Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research

Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research

Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research

Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research

Synopsis

Colour shapes our world in profound, if sometimes subtle, ways. It helps us to classify, form opinions, and make aesthetic and emotional judgements. Colour operates in every culture as a symbol, a metaphor, and as part of an aesthetic system. Yet archaeologists have traditionally subordinated the study of colour to the form and material value of the objects they find and thereby overlook its impact on conceptual systems throughout human history.This book explores the means by which colour-based cultural understandings are formed, and how they are used to sustain or alter social relations. From colour systems in the Mesolithic, to Mesoamerican symbolism and the use of colour in Roman Pompeii, this book paints a new picture of the past. Through their close observation of monuments and material culture, authors uncover the subtle role colour has played in the construction of past social identities and the expression of ancient beliefs. Providing an original contribution to our understanding of past worlds of meaning, this book will be essential reading for archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, as well as anyone with an interest in material culture, art and aesthetics.

Excerpt

This volume has been a long time in gestation. Many of the chapters originated from a conference session on the subject of colour and archaeology at the European Archaeological Association (EAA) meeting held in Bournemouth, September 1999. These include the contributions by Cooney, Jones, Keates, Owoc and MacGregor. Further contributions were elicited as interest in the subject grew over the ensuing time period between the end of this conference and the date of publication. The volume has metamorphosed considerably over this time. While many of the chapters deal with European prehistory, partly a reflection of the original conference session, we are pleased to note that the final publication includes a diversity of chronological periods and a wide geographical coverage. Meanwhile the theoretical approaches brought to bear on this rich material evince an equally diverse range of approaches.

A number of people have been instrumental in providing us with contacts and encouragement during the production of this volume. We would particularly like to thank Pim Allison, Barbara Bender, Dusan Boric, Richard Bradley, John Chapman, Ludmila Koryakova, Nick Saunders, Hannah Sackett, Jill Sievewright and Chris Scarre. Our special thanks go to the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge who generously provided funding for the reproduction of illustrations.

Finally, during the gestation period of this volume both editors saw new additions to their families. For this reason, we dedicate the volume to Joshua Gethin Jones Sackett and Arran Sievewright MacGregor.

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