Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture

Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture

YOSEF GARFINKEL
Copyright Date: 2003
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/728455
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    Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture
    Book Description:

    As the nomadic hunters and gatherers of the ancient Near East turned to agriculture for their livelihood and settled into villages, religious ceremonies involving dancing became their primary means for bonding individuals into communities and households into villages. So important was dance that scenes of dancing are among the oldest and most persistent themes in Near Eastern prehistoric art, and these depictions of dance accompanied the spread of agriculture into surrounding regions of Europe and Africa.

    In this pathfinding book, Yosef Garfinkel analyzes depictions of dancing found on archaeological objects from the Near East, southeastern Europe, and Egypt to offer the first comprehensive look at the role of dance in these Neolithic (7000-4000 BC) societies. In the first part of the book, Garfinkel examines the structure of dance, its functional roles in the community (with comparisons to dance in modern pre-state societies), and its cognitive, or symbolic, aspects. This analysis leads him to assert that scenes of dancing depict real community rituals linked to the agricultural cycle and that dance was essential for maintaining these calendrical rituals and passing them on to succeeding generations. In the concluding section of the book, Garfinkel presents and discusses the extensive archaeological data-some 400 depictions of dance-on which his study is based.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79868-7
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. PART I THE DANCE ANALYSIS

    • CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-26)

      In this book I deal with a subject that has never been investigated before: dance at the beginning of agriculture. At first glimpse it seems that nothing can be said on such an elusive subject and that it lies beyond the boundaries of knowledgability. However, as we shall see below, the earliest art scenes in the ancient Near East and southeast Europe depict dancing. In the eighth to the fourth millennia BC this subject appears in many variations, covering a vast geographical expanse: the Levant, Mesopotamia, Iran, Anatolia, the Balkans, Greece, the Danube basin, and Egypt. There is plenty of...

    • CHAPTER 2 STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE DANCE
      (pp. 27-64)

      Analysis of the form and style of the dancing scenes contributed to the field of dance history, which, in studies of antiquity, usually concentrates on Greek vases. The history of dance has attracted the attention of scholars, both on a general level and for specific time periods. (On the first category, see, for example, Sachs 1952; Kraus 1969; Menil 1980; Clarke and Clement 1981; Anderson 1986; McNeill 1995. On the second, see, for example, Dolmetsch 1949, 1954; Brunner-Traut 1958; Lawler 1964; Wood 1964; Prudhommeau 1965; Gruber 1981; Goodison 1989; Forrest 1999.) In her study on the history of dance research,...

    • CHAPTER 3 FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS OF THE DANCE
      (pp. 65-84)

      While the previous chapter discussed the structure of dance, the main concern here is the function of dance. When discussing the meaning and purpose of dance, Kraus noted that it is a mistake to assume that all forms of dance have a common core or purpose or meaning. Instead, dance may have many functions, but these vary according to the society, the class, the age or sex, the religious structure, and the characteristics of those who dance. He gave a list that summarized the various purposes for dance (Kraus 1969:11–12):

      1. It is a form of social affirmation, a...

    • CHAPTER 4 COGNITIVE ANALYSIS OF THE DANCING SCENES
      (pp. 85-98)

      Cognitive archaeology is the study of past ways of thought from material remains (Renfrew et al. 1993; Renfrew and Zubrow 1994; Zubrow 1994). The basic assumptions of this approach have been summarized by Renfrew and Bahn as follows:

      As a first concrete step it is useful to assume that there exists in each human mind a perspective of the world, an interpretive framework, a cognitive map—an idea akin to the mental map that geographers discuss, but not restricted to the representation of spatial relationships only. . . . Communities of people who live together and share the same culture,...

    • CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS
      (pp. 99-102)

      In this work I have discussed so far the available information on dancing activity in early village communities of the Near East and southeast Europe. This material has never previously been gathered together on such a scale. Part II will present the archaeological data, site by site, period by period, for the observations drawn in Part I.

      The dancing motif throws light on aspects of the forms of dancing practiced in the prehistoric Near East and southeast Europe. This adds a new dimension to the study of dance history, in the following ways:

      1. The dances documented are mainly circle...

  7. PART II THE DATA

    • CHAPTER 6 GENERAL REMARKS CONCERNING THE DATA
      (pp. 105-110)

      Dancing scenes from some 170 sites are discussed in this part of the work. Some sites produced more than one item, and altogether, 396 depictions are presented in the drawings. Table 6.1 presents the distribution of the dancing motif in the six chronological-geographical units according to their arrangement in the figures. Table 6.2 presents the distribution of the motif according to the materials used: pottery vessels, wall and floor paintings, stone slabs, rock carvings, linen, stamp seals, cylinder seals, a stone vessel, and a clay model. In the text the items are arranged according to the six chronological-geographical units.

      Each...

    • CHAPTER 7 NEOLITHIC NEAR EAST
      (pp. 111-124)

      Dancing figures from twelve Neolithic Near Eastern sites are presented in this study (Sites 1–12). These were discovered in the Levant, northern Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Cyprus (Fig. 7.1) and are dated to the eighth and seventh millennia BC. They are presented below in chronological order. The dancing scenes were depicted on a variety of objects, using different techniques:

      Engraving. The earliest scenes, dated to the eighth millennium BC, appear before the introduction of pottery and were engraved on stone vessels and slabs (Figs. 7.3:a, 7.6:a–b). This technique almost completely disappeared during the seventh and sixth millennia BC but...

    • CHAPTER 8 HALAFIAN AND SAMARRA CULTURES
      (pp. 125-160)

      In this chapter dancing figures from thirty-five sites are presented (Sites 13–47). These examples were discovered in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Levant, and Armenia (Fig. 8.1). While some dating problems exist concerning Halafian and Samarra cultures in general and each site in particular, in general, excavators have reliably dated the sites to the sixth millennium BC (Watson 1983; Watkins and Campbell 1987; Akkermans 1991; Porada et al. 1992).

      All the objects are pottery vessels, decorated in one of three techniques: painting, applied plastic relief, and incision (Fig. 8.2).

      Painting. This is the most common technique with which to depict dancing...

    • CHAPTER 9 NEOLITHIC AND CHALCOLITHIC IRAN
      (pp. 161-204)

      In this chapter dancing figures from forty-two sites are presented. These were discovered in different regions of Iran (Fig. 9.1): the Deh Luran Plain, Luristan, and Khuzistan in western Iran (twenty-three sites, nos. 48–70), the Iranian Plateau and northern Iran (five sites, nos. 71–75), Fars (ten sites, nos. 76–85), and Kerman (two sites, nos. 86–87). Two sites are located in Baluchistan in western Pakistan (nos. 88–89). A detailed chronological correlation of protohistoric sites in the various geographical regions of Iran is beyond the scope of this study (see, for example, Vanden Berghe 1966; Dollfus 1983b:168;...

    • CHAPTER 10 NEOLITHIC SOUTHEAST EUROPE
      (pp. 205-232)

      This group represents the western and northern extremes of the distribution area of the dancing motif (Fig. 10.1). The sites are discussed in the following geographical order: Greece (four sites, nos. 90–93; for further examples, see Sampson 1992:80–83), Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia (five sites, nos. 94–98), Romania and the Dniester Basin (seventeen sites, nos. 99–115), and Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (fourteen sites, nos. 116–129). This is the geographical area commonly designated in the archaeological literature as “southeast Europe” (Tringham 1971; Hodder 1990) and dubbed “Old Europe” by Gimbutas (1982:17–35). The regions...

    • CHAPTER 11 PREDYNASTIC EGYPT
      (pp. 233-268)

      The major works on the dance of ancient Egypt tend to deal with the historical periods, only after the rise of the Pharaonic state around 3100 BC (Brunner-Traut 1958, 1985; Wild 1963; Saleh 1998). For Predynastic Egypt, dated to the fifth and fourth millennia BC, no systematic research on its dance has been carried out (Kantor 1992). However, as we shall see in this chapter, the evolution of symbolic expression in Egypt is quite similar to that of the other geographical areas described above, and dance was the major artistic motif at the beginning of agriculture. Dancing figures from twelve...

    • CHAPTER 12 LATER EXAMPLES FROM THE NEAR EAST
      (pp. 269-290)

      Dancing figures from twenty-two sites are presented in this section, as well as two items of unknown origin. They are generally dated to the fourth and third millennia BC. These specimens were discovered in different regions of the Near East (Fig. 12.1): Mesopotamia and western Iran (eleven known sites, nos. 151–162) and the Levant (eleven known sites, nos. 163–174).

      An important development of this period was that the dancing motif lost its prominence. In Mesopotamia and Iran many other motifs depicting interaction between people appear from the late fifth and the fourth millennia BC onwards (Legrain 1936; Tobler...

    • CHAPTER 13 APPENDIX: THE FIGURES WITH “TURNED-UPWARDS LEGS”
      (pp. 291-296)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 297-318)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 319-326)