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Guest Speaker: Helen Wickstead (Kingston University London
12th May 2016 @ 13:00 - 15:00Free
Helen Wickstead, Senior Lecturer at Kingston University London in Museum and Gallery Studies and Heritage, will talk to us on ‘”The Prehistoric Phallus: A History of Archaeology and Sex”. All welcome.
Objects thought to represent the erect penis have been found around the world, from many different times and places, including in the deep time of prehistory. They are known as phalli, and have been related to a symbolic category – the phallus. Over the last four hundred years antiquarians and archaeologists constructed concepts of the phallus that were to become central to ideas of masculinity, mentality and material culture in modern times. The phallus disseminated theories of ancient society and sex across wider fields including comparative religion, psychoanalysis, medical science, sexology and sexual politics.
This paper emerges from Wellcome Trust supported research which will produce the first publication exploring the modern reception of prehistoric phalli from the British Isles: studying how these ancient artefacts have been made meaningful for modern rather than prehistoric people. The paper draws on my research in archives of archaeological excavations, scholarly societies and museums. It will focus on a selection of prehistoric objects (and modern forgeries) showing how they have been interpreted and reinterpreted as part of the historical development of sexual identities and symbolic categories in modern times. My research reveals the centrality of phallic theories to nineteenth century studies of Mankind, probing the history of men-only anthropological societies, and the part phallic knowledge and pornography played in engendering scholarly authority. It uncovers the nineteenth century obsession with Phallic Worship and its connection to ideas of megalithic architecture, primitive sexuality, religion, and racial science. I conclude with an examination of recent discoveries of prehistoric phalli, asking how prehistory contributes to discourses surrounding sex and sexuality in archaeologies increasingly mediated by digital technologies.
Dr Helen Wickstead’s research explores the relationships between modernity and prehistory. Her publications include archaeologies of twentieth century concrete used to display and restore prehistoric heritage sites, histories of archaeological aerial photography, and analyses of archaeological drawing and mapping technologies. She is the Convenor of a research network – art+archaeology – which works with international contemporary artists to
generate opportunities for arts-based research in archaeology.
Helen is Director of archaeological excavations at a nationally important complex of prehistoric monuments near Damerham, Hampshire. Her PhD thesis (published as a monograph in 2008) used digital mapping of archaeological remains to examine theories of property in prehistoric societies. Helen has a long standing interest in how the ancient world is visualized today, and in how new ways of seeing created modern understandings of prehistory.