The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology

The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology

The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology

The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology

Synopsis

This book investigates the sensuous material qualities of stone--from golden honeycombed limestone, to frozen waves of Cambrian sandstone. Tactile sensations, sonorous qualities, color, and visual impressions are all shown to play a previously unrecognized yet vital part in understanding the power of prehistoric monuments, from Neolithic temples to Bronze Age rock carvings, in relation to their landscapes. Tilley breaks new ground in interpreting human experience in a sensuous way, rather than through an abstract analytical gaze. He leaves no stone unturned as he also considers how spaces and settings are interpreted in relation to artifacts and places that were deeply meaningful to the people who inhabited them and remain no less evocative today. In its innovative approach to understanding human experience, The Materiality of Stone is a major contribution to the field of material culture studies and the study of prehistory.

Excerpt

This book is the first in a projected series of three volumes concerned with landscape phenomenology and prehistory. It follows on from themes introduced in two previous works, A Phenomenology of Landscape (Tilley 1994) and Metaphor and Material Culture (Tilley 1999a). All the studies presented here are concerned with the significance of ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ stones in various landscapes of prehistoric Europe from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Chapter 1 discusses the phenomenological perspective of Merleau-Ponty in relation to bodies, places and landscapes. It provides the theoretical and conceptual basis for Chapters 2–4, which are detailed case studies designed to show the manner in which a phenomenological approach works out in the practice of doing research and interpreting archaeological materials.

Chapter 2 is concerned with one generic class of Neolithic monuments, menhirs in the landscapes of Finistère, western Brittany, and is a large-scale regional analysis. Chapters 3 and 4 consider small-scale landscapes, roughly equivalent in size. Chapter 3 discusses the internal spaces and landscape settings of Neolithic temples in the Maltese islands and interprets them in relation to artefacts and substances and related places of burial. Chapter 4 is concerned with Bronze Age rock carvings in the far south-east of Sweden and their relationship to barrows and cairns and places where artefacts were deposited. in the Conclusions, issues of research methodology and interpretation are considered.

The book attempts to demonstrate the manner in which a phenomenological perspective, in which the past is understood and interpreted from a sensuous human scale, as opposed to an abstracted analytical gaze, can provide a radically different way of thinking through the past in the present, and shed new light on old monuments.

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