On the Origins of Theater

by Mirosław Kocur (Author)
©2016 Monographs 337 Pages


This book presents an interdisciplinary investigation into the emergence of the actor and theater. Scholarship helps us to realize how we have evolved to who we are today and to understand the transformative power of performance. The author proposes to boost and advance theater studies by reviewing new research in anthropology, archaeology, paleoanthropology, classics, ethnography, physics, cognitive science, neuroscience, theater anthropology and performance studies. Referring to his fieldwork in Bali and Tibet, and to his professional experience in theater, the author explains the role of bipedality, toolmaking and trance in the evolution of the performer, examines the performativity of space and writing, and argues that ancient culture emerged from dance.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Foreword
  • Introduction: Cultural Practices on Bali
  • The Island as a Temple
  • Performative space
  • Performative time
  • Identity as performance
  • The Emergence of Visuality
  • Wayang kulit
  • Dhalang
  • Musicians
  • Puppets
  • The artists’ performances
  • Sekala and niskala
  • The emergence of visuality
  • The Emergence of the Other
  • Trance as a meeting with the Other – concentration on vision
  • The mask as a tool of possession – concentration on the external world
  • Cremation as Liberation
  • Chapter 1: On the Origin of the Performer
  • Bipedality
  • Ardi
  • The genesis of bipedality
  • Running
  • In praise of running
  • The runner’s anatomy
  • Rhythm
  • Gesticulation
  • Pointing
  • Pantomime
  • Gesture as the origin of language
  • Mirror Neurons
  • Simulation
  • Mirror neurons in humans
  • Mimesis
  • Conclusions: Human beings as performers
  • Chapter 2: Paleo-Performances
  • Tools
  • Lucy and tools
  • A technological breakthrough and a cognitive leap
  • Performances that use tools
  • The functions of tools
  • Fire
  • The taming of fire
  • Cooking and brain development
  • Burying The Dead
  • Cannibalism
  • Sima de los Huesos, Spain
  • Body Performances
  • Female cosmetic coalitions
  • Performances in the Caves
  • Upper Paleolithic (around 40,000 to 10,000 years ago)
  • The Chauvet Cave, France
  • Altered states of consciousness in the Lascaux Cave
  • Musical performances
  • Conclusions: Paleo-performances initiated transformations
  • Chapter 3: On the Origins of Theater Structures
  • Templum
  • The agricultural revolution
  • Göbekli Tepe in eastern Turkey
  • Domus
  • Performances of the living and the dead in Çatalhöyük
  • Çatalhöyük: domus as habitat
  • Çatalhöyük: domus as templum
  • Çatalhöyük: domus as necropolis
  • Théatron
  • The Temple of Dionysus
  • Chapter 4: The Theater of Writing
  • The Emergence of Writing
  • The World as Text: Mesopotamia
  • The writer’s performances
  • Writing as cipher
  • The world as a text that can be manipulated
  • Text as Performance: Egypt
  • The words of god
  • Life after death
  • The transformations of Osiris
  • The Pyramid Texts
  • The Coffin Texts
  • The Book of the Dead
  • Papyrus from the Ramesseum
  • Alphabet: Greece
  • The invention of the “phoneme”
  • The Greek alphabet
  • The emergence of the actor
  • Chapter 5: Dance as a Source of Drama
  • The Paleolithic: The Dancer in the Animal Mask
  • The sorcerer
  • Imitating animals
  • The Neolithic: The Dance of the Simulacra
  • Greece: Mimetic Dance
  • Crete
  • Hexameters
  • Κωμαστάς
  • The Cult of Dionysus
  • Performances of transformation
  • The phallic procession
  • Dance as a Source of Greek Culture
  • Conclusion: Source Performances in a Time of Globalization
  • Tibet as an Energy Field
  • Pilgrimage as liturgy
  • Liturgical prostration
  • Performances of transformation
  • The Art of Assimilation and the Art of Isolation
  • Bibliography
  • Index

← 14 | 15 →

List of Illustrations

← 16 | 17 →

List of Abbreviations

← 18 | 19 →



ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
Performance studies Performer Dance Theater Anthropology
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 337 pp., 7 coloured fig., 33 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Mirosław Kocur (Author)

Mirosław Kocur is Professor at the University of Wrocław and L. Solski Theater Academy for the Dramatic Arts. His research focuses on studying acting techniques and reconstructing the origins of performing practices.


Title: On the Origins of Theater