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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp 1689–1714 | Cite as

The evolution of anthropomorphism in the neolithic engraved plaques of Southwestern Iberian Peninsula: a systematic approach from phylogenetics

  • Daniel García Rivero
Original Paper

Abstract

Engraved slate plaques are a common part of the grave goods found in the Late Neolithic-Copper Age I megaliths of the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula (~3500–2700 cal BC). These objects have received a great deal of attention, since they are the first symbolic figurines to have become widespread in the Iberian Peninsula (almost 4000 plaques are estimated to be known today). Most previous studies, even from different and opposing archaeological perspectives, have highlighted the anthropomorphic nature of these plaques. The hypotheses regarding the evolution of their anthropomorphism and possible function have been diverse, yet there is a noteworthy absence of taxonomical studies in which the diversity and stylistic sequence of these symbolic objects have been systematically approached. This paper puts forward several models for the evolution of the anthropomorphism of the engraved plaques, based on cladistics and occurrence seriation. The results are then analyzed in conjunction with the currently available chronological and stratigraphic information. The paper concludes with a proposal of the most probable typology and its sequence, leading to a better understanding of the diversity and evolution of the plaques. Beyond this particular phenomenon, this paper provides insights into the study of the evolution of the symbolic representation of the human figure, through the development of an innovative methodological protocol.

Keywords

Neolithic Copper Age Iberian Peninsula Taxonomy Phylogenetic systematics Symbology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study has been conducted within the framework of the research group Tellus. Prehistory and Archaeology in the South of Iberia, HUM-949 - Plan Andaluz de Investigación de la Consejería de Educación y Ciencia de la Junta de Andalucía. I would like to thank the editor, Stephan Shennan, for the consideration given to the initial manuscript and the two anonymous reviewers for their remarks which greatly improved the clarity of the argument.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Prehistory and ArchaeologyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain

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