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A Comparison of "Scenes" in Parietal and Non-Parietal Upper Paleolithic Imagery: Formal Differences and Ontological Implications

Author(s): Elisabeth Culley

Year: 2017

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Upper Paleolithic cave art is well-known for its skilled execution, specifically the use of shading, relief, and perspective to render life-like depictions of Pleistocene fauna. Cave art is equally well-known for a near absence of flora, humans, and scenes. In this regard, parietal imagery is distinct from "art mobilier," where these are more common. However, defining "scenes" as a graphic phenomenon can be problematic, and identifying them among superimposed and fragmented images more so. Definitions based on how scenes are perceived offer some guidance and include more imagery than previously recognized; frequencies allow the comparison of scenes from different contexts. This paper evaluates differences in the nature of scenes as depicted on rock walls and on objects in France from ~40-11 kya. Differences in the frequency, in the types and range of constituent elements, in the degree of detailing or conceptual ambiguity, and in the type and extent of audience engagement with scenes are all considered. Emphasis is placed on the potential social consequences of scenes from different contexts. Consequently, while exploratory and qualitative in nature, the analysis points to avenues through which ontological differences in the production, use, and sociocultural role of Upper Paleolithic imagery can be specified.

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A Comparison of "Scenes" in Parietal and Non-Parietal Upper Paleolithic Imagery: Formal Differences and Ontological Implications. Elisabeth Culley. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430861)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16625

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