ABSTRACT

The study of visual culture is no longer a newly emergent academic field, but one that has gained sufficient maturity to interrogate a range of long-established disciplines, including some in the natural sciences, from a visual standpoint. Archaeology is a particularly alluring candidate for such interrogation. Few scientific fields reveal visuality’s role as a shaper of meaning as clearly, and a wealth of research over the past twenty-some years has left little doubt about the centrality of imagery to archaeological practice and sense-making (see, for example, Bonde and Houston 2013; Watson 2013; Pillsbury 2012; Olsen et al. 2012; Shanks 2012; Bohrer 2011; Morgan 2009; Hauser 2007; Bateman 2006; Smiles and Moser 2005; Molyneaux 1997; Schnapp 1993). It is true to say that some recent strands of thought in archaeology do not merely intersect with research into visual culture but are enmeshed with that field. This is particularly evident in the growing body of work on imaginative and creative interpretation, sensory involvement and the multiplicity of meanings that can crowd in around artifacts, archaeological sites and their spaces of display in museums (see, for example, Hodder 2012; Witmore 2009; Cochrane and Russell 2007; Cochrane 2006; Russell 2006, 3–4). Our sense of the past is refracted through individualized ways of seeing and knowing.