Monday, 17 February 2014

Holographic archaeology -- mind over matter

Chronology of Series Y Coriosolite staters (click to enlarge)

While theoretical physics can be imagined as using mind to study matter, archaeology uses matter to study mind. It is not enough to just plot objects on an archaeological site map with their descriptions, the goal is really to discover what thoughts were responsible for the nature of the original site.

Each of the three series of coins formerly all attributed to the Coriosolites exhibit very different profiles in the way that the die engravers thought about the designs. We were last discussing a subgroup (H1 and H2) where the start and end of the obverse and reverse dies were apparently accidentally staggered in a variations on a theme sequence. Later, in motifs 11, 13 and 14, we see more variations where the die engraver uses variations from a repertoire freely. There is apparently no indecision as to which presents the better designs, rather it seems to be a matter of deliberately showing variations. This way of working is typical for this series as some motifs are abandoned and then taken up again without any apparent "variation lessons". The overall impression is that each design should be original as much as possible even though its elements are often allowed to be "stock images".

Chronology of Series X Coriosolite staters
(click to enlarge)
A very different pattern is visible with Series X. Here, the die engraver is concerned with improvements to the design and there is very little uncertainty whereby a previously abandoned design is taken up again. Already, we can form a hypothesis that the most important factor for both die engravers was that most of the coin dies would be unique in their complete design. There is a mythological reflection of this importance in the Irish story of the design of Cuchulain's shield. The armorer is in a quandary as all the designs seem to have been used by different warriors but one day an otherworldly stranger arrives and draws the armorer a design that is completely new. In one long series of British Corieltauvi gold staters, there appears a great number of combinations of two small symbols on the dies. Numismatists have speculated as to whether these symbols represent different gold alloys, different die engravers, mints or workshops. Yet the alloys were not that carefully mixed and very different percentages of gold could be seen in two coins showing the same set of symbols and the number of different symbols sets were far too many to reflect even a feeble attempt at producing a very specific alloy. There was also no sign of different die engravers with unique styles. It seems that the reason for variation was variation, itself. In other words, originality was considered proper.

Chronology of Series Z Coriosolite
staters (click to enlarge)
The chart for Series Z (issuer: Viridovix of the Unelli) is surprisingly simple in comparison. Looking at it, one might imagine a very short series of rare coins, yet these are the most common types in the Jersey hoards and represents many thousands of coins. Rybot noted that their was often die and coin damage and there is likely many minor die variations where the design essentially does not change. This series was largely copied from the Coriosolite types, but there is absolutely no signs of design evolution -- the chronology could just as easily run in the opposite direction as far as design feature are concerned. Also, the designs start with a combination of early and late Coriosolite design elements and then these are reversed. It seems fairly clear that an impression of originality was intended so that a casual observer would think that the designs had been carefully constructed with improvements or perhaps even variations on a theme. Essentially, although the money was genuine, the art was a forgery and intended to deceive.

Julius Caesar provides the solution in talking about Viridovix raising an army (and of course money was required for this):
"...Sabinus arrived with the troops assigned to him in the territory of the Venelli [Unelli]. Their leader was Viridovix, the commander-in-chief of all the rebel tribes, from which he had raised a large army. Within a few days of Sabinus' arrival the Aulerci Eburovices and the Lexovii massacred their councillors because they would not sanction the policy of going to war, shut their gates and joined Viridovix; and there had also assembled from all over Gaul a host of desperadoes and bandits, to whom the prospect of fighting and plunder was more attractive than farming and regular work." (III,17)

It would seem that Series Z was the currency of this army which was most likely ignorant of the finer points of Celtic iconography and artistic tenets. We can safely assume, though, that the professional soldier would have been familiar with the iconography, and that the careful improvements of Series X and the religious/philosophical lessons of Series Y was not wasted on them. This, of course, makes sense as the druids would certainly want the warriors to believe that a heroic death would lead to an heroic new life -- even if they did not get the full druidic training (which also exempted having to fight in battles), they certainly received the basic training in their philosophy. We also know that a druid could stop a battle at any point and would have had the respect of all lower ranks. It was a different story with the higher ranks: the councillors whom the Aulerci Eburovices and Lexovii massacred were also of the druid class.

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