Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • ISSN: 0959-7743
  • EISSN: 1474-0540
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal
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