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Foragers and their symbolic landscape. Understanding the role of rock art in the territoriality of Later Stone Age Matobo populations / Léa Jobard


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Foragers and their symbolic landscape. Understanding the role of rock art in the territoriality of Later Stone Age Matobo populations / Léa Jobard

Foragers and their symbolic landscape. Understanding the role of rock art in the territoriality of Later Stone Age Matobo populations / Léa Jobard, in colloque "1st Virtual Conference for Women Archaeologists and Paleontologists. Nouveaux apports à l’étude des populations et environnements passés" organisé par le laboratoire Travaux et Recherches Archéologiques sur les Cultures, les Espaces et les Sociétés (TRACES) de l’Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès et le laboratoire Paléontologie Évolution Paléoécosystèmes (PALEVOPRIM) de l'Université de Poitiers, sous la responsabilité scientifique de Julie Bachellerie, Ana Belén Galán López (Traces), Émilie Berlioz et Margot Louail (Palevoprim). Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, 8-9 mars 2021.
Session 2 : Occupation of territories and population mobility.
[Conférence enregistrée en distanciel].

Located in south western Zimbabwe, the Matobo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape, is well known for its hundreds of rock art sites, the oldest being 13 000 years old, and a few rich and well-preserved MSA and LSA sequences. These archaeological remains were excavated and documented mostly in the second part of the 20th century, but are still understudied. One of the researchers, Nick Walker, proposed a sequence of settlement patterns by the Middle and Later Stone Age populations, mostly based on socio-economic behaviour, giving little consideration to the symbolic sphere (Walker, 1995). Nonetheless, as a fixed media present in great number in the Matobo, and as an activity led within a socio- economic context (Robinson, 2010) in highly significant places (Deacon, 1988), rock art appears as an essential element to fully understand the Matobo past societies’ landscape investment. Moreover, clearly distinct styles (i.e. technique, theme, form) of hunter gatherer’s paintings are visible in different parts of the Matobo, as well as in the same sites. These images often overlap each other, sometimes forming complex palimpsests. This could be explained by the presence of different hunter-gatherer groups using the same sites, and/or by chronological changes and/or by different uses of rock art, by the same or different groups, – each reason implying a different territorial strategy. Therefore, we wonder what role rock art had in the past social networks and territory structuring, and how it changed. I will first present the general context of the Matobo Hills and the settlement model proposed by Nick Walker, and then explore to which extend rock art can offer a more comprehensive vision of the territory occupation and social relationships in the Matobo Hills.

 

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