Irish Passage tombs : Neolithic images, contexts and beliefs.
Cochrane, Andrew James.
This thesis seeks to take the motifs on Irish Passage tombs beyond their traditional role as passive epiphenomenon and furthers understands them as performing active roles in the Neolithic. Rather than view the images through a textual representational analogy, I utilise visual cultural and neurological studies, set within a worldview perspective to paint a picture of the possible ambiguities of life and belief at some passage tomb locations. I explore the richness of evidence from the archaeological data and literature, to move beyond previous positions, and suggest new ways to deal with a past that develops multiple narratives. Such an account is thick with paradoxes, similarities, differences, tensions, emotions, life, death, pleasures and pain. Visions, context and belief layered together often generate ruptures in daily life that can facilitate new imaginings within the rhythms and sequences of images. Within such a perspective the Irish passage tomb motifs present fresh conditions for possibility and diverse understanding. In combining broader and more fine-grained analysis of particular passage tomb sites located in the north, east and south of Ireland, I demonstrate that social complexities operate at all scales. Magnified via cosmological perspectives, images on passage tombs interact with spectators through two-way intimate engagements. The assemblages that accompany the motifs are not static, instead they display notions of material animacy. Humans do not control all these interactions, for the motifs and objects are dynamic montages. These actions can be enhanced via process, such as the sequential nature of some images or by the application of liquid solutions, especially when conducted at particular times and places. With passage tombs acting as 'stages' and 'islandscapes', I construct interpretations that include both carnivalesque and axis mundi environments, which subvert, disrupt and perpetuate social beliefs. Such performances may have created dialogues and myths about the specialness of these places. These conversations would in turn factor and texture new illusions and simulations of the world, whilst creating fresh opportunities for experience.
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