Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More on assimilating fossils and temporality

While we're on the topic of fossils, alternate worlds, and temporality ... I thought I'd share a link to this very good site focused upon Stoney Littleton, a Neolithic chambered tomb in Somerset. The entrance to the long barrow prominently displays a fossilized ammonite, while the interior is constructed of rocks replete with mineralized organisms.

What the structure's builders thought of this writing on the stones we can't know with the same certainty that surrounds a reading of Augustine on Utica beach, but we can guess (I suppose) that they found these objects to be beautiful, maybe sacred, certainly a kind of art similar to what they were attempting to accomplish in erecting such an unnecessary architecture.

Like most Neolithic sites that look like something other than an ambiguous rise of land or a flattened depression in humdrum terrain, this one owes a great deal to modern reconstruction. Its new life as a New Age pilgrimage site attests to the pull these places exert -- and to the enfolded temporalities at which they dwell.


copyist function said...

At the risk of sounding trite and oversimplified, i will offer this as a way to see if I am properly encapsulating some of what is at stake here:

So in my thought-experiement about some guy coming upon this stone and putting it into a barrow construction, or later, someone coming upon the barrow itself, I can't help but wonder less of what these persons' sense of time was as a stable thing, but what did these things do to their sense of time? AND what did their physicality do the temporality of specific locations: especially on the heels of various pagan religious practices, not too mention Christian ones. What happens when you come upon the Ruthwell Cross, or the High Cross in the Sligo Co. Ireland? What do these constructed monuments that would never theless attain a sense of being old (though not as old as stonhendge) do to the perception of the temporality of these locals?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

That is very well stated, Dan. It's at the heart of the question I'm trying to unravel: can an architecture as condensation of time and space communicate a message in the absence of words, after the utter loss of its fabricator?

Relevant to this possibility is the thought experiment I posted about on this blog last year, the competition to design a permanent warning system to keep future life forms away from a nuclear waste dump. How do you convey DANGER in the absence of words, far beyond a human span of time. Can any architecture or sign system communicate that caveat? Can it survive as a meaning beyond the extinction of us humans?