Accepted Paper:

Significant reuse: material biography and early medieval sculpture in Scotland  


Mark Hall (Perth Museum & Art Gallery)

Paper short abstract:

An exploration of reuse as key strand of material biography, particulalrly of early medieval sculpture.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution will explore reuse and repurposing through the avenue of material or cultural biography. Reuse is integral to cultural biography and both will be assessed in the context of early medieval (including Pictish) sculpture in Scotland. Such an approach reveals human complexity in both the short, period time-frame and in the multi-period long durée. It breaks down the straight jacket of period transcending such demarcations and by revealing complexities within periods it disrupts their cohesive, generalised definition. It is also people focussed, it does not fetishise objects but seeks to tell us about how they were used and reused and changed by people. Objects have use lives and multiple users.

Objects that stay in currency or in the landscape have generally greater potential for recoverable biographies; excavated objects once sealed in the ground less so - but archaeologists should acknowledge that the identity of an object is more complex than its fixed site context of where it came to rest. They have wider social contexts. The biographical approach is sympathetic with a landscape approach: there is a close affinity in studying landscape palimpsest and the life histories of objects, indeed the two should be linked.

Panel S12
Make-do and mend: the archaeologies of compromise?