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

Overview

The peoples who inhabited Europe during the two millennia before the Roman conquests had established urban centers, large-scale production of goods such as pottery and iron tools, a money economy, and elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Yet as Peter Wells argues here, the visual world of these late prehistoric communities was profoundly different from those of ancient Rome's literate civilization and today's industrialized societies. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Wells ...

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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

The peoples who inhabited Europe during the two millennia before the Roman conquests had established urban centers, large-scale production of goods such as pottery and iron tools, a money economy, and elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Yet as Peter Wells argues here, the visual world of these late prehistoric communities was profoundly different from those of ancient Rome's literate civilization and today's industrialized societies. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Wells reconstructs how the peoples of pre-Roman Europe saw the world and their place in it. He sheds new light on how they communicated their thoughts, feelings, and visual perceptions through the everyday tools they shaped, the pottery and metal ornaments they decorated, and the arrangements of objects they made in their ritual places—and how these forms and patterns in turn shaped their experience.

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. The book demonstrates why we cannot interpret the structures that Europe's pre-Roman inhabitants built in the landscape, the ways they arranged their settlements and burial sites, or the complex patterning of their art on the basis of what these things look like to us. Rather, we must view these objects and visual patterns as they were meant to be seen by the ancient peoples who fashioned them.

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Editorial Reviews

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

"Wells presents thought-provoking ideas about Bronze Age and Iron Age Europeans. This book will stimulate further research on a very challenging topic, that is, the mindset of past populations. The extensive bibliography is very useful for archaeologists interested in this type of research."—Sarunas Milisauskas, Historian

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691166759
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/21/2015
  • Pages: 304

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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