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Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 1307–1332 | Cite as

Reflections on the Identities and Roles of the Artists in European Paleolithic Societies

  • Carole Fritz
  • Gilles Tosello
  • Margaret W. Conkey
Article

Abstract

In an attempt to introduce concerns with social identities into the discussion and understanding of the making of what we call Paleolithic art, this article considers issues of gender, skill, apprenticeship, and tradition. We note that, as in every period of history, Paleolithic art can be seen as embedded in the society that studies it. Over the last 20 years, the research attention given to women in Paleolithic societies has grown considerably, leading us to ask what could have been the roles of women in Paleolithic art. On what criteria could we base a determination of those roles or of other social identities that were likely part of the making and viewing of Paleolithic art?

Thanks to our microscopic analysis of engravings, it is possible to identify the skill level and expertise of the artists and thus to address the question of apprenticeship and how these techniques were transmitted. We observe many similarities that allow us to group together various works of art, sometimes from very distant sites, which indicate a movement of ideas, objects, and people. Are we talking about “imitation”? How can we define an “invention” within a social context strongly bound by traditions?

Keywords

Paleolithic art Gender Apprenticeship Imitation Invention Cultural group 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The two principal authors would like to thank L. Hinton for the original translation and Meg Conkey for additional translation and authorship. This article was written thanks to the financial support of French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the program “PREHART.” We also thank the journal editors for their patience and especially the several reviewers who offered crucial and constructive advice.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carole Fritz
    • 1
  • Gilles Tosello
    • 2
  • Margaret W. Conkey
    • 3
  1. 1.CNRS, UMR 5608 TRACES, CREAP CartailhacMaison de la RechercheToulouseFrance
  2. 2.UMR 5608 TRACES, CREAP CartailhacMaison de la RechercheToulouseFrance
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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