CHAPMAN, John; GAYDARSKA, Bisserka (with contributions from Ana Raduntcheva and Bistra Koleva). Parts and Wholes: Fragmentation in Prehistoric Context. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2007. 233p. Resenha de: MLEKU, Dimitrij; BUDJA, Mihael. Documenta Praehistoricav.34, 2007.
The book Parts and Wholes is in many ways a supplement to Chapman’s previous book, The Fragmentation in Archaeology (2000), but it is also a new, highly innovative and interesting book. It is an ambitious attempt to write an integrated study which combines archaeology, social anthropology and material culture studies.
Chapman’s study focused on the complementary practices of fragmentation and accumulation, processes which link people to objects through production, exchange and consumption. He adopted an anthropological model of personhood, derived mainly from ethnographic analyses of Melanesian societies, where people are made up of the totality of their relations: they are not “individuals” but “dividuals”, made up of their relations and transactions with each other, places and material culture.
This study was founded upon the “fragmentation premise “, an idea that many artefacts in the past were deliberately broken and then re-used as fragments after that break. A crucial practice connected with the creation of personhood is “enchainment”, a social relationship between people and people and objects which emerges from the exchange of fragments. A related, complementary process is “accumulation”, which creates a hoard of objects.
Fragments are tokens of relations between people, places and objects, and thus create personalities. This model of personhood seems to fit the evidence of fragmented objects, hoards and partial deposits of human bone from southeastern Europe.
In the present book Chapman and Gaydarska elaborate on many points and arguments from Chapman’s previous book. In fact, the book addresses many criticisms of the first book and provides many case studies which support the theoretical issues raised in the both volumes.
The first two case studies are examples of the culturally specific creation of personhood, the first using whole pots and the principle of “categorisation” (Chapter 1). The second study discusses the anthropomorphic figurines from Hamangia (Chapter 3). Observation of the various biographies of Hamangia figurines, which were androgynous when whole, but change their rendered identity to male, female or genderneutral, or no-gender following the fragmented life history of the figurines. However, in graves, either complete figurines or fragments, which can be refitted to whole figurines, were deposited, which characterise Òa return to androgynous whole at death. “Two methodological studies focus on the correspondence between the mobility of objects and fragDocumenta Praehistorica 2007 book reviews 314 ments and the archaeological record. The first one Ð wittily named “Schiffer visits the Balkans” Ð discusses “rubbish” , the importance of deposition and disposal for the objects” biographies, the mobility of the fragments, the creation of context and the definition of “activity areas” (Chapter 4).
Meanwhile, the second approach mobilises the re-fitting studies and chine op.ratoire approach to answer the key question in fragmentation studies: “Where are the missing parts?” The study traces the dispersion of fragments both on-site and off-site (Chapter 5).
The final two studies combine a biographical approach with re-fitting studies. The first approaches the large assemblage of fragmented figurines from the Final Copper Age layers of the Dolnoslav tell (Chapter 6). The complex pattern of deposition at Dolnoslav seems to suggest that the tell was an accumulation site for the fragments, while the pattern reflects diverse principles of personhood, and thus offers an interesting contrast to the study of Hamangia figurines in the third chapter.
The second traces the ch.ine op.ratoire of Spondylus rings based on refitting studies of three sites (Chapter 7).
Chapman and Gaydarska succeed in demonstrating that the Ôfragmentation premiseÕ is well founded. The high level of object and fragment mobility Ð up to 80 % of objectsÕ mass is missing on some sites Ð suggest that fragments travel across sites and landscapes. Even more, they show that fragmentation studies can offer an insight into the creation of personhood and identity.
What we miss in the book is an acknowledgement of the social importance of the act or performance of deliberate breaking. Deliberate breaking is first an extremely important event in the biography of the object, not just “ritual killing”. It is an act of transformation, when a whole object is transformed into something other. The act of transformation Ð due to its visual or aural qualities Ð can bring people together and make the event an social one. Obvious examples are the “ritual explosions” of figurines at Dolni V.stonice, Balkan celebrations involving the ÔritualÕ breaking of glass against walls, or Leslie GrinsellÕs funeral cited in the introduction to the book. In such events it is the performance of deliberate fragmentation which has important social implications; it binds people together, the resulting fragments make those relations merely visible and tangible.
All in all this is a mind-boggling book. Chapman and Gaydarska’s study is a highly innovative and stimulating one. It opens completely new lines of enquiry into Balkan (and wider) prehistory.
Dimitrij Mleku and Mihael Budja – University of Ljubljana .