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Traumatic death rends the fabric of personal and social relations in a manner that is qualitatively different to other kinds of mortality. Mourners must deal with the personal affects, familial consequences and political aftermath of such events. This paper examines the way in which performances around such difficult deaths were used to express and negotiate trauma, through the lens of Iron Age burials in Britain and Ireland. It draws on performance theory developed in relation to contexts of violence to argue that such funerals embodied a necessary tension: articulating pain whilst working towards a re-making of the world. The paper makes an original contribution to the archaeological analysis and interpretation of funerary performance, and moves recent debates on violence in the Iron Age into a new arena of study.
Some of the painted caves in southern France preserve human footprints from the Ice Age of 17,000 years ago. Research has so far dealt with them sparsely and through a morphometric approach only. In 2013 three indigenous hunters/trackers from the Kalahari had an opportunity to read several spoor accumulations in four caves on the basis of their indigenous knowledge. As a result of this morpho-classificatory approach to track reading they produced new hypotheses on prehistoric cave visitors. Most spectacular is the narrative which the trackers generated from the footprints not far from the clay bison at Tuc d’Audoubert. Further research is planned to inspect more tracks and look into the epistemological status of the indigenous tracking method.
Taking as a point of departure the in-depth analysis and description of an exceptional discovery, consisting of a large hammered gold sheet decorated with embossed motifs from the well-known Chalcolithic settlement of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain), this article presents a general appraisal of the social and ideological role of gold in Copper Age Iberia. The information available for this find, including both its context and its inherent characteristics, opens up new perspectives for research into the technology, use, sociology and symbolism of gold during this time period. We describe and analyse this unique item in detail, including the characterization of the raw material used and the manufacturing process (via SEM-BSE and LA-ICP-MS), as well as an extensive reconstruction of the graphic motifs that are represented, by using digital imaging processing techniques (RTI). We compare this find with the data currently available for the (approximately) 100 Chalcolithic golden artefacts (or fragments of artefacts) found in Iberia to date. Finally, we present an appraisal of the social and ideological framework in which gold was used in Copper Age Iberia, discussing its relevance in aspects such as the dynamics of social complexity, worldviews or artistic creations.
To what extent do we need structuralist cognitive settlement models such as the Central Cattle Pattern and the Zimbabwe Pattern for future research and understanding of Iron Age social life in southern Africa? How will alternative approaches enable us to progress beyond the present status of knowledge? While the three last decades of debate have underpinned key aspects of archaeological inquiry, notably questions of social change, gender dynamics, analytical scale and the use of ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological insights, the sometimes entrenched nature of the debate has in other respects hindered development of new approaches and restrained the range of themes and topics scholars engage with. In this article, we identify the issues of analytical scale and recursiveness as key to the development of future approaches and present an alternative framework through empirically grounded discussion of three central Iron Age themes: ceramics and the microscale, the spatiality of metal production and the temporality of stonewalled architecture.
Social complexity is synonymous with inequality, a political form whose origin is associated with a reduction in residential mobility, the intensification of production, craft specialization, long-distance exchange, public architecture, the proliferation of prestige goods and ceremonial feasts. Archaeological evidence of these processes, however, is insufficient without the identification of practices related to prehistoric leadership. In the early Andean area, this social distinction was deposited in emblems or insignias of authority, objects of visual prestige whose value resided in myths and divinities. Similar arrangements of material culture, around the first millennium before Christ, appear contextually related with the first village-based communities in Northern Chile.
This article examines a potential ‘throne–mat’ kenning in the Middle Formative period Olmec writing on the Cascajal Block, an incised serpentine slab dated to c. 900 bc. It is suggested that signs on the Cascajal Block are divorced from the Formative period representational canons in which they are usually contextualized. The organization of signs on the Cascajal Block thus de-emphasizes the connection between a depicted object and its iconographic frame of reference. Instead, the signs are recontextualized within a linguistic framework wherein they leverage their iconicity to denote a word, rather than functioning primarily as an iconographic element within a pictorial composition. It is argued that the throne–mat kenning explored here is one instance of such abstraction from ‘normative’ iconographic contexts and therefore offers potentially significant insights into the origin and development of writing in Mesoamerica.
André Leroi-Gourhan's work is usually considered a paradigmatic example of the application of structuralist ideas to the study of Palaeolithic art. The association between Leroi-Gourhan and structuralism is, however, problematic. Leroi-Gourhan explicitly distinguished his approach from that of Lévi-Strauss. Furthermore, he developed an explanatory model for the analysis of cave and portable art based on a number of postulates that were not necessarily connected to structuralism. We examine Leroi-Gourhan's understanding of Palaeolithic art in order to determine the influence of structuralism upon his work. This examination will help us to consider some alternative perspectives on the so-called structural analysis of Palaeolithic art. Moreover, Leroi-Gourhan's case will allow us to reflect on how archaeologists appropriate theory from other disciplines and how intellectual production in archaeology works.
The term ‘neolithization’ as it is generally used in relation to southwest Asia narrows the focus of research, and works against our efforts to envision explanations of the process in terms of the long-term evolution of human societies. Here, we re-frame the neolithization process, setting it within the framework of niche construction theory. We argue that the concept of cultural niche construction fits the purpose, but needs to be extended to encompass the more complex social worlds of the Holocene in the form of the cognitive-cultural niche.
We would like to begin by thanking the commentators for their thoughtful, informed and, for the most part, generous responses. Even Ofer Bar-Yosef, while clearly disagreeing deeply with our whole approach, has invested precious resources of time and thought in our paper. We shall respond commentary by commentary, but there are some common themes in the responses, and we will note those as we go through.