Friday, 6 January 2017

The Gundestrup Cauldron: a new theory

Covers for all three volumes


Most of the writing of all three volumes is complete. I only have a couple more introductions and the concluding chapters of all three volumes to write and perhaps a couple of editing runs. As the book was getting rather too large for a popular ebook, I divided it, quite naturally, into three separate stand-alone volumes. Once I have completed each volume it will be available on Amazon Kindle. I do not anticipate more than a month between each issue, and the price of each volume will be $9.99 US.

As a small preview, here is the Introduction for all three volumes:


Figure 1:  The Gundestrup Cauldron.
Photo: Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark


The Gundestrup cauldron was found in 1891 by peat cutters at the Rævemose bog near the village of Gundestrup in Himmerland, Denmark.

The vessel is silver with some gilding and glass inlays (used in the eyes of some figures). It was found dismantled and appears to have been deposited before the bog had formed at that location. It is not complete: parts of the rim are missing as is one of the decorative plates, and it shows signs of having been repaired. Its reconstruction is largely hypothetical. The silver used in its construction comes from multiple batches of recycled metal as might be expected. The tin used to solder the plates and to attach the glass eyes was very pure and consistent with British (Cornish) tin. This suggests to me that the cauldron was constructed in its final form in northern Europe and most likely in Gaul, although its original construction would have been far distant. There are five rectangular interior plates, seven shorter rectangular exterior plates (originally eight) and a circular bottom plate which appear to be a recycled phalera.

The style of the decoration is native Thracian and the subjects of the decoration combine Celtic and Greek iconography, the latter with, sometimes, Thracian variation. Many of the repoussé decorative elements are connected by a background of chased or engraved decoration in the form of the Dionysian ivy scroll and there is also some (tonal) parallel hatching.

Over the years, there have been two main theories about its origin: that it was Gaulish made or that it was a Thracian product made for Celtic patrons. My study validates the latter although for the place of its manufacture and its date, I am in complete disagreement, and claim that the evidence presented here all indicates that its original form took place at a Thracian silversmith’s workshop situated in northern Italy most likely in the early second quarter of the 3rd century BC, but certainly sometime during the 84 years between 275 and 191 BC.

Only one previous study has presented a linked narrative for the meanings of the decorative plate iconography. This is Garrett S. Olmsted, The Gundestrup cauldron: its archaeological context, the style and iconography of its portrayed motifs and their narration of a Gaulish version of Táin Bó Cúailnge, Brussels, 1979. As the Irish epic refers to events of the 1st century AD and probably did not appear in a written form much before the 8th century AD we can safely believe that the story would have undergone several changes since even the later estimates of the cauldron’s manufacture and Olmsted’s title might be misunderstood as the story being a Gaulish interpretation of an earlier Irish epic rather than the Irish epic being a later, syncretized, telling of a Gaulish myth. In not paying due attention to the role of the bull in Thracian and Greek mythology and understanding that any syncretism includes both classical and Celtic components, Olmsted places the figures of the bull in the wrong context. However, this does not mean that other elements of the Irish epic might be tracked back through other imagery on the cauldron, even though tracing Medieval written accounts of Celtic subjects backwards to their pre-Roman period origins is a very risky business. It is far safer to project early myths forward to later usages, and this is what I do in this series (although not in this volume). Even so, the method must be used with extreme care because syncretism can take unexpected twists and turns.

In my interpretation of the linked narratives, I am not just using mythological elements but am also including mythological expressions of actual historical events experienced by the patrons of the Thracian silversmiths.
In matters of style and the forms of what is depicted on the plates, I am also including regional and time-sensitive data and identifying several local models that were used by the Thracian silversmiths for reference.

This volume contains all the basic information for the dating of the original vessel; its place of manufacture, and the meaning of its imagery. Essentially, this is all that has been attempted in previous studies although such studies have also ignored many details and used only some of the imagery to support their theories. No motifs are ignored in this study, although a few are so ubiquitous as to have several interpretations and I do mention other alternatives for these. None of the motifs, however, are unconnected with the narrative themes of the whole.

The second volume: Context, places the subjects and mythological themes of the Gundestrup cauldron within the artistic, religious and historical aspects of the time and place of its manufacture and includes both Greek and Celtic elements. It also reveals what classical elements were adopted by the Celts in their La Tène art; why this was done, and how the art-style, itself, indicates important syncretistic changes in their society and religion.

The third volume: Symbols of Transformation takes the archetypal psychological factors and shows how these images evolved from the Palaeolithic to the themes expressed in the Gundestrup cauldron and beyond that right up to the present-day expressions of these same themes. Interdisciplinary, Jungian, and Postmodern, it also includes the psychology of the observer as an important factor in the way that the Gundestrup cauldron has been studied, and the importance (and unimportance) placed on its various aspects in these studies and the reasons for such.


Like the layers of an onion, each volume will present a deeper understanding, but any of them will serve as a stand-alone reference for anyone who has an interest in their contents.



John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 5 January 2017

New type: two plastic style ring-headed pins of the middle La Tène

Objects featured in this post
1: plastic style pin 11.4 cm
2: plastic style pin 4.1 cm
3: pseudo-filigree fibula

all central European, 3rd Cent. BC, pers. coll.
I purchased No 1. at a Timeline Auction last August. It had been previously offered but had failed to reach its reserve price. I knew at once that it was in the rare plastic style and was eager to add this to my single, and only British example of the style. The British Museum has only a single example of this style and it is also central European: a linchpin terminal (Bohemian workshop). from the auction photograph. I was puzzled by the "spike" issuing from the top of the pin, but when it arrived I noticed a very small indentation at the back of the head (situated in the middle of the small light green patina patch visible in the photograph below.

No. 1 back
(click to enlarge all photos)

I realized that the top had originally bent backwards to meet the head and that the indentation had been caused by the pressure of it pressing on the head.

I sent a set of photos to Vincent Megaw saying that I believed the pin to be from a Bohemian workshop. He replied saying that it might equally have come from France. He is currently finishing the text of a supplement to Paul Jacobsthal's Early Celtic Art and has access to previously unpublished examples of the plastic style. The type was new to him.





Following are other views:
1: side
1: top





1: front
1: 3/4 front





Several months later, I noticed another example of the type for sale on an Ebay auction from the U.K. It was part of a lot of three artifacts and so I bought that lot as well. Although the seller was in Britain, the items he had for sale were fairly consistent with objects I saw that were offered from Serbian sellers. The new pin (No. 2.) was much smaller and although most of the lower part of the pin was missing, it had a complete top ring. While No 1 had four curls or comma shapes each terminating in a round boss, No. 2 had only three and the back was plain. Otherwise, the design was very similar.  See below for different views of No. 2.


2: top
2: front
2: side

2: back
Another object in the Ebay lot provided a clue to the second pin's origins. I reasoned that the items in the lot most likely had all come from the same country, and while the second item in the lot was rare, the type had been well recorded with details of the locations of archaeological sites where they had been found. It was a pseudo-filigree fibula of the later 3rd cent. BC. See photos below:

3: front
3: back


3: side
The archaeological site finds (24) of the pseudo-filigree fibula are as follows: Hungary (29.17%), Slovenia (25%), Serbia (16.7%) , Slovakia (8.33%), Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Czech Republic (all 4.17%). Another clue (for what it is worth) is that the British seller had a Hungarian first name and a variation of a Slovak last name.

This broad region of central Europe was very active in the time of the plastic style and it was not just members of tribes from the style's homeland which runs from Bavaria to Bohemia who were present, but also Gauls from the Champagne area of France were there too. I once saw a complete grave set from Romania that had exact parallels with every object with items in the Morel collection (Champagne) in the British Museum.

There are no problems with the legalities of these items as although many of the source countries mentioned in the paper which discusses the pseudo-filigree type have export restrictions, Canada will only recognize claims for objects that have only a single country where they are found. With this lot, there are no records at all for the plastic style pins and the pseudo-filigree fibula is found in at least nine countries, and probably more. Some countries do not follow the letter of the law. For example, the U.S. has seized objects of types that are found in a number of modern countries deciding this on place of manufacture rather than where found. These extra-legal actions could be due to ignorance by archaeologists and/or customs officials and even perhaps even nefarious motives of politicians. Early Celtic art spans a great number of modern countries and finds can be scattered over vast distances from any known homeland of a style. In a number of cases, workshops, themselves, move locations. The first example of the plastic style in my collection (a sword pommel) is  a case in point: It was from the workshop of a probable Bohemian master who moved to Britain and succeeded in changing the evolution of British Celtic art.

There was a time that I believed I would never get an example of the plastic style for my collection. With three items now, I seem to specialize in it!


John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Change of direction

Gundestrup cauldron
1899 published engraving by J. Magnus Petersen from his 1891 pencil drawing

This will be the last of my regularly scheduled posts on this blog. Instead of one post per weekday, I will be posting only infrequently, and mainly about additions to my collection of early Celtic art (another one is on the way to me) and news about Tristan, the world's most famous coyote hybrid (coydog) whose main post now has 10,464 page views from all continents save for Antarctica, and is the number one result in quite a number of Google searches about coydogs. You can always enter your email address in the "Follow by Email" widget at the top of the left sidebar and Google will let you know when a new post appears. I will continue to reply to any comments I publish and will add any pictures of other coydogs that their owners would like to see here, and give any training tips that are requested.

Instead of writing this blog, my mornings will now be taken up with writing more books. Three are planned and there will probably be more to come. Foremost among these will be a major work on the Gundestrup cauldron. Vincent Megaw calls the cauldron "The most illustrated piece in all European prehistory" and yet there has never before been a very detailed and specific interdisciplinary study of it. My study will include art-historical and iconographic analyses that will reveal how the images are connected and the pattern of the syncretism between Greek and Celtic beliefs and mythology. It will also identify certain historical events that are symbolized in its iconography; present a much earlier dating for its manufacture and clearly show why, although it was made by Thracian silversmiths, their workshop was located in Italy. The book will appear as an ebook on Amazon, but I might publish paperback and/or hard cover editions as well. It is a project that has been far too long in the making and has already received very favorable comments in discussions I have had, such as this one from Professor Raimund Karl:
"This your theory about the Gundestrup cauldron date, origins & imagery I actually like quite a lot, and find quite convincing. I'd have to follow Vincent Megaw on this, it is definitely one of the most convincing theories about the origins & meanings of the Gundestrup cauldron I have seen so far! In fact, I may go even further and say that - without going through the other main theories again with a fine comb and comparing them to yours - it may even be the most convincing proposed so far!"
 For more than three years I have been writing this blog. This is the 775th post and as of yesterday, its total word count is 673,253. That is the equivalent of about seven Ph.D. theses or eight mystery novels on average. My writing speed is about the same as that of Stephen King. This blog has been an interesting project and I am convinced that a regular writing schedule will completely eliminate "writer's block". Over time, it has seemed to me that the posts were writing themselves and I have just been the vehicle. It is has been said that the best way to learn anything is to write a book about it. I think that the same might be true for blogging. I have learned much and I hope that you have too.

Thank you for reading and for your support, and have an inspired life.


John's Coydog Community page

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis: conclusion

Hive Mind
an emergent metaphor
ants creating a cortex in the sugar jar.
Photo and caption: Steve Jurvetson
Is "cultural heritage a neurosis? Not exactly: it is a weasel phrase that is passed as a meme. In its common applications, though, it is a neurosis and it has been used to create all manner of ills. It freezes cultural evolution into fixed moments of no change so we can say that it is as anti-evolutionary as creationism. Evolution favours change. We can see that clearly in the brain with pleasure-creating chemicals being created after new discoveries and experiences and these same chemicals being diminished by the repetition of the same event that caused them.

Freezing a point in cultural evolution has made the Athenian Acropolis look like the aftermath of a battleground. Everything that showed change has been removed and there is nothing that shows origins either. Most of history has been eradicated to isolate a single expression. It is more like a demonstration of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. We have location but no momentum.

The term, itself, has no long history: apart from some isolated occurrences in the nineteenth century, it is a twentieth century phenomenon, gaining its momentum mainly since the First World War. Its biggest dip was in the first half of the eighties with the emergence of postmodernism which had emphasized individual viewpoints and the power of subjectivity. But a meme resists inspection being a mind virus. It vanishes when thought gets applied and there are so many agencies in the world that really do not want you to think but only follow. The hive mind is the collective consciousness with, as Jung said, "its wretched "isms" that can launch wars and destruction.

Cultural heritage is said to belong to everyone, but when restrictions are placed on any personal ownership of it , it really belongs to no one apart from those who want to control. It is another expression of the Big Lie.

All of the great discoveries have been made by individuals, but the only individual in the hive is the queen and it is her job (in the case of bees) to make workers and drones. Physical, species, evolution can dispense with intelligence. take the example of the shark: a very efficient killing, eating and breeding machine. But we have evolved in a different direction since we lost our our big teeth and powerful jaws. The universe, itself, seems to be evolving and the latest thoughts in quantum physics are about the universe, itself, being conscious and evolving organic life to experience that consciousness. The evolution of microtubules in which quantum events can take place because their very small size restricts quantum decoherence gives support to this idea.

For the real discoverers within cultural studies (and this includes a great number of collectors who have populated the world's museums with the "raw material" for their thinking processes now, unfortunately. mostly isolated from view as you can only display so much), their subject is their vocation. I will leave you with what Jung says about vocation:

"Vocation, or the feeling of it, is not, however, the prerogative of great personalities; it is also appropriate to the small ones all the way down to the “midget” personalities, but as the size decreases the voice becomes more and more muffled and unconscious. It is as if the voice of the daemon within were moving further and further off, and spoke more rarely and more indistinctly. The smaller the personality, the dimmer and more unconscious it becomes, until finally it merges indistinguishably with the surrounding society, thus surrendering its own wholeness and dissolving into the wholeness of the group. In the place of the inner voice there is the voice of the group with its conventions, and vocation is replaced by collective necessities. But even in this unconscious social condition there are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices."
 C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 17: Development of Personality (p. 176). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
Tomorrow, an important announcement to all the readers of this blog.


John's Coydog Community page

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (ix)

"¿De qué mal morirá?" (What will he die from?)
Francisco Goya (1746–1828), Los Caprichos (40)
For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box D: Symptoms of Defective Decision Making

1. Incomplete survey of alternatives.

2. Incomplete survey of objectives.

3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice.

4. Failure to reappraise rejected choices.

5. Poor information search.

6. Selective information bias.

7. Failure to contingency plan.

Sometimes the treatment is worse than the complaint. Box D posits a relatively ordered situation and then reveals the manifestations of GroupThink which confound the result. In our situation, not only are the mechanics of cultural heritage misunderstood because it was engineered as newspeak, but the word culture is given the outdated nationalist meaning, and not even the also outdated ethnic meaning (as far as UNESCO is concerned, it is entirely up to the political leadership of any nation which ethnic groups are protected and which are neglected or even destroyed). We have seen how Celtic culture was defined from an outside perspective using criteria where "faulty" would be a compliment. For example, it was stated that as the British had round houses and the Gauls had rectangular houses the British were not Celts. It was not stated, however, that the traditions of these forms of houses pre-dated the La Tène Celtic cultures by thousands of years. But GroupThink creates gullibility and people bought it. So a common Celtic language was dismissed because language was said not to be a reliable gauge of culture, but house styles were! It got even stranger and there are actually people out there who believe that English was being spoken in Britain before the Romans arrived. All of these cultural definitions can be identified as 6. Selective information bias.

The subheading 2. Incomplete survey of objectives would be better placed as the first consideration in the subject of cultural heritage matters because various groups have different objectives and some of these actually have no bearing on culture except as a means to an end. For example, the United States memoranda of Understanding have the objective (to the State Department) of using cultural matters in order to gain political/economic advantages from other nations. The other party agrees to something which is not revealed to the American people and that is considered a state secret which has been held inviolate by the courts. The American people do not know if they get to set up more military bases in the partnering country or if it is a matter of Monsanto being allowed more freedoms there. Sometimes things leak out, though. A Memorandum of Understanding with Mexico, many years ago was signed so that Mexico would extend its contract with the U.S. to return stolen cars. The terms used in the formation of committees such as "stakeholders" also give an impression of a business bias to the proceedings, but business is just one part of any culture. It is one of a myriad cultural frames and these are often called cultures themselves e.g., "Hip-Hop culture". Sometimes, the business side is emphasized and called an industry. e.g., "the tourist industry". Often though, the larger picture of infrastructure is not well-considered and it has been noted that while tourist money can go to an attraction, when factors such as traffic problems are included, the benefits are not as good as they seemed. Without really knowing the specifics of 2, then 1. Incomplete survey of alternatives, could well follow cultural topics even when culture has nothing at all to do with the motive because it is just one means to the end. Thus, also, 3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice and  4. Failure to reappraise rejected choices, could well omit some very important data as not only are the various visible options not examined properly, but there are possibly all sorts of other choices that are completely unknown except to a few who are not talking at all.

Subheadings 5. Poor information search, and 6. Selective information bias, could be reversed as any information bias will lead to a poor information search. there is a great example of this with a cultural heritage GroupThink access to archives of photographs of antiquities which had been in the possession of dealers convicted of buying from tomb robbers. These archives are not accessible by auction houses and dealers and are used to force these  business to return such objects to other nations and at the same time give ammunition for their critics to blame them for a lack of "due diligence". The word "entrapment" springs to mind, but the underlying motive is to bring suspicion to trade, because trade focuses on individual possession rather than state possession.

Finally, 7. Failure to contingency plan, must also recognize what actually might then happen if the the chosen plans go through. The view, however is so myopic that contingencies, in our topic, are to things that are also invisible. That will be part of my conclusion to this series which will start tomorrow.


John's Coydog Community page

Monday, 12 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (viii)

Odd man out. Photo: Martin Addison
For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C3: Uniformity Pressures

a) Self-censorship.
b) Direct pressure.
c) Mindguards.

The solitary cormorant sits on a post with a chain connected to something. The gulls sit on posts with chains that go nowhere; the only thing connecting them is their sameness. They are interchangeable. I remember being fascinated by a solitary cormorant among all the gulls when I was small boy looking out from the top of a cliff on the south coast of England. It even appears in my novel. Perhaps it became my spirit-animal. Mind you, a cable is much stronger than a chain when it comes to reasoning.

Uniformity pressures connect cultural heritage protectionists and not only are their products generic, but the same words and phrases appear again and again. They are often weasel words, too; having no real meaning in their application, they cannot be refuted. This sort of thing comes out of, common, archaeological writing: words like status; display; trade; and ritual; terms that can be used whenever anyone cannot really analyse something. The dullness of uniformity feeds back to the culture as well: fixing it motionless in a bygone era where, as an encapsulated idea, it serves only the politician as an exemplar for often only self-serving motives. When cultures cannot change and borrow from each other, they become extinct.

a) Self-censorship.

I remember being told about a lecture given about Celtic iconography where the speaker felt obliged to use the term "European Iron Age" instead of Celtic. It was obviously a painful thing for that speaker, partially, as its generality made it meaningless. Greece, too, was part of the European Iron Age. The Celts had no Muses and the Greeks no Morrigan. The use of iron never changed the spirit: It was matter, not mind. Without self-censorship, one could go against the group and might never again be invited to lecture in its halls.

b) Direct pressure.

I ran into Euan MacKie at the 1999 Bournemouth meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists where I was scheduled to give a talk and I asked him about his, then, recent difficulties in having one of his papers rejected by the Prehistoric Society. It was done so not because there was anything wrong with its data, but because it was on Archaeoastronomy and they didn't believe in that. I told him that it might be interesting to hear them explain the roof-box at Newgrange without any reference to that subject. It's not so much that they never mentioned archaeoastronomy, its just that they only published things that were critical of its findings. A bit like the AIA never publishing a post 1970 antiquity that is in a private collection unless the paper is to warn against looting. At least, with the National Enquirer, you know (or should do) that its content is nonsense.

c) Mindguards.

These are the self-appointed members of the group who protect the group from any ideas that might be contrary to its dictates. I often criticize collectors or dealers who lump all archaeologist together based on the utterances of such people, but whenever I give examples of bad or mediocre archaeology, any of these mindguards who do mention what I have said attempt to convince their followers that I am against archaeology and/or archaeologists in general. Actually, I hold a few archaeologists in very high regard, just as I hold a few collectors and dealers in very high regard. At the top of any subject of interest there are only a few who add a lot to our understanding, but it takes a very large pool to create that few and if you limit its numbers, you will diminish understanding. You mostly find mindguards in the blogosphere. They never  provide anything original and they are interchangeable, differing only in the style of their rhetoric.


John's Coydog Community page

Friday, 9 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (vii)

Salem witch trial
For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C2: Symptoms of GroupThink

a) Collective rationalization.
b) Stereotypes of outgroups.

The classic example of GroupThink is the Salem witch trials and "witch hunt" has become a common phrase in describing examples of collective rationalization combined with the stereotyping of outgroups. You can find many associations between the Salem witch trials and GroupThink on the web, a good example being The Salem Witch Trials GroupThink at its worst which is on a blog run by three social psychologists.

We cannot say that such things are over, and today, ISIS is doing the same thing within a different cultural setting. In fact, condemnations of the actions of ISIS restricted to the destruction of cultural monuments and the alleged income from selling antiquities and coins is being used to fuel another GroupThink movement populated mainly by archaeologists but including supporters from other professions which uses "cultural heritage" as its theme by which to condemn collectors, metal detectorists and dealers. Of course, the latter group are not executing anyone and their methods include misinformation and sweeping generalities; cyber-bullying through blogs and social media like Twitter and Facebook; complaining about their perceived enemies to their employers and the professional/cultural organizations to which they belong and so on. Some of their victims try to do the same thing back to them, but most come to realize that ignoring them completely is the best strategy. As the internet saying goes: "Do not feed the trolls".

When I was doing voluntary work in cult awareness in the early seventies, a common practice in Scientology was to steal books and documents criticizing Scientology from public and university libraries; to gather any useful information on politicians that could be used to threaten them should they condemn Scientology. The most publicized case concerning the harassment of anyone criticizing Scientology was what was done to Paulette Cooper.

Collective rationalization and stereotyping outgroups forms a feedback loop which pushes the group to ever-increasing escalation in their methods. While we think that Salem was totally evil, to the minds of those people who were executing suspected witches, killing was justified because of the greater evil they saw as the devil. This justification is very common in GroupThink to this day, as it is in a lot of violent criminal behavior. Sometimes, perpetrators of such behavior even become paranoid and imagine they are being hunted down.

Another justification is frequently seen among more "moderate" critics of collectors, detectorists, and dealers where they do not engage in crazy behavior themselves, but provide non-critical links on their blogs and web sites to those who do engage in such. One blogger I know of  removes excerpts from hate blogs when they are too extreme and replaces such with another excerpt which is less obviously hate-mongering. After a while, though, this selective quotation becomes obvious to most.

At its most innocuous level, the public, itself, is sometimes stereotyped by archaeologists:

"Most individuals in the general public find it extremely difficult to develop their ideas about an alternative past in relation to the data from the past. They are excited by Von Daniken and films such as One Million Years B.C. and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and they develop their personal views about what the past must have been like, but they are kept at a distance from archaeological artifacts by glass cases, systems analyses and the jargon of social theory. When they do manage to gain some access to an immediately experienced past, they are often directly confronted by the archaeological establishment, or else their views are studiously ignored."
Ian Hodder, Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p.163.
It is ironic indeed, that later, Harrison Ford, the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other "Indiana Jones" movies was elected to the board of the Archaeological Institute of America, one of the two main American archaeological associations which, in their journals, forbid the publication of any ancient object that violates this regulation:

"Refuse to participate in the trade in undocumented antiquities and refrain from activities that give sanction, directly or indirectly, to that trade, and to the valuation of such artifacts through authentication, acquisition, publication, or exhibition. Undocumented antiquities are those that are not documented as belonging to a public or private collection before December 30, 1970, when the AIA Council endorsed the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property"

unless that object is being used to condemn the practice of archaeological looting. So much for objective artifact classification in those journals. You will never see, for example, a classificatory paper on British Celtic coins or antiquities in their publications because a vast number of such objects have been found and recorded by metal detectorists and this activity started in the early seventies. Of course, the India Jones movie plots are all set prior to 1970 so they can be sanctioned.

Hodder's quote separates knowing archaeologists from a public who believes that aliens from outer space built the pyramids and so forth. In actual fact, a large segment of the public, knows quite a lot about archaeological sites and antiquities and laughs at the lack of understanding they often see in archaeological journals and reports on archaeological sites in the press. The idea that a young person armed only with a Ph.D is automatically an expert and that a private collector after decades of experience resulting in a standard work on the subject is a "pseudoarchaeologist" who can be lumped with von Däniken is very bizarre. If you read the linked Wikipedia article on pseudoarchaeology and have been paying attention to this blog series and its linked papers, you will see that much of what is blamed on so-called "pseudoarchaeology" is practiced by academic and professional archaeology, itself. For example, the religious nature of archaeological practices as with Raimund Karl's Every Sherd is Sacred, and most certainly archaeology's political influences. Fortunately, Cornelius Holtorf is quoted at the end to inject a little sanity.

I do have a book planned on the explanation of the freakier aspects of fringe archaeology in modern times and it will include an analysis of Barry Fell's strange theories and why a Harvard professor of invertebrate zoology would suddenly part company with scientific practices. All I can say about it now is that that many who believe that the remedy is more education are actually the main cause of it.

I will continue on Monday. Have a cult-free weekend.


John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (vi)


For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C: Symptoms of GroupThink

C2. Closed Mindedness.

Unlike most governmental, military, or business occurrences of GroupThink, archaeology has some extra dimensions. As a discipline, it is far more theory-laden than other disciplines, even theoretical physics, because it not only follows various general philosophies but adds a number of its own. Of all of its homegrown theories, context is the most idiosyncratic. Instead of using context in its normal, English language, definition, which would be a very sensible thing to do, it picks at its central point, the archaeological site. What is found within the archaeological site are designated as objects, but the site itself is only so designated when a number of related sites are included in any study. Then, it is commonplace for archaeologist to make the claim that an object without the association of the other objects at an archaeological site loses a great deal of its information. However, when the focus is the archaeological site, that information is primarily about the site and not so  much about the cultural content of any object within it.

This is easily demonstrable with all of the cultural property laws which define ownership according to where an object was excavated. Thus a Greek pot in the U.S. that was known to have been discovered in Italy but was made in Athens, if "repatriated", goes back to Italy. Ask yourself where Greek culture is best expressed: Greece or Italy? If the same pot was discovered for sale in the U.S. under suspicious circumstances and the find spot was unknown then it could be repatriated to Greece. The term "cultural property" is illiterate. It is really "national property".

Furthermore "culture" is anchored in time and is recognized as its objects being the property of the people currently occupying that modern country. The Elgin Marbles were allowed to leave Athens under the authority of the Ottoman Empire which had occupied Athens between 1458 and 1830 when the Ottomans relinquished their control of the country. Elgin took possession of the marbles in 1801. Yet, quite often, while saying that cultural objects are the "cultural heritage" of the people in the modern nation where the find spots are now located the people are not free to own them. As they belong to "everybody" the state looks after them for the people. In any practical sense, they are state-owned and many of them are not on display for the people to see, and if they want to put a picture of one of them on a T-shirt, its copyright is owned by the State and the State charges its people to depict their own property. The loophole is that a photograph of an object is the copyright of the photographer and only work-for --hire photographers might be allowed to photograph such objects in some jurisdictions. If a photograph is taken by an independent photographer it can then become that photographer's intellectual property (other than in Egypt, apparently). Data, however, is internationally uncopyrightable. So the description of an object does not belong to the author, but the visual image does belong to the photographer unless he is paid by someone else to create the photograph. Many of these laws are in a state of flux, of course. Images of two dimensional objects of a certain age are considered to be public domain, but most often sculpture are not included because they can be photographed "artistically:" from different angles. Bas-reliefs and coins, etc. are a grey area as they can only be properly photographed from the front, just like a painting. I also remember the Museum of London prohibiting people from drawing any of their exhibits. Like Egypt, the ownership of an image of a work of art is now the property of its owner.

The cultural content of any object also slips in importance  to its material content contexts:
"Right from the beginning our position was clear: not until much more was known about the Gundestrup cauldron itself and its material aspects, so to say, would it be sensible to consider such intricate points as age, origin(s) and cultural setting(s) of this unique artefact."
Svend Nielsen, in the introduction to: The Gundestrup Cauldron: New Scientific and Technical Investigations, (various authors), Acta Archaeologica vol. 76, 2005, pp. 1–58
Yet many of these considerations are about the environment of the find and materials that might well be much more recent than the cauldron in its original form by way of being additions, repairs, replacement parts etc. A good example being the beeswax backing of the plates. The real cultural content of the cauldron being both the art and the iconography. Its geographical origins as an object, are considered to be Thracian as the workmanship is certainly in the native Thracian style. It is still not understood by archaeology in general that artists followed markets rather than that their clients went to visit them, or obtained the object through "trade". In some cases, this is well-known. for example a great number of eastern Greek artisans moved to Etruscan Italy (which was already quite a cosmopolitan centre) to escape from the Persian domination of Asia Minor. Much of the genesis of early Celtic art owes much to the styles of such people that they brought with them. In Britain, trade is dismissed by Martyn Jope for the arrival of Early Celtic art there because of the lack of continental examplars and he says that it arrived in the hands and minds of artists trained in continental workshops. The Witham shield, for example contains southern Italian workmanship. There are a number of objects of Etruscan and/or Italian origin that have been found in bogs in Denmark, including the same bog where the cauldron was found. In my forthcoming book on the subject I will not only give very strong evidence for its manufacture in northern Italy by immigrant Thracian craftsmen, but will also fully interpret the iconography as a unified theme with Dionysian and Celtic syncretism expressed in Thracian styles using many Italian models. I will also tie this into the recorded history of ancient Italy and identify the various cultural groups involved in events that are symbolized on the cauldron, a record of such objects leaving Italy, and the date of the cauldron estimated to within about twenty years in the first half of the third century BC, but proven to be within a range of about 90 years. None of this could be determined by using the scientific methods deemed most important in the above paper and the correct results could not even follow from such evidence. Vincent Megaw thought my ideas were "better than most" and Raimund Karl, after I discussed them in depth with him, said:
"This your theory about the Gundestrup cauldron date, origins & imagery I actually like quite a lot, and find quite convincing. I'd have to follow Vincent Megaw on this, it is definitely one of the most convincing theories about the origins & meanings of the Gundestrup cauldron I have seen so far! In fact, I may go even further and say that - without going through the other main theories again with a fine comb and comparing them to yours - it may even be the most convincing proposed so far!" (Celtic-L)
But don't worry, Ray and I still have lots of disagreements about related matters so these  topics are still very viable. As he says: "ends are usually "dead ends".

While some of the evidence is fairly obscure, a lot of it will seem very obvious to anyone reading it and perhaps they will wonder why none of it was even considered before. I can answer that quite easily: in most archaeological studies materialism is favored far higher than any other factors. Trade is preferred over migrating artisans because the material proofs of the latter are mostly unobtainable: objects can be seen to have moved more easily than people. Art-historical matters are treated with suspicion by many archaeologist as "subjective"and were largely abandoned before art-historical methods became far more objective and mathematically provable (through evolutionary cladistics utilizing overlapping  features of many design elements), and of course, mythology is still widely believed, by archaeology to be "primitive science" instead of  human psychology-based metaphor. We also have to consider that many archaeologists come to that subject because of their materialistic psychology, the same factor that separates Newtonian, classical, physics from quantum physics (where many even doubt the existence of the material in the extreme microcosm).

Theories, academic house-styles, and cliques often define sub-groups within archaeology, but how they manage to remain cohesive will be introduced in tomorrow's post which will be on C2a) Collective rationalization, and C2b) Stereotypes of outgroups in the chart.


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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (v)


For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C: Symptoms of GroupThink

C1. Overestimation of Group.
a) illusion of invulnerability
b) belief in morality

These two subsections have to be dealt with together with any suzerainty assumed by archaeology over "cultural heritage" but first we have to backtrack a little and remember that culture is an ever-changing thing and that cultures interact with one another and that the information passes in both directions. Moreover, these interactions are initiated by individuals for a wide variety of personal reasons. A couple of examples are when someone in one group arranges a marriage for one of their sons or daughters with someone in another group. This can produce a greater state of allegiance between the two families for economic reasons and/or for protection. When a number of such associations are made between families either of the cultures might decide to cement formal agreements between the cultures. Another example is when two groups with differing religious beliefs are in a position of sharing other relationships (familial, social, economic). A natural outcome is the realization of metaphors as the expression of unique religious histories and the societies gradually become blended, at first through the syncretistic adoption of elements of each religion, and then a greater ability to abstract and symbolize. Ecumenical movements are not just a modern phenomenon but go back in time at least as far as the Neolithic. Euan MacKie has seen stone alignments at Maes Howe in the Orkneys that reflect the same festival times as much later Celtic festivals. A segment of archaeology believes that Neolithic stone alignments had a purely scientific purpose and the paper speaks much of this including:
"The origin of the idea of “prehistoric science” almost certainly lies in Gerald Hawkins’ Stonehenge Decoded (1965) which, perhaps unwittingly, fostered the idea that this famous site was used as a “Stone Age computer” to keep the calendar in order and to predict eclipses. The author also has to take some of the blame; the title of his book—Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain (MacKie 1977) obviously perpetuated the myth and was ill chosen. By contrast, Colin Renfrew’s Before Civilisation (1973) had a chapter in which he summarized Alexander Thom’s basic discoveries but set them firmly within the real world of simple societies as traces of the religious activities of a professional priesthood of the kind that could be expected to emerge in the chiefdom type of social organization. If everyone the author included had paid more attention to Renfrew’s scenario, the mutual incomprehension that now exists between orthodox British archaeology and archaeoastronomy might not now be as basic as it is."
Rather than leaving this situation as an odd phenomenon where one view has been adopted and the other neglected by some sort of happenstance, we really should examine it in its psychological context. We often see projected upon the past the mindset of  an archaeological GroupThink. The reason that the religious aspect was neglected was that the assumption of archaeology being scientific was projected on to the material itself. Too often in archaeology, religious matters are gathered together under the term "ritual" and no further analysis is given. We see also, a very large percentage of archaeologists (and scientists) who profess to be atheists rather than agnostics (as might be more expected from people who believe in the importance of proofs). Atheism is a belief in itself and might be expressed as the "religion of materialism". Science took this wrong turn in the seventeenth century and in physics the universe started to consist of everything but Man. In the twentieth century, Einstein was the first physicist who brought Man back into a major theory in the role as "observer" but could not bring himself to go as far as quantum physics where Man becomes an integral part of the Universe. In the Copenhagen interpretation, the observer actually changes reality in the collapse of the wave function, but there is another segment which believes in the contrary many worlds theory where one thing changes or does not change in this universe, but the opposite happens as well and creates a new universe. In other words when we open the box and see Schrödinger's cat is dead, another universe then exists where the cat is alive. The reason for the other theory, I believe, is that some people cannot part with materialism enough to envision a state where a cat is both alive and dead at the same time. Remember it is not a matter of us not knowing whether the cat is alive or dead before we open the box, it is that either event is not realized until we observe it and that includes a situation whereby we open the box and another instrument in the box has recorded that the cat actually died some time before we opened the box. This time was part of the potential, but it did not become a reality before the box was opened. Before we opened the box, the cat was both alive and dead as a potential. Of course, this is a symbolic event as the cat is very much larger than an electron or photon and thus decoherence  will occur and we will not get any quantum phenomenon.

The funny thing is that an idea might not contain any mass, energy or space, or if it does, the amounts might be minuscule enough to at least severely limit decoherence (We don't know what an idea is, we can only see it registering in the brain and an idea is as much part of the physical brain as a T.V. script is part of the physical television. No matter how carefully we take apart the television set, we will never find the script).

In order to maintain and proliferate an idea we have to place great importance on faith and this becomes much easier to do when we create a group to do it. The group develops a greater sense of invulnerability (there is safety in numbers), and it enforces its belief in the creation of fixed morals which, when formalized and studied, become ethics. So strong is the resulting coherence that its members project this to everyone outside of the group. This, in turn, often cannot form itself into a version of the many worlds theory because we are all stuck in a single universe and it cannot take part in a quantum effect because of decoherence (many different ideas are also subject to decoherence in their own part of the universe). The solution that nature takes normally is to embrace such decoherence in the form of syncretism which severely reduces its illusions of materiality.

To maintain the group it is not only necessary to overestimate the group (size and importance), in order to express invulnerability, and to cement the group together through the creation of morals, it is also necessary to isolate the group from external forces which would bring about decoherence.

I will deal with the methods of this attempt to isolate tomorrow, but you can already see why "cultural heritage" is greatly concerned with fixing cultures and preventing their natural evolution through the psychological projection of GroupThink onto what is being observed. Within this isolation, nothing is allowed to change, even when such actions actually destroy cultures as cultures can only persist and avoid entropy by the reception of new ideas. The same is true in the evolution of ideas. I will leave you for now with a quote in preparation for tomorrow's post:
"The goal of these predators is to close your mind to new ideas. You can see this in public discussions, when people argue on different sides of a controversial issue. In such discussions the focus of the participants is never on learning something new, but on protecting their personal bias. Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics, has described this phenomenon. “A new scientific truth,” he wrote, “does normally not prevail in the way that its opponents become convinced and declare that they have learned something, but rather because its opponents eventually die out, and the following generation is familiar with the truth from the outset.”
Lothar Schäfer, Infinite Potential: What Quantum Physics Reveals About How We Should Live (Kindle Locations 256-261). Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. Kindle Edition.



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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 19: GroupThink analysis and examples (iv)

For the GroupThink chart, see section (i) in 31st August post

Box C: Symptoms of GroupThink

C1. Overestimation of Group.

As this series focuses on archaeology's role in cultural heritage matters I thought it would be a good idea to see some numbers on the archaeology profession within the general field of cultural occupations. Being in Canada and thus more familiar and influenced with aspects of culture here, I decided to pick Canadian statistics. I wanted to find out how many archaeologists there here and how that profession stacked up in comparison with other cultural professions in the country. A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada (Based on the 2011 National Household Survey and the Labour Force Survey) seemed a good place to start. Searching the page, though, there was no mention of archaeology or archaeologists at all. The closest I got was "Cultural occupations related to libraries, archives, and heritage." and under that heading were two categories:
A341 Library, archive, museum, and art gallery managers.
F112 Technical occupations related to museums and art galleries
I love irony and it dawned on me that by deciding to search in that document I had overestimated the importance of archaeology in cultural matters. After a little more searching I found out that archaeology is not considered a cultural profession at all and is listed under social sciences. Archaeology's overestimation of its role in cultural heritage seemed to be working on me!

I finally found archaeology's slot in a Canadian Government document: "Other Professional Occupations in Social Science, n.e.c." with the sub-heading: Unit "Group 4169. Skill Type: Occupations in Social Science, Education, Government Service and Religion.". Under "Examples of Occupational Titles" (alphabetically listed) were:

anthropologist
archaeologist
criminologist
geographer
gerontologist
historian
linguist
political scientist
psychometrician
psychometrist
sociologist
The situation did not look for anyone considering a career in archaeology. In the general category where the above professions are included, the report stated:
"Most university programs leading to this occupation attract many more candidates than the labour market can absorb. An illustration of this fact is that the employment situation for graduates of these programs, except for criminology, is much worse than for the average graduate, according to the provincial government Relance survey data: a lower placement rate, much higher unemployment rate, much lower salary, very small proportion of graduates working in a field related to their studies, twice as many graduates who continue their studies than graduates with other degrees, etc. In addition, only a small minority of graduates of these programs are in this occupation. The universities train an average of 1800 graduates of bachelor's and master's degrees every year, while it is estimated that the total annual needs in this occupation are less than 50 (see Statistics). Even if the jobs in other occupations related to this training are added, which include teaching jobs, in 2011 barely 20% of graduates with bachelor's degrees, and about three quarters of those with a master's degree considered their job in 2013 to be related to their field of study. Nevertheless, the employment situation for people with a master's degree in this field is better than for those with a bachelor's degree, but they are still clearly worse off than the average graduate with a master's degree. It is unlikely that the poor labour market outlook for graduates in these programs will improve over the next few years."

With 1800 graduates and the need for 50 jobs, less than 3% of students (about 50 of them) graduating in any year were going to find the sort of job they were looking for. They would mainly have to settle for something "related".

There were no statistics for archaeology and criminology was the only category where there was some specificity, probably because it said, earlier: "Actually, job prospects for criminologists are good and job prospects for other specializations have not been determined." Going into the details, things did not look so rosy:
"The situation for graduates of criminology programs is similar to that of all university graduates in general. However, between 2001 and 2011, barely 10% of bachelor's and master's graduates in criminology worked as criminologists a year and a half after graduation. They worked in a variety of occupations, mainly in the social sciences. More than half of them held positions as community and social service workers (see 4212) or probation or parole officers (see 4155). Therefore, it seems that to hold a position in this occupation, candidates must first acquire experience in positions related to criminology."
Perhaps this explains the recent academic interest in "Cultural Heritage Crimes" and its resulting university courses. So in these matters, the overestimation of the group archaeology in "cultural heritage" is a veritable necessity for personal employment motives. Underestimating its importance would seem to be practically impossible.


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