Rock Art, Embodiment, and Identity

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

We challenge contributors to explore concepts of embodiment and ‘process’ within non-Western ontologies and ethnographies as a lens onto meaning, motivation, and identity. In archaeological contexts, embodiment is usually taken to mean an analysis of the body as lived experience. Turner (1996) for instance suggested that every society is concerned with the ‘regulation’ of populations in time and space, and with the representation or manifestation of the ‘exterior’ body in social space. Researchers can therefore treat images as direct metaphorical comments on social processes, at the same time accepting that artists and viewers experienced the images (in a somatic sense) and did not simply intellectualize them. Process, on the other hand, is akin to the notion of chaîne opératoire, and refers to the process of making rock art, from the conception of images through to the ‘fixing’ – and, sometimes, subsequent manipulation, reconfiguration, and ‘consumption’ – of images.

By focusing on these broad concepts, and using specific case studies from several countries, this session aims to contribute further insights into how rock art was, and is, viewed and used by the original artists and subsequent viewers to shape, maintain, and challenge ideologies and identities.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-13 of 13)

  • Documents (13)

  • Agency, Structure and the Neo-Liberal Turn (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Whitley.

    Recent theoretical over-emphasis on human agency and denial of the significance of socio-cultural structure presents a radical challenge to a century of research. It implies that Durkheim, Boas, Weber, etc., are irrelevant, and that long-standing structures of inequality (e.g., of gender or race) somehow do not exist or are not important. Examination of recent human-agency studies illustrates that, instead of studying human agency as action, interpretations are based on the kinds of structures...

  • Animated ships (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peter Skoglund.

    The rock art of southern Scandinavia includes a variety of images and among these are ships, humans and animal images. The ship is the most common motif and appears in various constellations. The ship may appear without associated images, it can be seen with a row of lines indicating a crew, and it can be associated to rather detail human and animal images. The process of adding humans and animals to the ships changed the significance of these images. In this paper I will go through some of the...

  • Embodied in contemporaneity: negotiating identity through rock art in contemporary Siberia and Central Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrzej Rozwadowski.

    Along with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Indigenous people in Siberia and Central Asia began to pay more attention to their past, which since then has been vigorously explored as a source of cultural identity. Particularly interesting aspect of this process concern contemporary use of prehistoric rock art. In the presentation I will refer to different contexts of such uses, which imply negotiating of the identity. Basing on the examples, I will show that rock art in Siberia and Central...

  • Embodied rock art motifs in far west Texas and northern South Africa (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jamie Hampson.

    In this paper, I consider embodied rock art motifs in two rock art regions: far west Texas and northern South Africa. By employing the tools of embodiment theory, certain motifs in both regions can usefully be seen as expressions of how indigenous ontologies were perceived, how things were, and how identities were tied to physical beings and manifestations of physical beings. As with research on ritualistic ontologies and the process of making rock art, embodiment theory can help us overcome the...

  • Embodiment and Relatedness: the rock art of Muluwa, Wulibirra, and Kamandarringabaya (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Liam Brady. John Bradley.

    As an interpretive tool for rock art studies, the concept of embodiment has much to offer especially when used in conjunction with ethnographic data. In this paper we focus on embodiment in the context of relatedness using a case study involving Yanyuwa rock art from three sites – Muluwa, Wulibirra, and Kamandaringabaya – in the Sir Edward Pellew islands in northern Australia’s southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region. Although not stylistically similar, the rock art from these sites is intimately...

  • Embodiment in animic rock art: an example from the Canadian Shield (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dagmara Zawadzka.

    Perceptions of self and of personhood are fluid within animic ontologies that tend to stress spiritual similarities between humans and non-humans. This fluidity is reflected in concepts of bodies. Bodies endow their owners with particular qualities, perceptual skills, behaviours and ultimately, identities. Beings can transform their bodily appearance, therefore what is perceived by an onlooker does not necessarily correspond to the being that is perceived. In the Canadian Shield, depictions of...

  • The intelligent tool: the body’s role in making and reading tracks in life and art (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Patricia Dobrez.

    The approach of this paper is ecological, taking account of affordances for communication available to bodies interacting with environments. My focus is on the minimal affordance meanings of marks which, while ultimately lending themselves to symbolic use, have the capacity to disclose our real-world situatedness in unambiguous and immediate ways. I argue that the place to begin an inquiry into graphing is with human and animal traces in the landscape and the manner in which these have been...

  • Populations expansion as a replacement or merging of peoples: insights from the rock art of Doria Gudaluk (Beswick Creek Cave), Northern Territory Australia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Claire Smith. Ines Domingo. Didac Roman. Gary Jackson.

    The rock art of Doria Gudaluk (Beswick Creek Cave) in the Northern Territory of Australia provided a valuable lesson in the difficulties of interpretation without local knowledge. Now, newly recorded motifs at the site—some only visible through digital enhancement—highlight the dangers of relating stylistic changes to population replacement. When considered in the context of local history, developments in the rock art of Doria Gudaluk during the second half of the twentieth century can be...

  • Pueblo Regalia and the Cosmos: Past and Present (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Polly Schaafsma.

    Images of the human form can be analyzed for what they reveal about social roles, hierarchy, and other identities, as well as culturally determined perceptions about humanity’s relationships to the natural environment and supernatural realm. It is proposed that the portrayal of the multitudinous human subjects related to religious ideology and practice in Rio Grande Tradition and Navajo rock art focuses on the interconnectedness of all things, deflecting meaning away from human beings as prime...

  • Rock art and emergent identity: the creolization process in nineteenth-century South African borderlands (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sam Challis.

    Statements of authorship of rock art necessarily involve statements of identity. What happens, then, when identity is assumed or implied? This paper examines a well-known historical rock art panel in South Africa, supposed to portray a narrative of the demise of the San from their own perspective. To the contrary it finds that in fact the 'colonists' sporting wide-brimmed hats and toting guns are, more likely, members of an emergent identity of creolized raiding bands drawn from markedly...

  • Rock Art, Warfare and Long Distance Trade (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Johan Ling. Per Cornell.

    For most of the twentieth century the Bronze Age rock art in Southern Scandinavia has been seen as a manifestation of an agrarian ‘cultic’ ideology in the landscape. In this context the dominant ship image and the armed humans have been perceived as abstract religious icons, not as active symbols relating to real praxis in the landscape. Whilst violence and war related social and ritual traits indeed are common features in the Scandinavian rock art from the Bronze Age and the violence on the...

  • Ships and feet in Scandinavian prehistoric rock art (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Courtney Nimura.

    Scandinavian rock art was created from the Late Neolithic through the Early Iron Age. The majority of these images were produced in the Bronze Age – a period when postglacial isostatic uplift altered much of the Scandinavian coastline. Although the lexicon of rock art motifs is diverse in Scandinavia, this paper will focus on two key figurative motifs: ships and human feet. It presents results from two different studies. The first is a Scandinavian-wide GIS-based analysis that explores the...

  • Significantly Differentiated Figures: understanding difference through the construction of personhood in the southern African San idiom (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alice Mullen.

    Within the corpus of San rock art in the South African Drakensberg mountains is a category of highly embellished, oversized anthropomorphic figures termed Significantly Differentiated Figures (SDFs). Such images have previously been interpreted as San ritual specialists' conceptualisation of themselves, in metaphor, as a result of the arrivals of African farmers and European colonists. This paper, drawing on new data gathered during surveys of the Matatiele region in the Eastern Cape, South...