By Christopher Y Tilley; Wayne Bennett
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Additional info for The materiality of stone. / Vol. 1, Explorations in landscape phenomenology
The sensible world, from such a perspective, is animate, alive, active, an intercourse between my body and the things that surround it. To define a thing as an inanimate object is misplaced because such a perspective cannot understand the manner in which the object world provokes our senses. Carnal being, for Merleau-Ponty, is the ‘prototype of Being’ (Merleau-Ponty 1968: 136). He goes further to claim that the relation of the body to the world is that of flesh to flesh, but this takes place at a primordial level prior to the emergence of conscious personal reflection in which the I comes to the fore.
It links together culture and nature, the human and non-human world, subject and object, in a seamless web of connections. This is a system of knowledge of the world embedded in embodied sensory experience. By contrast, logical or so-called ‘modern’ thought is derived from an abstracted mental realm of disembodied ideas based on setting up categorical distinctions and oppositions between things and persons, culture and nature, mind and body. A participatory relationship between culture and nature remains at the heart of Lévi-Strauss’ (1966) discussion of the ‘savage’ mind, and in particular the act of bricolage in which concrete reference points such as differences between birds, plants and animals and their behavioural characteristics are used to construct models of the social world.
Why were huge ancient trees, wooden posts, rock outcrops or the large stones that would have served as physical markers of place and identity during the Mesolithic deemed no longer sufficient? There have been a varied set of interpretations: menhirs have been suggested to be landmarks or territorial or boundary markers set up in association with the gradual post-Mesolithic clearance of the land for farming (Hibbs 1983; Burl 1985; Bender 1986; Patton 1993). Scarre has suggested that the inland menhirs represent the sacralization of an uncleared landscape beyond the limits of cultivation in a social context of widespread seasonal population mobility during the Neolithic (Scarre 2001: 299).