Image and symbol

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Image and symbol can be found widely in the archaeological record, and have been dealt with a variety of ways in material culture studies. As humans, we are fundamentally cultural beings who have long used images and symbols to communicate with other members of our society and beyond, beginning in the Paleolithic period. One may say that virtually all artifacts can be explored as 'images' or 'symbols', or as the product or by-product of symbolic behavior to a certain degree. During the last two decades, new theoretical movements influenced by post-modernism and focusing more on ideology and individual actions have impacted many social sciences, including archaeology. As a consequence, image and symbol have become key themes in more fully and contextually understanding ancient societies. Particularly in postprocessual, behavioral, symbolic, or cognitive archaeology, images and symbols are discussed in terms of possessing meanings and functions beyond what they visually represent. This article begins with the definition of related words and concepts, presents certain theories associated with the study of images and symbols, then discusses some of their specific aspects, first by material, then by stylistic features. © 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Archaeology
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780123739629
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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