Posthuman Prehistory

Tim Ingold* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article asks what part prehistory could play in establishing a posthumanist settlement, alternative to the humanism of the Enlightenment. We begin by showing how Enlightenment thinking split the concept of the human in two, into species and condition, establishing a point of origin where the history of civilization rises from its baseline in evolution. Drawing on the thinking of the thirteenth-century mystic, Ramon Llull, we present an alternative vision of human becoming according to which life carries on through a process of continuous birth, wherein even death and burial hold the promise of renewal. In prehistory, this vision is exemplified in the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, in his exploration of the relation between voice and hand, and of graphism as a precursor to writing. We conclude that the idea of graphism holds the key to a prehistory that not so much precedes as subtends the historic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-103
Number of pages21
JournalNature and Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

An earlier version of this article was presented as the Georg Foster Lecture, at the Gutenberg University of Mainz, on 20 September 2019. I am most grateful for the invitation and to the Universityˊs Research Center of Social and Cultural Studies (SOCUM), especially the members of its Junior Research Group, for facilitating the event, which formed part of the Centerˊs 4th Symposium, Posthuman? New Perspectives on Nature/Culture.


  • burial
  • generations
  • graphism
  • Homo sapiens
  • human condition
  • humanism
  • Leroi-Gourhan
  • Llull


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