- The Art and Archaeology of Bodily Adornment: Studies from Central and East Asian Mortuary Contexts ed. by Sheri A. Lullo and Leslie V.Wallace
The Art and Archaeology of Bodily Adornment centers around the role of bodily adornment in visualizing and constructing individual identities in mortuary contexts in Central and East Asia. This edited volume intends to show how, as a visual language for communication, ornamentation using jewelry, dress, and hairstyle constructs the social body and conveys personal information such as status and affiliation. This book primarily consists of papers that were presented at the 2016 conference of the Society for East Asian Archaeology hosted by Harvard and Boston Universities. The authors of the nine essays are archaeologists or art historians that have examined artifacts worn by or placed near deceased bodies or the images and sculptures that reflect adorned bodies in antiquity. The [End Page 447] case studies are drawn from a wide geographical area covering modern Turkmenistan, Russia, China, Korea, and Japan and prehistoric and early historical contexts from about the mid-fourth millennium b.c.e. to the mid-first millennium c.e.
The editors' introduction is concise and clear. They touch on a few existing theoretical models, including "transculturation" (p. 6) and "embodied identity" (p. 11), that pervade the contributing essays to broaden the reader's perspectives on the topic of adornment. Aside from the introduction, the book is divided into three sections, each of which comprises three essays, titled: "Gender and social status," "Transcultural contexts," and "Assemblage." The second section corresponds to the "transculturation" perspective by pointing to "the integration and convergence of cultural elements" (p. 6), while the third section takes the "embodied identity" approach to adornment as the body's lived experience. However, it is not immediately obvious how these sections relate to one another in the overall framework of this book, since they highlight different and often overlapping perspectives in terms of the significance of adornment. Furthermore, in contrast to the volume's stated focus on body ornaments as reflections and constructions of the identities of the deceased, the second and third sections seem more concerned with dimensions beyond the presentation of personal identity.
The three essays in the "Gender and Social Status" section explore how grave goods, especially bodily ornaments, reflect different sets of identities involving gender, status, and cultural affiliation. Bausch's and Miniaev's essays largely revolve around questioning existing interpretations of the funerary ornaments in, respectively, an Early Jōmon site in Toyama Prefecture in Japan and at Xiongnu sites in Russia. Nelson's essay then explores various aspects of the sumptuous goods from the Silla royal tombs in the southeastern part of the Korean peninsula. These three works have great potential for advancing the methodology for examining the significance of body ornaments.
The second section on "Transcultural Contexts" shifts focus on the cultural contexts within which certain types of body ornaments (or their three-dimensional imagery) were developed and distributed before ending up in burials. Tanizawa's essay examines the development of exchange networks and distribution patterns of certain bead types as part of the "prestige goods system" (p. 96), which operated from the Late Yayoi to Early Kofun periods in western Japan. Rubinson argues that earrings in the shapes of dolphins or amphorae that were recovered from first century b.c.e. to first century c.e. burials in the Amu Darya River region were status symbols and referenced the Greco-Roman world. Gerhart and Linduff investigate the symbolic meanings of clothing and accessories seen on haniwa figurines from a sixth century c.e. mound tomb in Gunma Prefecture. Assuming that the haniwa represented participants at mortuary rituals, they suggest that their bodily ornamentation would have reflected the status of the deceased chieftain.
These three essays propose that certain imported goods (or their three-dimensional imagery) at burial sites reveal the personal status of each tomb occupant and his or her sociopolitical...