BORIC, Dusan; ROBB, John (Eds). Past Bodies. Body-Centered Research in Archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow Books; The Cromwell Press, 2008. Resenha de: BUDJA, Mihael; PETRU, Simona. Documenta Praehistorica, v.37, 2010.

The body in archaeology is both omnipresent and invisible.” (Bori! and Robb, p.1) The book is a collection of essays resulting from two symposia, ‘Past Bodies’ in Cambridge in 2006, and ‘Acting and Believing: An Archaeology of Bodily Practices’, held at the Society for American Archaeology meetings at San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2006. The book is in four sections, with papers grouped by general theme or approach in order to draw attention to cross-disciplinary linkages. The first section presents a general introduction to social theories of the body and an overview of relevant archaeological methodologies.

The second presents studies of the represented body, and the third, studies of the body in death. The fourth section contains studies which cut across traditional domains of study such as representation and burial, and focus upon the socially contextualised body at particular historical moments.

The articles range from the hunter-gatherers of the Upper Palaeolithic through modern British populations. The majority refers to the European sequence, but there are discussions of Near Eastern, North American and Mesoamerican cases. The book offers three theoretical implications: (i) it underscores the productive richness of the concept of the body in archaeology; (ii) it shows that the archaeology of the body is not the monopoly of a single province of archaeology, particularly data-rich regions; (iii) it goes beyond such stereotypes and prejudices as ‘symbols, gender, agency, social relations and ritual experience, etc., are all very well, but you can only do them where you have texts’.

The book’s most significant contribution is its evidence and argumentation highlighting the partiality of the, traditionally Western, homo clasus conception of the embodied being. It accomplishes this through various demonstrations of the ‘relationality of embodied subjects’ and ‘fractal thinking’. It also addresses issues relating to questions of epistemology (knowledge and representation of the body), phenomenology (lived representations of the body), and ontology (the material bodily properties and capacities of our antecedents). The case studies provide explorations of corporeal knowing, sensing and being, and archaeology’s concern with the ‘open’ and varied relationships that exist between embodied subjects and the social bodies of tribe and society.

Mihael Budja and Simona Petru

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