To add a little context to the previous post: I’ve taken a course in short story writing, and Silencing the Echo might have been an entry for a short story competition in Wales — but I decided against entering it.
The inspiration comes from a druid who campaigned for reburial of prehistoric remains in the UK. Avebury, I think. Reburial was, he said, a matter of “common decency”. As phrases go, it’s a good one. It taps into the British sense of decency and reasonableness. Or at least it does at first.
When it keeps coming up again and again it loses the feeling of a sincere spontaneous statement and starts looking like a soundbite. Looked at closely, it gives away the intolerant nature of some of the campaigners.
Imagine we’re on opposite sides, and I’m campaigning for common decency. What does this make you? I suppose it could make you uncommonly decent, but the insinuation is a moral failing rather than simply a matter of disagreement, and when the same tag is used over and over then it looks less like an accident.
An unquestioned assumption is that reburial is what the person buried would wish for. This is not certain. Continue reading
The black clouds unleashed their rain, pelting Adlais’s face. The drops melted into her tears. Now, in the centre of the circle, the priests gripping her, she understood what happened to her friend Branwen.
Once again the crops had failed. The gods were angry. Someone in the tribe must be angering them and the tribe would have to be cleansed. Adlais had been called to the priests, who had asked if she would sing at the cleansing. She had never liked cleansings, but it was important it was done right, so she had willingly agreed and drank from the horn to signify her submission to the gods. Now, barely an hour later, her head felt like it was splitting, her ears rang with sound of her own heartbeat and her limbs jerked of their own volition as the priest listed her crimes.
Witnesses came into the circle to testify to seeing events that had never happened, to spying acts that had never been committed. They briefly recited their words, as they had for Branwen last year. Then they scurried back beyond the safety of the ditch that separated the world from this cursed space. As always, the accused was challenged to deny her crimes, but Adlais’s blood felt thick and poisonous. The words would not come to her tongue. She had been on the other side too many times to hope that people would see her distress. Her silence would condemn her. Her spasms would be visible evidence of the guilt torturing her.
The judgement came. Adlais filled with fear. Not for herself, her future was as obvious as the grave in front of her, but for her family and her friends watching from beyond the ditch. They were desperate, hoping this cleansing would finally rid the land of the blight. But what gods would be appeased by falsehoods?
It was almost a relief when the last act came. The blow to the back of her skull surprised her, as she discovered the pain in her head could indeed get worse. She stumbled, then fell into the pit dug for her, to the cheers and relief of the watchers. Still awake, she lay in her final bed as the priests began to cover her. Adlais cried. Not for herself but for the friend she had abandoned a year ago. Continue reading
Loss of HMS Victory, 4 October 1744 by Peter Monamy
The HMS Victory (not that one) is set to be recovered according to the BBC and many other sites. You could say speed. Archaeology is an enormously inefficient of robbing graves. These days archaeologists can take years to study one barrow (an earth mound marking a burial) while in the 18th century aristocrats used to go on picnics and have the workmen open up one or two in an afternoon for gold.
There is a deeper reason.
Archaeologists are so slow because they want to say something about the people who live there. There’s a great Paul Bahn line: Archaeology is not about finding things, it’s about finding things out. Obviously finding things out is easier if you find artefacts with people and that’s why sudden disasters are great from an archaeological point of view.
It doesn’t stop a disaster site effectively being a grave. If you’re genuinely interested in finding out about people, it’s would be odd if you didn’t give a damn about their grave. Digging up a site is effectively destroying it.* If you’re going to do that you’ll want to go slowly and make sure that the story you can tell about this person’s life is a better memorial than the one he or she already has.
The news stories this weekend are all about finding the ship, along with a brief mention of the up to £500 million value of gold on board. What they don’t mention is that the UK government has sanctioned the recovery in exchange for 20% of that. Is the government more interested in the treasure, or has it developed a keen interest in archaeology so that, as Lord Lingfield says: “We hope it will give a unique insight into the world of the mid-18th century Royal Navy.”
Odyssey said yesterday the UK government was ‘desperately looking for new sources of income’ and was urging it to find more British wrecks. It is also investigating HMS Sussex, lost off Gibraltar with 10 tons of gold in 1694, and HMS Victory, a precursor to Nelson’s flagship.
There are thousands of deserted medieval villages in the UK. In the 21st century the biggest defence any burials in them have have against feeding bankers is that the financial payoff of cracking them open is too low.
A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’ — NYTimes.com You can make arguments in favour of repatriation of antiquities. You can make arguements against. Being on either side doesn’t make you inherently foolish. But when you write that the British Army took the Rosetta Stone from the French and “returned it to the British Museum” then something has gone wrong. It’s probably a case of momentary brainfade rather than idiocy, but it matters because the whole question of ownership of the Rosetta Stone is about where it rightfully belongs. Using the word ‘returned’ builds in the assumption that all antiquities are inherently British.
Notes & Queries; Sledges — Theoretical Structural Archaeology Geoff Carter concluded he didn’t have evidence for a staggeringly early cart shed in Poland. Could it have been a used to house a sledge? I’ve just realised I know absolutely nothing at all about the history of sleds and sledges. Not only that, but I can’t recall much attention being called to them in early prehistoric archaeology other than when people want to talk about moving megaliths to Stonehenge. Yet Martha Murphy (guest blogging) shows there’s plenty of questions to ask about neolithic transport.
Pagans for Archaeology: Why reburial won’t work It’s all very well me saying there are ethical reasons to be against reburial, but I still haven’t found the time to write them down yet. Now this post hits almost every point I was going to make, especially the point about memory. This won’t stop me from writing up my thoughts when I can find the time though.
Identity : Gambler’s House Teofilo talks about Chaco and Navajo identity and discovers neither is as simple as you might think.
3rd-century building fuels debate over lost country … asahi.com(朝日新聞社) “The central axis of each building forms a straight line. Each building is believed to have faced the same direction. Such careful planning for buildings was common for palaces and temples during the Asuka Period from the late sixth century to the early eighth century. But it had not been found at sites from the early third century. “
This is why I need to find an introductory book to early Japanese history. There’s a huge amount of fascinating stuff there.
Shameful hypocrisy threatens our ancient shared heritage “One of the most egregious hypocrisies we entertain in British Columbia is our cavalier attitude toward the destruction and disposal of indigenous cultural landscapes, artifacts and heritage sites. In any enlightened nation such important history would command protection — here it earns indifference and even contempt.”
How do you put your blog posts together? Photo after erix!
There’s been a spate of ‘Why Blog?’ posts in the Biblioblogosphere. They happen every so often amongst bloggers. Sometimes they’re insightful and sometimes they’re navel gazing. Thankfully the discussion leans towards the former here. Charles Ellwood Jones has put up a round up of posts at the Ancient World Bloggers Group.
The entries that particularly caught my eye were on honesty in blogging. Jim West kicked that strand off, you should read the whole thing, but key pararaphs are:
In sum, do we refrain from blogging what we really think about this or that or the other because we are unsure of ourselves, or because we are fearful of the reaction or– and worst of all– because we are afraid we might not be called to serve at Harvard or Yale if someone there reads what we cheekily say?
I find myself, at the end of the day, constantly amazed at the unwillingness of some to be themselves. I take this as nothing but hypocrisy. Hide yourself, don’t say what you think, play the hypocrite, and someone may hire you or publish you. As though being hired or published were more important than honesty. Which I suppose, for some, they are.