Breaking Images: Damage and Mutilation of Ancient Figurines [Hardback]

Gianluca Miniaci (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781789259148 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Ancient Societies (MAtAS) | Volume: 2 | Publication: December 2022 | Language: English 464p, H240 x W170 (mm) B/W
Status: Not yet published - advance orders taken

Breaking Images


Fragmented and chipped artefacts have usually been associated with the idea of refuse, discard, abandonment, decay, pillaging or reshuffling, as opposed to objects preserved in their entirety which have been imagined as synonymous with intact, original, complete, functional or usable things. In his volume Fragmentation in Archaeology, John Chapman drew attention to the need to reconsider the broken artefacts as resulting from a deliberate process of physical fragmentation. Eventually, the breaking of an object served (and still nowadays serves) to establish material, ritual and social relationships. Breaking and damaging is part of a negotiation process: one or more individuals who wanted to mark their relationship or mutual transaction – of any type, from affective to ritual to economic; and with any type of entity, from human beings to the deceased and divinities – may have broken a particular object into parts. The phenomenon of fragmentation and damage can be more easily analysed as a category of objects that play an important role within society, such as figurines. The possibilities of touching, engaging and carrying a figurine increases its permeability, leading to proximity, engagement and intimacy, as well as the posing of inter-subjective and transcendental questions.

Beyond the fact that the phenomenon of fragmentation of figurines was often the result of chance, mechanical processes or involuntary human action, it has usually been explored and explained within closed-circuit arguments (i.e., within the same society to which the figurines belonged), with all the limitations created by such an approach. This volume has the scope to analyse the process using a comparative approach in order to open up new horizons and research lines, confronting the reader at the moment when the figurine was broken, and provoking an interpretation as a moment of re-writing figurine identity, ontology and social bounds.

Table of Contents

1. Parts not wholes: long histories and negative space analysis
Stacy Boldrick
2. When garbage is art: broken ceramic figural objects from ancient Honduras
Jeanne Lopiparo and Rosemary A. Joyce
3. TBA
Philip Kiernan
4. Intentionality in the breaking: a case study of intentional damaging of figurines at Neolithic Tell Sabi Abyad (Syria) and Çatalhöyük (Turkey)
Monique Arntz
5. In the beginning: exploring integrity of anthropomorphic images in prehistoric Europe
6. Broken mud figurines at Lahun (Egypt): an archaeometric perspective
Vanessa Forte
7. TBA
Melanie Flossmann
8. Broken collections: a 3D approach to the digital reunification and holistic study of dispersed terracotta figurines assemblages
Valentina Vassallo
9. Broken beyond repair? Reflections on the intentionality of breakage and its archaeological identification regarding Naqada period clay figurines
Axelle Brémont
10. Displaying the fragmented: damaged and mutilated ancient Egyptian figures from Sir Charles Nicholson’s collection
Michelle Whitford
11. Fragmented or intact: Mycenaean figurines and figures in cultic contexts
Ann-Louise Schallin
12. Kshati/Purnam: Ritual and philosophical significance of the broken and the whole in Hinduism and other religions of India
Urmi Chanda
13. Bits and pieces (of figurines): serendipity, structure or both?
John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
14. Mutilating faience figurines in Middle Bronze Age Egypt: ritual or casualty?
Gianluca Miniaci
15. Fragmentation at peak sanctuaries: myth or reality
Céline Murphy

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