chapter  6
27 Pages

Commemorative places

Objects as agents The task of archaeology is to reconstruct past societies on the basis of material remains – to archaeologists artefacts matter. Contextual analyses of individual burials have long provided a profi le of social relations. However, far from passively ‘symbolising’ social forms, material culture is now more often regarded as being created by the same media that express them. Material objects are not only functional items vital to the social process, they are integral to it. In social anthropology, Marcel Mauss fi rst established this image of material culture in an essay from 1925 on The Gift (1990). Central to his argument is the concept of the gift as a material embodiment of the relationship which exists between two persons in their mutual obligation to give and return gifts (Miller 1999: 416).1