Inscribing identity : a case study of symbolic communication from the Iron Age Castro Culture of northwestern Iberia
The guiding question of my dissertation research is: how did the symbols saturating the material culture of the Castro people serve a social and political, as well as decorative, role during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages of northwestern Iberia? Throughout the material remains of the Castro Culture a suite of symbolic motifs was repeatedly inscribed. Such motifs have traditionally been seen as solely decorative, and their social function has never been explored. However the insistent appearance of particular designs on so many material mediums has led me to hypothesize that these symbols served the Castro people as non-vocal communicators of identity and belonging. In a broad sense I ask: who were the Castro people speaking to through these symbols and what were they talking about? To attempt to access these questions and better understand the role of symbolic motifs in Castro society I ask more specifically: in what contexts are these motifs found? To answer these questions this dissertation project will trace the presence of the Castro motifs across various mediums: ceramics, domestic and communal architecture, and items of personal adornment. In doing so, I will examine the context, frequency, and presence/absence of each motif and begin to build a picture of how the Castro people were employing these motifs not only as ornament but as representations of themselves and their communities.