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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Robin Skeates

R. Skeates (2003). Visual culture in prehistoric South-East Italy. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 68: 165-83.

Author(s) from Durham


Using the approach of visual culture, which highlights the embeddedness of art in dynamic human processes, this paper examines the prehistoric archaeology of the Lecce province in south-east Italy, in order to provide a history of successive visual cultures in that area, between the Middle Palaeolithic and the Bronze Age. It is argued that art may have helped human groups to deal with problems in subsistence and society, including environmental changes affecting the cultural landscape and its resources, the breaking up of old social relations and the establishment and maintenance of new ones. More specifically, art appears to have become increasingly related to the expression of religious and even mythical beliefs, and in particular to the performance of ceremonies and rituals in selected spaces such as caves. This may reflect the existence of a long-term tradition of performance art in prehistory, involving performers and viewers, in which art helped to structure and heighten the sensual and social impact of the acting human body.