Metaphor and Materiality in Early Prehistory

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F. and Gamble, C.

Editors: Malafouris, L. and Renfrew, C.

Publisher: McDonald Institute Monographs

Place of Publication: Cambridge

ISBN: 978-1902937519

In this paper we argue for a relational perspective based on metaphorical rather than semiotic understandings of human and hominin1 material culture. The corporeality of material culture and thus its role as solid metaphors for a shared experience of embodiment precedes language in the archaeological record. While arguments continue as to both the cognitive abilities that underpin symbolism and the necessary and sufficient evidence for the identification of symbolic material culture in the archaeological record, a symbolic approach will inevitably restrict the available data to sapiens or even to literate societies. However, a focus on material culture as material metaphor allows the consideration of the ways in which even the very earliest archaeological record reflects hominins’ embodied, distributed relationships with heterogeneous forms of agent, as will be demonstrated by two case studies.

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