From the silky wax qualities of the surfaces of some quartz menhirs to the wood-grain textures of others, to the golden honeycombed limestones of Malta, to the icy frozen waves of the Cambrian sandstone of south-east Sweden, The Materiality of Stone investigates the sensuous material qualities of stone. Tactile sensations, sonorous qualities, colour, and visual impressions are all shown to play a vital part in our understanding of the power and significance of prehistoric monuments in relation to their landscapes.
In The Materiality of Stone, Christopher Tilley presents a radically new way of analyzing the significance of both 'cultural' and 'natural' stone in prehistoric European landscapes. Tilley's groundbreaking approach is to interpret human experience in a multidimensional and sensuous human way, rather than through an abstract analytical gaze. The studies range widely from the menhirs of prehistoric Brittany to Maltese Neolithic temples to Bronze Age rock carvings and cairns in southern Sweden. Tilley leaves no stone unturned as he also considers how the internal spaces and landscape settings are interpreted in relation to artifacts, substances, and related places that were deeply meaningful to the people who inhabited them and remain no less evocative today.
In its innovative approach to understanding human experience through the tangible rocks and stone of our past, The Materiality of Stone is both a major theoretical and substantive contribution to the field of material culture studies and the study of European prehistory.
1 From Body to Place to Landscape: A Phenomenological Perspective
2 Sprouting Rhizomes and Giant Axes: Experiencing Breton Menhirs
3 From Honey to Ochre: Maltese Temples, Stones, Substances and the Structuring of Experience
4 Frozen Waves and Anomalous Stones: Rock Carvings and Cairns in a Southern Swedish Landscape
5 Conclusions: The Past as Dreamwork
Christopher Tilley is Professor of Anthropology, University College London