Past Bodies. Body-Centered Research in Archaeology – BORIC; ROBB (DP)

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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Mesolithic Europe – BAILEY; SPIKINS (DP)

BAILEY, Geoff; SPIKINS, Penny (Eds.). Mesolithic Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 27p. Resenha de: BUDJA, Mihael; PETRU, Simona. Documenta Praehistorica, n.36, 2009.

The book is a collection of interpretative essays, local and regional, on the Mesolithic in Europe. The chapters are organised in broadly geographical order and focus on the definition of the Mesolithic, chronology, technology and subsistence, arts and rituals, settlements and social organisations.

The opening chapter is an introduction to a different perception of the Mesolithic, and suggests we shift from narratives of passive Mesolithic societies to a new generation of interpretations. The final chapter, follows a discussion of Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, dominates many contributions. This chapter actualises the ‘Neolithic’ interpretative model of ‘demic diffusion’, suggesting that there is no evidence of interaction between the Mesolithic and Neolithic populations of the Balkans and the Mediterranean.

However, the book suggests that elsewhere different elements of the ‘Neolithic package’ were introduced and adopted selectively and separately. Unfortunately, the book overlooks relevant information such the recent discussions of the origins and diffusions of ‘Mesolithic’ and ‘Neolithic’ Y-chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, and human population trajectories in the context of processes in the Mesolithic-Neolithic transformation. It does not reflect the discussion on the 8600–8000 and 6000– 5200 calBP climate anomalies, which undoubted correlate chronologically with the Mesolithic and the Neolithic and drastically affected global environmental conditions.

‘Mesolithic Europe’ offers an interesting regional synthesis of the Mesolithic in different parts of Europe and is a perfect complement to Barker’s volume ‘The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory. Why did Foragers become Farmers?’

Mihael Budja and Simona Petru

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La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons – BÉGOUËN et al (DP)

BÉGOUËN, Robert; FRITZ, Carole; TOSELLO, Gilles; CLOTTES, Jean; PASTOORS, Andreas; FAIST, François. (With the collaboration of François Bourges, Philippe Fosse, Sébastien Lacombe and Mathieu Langlais). La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons. Il y a 14 000 ans, dans la caverne du Tuc d’Audoubert. Paris: Somogy éditions d’art, 2009. 415p. Resenha de: BUDJA, Mihael; PETRU, Budja. Documenta Praehistorica, v.36, 2009.

Tuc d’Audoubert – with Les Trois Frères and Enlène – is part of the cave system of the River Volp, and best known for its bison sculpted in clay. The monograph ‘La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons’ is the result of intense scientific research between 1992 and 2004 on the cave and its Pleistocene art. The important part of the research was the re-examination of the archaeological material from earlier excavations.

The book begins with the exciting story of the discovery of Tuc d’Audoubert in 1912 and the subsequent research of the cave’s chambers and galleries, which are decorated with numerous paintings and engravings.

The geographical position of the cave, the genesis of the cave system and landscape are then described, and environmental facts, and the cultural characteristics of the Magdalenians in the Pyrenees region are presented. The reasons for the excellent preservation of the cave art are also emphasised. The methods of research and various techniques for documenting parietal art are presented and some terminological problems explained. The main part of the book is dedicated to the cave art of Tuc d’Audoubert.

The reader encounters various motifs and representations in a voyage through the cave chambers and galleries from the entrance to its deepest recesses, where the journey ends with the most spectacular find – sculptures of bison. The Magdalenians did not visit the cave only to create images – they also lived in it for short periods, and left artefacts and animal bones in some parts. Among the more enigmatic finds are objects pushed into fissures in the cave walls. Similar objects have been found in other caves and might be interpreted as offerings of some kind, which connected people with the cave and underground world. There are numerous impressions of human feet in the cave. It is interesting that there are adult and children’s impressions deep inside the cave, so at least one child accompanied adults to the Gallery of the Clay Bison. In the final chapters, the authors explain the chronology of the art in Tuc d’Audoubert. They discuss the figurative and non-figurative themes of the art, the art techniques, the distribution of the images and the relation between the mundane and symbolic or “sacred” spaces of the cave. The cave and its art are set in the context of the Magdalenian cultural region of the Pyrenees and the wider south-western European region.

The book ends with an attractive epilogue, in which imagination takes wings in a story about the life and creativity of the Magdalenian people who visited Tuc d’Audoubert. “La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons” is an extensive work, which systematically presents a Palaeolithic cave art site. The numerous illustrations contribute to the general attractiveness of the book.

Mihael Budja and Simona Petru

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The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory. Why did Foragers become Farmers – BARKER (DP)

BARKER, Graeme. The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory. Why did Foragers become Farmers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 598p. Resenha de: BUDJA, Mihael. Documenta Praehistorica, v.34, 2007.

The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory addresses some of the most debated questions as to why, how, when and where foraging societies decided that Ôthe advantages of food production outweighed the options available to them as foragersÕ. Graeme Barker first discussed these questions in his Cambridge PhD on the transition from hunting to farming in central Italy. Some years later he focused on the evolution of farming in Europe. His recent book is an attempt to bring to bear a global holistic approach to the problem of why foragers became farmers. The book is in ten parts: (1) Approaches to the Origins of Agriculture, (2) Understanding Foragers, (3) Identifying Foragers and Farmers, (4) The ÔHearth of Domestication Õ? Transitions to Farming in South-West Asia, (5) Central and South Asia: the Wheat/Rice Frontier, (6) Rice and Forest Farming in East and South-East Asia, (7) Weed, Tuber, and Maize Farming in the Americas, (8) Africa: Afro-Asiatic Pastoralists and Bantu farmers?, (9) Transitions to Farming in Europe: Ex Oriente Lux?, and (10) The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers?

In the context of a short review, the range and rich detail of this book precludes further summary, and to engage in debate on any one section would be invidious. Suffice to say that the author believes that the process of transition to farming demands a regionally comparative approach. For every region, he suggests, we need to understand Òchanges in climate and environment, the nature of the plant and animal resources available, and how they were exploited by people on either side of the presumed transitional phase(s) from foraging to farming”. And, that “if we are to understand why prehistoric foragers become farmers” we have to “imagine how they must have viewed their world and the challenges and choices available to them”. There is no reason not to agree with these postulates.

The author develops a strong case for the development of agricultural systems in many regions as transformations in the life-styles of indigenous forager societies, and hypothesises that these were as much changes in social norms and ideologies as in ways of obtaining food. He argues at the same time that the transition to farming was a process consisting of many unwise, foolish and fatal decisions, and that what actually happened was not the discovery nor the invention of food production, but a by-product of decisions made without an awareness of their consequences (p. 392, quoting J. M. Diamond).

The author surprises us by reviving two old concepts and models, agricultural revolution (cf. V. G. Childe) and acculturation (cf. S. Piggott [Ancient Europe. 1965], missing from the bibliography). He argues strongly against the concept of demic diffusion and/or the wave of advance model (cf. A. J. Ammerman and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza). For him, the main problem with the demic diffusion model is Òits focus on the transition to farming as some kind of unique sequence of movements in an otherwise static world.Ó (p. 413).

By adopting a global perspective, the author integrates in the book a series of general and basic data that were discussed in the eighties and nineties in archaeology, anthropology, botany and zoology, climatology, and archaeogenetics. Unfortunately, he overlooks relevant information as much as the recent discussions of origins and diffusions of “Mesolithichic” and “Neolithic” Y-chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, and global human population trajectories in the context of the processes of the transition to farming. Human genetic studies show that the modern European paternal and maternal genetic landscape was not the result of farmers invading from the Near East, and that demic diffusion is not a realistic scenario for interpreting the transition to farming in either Europe or Central Asia. The lively debate on the “8.200 calBp climate event” Ð which undoubted correlates chronologically with the transition to farming on a global scale, and certainly affected environmental conditions Ð is not taken into account. How the event affected contemporary hunter-gatherers and farmers and the transition to farming still awaits an answer.

There is no question, however, that The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory is a big step towards an unbiased interpretation of the processes of transition to farming in prehistory both regionally and globally.

Mihael Budja –  University of Ljubljana.

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Parts and Wholes: Fragmentation in Prehistoric Context – CHAPMAN; GAYDARSKA (DP)

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 .

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