Friday May 19th,  2017 Afternoon Sessions - 1:30pm-5pm


Session:  "The Scale of Things: Miniature Objects in Relation to the Body, Geography, and Each Other"


 Session Organizers:


Paula Gheorghiade, Department of Art, University of Toronto


Rachel Dewan, Department of Art, University of Toronto


Elana Steingart, Department of Art, University of Toronto


ABSTRACT: If the medium is the message, what does it mean if the medium is miniature? The manipulation of scale — miniaturization relative to the human body, to the inhabited landscape, or to an ‘original’, whether real or abstract — is an aspect of artifact materiality that is receiving increased attention thanks to anthropology’s material turn. Miniatures afford a particular manner of human-object interaction. They can be kept close, but also mobile: intimate, but also dispersed. The intimacy of small things is arguably an expression of what Appadurai calls a ‘two-sided’ process of mediation: objects are formed in a manner that embodies the ideas they are meant to materialize, but also afford a specially close relationship by virtue of their size and portability. The manipulation of scale can occur at the level of the singular object, but can also be considered in terms of expansion: on the level of inter-regional mobility and connectivity, with multiples distributed across space. Their portability enables meaning to be mediated socially, culturally, and spatially. It is evident both in the decisions of the object makers and users, and in present day mediations of archaeological analysis of the material record. If miniaturization is a mode of mediation, how does it transform social organization and human cognition? We invite papers that explore the intersection between scale and cognition, particularly in regard to miniaturization; the relationship between the scale of objects, and the scale of their dispersal across landscapes; and the mediation of technology and archaeological data including data visualization, modelling, and data management. Session Format: Papers should be 15 minutes in length, and 5 minutes will be allotted to questions after each presentation. Format subject to change based on volume of submissions received. Final format will be confirmed after all papers have been accepted.



 Inidividual papers:




Scale and the Spiritual: The role of miniaturization and materiality in religion


Rachel Dewan, Department of Art, University of Toronto


From the miniature paintings of medieval illuminated manuscripts, to the tiny votive offerings left at ancient Greek sanctuaries, the small-scale objects found in Inuit homes and graves, to the miniature replica of Jerusalem and the Holy Land at Alabama’s ‘Ave Maria Grotto’ pilgrimage site, the cross-cultural prevalence of the small-scale in religious worship is hard to deny. Despite this widespread phenomenon, however, miniature artifacts have received surprisingly little scholarly analysis in archaeology and art history, perhaps due to their perception as diminutive, playful, or child-like.

This paper hopes to demonstrate how the characteristics of small-scale artifacts afford distinct potency when it comes to engaging with the divine and partaking in spiritual practices. The acknowledgement of the agency of objects brought about by Actor Network Theory, Alfred Gell’s theories of the agency of art, the concept of distributed cognition, and Material Engagement Theory, have enabled material cultures to be recognized, not as passive things manipulated by human actions, but as dynamic actors themselves. Small-scale material objects seem particularly attuned to this dynamic engagement, for their specific characteristics seem to afford those seeking to understand the ineffable a tactile way in which to develop this relationship. Herein lies the powerful paradox of miniatures: while their scale has been decreased, their meaning and affect are often significantly increased.

By combining Matthew Day’s concept of material scaffolding and Andy Clark’s theories on cognitive surrogates, this paper will discuss how miniatures can be approached as more than religious representations, acting instead as active mediators in the human ability to structure religion through “off-line cognition” and to facilitate spiritual experiences. With its striking mastery of miniaturization and preponderance of small-scale art, examples from the Minoan culture of Bronze Age Crete will serve as case studies for an investigation into the materiality of religion and the use of scale in human attempts to understand the divine.



Go with the Flow: Stone Models, Circulating Reference, and Watery Imaginaries in the Colca Valley, Peru


Stephen Berquist, University of Toronto, Department of Anthropology


This paper explores the possible function of a number of unique stone models of agricultural terraces in the Colca Valley of Arequipa, Peru. It is not fully clear to when they date, though they are likely over a thousand years old. These stone models vary greatly in terms of size, shape, formality, and positioning. There are some common features however. Nearly all of the models are located on a vantage point overlooking actual terrace complexes (andenerias). Moreover, many of the stone models have miniature hydraulic systems inscribed into them. In fact, hydraulic analysis of the models shows that these features would have functioned in a manner similar to actual andenerias. Water can be channeled into particular feeder canals and drop canals by closing certain section of the system. Adding more liquid at the pour points inundates certain sections of the andeneria, mimicking the watering of agricultural fields (or their potential flooding).

Yet these models are not perfect replicas. They do not truly show how water would have moved through the hydraulic system. Indeed, some of the models do not afford any functional path through which water could have travelled. Others do not replicate the full extent of the anderias, undermining potential claims that the models served to schedule access to water. Rather than argue that the models are purely aesthetic or ceremonial, I propose looking beyond rationalist models of technical practices. Drawing from recent laboratory ethnography and sociological studies of hydraulic knowledge practices in contemporary Andean communities, I propose that these stone models could still have served a critical technical function in the construction and maintenance of the irrigation systems serving the andenerias. I emphasize this point by comparing the stone models of Colca to the 1944 Mississippi River Basin Model constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.



Material, Miniature, Meaningful: Seals and Sealings in Early Mesopotamian Art


Sarah J. Scott, Wagner College


The medium is the message on multiple fronts in the ancient Mesopotamian glyptic tradition.  As one of the most important technological developments in human communication, seals relied on social contexts to function.   Scholars have suggested information such as commodity type, quantity, intended purpose, and personal identity may have been embedded within the seal image.  Such images were also present on larger objects: plaques, wall reliefs, and wall paintings.  From the Neolithic through early historical periods clay functioned as a communicative body for the movement of ideas across time and space regarding commodity exchange.  Additionally, clay as a medium is known to have carried meaning in ancient Mesopotamia; as indicated through both textual sources and archaeological contexts it was considered a creational matrix manipulated by the gods as well as a moldable material for human use and consumption that could stand in for animate beings.  As seals are impressed upon clay, the clay undergoes yet another type of transformation as images impart yet another layer of meaning onto the bodily matrix.

This paper will examine the status of seal imagery as a ‘miniature’ capable of conveying a ‘monumental’ message through both its condensation as an intimate image experience as well as its presence on the particular medium of clay.   It will present the experience of the impressed image as an illustration of multi-directional meaning as it migrates back and forth between the miniature and monumental.  Specifically, the iconography of the frontal eagle and vulture, ultimately perceived as the Imdugud bird in the Early Dynastic Period, will be presented as a case study spanning the sixth through early third millennia BCE.  This iconography is ubiquitous on seals, sealings, and specifically associated with doorway installations in contexts understood to have ritual significance.  It will be argued that is exactly because of its multi-scalar quality, this particular image had significant power in its employment as a tool of social organization.



Miniaturization and Modularization of Neolithic Ground Stone Tools


Philipp M. Rassmann, Borough of Manhattan Community College - CUNY


Ground stone tools are most often thought of as large, heavy and unwieldy implements that offer little cultural insight besides subsistence reconstruction.  The most commonly known tools, typically interpreted as plant food grinding utensils, appear rugged, durable, and stationary.  Associated mostly with gradual changes in plant food preparation, ground stone technology is considered highly static and not providing insights into broader cultural developments and phenomena.  However, the full technical and typological spectrum of ground stone tools actually does include tool varieties, far smaller than the usual grinding implements.  Using methods associated with object biography, these small, sometimes miniature tools, by virtue of their ever diminishing scale, can provide insights into human-object interaction.


This paper explores the role and importance of scalar variation in ground stone tool technology among several Neolithic ground stone tool assemblages in the Middle East and shows how it reflects changes in human - raw material mediation.  Reconstruction of the production and operation sequence of several tool types reveals a life cycle where there is a dispersal of technological know-how across the larger scale specimens, which are deliberately fragmented, and the resulting new, smaller scale tool varieties, some of which are also partitioned into new tools.  This reflects a shift in the conceptualization of tool production from one where tools were produced for singular extended use to one where tools hold the potential for intended modularization.  With such a vested capacity in each tool form, there is a cognizance of that faculty being embodied within the raw material itself.




“Images and Objects” in Archaeology: A Juxtaposition of Stratigraphic Profiles and Photographed Stratigraphy.


Alisha Gauvreau, PhD Student, University of Victoria; Hakai Scholar, Hakai Institute

Joanne McSporran, Hakai Institute


Technical schematic illustrations known as “stratigraphic profiles” and scaled photographs of stratified cultural deposits represent two diachronic “images and objects” of archaeology. Possessing distinct form as well as content and agency, both mediums serve as visual representations of cultural continuity, climate change, and the dynamic millennia-long relationships between humans and nature, objects and environments. Drawing on Gauvreau's PhD research at Triquet Island  (i.e. an ancient village site on the Northwest Coast of North America with a 13,000+ year record of continuous human occupation), we compare and contrast the respective methodologies, form, function and agency of a “US letter-sized” scaled stratigraphic profile of the north wall of our main excavation unit with a “life-sized” (i.e. 1x3m) scaled photograph of the same stratified deposits. Recognizing that these scaled mediums convey the message by which we interpret and provenience our finds, this paper asks archaeologists to consider not only what we are seeing, but also, what we are seeing with. Engaging in an analysis of their “content” as well as an analysis of their “value” reveals the fluid relationships that exist between the production, consumption, material form, ownership, institutionalization, exchange, possession and social accumulation of these diachronic scaled mediums. In so doing, we aim to overcome the fixedness of these images and objects of archaeology and challenge ideas of subjectivity versus objectivity surrounding scaled visualizations of data.




‘Doing Small Finds’: Discoverability and Interpretation of the Miniature in Archaeological Discourse.


Ellen H. Belcher, John Jay College/City University of New York


Availability of small finds in excavation publications and presentations has been largely unchanged for decades. These hand-held objects - including figurines, ornaments, tools – are closely entangled with individual daily lifeways, experiences and identity. Human interactions with small finds are intimate and personal negotiations with materiality, ornamentation and meaning by those that made, used and excavated these objects. However, these objects are rarely used as data supporting big questions of cultural horizons and chronology. Comparative analysis is difficult because many small finds languish in excavation depots, unpublished and undiscoverable. Publication of small finds is relegated to the back of archaeological reports, often functioning as illustrative curiosities rather than diagnostic data. Sampling for publication is primarily driven by completeness and aesthetics rather than statistical sampling or typological representation.


Using examples from Halaf communities (6th millennium BCE, northern Mesopotamia), this paper explores issues, problems and opportunities presented by the lack of established analytical structures for ‘doing small finds’. Has the dependence on data from ‘big finds’ – such as faunal, ceramic and lithic artifacts – skewed stratigraphic and chronological analysis? How are established methods of archaeological excavation, recording, interpretation and publication structured to silo ‘small finds’ away from larger archaeological discussions? To what degree is the sidelining of small finds a relic of past interpretations of gender and small scale societies? This talk consider how we might ‘do small finds better ‘ by incorporation into archaeological discourse which might in turn challenge normative constructions of material culture by offering new perspectives into embodied and object oriented lived experiences of the past.




Scaling the Huaca: Emotional Compression and the Construction of Identity through Architectonic Re-presentation of Place at the Late Moche site of Huaca Colorada, Jequetepeque Valley, Peru


Giles Spence Morrow, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto


Following Descola’s ‘modes of identification’, Andean ontology has recently been suggested to represent a combination of animism and analogism that establishes strong intersubjective relationships wherein humans, objects and places are intrinsically linked while simultaneously creating a highly hierarchical scale based on the properties of each autonomous entity. In order to operationalize this animistic-analogical ontology, mimetic processes of imitation and transformation serve to link and effectively collapse these asymmetric relationships. Through a consideration of how ontologies of spatial scale and the mimetic properties of miniaturization have been manifested among the ancient Moche of the Jequetepeque Valley, Peru (ca.650-900 CE) this paper will present a set of material symbols that served to construct individual and community identities. Specifically, the role of portable maquetas or miniature architectural models of ceremonial edifices as they relate to full-scale architecture found at Huaca Colorada will serve as the focus of my discussion. This examination will analyze these particular examples of scalar transformation not merely as acts of representation but as the mimetic distillation and compression of temporal, spatial and material aspects of modes of being in the world, and how renovation sequences of sacred architecture were simultaneous acts of place-making and identity construction.