Project

Making a Mark: Imagery and process in the British and Irish Neolithic

Goal: This two-year research project (2014-2016), led by Dr. Andrew Meirion Jones and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is the first holistic analysis of decorated artefacts from the British and Irish Neolithic. It includes the application of digital imaging and digital microscopy to compare the techniques used in making motifs across a range of Neolithic media. Ultimately, this will build a framework for understanding the relationship between these artefacts and the more extensively studied art of Neolithic monuments and settlements.

Date: 1 October 2014 - 30 September 2016

Updates
0 new
1
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
48
Reads
2 new
353

Project log

Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a research item
This paper presents key results of the Making a Mark project (2014–2016), which aimed to provide a contextual framework for the analysis of mark making on portable artefacts in the British and Irish Neolithic by comparing them with other mark-making practices, including rock art and passage tomb art. The project used digital imaging techniques, including Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), and improved radiocarbon chronologies, to develop a new understanding of the character of mark making in the British and Irish Neolithic. Rather than considering this tradition in representational terms, as expression of human ideas, we focus on two kinds of relational material practices, the processes of marking and the production of skeuomorphs, and their emergent properties. We draw on Karen Barad's concept of ‘intra-action’ and Gilles Deleuze's notion of differentiation to understand the evolution and development of mark-making traditions and how they relate to other kinds of social practices over the course of the Neolithic.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a research item
The visual imagery of Neolithic Britain and Ireland is spectacular. While the imagery of passage tombs, such as Knowth and Newgrange, are well known the rich imagery on decorated portable artefacts is less well understood. How does the visual imagery found on decorated portable artefacts compare with other Neolithic imagery, such as passage tomb art and rock art? How do decorated portable artefacts relate chronologically to other examples of Neolithic imagery? Using cutting edge digital imaging techniques, the Making a Mark project examined Neolithic decorated portable artefacts of chalk, stone, bone, antler, and wood from three key regions: southern England and East Anglia; the Irish Sea region (Wales, the Isle of Man and eastern Ireland); and Northeast Scotland and Orkney. Digital analysis revealed, for the first time, the prevalence of practices of erasure and reworking amongst a host of decorated portable artefacts, changing our understanding of these enigmatic artefacts. Rather than mark making being a peripheral activity, we can now appreciate the central importance of mark making to the formation of Neolithic communities across Britain and Ireland. The volume visually documents and discusses the contexts of the decorated portable artefacts from each region, discusses the significance and chronology of practices of erasure and reworking, and compares these practices with those found in other Neolithic contexts, such as passage tomb art, rock art and pottery decoration. A contribution from Antonia Thomas also discusses the settlement art and mortuary art of Orkney, while Ian Dawson and Louisa Minkin contribute with a discussion of the collaborative fine art practices established during the project. Andrew Meirion Jones is Professor of Archaeology, University of Southampton, UK. He has taught and written extensively on the archaeology of art, particularly rock art. His most recent book is The Archaeology of Art. Materials, Practices, Affects (2018) written with Andrew Cochrane. Marta Díaz-Guardamino is Lecturer in Archaeology at Cardiff University, UK. Her research interests are in European prehistory and proto-history, archaeological theory, and digital technologies. She has studied prehistoric rock art, monumental sculpture and portable art from Iberia, Britain, and Ireland, including fieldwork at find spots of stelae and statue-menhirs.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added 2 research items
The Folkton ‘Drums’ are the most remarkable decorated artefacts from Neolithic Britain. A new analysis using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and photogrammetry (PG) reveals new evidence for previously unrecorded motifs in addition to plentiful evidence for erasure and reworking. A case is made for understanding the decoration of these chalk artefacts as an ongoing process of working involving experimentation. The authors also argue that such practices of making may have been more widespread in Neolithic Britain and Ireland. Additionally the study demonstrates the ability of these new techniques to not only record visible motifs, but to clearly document erased and reworked motifs.
This chapter explores questions of ontology in rock art analysis. More specifically, it argues that the distinction between ‘informed’ methods and ‘formal’ methods reproduces some problematic dichotomies, such as the distinction between active subjects and inert objects, culture and nature, and a conceptualization of meaning as being external to the art itself. The chapter proposes a move away from such an ontologically hierarchical approach to rock art analysis to a relational approach in which there is no ontological priority between the different elements that make up the rock art assemblage. It emphasizes that placing formal methods at the heart of rock art studies, alongside analogy, shifts the questions we ask of rock art away from simple epistemologically derived enquiries to ontological questions. To illustrate this the chapter examines case studies of parietal art of the European Palaeolithic and Comanche rock art in North America.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a research item
Four portable decorated artefacts from the Knowth passage tomb complex were examined using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) as part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded ‘Making a Mark’ project examining the decorated artefacts of Neolithic Britain and Ireland. The results of this analysis provide enhanced understanding of the making of some artefacts and new evidence for the reworking of other artefacts. These four artefacts are the ovoid flint macehead (50479) from the eastern chamber of Tomb 1, the decorated sandstone object (3906) from outside the western entrance to Tomb 1C, the decorated bone pin (111) from Tomb 3 and the decorated sandstone ‘baetyl’ found close to Tomb 12. Of these, all but the decorated bone pin 111 (which was too damaged) exhibited interesting results. These are discussed below.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a research item
The paper discusses the Garboldisham macehead: an unusual decorated macehead carved from red deer antler. The macehead was found in the 1960s deposited in a tributary of the river Little Ouse, Norfolk and is decorated with three spirals, making it especially significant. This paper reports on the analysis of the decoration using digital imaging, discusses a new radiocarbon date recently obtained for the artefact, and discusses its significance alongside other dated antler maceheads.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a research item
The passage tomb art and rock art of Neolithic Britain and Ireland is characterized by abstract geometric and curvilinear images. Less well known is the fact that these motifs are shared with a number of portable artefacts fashioned in chalk, antler, stone and clay. How does the use and deposition of these portable artefacts relate to the imagery on passage tombs and open-air rock art? What is the difference between images located in static locations (open-air rock art and passage tombs) and images on portable artefacts? Are there different audiences for these different images? Do these two sets of motifs even occupy different temporal registers? What are the implications of this for our understanding of passage tomb art and rock art? The decorated portable artefacts of Britain and Ireland are currently the subject of a research project recording c. 1000 artefacts across Britain and Ireland using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and low-powered digital microscopy. These methods are used to record individual motifs, and the crafting of the motifs, on the artefacts. Digital imaging is coupled with a contextual analysis of these artefacts, which is revealing a new understanding of these decorated artefacts. The paper will report on the findings of the project to date. On the basis of this the paper will also reflect on the implications of the project for our understanding of passage tomb art and rock art in Neolithic Britain and Ireland.
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added an update
An update on the progress of the project can be found on the SARF website: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/case-study-imaging-techniques
 
Marta Diaz-Guardamino
added a project goal
This two-year research project (2014-2016), led by Dr. Andrew Meirion Jones and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is the first holistic analysis of decorated artefacts from the British and Irish Neolithic. It includes the application of digital imaging and digital microscopy to compare the techniques used in making motifs across a range of Neolithic media. Ultimately, this will build a framework for understanding the relationship between these artefacts and the more extensively studied art of Neolithic monuments and settlements.