Earthy Matters

Exploring Human Interactions with Earth, Soil and Clay

Editor(s) Louise Steel,Luci Attala

Language: English

Genre(s): Science

Series: Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology

  • June 2024 · 242 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Hardback - 9781837721351
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781837721368
  • · eBook - epub - 9781837721375

About The Book

Earthy Matters is a lively collection of theoretically informed chapters that introduce the reader to the notion that matter is a creative agent, and that it plays a key role in the formation of our material and social worlds. The focus of the book is sediments, soils, clay and earth ‒ materials that surround us and have shaped people’s interactions with the environment since even before the first farmers settled in the Near East tilling the earth, building houses from mud and plaster, and making vessels and figurines from clay. This collection questions orthodox understandings that these substances are inert and an infinite resource for humanity, rather to foreground earthy substances in their relationships with humans, and to show how these materials have co-created our social and material worlds. It is a novel and timely reminder for the reader that our lives have always been embedded within the matter of the E(e)arth.


‘Humming with ideas about the mingling of matter, this book is an exciting addition to studies about the social role of materials as opposed to finished things. The individually authored chapters explore materials that are from, of, and in the earth. Accessible case studies in contemporary and historical archaeology are framed by recent key theories on the agency and interrelations of materials in shaping life worlds. Emphasising the vitality of matter and the need to decentre humans, the book’s contributors seek to engage the reader in broader questions about the co-constitution of the world and its futures.’

Associate Professor Diana Young, Reader in Museum Anthropology and Material culture, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland


List of figures
List of contributors

Chapter 1: Introduction: The quivering potential of earthy matter
Louise Steel and Luci Attala

Chapter 2: In the red: Earthy humans and the generative qualities of ochre
Louise Steel

Chapter 3: Hard core, soft touches: A story of affect between caves, rocks and humans
Simone Sambento

Chapter 4: Plastered: People-plaster relationships in the Neolithic Near East
Joanne Clarke and Alex Wasse

Chapter 5: A melding of models: A New Materialisms approach to the earthy constituents in the ‘Ceremonial’ Hoard from Kissonerga Mosphilia
Natalie Boyd

Chapter 6: ‘Corbusian piggeries’ and ‘toytown cottages’: The social lives of concrete and brick in twentieth-century Liverpool
Alex Scott

Chapter 7: Plastic earth: Somatic correspondences with legacy contaminants in archaeology and anthropology
Eloise Govier

Chapter 8: Biomorphic ceramics
Bejamin Alberti

Chapter 9: Bodies and soils, re-placing not rewilding: The art of making compost and becoming places.
Luci Attala


About the Editor(s)

Author(s): Louise Steel

Louise Steel is Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at UWTSD, Senior Fellow HEA, and has directed archaeological fieldwork in Cyprus and Gaza.

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Author(s): Luci Attala

Luci Attala is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at UWTSD, Senior Fellow HEA, Green Gown Award winner (2015) for her work on sustainability, and was recipient of the UN Gold Star Award (2014) for work in Kenya.

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