How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times

Overview

"Peter Wells adopts an entirely new approach to the later centuries of European prehistory. He opens our eyes to the way in which Bronze Age and Iron Age people viewed their world, drawing on current work in material culture studies to present us with a dynamic picture of the visual life of late prehistory. This book will revolutionize the way we think about the Iron Age."—Anthony Harding, University of Exeter

"We think it modern to be trapped in an impersonal world by the convenience of mass-produced ...

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How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times

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Overview

"Peter Wells adopts an entirely new approach to the later centuries of European prehistory. He opens our eyes to the way in which Bronze Age and Iron Age people viewed their world, drawing on current work in material culture studies to present us with a dynamic picture of the visual life of late prehistory. This book will revolutionize the way we think about the Iron Age."—Anthony Harding, University of Exeter

"We think it modern to be trapped in an impersonal world by the convenience of mass-produced commodities, yearning for the individual crafts and communities that graced an earlier, more human era. In his new book on the visual experiences and perceptions of pre-Roman societies in central and western Europe, Peter Wells teaches us that this dilemma is not uniquely modern; it has happened before. In fact before the Roman Empire expanded into northwestern Europe the people of regions far beyond the empire had surrendered an economy of individualizing crafts to mass production, preparing themselves materially for their eventual military conquest. How Ancient Europeans Saw the World is an intriguing book that attempts to revisualize swords and brooches, tombs and public spaces, borrowing cues from marketing research and art history to reconstruct how things appeared to the people who made and used them. It deserves a wide readership"—David W. Anthony, author of The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World

"This is a remarkable piece of scholarship. Wells takes the discussion of prehistoric Europe's complex material culture back to first principles, along the way shedding much of the interpretive baggage of several previous generations of scholars. He also provides an example of how an archaeological topic can be approached with clarity and logic. This book will arouse controversy and debate."—Peter Bogucki, author of The Origins of Human Society

"This is a most important book. Wells argues that after 200 BC Eurasia moved generally toward the mass production and consumption of artifacts and that this changed people's relationships with the world, in turn altering the nature of experience. How Ancient Europeans Saw the World is thought-provoking and provocative."—Chris Gosden, author of Prehistory: A Very Short Introduction

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Editorial Reviews

Science News
With painstaking detail, Wells documents how objects tell the early European story, making a compelling case that historians ought to rethink the standard views.
— Tom Siegfried
Science News - Tom Siegfried
With painstaking detail, Wells documents how objects tell the early European story, making a compelling case that historians ought to rethink the standard views.
Choice
Archaeologist Wells takes a novel approach to exploring the way Bronze and Iron Age societies in Europe (2000BCE to 1CE) viewed themselves. Through analysing their artifacts, pottery, fibulae, swords and scabbards, and coins, as well as the arrangements of their graves and their public places, the author plausibly suggests that their views changed through time.
Organiser - R. Balashankar
It is evident that Wells is constantly conscious of the fact that he is writing for a modem 'literate' person to who words are more important than visuals. He has explained every single object, without going on jargons. An interesting history of Europe.
From the Publisher
Honorable Mention for the 2012 PROSE Award in Archeology & Anthropology, Association of American Publishers

"[B]eautifully crisp and elegant. . . . [Wells's] book deserves to be widely read and admired."—Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement

"With painstaking detail, Wells documents how objects tell the early European story, making a compelling case that historians ought to rethink the standard views."—Tom Siegfried, Science News

"Archaeologist Wells takes a novel approach to exploring the way Bronze and Iron Age societies in Europe (2000BCE to 1CE) viewed themselves. Through analysing their artifacts, pottery, fibulae, swords and scabbards, and coins, as well as the arrangements of their graves and their public places, the author plausibly suggests that their views changed through time."—Choice

"It is evident that Wells is constantly conscious of the fact that he is writing for a modem 'literate' person to who words are more important than visuals. He has explained every single object, without going on jargons. An interesting history of Europe."—R. Balashankar, Organiser

"How Ancient Europeans Saw the World offers a completely new approach to the study of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe, and represents a major challenge to existing views about prehistoric cultures."—World Book Industry

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691143385
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/26/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter S. Wells is professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. His many books include "Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered" and "The Barbarians Speak: How the Conquered Peoples Shaped Roman Europe" (Princeton).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xvii

Part I: Theory and Method
Chapter 1: Of Monsters and Flowers 1
Chapter 2: Seeing and Shaping Objects 18
Chapter 3: The Visual Worlds of Early Europe 34
Chapter 4: Frame, Focus, Visualization 52

Part II: Material: Objects and Arrangements
Chapter 5: Pottery: The Visual Ecology of the Everyday 72
Chapter 6: Attraction and Enchantment: Fibulae 99
Chapter 7: Status and Violence: Swords and Scabbards 112
Chapter 8: Arranging Spaces: Objects in Graves 131
Chapter 9: Performances: Objects and Bodies in Motion 155
Chapter 10: New Media in the Late Iron Age: Coins and Writing 176

Part III: Interpreting the Patterns
Chapter 11: Changing Patterns in Objects and in Perception 188
Chapter 12: Contacts, Commerce, and the Dynamics of New Visual Patterns 200

Conclusion
Chapter 13: The Visuality of Objects, Past and Present 222

Bibliographic Essay 231
References Cited 249
Index 281

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