chapter  5
14 Pages

Prehistoric Art

ByBen Burt

While exploring the wider world, Europeans were also extending their own history into “prehistory,” defining early stages of human development and speculating about artefacts from undocumented antiquity. Kenneth Clark’s ignorance of San culture exceeded that of the prehistorians’ of Aboriginals, insofar as he identified them with pre-human beings. Interpreting the meager archaeological remains of prehistory depends so heavily on analogies with peoples whose culture has been stereotyped according to Western prejudices that the ideological agenda behind grand theories is often quite transparent. Analysis of images has been hampered by assumptions on the part of male prehistorians that sculptures of obese women had been made by men and were intended to be erotic symbols of fertility. Prehistorians imputed their own cultural values to the peoples they studied. As the history of prehistory shows, interpretations of archaeological artefacts are as much cultural and historical products as the artefacts themselves.