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Scenic narratives of humans and animals in Namibian rock art

Author(s): Tilman Lenssen-Erz ; Brigitte Mathiak ; Eymard Faeder ; Maya von Czerniewicz ; Joana Wilmeroth

Year: 2017

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Summary

In prehistoric rock art the notion of ‘scene’ always played an important role but a clear and widely accepted definition of scene does not exist and little was written about what constitutes a scene. If informing context lacks, Gestalt features are often taken to identify what can be considered a meaningful scene. If we consider a scene as displaying a social animated configuration, then the Gestalt laws alone are an insufficient tool. Particularly in scenes including humans and animals interaction should be considered as well.

Here we present a formal approach that provides a rigid framework for the definition of scenic coherence encompassing Gestalt and interaction. This approach allows quantification across the large corpus of Brandberg rock art and it shows that just 2.4% of all scenes show "encounters" of humans and animals. Only once in 117 encounters the animal is clearly in a dominant role. Our data suggest that combining humans and animals in scenes (not in juxtaposition) may be a narrative of hierarchical agency. For the future we aim to grasp the structures of scenic narratives through cooperation with computer science, exploring whether algorithm based data mining enables us to identify underlying rules of scene formation.


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Scenic narratives of humans and animals in Namibian rock art. Tilman Lenssen-Erz, Brigitte Mathiak, Eymard Faeder, Maya von Czerniewicz, Joana Wilmeroth. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430860)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15818

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America