Past as possibility – The potential for reflective engagement with prehistoric archaeology to facilitate ecological awareness and ecotherapy
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlag
The belief that prehistoric communities led simpler, healthier lives in harmony with nature is a recurring theme in the popular imagination. Sometimes described as evolutionary or ecological nostalgia, this view is often accompanied by a desire to either escape to an imagined prelapsarian past or to recreate it in the present. These ideals underpin the growing appetite in the West for the adoption of lifestyle choices based on prehistoric lifeways, such as the ‘paleo’ diet, barefoot running and ancestral skills. They also underlie popular perceptions of prehistoric archaeology. Despite its appeal, this type of nostalgia has received criticism from various camps in both the sciences and humanities, and has traditionally been frowned upon in the heritage sector for its sanitised and inaccurate representation of prehistoric life. This paper discusses these themes with reference to the results of qualitative research carried out at prehistoric sites in Wiltshire, UK in 2016 and 2017. Presenting the experiences of residents, it demonstrates some of the intellectual and emotional ways in which certain people hold nostalgic views of prehistoric life, and the value these perceptions possess in terms of relationship to self and the natural world. Subsequently, the paper argues that rather than seeing these impressions of prehistory as a misrepresentation of the past, they might be recognised as a desire to create a better future for both people and planet, and thus as a resource for promoting ecological awareness and human wellbeing.
Prehistoric archaeology , Nostalgia , Nostalgic views of prehistoric life , Ecological awareness , Human wellbeing
Nolan, C. (2023) 'Past as possibility – The potential for reflective engagement with prehistoric archaeology to facilitate ecological awareness and ecotherapy' [Forthcoming] in Godlewicz-Adamiec, J. and Stobiecka, M. (eds.) Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Natural and Cultural Heritage. An integrated Approach. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlag.
© 2023, Claire Nolan.