Substances: ‘Following the material’ through two prehistoric cases

Mary Weismantel*, Lynn Meskell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


In this article, we argue for a multi-dimensional research strategy incorporating material, social and phenomenological analysis in the study of figurines and other human effigies. We call this approach ‘following the material’. To illustrate, we examine two case studies: figurines from the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey) and human effigies from the Formative region of Moche (Peru). We look first at the material substances from which artifacts are made and the material contexts in which they were produced, circulated and deposited, before turning to analysis of the representation of the body. This enables us to see these objects as themselves bodies – not merely imperfect replicas of actual humans, but material objects made of substances that afford particular kinds of interactions between fleshly and artifactual bodies. This focus on the materiality of artifacts reveals tight connections between objects in human form, material culture, environment, landscape, and political economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-251
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Moche
  • clay figurines
  • material contexts
  • material substances
  • Çatalhöyük

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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