Rock Art, Semiotics and Meaning of

  • Álvaro Rodrigo MartelEmail author
Living reference work entry


The problem of the meaning of past societies’ material culture has been one of the main concerns of archaeology since its origins as a scientific discipline. Such interest in the meaning of things led archaeologists to make the first classifications, which were based primarily on utilitarian criteria. In this way, it was possible to differentiate between those objects with some functional meaning (an arrow, a pot, a plough, etc.) from those whose meaning was less obvious or could not be assigned a specific function, these were associated with the ambiguous sphere of the symbolic (a lithic statuette, a decorated rib, the ochre scattered on a buried body, etc.). Within this last group, rock art was – and still is – one of the cultural productions that has received most attention from researchers, precisely because of the difficulties involved in accessing its meanings. Even in ethnographic cases, where there was the possibility of working with aboriginal communities that...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Arqueología y MuseoUniversidad Nacional de TucumánSan Miguel de TucumánArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto Superior de Estudios Sociales (ISES)CONICETSan Miguel de TucumánArgentina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Inés Domingo Sanz
    • 1
  • Danae Fiore
    • 2
  • Ewa Dutkiewicz
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Departament de Prehistòria, Història Antiga i ArqueologiaICREA/Universitat de Barcelona/SERPBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2."CONICET - AIA - UBA Asociación de Investigaciones Antropológicas"Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer KulturbesitzBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary EcologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany