Archaeology and performance

Posted March 15th, 2007 by Intute staff

By Andrea Vianello

Archaeology as a discipline concentrates on the study of ancient material evidence, which often does not include any direct evidence of ritual or entertaining performances. Yet, anthropological studies and indirect evidence confirm that performances were central to ancient human beings. As a result, archaeologists are removing the biases caused by the uneven preservation of material evidence and accepting that performances were an important part of the past. Ancient performances made use primarily of symbolic gestures, music and dance. Entertaining performances normally differ from rituals because they are based on an explicit plot whereas rituals are founded on symbolic meanings. Theatre was the most common form of entertaining performance in historical times, and this included music and pantomime in the performances.

The suggested links refer to resources presenting the theoretical debate within archaeology, resources about specific evidence of performances in antiquity and general resources on the study of performances.

(Image from original photograph by elbisreverri; some rights reserved under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 licence.)

Roman theatre at Ephesus