We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Embodied Markings

Defining the embodied, liminal, and sensory character of the earliest Palaeolithic cave markings

OOSTERWIJK, BARBARA (2023) Embodied Markings

Defining the embodied, liminal, and sensory character of the earliest Palaeolithic cave markings.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Full text not available from this repository.
Author-imposed embargo until 08 November 2025.


Red silhouettes of hands contrasting against a white wall, small finger dots sprinkled against a ceiling, or a stalactite covered in mouth-projected disks. The earliest cave paintings of the Palaeolithic display a clear connection to the human body and can be characterized, innovatively as embodied markings: a new scientific concept in archaeology. The placement of embodied markings on specific topographies suggests that touching the surface with hands and fingers and projecting paint with the mouth was an important aspect of creating cave art. This sensory experience likely influenced people’s choices for selecting locations to mark.

This research addresses possible Neanderthal cave markings from a multidisciplinary perspective that aims to provide insights into markings that embody the connection between people, bodies and places in the landscape. After an analysis of 62 sites in south-western France and 76 on the Iberian Peninsula, three case-studies (El Castillo, Ardales and Pech Merle) were selected and here the form, accessibility, visibility and placement of embodied markings on specific topographies and locations were investigated using photogrammetry and DStretch. The outcomes, which are rather varied in nature, were then compared and discussed while considering the broader theoretical framework of body markings. By analysing ethnographical and indigenous examples of initiation, secret societies and bodily practices, this research project explores how people experienced caves and questions if other factors such as liminality influenced the creation of embodied markings.

The creation of embodied art in deep underground spaces can be seen as one of the earliest examples of placemaking, in which places in the landscape are actively and intentionally constructed by people. By leaving behind markings of their own bodies, human actors gave their surroundings meaning. Overall, this research illustrates that like us, early humans, whether they were Homo sapiens or Neanderthal, explored caves with a sense of curiosity and imagination.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Cave art, Palaeolithic archaeology, Rock art, Cave archaeology, Palaeolithic art, Placemaking
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Nov 2023 14:36

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter