Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 4: the modern barbarism (iii)

Coriosolite/Unelli staters from my collection
as an overlay on my digital map from the first
web version of my book. The later Oxford
publication version being in greyscale.
In 1994, I had just finished one of the drafts for my book: Celtic Improvisations: An Art Historical Analysis of Coriosolite Coins, British Archaeological Reports International Series 1092, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2002 and bought my very first computer. For ten years I had been in written communication with British archaeologists. All of them had been at the top of their profession; specialists in Celtic coins; or both (like Colin Haselgrove). Bob van Arsdell had written a very favourable review for Spink (who turned down the MS because of its specialized and academic nature) saying: "This is the most comprehensive and detailed typological study for a Celtic coinage I have seen. ...". Things seemed to going quite well. That is, until I joined a British web discussion group called "Arch-theory". Unbeknownst to me, I had landed in the middle of one of those academic fads. this one was claiming that there was no such thing as an ancient Celtic culture. They were using weasel-words like "unified" before "Celtic culture" but those had slipped past the perception of the lower IQ followers, one of whom (using her professor's email address to enforce her point) said to me "There were no bloody Celts!" and named various of the cult-leaders' works. This was in reply to my very first message asking if anyone would care to discuss the stylistic evolution of Celtic coins. More very rude and ignorant responses followed.

I had moved to Canada from England in 1966 and my last environment there had been quite cultured. It's funny how you take a time with you when you leave and preserve it as an impression. It was at that very moment that I realized  that I was no longer English but Canadian. Only one person came to my defence and that was Vincent Megaw. He (and his students) kept track of my efforts to get the book published and we have been been friends ever since. Eventually, he nominated me for my FSA.

Today, the No-Celts Cult gets only lip-service in academia, presumably in deference to the many academic members of it who still have a job. My method was to use evolutionary cladistics and it was the very first time that had been applied to an archaeological subject. I got no credit for that, of course, because I was independent and not an academic. There was later publication  suggesting that cladistics might be used in archaeology. You virtually never see citations to non-academics within academic publishing. Actually, biological evolutionary cladistics is far less efficient that art-historical evolutionary cladistics mainly because of certain characteristics of epigenetics such as genes being able to be switched on and off and the (sometimes) use of too few features in the construction of its "trees". I had used hundreds of design element pared down to only those which showed overlapping evolutionary features and this resulted in a virtually 100%  probability of certainty. You can get an idea of the percentage by imagining a lottery where you have to list 15 numbers out of a range of hundreds and you win the jackpot. It could not get to an accuracy of a single "generation" (die), but the greatest uncertainty was within one span of five "generations". I'm quite happy with that.

I could also "unify" Celtic culture at that time through both its religious philosophy and its artistic tenets. Now, I could also add a number of socio-economic features common to all La Tène groups. The fatal weakness in the academic attempt was to create its own, very limited, definition of  a culture and then judge the Celts by those criteria alone. You might ask "Why would anyone do such a stupid thing?" It shows a complete lack of the scientific method of inductive reasoning and uses only deductive reasoning from a suppositional base. In real science, both are used, but inductive reasoning is most essential for forming viable hypotheses as well as in later stages of the research. You switch back and forth as you work. What the No-Celts cult had done was to mimic the much weaker abductive reasoning (essentially "best guess") which is only really necessary when there just is not enough data available for the usual inductive/deductive combination. You can read a basic description of these types here.

The No-Celts cult was a British phenomenon and was designed to make the claim that the pre-Roman Britons were not Celts. While this smacks of nationalism, the main reason was to use nationalistic tendencies to support the professional advancement of those originating the ideas. The features that were picked would have been completely laughable had that nationalistic wishful thinking had not been present. There were three main cultural features employed: British houses were circular while continental houses were rectangular. Apart from this being a generality because the earliest structures at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) were indeed rectangular and Gaulish and there do seem to be  a few circular huts within continental maritime hill forts, the whole idea breaks down completely as this preference in building styles goes back all the way to the Neolithic. The other two features had to do with farming and burial styles which also not only had a long ancestry as far as (with disposal of the dead) whether they were inhumation, cremation or excarnation: different styles being used by different groups within the culture and with farming, different techniques being used here and there. The average person would never associate these features with cultural traits unless the dead were dispose of in a most unusual way (such as being cut up and then eaten by vultures). In the high altitudes of Tibet there is not enough wood fuel to cremate and the ground is too rocky for burial and besides, It is also religiously important for the remains to cease to exist. Farming practices, too, have not only long traditions and local developments, but various environmental factors at play.

Why would a culture be defined only by those things that have little to no psychic content and are all very materialistic? The answer to that question lies within a psychological constellation: Archaeology is materialistic; and is more so because it affects a science; art-history has been seen to be completely subjective by many archaeologists who parted with the subject many decades ago and never kept up with more objective methods (such as what I used with evolutionary cladistics and what early Celtic art specialists had used with regard to various motifs across time and geography which have to be very specific or you will get Vincent Megaw on your case!).  In one recent archaeological publication the basic style was called "swirly", which is not only untrue, but at best only very vaguely describes two of many hundreds of motifs (the spiral and the "Marnian scroll"). Most importantly, though, the narrow definitions allows for an "easy to understand" and "comic book"  generalities which can attract a greater number of unthinking followers. This, in turn, creates various cliques where the students hope for advancement by going along with their professors. Being a closed shop through the use of unintelligible and affected writing combined with restrictively-priced publications which virtually no one reads anyway but are useful only in the "publish or perish" environment of academia. The illusion is fairly easily maintained. However, like any Ponzi scheme it will fracture and dissolve at some point, just as what nearly happened with the mortgage/banking scandal which was only partially saved (for the wealthy) by various other political/economic manipulations.

This sort of subterfuge also extends to the war against collectors and dealers because who knows a subject better than someone who has been doing it  for many decades and whose success depends solely on their understanding of the subject? Such people have to be demonized by academia in order to maintain their own illusions. Now this is a feature mainly restricted to the humanities and so-called "soft sciences" and it excludes the minority which are at the top of that structure and who have a true passion for their subject. It is rather sad that such people often get tarred with the same brush by those who see through the various subterfuges; it is another, and undesirable, effect of the use of generalities.

What I have been talking about in this episode is the use of "cultural heritage" as a weapon used for personal gain. The dynamics of it being used for political gain will be covered in another episode. Where the two intersect is within the diagram I included in part one. What is covered above are all of the characteristics of Box B1 (Structural Faults) and it begins to introduce the contents of Box C (Symptoms of GroupThink). I will deal with all of the features within this flow chart, and very specifically so, as the series progresses.

The barbarism is deliberate in its organization but its victims are not only the general public but its own followers whose eyes are focused a little too much on their personal advancement. Few, I think, will shed a tear for them when the system breaks down as, one day, it must do.

I will have a new part to present tomorrow. It won't take too much effort for me  as you will discover (clue: make some popcorn). The end of the week  is going to be busy for me and I will be in the mountains on Friday, but will upload that episode before I go.

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