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SYMBOL AND STONE: HOW MEGALITHIC ART TRANSFORMED NEOLITHIC AND COPPER AGE SOCIETIES

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Symbol and Stone (SYMBOL AND STONE: HOW MEGALITHIC ART TRANSFORMED NEOLITHIC AND COPPER AGE SOCIETIES)

Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2018-07-31

SYMBOL AND STONE is a comparative study of megalithic art in Europe to analyze and explain how inter-cultural exchange between prehistoric societies (~4500-2500 cal BC) shaped megalithic art, and to theorize and interpret the significance and function of these images. Most of the ~35´000 still existing European megaliths, which include megalithic tombs, standing stones, stone circles, alignments, and megalithic buildings or temples, were constructed during the Neolithic and the Copper Ages and are located in coastal areas. Paintings and engravings are known from several hundreds of these megaliths, especially from Brittany, Andalusia, Portugal, Galicia, Catalonia, Sardinia, the Maltese archipelago, Ireland and Scotland depicting angular designs, curvilinear and circular motifs, spirals, waves, zigzags, triangles, trees, anthropomorphic figures, boats, animals, house sketches, weapons etc. Some are combined to form complex symbolic systems. Strikingly, identical motifs and symbol groups can be found separated by long distances. Did the megalithic art develop independently in the singular regions, or are these images the results of transcultural encounters? If the latter, how was the transfer of the symbols accomplished? What was the significance of these images and what role did they play for the memory and ritual culture of these non-literate societies? These are the main research questions.

The specific objectives of the SYMBOL AND STONE project are:

(a) to investigate in a comparative study megalithic art in Europe, in order to find indications for mobility, intercultural exchange, symbolic transmission and social transformation in Europe (4500-2500 cal BC).
b) to discuss the ways in which images and ideas were transferred between megalithic societies
c) to define, using an iconographic, semiotic and performative approach, the significance of these symbols for the prehistoric societies
The MSCA-individual fellowship (CAR panel) had several goals: first, to develop a research project; second, to strengthen my academic profile; and finally, to disseminate the results to the scientific community and the public. First I established the picture database MAE with material provided by international European experts for megalithic art. The project included several fieldtrips to Brittany and Andalusia to produce complementary documentation material with new visualization and enhancement methods and visualize lost and eroded art. To understand the transmission processes of megalithic art between the regions, it was essential to identify central symbols and symbol packages by applying a network analysis. The trainings and transferable skills of this MSCA fellowship were organized in two different fields. First, a training specifically related to the development of the project research, and secondly to build up a professional career as principal investigator. I received an intensive hands-on field training and learned different documentation technics for rock art required for the planned fieldwork in Brittany and Andalusia (3-D documentation technique structure from motion, reflectance transformation imaging, laserscanning and XRF spectrometry). The long-term academic training encompassed three courses on Higher education pedagogic and the Supervision of PhD-students (required to teach at Swedish universities and to become an associate professor) and training for preparing new research funding proposals at national and EU level. Within this framework I submitted seven research proposals. As part of my training I co-organized an international congress at the host institution. In terms of outreach activities, I have chaired and co-chaired several sessions and a round table (EAA 2017 & 2018, Maastricht and Barcelona, Radiocarbon 2018, Trondheim) and I presented papers and posters at international conferences. As invited speaker, I gave talks at international and national institutions (e.g. UNESCO meeting in Trinité-sur-Mer 2018 and the Center for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS) in Lund). The results will be published in the form of articles and book chapters (two papers are submitted, four in preparation & two book chapters). The public outreach activities of the MSCA included TV-productions (interview with TV4 and a TV clip for the national channel SVT 1), several video productions and social media accounts and the participation in the Science Festival in Göteborg in 2017 and 2018. The documentary movie maker David Bernet (Atmosfilm Berlin/Köln http://www.atmosfilm.de) filmed my field work in Andalusia. He will continue to follow my work and produce a cinema documentary movie in 3-D on megaliths in Europe and my research projects.
With the SYMBOL AND STONE project I could demonstrate and explain symbolic transmission and social transformation as a complex and selective process, which took place and affected simultaneously both interregional and local conditions in Neolithic Europe. The megalithic art sequence started in the 5th millennium cal BC in the bay of Morbihan in Brittany with the richest sign inventory and the most complex combinations of symbols in the whole working area. Symbols were transferred outgoing from Brittany to Galicia, the Alentejo and to Huelva. The transmission of symbols between these regions indicates transcultural maritime interaction and encounters in all its variety from journeys to population migrations, the transmission of a similar cosmological worldview and a shared symbolic identity. By comparing the transfer of symbols and Atlantic transcultural encounters with seafaring nations in the Pacific and their transfer of images (e.g. Mageo & Hermann 2017), I could theorize and discuss models of mental and emotional reactions of encounters between Atlantic inhabitants and their visitors. The application of new documentation and visualisation technologies in the test regions Brittany and Andalusia (structure for motion, laser scanning, XRF-spectrometry, D-stretch) showed to be a resounding success. At a part of the investigated sites I could identify new, formerly unknown signs and re-interpret some of the symbols (several papers in preparation). Beside an examination of the representational significance of the motifs, it was important to consider the performative nature of these representations. In the whole working region, there is evidence for the re-use of carved standing stones as building material for the graves incorporating ancient stones and symbols as a way of empowerment. The symbols and the megalithic art represent visualized rituals, narratives and myths in order to perform collected memories and so to create tradition and the identity of a group.

CASSEN, S. (ed.) (2018). Variscite Turquoise in Neolithic Europe: nature, origin, exploitation, circulation, utilization (Archaeopress: Oxford).
SCHULZ PAULSSON, B. (2018). Megaliths in Europe: new evidence from radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling support maritime diffusion model, PNAS
SCHULZ PAULSSON, B., CASSEN, S., VAQUER, J.S. RÉLLAN, C., MOLIST, M., FAUSTINO CARVALHO, A., BOSCH, J. (2018a). Time of the callais: radiocarbon chronology and Bayesian modelling. In: Cassen, S. (ed.), Variscite Turquoise in Neolithic Europe: nature, origin, exploitation, circulation, utilization (Archaeopress: Oxford).
SCHULZ PAULSSON, B. (2017). Time and Stone: the Emergence and Development of Megaliths and Megalithic Societies in Europe (Archaeopress: Oxford).
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