skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Liliana Janik

Dr Liliana Janik

Assistant Director in Research

Fellow of Girton College

Archaeology of Art


Material Culture



Liliana Janik is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office: 2.6
West Building
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3DZ
Office Phone: 01223 339295


I conduct research on prehistoric art and heritage. This research has focused on prehistoric portable objects, figurines, cave and rock art. My theoretical framework is based on a pragmatic approach to material culture (with the focus, among others, on neuroaesthetics, actor-network theory, performativity and feminist critiques of art historical approaches to visual culture). In general, I work in Eurasia, in particular central and Northern Russia and Japan concentrating on prehistoric visual vocabulary in legitimising the present and contesting the established status quo. 

I am currently engaged in field projects focusing on provenience of clay as a material used to construct the Jomon figurines in Japan, and how the Jomon visual vocabulary is used by contemporary artists. It encompasses the period between c. 13,000 - c. 300 BCE in the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon period. 

My second research project focuses on two areas of Russia: Karelia (eastern Fennoscandia) and Khakassia (Southern Siberia). Both areas are linked by investigating the creative aspects of human occupation of the landscape, in particular rock art. I am recording and analysing the role rock art and its landscape played in the lives of prehistoric fisher-gatherer-hunters, and the contemporary use of rock art by indigenous and local populations in the study regions. 

The focus of my third research project is on looking at rock art as the tangible artistic expressions of past communities and how these sites can achieve World Heritage status, raising their importance from local to national, into the global. Another part of this research concentrates on the heritage aspect of rock art, specifically on the way contemporary societies use archaeological sites and rock art locations in creating spiritual links between the physical landscape and religious expressions. 


Research Interests

I am presently involved in the following research projects:

Connecting the Landscape/Materiality of Substance: an international collaborative project initiated in 2016, led and directed by Dr Liliana Janik (University of Cambridge) and Dr Naoko Matsumoto (Okayama University, Japan) in association with the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (Norwich, UK).

The aim of the project is to investigate connections between communities and individuals through tracing the sourcing and movement of material culture in the landscape. Our focus is the network of connections based on the distribution of Jomon figurine fragments, pottery vessels and their fragments, and the clay sources used in their manufacture. We are undertaking scientific analyses of the chemical composition of ceramic fragments to determine the type of clay used. Using of an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) to analyse the chemical composition of Jomon dogu figurines and pottery vessels and their fragments we are going to determine and compare the type of clay used in their production, and the subsequent distribution of pottery and figurines away from the clay sources and centres of object production.

Understanding the social, symbolic and ritual implications of the connectedness of Jomon communities and individuals is key to appreciating the cultural richness, resilience in surviving environmental disasters, and the prevalence of the use of clay in both the mundane and spiritual aspects of Jomon peoples’ lives.  

Collaborating institutions include: Centre for Japanese Studies, University of East Anglia; Centre for Archaeology and Heritage, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Kasaoka City Museum, Sanjo City Museum, Niigata Prefectural Museum of History, Waseda University.

Dogu, the Figural Art of Jomon Japan is an international collaborative project initiated in 2018 is led and directed by Dr Liliana Janik (University of Cambridge) and Prof Ryuzaburo Takahashi (Waseda University, Japan) in association with the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (Norwich, UK).

The aim of this project is to interpret the Jomon figurines using formal and iconographic analysis.  From the way they look, to the way their breakages and deposition took place, we are investigating the social lives of these art objects and their contribution to the lives of the communities by which they were created.

Within this research project we are examining the role of colour as a neuroaesthetic factor, through the study of painting the figurines and the use of pigments in other aspects including body and clothing decoration.

The Rock Art of the White Sea is an international collaborative project initiated in 2008 is led and directed by Dr Liliana Janik (University of Cambridge) and Dr Nadezhda Lubanova (Karelian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences) has been working on 3D recording,  analysing and interpreting of the carvings and their locations since early 2000’s. The project has led to the creation of preservation by record archives of 14 sites of White Sea rock art, and has also investigated heritage aspects of rock art preservation in post-Soviet Russia.

Innovative interpretations of rock art as a multifocal/ polyphonic way of nonverbal communication has been established allowing accessing the presence of different community members. The project has established the use of the rock surface as a one-to-one ‘canvas’ carved into rock, leading to a unique understanding between the prehistoric artists, their landscape and experiences.

The results of this research project have been presented to the public in the exhibition Time and Space in Storytelling: Image and Text, Past and Present (16 Nov – Dec 2016) in The Pomeranian Library, Szczecin, Poland. Outcomes of this exhibition included artworks created by local amateur artists as well as engagement with a number of primary and secondary schools, pensioners. A lasting tangible legacy of the exhibition were the puzzles with the rock art inspired imagery used by autistic children.

Preservation, Display and Communicating Prehistoric Art is an international project led by Dr Liliana Janik (University of Cambridge) and Prof Sangmog Lee (Ulsan Petroglyphs Museum, Bangudaean-gil, South Korea). One of the themes of this project is to establish the most ancient records of deep and open seas exploitation using rock art imagery, specifically rock art as expression of prehistoric communities' artistic prowess and tangible evidence of know-how. 


  White Sea exhibition

The exhibition Land the Sun Never Sets: The Rock Art of White Sea co-curated by Dr L. Janik (University of Cambridge) and Mr J. Park (Ulsan Petroglyph Museum) was opened on 26 October 2018, by Dr L. Janik, Prof S. Lee and Dr N. Lobanova at the Ulsan Petroglyph Museum, Korea in the presence of scholars from Chile, France, Korea, Norway, Russia and UKThe exhibition organisation was greatly facilitated by the efforts of Ms H Lee and Ms M. Zoh.

The exhibition for the first time brought the rock art of the White Sea to an audience outside Russia and focused on the research led by Dr L. Janik.


Russian version Korean version

While highlighting the academic outcomes of the research, the exhibition also brought together the rubbings of the carvings created by the Russian artist Ms. S. Georgievskaya, photography by Mr I. Georgievski and digitally generated visualisations  by Ms K. Szczęsna and Mr K. Danilewski of the multi-vocal/polyphonic  stories ‘captured’ by the ancient artists (c 6000- 4000 years ago), that can be compared to the Cubist revolutionary movement in early 20th century European art. 


Artist: Ms. S. Georgievskaya


Photographer: Mr I. Georgievski 


Katarzyna Szczesna, Krzysztof Danilewski with Liliana Janik

The exhibition also presents an artistic impression of the hunt, including carvings of winter scenery with three hunters pursuing three elks, made by Ms K. Szczęsna .  The original of this scene used the rock surface as a three-dimensional canvas, a representation of the real landscape as indicated by skis, ski poles and elks prints, all carved into the rock as if showing the skiers’ physical movements through the snow as an early form of experiential art.

Katarzyna Szczesna, Krzysztof Danilewski with Liliana Janik

The research and the exhibition has been founded by: British Academy, Girton College, Isaak Newton Trust, John Templeton Foundation, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Ulsan Petroglyph Museum and the University of Cambridge.

The themes can be explored further by looking at the following articles by Dr L. Janik:

Research Supervision

My specific research interests can be summarised as investigating the cultural categorisation of prehistoric martial culture: its creation, use and meaning in the past and in the present.

Early Art of Eurasia

In the last decade, my work focuses on nonverbal communication via material culture including sculpture, rock art and the materiality of substances from which they have been created. I have been working with the rock art of non-farmers in Eurasia; Karelia (Northern Europe) and Khakassia (Southern Siberia). I have studied sculptures of Palaeolithic human populations of Russian European Plain and Jomon Japan and the way the material used to make them is related to the cultural categorisation of the landscape and the connections between the communities who inhabit it.  I am currently working in Japan on establishing the clay sources the way the clay objects moved across the landscapes.  My work in Russia focuses on the cultural categorisation of the world by prehistoric communities whose landscape underwent number of climatic alterations and what we can learn about it while responding to the Anthropocene.

Archaeological Theory

My interest in archaeological theory is part of interpreting the past where theoretical strands are strongly interwoven with archaeological data. Currently, I am focusing on the use of actor-network theory, performativity, embodiment and neuroaesthetics. I try to look at the materialisation of the ideas in the past via prehistoric art, and their role in social, cultural and spiritual lives of past communities. 

Heritage and the Visual Representation
In researching Heritage and Visual Representation my main interests are related to the ways the past influences the present, and how the present influences how we interpret the past. In particular I research the way visual vocabularies created by the prehistoric communities are used by contemporary artists and societies. I am currently working on the ‘translation’ of my own research into an exhibition in autumn 2018 at the Uslan Petroglyphs Museum, Bangudaean-gil, Ulju-gun, Korea.


Current Students:

  • Emilie Green
  • Andrea Kocsis 
  • Frederike Meijer
  • Simon Weppel
  • Noelle Woolery

Past Students:

  • Jessica Cooney
  • Margaret Comer
  • Sarah Evans
  • Rebecca Haboucha
  • Teresa Handel
  • Tukka Kaikkonen
  • Polly Keeler
  • Xuanlin Liu
  • Alex Pryor
  • Mark Sapwel
  • Yingwen Tao
  • Valerie Teh


Teaching and course coordinating:

  • ARC7: Archaeological Theory and Practice II
  • ARC12: European Prehistory
  • G2: Core Archaeology
  • G33: Heritage – Special Topics
  • G31: Management of Archaeological Heritage


  • Material Culture
  • Cognition and Culture
  • Cognition
  • Heritage
  • Rock art
  • Archaeological Theory
  • Archaeology
  • Landscape
  • Prehistoric and contemporary art

Other Publications

request button

Publications - peer reviewed

  • 2019 forthcoming. An Archaeology of Art. The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology Distinguished Monograph Series. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.
  • 2018 forthcoming. Visual narratives and the depiction of whaling in north European rock art: the case of the White Sea, in Subsistence Whaling: Past History and Contemporary Issuses. J. M. Savelle and N. Kishigami. Springer: New York. 
  • 2018 with J. Conney Williams. Community art: Communities of practice, situated learning, adults and children as creators of cave art in upper Palaeolithic. Open Archaeology 4: 217–238
  • 2017 Rock art as an independent evidence of prehistoric marine hunting: The case of harpoon and float in the rock art of Eastern Scandinavian Peninsula, Russia and Bangudae, Korea, in Whale on the Rock.  S. Lee (ed). Uslan: Uslan Petroglyph Museum, 101-109 
  • 2015 In search of the origins of shamanism, community identity and personal experiences: prehistoric rock art and the religion of northern peoples. Fennoscandia archaeologica 32: 139-150
  • 2015 with M. Sapwell. Making community: Rock art and the creative acts of accumulation, in Ritual landscapes and borders within rock art research. H. M. V. Stebergløkken, R. Berge, E. Lindgaard and H. Vangen Stuedal (eds). Oxford: Archaeopress, 47-58
  • 2014 Visual vocabulary of the landscape: environmental exploitation and Upper Palaeolithic art, in Living in the Landscape.  K. Boyle, R. Rabett and C. Hunt (eds). Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs, 137-146
  • 2014 Seeing visual narrative. New methodologies in the study of prehistoric visual   depictions. Archaeological Dialogues 21(1): 103-126
  • 2013 Joining Forces: Neuroaesthetics, Contemporary Visual Art and   Archaeological Interpretation of the Past, in Art and archaeology: collaborations, conversations, criticisms. I. A.  Russell and A. Cochrane (eds). New York: Springer-Kluwer, 35-50
  • 2013 Changing paradigms: Flux and stability in past environments, in Cambridge   Anthropology 31 (1): 85-104
  • 2012 The social context of Palaeolithic figural art: performativity, materialisation and fragmentation, in Unravelling  the Paleolithic: ten years of research at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO, University of Southampton). K, Ruebens, I.  Romanowska, R. Bynoe (eds). University of Southampton series in archaeology, 8. Oxford: Archaeopress, 131-140
  • 2011 Why does difference matter? The creation of identity among prehistoric fisher-gatherer-hunters of northern Europe, in Structured Worlds. The Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherer Thought and Action. A. Cannon (ed). Sheffield, Oakville: Equinox, 128-140
  • 2010 The development and periodisation of White Sea rock art carvings, in Acta Archaeologica, 81: 83-94
  • 2007 with C. Roughley and K. Szczęsna. Skiing on the rocks: experiential art of prehistoric fisher-gatherer-hunters from Northern Russia, in Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 17: (3) 297-310

Non peer-reviewed publications

  • 2018 From Line to Colour: Social Context and Visual Communication of Prehistoric Art. Editor with S. Kaner, Open Archaeology 4.
  • 2018 with S. Kaner. Art and the Brain: Archaeological Perspectives on Visual Communication. Open Archaeology 4: 145–151
  • 2014 'Preservation by record': The case from eastern Scandinavia, in Open-Air Rock Art Conservation and Management: State of the Art and   Future Perspectives. T. Darvil, and A. P. Batarda Fernandes, (eds). New York and London:  Routledges, 112-124
  • 2012 ‘Noble death’, images of violence in the rock art of White Sea in Visualising the Neolithic: abstraction, figuration, performance, representation in Visualising the Neolithic: abstraction, figuration, performance, representation. A. Cochrane and A. Jones (eds).  Oxford: Oxbow Books, 39-49
  • 2012 Revisiting the chronology of the rock art of the Vig river and its significance for understanding prehistoric art in the northwast Russia-Scandinavia region, in Mesolit i Neolit Vastochny Evropy: Hronologija I Kulturnoje Vzaimodejctve. Cankt-Peterburg: Rossijskaja Academija Nauk Institut Istorii Materialnoj Kultury, Musej Antropologii i Etnografii Imeni Petra Velikoro (Kunstkamera), 162-169
  • 2012 Her or him, exploring the creation myth and symbolism of gender in Upper Palaeolithic portable art of Eurasia, in L’art Pléistocène Dans le Monde / Pleistocene Art of the World / Arte Pleistoceno en el Mundo. J. Clottes (dir). Tarascon-sur-Ariège: Actes du Congrès IFRAO, Art mobilier pléistocène, 306-308
  • 2010 Awaking the symbolic calendar: animal figurines and the conceptualisation of the natural world in the Jomon of Northern Japan, in Anthropomorphic and Zoomorphic Miniature Figures in Eurasia, Africa and Meso-America Morphology, Materiality, Technology, Function and Context. D.   Georghiu and A. Cyphers. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 113-121
  • 2010 The emotional potency of masks and faces in the Early Bronze Age of Northern Europe, in Masken der Vorzeit in Europa.  I. R. Maraszek (ed). Halle: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt – Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, 139-143
  • 2009 Interpreting visual narrative: from North European rock art to shamanic drums of Northern Peoples, in Prehistoric Art – Signs, Symbols, Myth, Ideology, IFRAO – Global State of the Art. D. Seglie, M. Otte, L. Oosterbeek, and L. Remacle (eds).  Lisbon: The Proceedings of the XV International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences World Congress, vol 27. BAR International Series 2028, 79-85
  • 2008 Analogy revisited: thoughts on the use of the direct historical method beyond the Finnish rock art, in Norwegian Archaeological Review 40: 2, 137-142
  • 2007 Animism in rock art and material culture of prehistoric Siberia, in Cult in Context: Reconsidering Ritual in Archaeology. D. A. Barrowclough and C. A. T. Malone (eds). Oxford: Oxbow Books, 191-197
  • 2005 Refining social relations – tradition, complementarity and internal tension, in Mesolithic Studies. N. Milner and P. Woodman (eds). Oxford: Oxbow Books, 176-194
  • 2004 ‘Silent’ feminist contribution to archaeological thought, in The Archaeologist: Detective and Thinker. L. B. Vishniackiy, A. A. Kovalev and O. A. Scheglova (eds). St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg University Press, 198-204
  • 2004  Rock carvings of Russian Karelia: visual perception and cognition, in Antiquity 78: 299.
  • 2003 Changing paradigms: food as a metaphor for cultural identity among prehistoric fisher-gatherer-hunter communities of Northern Europe, in Identity and Culture in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. M. Parker-Pearson (ed). Oxford: British Archaeological Report, International Series 1117: 113-123
  • 2001 Wandering weed. The journey of Fagopyrum plant as an indicator of human movement in Eurasia, in Ancient Interactions: East and West in Eurasia. K. Boyle, C. Renfrew and M. Levine (eds). Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs, 299-308
  • 2001 with K. Szczęsna. Guide for visually impaired people, for the Flaming Pottery: Art and Landscape in Jomon Japan. Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Peterborough: The Royal Society for the Blind People.
  • 2000 Construction of the individual and transmission of knowledge among Early and Mid-Holocene communities of Northern Europe, in Children and Material Culture. J. Sofaer-Derevenski (ed). London: Routledge, 118-130
  • 1999 Rock art as a visual representation or how to travel to Sweden without Christopher Tilley, in Anthology of Rock Art. J.  Goldhahn (ed). Oxford: British Archaeological Report, International Series 794: 129-140
  • 1998 with H. Zawadzka. Gender politics in Polish archaeology, in The Role and Contributions of Women in the European Archaeolog. M. L. Stig-Sorensen and M. Diaz-Andreu (eds). London: Routledge, 86-103
  • 1998  The appearance of food producing societies in the South-eastern Baltic Sea Region, in The Transition to Farming in the Baltic. M. Zvelebil, L. Domańska and R. Dennell (eds). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 237-244
  • 1997 Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe, text and images as well as picture research for other periods and continents, in Atlas of the Ancient World.  C. Scarre (ed). London: Maris Multimedia, (CD-ROM publication)



  • 2018-2019 curating (forthcoming), exhibition White Sea Rock Art: Skiing, Whaling and Polyphonic Story Telling in Ulsan, Korea
  • 2016 participation in, Garden of Fragments, Ryosokuin Temple part of the Keninji temple complex, Kyoto
  • 2016 participation in, Time and Space in Storytelling: Image and Text, Past and Present, Pomeranian Library, Szczecin, Poland
  • 2006 participation in, Lines of Enquiry: thinking through drawing, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
  • 2003 participation in, The First Skiers in Norway, Ski-Museum in Morgedal, Norway
  • 2003-2004 participation in, ROCK-ART image people land knowledge, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge
  • 1998-2001 participation in, Member of the Organising Committee for the Flaming Pottery: Art and Landscape in Jomon Japan exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge



Recent invited conference and seminar presentations

  • 2018 The Unique and the Common: The Rock Art of the White Sea as the Potential Candidate for World Heritage Status,  Art in the Context of Ancient Rock The World Cultural Heritage (key note speaker),  Petrozavodsk, Russia
  • 2017  Materiality of Praxis and Substance: A Tangible Witnesses to the Russian Revolution and the Subsequent Oppression, Cambridge Heritage Seminar 18, Cambridge, UK
  • 2017 Ontologies of Praxis: Time and Participation in the Rock Art of the White Sea, Rock Art Worldings, Kalmar, Sweden
  • 2017 Whales, whaling and interconnections between community members in the rock art of the White Sea, Whale on the Rock - International Symposium,  Ulsan, Korea
  • 2017 From Prehistoric Rock Art to Cubism: Social and cultural aspects of seeing time is space, Theoretical, Archaeology Group Conference, Cardiff
  • 2016 Wonders of prehistoric art: from rock art to art history. Skiing and whaling in Prehistoric Russia (inaugural speaker for the Ancient Cultures Around the World Series), Chungnam National University, Daegeon, Korea
  • 2016 session co-organiser, The Art of Landscape and the Landscape of Art, World           Archaeology Congress, Kyoto, Japan
  • 2016 The Art of Landscape and the Landscape of Art, World Archaeology Congress, Kyoto, Japan
  • 2015 From Ego to Allocentric Sculpture: The Earliest Figures of Palaeolithic Eurasia, McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
  • 2015  Co-organiser, Art and the Brain: How Imagery Makes Us Human, McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
  • 2015 Exploring visual culture: neurophysiology, cultural preferences and storytelling over the last hundred thousand years, The Origins and Transmission of Culture; An Interdisciplinary Approach, University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • 2015 In search of art: six hundred thousand years of visual communication, presented at Oxford University Archaeological Society, Oxford
  • 2014 The present and the past: Environmental services, biodiversity, metastable ecosystem, and cultural categorisation of landscape, presented at the Research Institute for Humanities and Nature in Kyoto, Japan
  • 2014 How Contemporary the Prehistoric Art Is?, presented at Art and Archaeology Forum, the Museum of Kyoto, Japan
  • 2014 How Contemporary the Prehistoric Art Is?, presented at Knowledge Forum Osaka, Japan
  • 2014 Light and Shadow: Kinetic art of prehistoric Europe, presented at Association of Art Historian Conference, London
  • 2013 Co-organiser, Unravelling Human Origins, International Forum on Human Origins: Behaviour, Environment and Technology Conference, St John’s College, University of Cambridge
  • 2013 To Create, To See, To Communicate: a Neuroaesthetics Approach to Palaeolithic Visual Art, presented at the European Palaeolithic Conference, British Museum, London
  • 2013 Cultural Categorisation of Plants by Prehistoric Fisher-Gatherer-Hunter Communities of the Northeastern European, presented at the European Association of Archaeologists Meeting conference, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • 2013  Entanglement of the landscapes, presented at the European Association of Archaeologists Meeting conference, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2012 In Search of the Origins of Shamanism, Community Identity and Personal Experiences: Prehistoric Rock Art and the Religion of Northern Peoples,   presented at the European Association of Archaeologists Meeting conference, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2012 Organiser, The Cambridge Art and Archaeology Workshop: Art through the Millennia (The Role of Art through the Millennia?), McDonald Institute, University of    Cambridge
  • 2012 Art of Seeing, the Ritual of Storytelling, invited speaker, Where the Wild Things Are: Recent Advances in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Research, Durham University
  • 2011 Accessing the Past – Visual Interpretation of Prehistoric Rock Art, invited speaker at the Rock Art in Modern Society, Kemerovo, Russia
  • 2011 The form and the meaning: the Upper Palaeolithic human representations in sculpture and Materiality of image: the active role of social memory in shaping the myths and legends of prehistoric communities by the White Sea (eastern Scandinavia), presented at European Association of Archaeologists Meeting conference, Oslo, Norway
  • 2011 The Social Contexts of Palaeolithic Figural Art: Performativity, Materialisation and Fragmentation, presented at           Unravelling the Palaeolithic. 10 years of research at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, The                        Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton
  • 2010  The comestible through time and space – an archaeological perspective on celebrating and feasting among prehistoric fisher-gatherer-hunters and early farmers, invited speaker at the Commensality, Social Relations, and Ritual: Between Feasts and Daily Meals, Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 2010  Metastable ecosystem of the Shinano River drainage, invited speaker at the Climate Change and Long-Term Changes in the Jomon Culture conference, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, USA