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    Ben Elliot, Newcastle University – Masks Unmasked: Rethinking concepts of personhood 40,000- 4,000 BC

    • 19 Nov 2020 to 19 Nov 2020

    Event Description

    Ben Elliot`s interests revolve around three key areas within the context of the hunter-gatherer groups of Early Holocene Europe. These are sound, craft, and human/animal relations. Ben is currently revisiting ideas of craft and human/animal relations within the context of Early Prehistoric animal masks in Northern Europe. This includes technological studies of preserved masks from archaeological contexts, and anthropologically informed interpretations of masked individuals depicted within cave art, material culture and the burial record. This forms his contribution towards Dr Chantal Conneller's Leverhulme Trust funded major research project - "Masks Unmasked: Rethinking concepts of personhood 40,000- 4,000 BC". The making, wearing, and discarding masks plays an important role in expressions of culture for people on all continents of the globe. In 2020, attitudes towards the wearing of masks have been thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic, and public health advice concerning the protection offered by respiratory face coverings. Donning, wearing, doffing and disposing of masks now takes on new, often politically charged, significance. The Masks Unmasked project, which began in October 2019, looks to critically examine the evidence for mask wearing within the hunter-gatherer communities who established themselves across Europe during the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It aims to review the mooted depictions of masked individuals within the corpus of mobiliary and parietal “art”, the burial record, and wearable material culture made from modified animal skulls. In doing so, it seeks to develop an understanding of the different roles that masks and masking played in Europe’s hunter-gatherer past. This paper will present a selection of interim findings from this study.