Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture

Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture

By: Lynne Kelly (author)Hardback

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In this book, Lynne Kelly explores the role of formal knowledge systems in small-scale oral cultures in both historic and archaeological contexts. In the first part, she examines knowledge systems within historically recorded oral cultures, showing how the link between power and the control of knowledge is established. Analyzing the material mnemonic devices used by documented oral cultures, she demonstrates how early societies maintained a vast corpus of pragmatic information concerning animal behavior, plant properties, navigation, astronomy, genealogies, laws and trade agreements, among other matters. In the second part Kelly turns to the archaeological record of three sites, Chaco Canyon, Poverty Point and Stonehenge, offering new insights into the purpose of the monuments and associated decorated objects. This book demonstrates how an understanding of rational intellect, pragmatic knowledge and mnemonic technologies in prehistoric societies offers a new tool for analysis of monumental structures built by non-literate cultures.

About Author

Lynne Kelly is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Arts, Communication and Critical Enquiry at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She is the author of ten books on education, one novel and three popular science titles. Kelly is interested in the question of how non-literate cultures memorise so much about their environment in the absence of writing, which has led her to research the mnemonic technologies of oral cultures.


1. Primary orality in the archaeological context; 2. Knowledge and power in oral cultures; 3. Primary orality and oral mnemonic technologies; 4. Material mnemonic technologies; 5. Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition; 6. Time and space; 7. Case study: the Yolngu system of knowledge; 8. Case study: the Pueblo system of knowledge; 9. Chaco Canyon in the ancestral Puebloan context; 10. Poverty Point in the American Archaic context; 11. Stonehenge in the British and Irish Neolithic context; 12. Conclusions.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9781107059375
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 300
  • ID: 9781107059375
  • weight: 810
  • ISBN10: 1107059372

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