Engraved biographies: Rock art and the life-histories of Bronze Age objects

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

This presentation deals with engravings depicting sometimes life-sized Bronze Age metal objects from “closed” burial contexts and “open-air” sites in northern Europe. These rock art images have mainly been used for comparative dating with the purpose of establishing rock art chronologies, or interpreted as a poor man’s” substitute for real objects that were sacrificed to immaterial gods and goddesses. In this presentation, these rock art images are pictured from a perspective that highlights the mutual cultural biography of humans and objects. It is argued that the rare engravings of bronze objects at scale 1:1 are best explained as famous animated objects that could act as secondary agents, which sometimes allowed them to be depicted and remembered. Moreover, two different social settings are distinguished for such memory practice: maritime nodes or third spaces where Bronze Age Argonauts met before, during or after their journeys, e.g. places where novel technological and/or famous objects entered and re-entered the social realms, and burial contexts where animated objects sometimes was buried at the end of their life-course.