by Rock Art Network
23 March 2020
'Design and connectivity: the case of Atlantic rock art' by Joana Valdez-Tullett
Atlantic Rock Art is a rock art tradition which includes emblematic motifs such as cup-marks, cup-and-rings and lines, known to several countries on the Atlantic seaboard. 'Design and Connectivity' springs from an inter-regional study of this tradition, based on an original and innovative methodology applied to an empirical dataset. The project builds on Richard Bradley’s work, investigating differences and similarities in Atlantic Art over study areas in five countries: Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. It applies a multi-scalar methodology developed under the principles of Relational Ontology and Assemblage Theory, providing adynamic perspective on the empirical data. A thorough categorical scheme was scrutinised using a Presence/Absence Matrix, spatial analysis (fieldwork and GIS) and the development of Social Network Analysis (SNA) to relate and explore the relationships and connectivity between study areas. Concepts of developmental psychology support the idea of intentional teaching and cultural transmission.
University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 712pp.
About the author
Joana Valdez-Tullett is a specialist in rock art and prehistory with experience in the archaeology of Iberia, Britain and Ireland. She has studied Atlantic Art extensively for the last fifteen years. In her research, Joana is interested in exploring the potential of digital technologies, as well as new theoretical developments.
In praise of 'Design and connectivity: the case of Atlantic rock art'
‘Original and illuminating. The book sheds exciting new light on a complexand controversial topic and takes Atlantic Rock Art from the periphery into the centre of contemporary research.’ Richard Bradley, Emeritus Professor, University of Reading
‘It is evident that it is a very important work, and one that goes deeply into the material of a large region deﬁned by its shared imagery – a seminal work, following up on a research tradition introduced by Richard Bradley. This is carried out by way of a sound and innovative approach and methodology.’ Prof. Ingrid Fuglestvedt, University of Oslo
Bradshaw Foundation review
As Andrew Meirion Jones points out in the Preface, 'This is simply the most extensive study of the Atlantic rock art tradition to date. For that alone it should be commended, but this is much more than the study of a single rock art tradition. It is clear from this book that Joana Valdez-Tullett has directly contributed to wider archaeological debates in her study of connectivity in the Atlantic rock art region. Because of this,the book deserves to be read not only by rock art scholars, but by all archaeologists interested in the dynamics of interaction in prehistoric Europe.' I would agree.
The term 'Atlantic Rock Art', popularised in the 1990s by Richard Bradley, refers to a type of carving practice widespread across Atlantic Europe. With its northern limit set in Scotland and the southern currently in Portugal, it spans roughly 1800 km, traversing England, Ireland, France and Spain. Bradley introduced a Landscape Archaeology methodology for the study of the rock art tradition and produced an influential interpretation of rock art site location: rock art sites were argued to be situated as markers on routeways between and around territories occupied by mobile hunter-gatherer and pastoralist populations.
So Valdez-Tullett picks up the reins and begins by defining the main concepts upon which the publication is based. 1. What is the character of Atlantic Rock Art? 2. What is the evidence for theme and regional variability? 3. What are the implications of connectivity and knowledge transmission for Atlantic Rock Art?
Commencing with an analysis of published work for each of the study areas, the author focusses on the inter-regional aspect of Atlantic Rock Art in order to offer a general hypothesis explaining the uniform character of the art. The concepts of Difference and Similarity are considered, leading to the identification of regional assemblages, before presenting a measured perspective on Atlantic Rock Art along with a wider social and cultural Neolithic context.
Valdez-Tullett explains that 'transformation' was inherent to the Neolithic and Atlantic Rock Art, 'whether reflected in the engraving of a rock and the use of its natural features, the shape of landforms or the modification of pre-existing monuments into others.' Moreover, that 'in a world of growing inter-continental connections and intensification of exchange networks, it is not surprising that Atlantic Art takes multiple forms, and regional variations, despite being overwhelmingly used in the wider landscape and based on an underlying concept, here explained as the quintessential Atlantic Rock Art package.'
'Design and Connectivity' brings Atlantic Rock Art in to the centre of rock art research; 'this prehistoric style of carvings must have held great importance, when considering its geographic extent and the frequency with which the motifs were adopted and carved on the rocks'. The publication then ends thoughtfully with the line 'I like to think that Atlantic Art is in fact an Art of Illusion', leaving the reader to ponder this quintessential Atlantic Rock Art package, the vast extent and the cultural implications, and perhaps most importantly its hidden variations. At first sight the motifs are seemingly the same, or very similar from rock face to rock face, from region to region, but a closer examination reveals the different ways in which the designs were conceived and executed; there were several ways to achieve the similar visual final result. Comment