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Title: Mobilising stone : investigating relations of materiality, movement and corporality in Holocene Saharan rock-art
Author: Waldock, Victoria
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 7043
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This project investigates Saharan pastoralist rock-art (7500-3000BP), with a particular focus on the engravings of the Messak Plateau in southwest Libya. Taking an anthropological approach, the art is examined within the context of the lives of its creators - transhumant cattle-herders who occupied the plateau seasonally. Drawing from fieldwork in Libya together with data from multiple expeditions in the Sahara, the study addresses a major lacuna in Saharan research by focusing on materially constituted, as-lived dimensions at the micro scale. A fundamental but archaeologically elusive aspect of lived experience is a consideration of 'movement', both physical and esoteric. Its incorporation is central to this project, forming a multi-aspected theoretical framework and a methodological tool. Augmented by input from specialists in geomorphology, pastoralism, stone sculpting and animal behaviour, this movement-driven focus has produced a more developed picture of the Messak herder lives, advancing our understanding of these particular non-text, somatic societies. A singular contribution is the creation of a hypothetical model for small-scale, quotidian pastoralist practices, which expands upon the archaeological evidence, fleshing out details of a well-systematised form of dairy pastoralism involving controlled breeding and the processing of milk products. At the same time it is proposed that the herders' relationship with their cattle was one of partnership rather than ownership, involving trans-species empathy and a valuation of animal personhood. This viewpoint is part of a broader set of animal-human relations reflecting a cosmological order that diverges from modern, Western ontological constructs. Other significant findings include detailed information on the role and identity of the image-maker, revisionist data on the amount of effort and skill expended in carving processes, and an examination of the ways in which rock-art was used to manifest social emotional concerns. These were expressed via animal emotions portrayed in the rock-art, and also through performative, gestural markings associated with the imagery. Such expressions include apotropaic, supplicatory or other interactions involving communication with unseen powers.
Supervisor: Gosden, Chris ; Mitchell, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Saharan Rock Art ; African Rock Art ; Ethnoarchaeology ; African Pastoralism ; Relational Ontologies ; Rock Art ; Sahara