Ecologies of rock and art in northern New Mexico

Authored by: Benjamin Alberti , Severin Fowles

Multispecies Archaeology

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138898981
eBook ISBN: 9781315707709
Adobe ISBN:


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Of the many branches of archaeological research, the study of rock art would seem to be particularly attentive to the lives of non-human species. Around the globe, most rock art traditions since the end of the Pleistocene have repeatedly returned to the theme of the animal, and this has led rock art researchers to repeatedly inquire into the nature of human-animal relations. Ancient representations of, say, a deer on the wall of a cave or on the side of a cliff prompt us to consider what it was about the relationship between deer and artist that led the latter to take up the former as the subject matter of his or her “art.” Much rock art, indeed, seems to spring from indigenous meditations on interspecies relations and the hunter-prey relation in particular. Of course, it is also common to encounter iconography focused on human relationships with species that seem to have little to do with subsistence or the hunt. Exotic birds, horned serpents, dog-headed anthropomorphs, dragons—such creatures were presumably implicated in cultural discourses with deep symbolic resonances. But in each of these cases, a multispecies analysis of the content of rock art imagery can only take us so far.

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