Semiotica 2020 (232):187-233 (2020)

While the “symbolic” meaning of early body ornamentation has received the lion’s share of attention in the debate on human origins, this paper sets out to explore their aesthetic and agentive dimensions, for the purpose of explaining how various ornamental forms would have led interacting groups to form a cultural identity of their own. To this end, semiotics is integrated with a new paradigm in the archaeology of mind, known as the theory of material engagement. Bridging specifically Peirce’s pragmatic theory and Malafouris’ enactive take on aesthetics allows us to appreciate the formation of aesthetic ideals through the agentive effects of material signs. It is thus proposed that, by attending to the interrelation between form, effect, and affect, members of social groups would have come to appreciate the ways in which their ornamental culture resembles and differs from that of neighbouring groups. Following the Lund conception of cultural semiotics, I argue that models of Ego-culture would have come to evolve along Alter-cultures that also employ ornaments, and against Alius-cultures that have yet to develop or adopt personal decoration. The aesthetic ideals associated with early body ornaments must have therefore played a catalytic role in the formation and communication of group membership. I thus close by proposing that the origins of new cultural identities can be explained by tracing the co-development of ideas and ideals.
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DOI 10.1515/sem-2019-0073
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A Sensorimotor Account of Vision and Visual Consciousness.J. Kevin O’Regan & Alva Noë - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (5):883-917.

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