Art and Material Culture in Prehistoric Europe
Chris Gosden (University of Oxford)
John Robb (Cambridge University)
SOAS Senate House - S312
Start time:
2 June, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

We aim to introduce the full range of art forms from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age in Europe, placing them in broader material contexts. We will also consider issues of history, continuity and change in aesthetic forms and styles linked to their changing cultural roles over 30,000 years.

Long abstract:

We aim to introduce the range of material considered as art from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age in Europe (and indeed links with Asia), some of which will be familiar to a broader audience and some less so; to use this material, which spans almost 30,000 years, to think about issues of history, continuity and changes in aesthetic forms, to probe questions of style and to look at the changing roles art may have had in the cultural process over this long period. We are arguing for art as a specialized form of material culture and for the need to embed items seen as art in a broader material context. More specifically, we argue for the notion of style as a technology, which has particular effects on human senses and emotions. All technologies hold implicitly within them a model of causality, but also a dialectical relationship with human desire, being both shaped by it and shaping of desire. The material from Europe provides one of the richest sources for probing ideas of this type. The artistic traditions of prehistoric Europe have rarely been thought of as a whole and we will present an argument for doing so.