Session: #238

Theme & Session Format

4. Globalisation and archaeology
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Human Visual Archives, Globally. Materials, Forms and Meanings of Human Representations in Ancient Times
Since the Upper Palaeolithic (at least) humans represent themselves. The oldest evidence known from Europe and North Africa shows standardised forms mainly expressed through figurines (in different raw materials) and some examples of rock art (both petroglyphs and paintings). With the introduction of the first forms of food production (Mesolithic; Neolithic; other equivalents), we see a drastic increase of human representations all over the world, with a lower standardisation of forms and a growing variety of media, including pottery and an array of other materials. Different approaches have characterised the study of this evidence, spanning from diffusionist to micro-contextual overviews; from pre-iconographic to iconographic to iconological studies; from gender-based to body performative to general covering model; from behavioral considerations to ritual and religious ones. Where have those discussions left us? How do we approach the phenomenon of human representation in ancient contexts, which analytic tools do we use, and what meaning (implicit or explicit) do we attach to the imagery?

The session aims to bring together scholars with experience engaging of data from research areas characterised by lively theoretical and interpretative traditions (e.g. Europe; Near East; Northern Africa; Mesoamerica) to discuss the different approaches adopted, going beyond descriptive presentations of a single case study. As contemporary research is experiencing the definition of new analytic tools and methods (such as image processing and material analyses, 3D modelling and large databases) and at the same time is applying theoretical frameworks (such as materiality, gender theory and critical approaches) introduced by post-processual research, an open-ended discussion of the development for the future is timely.
human representation, figurines, rock art, Mesolithic/Neolithic (other equivalent)
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Main organiser:
Marina Gallinaro (Italy) 1
Richard Lesure (United States) 2
1. Dipartimento Scienze dell'Antichità - Università di Roma La Sapienza
2. Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)