Past Bodies: Body-Centered Research in Archaeology

Overview

Archaeology often struggles in envisioning real people behind the world of material objects it studies. Even when dealing with skeletal remains archaeologists routinely reduce them to long lists of figures and attributes. Such a fragmentation of past subjects and their bodies, if analytically necessary, is hardly satisfactory. While material culture is the main archaeological proxy to real people in the past, the absence of past bodies has been chronic in archaeological writings. At the same time, these past ...

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Overview

Archaeology often struggles in envisioning real people behind the world of material objects it studies. Even when dealing with skeletal remains archaeologists routinely reduce them to long lists of figures and attributes. Such a fragmentation of past subjects and their bodies, if analytically necessary, is hardly satisfactory. While material culture is the main archaeological proxy to real people in the past, the absence of past bodies has been chronic in archaeological writings. At the same time, these past bodies in archaeology are omnipresent. Bodily matters are tangible in the archaeological record in a way most other theoretical centralities never appear to be. Ancient bodies surround us, in representations, in burials, in the remains of food preparation, cooking and consumption, in hands holding tools, in joint efforts of many individual bodies who built architecture and monuments. This collection of papers is a reaction to decades of the body's invisibility. It raises the body as the central topic in the study of past societies, researching its appearance in a wide variety of regional contexts and across vast spans of archaeological time. Contributions in this volume range from the deep Epi-Palaeolithic past of the Near East, through the European Neolithic and Bronze Age, Classical Greece and Late Medieval England, to pre-Columbian Central America, post-contact North America, and the most recent conflicts in the Balkans. In all these case studies, the materiality of the body is centre stage. Possibilities are highlighted for future study: by putting the body at the forefront of these archaeological studies an attempt is made to provoke the imagination and map out new territories.

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Editorial Reviews

Archaeological Review from Cambridge - Hannah Cobb
This is a compelling, chronologically broad and well-organised account of contemporary body-centred research in archaeology. It will be of value to a broad audience, from scholars interested in the body to students of archaeology and anthropology.'
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781782975427
  • Publisher: Oxbow Books Limited
  • Publication date: 12/11/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Body theory in archaeology (Dusan Boric and John Robb)
The corporeal politics of being in the Neolithic (Douglas Bailey)
Changing beliefs in the human body in prehistoric Malta 5000-1500 BC (Simon Stoddart and Caroline Malone)
Idealism, the body and the beard in classical Greek art (Robin Osborne)
When the flesh is solid but the person is hollow inside: formal hand-variation in modelled figurines from Formative Mesoamerica (Rosemary Joyce)
Fractal bodies in the past and present (Chris Fowler)
From substantial bodies to the substance of bodies: analysis of the transition from inhumation to cremation during the Middle Bronze Age in central Europe (Marie Louise Stig Sorensen and Katharina C. Rebay)
The extraordinary history of Oliver Cromwell's head (Sarah Tarlow)
Fresh scars on the body of archaeology (Slobodan Mitrovic)
Meaningless violence and the lived body: the Huron-Jesuits collision of world orders (John Robb)
Bodily beliefs at the dawn of agriculture in Western Asia (Preston Miracle and Dusan Boric)
Is it 'me' or is it 'mine'? The Mycenaean sword as a body-part (Lambros Malafouris)
Embodied persons and heroic kings in Late Classic Maya sculpture (Susan D. Gillespie)
Colonised bodies, personal and social (Nan A. Rothschild)
The challenge of embodying archaeology (Chris Shilling)

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