Advances in Prehistoric Art

Posted on May 18, 2016


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The overarching aim of the session is to bring together researchers of art in prehistoric archaeology, from any period, or using theories and methods that could be applied to prehistoric art, whether with a technical or theoretical focus, from within the discipline or beyond, to facilitate the sharing of recent research, thoughts, techniques, methods, and theories that contribute to engagement with and continuing research efforts in this field. While the session explores art directly, there is the inherent appreciation that art doesn’t make itself and papers will explore how art can be used as a window into the lives of those people who made and used it.
This session explores art in archaeology, both directly and as a window into other aspects of past lifeways. The session welcomes abstracts from researchers of any level of experience and both within and beyond archaeology. The session considers technical and methodological developments in the study of art (e.g. dating, 3D modeling, photogrammetry, p-xrf), as well as theoretical considerations (e.g. anthropological parallels, neurological perspectives, materiality, chaîne opératoire, multi-sensory approaches), and new finds. The temporal and geographical scope of the session is non-specific, with contributions welcome from any period of prehistory or geographical location.

Session organiser: Andy NEEDHAM (University of York)

The importance of colour within prehistory: identifying colourscapes within the landscape

Colour is a symposium for experience, it has the ability to manipulate neurological reactions, create unwritten language and be harnessed as a tool for creating art. Colour is not just a beautiful phenomenon, it exists within all aspects of life on earth and is an integral part of how human beings understood their world. So why as archaeologists do we often neglect it within our understanding of the past? This paper will focus on how we as Archaeologists can recreate landscapes of colour in the past, investigate the experimental results of pigment and dye replication and assess the possible effects this may have had on past peoples through colour psychology. Ultimately the aim of the paper will be to illuminate the application of colourscapes and how it can be used to help us understand past art.

Mai WALKER (University of Manchester / Cotswold Archaeology)

Producing petroglyphs: the image and the technique

Nathalie Ø. BRUSGAARD (University of Leiden, Netherlands)
The material turn in rock art research has seen a shift from studies on ‘the image’ to studies exploring the process of creating rock art, the rock itself, and the context. In the discussion on the materiality of rock art, technique plays an important role as it can reveal choices made in the production process. Increasingly advanced recording methods, such as photogrammetry and RTI, also continuously reveal new insights into the production techniques and choices. Yet it remains difficult to determine what these choices reflect and how to understand them in view of the end result, ‘the image’, without imposing our modern views on art and aesthetics. This paper examines this dichotomy using examples from rock art from the Black Desert of Jordan. I explore the microarchaeological approach to documenting and studying petroglyph techniques in and out of the field and discuss how a close study of the chaîne opératoire and the images themselves can further our understanding of the societies that created them.

Interrogating a new discovery of figurative early prehistoric rock art from the Lake District

Phenomenological approaches to ‘landscape archaeology’ are well established in systems of embodiment and aesthetics linked into a moving present. Where prehistoric rock art is encountered, phenomenological experiences occur within worlds that can only be measured and tested by individuals, all of whom will have different interpretations of the art. Notably reluctant to ascribe meaning to rock art images due in large part to a succession of interpretative challenges, most UK and Irish archaeologists have taken to avoiding this subject, or ascribing to it basic levels of informative value. As the majority of UK and Irish rock art comprises geometric or abstract designs, this is not surprising. However, figurative motifs occur in mainland European rock art where mobile prehistoric populations are inferred; for example, in Norway, (Alta, Vingen), in Sweden, (Nämforsen), or in Galicia, (Campo Lameiro, Laxe das Ferraduras). These, and their associated environmental contexts, have enabled the construction of interpretative propositions based on the meaning of the
art to the societies that made it; such as sacred localities, landmarks, boundaries, and the nature of the figurative motifs employed. Acknowledging that the construction of meaning from rock art is a diverse active and reenactive process, a new figurative early prehistoric rock art discovery found as a façadeelement
of a prehistoric cairn in the Lake District in April 2015 is presented and interpreted within its monumental montane context.





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