Cambridge University Press – media release

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3 July 2015 – Melbourne: Dr Lynne Kelly will launch Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies at the Co-op Bookshop, La Trobe University Melbourne Campus on Friday 3rd July, 2015 at 12pm.

Why did the Neolithic Britons build Stonehenge? Why were there so many other stone circles all over the UK and Ireland? In this exciting book, Dr Lynne Kelly offers a groundbreaking new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and other stone circles in the UK, the great houses of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and the mound-building site of Poverty Point in Louisiana, in a way which applies to many other sites around the world.

Kelly argues that what has been left out of the interpretation until now is the way practical information is memorised in cultures which have no contact with writing. Drawing on methods used by Australian Aboriginal, Native American, African and Pacific cultures, the purpose of mysterious sites built by small tribes in the early stages of settlement all over the world suddenly make sense.

Identifying the memory technologies used, Kelly recognises the importance of memory spaces in prehistory in the form of performance sites, monuments and handheld devices. This book explains the complex memory methods and physical memory aids used by oral cultures who were totally dependent on their memories to store all the practical information on which their survival depended.

Primary oral cultures developed an extraordinary range of mnemonic technologies to store vast amounts of practical information and until now, the role of memory and formal knowledge systems has been underrepresented in the interpretation of enigmatic archaeological sites and objects.

Author

Lynne Kelly, La Trobe University, Victoria

Lynne Kelly is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Arts, Communication and Critical Enquiry at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She is the author of ten books on education, one novel and three popular science titles. Kelly is interested in the question of how non-literate cultures memorise so much about their environment in the absence of writing, which has led her to research the mnemonic technologies of oral cultures.

To arrange an interview with the author or request a review copy, please contact Ebony Henry at Cambridge University Press on (03) 8671 1442 or ehenry@cambridge.edu.au

 

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The launch is finally coming

Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies will be launched next Friday, 3 July at LaTrobe University Bookshop at 12 midday. Plenty of refreshments!

I would love to see friends, family, colleagues and anyone interested in prehistory, indigenous memory systems, Stonehenge, Chaco Canyon, archaeology … maybe just all of you!

Just click to see the invitation.

launch-invite

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Speaking engagements – Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies

I have been asked where people can hear me talk about indigenous memory systems and my theories about prehistoric monuments including Stonehenge. Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies has only just been published by Cambridge University Press in the US and UK and is still a month or so away from being published here in Australia.

22-24 May 2015: Archaeology of Portable Objects SymposiumPrimary Orality and Portable Objects. Australian National University, Canberra.  An academic conference – already been and enjoyed immensely.

12 June 2015: Castlemaine Fields NaturalistsIndigenous knowledge of plants and animals: how do they remember so much stuff without a field guide?  Castlemaine Fields Nats. Write up on the presentation on the Connecting Country website. 7.30 pm.

3 July 2015: Launch, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, LaTrobe University Bookroom, Bundoora. 12 midday.

8 August  2015: Bendigo Writers Festival, Author, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies. Bendigo. Website: Bendigo Writers Festival.

10 September 2015: Castlemaine LibraryKnowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, 6 pm.

16 September 2015: Kyneton FreethinkersKnowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, Albion Hotel meeting room, Kyneton.  7.30 pm.

19 September 2015: Newstead Science MattersWhy did the Neolithic Brits build Stonehenge? Newstead Community Centre. Details to follow.

16-18 October 2015: Australian Skeptics National Convention, Memory spaces: adding rational intellect to Stonehenge, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. Convention website and program is here.

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Castlemaine Fields Naturalists and Stonehenge

I am really looking forward to talking to the Castlemaine Fields Nats on the topic:
Indigenous knowledge of plants and animals: how do they remember so much stuff without a field guide? and how this led me to a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge.

The wonderful Connecting Country organisation gives details of the talk on their site. Just click on the image to get there.

connecting-country

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The advance copies arrive

arrival-day

The wonderful moment when I first hold the book which represents years of obsessive pleasure.

Thank you to LaTrobe University, my PhD supervisor Professor Sue Martin, Cambridge University Press, family, friends and most of all, my husband, Damian. All that work to get the PhD was so very worth it.

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Launch – Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies

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The launch date of my book has been set. Exciting times ahead. Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: orality, memory and the transmission of culture will be launched:

On: Friday 3 July, 2015, 12 midday.

At: LaTrobe University Co-op Bookshop

By: Professor Susan K Martin, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce (who was also my supervisor)

Published by: Cambridge University Press. More details on their site: here.

I would love to see family, friends and colleagues there.

 

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Primary orality and portable objects

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I am presenting a paper, Primary orality and portable objects, at the Archaeology of Portable Art conference at the Australian National University in Canberra, 23rd – 24th May 2015. The program looks fantastic – Click on the above image or here.

I’ll be talking about Australian and Pacific indigenous portable art which is known to act as memory aids. I’ll then be showing that the same topologies can be found in the British Neolithic. In particular, I’ll be comparing the form and contexts of Scottish carved stone balls and the Stonehenge chalk plaques and arguing that they, too, were mnemonic devices.

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Scottish carved stone balls: six knobbed, many knobbed and the famous Towie ball

From my book Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: (c) Damian Kelly

The abstract of my paper:

The body of research on primary orality describes the way non-literate cultures manage to memorise vast stores of information when they have no recourse to writing. This research has rarely been applied in archaeological interpretation of ceremonial sites created by non-literate cultures. My research has expanded the field of primary orality to include material artefacts including decorated portable objects.

This paper will generalise the way portable objects from Australian and Pacific contexts have been used as mnemonic devices to encode pragmatic information including animal classifications and behaviour, plant properties, navigation, genealogies and astronomy along with resource rights and management. It will then address the way in which this understanding can be applied in the archaeological interpretation of prehistoric sites.

Recognition of the importance of indigenous art in oral knowledge systems is well known within archaeologies that are informed by indigenous input. However, the invaluable ethnographic analogies on offer have not been exploited in archaeological interpretation of British and Irish Neolithic sites.

In particular, this paper will take the generalisations from an ethnographic analysis of portable art to offer new insights into portable objects such as the enigmatic Stonehenge chalk plaques and Scottish carved stone balls.

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It’s finished – a strange feeling of loss

I have sent back the page proofs. I have done the last correction. After seven years of nurturing my baby every day, there is nothing more I can do. The book is now completely under the control of Cambridge University Press and I have no more say in it.

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I have checked it and checked it, yet I know I will have missed something. There are just too many words and ideas and I am so prone to mistakes. I read what I meant to write and not what is actually on the page.

Confession time: I had an indigenous ceremony in Australia being traded across 16,000 km, when that far would get it to England. I had Julius Caesar arriving in England in the first Century AD instead of BC. How can it have gone through so many checks and I not have noticed those serious mistakes? Those sentences were in the thesis and every version of the manuscript. What else have I missed?

The next time I shall see those words is when I have the book in front of me, sometime before the publication date of 30 June 2015. Then it will go out into the world. People may love it. But they also may hate it and critics may attack it mercilessly and there is nothing I can do. Archaeologists may argue with my ideas, but that is fine. It means it has been read and that it is contributing to the debate. All ideas are refined by others over time.

Now I just wait.

(Oh, and work on Ancient Memory Spaces for the mainstream market!)

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Orality – why it is so important for prehistoric archaeologists

Primary orality is what you have when you don’t have literacy.

It is often commented that prehistoric cultures didn’t leave a written record. What is almost never mentioned is that cultures which had no contact with writing did have an alternative. They had orality. Most aspects of orality have been literally overwritten by writing, but they do leave a trace in the archaeological record.

Oral cultures employ a wide range of techniques to retain a vast amount of information in memory because they don’t write it down. The research on primary orality talks about the way song, stories, dance and mythology encode vast stores of information in memorable forms.

What is important for archaeologists is that primary oral cultures also used material devices to aid memory: from the landscape and art through an incredible range of enigmatic portable objects. It is these material signs which can be detected in the archaeological record.

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Lukasa from the Brooklyn Museum

For example, the African Luba use a memory board known as a lukasa, among many mnemonic devices. It is used in a very similar way to the Australian churinga/tjuringa. These devices are restricted to knowledgeable elders. Their prehistoric equivalent should be found in ceremonial sites, but almost never in domestic settings.

Songs, dances, stories and mythological representations are not simply for entertainment nor are they purely superstitious. They are an essential way of recording masses of pragmatic information. Performance spaces should exhibit a public/restricted dichotomy as is found in all indigenous cultures.

It is too often assumed that knowledge is simply handed on through stories told around the campfire or casually taught, parent to child, out on the daily gather and hunt. In years of research, I have never found a single culture which operated that way. All cultures teach in formal settings – oral and literate.

2015_Garma_Poster_Yolngu_V2To understand the nature of orality, I started with some of the oldest continuous cultures on the planet, the 300 or so Australian Aboriginal language groups.

The Yolngu of Arnhem Land share their knowledge at the annual Garma Festival. They offer some of the best understanding of orality because they have explained it on their terms.

Indigenous survival depends on masses of practical knowledge. There are many commonalities about the memory methods used by oral cultures from the mobile Australian to the more sedentary Native American, African and Pacific cultures.

It is those commonalities which can offer another tool for archaeologists interpreting ancient ceremonial sites: orality.

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Posted in archaeologists, archaeology, Australian Aboriginal, indigenous memory systems, lukasa, memory, Memory Spaces, mnemonics, mythology, orality, prehistory, primary orality, Yolngu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments