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Interpreting Ancient Figurines
Context, Comparison, and Prehistoric Art


  • Date Published: March 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107691179

£ 38.99

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About the Authors
  • This book examines ancient figurines from several world areas to address recurring challenges in the interpretation of prehistoric art. Sometimes figurines from one context are perceived to resemble those from another. Richard G. Lesure asks whether such resemblances play a role in our interpretations. Early interpreters seized on the idea that figurines were recurringly female and constructed the fanciful myth of a primordial Neolithic Goddess. Contemporary practice instead rejects interpretive leaps across contexts. Dr Lesure offers a middle path: a new framework for assessing the relevance of particular comparisons. He develops the argument in case studies that consider figurines from Paleolithic Europe, the Neolithic Near East and Formative Mesoamerica.

    • Comparison between contexts has larger theoretical implications, since it is central both to the contemporary rejection of traditional interpretations and to ongoing tensions between those who 'interpret' and those who 'explain'
    • This book mediates between extremes, building on the idea that formerly antagonistic perspectives can, collectively, contribute to a better understanding of the past
    • Among studies of figurines, this book is unique for its extended attention to multiple world areas; its well-illustrated case studies consider prehistoric art from Europe, the Near East and Mexico
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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107691179
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 178 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 95 b/w illus. 6 maps 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The travails - and continued relevance - of universalist explanation
    2. Comparison and context
    3. The questions we ask of images
    4. A cross-cultural explanation for female figurines?
    5. Mesoamerican figurines and the contextualist appeal to universal truths
    6. Figurines, goddesses, and the texture of long-term structures in the Near East
    7. On figurines, femaleness, and comparison.

  • Author

    Richard G. Lesure, University of California, Los Angeles
    Richard G. Lesure is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He conducts archaeological fieldwork in Mexico and has authored papers on prehistoric figurines in Current Anthropology and the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. His most recent book is Settlement and Subsistence in Early Formative Soconusco.

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