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In the first full-length treatment of the subject, based largely on new fieldwork, Richard Bradley argues that these carvings should be interpreted as a series of symbolic messages that are shared between monuments, artefacts and natural places in the landscape. He discusses the cultural setting of the rock carvings and the ways in which they can be interpreted in relation to ancient land use, the creation of ritual monuments and the burial of the dead.

Integrating this fascinating yet little-known material into the mainstream of prehistoric studies, Richard Bradley demonstrates that these carvings played a fundamental role in the organization of the prehistoric landscape.


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Frontispiece Reconstruction of the carved rock at Roughting Linn. An introduction to Atlantic rock. The origins and chronology of Atlantic rock.


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    Rock Art and the Prehistory of Atlantic Europe: Signing the Land

    In the United Kingdom a primarily descriptive focus on recording, describing, and producing distribution maps of rock art persisted Morris , and Beckinsall A comprehensive account of rock art, capable of interpreting the importance of its symbols and explaining its widespread distribution across Britain and Europe did not exist. In as Richard Bradley prepared to write his book, rock art was a problematic and theoretically contentious subject confused by over imaginative 'new age' post processual interpretations and crack pot theories.

    Stylistic analyses of rock art particularly Tilley's "text" based interpretation of figurative symbology were unconvincing. Anati's 'grandiose interpretations of the imagery based on the literature of comparative religion ' Bradley Anati lacked a framework for interpretation. The 'neuropsychological' model Lewis-Williams and Dowson suggesting that rock art was linked to shamanic interpretation was influential but did little to explain rock art's connections to the land. In 'Signing the land ' Bradley's approach is directed by the content and conclusions of this second book; that is the recognition of monument groups, their topography, 'view-sheds' and the interrelationship of broadly contemporary ancient sites within a landscape.

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    Professorial status, academic connections and a broad range of specialised knowledge allow Bradley to effectively compare and contrast current approaches and suggest new ones. Ideas are supported by coordinated data sets gleaned from the records of European rock art and his own research. Bradley applies a didactic approach to the structure of his work; aims are stated, examples given, each chapter of each section ends with a recapitulation entitled 'summing up'. This stylistically consistent method re-directing our thoughts back to the original ideas is a useful tool for academic study; the detail and volume of information contained within each chapter is effectively compacted into a helpful short word paragraph.

    In preparation for the 'summing up' Bradley uses a Socratic approach to the evidence he is presenting inventing a series of questions to scrutinize his arguments in an effort to determine their consistency with alternative theories. At other times his prose style imparts a feeling of forward momentum; clear, innovative ideas and arguments bring the reader back to the main themes and smooth over the occasional bumps e. At its best his prose is clear and simple, ideas follow a train of thought rich in archaeological insight and reach a logical conclusion.

    At the beginning of each section well chosen evocative quotations from Malouf, Muir and Kadare place the rock art and its context in a fictional setting.

    ISBN 13: 9780415165365

    This poetic vein is echoed in the introduction to the chapters titled eg. These literary illusions remind us of the connections between the landscape, imagination and human perception and allow Bradley to amalgamate the essence of their phenomenological content into his own writing. By the end of the book Bradley has presented explanations to help us better understand the cultural settings of rock art and the ways in which rock art carvings can be interpreted in relation to ancient land use, ritual monuments and the burial of the dead.

    Does Bradley's book place rock art into a meaningful contextual background and might this approach imply a successful integration of the subject into the mainstream of prehistoric landscape studies? Morris's classification listing over different interpretations of rock art images Morris , pg indicates how difficult it is to make sense of rock art.

    Bradley recognising that symbolic interpretation is an elusive art, subject to hermeneutic influences, still decides to present his own ideas into the discussion. His solution to the problem is to insist that all interpretations are valid but that they 'must be discussed in a disciplined manner ' Bradley pg 4. After an informed consideration of existing interpretations Bradley creates his own typology, dividing cup and circle carvings into two subdivided categories, 'simple' and 'complex'.

    In Archaeology World Archaeology 25 3 Pantheon Books, New York.

    Course Catalogue - Rock Art and Archaeology: from Scotland to the Sahara (PGHC)

    San Diego Museum Papers No. Museum of Man, San Diego. University of California Press, Berkeley. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 10 1 Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 57 1 Antiquity South African Archaeological Bulletin L'Anthropologie XIV Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, No. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.