Dissertation Defense: Kathryn MacFarland

Date: 

Apr 20 2017 - 9:00am

Thursday, April 20, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Haury Building, Room 402

"Religious and Ritualized Landscapes of Iron Age North Central Eurasia"

ABSTRACT: Animal Style Art (ASA), an iconographic style expressed on monuments and material culture, is a geographically widespread phenomenon in north central Eurasia during the Iron Age (ca. 1,000 BCE – 100 CE).  Frequently depicted elements of this style include composite animals composed of animal elements fused together to create a new mythical animal; a stylized geometric design within the animal; and an interaction of some kind (e.g., one figure attacking another, figures standing nearby, single animal).  

The research presented in this dissertation focuses on the possibility that ASA constitutes evidence for a pan-regional religion in north central Eurasia during the Iron Age.  Systematic study of ancient texts, ethnography, archaeological remains, and a detailed stylistic analysis of the complex elements of ASA, have all contributed to this research.  This analysis is an artifact-focused macro-scale (continental) study of ASA, breaking down the cultural contexts as well as the geographical and chronological distribution in which it occurs, and the elements of the style itself, analyzing patterns of occurrence and similarity throughout north central Eurasia.

This has been accomplished by the creation of a database, specifically designed as a museum curation tool and as a Geographic Information System (GIS) resulting in a dataset of 4,633 catalog lots (a single object or set).  These data contribute to the identification of internal patterns in the expression of this iconographic style between regions of north central Eurasia and is inferred as evidence for symbolic expression of religious belief. This claim is evaluated in a variety of ways focusing on three themes: mobility, political structure and social complexity, and religious belief.

This first attempt at continental scale expression of symbolic systems directly tied to conceptual metaphors and religious belief has resulted in the preliminary identification of a religious landscape among all the regions, to varying degrees throughout the Iron Age.  These findings help explain the widespread distribution of ASA in north central Eurasia during the Iron Age.
 

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