Did Homo erectus dwell? Heidegger, archaeology and the future of phenomenology

Philip Tonner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Following the interpretive turn in the 1980s, archaeologists have increasingly found inspiration in the works of Martin Heidegger. Gosden’s Social Being and Time and Thomas’ Time, Culture and Identity are important works in this regard. Now, archaeologists speak of the ‘dwelling perspective’: a perspective that stresses the agent’s sensuous experience of living and acting in the world. Recently, Gamble has adopted a phenomenological perspective and has brought interpretation of the Palaeolithic (2,500,000–10,000 years ago) into the purview of this interpretive agenda. This chapter will outline key aspects of this critical appropriation of Heidegger by archaeologists as well as detailing one aspect of Heidegger’s thought that can usefully inform archaeology. I will argue that evidence for mortuary practice deep in the human past is evidence for the advent of a form of engagement that begins to ‘face up to mortality.’ Might such behaviour, discernible by archaeology, record the advent of dwelling in Heidegger’s sense in human prehistory? Discussion of these two related senses of dwelling (as an approach and as a mode of engagement) will show how and why Heidegger’s thought is relevant to archaeology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeidegger in the Twenty-First Century
EditorsTziovanis Georgakis, Paul J. Ennis
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-9678-1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2015

Publication series

NameContributions to Phenomenology


  • phenomenology
  • archaeology
  • Heidegger
  • human evolution
  • dwelling


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