WISHER, ISOBEL,CLAIRE (2022) The Origins of Visual Culture? Psychological Foundations of Upper Palaeolithic Figurative Cave Art in Northern Spain. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.
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Author-imposed embargo until 01 June 2023.
Upper Palaeolithic cave art is enthralling; the depiction of animals by our most ancient ancestors captures the imagination. It is no surprise that this art has been subject to extensive academic attention, with a breadth of perspectives that attempt to understand why people drew animals in caves. Fundamentally, this previous research focused on the aesthetic form of the art and attempted to explain it with singular explanations: from art for art’s sake through to the shamanic. This thesis argues that these “grand narrative” approaches are unsatisfying, and instead shifts focus to explore the meaning within the making of Upper Palaeolithic figurative cave art. A biographical framework that integrated novel digital techniques and insights from visual psychology was developed, to evaluate the making of depictions within three cave art sites situated around Monte Castillo (Cantabria, Spain). This revealed the fundamental role of visual psychological responses, triggered in the immersive and low-light conditions of caves, as influencing this making. When understood through the biographical framework, it was revealed that these responses may have facilitated a dialogue between the artist, the cave wall, light, pigment, and the depicted animals. The material engagement involved in completing the animal depictions, evaluated through high resolution images and digital tracings, further supported this. The application of pigment appeared to directly relate to visual phenomena experienced in caves, tracing natural topographic features of cave walls to capture the intangible visual images that the artist may have perceived. When taken together, this thesis emphasises the role of the visual system as central to the making of Upper Palaeolithic figurative cave art. It reveals intimate moments of human interaction embedded within the art, from visceral perceptual experiences in caves through to the playful manipulation of light to add dynamism to animal forms.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral)|
|Award:||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Keywords:||palaeolithic, cave art, visual psychology, pareidolia|
|Faculty and Department:||Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of|
|Copyright:||Copyright of this thesis is held by the author|
|Deposited On:||01 Jun 2022 16:56|