Images, ornament, and cognition in early la téne Europe: A new style for a changing world

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION This chapter proposes a new perspective for understanding the appearance of the Early La Tène style during the 5th century BC. This style differs greatly from the geometric, naturalistic designs of the Early Iron Age. Its principal characteristics include visual forms recognized by cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists as shapes and features that attract and hold viewers’ attention. These forms were also current throughout much of Eurasia in the middle of the final millennium BC, and we need to understand the emergence of the Early La Tène style in Europe in the wider context of economic, social, and political changes that were taking place throughout the Mediterranean world and Eurasia. Viewed in this larger context, we can understand the changes that took place in Europe in terms of the increasing level of participation by Europeans in the affairs of the larger world. A profound change took place during the 5th century BC in the character of material culture in the central regions of temperate Europe. Patterns of ornament based on lines and geometrical shapes, as well as naturalistic representations of humans and animals, which characterized the Early Iron Age (and the Bronze Age before it), were replaced by what is known as the Early La Tène style. The new style consisted of curvilinear shapes, tendrils, S-curves, spirals, palmettes, and highly stylized representations of animals and humans (Hoppe/Schorer 2012; see Chapter 25). The change was fundamental in how metalsmiths, potters, and other craft workers shaped their products and the decorations on them, and in the visual character of those objects as people saw and used them in their daily lives. At the same time, other important changes were taking place. Many of the fortified hilltop centers of the Early Iron Age, such as the Heuneburg and Mont Lassois, declined in activity (see Fernández-Götz/Krausse, Chapter 22). The character of exceptionally rich burials changed in significant ways that are discussed later. In seeking to identify the origins of the new style, early on investigators focused on the arts of Greece and Etruria, as well as those of the Scythians and Near Eastern peoples, as sources of the new design elements (Jacobsthal 1944; Megaw/Megaw 2001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEurasia at the Dawn of History
Subtitle of host publicationUrbanization and Social Change
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages380-391
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316550328
ISBN (Print)9781107147409
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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