Art and Art History

Faculty and Staff

Art History

Dr. Elizabeth Penton

Elizabeth Penton

S&BS Building 100C

(919) 403-8470

(910) 962-7106


Ph.D. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anthropology

M.A. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anthropology

Cross-cultural Aesthetics
Upper Paleolithic Material Culture and Context

Elizabeth Penton holds a PhD in Anthropology from UNC-CH where she developed a deep interest in the analysis of painting, engraving, and sculpture traditions of the Upper Paleolithic period. Her early research entailed exploration of the spatial and archaeological context of caves in the Périgord region of France as settings for image-making. Her dissertation suggests that, in addition to the close study of subjects and techniques of image-making, the placement of specific works can tell modern scholars much about the artist's intentions. To this end, Penton studies the art and philosophies of a variety of non-Western cultures, ranging from the rock art and ethnography of Australian indigenous people to the sculpture of the Inuit of the Arctic Circle to Song Dynasty landscape painting in order to discern an objective approach to the worldview of the Ice Age artists.

Penton is interested in the ways in which image-making and symbolic thought may have had selective value in later human evolution and culture; and in visionary art of any period (such as Wilmington's own Minnie Evans). She has spent time at archaeological sites in the American southwest (Pecos River, Texas; Barrier Canyon, Utah), as well as in Greece and Egypt. In addition to teaching, Penton is currently working on scholarship involving recent discoveries at Chauvet cave in France and related sculpture in Swabian Jura sites dating to the Aurignacian period.