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Culture of Physical Modifications: Child Bodies in Ancient Cyprus

"The cultural and natural processes that shape, reshape and formalise the body start prior to birth and continue in infancy and childhood. Focussing on the young individuals within particular societies has a great potential to throw light on cultural transfers, continuity, change and discontinuity. While researching ideas and practices related to children and childhoods in prehistoric contexts the body may be lifted out as a useful node of investigation. In this paper, the focus is on three phenomena through which modifications of human bodies were achieved in prehistoric Cyprus: headshaping, anthropomorphic depiction, and burial. It seems that in prehistoric Cyprus the human body was not seen as beyond the bounds of manipulation and modification, be it a depiction, a living human individual, or a dead one. In this context one may feel the need to rethink some analytical categories and dualisms recurrent in the literature, such as: agent - artefact, mind - body, nature - culture, subject - object. It is suggested here that such manipulations that occurred in Cyprus during the Aceramic Neolithic to Late Bronze Age were unlikely to have been employed towards individualistic goals, such as personal aesthetics, but occurred rather in the context of socio-culturally negotiated ideas of the ideal or proper form of the human body, both in life and death, as figured and as lived physicality."

Author(s):  Lorentz, Kirsi O
Source:  Stanford Journal of Archaeology