Beyond seals. The representation of seals on engraved slate plaquettes from the Magdalenian site Gönnersdorf (Central Rhineland, Germany)
AuthorHansen, Monica Kristin
Images of seals from the Magdalenian site Gönnersdorf in the Central Rhineland has raised questions concerning the nature of the relation between people living in the interior landscape and coastal elements, represented by the depictions of seals. The location of the site more than 450 kilometres from the Late Pleistocene seashore of the North Atlantic Ocean has made these finds somewhat enigmatic. In this thesis I have argued that the representation of seals at Gönnersdorf must have been made by someone who did actually see the animal, since the animal, at least in one of the representations (Pl-163), was executed with strikingly high level of detail and exactness in proportions. Traditionally, engraved plaquettes have been perceived as ‘Palaeolithic art’, a term which I have argued has strong connotations to modern fine art. These connotations are the reason why emphasis and interpretations have been mainly based on the Franco-Cantabrian cave paintings. Another popular approach is one that has perceived animal representations as ecofacts, rather than artefacts (Bosinski & Bosinski 1991), using visual imagery for reconstructing past environments. In this thesis I have argued that both these approaches need to be abandoned. I have stressed that we rather should not understand the motifs as seals per se, nor should the objects be categorically approached as ‘art’. I have advocated an understanding of these objects as a type of material culture, namely ‘engraved plaquette’. These are made by people in certain situations for certain reasons, and must consequently be understood in the context of which they were made and used. Evaluated against the context of the site and the possibilities and challenges offered by the changing environments of the Late Pleistocene, I suggest that the practice of engraving images to plaquettes should be perceived as a means for communication that was used in strategies for maintenance, negotiation and justification of social structures as well as for exchanging and integrating new information.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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Copyright 2006 The Author(s)
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