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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dead stone and living wood?



Building on my last post, I paste below a comment from an article by John Barrett and Kathryn Fewster.   I haven't followed the full debate on this topic of domains of the living (associated with wood) and domains of the dead (associated with stone) -- but clearly I am not the only one who thinks that MPP and R have been pushing the Madagascan example rather too forcefully!

It is of course commonly suggested that Bronze Age standing stones might be memorial stones, and indeed in West Wales some of them do have burial traditions associated with them  -- for example Bedd Morris and Hangstone Davy standing stones.  Much later, in the Early Christian era, the Celtic Crosses and pillars found on sacred sites were also memorials or commemorative features.  But so far as I can see those stones were always local -- picked up and erected more or less at the site on which they were found.  As I have said many times before, there is no sign in West Wales that spotted dolerite was particularly revered, or preferred over other stone types.  And is it not also the case that memorial features are just as often made with wood as with stone?  What about the old wooden cross, the archetypal symbol of Christianity......?  And the totem poles of NW North America, many of which are clearly associated with ancestors, death rituals and burials?  There are also wooden totem poles in New Zealand too, that are clearly associated with ancestors and death.

Quote from Barrett and Fewster:

"PP&R attempt to demonstrate the 'correctness' of their analogy by firstly, bringing in anthropological data additional to their own case-study in Madagascar which leads them to the conclusion that the ancestor cult is universal in small scale societies which base their organization on kinship affiliation (PP&R 1998: 310). Secondly, a relational analogy (which PP&R term an analogy of materiality) is used to suggest that the structuring principle, that has been identified in Madagascar and that links wood to the living and stone to the ancestors, is universal (PP&R 1998: 309). We shall take each in turn and show that neither is universal".

Article: Stonehenge: is the medium the message? (response to Michael Parker Pearson and colleague, Antiquity, vol. 72, p. 308, 1998)

Article from:Antiquity -- Article date:December 1, 1998 Author: Barrett, John C.; Fewster, Kathryn J.

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