Monday, 11 April 2016

A prolegomenon to Jungian archaeology: part three

And each figure had a meaning
M.  L. Kirk, 1910 (from The Story of Hiawatha,
adapted from Longfellow by Winston Stokes)
"...our attention was first arrested by the fact that... art that is apparently purely formal, is given a meaning endowing it with an emotional value that does not belong to the beauty of form alone. it is an expressionistic element that is common to many to many forms of primitive art. It is effective because in the mind of the tribes certain forms are symbols of a limited range of ideas. The firmer the association between a form and a definite idea, the more clearly stands out the expressionistic character of the art. This is true in the graphic and plastic arts as well as in music. In the former a geometrical form, in the latter a sound cluster, a particular type of musical phrasing, if associated with a definite meaning, evokes definite emotions or even concepts. A study of these conditions shows also that a uniform reaction to form is indispensable for the effectiveness of an expressionistic art, a condition which is not fulfilled in our own modern society, so that an expressionistic art can appeal only to a circle of adepts who follow the lines of thought and feeling developed by a master. Symbolic art can still be applied successfully in the case of a few symbols that have fixed associations which are valid for all of us."

Franz Boas, Primitive Art, Dover Publications, New York, 1955, p.350f.

Let us stand back a bit from the above analysis and look at the picture in more general terms. Instead of "art", we can use the Greek τέχνη (techne) in the sense of making or doing. This can bring it, entirely into the realms of archaeology. Not just in the sense that any archaeological site is a combination of what was made and what was done, but archaeology, its analysis and its reports are also made and done.

Accordingly, we have several sets of expressions: the expressions of the people that were at that specific site before it became archaeological; the shared expressions of their neighbours of  the same culture and perhaps just a little distance from them; the people of that same culture further removed; the expressions of the person in charge of the archaeological dig formed through his or her life experiences; the expressions of all the others working at that site; the expressions of all of their institutions where they work or had worked and studied; and even the shared expressions of any sort of  institution that differs from individual expression; and of course the expressions of those philosophers whose theories everyone is or was following.

These are multiple collective consciousnesses. How well can we really differentiate the thoughts that come from each of them with their subsequent τέχνη? Each has its own symbols, but some are shared. How do we differentiate these too? The task is imperative if we want to avoid  projection.

Yet this has never been given any thought in archaeology apart from the observation that a single archaeological site will give only a very limited view unless compared with other such sites in the region, and how the region, itself might differ from those sites (See Haselgrove quote in reference to Celtic coins).

We can start by looking for the use of metaphors in the symbolic expressions of the culture we are studying. These, then, can act like a "Rosetta stone" by allowing us to link symbols that we share with symbols for which the meanings are now lost to us.This was how I was able to link the Celtic coin boar and lyre symbols in their meaning as they were often substituted for each other in the same ways as the boar has a universal "translation" and it would be foolish to suppose that only its Celtic expression would be different. Yet, people ignored the universal mythological expressions of the boar and tried to subsume it through their expressions of the Celts, alone. The meaning of the boar helped to clarify the meaning of the lyre symbol which did not have a universal translation, but existed in numbers of meanings. That one of them "behaved" exactly as the boar, not just in its meaning but in the instances of its use brought about its specific translation.

The next thing we have to do is to eliminate the situation where the majority of perceived symbols are our own. For that, we need to collect a vast number of symbols from the archaeological site, and if it cannot provide these, we have to extend our search to that of its general culture. Again, we look for "Rosetta stones" with which to translate that which is more obscure. If we do that, the evidence overwhelms our own symbols and we can become rather more objective.

While we cannot go back and eliminate everything that has influenced us in the part, we can, if we have the discipline, choose not to include such and look at the evidence with fresh eyes. If that proves impossible then having people with the technical know-how, but who have been steeped in very different cultures: different areas, different times, look at the evidence in a naturally fresh manner. I deliberately avoided immersing myself too much in what had been written before about the coins I studied, but it it took me a little while to realize that I was just "brainwashing" myself by reading all that, so I had to make the conscious choice. By all means read what has been said afterwards, though. You might have missed something pertinent, but also you will then see where others have gone wrong and what took them in those directions. It is all good.

Beyond the problems of multiple consciousnesses lies individual consciousness and how different personality types will influence the way things are seen. That will be tomorrow's topic.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. Well written, John sound discussion about sets of expressions and collective consciousness. The example supported your argument. I gave away my copy of Franz Boas Primitive Art.

    1. Thanks, Tannis. I've got the first Dover paperback edition, too bad it's not in better condition. There one in "good" for $51.60 0n and another marked "new" (how can that be?) for $131.60. They do have much cheaper later editions but unfortunately there's no ebook version. It would be specially good as the book only has an index of names. I wonder if it was Boas who set the anthropological course of N. American archaeology. I'll have to look that up in Alison Wylie's book.

  2. My copy was like new, I think it went to Morley. Too Bad for me. The collect of books I had were in excellent condition, I tried to offer them to Mount Royal. A visitor could not believe they were not interested. Someone told me at the birthday party that there is a concern amongst librarians and historians about the movement to digital materials and not preserving hard copies. One only knows were things will end up.

    1. Oh no! If you have anything left, check out the prices on Abebooks.

      Books are getting very expensive and some of the ebooks are up there, too. It's not the best marketing plan because the total sales is all that counts and it costs no more to produce a million ebooks than 100. They also have an international market with no shipping costs.

      I like ebooks, you can search for text; copy and paste; it's easy to move your library, and they don't need dusting or get chewed by dogs. many of the books printed after about 1800 are crumbling away because they have acidic paper. It is nice to get some old first edition, but nostalgia can get expensive.

      Did you know that Tom Williams Rare Books got wiped out by the flood? The store was on 17th right by the Stampede grounds, and in a basement the water was higher than his ceiling. He did have some books waiting to be catalogued at a different location and those are OK, but what a loss. He had some manuscripts and prints, too.

  3. Yes, I did hear about his mishap. My sister lives in High River and her basement was filled with sewage backup during the flood. What a mess. She was storing our family pictures and other treasures. All were lost except a big black suitcase that was on the top shelf of a storage unit. My books sorry to say are all gone. I did check their price on the Internet. I am still learning how to access materials and information sources . Thank you for all the suggestions.
    The meeting tonight was on American and Canadian pressed glass. They started to produce this type of glass ware in the 1820's,

    1. The flood touched many, even those who lived above it. My last dog, Winston, a black lab border collie cross was fourteen years old and went through many severe seizures at the worst possible time. He lost all bowel and bladder control and was dying. for three days I could not get him to the vet because of travel restrictions and no transport. I made him as comfortable as possible and kept cleaning him up. Finally, my daughter was able to cross the river and we took him to the vet. It had been rough.

      The other thing is that I knew that Minnewanka dam was in danger of overtopping, but here had been no announcement about it. I knew that if it did overtop the water would soon erode the earth dam and it would fail. Because of the amount of rain, I also knew that Ghost Lake would probably be full and that they would be having to spill a lot of water from Ghost dam which also would end up in Calgary. If Minnewanka had failed there would have been about two stories of water downtown. The RCMP would have been in charge; the Canadian army and military help from the U.S would be busy trying to evacuate the city. There would have been no water, no electricity and no sewage system. Finally, I heard that they had managed to open a spillway at Minnewanka that had never evn been tested before. Thankfully, it opened and all that happened was that it wiped out the power for Canmore, and I think, Banff. But it saved the dam. I had drawn evacuation maps; and dam repair graphics; Carrie had taken part in emergency tests and had spoken to Federal officials about what would happen. An amusing thing is that the first thing would have been the arrest of all of the TransAlta executives so they could not screw things up! The military and the dam workers knew what had to be done, they did not. It was somewhat stressful knowing all of this when the news said nothing. Even though my feet were dry, it was a bad time.

  4. The best part of my day is either reading your bllog or receiving a message from you in the morning. It starts my day off on a high note. I am enjoying our conservations, thank you allowing me to communicate with you. Your experiences and stories are interesting and enlightening. I look forward to sharing more with you.

    1. I feel honoured, but it's strange. Calgary doesn't know much about my life here over the years. Most of my blog readers are in the U.S., but now the blog is getting better known. I liked being fairly invisible here.

      I've done a lot of things here, though, I once asked Peter Lougheed a pointed question when he was running for Premier and afterwards he invited me and a friend up to Edmonton and we spoke with his research assistant at the McDonald Hotel Conservative convention. It all started the ball rolling that overturned the Sexual Sterilization Act (Eugenic Laws) and the biggest compensation packet ever paid out in Alberta to its surviving victims.

      I also worked as an RCMP operative (voluntary)and helped put down a terrorist threat (Metis with Soviet instigators) The RCMP captured 2,000 lbs of explosives a couple of downtown office building were saved and the press and public never knew anything.

      There are other things too, but I don't talk about them at all --even though I was in the news about it, this was pre-internet days and things get forgotten and not recorded in the new media. Knowing some influential people and having a spirit of adventure is quite the combination for someone in their early twenties. It's quite amazing what can happen. Now I like peace and quiet.

      Carrie wanted me to write my autobiography but I said it had no continuity. Life is messy and doesn't follow a plot-line. It was nice getting my FSA as so many of the people I had studied had those letters after their name. I never for a second imagined I would join them one day. It was Vincent Megaw who had nominated me. I think I was the second Canadian to get one, but I'm not sure. So many more things -- some good, some bad. It has been quite the ride. With the business stuff, whenever anyone asked "Can you..." I would say "Yes" and then figure out how to do whatever it was.

  5. It is amazing the people were not told what could happen. Thank goodness I lived in the high and dry area of the city in the NE but we would have been effected by the lack of power, no sewage and no drinking water. My sister and her husband stayed at the house for two weeks before they could get back to High River. It was very stressful for them. The one thing they had going for them was their foundation of their house was well constructed and was not destroyed like so many others. The pressure from the water in the sewage system blow hugh holes in many basements. You must live in the central part of the city to have been so cut off and it must have been terrible having a very ill dog and no way of transporting him to a vet. Thank goodness for families who are willing to help out in times of need.
    This disaster reminds me of the blizzard 1950. It occurred in I believe May of that year when I was two and my sister was a few months old. My dad and uncle had travelled to town and the storm came up. It was so bad they could not get back home. They started out and had to stay at a farm many miles (no kilometers then) from our farm, For three days there was no power and my mom was home alone with us. She had a coal furnace and wood stove to keep the house warm, lanterns for light melted snow fior water and a milk cow. Mom had no idea where our dad was. There was no to travel on the roads they were completely blocked. To get home people walked on the railway tracks, luckily one ran by our home. We had pictures (lost in the food) of the huge snowdrifts that were outside our home. The drifts were more than half way up the side of the house and I was sitting on top of one with my aunt. That year it was too wet to plant crops and farmers in southern Alberta had a hard time. I hope this never happens again but who has control of the weather. I don't have my glasses on again.

    1. I'm in Killarney, just west of Marda Loop. Everyone I knew who had transport was in N. Calgary at the time or their vehicles were in flooded and closed parkades and that was when all the bridges were closed.

      I came here in '66 but I remember the winters were a lot more severe than they are now. Not knowing what was happening in that blizzard must have been really bad for your family -- no communication and life threatening situations. When Belgrade was being bombed, I was in touch through email (most of the time) with an animator there. Dragomir had two young boys and they didn't know from one day to the next if a bomb would land on their house. After it was ll over he told me the messages that had managed to get through meant a lot to them -- a contact with the outside world. Communication is important. even just knowing that someone is there.

  6. You are a very interesting person and I am please you can share some of these stories with me. One thing I am not is a gossip. If the people of Canada knew some of the things that have gone on in this country they would not sleep at night. It is the people behind the scenes that keep us safe and sound Thank you for being part of the solution. Good night. Talk to you tomorrow.

    1. What goes on behind the scenes is what is most interesting. Terrorism wins when people get to hear about it and become terrified. That's what it is, its not things getting blown up, it is people living in fear. Some countries terrorize their own people with the fear of terrorism. I wonder why they do that ;-)

      The RCMP Security Services got into a lot of trouble for doing things outside of the justice system, but it worked. People felt safe, not terrorized. But terror can justify freedoms being restricted.

  7. Good morning! Terrorism is a terrible thing. I think there are people who have problems in the area of social consciousness. Is it because that area of the brain has been effected or was it the way they were treated, for example Genghis Khan. It also reminds me of those poor souls who died on the altar in Hawaii all because they broke some ridulous rule set by a evil minded priest. I once had a student who lacked social consciousness. He tried hard to control the students and myself but I was steps ahead of him. He was part of a study at the Children's Hospital to understand his issues. They knew his mother drank and took drugs. These two things appeared to have effected the development of his frontal lobe responsible for social consciousness. They often placed student with issues with me, I guess I had the skills to help them. Little did they know it just about broke me emotional that is why I decided to retire.
    I have been reading poetry written by Blake this morning. The poem called "Song" about a trapped bird that is how I am feeling today.
    I have live in Marlborough Park for forty-three years mainly because the house is paid off and I like the area. According to Sharon Pollock ,a playwright that lives in M. Park, calls it a hidden gem. My eldest daughter and her husband lived in Martda Loop and I have driven though Killarney. It has a certain lovely character like all inner city communities.

  8. Good afternoon. (just finished today's post and saw that you had commented).

    Having to deal with anyone with sociopathic tendencies is hard on a person. Just because someone is good at something does not mean that they will flourish doing such. People really should be more attentive in such matters. Carrie had little good to say about the School Board. She eventually left and became a private tutor and found that very rewarding. Have you ever thought of doing such? I believe there are such agencies in Calgary. The kids are usually delivered by their parents to your home and picked up two or three hours later. I always made myself invisible at such times (not difficult for me, in the least!) One thing she did in teaching English was to have a student write up directions for putting on a sweater. Then she would follow those directions to the letter. It was often quite funny, and the students always loved it. Too bad that many technical writers seemed not to have been trained in such a manner.

    You must have been one of the original residents of Marleborough Park. I don't know the area at all. Calgary is so regional. When my daughter moved out, I suggested various parts of South Calgary, but she had spent all but her first couple of months of live in north Calgary and could not imagine living anywhere in the south. Yet, we had lived on Westmount road which is very close to the river. I might have just as well have been suggesting her moving to Yemen.

    I like Killarney for all the green areas: at the end of my street is the Community centre with its playing field and tennis court,and the other side of 33rd Ave there are more playing fields and a golf course. Plenty of little parks among the streets, too and the dog park along Bow Trail is reachable and has great views over downtown, and a wood with a creek running through it. It is almost like being in the country there, though Fish Creek would be far better in that respect.

    Why are you feeling like a trapped bird?

    I think, too, that you might appreciate some of today's post from what you have written above!