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The materiality of serial practice 1 edition

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The materiality of serial practice
a microarchaeology of burial
Fredrik Fahlander ; [English revision, Niel Tomkinson].

Published 2003 by Dept. of Archaeology, Göteborg University in Göteborg .
Written in English.

About the Book

Abstract (English)
The main concern of the thesis is the question of how to deal with matters of social heterogeneity in prehistory. A social reading of psychoanalytic theory of e.g. Jacques Lacan suggests that social heterogeneity generally is more likely than homogeneity in most social formations. It is therefore argued that the past is difficult to understand in a hermeneutical sense of the term. As an alternative approach, a general theory of social practice and materialities, a microarchaeology, is outlined. Departing from Jean Paul Sartre’s concept of seriality, it is argued that social practice is generally performed in close relation to materialities. The microarchaeological approach focuses on executed practice, that is, those actions that actually were performed. Such practice is argued to be subject to both individual agency and to more general ‘structural’ elements. From such a perspective, there is thus no need to make awkward dichotomous distinctions between, for instance, individual and structure, or emic vs. etic perspectives.
The potential of the microarchaeological approach is exemplified by two different sets of data: The Neolithic graves of Ajvide, Gotland, Sweden and the graves of Asea and Tegea in Arcadia, Greece. The first study aims to discuss social heterogeneity and corporeal subjectivation/subjection. It is argued that the so-called Pitted Ware Culture (GRK) expressed great social variability and demonstrated several significant transformations, rather than comprising a homogeneous ‘culture’. The second study concerns the place of graves in the local ‘cultural’ and ‘natural’ landscape. It is suggested that the sites chosen for burial generally depend on a matrix of structurating parameters that involves a range of aspects such as memory, ‘natural’ features, material circumstances, as well as notions of visibility and invisibility, etc. Some structurating parameters may work in concert but may also be overruled by other parameters. There can thus not be a question of simple relationships between, for instance, the places of habitation and the places of burials.

Key words: Microarchaeology, social theory, social practice, landscape, graves, Ajvide, Asea, Tegea, corporeality, Neolithic, GRK, Pitted Ware Culture.

Full text available:

First Sentence

In 1998, a local farmer decided to construct a simple dirt road to the top of the Tambouria hill. It was constructed according to local practice, simply by letting a bulldozer cut through the rocks and soil, zigzagging up the slopes and making a rough, but flat enough, surface for pickup trucks or jeeps to pass. It is a fast but brutal method, with little concern for the natural and cultural landscape, that leaves a long, winding, open scar on the hillside. In the scarp of the road in the lowermost area of Tambouria, slabs of stone are now visible, along with smaller concentrations of bones and non-diag- nostic potsherds. With or without knowledge of its past use, the road was laid out straight through an ancient cemetery. Some decades earlier, one or two ancient cist graves had been recorded at the site. They were typical cist graves, constructed of rough stones forming a rectangular cavity and sealed by one or two larger slabs of stone. Such constructions are well known in the area and elsewhere with no particular reference in time or space. The graves were plundered many years ago and any bones or artefacts have long gone. In their current state, they have not been regarded as significant and have thus received little attention from the local heritage management. Now those burials have gone, destroyed by the new, ‘constructed’ road. Instead, however, a number of previ- ously unknown graves are visible in the scarp or as depressions in the road. In closer examination, traces of their original constructions could be identified. In one case, a small (20x20 cm) hole in the scarp made it possible to look right through into an almost undisturbed cist grave, including a complete human skeleton. Despite efforts to seal the grave, it was found ruined by animals on being revisited a year later. In one sense, the destruction of the ancient graves is a tragic case of ignorance by the part of the landowner which also re- veals gaps in the local cultural heritage management. Some information about burial practices of an ancient social formation is lost forever. From another point of view, the careless construction of the road presents a case of ‘free’ information that could be retrieved only by expensive excavation.

Edition Notes

Thesis (Ph. D.)--Göteborg University, 2003.

GOTARC., no. 23


Library of Congress
MLCS 2005/04764 (G)

The Physical Object

iv, 200 p. :
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History Created December 10, 2009 · 2 revisions Download catalog record: RDF / JSON

April 28, 2010 Edited by Open Library Bot Linked existing covers to the work.
December 10, 2009 Created by WorkBot add works page