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Materiella bilder: Visuella uttryck bland Mälarvikens hällbilder
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2017 (Swedish)In: New perspectives on the Bronze Age: proceedings of the 13th Nordic Bronze Age Symposium held in Gothenburg 9th to 13th June 2015 / [ed] Sophie Bergerbrant, Anna Wessman, Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017, p. 263-276Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present text discusses Bronze Age rock art as an active and integrated materiality, entangled in social relations rather than be- ing a passive reflection of ideology or cosmology. A key tenet is that rock art imagery has the potential to incite actions and to affect the course of events. The main focus of the study is set on rock art along the former shoreline of the Mälaren bay in eastern central Sweden. This area comprises one of the most varied and dense clusters of Bronze Age rock art in southern Scandinavia, situated on the northern perimeter of the core area of the southern tradition. The in-between location between the northern and southern traditions of rock art implies a wider social context to the development in the area. It is suggested that the imagery emerged in concert with the shifting relations between the maritime-oriented individuals and groups of varying traditions and life-styles that moved about in the Mälaren bay. By emphasising social complexity and hybridisation, processes in which rock art took part, it is possible to bypass some of the binary thinking that has plagued rock-art research (e.g. real/imaginary, mobile/sedentary, Bronze Age/Neolithic, ritual/social). In this perspective, the imagery is also allowed to contribute to our understanding of this period in- stead of merely reflecting our pre-understandings of the Bronze Age in general. In order to discuss potential agentive aspects of rock art, the traditional iconographic perspective of imagery as vehicles for meaning or symbolism is displaced in favour of a greater concern with what imagery in its material form actually does. The study departs from a relational ontology that focuses on the material aspects of the production, visual culture and how sites and panels progress over time. In this perspective, rock art is thus not only considered a representation of reality, but as ‘material articula- tions’ — something between materiality and practice. Instead of agency, the animacy of the imagery is emphasised, inspired by a perspectivist line of thought. It is argued that the sympathetic and apotropaic magic of the rock art over time came to encompass other, unintended effects, due to the hybrid social developments in the Mälaren bay area. In order to circumvent the interpretative dilemma of symbolic polysemy, the rock art is analysed in terms of visual modes of material articulation. This means identifying and studying different manners of visual expression, the different ways in which images are produced and how they relate to other motifs, breaking against praxis, and in general, recognising how motifs by a special design, or set in a particular context, may incite further engagements. Such instances are examined with the aid of horizontal stratigraphy, supported by three-dimensional digital technique, in order to follow e.g. displacements in stylistic variability, alterations, re-cuts, superimpositions and how the motifs relate to the texture of the rock. Three examples of different visual modes are discussed: size and depth of motifs, ‘incomplete’ motifs and the practice of stacking motifs in columns. It is suggested that some of the seemingly incomplete or unfinished motifs actually may have been deliberately made vague and diffuse in order to encourage subsequent actions and reflection among the beholders. By sequencing the progression of two panels containing stacked motifs (Boglösa 73 and 131), it is also argued that the traditional arrangement has been disrupted and tampered with, which indicates that the visual expressions in the research area cannot be attributed to one single group, one culture or one cosmology. On the contrary, the study suggests that the imagery of the rock panels probably would have been developed in a ‘dialogue’ between different individuals or groups. The study also demonstrates how a few pecked motifs, intentionally or not, initiated a process of making more rock art in the area, which also illustrates how images can indeed both instigate action and be integrated actants in social process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. p. 263-276
Keywords [en]
Rock art, Bronze Age, materiality, animacy, visual culture
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-149632ISBN: 9781784915988 (print)ISBN: 9781784915995 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-149632DiVA, id: diva2:1163474
Available from: 2017-12-07 Created: 2017-12-07 Last updated: 2017-12-18Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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