MEYERING, LISA-ELEN (2020) Prey, perception, and the visual psychology of early figurative art
Multidisciplinary approaches to the composition, context, visibility and perception of Upper Palaeolithic rock art in the Côa Valley, Portugal. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.
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Author-imposed embargo until 02 June 2024.
Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) archaeology provides the only evidence for the origins of art, but its record is notoriously difficult to interrogate in testable ways. Even multidisciplinary approaches to understanding some of the earliest archaeologically recognisable art are still very rare. This project bridges the disciplines of Archaeology and Psychology to arrive at an unprecedented understanding of early art in Europe. Approaches from Visual Psychology offer new methodologies for understanding the perceptual basis of the art. Unlike the well-studied caves of southern France and northern Spain, this study focuses on the lesser-known open-air locations of engraved rocks in the landscapes surrounding the Côa Valley in Portugal.
The rock carvings, primarily featuring the depiction of prey animals, are analysed by deploying traditional archaeological methods such as typological surveying and distribution mapping, and are combined with insights from the psychology of perception in the form of six perception-based experiments. These experiments illuminate underlying mechanisms behind (1) the drawing of animals; (2) identifying salient animal features; (3) panel compositioning; (4) motif superimpositioning; (5) rock art viewing distances and pigmentation and (6) the art’s landscape setting. The structure of this thesis is guided by the sequential, scalar concept of Prey Perception Landscapes, three key components, holistically bringing together prey identification and visibility, human vision, and landscape topography into a new model of the arts’ function.
Results, on all scalar levels, show that the artists, most likely the hunters themselves, used their visuality to create marks in as perceptually accommodating ways as possible. Major aspects of motif shapes, panel compositions and location choices are found to be cognitively-derived. This thesis advocates the fruitfulness of taking advances from vision science and applying them to patterns found within some of the earliest forms of art in Europe, as it interrogates its creation and use in previously unconceived ways.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral)|
|Award:||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Keywords:||Prehistoric Rock Art; Figurative Art; Prey; Upper Palaeolithic; Côa Valley; Visual Psychology; Perception|
|Faculty and Department:||Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of|
|Copyright:||Copyright of this thesis is held by the author|
|Deposited On:||02 Jun 2021 09:59|