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Title: Palaeolithic art : more than meets the eye? : an object biography approach to engraved stone plaquettes from the Magdalenian site of Montastruc, south-central France
Author: Needham, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 6494 4465
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis asks a simple question of Palaeolithic art: is there more to it than meets the eye? In exploring the history of the study of Palaeolithic art, a strong bias is revealed, a fixation on how the art looks in its finished form. An object biography approach, augmented by a suite of new digital techniques, and by non-western insights into ontology concerning humans, and animals and objects, is used to explore Palaeolithic art from a different perspective. This approach is explored through its application in a detailed case study: the analysis of engraved stone plaquettes from the Magdalenian site of Montastruc, southern France. The plaquettes are assessed not only based on their visual attributes, but how they were made, used and deposited, enhanced via the use of 3D models and microscopy. Emphasis is placed on trying to re-contextualise the collection, offering an analysis of all objects from the Peccadeau de l’Isle collection held in the British Museum, c. 15,620 objects. These broad life phases are considered within a Magdalenian cosmology occupied by numerous agents, beyond the bounds of humans alone. In the creation and use of art, this non-human agency is argued to be evident, playing an active role in the choices made by the artists working at Montastruc. The plaquettes are argued to be deeply social, made close to fire and by multiple artists of varying skill. The plaquettes had a distinct life history when compared to organic art objects found at the site, highlighting the nuance that can be revealed through an object biography perspective. The rich interpretations made possible by shifting the archaeological gaze to object biography, insights from non-western anthropology, and new high-resolution digital techniques are argued to represent a significant approach that can potentially be applied to other Palaeolithic art contexts and beyond.
Supervisor: Spikins, Penny Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available