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Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic

Douglass W. Bailey (Routledge)

Prehistoric Figurines front cover

Prehistoric Figurines presents a radical new approach to one of the most exciting but poorly understood artefacts from our prehistoric past and transforms the study and interpretation of prehistoric figurines from Neolithic southeast Europe. The book explores the ways that people use representations of human bodies to make subtle political points and to understand their own identities and to negotiate their relationships with friends and enemies. Moving beyond the traditional mechanisms of interpretation, the argument is an original and coherent interpretation of prehistoric figurines from southeastern Europe.

Douglass Bailey isolates and examines four critical conditions: figurines as miniatures; figurines as three-dimensional representations; figurines as anthropomorphs; and figurines as representations. From these discussions he propels the debate past the limitations of the out-dated interpretations of figurines as Mother-Goddess and investigates individual prehistoric figurines in their original archaeological contexts and in terms of modern exploitations of the human form. He examines not what figurines were, but how and why they fulfilled the variety of roles that they might have played, asking what it is about a figurine's physical and visual condition that makes it successful as a votive, portrait or other potential function. The book benefits from the author's close understanding of the material culture and the prehistory of the Balkans and from recent developments in the fields of visual culture studies and social and cultural anthropology.

Comments on Prehistoric Figurines

"Ambitious, wide-ranging and coherent, this book is clearly going to be the authoritative account of the subject…interestingly written and theoretically well informed. Bailey writes accessibly and shows a clarity of thought lacking in most authors who tackle this kind of material. In short his account is scholarly, judicious and balanced, but also interesting. Bailey offers the scholarly corrective that has long been needed to Gimbutas' work. This book ought to be mainstream reading in archaeology, anthropology and studies of visual culture, at advanced undergraduate and postgraduate levels." (Richard Bradley; Reading)

"...outstanding - a daring and authoritative treatment, wonderfully wide ranging...a fascinating treatment that ranges from early farmers to Barbi Dolls - a superb comparative work in visual culture. The way archaeology needs to go." (Mike Shanks; Stanford)