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Phylogenetic analysis shows that Neolithic slate plaques from the southwestern Iberian Peninsula are not genealogical recording systems.

García Rivero D, O'Brien MJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: The lack of testing is often justified by invoking the opinion that the slippery nature of past human symbolism cannot easily be tackled by the scientific method.The analysis reported here demonstrates that this is not the case, even when the most supportive data and techniques are used.This would entail a cultural system in which plaque design was based on a fundamental core idea, with a number of mutable and variable elements surrounding it.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Seville, Seville, Spain.

ABSTRACT
Prehistoric material culture proposed to be symbolic in nature has been the object of considerable archaeological work from diverse theoretical perspectives, yet rarely are methodological tools used to test the interpretations. The lack of testing is often justified by invoking the opinion that the slippery nature of past human symbolism cannot easily be tackled by the scientific method. One such case, from the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, involves engraved stone plaques from megalithic funerary monuments dating ca. 3,500-2,750 B.C. (calibrated age). One widely accepted proposal is that the plaques are ancient mnemonic devices that record genealogies. The analysis reported here demonstrates that this is not the case, even when the most supportive data and techniques are used. Rather, we suspect there was a common ideological background to the use of plaques that overlay the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, with little or no geographic patterning. This would entail a cultural system in which plaque design was based on a fundamental core idea, with a number of mutable and variable elements surrounding it.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Characters used in the analysis and abbreviations: Decorative Motif (DM), Structure (ST), Traps/Tattoo (TT), Necklace (NK), and Head (H).Terms in parentheses are particular character states for this example (see Fig. 3). After [31].
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pone-0088296-g002: Characters used in the analysis and abbreviations: Decorative Motif (DM), Structure (ST), Traps/Tattoo (TT), Necklace (NK), and Head (H).Terms in parentheses are particular character states for this example (see Fig. 3). After [31].

Mentions: More recently, Katina Lillios combined two of those functions—ideographic writing and heraldic items—hypothesizing that the majority of the plaques codify genealogical information [2], [24]–[27], whereas others perhaps were relics or specific expressions of several individuals [28], [29]. She proposed that decorative motifs on the lower portion of the plaque—the end opposite the hole (Fig. 2)—identify individual descent groups and that the number of decorative “registers”—the horizontal rows of triangles shown on the specimen in Fig. 2—indicates the generational distance between the deceased and the founding ancestor of his or her lineage. For example, a plaque containing two rows of triangles would connote “a person two generations removed from a founding ancestor [of the ‘triangle’ lineage]…. The increase in register [row] numbers suggests gradual demic diffusion away from a core ‘ancestral’ area over time” ([2], p. 149). Thus plaques with a higher number of rows should be later that those with fewer rows. And, just as with the concentric circles that radiate out from a pebble thrown in a pond, the number of rows should increase with distance from the original center of plaque development, as groups moved outward, carrying the plaque-making tradition with them.


Phylogenetic analysis shows that Neolithic slate plaques from the southwestern Iberian Peninsula are not genealogical recording systems.

García Rivero D, O'Brien MJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

Characters used in the analysis and abbreviations: Decorative Motif (DM), Structure (ST), Traps/Tattoo (TT), Necklace (NK), and Head (H).Terms in parentheses are particular character states for this example (see Fig. 3). After [31].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3928193&req=5

pone-0088296-g002: Characters used in the analysis and abbreviations: Decorative Motif (DM), Structure (ST), Traps/Tattoo (TT), Necklace (NK), and Head (H).Terms in parentheses are particular character states for this example (see Fig. 3). After [31].
Mentions: More recently, Katina Lillios combined two of those functions—ideographic writing and heraldic items—hypothesizing that the majority of the plaques codify genealogical information [2], [24]–[27], whereas others perhaps were relics or specific expressions of several individuals [28], [29]. She proposed that decorative motifs on the lower portion of the plaque—the end opposite the hole (Fig. 2)—identify individual descent groups and that the number of decorative “registers”—the horizontal rows of triangles shown on the specimen in Fig. 2—indicates the generational distance between the deceased and the founding ancestor of his or her lineage. For example, a plaque containing two rows of triangles would connote “a person two generations removed from a founding ancestor [of the ‘triangle’ lineage]…. The increase in register [row] numbers suggests gradual demic diffusion away from a core ‘ancestral’ area over time” ([2], p. 149). Thus plaques with a higher number of rows should be later that those with fewer rows. And, just as with the concentric circles that radiate out from a pebble thrown in a pond, the number of rows should increase with distance from the original center of plaque development, as groups moved outward, carrying the plaque-making tradition with them.

Bottom Line: The lack of testing is often justified by invoking the opinion that the slippery nature of past human symbolism cannot easily be tackled by the scientific method.The analysis reported here demonstrates that this is not the case, even when the most supportive data and techniques are used.This would entail a cultural system in which plaque design was based on a fundamental core idea, with a number of mutable and variable elements surrounding it.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Seville, Seville, Spain.

ABSTRACT
Prehistoric material culture proposed to be symbolic in nature has been the object of considerable archaeological work from diverse theoretical perspectives, yet rarely are methodological tools used to test the interpretations. The lack of testing is often justified by invoking the opinion that the slippery nature of past human symbolism cannot easily be tackled by the scientific method. One such case, from the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, involves engraved stone plaques from megalithic funerary monuments dating ca. 3,500-2,750 B.C. (calibrated age). One widely accepted proposal is that the plaques are ancient mnemonic devices that record genealogies. The analysis reported here demonstrates that this is not the case, even when the most supportive data and techniques are used. Rather, we suspect there was a common ideological background to the use of plaques that overlay the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, with little or no geographic patterning. This would entail a cultural system in which plaque design was based on a fundamental core idea, with a number of mutable and variable elements surrounding it.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus