Categorizations of animal representations in the early prehistory of South-eastern and Central Europe
Westfalische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
In the early farming communities of south-eastern and central Europe, animal representations are a) rather rare, b) so stylized that it is sometimes quite difficult to even determine the species, c) usually smaller than life, and d) mostly limited to clay as the raw material that was used to create them. These features place them in stark contrast to the vivid, life-like animal representations of the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer societies. The presentation aims to outline the differences between the concepts of animal representation in the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic with respect to the material they were made of, their mobility resp. immobility, their stylization or orientation by nature and eventually also their possible functions, for example regarding utilitarian, symbolic, humanistic or dominance-oriented motivations). Utilitarian functions would encompass any use of animals for the fulfillment of basic needs, whereas symbolic functions serve to communicate culturally shaped contents. Humanistic functions serve the need for community and relationships, and dominance-oriented motivations involve the wish to dominate and control. Especially symbolical functions will be highlighted in the presentation. An interpretation of the animal representations in the early Neolithic and the Palaeolithic will only be possible when we take into consideration the different ways of life and the natural environments of prehistoric societies.