An Archaeology of Images: Iconology and Cosmology in Iron Age and Roman Europe

An Archaeology of Images: Iconology and Cosmology in Iron Age and Roman Europe

An Archaeology of Images: Iconology and Cosmology in Iron Age and Roman Europe

An Archaeology of Images: Iconology and Cosmology in Iron Age and Roman Europe


Using archaeology and social anthropology, and more than 100 original line drawings and photographs, An Archaeology of Images takes a fresh look at how ancient images of both people and animals were used in the Iron Age and Roman societies of Europe, 600 BC to AD 400 and investigates the various meanings with which images may have been imbued.The book challenges the usual interpretation of statues, reliefs and figurines as passive things to be looked at or worshipped, and reveals them instead as active artefacts designed to be used, handled and broken. It is made clear that the placing of images in temples or graves may not have been the only episode in their biographies, and a single image may have gone through several existences before its working life was over.Miranda Aldhouse Green examines a wide range of other issues, from gender and identity to foreignness, enmity and captivity, as well as the significance of the materials used to make the images. The result is a comprehensive survey of the multifarious functions and experiences of images in the communities that produced and consumed them.Challenging many previously held assumptions about the meaning and significance of Celtic and Roman art, An Archaeology of Images will be controversial yet essential reading for anyone interested in this area.


The wise traveller travels only in imagination. An old Frenchman once wrote a book called Voyage autour de ma chambre. I have not read it and I do not even know what it is about, but the title stimulates my fancy. in such a journey I could circumnavigate the globe. An eikon by the chimneypiece can take me to Russia with its great forests of birch and its white domed churches. the Volga is wide, and at the end of a straggling village, in the wine-shop, bearded men in rough sheepskin coats sit drinking…my eyes fall on a piece of porcelain and smell the acrid odours of China. I am borne in a chair along a narrow causeway between the padi fields, or else I skirt a tree-clad mountain.

(from Honolulu, by Somerset Maugham)

In April 2003, I was fortunate to witness an extraordinary Christian rite, imported from Andalucía, that takes place every Good Friday night at Tremp in Catalonia. the 'Processó de Divendras Sant' (its Catalán name) involves a procession of local groups who play the role of penitents ('Nazarenos') dressed in colourful hooded costumes, who process through the streets from the Basílica de la Mare de Déu de Valldeflors, carrying torches, accompanying elaborate floats depicting scenes from the Passion. Images from the church, including the crucified Christ, are carried through the streets on the floats, in silence except for single drum-beats, and then replaced. the effect is an intensely moving experience shared by the watching crowd and the participants, not least because of the visual contradiction presented by the movement of static images, which assume a curiously powerful life-force.

More than a decade ago, I published a book with 'image' in the title (Green 1989). This studied a broad sweep of Gallo-British iconography, and was packed with examples of figurines and monumental sculptures all of which I classified as sacred. the study was valuable in so far as it brought together a wide range of iconography from the western Roman Empire, while concentrating on material that seemed to me to exhibit indigenous traditions,

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