Giving Voices (Without Words) to Prehistoric People: Glimpses into an Archaeologist’s Imagination (2019)

This article is based on a conference presentation in the session “Human, Transhuman, Posthuman Digital Archaeologies” at the Annual Meeting of the European Archaeological Association, Barcelona, Spain, September 2018.

This article describes a path to addressing the discomfort that I and many of my braver colleagues have had, when putting words into the mouths and heads of prehistoric actors, knowing that these words say more about us than they do about prehistory. Yet without such speech, how are we archaeologists and the broader public to imagine the intangibles of the deep past (emotions, affect, gender, senses)? Moreover, such words create a misleading certainty that conceals the ambiguities of the archaeological data. Are there alternative options to verbal and vocal clarity when creating imagined fictive narratives about the past? With inspiration from composer Györgi Ligeti, from linguists and experimental psychologists, and from ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) performers, I explore the emotive power of vocal non-verbal interjections and utterances that have more universality and less cultural baggage, using them in three diverse re-mediations of digital media from three prehistoric archaeological contexts in Europe and Anatolia.

Ruth Tringham (2019) Giving Voices (Without Words) to Prehistoric People: Glimpses into an Archaeologist’s Imagination. European Journal of Archaeology vol.22 (3),special issue Digital Archaeologies: 338-353


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