Friday, 28 November 2014

Spirit of Samhain

About a month late, but this Irish film, Spirit of Samhain is well worth sharing. It is bilingual with sub-titles. Have a great weekend.

Spiorad na Samhna -- Origins of Halloween from Dessie Baker on Vimeo.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Vanity press, academic style

Hans Memling ca. 1433-1494
Pay for publishing vanity presses have been around for a long time, but when I saw that some journals had started charging their authors several hundred dollars just to see their paper published, I started to wonder about the quality of their publications. Perhaps a better paper on some subject might have written by someone who did not want to pay any such fees. Now it seems that some published papers are not even read and the "peer-review process" consists, at the most, of a machine reading to see if the paper just looks like a real paper in its format.

Nearly twenty years ago, a machine generated academic paper was published as a hoax. You can read all about it here, and find an unending supply of other such fantasy papers here.

Fortunately for the public, a safeguard is in place so that no one will unwittingly find such faked papers. While the title will be advertised, there will be a fee (usually around $40) to actually read it. Of course, being slightly curious about something rarely justifies spending $40 so no great harm is done to the public at all.

News writers discovered long ago that all that the public really requires is something like "experts say that..." without having to give any explanation for their opinion. Of course, no income is generated by this process, and "publish or perish" still exists so vanity publishers need not worry too much.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Now I remember why I don't like December: it's still November and I'm already drowning in paperwork. Every December I have to fill out a couple of annual reports but with my retirement this year and its unexpected complications I have a stack of forms and requests for information on my desk that is much higher than other Decembers.

It's not just the forms that bothers me although I really dislike filling out any forms, it's that I have to get copies of various things, do photocopying, arrange for printing (I have not even owned a printer for years), and worse of all, I will undoubtedly have to explain (in person as well as by letter) why everything is complicated this year and what the loans from the Provincial government are all about.

Despite being distracted by all of this, there has been a little relief in the confusion: two days ago, a new form arrived for me to fill out. It was not anything difficult, but there was no reply envelope enclosed and I thought I would have to go downtown to buy envelopes and stamps (I try to do most things on line, by phone or email). Then yesterday, I came home from rushing about to find a follow-up letter saying I could fill out an online report instead. One regular form is asking for less information than usual. Is this streamlining or did someone forget something? The last time that happened it was because of the latter and I barely made the deadline because of the oversight. I suppose I'll have to phone them (and navigate through the button-pushing of their automated message system before being put on hold listening to annoyingly chirpy Christmas music for half an hour).

Christmas! Right, I'm behind in my Christmas planning/shopping too. I really don't like December.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Pedigreed "Abrincatui" stater on Triton sale

A very rare type Xn (formerly Abrincatui) Armorican billon stater is listed in the January, 2015 Triton Auction in New York.
Series Xn coins have a wild set of die links and this very early obverse is paired with a reverse die by another hand and probably about a year later. It is most likely the finest example of its type known.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Good news from the scriptorium

The processing of my retirement pension forms continues slowly. Apparently, all the information about people my age has yet to be computerized and thus has to be handled the old way, so of course the vellum has to be prepared and the quill pens have to be kept sharp. My daughter tells me that they have discovered that I was eligible for a benefit that expired when I became sixty-five, but it will be paid to me retroactively in a lump sum. I don't yet know if this will mean thousands of extra dollars or just enough for lunch.

Meanwhile (the faster) Provincial government is loaning me enough to keep me going while the Federal government monks continue to labour away in the old wing of the scriptorium. So it's good news all round.

Friday, 21 November 2014


CFL bulb
photo: PiccoloNamek
Fluorescent lighting. It makes you look and feel your worst; it can flicker and make annoying noises, and if that is not enough, it can add mercury to landfill sites. But using it will save a small amount on your electrical bill. Most importantly, you can feel good about conserving energy, so you won't have to feel bad about your half-empty deep-freeze, your electrical tools, sound system, buying a new car every two years and keeping up with fashions.

Of course, there is information out there that says things are not that bad. For example, there is only about four milligrams of mercury in a CFL bulb. There are a million people in my city and if everyone used up just two bulbs each year that would mean that only four kilos of mercury will enter the landfill sites each year. What harm could four kilos of mercury do, or even forty over ten years?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alternative realities

Which direction to take?
Photo: Fredlyfish4
Continuing with ideas that connect to such things as the Zeitgeist movement and the Venus project, it occurs to me that such alternative realities are like destinations written on a sign post at a junction of hiking trails. We might have set out for a particular destination and then just followed the signposts at each junction or we might have had no destination in mind at the start but then followed a trail toward something that seems interesting. We might also start with the first and then change our minds and follow the second. If we see a destination that looks interesting but is 20km away, we might wonder if the hike will be worth such a long walk. The terrain will also play an important role. A trail might be steeper than we thought, or it might enter a waterlogged section, then the decision whether to continue or not will be based. also, on how far we have already come.

More serious thought is given to the paths we take in life and most people have the idea that their future should be planned out far more carefully than a day's hike. Still, though, we encounter interesting signposts along the path. One person might get a good job at a company and decide to stay with it because of the security it gives, while someone else will use it as a stepping stone and take a number of jobs over their life. Most often, the latter person does much better. It has happened that the first sort of person finds that their company downsizes or even goes bankrupt late in their career. This is usually a disaster for them: they don't look terribly ambitious to a potential new employer, rather they look stuck in their ways. Why would an employer keep offering raises to a person unlikely to quit for any reason? The person that can flit from one company to another is always looking for reasons for change and for new opportunities, but the other person is hoping that nothing changes and probably will not pick up on bad indicators for their company.

Having a utopia as a goal is even more dramatic than a mere career: it involves a vast number of people; it will take much longer (likely longer than a single life), and it will cost an almost unimaginable amount of money. Changing one's direction after twenty years or so of following a utopian idea is not just difficult for one's future but it will most likely result in "withdrawal symptoms" from leaving a way of life. This is the fate of many people who leave cults.

Evolution favors adaptability through frequent small changes over time in the environment and in the organism. Massive extinctions are the usually the result of a cataclysmic change in the environment affecting organisms who have no history of that sort of change. If it had happened before, the organism would have been killed. There can be no adjustments made for a novel event; no epigenetic switches created to be triggered by such an event.

It strikes me that if your ultimate goal is to build cities with modular residences and offices and sophisticated transportation and communication systems to link everything together, then perhaps first try selling a few of these modules that can be set up within any current system. Perhaps people will like them, perhaps they will not. If the modular city presents few attractive places for people to congregate, and going for an evening walk offers no interesting destinations; if life becomes an endless stream of functionality with little joy, then your city will be a failure. Then what are you going to do?

Tomorrow, panaceas for urges to advance. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Ask anyone who was the most notable painter of the Italian Renaissance and the chances are the reply will be "Leonardo da Vinci". Why would this be? Is it because of Mona Lisa's smile or because of the inventions and anatomical studies in his notebooks? I think mainly the latter, but that's just a personal opinion. As painters go, his production was minimal. His methods were sometimes more than just questionable and his attempted mural of the Battle of Anghiari was a complete disaster. Inventive? Absolutely!
Technical ability? Well... . On the mythos-logos scale he was further toward mythos than his contemporary artists.

I think that much of Leonardo's current popularity is due to his presentation of various mechanical inventions because we live in an age of technology and when we see such inventions in the past, it plays into some neo-Darwinist ideas about us being "on the right track". Science, of course, is also the pampered pet of the modernist who does not want to hear too much about the dreams, intuition and hunches of the really great scientists who can be just as eccentric as many artists. The modernist has his nose pressed firmly against the window-pane of science and logos.

My favorite Renaissance painter is Raphael, who not only produced an enormous amount of work during his short life, but who was also a great technician. He was also appointed as the Inspector of Antiquities in Rome, so his interests also leaned toward archaeology. I have noticed that a number of Raphael paintings have been rediscovered and after removing centuries of grime and bad varnishing, they seem to be in very good condition. Although I did not know about his appointment when I first decided that he was my favorite, his interests in the past and in architecture certainly added to my appreciation of him.

Our views of the past are considerably influenced by our attitudes in the present, and our interests are shaped by our personality types. The extravert is drawn toward archaeology because it mostly deals in material remains and being a materialist, that is the sort of evidence that is most trusted. Many archaeologists believe in the existence of an archaeological record, because they cannot find value in viewpoints too different from their materialistic views of existence. Introverts feel more comfortable with the idea of archaeological evidence because they are more likely to understand the values of different viewpoints. Viewpoints are of the psyche, and the extravert knows very little about that subject, so the idea of an archaeological record is not just comfortable but is projected because it fits in with their ideas about reality. Those archaeologists who are introverts are more likely to be critical of modernism and some have rebelled against the views of the modernists and have taken a postmodern viewpoint.

I became a postmodernist after reclassifying Coriosolite coins (staters). It did not take me long to discover that there was something seriously wrong with classification, itself. Reading Foucault's The Order of Things: an archaeology of the human sciences enabled me to understand my misgivings, but I was already heading in that direction since I read David Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order. In his introduction, Bohm says:
"I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete, but which is in an unending process of movement and unfoldment."
One hears some archaeologists talk about how when an object is apart from its archaeological context, it loses 90% of its information. This idea is not science, it is scientism. No one can determine a percentage of something unless the whole is already understood, and what constitutes knowledge is dependent on viewpoints too. It also reveals that their idea of what constitutes context is severely limited. Such people have accused me of being interested only in objects as they obviously have never read Bohm, either, and believe that an object holds a discrete position in reality rather than just being anything that we can name. An archaeological site is as much an object as a coin.

Modernist ideas of utopia are really just for modernists. Like their city Brasilia, it's not really for everyone. But they do like to project.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

One size does not fit all

Any individual, society or belief occupies a point on the above scale at any time. That point is never static but the speed of its motion is faster toward the centre. Think of it like a metronome or like trying to balance the end of a pole on one finger: providing minor adjustments are continuously made then a person or society is "well balanced". Within a society, individuals will be positioned in various places on the scale and together they will form a bell-curve. I tried to represent this idea in the diagram by using the tonal gradation. If minor adjustments are not continuously made, however, the drift will continue in the same direction until there is a wild swing, at some point, in the opposite direction.

If an individual is positioned too far toward the mythos end then the society will view them as a psychopath who has little grounding in reality. In the extreme, such people will have no contact with reality at all and will not be able to function in the society. If they are somewhere between the mythos end and the centre, most people will see them as "creatively eccentric":  the "crazy artist", "outsider" or "absent-minded professor" etc. If they are positioned too far toward the logos end, most people will see them as the sociopath or dictator, but if somewhere between the logos end and the centre, they could be a lawmaker or a technologist of some sort ― anything that would require a greater sense of order.

How accurately society perceives people on the edges depends on the position of the society, itself. In a shamanistic society, a person might be seen as having been given a spiritual gift while in an urban society, that same person might be seen as "crazy". each society will have its own way of dealing with such people.

As we cannot see far into the future, we can only accurately predict things fairly close to us in time. So if a society or some aspect of it is too far toward either mythos or logos, its inevitable swing toward its opposite state will come as a surprise: a "black swan event".

If the state of a society is way too far toward one end, its swing to its opposite might never happen because the society might not survive to see it.

Think about these things for a while and ponder the word "utopia", and I will elaborate with examples tomorrow.

Monday, 17 November 2014


"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it Intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why".

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."

Albert Einstein

It's always gratifying to discover that Albert Einstein is on your side, but it's not too remarkable if the subject is intuition and you are an Introverted Intuitive type. Einstein was an INTP and I'm an INFJ. However, once you go past the Introverted iNtuitive stages of problem-solving, the two types have little in common. Also, these are somewhat approximate, or perhaps average, traits that are recorded in these definitions. There are 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs typology and billions of separate personalities in the world. For example, the linked INFJ definition opines: "No other personality type is better suited to create a movement to right a wrong, no matter how big or small".

I can't really imagine myself creating a movement to right some wrong although I have supported (but not joined) such movements in the past. My intuition tells me that while movements can do great things, whenever they get too large there is a tendency for them to divide into factions and then spend more time arguing or even fighting over things than actually doing anything.

When the movement is of a type where the individual can have little influence, my interest wanes. When Wayne Sayles invited me to handle the public side of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, I gave it serious thought before I agreed, but then set about things with enthusiasm. After helping to get overwhelming public support against U.S. import restrictions on ancient coins, I discovered that the public opinion process was just a sham and was categorically ignored by the U.S. government. Even worse, I realized that the U.S. government's aim in these procedures was not to protect "cultural heritage" but to obtain concessions from various countries by doing so, These concessions were secret and even the court system did nothing to bring them before public scrutiny. People were "buying a pig in a poke", but to add insult to injury, it was a forced sale.  I realized that my task was redundant and I resigned. It seemed to me that the legal route at least had some chance of success, but minority groups are mere cannon-fodder for political/economic purposes. Our opposition, though, was even worse off because they thought that they were being given greater credit. Sooner or later, their own interests will be squashed in the same manner for some other political/economic gain.

The Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project have split. Various reasons have been offered but I tend to think that this is evolutionary. Such splitting is quite common in belief systems and thus organized religions are the commonest expression of that. The degree of agreement between two sects of the same religion acts as the fuel for hostilities and religious wars are most noticed between beliefs that share more things. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (chronologically sorted) not only share certain beliefs, prophets etc, but are often in close geographical proximity, so mutual distrust is combined with the opportunity for conflict between the great religions and between various sects of such and nationalism is always there to fan the flames by adding xenophobia to the mix.

Unlike Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli was an extravert, and he had a big problem with "natural selection" as the numbers did not work out. Christian Creationists have used this to further their own ideas about intelligent design, but now epigenetics has resolved Pauli's problem. Dr. Bruce Lipton has a very interesting take on that subject. I suspect that Dr. Lipton, too, is one of the intuitive types.

More tomorrow.

Friday, 14 November 2014


I was watching a Zeitgeist Movement's video the other day and the speaker was talking about how the world would be run by computers as they are so "scientific", have no agendas, personal opinions, ambitions and so forth. As he was talking about this, my first thought was "gigantic solar flare". Besides producing really nice northern lights, such things can wreak havoc on electrical equipment. There was a really huge solar flare in the nineteenth century which destroyed the new telegraph communication system. Undoubtedly there were many others before that event, but apart from pretty northern lights, no one would have noticed because there was no use of electricity in the world. Unlike with variable earth conditions, the sun does not get much in the way of external influences and we know that if there was one giant solar flare then there will be others when the same cycle rolls around again. The problem is that we only know of one event and cannot know if the next one will be tomorrow or in the very distant future. All of the eggs in the Zeitgeist basket would become instantly scrambled when that happens. They would not even be able to issue a "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible" notice. The hill people would be fine, though, and life would go on. Evolution would "select out" the Zeitgeist believers.

The speaker then went on to say how the Computer would weight variables in complex decision making situations. He did not elaborate on that statement or even give the correct term "fuzzy logic" so the audience never got to hear that such algorithms' parameters are set up by people. A computer only does what it has been told (and as we all know, can sometimes screw that up too). It cannot think. When I built my first expert system, I had never heard of expert systems. It was Bob van Arsdell who noted that my identification chart for Coriosolite staters was an expert system. I don't really like the term. Undoubtedly, there are expert systems which mimic the thought processes of an expert, but I built mine very differently. After I had become computerized, I built an html version which eliminated some people's tendency to skip steps in the paper system and thus end up in the wrong place. Ironically, it was people who had some "expertise" who were doing that. Anyone who had no knowledge of the subject matter never failed in getting to the right destination. I have seen expert systems which use fuzzy logic and they are of limited use. For such applications as Zeigeist envisions, they would not work at all, regardless of solar activity. Think about it, a washing machine can deliver water at the right temperature for you laundry, but if your maintenance man had forgotten to turn the cold tap on after doing something, some of your clothes will shrink.

The reason that the more knowledgeable people failed sometimes is because they thought that my system had the same structure as their minds and was acting like an expert. The problem was that I had not built it that way. I had constructed it by sometimes trying for a 50% division of the data, and sometimes by eliminating very short paths to allow for the remaining data to be more easily split according to my 50% goal. It was "organically grown" and resembled some evolutionary biological processes. Unlike my Coriosolite chronologies, it was not entirely built along cladistic lines. (for more information, enter cladistic and expert in the search box in the top bar of this blog).

When the expert system first went online in 1996, there was quite a reaction to it from different sources. Most of them were enthusiastic and from various honest people without sinister agendas, but two of the reactions were of a different sort. One was from a man from southeast Asia who claimed to be a student and wanted me to help him understand what was going on under the hood, so to speak. His English was not very good, but there was something about his message that made me suspicious, so I tracked him down. He was not a student; his English was very good; he owned a company that built expert systems.

The next response was from Lockheed Martin and written by a woman who officiously demanded that I tell her how I built it. At first I thought that this might mean business for us, but Carrie looked at their web page and saw that they were emphasizing ethics. She told me that companies who would go to some lengths to emphasize their ethics most likely did not have any. I started to wonder if it would be good plan to have dealings with a company who could build a missile that knew where I lived. I took a leave out of southeast Asian friend's book and replied "I did it in html". She knew she had been "found out" and did not ask me to elaborate.

What neither of us knew at the time was revealed several years later by a Texas I.T. developer who flew up to Calgary to talk to us about my new map technology (I had been able to produce more levels of easily understandable data in a map than was previously thought possible). He explained that this would have to be first introduced into the US private sector before it could be offered to the military as, otherwise, it would fall under their official secrets policies and could never again be used commercially. His interest in my technology was, ultimately, for military use.

Later, I was producing maps for a huge utilities company and they tried to reverse engineer my methods (unsuccessfully -- it  cannot be reverse engineered) after violating our contract. After we started to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers, the company went into a partnership with the Canadian government to destroy us. After all, the utility company paid the government a huge amount of tax money. One of the government minions told my wife on the phone: "We know what we are doing, we are putting you out of business." Our bank accounts (by then most of our money had gone to expensive lawyers) were seized and our other clients were scared off. Carrie suffered unbearable stress from all of this and as a direct result her breast cancer which had been gone for eight years returned, metastasized, and with its inevitable prognosis of death. A utility company and our own government killed my wife as surely as if they would have used a gun. It was just a slower death. I got off light with a minor heart attack and years of grief. I made two decisions: I would never again conduct business in Canada and my map technology would never be used anywhere. It will die with me (it also has a "perceptual engineering" component and that always worried me as such things can control minds too easily, and can be applied to far more than just maps). The problem with idealism is that it mostly fails to notice the dark side.

But I will end on a light note: Are you troubled by evidence of garden pests? Perhaps you have elephants in your garden. I built this silly little expert system so you can find out. It is full of misunderstood "facts" and absurd observations. All of the drawings and animations are by Carrie. Click here to explore it and to discover if your garden is infested by elephants.

More on the Zeitgeist theme on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Heading for the hills

"Heading for the hills"
photo by Gordon Hatton (Geograph)
I've been thinking about the Zeitgeist movement lately, and while the films certainly make some good points, it is such a broad subject with so many different political and economical factors to consider that I'm not sure if anything much will come from it all. The problems with "movements" is that they are just another aspect of the society which is being criticized and can too easily fall into similar traps. Yet, public opinion seems to have brought about important changes in societies, so perhaps if there are enough movements...

My biggest problem with the Zeitgeist films is that their perspective comes out of high modernism and this has a psychological leaning toward the attitudes of some types of extraverts. So when they imagine that everyone will start to think that way, it is just that: imagination. For example, competitiveness is not due to society acting in erroneous ways, it is part of our evolutionary make-up. I don't think that this can be treated so cavalierly.

Another critic of Zetgeist is James Scott (Yale) and I watched several hours of his talks before picking the one that, I thought, combined enough good points in combination with the sound quality of the video. It is an interesting look at states and comes from James Scott's intimate knowledge of people who have rejected them. There will be more in this theme in subsequent posts, but for now, enjoy the movie.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Jersey "Le Catillon 2" hoard stratigraphy

Coriosolite stater, Series X, group b, coin 6
mint site: east of the River Rance, Brittany
Very few photographs of the recent Jersey hoard coins have yet been made available to the numismatic community, but already, the nature of the hoard appears to confirm the theory I developed more than twenty years ago that the Jersey hoards of Celtic coins are secondary hoards. I use the latter term to describe hoards that consist of groups of coins gathered from diverse locations that had either been stored above ground or previously buried.
The profile of such hoards is easy to recognize if you understand the issues (series) and their internal chronology: each series has a peak in the numbers of coins within the hoard that reveal the relative time they were gathered together and something of the location where this happened. The previous failure to understand the three series as products of different mints occluded their distribution patterns until I reclassified the coinage. The major reattribution was the dominant type in the Jersey hoards formerly given as Class II Coriosolite, but in my new classification as the issue of Viridovix of the Unelli in Normandy (John Hooker, Notes on part of the Le Catillon Hoard purchased by the Société Jersiaise in 1989Société Jersiaise Annual Bulletin for 1993, p. 113-115)

The hoards from Brittany most resemble Gallic War refugee hoards: they are much smaller hoards and the peaks in Series X and Y are more closely aligned than in the Jersey hoards. The Jersey hoards are what I have called "recycling hoards", that is, coins and other material gathered for eventual reprocessing to extract the silver. Jersey was picked as a repository for such coins as Roman ships would have had difficulty landing on Jersey because of shallows, sand bars etc. (pers. comm. Douglas Corbel, Société Jersiaise). It is important to realize that these coins were minted to finance battles with Caesar's troops and no small-market monetary economy existed before or shortly after these coins were struck. After the war, the coins had no function apart from the intrinsic value of the alloy. Colin Haselgrove thinks that the Jersey hoards were deposited sometime in the third quarter of the first century BC, but I maintain that the last hoards would have been contemporary with the Roman destruction of the Coriosolite port at Alet and also with the eventual absence of silver in British Durotriges coinage (Coriosolite coins and billon ingots have been found at Hengistbury Head). In other words, circa 10-20 AD. We both have good reasons for our attributions that are based on different factors.

There are two photographs that show stratigraphy evidence. The first of these is shown here and appears on this blog. I think that these coins were the very first of the hoard found (which was reported as containing a gold coin). The gold coin in the photograph is a "bullet" stater of the Senones to which I would agree with Haselgrove's date of 200-125 BC. This coin must have been an heirloom when it was buried. To the left of the Senones stater is a billon stater variously attributed to the Veneti or a Veneti/Coriosolite Group a "hybrid". some of the confusion over these early billon issues is due to, perhaps, that the same die cutter was employed by different issuers, Coriosolite, Series Xn (formerly Abrincatui) and Veneti. The latter is not as clear to me as the former two. Series Xn is a mess: some dies were reused later after they had been badly damaged and the die links are all over the place. This makes aligning typology and metrology rather tricky. Most of the rest of the coins in the photograph are very rare in the Jersey hoards. These are the coins of Series X, group b (see illustration above). I see eight examples that are certainly group b, but there could be more. The coin to the right of the Senones stater is only partly visible and could be either group c or d. No later coins of Series X (e to g) are to be seen in the photo. By way of comparison, the first Le Catillon hoard contained only 1.7% of the coins of groups b to d (formerly Class V). The commonest type in the big Jersey hoards is Series Z (Viridovix) and is represented by more than 50% in each hoard. Yet, in this photograph, only one Series Z is visible (the oval shaped obverse at the bottom near the right hand corner which only shows the head down to the eyebrow). There are also a couple of quarter staters contemporary with the Coriosolite staters in the photo. If I had seen this group described as a complete hoard I would have said that it probably would have been found in the same general area as the Merdrignac hoard from Brittany.

The other photograph is a complete contrast: mostly Series Y (mint site west of the River Rance) and especially group L, they represent a very small part of the chronology. These coins are more difficult to see and I had to enlarge the photo by several 10% increments in order to get a larger image in decent resolution.

The stratigraphy apparent here is obviously not representative of the other Jersey hoards and we most likely will find other areas where the stratigraphy points to discrete "parcels" within the hoard. Only when the complete hoard is disassembled and properly catalogued will the percentages of each group be fully known, but a cross section might give us some idea of the hoard's complete contents.

Although Jersey does not have a very good record of publishing photographs and providing catalogues of the previous hoards, and many thousands of Coriosolite coins were stolen from the museum and never recovered (I worked with Interpol on that case), This hoard is recent and they will, hopefully, share the photographs with the public along the lines of the British Museum's web site which allows scholars to post photos for non-profit, educational use. The Wikimedia images are all of uncleaned coins and useless for typological studies.

Great care must be taken with the analysis of the "parcels"within the hoard and with the organic/mineral residues on and around the coins in each parcel. It is even possible that a 2,000 year old itinerary might be reconstructed, but just one or two mistakes could negate that possibility.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Annoying words: devolution

3D model reconstruction by Cicero Moraes
I don't like the word "devolution" for any of its definitions. Recently, its main usage has been for the transference of political and economic powers to regions, but let's start with the idea of a retrograde evolution. I don't think such a thing exists at all. An example given in the linked definitions is: "the gradual devolution of the neighbourhood from a thriving community of close-knit families to a drug-ridden slum."

If this was truly devolution than the neighbourhood will have reverted back to the drug-ridden slum which it had been prior to its becoming a "thriving community of close-knit families". In every case I can think of, the community evolved to a drug-ridden slum. Evolution has nothing at all to do with us changing, over time, to some imagined ideal state. It only means that we have adapted to changing conditions. So what happened with the drug-ridden slum? A series of economic situations and mismanagement allowed the houses to fall into disrepair; property prices fell; local opportunities in education and work diminished; most of the community became poor and with little hope for improvement. A few individuals then sought to improve their lot and about the only route for them to take was toward criminal activities. Drugs came to the forefront because a certain segment of the community felt the need to escape from their misery through chemical means. As this was illegal, survival-oriented individuals saw a way that they could lessen their misery by supplying such drugs. They learned to adapt. They evolved.

When I look at Cicero Moraes reconstruction of Homo erectus pekinensis, I can easily believe that this early man was quite capable of adapting to changing conditions. Decades ago, various sorts of hominids were portrayed as unintelligent louts. Slack-jawed and hunched over, they appeared more like legendary monsters than survival-oriented individuals. We had a habit of building ourselves up by denigrating our ancestors. Now we are even starting to wonder if we are actually becoming less intelligent as a species.

For the political usage of the word it is advisable to look at primitive governments (and to take "primitive" as "primal" rather than "less developed along evolutionary lines". When I started looking into ancient Irish Law, I was impressed by how it had evolved to take care of any difficulties on a local level. There seemed no need for police and for prisons: if someone stole your cattle you would be more than compensated, if not by the culprit, then by his family or even by anyone who allowed the stolen cattle to graze on their land. These laws were tailored to local conditions and sought to regain equilibrium in their execution. They were not intended to punish as much as to dissuade people from any wrong-doing. Just because we are now thinking that local and small government works better for everyone  than distant and big government, does not mean that we are devolving, it is just that we allowed ourselves to stray from some survival behaviours of earlier times and now, finally, we have decided to adapt, yet again. It's still evolution, even if it strayed for a long time.

Monday, 10 November 2014

On the nature of research

photo: Asb
A recent Past Horizons article is about the ongoing research in translating the Phaistos disc and features a video with Dr. Gareth Owens who is coordinating research into deciphering the Linear A script.

What I personally found most interesting about the story was not any particular discovery but was its glimpse into the nature of research. Of course, there are many sorts of research from simply asking someone for an opinion through looking at previous research and checking its results. This sort of research is hardly time consuming and very little is invested in it. The research that Dr Owens speaks of with regard to the Phaistos disc and Linear A is another matter entirely. It always takes years and there is little guarantee of success. Often, it takes the work of many people, including specialists from related topics and disciplines. A "researcher" can often thus, more accurately, be called a "research coordinator". On some of the tougher research problems, reference is often made to the Rosetta Stone in looking for an important key to the solution as it was in the video. This key might be discovered through painstaking attention to details; through a hunch, or even through a dream as in the case of the discovery of the benzene ring. I used the phrase "Rosetta Stone" myself in reference to the key which enabled me to discover the chronology of Coriosolite coin die manufacture. When the mind is working very hard on such problems, much of these processes are going on in the unconscious mind and might present their solutions through dreams, visions, or just hunches. Only fools do not take such things seriously.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Nara + 20: conclusion

The pieces move but nothing changes
I remember the first time we bought an important work of art. It was a linocut by Sybil Andrews. We brought it home from the gallery and hung it on a wall in the living room. We thought that it would lift the tone of the living room, but it succeeded only in making everything else look shoddier than before.

Nara presented the start of a new paradigm and, suddenly, what had existed before seems shabby and tired out. Most of the players are stuck in the same holding pattern: find an incident where some collector, dealer, detectorist, or curator goofs or commits a crime and then show how this is indicative of the behaviour of all collectors... , or say that collectors do not demand a solid collecting history for their purchases knowing that not only most items do not have such a history, but it is usually illegal to pass on the identity of a previous owner for goods classified as "second-hand". For the US State Department: identify where a nation is being difficult over some American interest like the expansion of Monsanto or the setting up of another military base, and then use minority groups like collectors or archaeologists as pawns to grant import restrictions that benefit said nation in return for their capitulation on the important matter. Minority groups are so easy.

The one thing a shiny new paradigm does bring is an awareness that where it is not acknowledged, purposes other than what have been stated are the real purpose for the conflict. The new paradigm reveals such deceit and the pawns become aware of their role within it.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Nara + 20: Trojan horses and battle trophies

Mykonos Vase showing the Trojan horse
The Nara conferences came about because Japan was increasingly becoming aware that UNESCO's views of cultural heritage were not in harmony with the Japanese experience. This was not the first time that Japan had seen the need to adjust the west's attitude toward its culture: in the Meiji eraNinagawa Noritane (1835-1882) sent gifts of traditional Japanese pottery to British and American museums, explaining to them that their displays of Japanese porcelain did not represent his culture, which preferred, and had evolved cultural expressions around, the humbler pottery of the people. The porcelain, he explained, was a technology they had learned from China, and while it had gained Japanese cultural themes and styles, it was only produced for export to the west. The museums followed his advice.

What was different with Nara, was the realization that other cultures faced similar problems, and ideas about what defines cultures had evolved to be more focused and specific. There came about an awareness, too, that the boundary of a culture was diffuse and that influences mingled across many subjects. It was realized that even contemporary world-wide virtual communities were cultures in their own right. A nationalist-aimed, top-down, international cultural heritage policy starts to take on the aspect of a steam-roller.

A current fashion is to see the contents of museums as the spoils of long-ago wars, and now, whether because of feelings of guilt, or sour grapes over shrinking empires, everything must go back. I attended a school in north London that stood on the grounds of Cecil Rhodes' house. Of the house, itself, only the façade had survived with its four pillars. The school badge showed those four pillars as representing four human virtues exhibited by Cecil Rhodes. Later, it was realized that Cecil Rhodes had none of these qualities at all, but that was the story I was fed. When I returned to England for  three weeks in 1999, I  watched a TV show using the same sort of rhetoric I got at school, but it was now promoting the opposite views to what I had been taught. I gained a new respect for George Orwell. Neither of these views had authenticity.

The Trojan horse serves me as a useful metaphor: the soldiers hidden in the horse can bring victory to the invaders. With cultural objects, what is hidden inside are not soldiers but ideas and shared concerns. The artificial walls between peoples start to fall.

Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc.
On the reverse of Caesar's denarius to the left is a battlefield trophy of captured Celtic equipment. Such trophies were displayed for only a limited time so as to allow old hostilities to heal. Caesar did mention that some Gaulish tribes had permanent sacred displays of booty and no one could take anything from it under penalty of death, but I suspect that this law was to prevent its reuse by potential warlords. The pictorial treatment of the enemy was harsher and could include a couple of bound captives seated at the base of a trophy on some coins.

When museum exhibits become repatriated, they are usually set up in a display by the receiving country to commemorate the victory: old spoils have been recaptured. History is the handmaiden to all of these different views and we can choose the metaphors to reflect that which comforts us best.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Nara + 20: and the truth will make you free

Annibale Carracci, An Allegory of Truth and Time, 1584
Intuition is a funny thing. While many might think that it will deliver nice clear-cut answers to you, it most often only gives you a feeling that a particular course of action is either attractive or unattractive. It is only later that you discover why. Many decades ago, I decided that I would only tell the truth (at least, as I see it at the time). Since then, I have not even told white lies. Women who know me never ask "Does this dress make me look fat?" If I cannot state the truth about something for some reason then I say nothing at all. Since the mid-nineties I have written thousands of things for web pages and Internet discussion groups, Search as hard as you like, you will not find a single lie in all of it. You will find examples where my opinions have now changed, and you will find examples where I might have some detail wrong (especially when it comes to very old memories and my faulty sense of personal chronology), but none of that is lying.

The painting shows the naked figures of Truth and Time trampling on Deceit. To the left is Felicitas and to the right is Bonus Eventus. Some commentaries say that Truth had fallen in the well and Time had rescued her, but I see it as meaning that the truth can remain hidden for a long time, but eventually, all will be revealed. It is also said that Truth is looking in the mirror, but it seems to me that she is holding the mirror at such an angle that Bonus Eventus can see her face reflected in it. If you keep to the truth, it will eventually pay off.

When I read the latest Nara document, I wondered if its message of authenticity, reliability and truth would be ignored by the cultural heritage blogosphere, so I was not surprised by the absence of its mention on certain blogs that I follow. It is a very "inconvenient truth". I did this morning, however, see that truth was the main topic of a piece by John Howland on the latest Stout Standards blog (Dick Stout).

So, while these things were running around in my mind, I started thinking about "and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32), and why I thought that most people have completely misunderstood that passage. And then, inevitably, I started thinking about Bertrand Russell's essay on Nice People. From that, I remembered a small book that my wife had written under her Jesse Ancona nom de plume (the name refers to a gessoed panel, and Carrie was in the process of preparing the same. She would slake her own plaster to produce gesso sottile according to Cennini's method. I would sometimes help her by stirring the bucket. The stuff smells like rotten eggs. I missed, unfortunately, an incident from some time before we met when Carrie was still experimenting with the method. Working topless, she was up past her elbows in wet plaster when it started to rapidly set. The Fire Department had to be called).

Anyway, she titled her book Lying with the Truth, which was a fairly well known phrase, and it was about her experiences of leaving a cult just before we met. Upon finding the link and reading some of it again, I was happy to see that I had been given a mention:
"I am thankful that I have been blessed, from the very beginning, by knowing people who have fought other cults. Because my husband was one of them, I was not able to squirm away from learning the mechanisms and their distinctive, subtle signs -- because he made me face the truth (just like he made me go to the doctor when I found a lump in my breast). Thanks to him, I can see cults more clearly than most, though I am still somewhat disadvantaged by my own emotional reactions."
 I might have forgotten about that passage, or might have read an earlier draft, but I was pleased to see it and thought it rather timely. Truth often finds me.

The well in the painting, of course, leads to the unconscious where Truth finds a restful home ― knowing that anyone looking for the truth would never think to look there. Before remembering Carrie's book, I had decided to close with a paragraph (425) from Jung's On the Nature of the Psyche. Its contents explain quite well why Nara +20 can be conveniently ignored and the sort of mind that would do so. But as everything is related, it fits quite well with everything else:
"If the subjective consciousness prefers the ideas and opinions of collective consciousness and identifies with them, then the contents of the collective unconscious are repressed. The repression has typical consequences: the energy-charge of the repressed contents adds itself, in some measure, (Note 124) to that of the repressing factor, whose effectiveness is increased accordingly. The higher its charge mounts, the more the repressive attitude acquires a fanatical character and the nearer it comes to conversion into its opposite, i.e., an enantiodromia. And the more highly charged the collective consciousness, the more the ego forfeits its practical importance. It is, as it were, absorbed by the opinions and tendencies of collective consciousness, and the result of that is the mass man, the ever-ready victim of some wretched "'ism." The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once. However, the necessary insight is made exceedingly difficult not by one's social and political leaders alone, but also by one's religious mentors. They all want decision in favour of one thing, and therefore the utter identification of the the individual with a necessarily one-sided "truth." Even if it were a question of some great truth, identification with it would still be a catastrophe, as it arrests all further spiritual development, Instead of knowledge one then has only belief, and sometimes that is more convenient and therefore more attractive."
Note 124: It is very probable that the archetypes, as instincts, possess a specific energy which cannot be taken away from them in the long run. The energy peculiar to the archetype is normally not sufficient to raise it into consciousness. For this it needs a definite quantum of energy flowing into the unconscious from consciousness, whether because consciousness is not using this energy or because the archetype attracts it to itself. The archetype can be deprived of its supplementary charge, but not of its specific energy.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Nara + 20: British Celtic coin culture and community

My copy of John Evans' Coins 
of the Ancient Britons (1864)
The Nara meetings and documents give examples of a range of communities from a small group of people dependent upon a very localized ecosystem to global virtual communities. One of the problems mentioned is the identification of other sorts of communities. I can add one of my own communities (or cultural frame): British Celtic Numismatics. I could have attempted wider views such as Ancient coins, or even Numismatics, but that would have meant quite a bit of research involving discussions with numismatists of many specialities.

It would be rather outdated to say that British Celtic Numismatics is a sub-culture of numismatics: for a start, a sub-culture implies a hierarchy and this would be a highly subjective arrangement whereby a classification system is invented that would support the beliefs of its creator and yet could also be antagonistic to other's beliefs. Also, structures and foci within transdisciplinarity are amorphous, shifting through attention. Finally, the community, regardless of how small it is, always consists of multiple cultural frames. Sub-cultures give an impression of self-contained units (which do not exist in reality).

Sir John Evans is considered to be the father of modern British Celtic Numismatics. He is also considered to be a father of modern archaeology. These credits are largely due to his creation of seriation within archaeological subjects. He was limited (by his time) to create this seriation with certain views in mind. Nowadays, these views have grown in number through evolutionary processes. However, it is important to keep in mind that without certain seeds being planted, evolutionary changes cannot happen at all.

The originator of a culture or community sets the tone for the evolutionary events which follow. John Evans was not an academic, he was a businessman. He inherited a coin collection and decided to continue collecting. Although he is best known for his work with British Celtic coins and these were the subject of his seriation, he had interests in other sorts of coins and in the practices of numismatics and archaeology. In order to follow his goals, he was in communication with many coin dealers and some of these supported his interest in recorded find spots. He also successfully lobbied for finders of coins and other objects to receive the full retail value of what they found. He believed that if this reward was not offered then people might be tempted not to report their finds. He, like others of his time, were also interested in the work of Charles Darwin and he attempted to include this subject in his work on Celtic coins. Also typical of researchers of his time, he had a network of scholars who shared his various interests and these would meet at each other's houses and later in the rooms of the learned societies to which he belonged or had other connections.

A set of cultural frames attracts other people to the degree that they share many of the same cultural frames, but with everyone also contributing non-shared cultural frames, the community evolves along new lines dependent on the usefulness demonstrated by paying attention to example of unique cultural frames within the group's membership. No matter how far down the time line you look, you will find evolutionary changes that will reflect the original foundation of that community (culture).
I do not like UNESCO because of its original stated interests in eugenics and a single world government have influenced all subsequent work and with its emphasis on governments being at the apex of a cultural hierarchy, it is rapidly becoming a dinosaur. Organizations of all sorts, sensing their extinction on the horizon, rapidly try to propagate to try to ensure the survival of their "species". Also, such organizations become subject to enantiodromia through unconscious processes and createt the opposite of their stated aims. As they enter such a prolific stage, they attract many people who will go then down with them, It has been said that if the characteristics of an overly large and complex organization were given to just one individual, that individual would be diagnosed as a sociopath.

We  find Evans' successors sharing a number of his characteristics: both Commander Mack and Derek Fortrose Allen were amateurs. Both added to his British Celtic coin seriation work and interest in find spots and distribution patterns. Henry Mossop was also an amateur (a farmer), was interested in find spots and was an avid collector. He also shared Evans interests in nature conservation. He added to the subject an interest in metal-detecting and was one of the first people in England to import a machine from the U.S. Mossop became involved with the archaeologist Jeffrey May, a delightful man and a father figure to some of his students. I had communicated with Jeffrey May and was impressed by his helpfulness and his enthusiasm. Colin Haselgrove is an archaeologist with a keen knowledge and interest in Celtic coinage. He continued Allen's work in plotting Celtic coin findspots and came up with a different seriation system based on regions more than tribal designations While I was doing my primary research, we wrote back and forth and I found him to be most helpful. When I read a paper that he wrote with John Collis in which they expressed a desire for a computer retrieval system for British Celtic coin records, I was inspired to create an on line version of the Celtic Coin Index -- a card file of Celtic coin finds, museum holdings, and coins noticed in the trade. The original was created by Derek Allen and Sheppard Frere at Oxford starting in 1961. I created its knowledge structure and my wife designed and built a database system best suited to it, that not only stored the information in a relational database, but also had a feature which generated static web pages for it records. This work involved help from other numismatists (not just Celtic numismatists), IT innovators, and archaeologists.

As I had made great use of Haselgrove's British Archaeological Reports (BAR) publications as well as other volumes in those series by other authors, when the archaeologist Sean Kingsley wrote to me about the importance of my on-line book and its need to be academically published, he told me of his contacts that could easily make that a reality, and of those, I picked BAR as it felt right to give something back. Sean was, at that time, the managing editor of Minerva and I wrote a an article for the magazine about my research.

In about this same time, Bob Van Arsdell had reclassified the entire series' of British Celtic coinage: a massive undertaking that few would or could attempt. His success was, in part, due to the many new types and varieties which had surfaced through the use of the metal detector and the ongoing additions to the Celtic Coin Index. I incorporated both Bob's and Colin's systems into the first Celtic Coin Index On Line.

My own method, was an expansion and improvement on a type of seriation developed in the nineteenth century but applied to only separate archaeological site finds and thus limited in its usefulness and accuracy. I knew nothing of its evolutionary history at the time and it was thus an independently created system. It did, however, resolve all of the problems of previous evolutionary stages in seriation, again, without my conscious knowledge of these. So how was I able to create another evolutionary stage without such knowledge? As I said above, the origins of every evolutionary process are embedded in  the later organisms, even if they are not consciously realized. In a sense, I could have done nothing else as I had become part of the culture (community) of British Celtic coinage.

I have mentioned just the prominent connections made by my joining a specific culture. There are many more connections too. Efforts to protect other special interests in the past are only as effective as their proponent's diligence to understand the often complex networks and infrastructures surrounding other cultural groups. Whenever you see neglect or derision applied to other connected groups, you can be sure that the group that is making these serious errors are not acting in an evolutionary fashion, All they are doing are magnifying the death throes of a "species" about to face its own extinction and are manifesting a sad compulsion to propagate as a desperate means to their own survival.

More tomorrow on Nara, etc.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Nara + 20: Stakeholders, communities, and authenticity

( by VY-ProjM public domain)
Nara+20 was drafted in English and adopted by the participants at the Meeting on the 20th Anniversary of the Nara Document on Authenticity, held at Nara, Japan, from 22-24 October 2014, at the invitation of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Government of Japan), Nara Prefecture and Nara City (abstract).

When you look at the various events leading up to the latest Nara document, the evolution of these ideas becomes very obvious. What has emerged is a structure that dismisses the nationalistic, top-down view of cultural heritage and in its place presents a picture of multiple stakeholders and communities which can be evaluated by their authenticity. The latter term is vitally important and is defined:

Authenticity:  A culturally contingent quality associated with a heritage place, practice, or object that conveys cultural value; is recognized as a meaningful expression of an evolving cultural tradition; and/or evokes among individuals the social and emotional resonance of group identity.
In The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994), we read:
9. Conservation of cultural heritage in all its forms and historical periods is rooted in the values attributed to the heritage. Our ability to understand these values depends, in part, on the degree to which information sources about these values may be understood as credible or truthful. Knowledge and understanding of these sources of information, in relation to original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage, and their meaning, is a requisite basis for assessing all aspects of authenticity.
I had acted, in a voluntary capacity, for the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild to advise and aid public respondents to various US State Department Memoranda of Understanding with countries that would impact on collectors and coin dealers who had an interest in ancient coins. It became apparent to me that such responses, while giving an impression that such opinions would be considered important, were simply ignored. Also, the public was being asked to give their opinions on a deal where only one side was being explained. The wise response to any such offer is to say "Even though I might support what is being offered to these countries, because the cost, to me, is being withheld, I cannot possibly agree".  These two points completely negate any judgement of authenticity to the proceedings. The public became aware of this subterfuge and over several M o U's the numbers of respondents on both sides dwindled. They realized that they did not really have a voice. It was just a con game played on them by a government who had already decided on the outcome. The Cultural Property Advisory Committee included a representative from the trade as a token minority to give the appearance of impartiality and multiple viewpoints but it was all a sham. There was nothing that I could do so I stopped.

Nara+20  says:
3. Involvement of multiple stakeholders
The Nara Document assigns responsibility for cultural heritage to specific communities that generated or cared for it. The experience of the last 20 years has demonstrated that cultural heritage may be significant in different ways to a broader range of communities and interest groups that now include virtual global communities that did not exist in 1994. This situation is further complicated by the recognition that individuals can be simultaneously members of more than one community and by the imbalance of power among stakeholders, often determined by heritage legislation, decision-making mechanisms, and economic interests. Those with authority to establish or recognize the significance, value, authenticity, treatment and use of heritage resources have the responsibility to involve all stakeholders in these processes, not forgetting those communities with little or no voice. Heritage professionals should engage in community matters that may affect heritage. Further work is needed on methodologies to identify the rights, responsibilities, representatives, and levels of involvement of communities.
No one has denied that collectors of ancient coins are, indeed, a community. I have identified such as a cultural frame, but this terminology is not used in the document. Nevertheless, its meaning is embraced in the following definition:
Community: Any group sharing cultural or social characteristics, interests, and perceived continuity through time, and which distinguishes itself in some respect from other groups. Some of the characteristics, interests, needs and perceptions that define the distinctiveness of a community are directly linked to heritage.

Steven van Uytsel and Paulius Jurčys say:
The second session was entitled ‘Heritage and Social Aspects’. Prof. Neil Silberman from University of Massachusetts discussed the relationship between social change and heritage conservation. He started the presentation by noting that the Nara Document aimed at changing a Eurocentric approach to heritage conservation and raised a question whether culturally embedded values could be incorporated in the notion of outstanding universal value. Prof. Silberman also discussed the inter-relationship between the economic development and protection of heritage by increasing wealth fosters cross-border tourism and visiting historical sites. In this perspective, heritage could be even considered as an alternative industry for revenue generation as well as the tool for local development. At the same time, heritage is a medium for conflict (e.g., Sarajevo library) as well as in struggle for the political power. Prof. Silberman also analysed a number of controversial issues. He stressed that the history of heritage has been 'top-down', i.e. authoritative; and identification of what is authentic implies continuity and unchanging understanding what is heritage. While this is true in a homogenous society, the processes of globalization raise new questions especially if one is aware of the fact that discontinuation of the past has become characteristic to this world.
I will return to these topics tomorrow, but for now I will leave you with a couple of videos featuring participants in the Nara document (the first one could do with a little editing of its start, so be patient):