Article

Signs of Life: Engraved Stone Artefacts from Neolithic South India

Cambridge Archaeological Journal 01/2006; DOI: 10.1017/S0959774306000102
Source: OAI

ABSTRACT While exceedingly rare on any given archaeological site, engraved stone artefacts have nonetheless been reported from sites covering a range of periods and regions across the world. Attempts to interpret such engravings have often focused on potential representational or communicative functions, including their role in notational systems, symbolic depiction, and the development of early forms of writing. Contextual and microscopic investigation of a number of engraved artefacts discovered in a large assemblage of dolerite artefacts excavated from a Neolithic hilltop habitation and stone-tool production site in south India suggests, however, that an alternative interpretation of engraved stone artefacts is possible. Drawing on ethnographic evidence concerning the perception of stone, and particularly natural markings on stone, this article argues that the stone pieces on which the marks were engraved were more than just passive surfaces for the creation of unrelated signs. Instead, engravings appear to draw on natural features within and upon the surface of the dolerite, and to suggest an appreciation for the patterns of nature, as well as a lack of distinction between anthropogenic and natural markings. It is argued that the engravings may have been a response to a perceived ‘life-force’ within the dolerite. The fact that they were produced and then broken apart by knapping suggests that they may have been made to accentuate or attenuate a power that was perceived as either somehow beneficial or in need of careful control.

0 Bookmarks
 · 
55 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: a b s t r a c t Here we examine patterns in stone tool technology among Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age localities in the Sanganakallu–Kupgal site complex, Bellary District, Karnataka, South India. Statistical tests are used to compare proportions of raw materials and artefact types, and to compare central tendencies in metric variables taken on flakes and tools. Lithic-related findings support the inference of at least two distinct technological and economic groups at Sanganakallu–Kupgal, a microlith-focused foraging society on the one hand, and on the other, an agricultural society whose lithic technologies centred upon the pro-duction of pressure bladelets and dolerite edge-ground axes. Evidence for continuity in lithic technolog-ical processes through time may reflect indigenous processes of development, and a degree of continuity from the Mesolithic through to the Neolithic period. Lithic production appears to have become a specia-lised and spatially segregated activity by the terminal Neolithic and early Iron Age, supporting sugges-tions for the emergence of an increasingly complex economy and political hierarchy.
    Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 01/2012; · 1.51 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We know of 104 incised stones collected from the Gault Site between 1929 and 2007 from various proveniences and contexts ranging from Early Paleoindian (ca. 13,000-9,000 Cal BP) to Archaic (ca. 9,000-2,000 Cal BP) and perhaps Late Prehistoric (1,200-600 Cal BP). The stones share affinity with incised and painted stones worldwide in traditions dating back at least 90,000 years. Wherever these objects are produced, the end product does not seem to have retained its importance, and, in fact, the process of manufacture and the patterns employed may have been more important than the decorated object after its initial use. Résumé : Caractéristiques et processus : quelques réflexions sur les pierres gravées du site de Gault (Texas central, USA) Entre 1929 et 2003, 104 blocs de pierre ont été récoltés à Gault. Ils proviennent de plusieurs sites et ont été trouvés dans des contextes variés qui relèvent de plusieurs périodes : celles dites Paléo-indienne (env. 13 000-9000 cal. BP), archaïque (9000-2000 cal BP), voire de la période préhistorique tardive (1200-200 cal BP). Ces blocs ont des points communs avec des pierres peintes et incisées de plusieurs parties du monde, où elles peuvent remonter jusqu'à 90.000 BP au moins. Partout où elles ont été produites, elles semblent avoir eu moins d'importance en soi que l'acte même de leur élaboration ; en fait, le processus de fabrication et tout ce qui l'accompagnait auraient été plus importants que l'objet fini – une fois achevé son usage immédiat.
    Actes du Congres IFRAO Tarascon-sur-Ariege, setembre 2010; 09/2010
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In 1979 a small stone slab bearing the engraved image of a zebra was excavated from Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, from levels radio-carbon dated to circa 4000 BP. The dolomitic slab is broken, perhaps deliberately, and retains only the hind quarters and rump of the zebra. Present on the rump are several fine incised lines that have been interpreted as symbolic wounds in the context of sympathetic hunting magic. These lines, although clustered together, appear random, and it is not immediately obvious if and how they relate to the zebra engraving. The purpose of this paper is partly to assess the amount of pressure required to produce such incisions, and also to assess, through experimental replication, whether these fine lines were intentionally engraved to form part of the larger image.
    The South African Archaeological Bulletin 07/2014; 69:72-79.

Full-text (2 Sources)

View
30 Downloads
Available from
May 27, 2014