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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Rock Art and Archaeology: from Scotland to the Sahara (PGHC11353)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryRock art is an almost universal phenomenon within pre-literate societies. It represents a form of cultural expression often absent in other artefacts or monuments, and can provide a unique insight into the relationship between people and their environment. This course deals with prehistoric rock art and the role it plays in society, both past and present. It will provide a broad investigation of existing definitions and interpretations of rock art, while drawing attention to issues of conservation, management and presentation. Methodological and theoretical approaches will feature prominently, along with changing perspectives regarding the significance and meaning of rock art. Special attention will be paid to Europe and Africa from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age, although students will be encouraged to investigate prehistoric paintings and engravings in other parts of the world.
Course description Rock art is an almost universal phenomenon within pre-literate societies. It represents a form of cultural expression often absent in other artefacts or monuments, and can provide a unique insight into the relationship between people and their environment. This course examines the methodological approaches used to study rock art and explores contrasting theories of its role in human society. It is based around a series of case studies drawn from Europe and North Africa and from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Iron Age, which are used to illustrate specific interpretative models. Student feedback indicates a real demand for a course on rock art studies, which are growing in popularity within the archaeological discipline.

The course aims to provide an understanding of the core approaches used to define, analyse and interpret rock art. By referencing archaeological contexts and landscapes throughout, it integrates rock art with mainstream archaeological research. It additionally addresses ethical and practical issues relating to ownership, conservation, management and presentation of rock art in contemporary society. The global nature of rock art and its iconic potential will be iterated throughout the course, with particular focus on paintings and engravings in Europe and Africa. This is a new course, designed to complement existing teaching in Archaeology and other departments.

The following topics will be covered:
1. Art or artefact? Defining rock art
2. Origins of art and symbolism
3. Early art; early theories: animism, structuralism, Marxism
4. Rock art and place: exploring the landscape
5. Performance or public art versus private art: rock art in ceremony and burial
6. Shamanism and spirit possession
7. Rock art and agency
8. Animated images: cultural identity and boundaries
9. Whose art is it anyway? Ethics and ownership
10. Conservation, preservation, presentation, destruction
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate in written assignments a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning rock art in its global context, including the key theoretical and methodological approaches used
  2. Demonstrate in written assignments an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship of primary source materials concerning the investigation and interpretation of rock art, and conceptual discussions about symbolic behaviour
  3. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form in seminar discussions, presentations, and written assignments by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course
  4. Demonstrate in seminar discussions, presentations, and written assignments originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy
Reading List
Bahn P and Vertut J1997 Journey through the Ice Age, Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Bertlisson U and McDermott L (eds) The Valcamonica Symposium. National Heritage Board of Sweden/Riksantikvarieambetet: Sweden

Bradley, R. 1997. Rock art and the prehistory of Atlantic Europe: signing the land. London: Routledge.

Bradley, R. 2000 An Archaeology of Natural Places. London: Routledge
Chippendale C and Nash G (eds) 2004 The Figured Landscapes of Rock Art: Looking at Pictures in Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Chippendale C and Tacon P S C (eds) 1998 The Archaeology of Rock Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Layton R 1981 The Anthropology of Art. London: Granada Publishing
Lewis-Williams D, 2002. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art, Thames and Hudson

Lewis-Williams D and Dowson T. 1999 Images of Power: Understanding San Rock Art, Struik

Lorblanchet M and Bahn P (eds) 1993 Rock Art Studies: the Post-Stylistic Era or Where do we go from here? Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 35, Oxbow Books

Nash G and Chippendale C (eds) 2002. European Landscapes of Rock Art. London: Routledge

Whitley D S (ed) 2001 Handbook of Rock Art Research. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordsrock art archaeology
Course organiserDr Tertia Barnett
Course secretaryMr Gordon Littlejohn
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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