On a Naqadan Vessel—Our Aesthetic Response to and Restoration of Prehistoric Artefacts

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Prehistoric artefacts are capable of great beauty, despite our usually being in ignorance of the kind of cultural and interpretive practices which occasioned them, and which would make clear to us what such artefacts meant (or indeed, if they were artworks in the modern sense at all). I argue that often our aesthetic response to these artefacts—where we have no firm knowledge of their cultural context—is bound up with their ability to present a kind of physiognomy of the historical relationship between such objects, the historical processes which produced them and went on to produce us, and ourselves. I claim further that this physiognomy, and the pathos associated with it, makes possible an aesthetic experience related to the dynamically sublime. I close by considering the consequences of this aesthetic experience for the restoration of prehistorical artefacts, and argue that it demonstrates and explains why—in these cases—a purist form of restoration is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-279
Number of pages15
JournalBritish journal of aesthetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

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