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Polished axes: object biographies and the writing of world prehistories

Polished axes: object biographies and the writing of world prehistories
Polished axes: object biographies and the writing of world prehistories
Polished axes have become an iconic tool representing the Neolithic in the archaeological record. Polished axes are unusual as they are similar in form and design across space and time, found internationally in both archaeological and ethnographic contexts. This meant they have become an easily recognisable item for collectors and have been found in public and private collections from the 18th Century onwards. A common component in many diverse collections, tracing the history of polished axes allows the investigation of the networks of people and artefacts which built the collections of the British Museum. These networks were also crucial in the sharing of information, which especially in the mid – 19th Century may have had a significant impact in the way in which world prehistories were written. The research has focused on the British Museum’s collection of polished axes from Oceania, and Europe. Objects associated with the axes, including hafts, labels, diaries, letters and catalogues have been used to reconstruct the ‘biography’ of each collection of artefacts. This makes it possible to show how the British Museum’s collections of polished axes were built and how they have been used to write the prehistory of the world from a Western perspective.

There are three main aims to my research. Firstly I aim to better understand how the British Museum acted as a site of knowledge making during the construction of prehistory as a concept and the construction of archaeology as a discipline. Secondly, I aim to show how ethnographic and archaeological artefacts have been used together, both inside and outside the British Museum, to write world prehistories. Finally, I will show how polished axes have been used to write world prehistories which have influenced archaeologists for generations and to show object biographies may inform world prehistories in the future.
University of Southampton
Norton, Elizabeth, Jane
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Norton, Elizabeth, Jane
ce41377e-8cc2-4b71-9ec4-10ab52c5b957
Gamble, Clive
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Marshall, Yvonne
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Norton, Elizabeth, Jane (2016) Polished axes: object biographies and the writing of world prehistories. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 235pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Polished axes have become an iconic tool representing the Neolithic in the archaeological record. Polished axes are unusual as they are similar in form and design across space and time, found internationally in both archaeological and ethnographic contexts. This meant they have become an easily recognisable item for collectors and have been found in public and private collections from the 18th Century onwards. A common component in many diverse collections, tracing the history of polished axes allows the investigation of the networks of people and artefacts which built the collections of the British Museum. These networks were also crucial in the sharing of information, which especially in the mid – 19th Century may have had a significant impact in the way in which world prehistories were written. The research has focused on the British Museum’s collection of polished axes from Oceania, and Europe. Objects associated with the axes, including hafts, labels, diaries, letters and catalogues have been used to reconstruct the ‘biography’ of each collection of artefacts. This makes it possible to show how the British Museum’s collections of polished axes were built and how they have been used to write the prehistory of the world from a Western perspective.

There are three main aims to my research. Firstly I aim to better understand how the British Museum acted as a site of knowledge making during the construction of prehistory as a concept and the construction of archaeology as a discipline. Secondly, I aim to show how ethnographic and archaeological artefacts have been used together, both inside and outside the British Museum, to write world prehistories. Finally, I will show how polished axes have been used to write world prehistories which have influenced archaeologists for generations and to show object biographies may inform world prehistories in the future.

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Polished Axes: object biographies and the writing of world prehistories
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More information

Published date: January 2016
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 407539
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/407539
PURE UUID: 31f9a282-694b-4de8-8ad8-e60083969c06

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Date deposited: 13 Apr 2017 01:06
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 20:05

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