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The classification and analysis of spirals in decorative designs

Humphrey, Alice Edith (2013) The classification and analysis of spirals in decorative designs. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Structure in decorative patterning has been used to identify perceptual preferences and broader social and cultural patterning of a society. This thesis proposes a new method of analysis and classification of decorative spirals as a test of whether the analysis of an individual type of geometric decorative motif in isolation can reflect social and cultural trends in a similar manner. The proposed analysis method, which takes a quantitative, bottom-up approach to classification, was compared with a topdown classification method used in previous studies based on mathematical spiral forms. Similarities were found across the two classification methods, both are clearly strongly influenced by the expansion rate of the spiral but the newly proposed method is felt to offer a more flexible approach to the classification of motifs which accommodates gradual variation and the decorative properties of the motifs beyond a simple mathematical curve. The proposed method was tested on four archaeological case studies: Egyptian scarabs of the Middle Kingdom and First and Second Intermediate Periods, Cypriot Bronze Age painted pottery and gold-work, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty bronze vessels, and Japanese Jōmon Period pottery. Quantification and cluster analysis of spirals in these studies identified variation in motif shape that could be attributed to the production method but the chief finding was one of homogeneity across the four cultures and a limited range of forms of decorative expression which suggests an influence of natural spiral forms on decorative examples across the cultures sampled. An analysis of the possible influence of spiral optical effects arising from disturbances in the functioning of the visual cortex on decorative spirals did not yield significant results.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-882-4
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Design (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.617136
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2014 13:40
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2016 14:42
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6847

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