Thursday, 21 August 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part four ― the road well travelled

Wheel ruts
photo: Bob Jones (Geograph)


“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Mark Twain







Neural signaling

"Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric." Bertrand Russell





If Benjamin Button had been an academic he would have started with a Ph.d, and then got his Master's degree so that he could teach the things he had discovered to others. Finally, he would have amused himself in his young age by reading mountains of books and papers written by people who tried to do it the other way round. None of them would have been very original, and perhaps not even right, but at least they would have had lots of company.

Good original research is a solitary activity. The only voice you will hear will be that of the primary material. It's a quiet voice, and too easily drowned out when everyone is talking at once.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part three ― thinking about things

La Pensierosa (The Thinker)
John William Godward, 1913


“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking." A. A. Milne, War with Honour, 1940

Michel Foucault's The Order of Things: An archaeology of the human sciences was a revelation to me, not because it taught me a new way to think about things, but because it confirmed that I had been thinking about things in the right way. The conscious mind tends to compartmentalize things and this is how we form classifications of objects. It doesn't matter if the object is a plant, an animal, a coin, artifact, or an archaeological site: if we want to understand it it is necessary to view it alongside other apparently similar objects to know how it connects or does not connect with a greater whole. The simplest division of such objects are called classes and these are seen as the basic units within a classification system. The structure of any classification system is nested within other groups and as it would be too confusing to call each of them a class, we tend to assign other names to them, or in some way or another differentiate these groups. Thus in the biological taxonomy of the Linnaean System we get Kingdom, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Going down even further, we can add sub-species, variety, and population and it as this point that we find the most disagreements between taxonomists. One type of creature might be claimed to be a sub-species by one person and a regional variation or population by another. At the very bottom of the scale, in a named object, would be individual.

A blatant error would be to confuse an individual with a class. I saw a good example of this with a picture of a Celtic coin in a "fringe archaeology" work by Barry Fell, where he imagined that he was seeing an Ogham word in the design. His mistake was not merely that he had predated Ogham characters by more than three hundred years, but that the device was only partly visible on that individual coin because it had been struck off-centre and part of it was not visible at all. If he had looked at the type (which in numismatics would be the equivalent of Kingdom as the numismatic taxonomy goes type or series, then class, and variety) he would not have made that mistake. This sort of error can also arouse suspicion: was it really a mistake, or did he select that individual to support a greater claim? This question reveals another potential classification system and that is the structure of a fiction. In other words, a plot.

But it does not even end there, because a number of people in discussing the problem will likely start using other terms like "innuendo", "out of context", and "conspiracy theory" (my favorite because it supposes that, if conspiracies actually exist, then no one ever has a theory about any of them). These, in turn might be honest, misguided, manipulative, bullshit, and so on. The Internet is choked with such things. Their language is explained by Phil Agre under the term "jargon". Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

While spending ten years or so establishing the manufacturing orders of Coriosolite coin dies, I came to understand that I could not include classes without abandoning a certain measure of objectivity. Although I started working on these in the mid eighties, just before my daughter was born, the book was not published until 2002, and I did not read Foucault (which validated my ideas) until a year later. Foucault reveals that all classification systems must contain a great measure of subjectivity, and that they are really an invention to serve the purposes of the classifier. These purposes will also have a cultural and/or temporal flavour. The data revealed to me that the coins actually consisted of only Series and continuums of individuals within them, and I came to this realization because instead of picking the arbitrary markers of a selection of motifs to determine each Class, I examined many hundreds of other motifs and the design elements from which they were constructed to order the coinage in an evolutionary manner. That there was such an evolution was my original hypothesis and it was based on their great variety of design.

I utilized my unconscious mind to recover the intentions of the original artists. This is psychic archaeology, and was possible for me because I am an Introverted Intuitive type. It would be virtually impossible for an Extraverted Thinking type to originate, but not so much for that type to follow if they became convinced of its scientific value. Intuitive is an irrational function and thus closer to objective, and thinking is a rational function and thus closer to subjective. I dare say that there will be many of you thinking "What?!!!" at this point. We are used to equating the irrational with insanity and the rational with sanity. This is an indicator of where our societies are on the Mythos to Logos scale. In Jungian terminology it is quite different with respect to objectivity and subjectivity. I'll let Wolfgang Pauli explain further:
"As a matter of fact the physicist would expect a psychological correspondence at this point, because the epistemological situation with regard to the concepts 'conscious' and 'unconscious' seems to offer a pretty close analogy to the undermentioned 'complimentarity' situation on physics. ... It is undeniable that the development of 'microphysics' has brought the way in which nature is described in this science very much closer to that of the newer psychology: but whereas the former, on account of the basic 'complementarity' situation. is faced with the impossibility of eliminating the effects of the observer by determinable correctives, and has therefore to abandon in principle any objective understanding of physical phenomena, the latter can supplement the purely subjective psychology of consciousness by postulating the existence of an unconscious that possesses a large measure of objective reality." C. G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, p. 139n
The method that I decided to use was similar to that of the naturalist who established that sightings and photographs of  "the Loch Ness monster" were of otters: I just looked at the designs without trying to think about them, morning and night for quite a long time. As with that naturalist, a couple of indicators bubbled up to the surface of my unconsciousness allowing me to think about them and thus taking other unconscious aspects into the conscious mind where they could then be thought about and tested. After that point, I was able to "rough out" the entire chronology in a single sitting. I was also preconditioned to be able to conceive of continuums because of my understanding of David Bohm's Rheomode.

Although I had broken with classical classification systems because of their subjectivity, I knew that people still needed something similar for the singular function of assigning a design to part of the chronology, so I created my Groups, explaining to the reader that these could only be used for that function, and that to do otherwise would demote them to Classes. No statistical methods could possibly be applied to them and they were created only as a convenience and as a way to avoid saying "within the chronology somewhere between Coin x and y" These consisted, mainly, where certain parts  of the design changed in unison.

I also developed a system of notation like so:

1. 2. 3. (4. 5. 6.) 7. 8.  The numbers within parenthesis are in an arbitrary and subjective order because there is no evidence to claim their order as objective. Another way of looking at it is: 1. 2. 3. x. 7. 8. where x can be any arrangement of  4. 5. 6. It is a sort of Schrödinger's cat type of situation where the box might be opened by the discovery of new varieties within the continuum which might eliminate the parentheses or lessen the numbers contained therein.

Because I had so many divisions serving different functions, I decided not to use Bob Van Arsdell's better system of allowing for new discoveries of types and varieties by having orders of numbers like 353-5,  355-1, 355-3, 355-5 I did this for design reasons and because my chronological part of the study was the finite contents of a specific hoard and not the "un-finite" nature of a tribe's or region's coinage which might then need new intermediary numbers. It could still be changed, however, within the existing chronology, by adding such a system. In the the twenty years or so since I wrote the chronology, a couple of new varieties did emerge that fitted perfectly into it, and which I described as between a and b. for each.

The distribution patterns that I was able to reveal, that were invisible in the previous classification system, were easy to see regardless of whether a hoard had 85 coins or nearly ten thousand, so the new hoard of perhaps 70,000 coins should not have any effect on these patterns either. I found it interesting, however, that J-B Colbert de Beaulieu, who had invented the previous system, had said that no distribution patterns were visible in the data, but never questioned the thought that this might also mean that such distribution patterns might be revealed by adjusting his classification system to see them. This would have only required the grouping together of  three of his classes as one series, and two of his classes as another and allowing the sixth to stand on its own as a separate series (which would have been easy to identify as not being Coriosolite at all). It could have been done by applying all combinations until the distribution pattern just popped into view without any understanding of the design evolution whatsoever. That, too, is an objective method. My ultimate purpose, however, became much larger than just chronological and distributional matters.

Tomorrow, why the academic method is psychologically "bass-ackwards".

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part two ― taking care of the equipment

Gravel truck
photo: Charles01
I have some friends who used to be in the gravel business. They had supplied the gravel for the construction of Calgary's famous Centre Street Bridge. In those days, the gravel was delivered to the site by horse and cart. I learned that the money was made not so much from the sale of gravel, but its delivery, and the key to success was in keeping all of the trucks in good running order at all times. The mechanics were the most important people in the business. Of course, having equipment in good working order is one thing, using it is another. For reasons that I cannot fathom, one of my friends once asked me to help load  a large drum full of who knows what into one of their sheds with a bulldozer. As I had never driven one before, he showed me how to operate it. Well, knowing and doing are two different things, and I nearly took out the shed when I clipped the door frame with the bucket. Still, it was fun and after driving the thing around the yard for a while before attempting the job I wondered if I might ask another friend if I might try driving his Centurion tank one day. After nearly demolishing the shed, I decided that being a tank driver was probably not a good activity for me.

While a field archaeologist uses a trowel to excavate a site, the tool that is used to interpret what is uncovered is the mind. So you would think that this tool, too, should be kept in good working order and that it should be properly calibrated so that the answers that it gives are accurate. I always used to zero my digital scales at the Nickle lab before weighing a coin and I knew that the room's air flows would effect the third decimal place so I never bothered with such a finely tuned measurement: whenever the air conditioner cut in, the scales would note the event. When I thought about this series, I couldn't recall ever reading anything about psychology in archaeological interpretation. I checked a few books and found nothing. Looking on the web, I was only able to find Digging deeper in the archaeological psyche which dealt more about motivation than about interpretation and leaned more toward Freud than Jung. Still, it broke the ground a bit and gave me a few ideas.

You would think that Jung would rate fairly high in something about the "archaeological psyche". After all, Jung originally wanted to study archaeology but settled on becoming a medical doctor instead. Now there's twist ― I'm sure that in most cases it is the other way round. In most university psychology courses, Jung is merely used as part of the history of the subject. A casual observer might think that this is because Jung is outdated. Actually, it is because Jung is extremely difficult. Jung was aware of the problem himself and had his various assistants contribute most of the chapters of Man and his Symbols because he was aware of the great gulf between himself and the public. I don't think the plan worked very well. You can detect  a few times when the Zeitgeist or the collective consciousness crept into the work, especially with the fragmentation spoken of by Aniela Jaffé and her really bizarre bit about "Roman" coins, which are actually Celtic and the designs of which she compares with art drawn by someone on LSD. There is absolutely nothing in this that is even partly correct -- not even the order of them based on their distance from Rome, which, even if were put in the correct order would mean nothing at all as they were all based on Greek coin designs, anyway. Wolfgang Pauli would have said "It's not even wrong".

I really think that everyone should approach Jung from his own writings first, and only then look at the other authors. Do not start with Mysterium Coniunctionis, but pick The Undiscovered Self, granted, the latter's social concerns deal much with the Iron Curtain and worries about the atomic bomb (it's from 1957), but it is up front with this and not so allusive as Man and his Symbols. Then tackle his paper On the Nature of the Psyche. It is bound, in the Bollingen series title, with On Psychic Energy which precedes it, but read the other paper first. I think that in recent years most people have started with Man and his Symbols and then have gone on to On Synchronicity ― not a good plan. Alternatively, try Joseph Campbells' compilation, The Portable Jung. You will need to read On the Nature of the Psyche a few times, but it is well worth it.

Let us say that you are in charge of putting together an archaeological team. In order to start with the best equipment (the core archaeologists, themselves), the very first thing you should do is to have all of the potential candidates take one of the personality tests based on Jung's original work. The "big two" are MBTI and HumanMetrics. Aim for getting two people to be joint heads of the team, one an extravert, the other an introvert. Be careful, though, there can often be sexual attraction between these two types so you want to avoid that. One obvious way would be to pick people who are of the same sex (and both heterosexual), or are of different sexes (and are both homosexual). While you could use the free online tests, it would be best  to pay for the service and thus have these companies supply competent people to interpret the results in accordance with your needs. This sort of thing is common in business, because it can be of great. practical. use. About the worse way to go would be to pick people based only on their academic qualifications and their publishing history. You would probably do better with a lottery! Try to have all of the core personnel come from very different academic and social backgrounds. It really doesn't matter who you pick for support staff other than that they are efficient in what they do. You will thus end up with a relatively objective "think tank". Such teams are actually quite rare as think tanks are too often constructed to a specific end. You want the opposite of that: you are not trying to design something pre-determined, you are trying to get people together who look at things differently. The past is wild and unpredictable and archaeologists are often accused (with considerable validity) of only finding what they are looking for. Stick with the companies who use the method above. I had dealings, once, with a company who used another company who were a front for Scientology. It was a complete disaster and ended up with a virtual mutiny among the staff.

When we had our business, I had my staff put in eight hours each day, but two hours of that was for their breaks. Pushing people too hard results in lower productivity and can result in too many "sick days" and a lack of enthusiasm. Unused to two half-hour coffee breaks, they all returned to work afterward with considerable energy and enthusiasm. I have tested these things and they work. Our productivity soared as a result. It might shock you to know how little work is actually accomplished in the average office.

The extravert will have a natural ability to deal with the material, and the introvert will have a natural ability to deal with meaning, but what if you are just one person looking at the evidence of the past? Imagine that everything has been dug up and recorded and it is your job, alone, to make sense of it? I'll have some answers for you tomorrow ― things that have worked for me.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part one ― introduction

Psyche and her sisters
Jean-Honoré Fragonard


"Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"

Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol


I've always been a "systems person". When I was three years old I disturbed an ant's nest just to see what the ants would do about it; I built my first expert system before I ever heard of the term "expert system". It was Robert Van Arsdell who identified it as such when he read the manuscript of my book after I had first submitted it to Spink & Son, Ltd. I had called it a "quick identification chart".

Everything was always connected. Nothing was isolated, not even my own life: before I started school at the age of four, I asked my mother, "When I die, who will my next mother be?" I don't remember if she tried to answer that question, I do remember her being startled by it though. Neither of my parents were religious. Sure, they put down "Church of England" on the forms, but I have no knowledge that either of them had ever seen the inside of a church. I became interested in Bible stories until I had a nightmare full of Biblical imagery followed by a very scary out of body experience in which I started drifting toward my bedroom window. There was something in the room with me: a ball of golden light, an inch or two in size, that just hung there in mid-air. I tried closing my eyes, but it didn't work. When I was fifteen, I started to become interested in philosophy, and then Tibetan Buddhism, but a growing interest in girls put most of that out of my mind! I didn't even realize I was being driven by biological urges. Now, at the age of nearly sixty-five, having been married for twenty years, and on my own for more than ten years, such biological urges have little effect on me. I'm pretty well free of both desires and fears. I'm not free of curiosity, though. It drives me.

Pam in Banff, Alberta
Oscar Wilde's lines came to me when I was in my early twenties and heard an older friend say that his wife had been a ballerina, but that he had put an end to that. Not long after that, I met Pam, a ballerina from Los Angeles and she moved in with me. She had come to Alberta to continue her dance studies at the Banff School of Fine Arts. I was afraid that I might be holding her back, and I broke up with her. I don't know what happened to her after Banff, or if she achieved her goals, but I hope she did. It was quite the sacrifice to me at the time, but I felt that I had no choice. It was her passion, and she understood. Her best friend in Los Angeles had been Jimmy Webb's girlfriend and he had written the song MacArthur Park about his relationship with Pam's friend. I used to think about that song whenever I walked through MacArthur Park in the summer of 1969 and it all became part of that experience for me, later, when I met Pam in Calgary. Everything is connected.

Coin of Karystos from the Wallace collection
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc
Long before the Internet, when I was working on the research for my book, I had corresponded with various British archaeologists about the Celts and their coins. I never heard anything bad from any of them about my collecting ancient coins and artifacts. I did experience two examples of hostility here in Calgary, though. The first one came from an emeritus professor of archaeology who had purchased the Wallace collection of Euboean coins. Only the League coinage had ever been published, and I had been picked by the curator of the Numismatic Department at the Nickle Arts Museum to die-link and study the coins of Chalkis and Karystos, which were on loan from that professor. He had wagged his finger at me when I said that I was a collector. Nothing ever came of that, I still have my notes somewhere, though. The intended book was never published: the university had refused to pay for the photography, and the professor was too eager to split up the collection in a number of auction lots and make a good profit to allow enough time for the study to be completed. The second time was when my wife was marking papers for a woman who was an art-history instructor at the Alberta College of Art. She came over to the house once and saw my little display case with its Celtic coins and antiquities. "These should be in a museum!" she said officiously. In deference to my wife, I did not kick her out of the house. Later, she was picked as the new curator of the coin department at the Nickle when the previous curator retired. He wanted me to take over, but she was married to a professor of Classics there and got the job instead. She also had  a Ph.D. She got fired after she sent all the Greek silver coins out to be polished so that they would be more attractive for the public. I have not had much to do with the Nickle since then.

I decided, that such people who wag their fingers at collectors are a bunch of nuts who have achieved that negative Jungian state known as Enantiodromia. I still do. Since then I have always championed those who have had a real passion. Everything is connected.

This series will examine not just the psychology of the good archaeologists who still have that passion, but the nuts, too. It will also examine the psychologies of those who are being studied by them: it's really not the things that are important, it's the people who made and used them. I was going to call this series "psychic archaeology", but then people might think it was about dowsing for artifacts, rather than "dowsing" for meaning. But everything is connected isn't it?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Kassander's tomb?

The Lion of Amphipolis
photo: Kkonstan
Late last night, my friend Robert phoned me from Toronto to tell me about the discovery of the undisturbed  entrance to the enormous tomb at Amphipolis that archaeologists have been excavating for a few years and the tomb's association with the large sculpture of a lion found some distance away that is believed to have been erected at the top of the mound. The lion had been cast in a river when Amphipolis had been attacked by the Romans. Our interest in this discovery was to do with the lead seals of Alexander the Great. (we both own an example), which depict a walking lion and the name of Alexander.

Typical of the media, the reports quote expert's opinions without giving much in the way of their reasons for these opinions.

It is denied, of course, that the tomb contains the body of Alexander the Great because he was buried first at Memphis, but his body was later moved to Alexandria. However, I think it most likely that the tomb was built for Alexander. Such a monument would have taken a very long time to build and would have been started long before Alexander's death.

There is also speculation that the tomb was built for Admiral Laomedon of Mytilene, but an iconographic detail of the tomb eliminates that possibility as it was certainly built for a king. This significance of this detail might be known by the excavators, because of its mention in some of the news reports, but nothing has been said about its significance. It is also quite possible that this iconographic detail has not been understood at all.

The crucial detail is the thirteen steps that were discovered some time ago. Robert Graves, in The Greek Myths, (Introduction)says:
"Thirteen, the number of the sun’s death-month, has never lost its evil reputation among the superstitious. The days of the week lay under the charge of Titans: the genii of sun, moon, and the five hitherto discovered planets, who were responsible for them to the goddess as Creatrix. This system had probably been evolved in matriarchal Sumeria.
"Thus the sun passed through thirteen monthly stages, beginning at the winter solstice when the days lengthen again after their long autumnal decline. The extra day of the sidereal year, gained from the solar year by the earth’s revolution around the sun’s orbit, was intercalated between the thirteenth and the first month, and became the most important day of the 365, the occasion on which the tribal Nymph chose the sacred king, usually the winner of a race, a wrestling match, or an archery contest. But this primitive calendar underwent modifications: in some regions the extra day seems to have been intercalated, not at the winter solstice, but at some other New Year—at the Candlemas cross-quarter day, when the first signs of spring are apparent; or at the spring equinox, when the sun is regarded as coming to maturity; or at midsummer; or at the rising of the Dog Star, when the Nile floods; or at the autumnal equinox, when the first rains fall."

Graves has quite a lot to say about the thirteenth month in his work, including that the Greeks symbolized it with the myrtle. The number thirteen underwent considerable syncretization and was first thought to be unlucky because Judas was the thirteenth person to be seated at the Last Supper. However, Judas' role in the death of the "King of the Jews" and his thirteenth position was mythologically necessary. Much later still, thirteen steps were constructed to gallows.

Another theory for the occupant of the tomb was Alexander's wife Roxana. This came about because no penis was found for the lion of Amphipolis, but this was refuted by Michaelis Lefantzis on Argyraspid's blog, Megas Alexandros. Argyraspid replies: "I hope it was not built for Cassander though ;-)".

While I do not think that it was built for Kassander, I think it very likely that he had ordered that he should be buried in the unoccupied tomb. Kassander had made great use of lion iconography in his bronze coinage and the iconography of that coinage would have been aimed only at a Macedonian audience. I think it possible that the lion breaking the spear-head in his jaws on the coins where Kassander styles himself as "King"could refer to the dynastic change. Having murdered Alexander's son, it seems unlikely that Kassander would have wanted Alexander IV to be buried there. Who buried Alexander IV is open to speculation, but the task should have been the responsibility of Alexander's half-brother Philip III as Kassander was not the king at that time. Philip was little more than a figurehead and it is said that he suffered from learning disabilities. Furthermore, if you are looking for a ruthless and scheming  player in this scene, then Kassander is your man. It is said that Kassander went to Babylon to poison Alexander the Great.

I find it interesting, too, that "21st century experts believe that Alexander's tomb disappearance is related to the rise of Christianity in the pagan Roman Empire including Alexandria, Egypt. The theory suggests that Alexander's body was unintentionally stolen from Alexandria by a pair of Venetian merchants, taken to Venice, mistakenly renamed and venerated as St. Mark the Evangelist in Basilica di San Marco (Venice, Italy)." (Wikipedia entry for Alexander's tomb). The origin of the lion motif for both St. Mark and the city of Venice has been attributed to Revelations, but perhaps there is cause to doubt that attribution.

Hopefully, in a few weeks, the mystery might be solved!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Transdisciplinary food for thought

Can academic institutions survive new ways of thinking? What is the difference between creating too many "instant expert"  Ph.D's and a Ponzi scheme?

Dr. Robert Pippin, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, gives the keynote talk at the Interdisciplinary Futures Symposium, held in honor of Emory's ILA 60th anniversary celebration on October 24, 2013:


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Getting back to nature 2.

Monte's quarter section (160 acres). New photograph taken
from a small plane. The land had been clear cut about ten
years ago (save for the small trees which are now larger).
The old logging roads from Crown land are still visible.
This post is a follow-up to last year's "Getting back to nature".

I had just finished baking a lot of Cornish pasties for this years expedition and was thinking about making some apple strudel when my friend Monte phoned to say that our expedition planned for tomorrow was off. Some money he was expecting has been delayed until late September. We were already less prepared than we had hoped for: he had to spend a bit of money getting a 4WD Durango for the trip, but it did not have a winch; his gun license was not going to arrive in time, so we would have less protection from the grizzly and black bears in the area, and we were shy on some other equipment too. He was thinking about going after the money arrived but I told him that the moose hunting season would have started by that time. I think that the chances of being accidentally shot by a hunter would be greater than being attacked by a bear, but the combination of moose hunting and grizzly bears can be a deadly mix. Many people have been attacked and killed by a grizzly guarding the remains of a moose carcass, and when we were in the area last year, we saw moose tracks and one print of a bear's forefoot in some fresh mud. That track was of a black bear, though. It might have been the one that growled at us from the undergrowth not far away.

A local farmer had told us that he would take us further toward Monte's land across his farm, but when Monte's sister phoned and spoke to the farmer's wife, she seemed less enthused by the idea. The locals are not too happy about some of the hunters in the area who have driven (apparently small) all terrain vehicles through the dense undergrowth to the marshes that surround the small lakes there. Unable to remove the entire moose, they just take what meat they can transport out and leave the rest for the grizzlies. The area seems over-hunted and the moose population is declining. September is bad for travelling through grizzly country, they are trying to fatten up for the winter and with the moose in decline they are not only going to be extra protective of moose carcasses, but will likely be looking for other sources of meat. If a bear has decided to eat you, apart from shooting it or scaring it off by various methods, there is really nothing you can do. Playing dead only works if a bear is defending its territory and sees you as a threat. While bears are killed by hunters (no licenses for hunting grizzly bears in that area are issued, only licenses for black bear ), that usually means a shot through the heart from the side. With a charging grizzly, though, a 12 bore shotgun cartridge filled with steel balls is the recommended defence. But a 700 to 1,7000 lb. bear landing on you before it dies could kill you from its weight alone.

Because the locals are not pleased about the hunters coming into the area, some of them have been blocking access to old roads. On their own land, this is quite legal, however, no one is allowed to build a road through Crown land and then restrict the access to other people wanting to travel on it, so if we found such a barricade, we would tear it down. The expedition was going to be through abandoned logging roads through Crown land that are not all marked on maps and as it has been a number of years since logging was taking place there, we expected to have to fell some small trees that might have grown back. Most of the forest is conifer, and that can only be replanted, but the few aspen will grow back over time, and might have to be cut.

The current plan is to build a powered raft to take us and an all terrain vehicle across a large lake to the east, and then go through the forest on Crown land to his property, but we might first check out some of the existing logging roads into the area first. Once there, we will of course pan the two creeks on it to see if there is any gold (ownership of land grants no rights, you still have to stake a claim) and look for other things (depending on the season) like morel mushrooms (very profitable) among the aspens and fiddleheads in the undergrowth. I expect the creeks will have trout in them. For shelter, a tree house is on the agenda.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The La Tène religion of the Celtic elite ― part 25: In conclusion

Coat of arms of La Tène, Neuchâtel,
Switzerland. The former municipalities
of Marin-Epagnier and Thielle-Wavre
merged on 1 January 2009 to form
the new municipality of La Tène.
The design refers to the many Celtic
swords found in the lake.
Even after twenty-five parts, I have only scratched the surface of this topic. I could have included many more examples from the Gundestrup cauldron and Celtic coinage, but this is a blog, not a book. Even so, twenty five parts were still necessary to cover the basics. Archaeology is poorly equipped to deal in matters of religion and this is demonstrated by the frequent use of the word "ritual" in archaeology literature. Ritual is just one aspect of religious practice and rituals are often enacted without the slightest idea of their origin and meaning. Yet, no meaning is attached to the word in such literature and it really doesn't take a degree in archaeology to make guesses based on nothing about what one is looking at. It would be better if such objects or the arrangement of objects at an archaeological site were stated "perhaps to have religious significance", or even better, " the meaning of... is unknown to the excavators".

It seems, also, that many archaeologists have similar problems in understanding Celtic culture. Culture is nothing if it does not speak of world-views. Whenever you read that "there was no unified Celtic culture" you are reading the words of someone who is trying to define culture without using language, religion, and art to do so.  It would seem that the scope of modern archaeology is far more limited than is commonly believed. Any archaeological site or any of contents can be a point of departure for looking into cultural matters, but without any knowledge of these other subjects not much can be said with any real substance.

The main problem with defining the ancient Celts is that culture is often tied to nationalistic or biological factors.There is either no science being used in such cases, or science is being used improperly ― as little more than a veneer, and we must look to other motives, either political or personal, as to why this is done. It has everything to do with the present and nothing at all to do with the past.

As a way to avoid a lot of these problems, I proposed a classification system whereby the ancient Celts could be divided into two approximate cultural frames: Celtic A is defined as those people who used a Celtic language, and Celtic B were those people who, in addition to using a Celtic language, also made and used objects in the La Tène linked styles. Any classification system is subjective and is constructed to serve the needs of people today. The classification system that I proposed, eliminates all of the problems that had been tried to be resolved by substituting "Iron Age" for "Celtic".

Another subject that is absent in archaeology, but not in mythology, is psychology. Not only do we have to be mindful of the psychology of the ancient people we are studying, but we also have to be mindful of the psychology of those who are studying them, the latter because everything that we say and do is filtered through our own psychology. I have noticed that there are a considerable number of people in professional archaeology who exhibit the Jungian "Extraverted Thinking Type". In recent years, however, postmodern attitudes have lessened this problem. It hit its peak in the "New Archaeology" of the seventies, that might be better defined as "scientistic" rather than "scientific". The myopic views about what constitutes culture that I have mentioned above are symptomatic of the extraverted thinking type. Jung explains the type in General description of the types:
"This type will, by definition, be a man whose constant endeavour―in so far, of course, as he a pure type―is to make all his activities dependent on intellectual conclusions, which in the last resort are always oriented by objective data, whether these be external facts or generally accepted ideas. This type of man elevates objective reality, or an objectively oriented intellectual formula, into the ruling principle not only for himself but for his whole environment. By this formula good and evil are measured, and beauty and ugliness determined. Everything that agrees with this formula is right, everything that contradicts it is wrong, and anything that passes by it indifferently is merely incidental. Because this formula seems to embody the entire meaning of life, it is made into a universal law which must be put into effect everywhere all the time, both individually and collectively. Just as the extraverted thinking type subordinates himself to his formula, so, for their own good, everybody around him must obey it too, for whoever refuses to obey it is wrong―he is resisting the universal law, and is therefore unreasonable, immoral, and without a conscience. ... The fact that an intellectual formula never has been and never will be devised which could embrace and express the manifold possibilities of life must lead to the inhibition or exclusion of other activities and ways of living that are just as important. In the first place, all those activities that are dependent on feeling will become repressed in such a type―for instance, aesthetic activities, taste, artistic sense, cultivation of friends, etc. Irrational phenomena such as religious experiences, passions, and suchlike are often repressed to the point of complete unconsciousness. Doubtless there are exceptional people who are able to sacrifice their entire life to a particular formula, but for most of us such exclusiveness is impossible in the long run."
The above quote explains, fully, why there can be no further clarification when the term "ritual" is applied in most archaeological writing. It might also explain why the subject of archaeology is so theory-laden. There are a lot of people, in this psychological type looking for new laws to follow when the old laws do not seem to be serviceable to them, or when the old laws are drawing them toward neuroses. Another way to put it is that these people have their noses squashed firmly against the glass at the Logos end of the Mythos/ Logos spectrum. You do, however, see it in religion where metaphor is so utterly repressed that those who exhibit it are "infidels" who must be killed. Joseph Campbell points out how the meaning of "demon" has been changed in spelling and meaning by such people to signify evil. It's original form is daemon and the Oxford English dictionary gives "An inner or attendant spirit or inspiring force: Socrates claimed to have lived his life according to the dictates of his daimon". In other words, Socrates was revealing his Introverted type if he did, indeed, say that. Those who claim Socrates was an extravert sometimes use quotes from other extraverts like Cato the elder who said: “Socrates was a big chatterbox, who tried … to dissolve [Athenian] customs, and to entice its people to forming opinions contrary to order”. What could be more extraverted thinking than that statement of Cato?

The problems thus become complex when introverts and extraverts are looking at past people who are themselves both introverts and extraverts. Societies and cultures, too, exhibit more of one trait than the other. No one could accuse Buddhists of being extravert, for example. However, societies and cultures mostly express their "collective consciousness" with "its wretched 'ism's and 'ology's"( to quote Jung), so we can see that the more introverted views of some of the core founders of such societies become more extraverted in the subsequent mass mind.

Thus we can see that the introverted founders of religions (how can they be otherwise?) eventually vanish to be replaced by more extraverted followers who are attracted to the "system". From that pool, then, new leaders of the same religion emerge and it slowly becomes something very different from its origins. Then you eventually get "fundamentalists" who actually see only the remains of a religion (expressed by its laws) and have no idea, whatsoever,  what the religions was really about in its early days. You get enantiodromia.

In the La Tène religion, the early symbolization of the ivy as a "dark" or winter plant that is born again, slowly change to where its descendant forms are more subject to the extraverted thinking (and more primitive) view of ivy covering everything and holding it all together. Much of the life is drained from it in the process and we end up with the conservative and tired last forms of the mirror style.

The Druids, in their syncretization with Greek Pythagorean and Dionysian beliefs started with the peak experience of having previous ideas about belief as metaphor because of their travels across Germany and Gaul reinforced and expanded by contact with Greek philosophy in Italy and beyond. But their roles as judges gradually eroded that and we can never be certain as to what degree the transmigration of souls remained as a religious concept or was changed to enable the rulers to obtain vast amounts of gold by being known as a people who thought of death as only a temporary inconvenience, and that if they fought heroically in their current life, would find themselves promoted in the next. By the time that Caesar wrote about the Druids, they had not only changed, but their doom was on the horizon.

I knew that the great numbers of deities represented by later inscriptions could not possibly have developed only in the La Tène period, and was even unlikely to have developed in the previous Hallstatt period (the utter conservatism of design in the Iron Age Hallstatt, anyway, spoke loudly of the lack of religious change). I also saw syncretizations, through Celtic coin imagery, of much earlier beliefs. It was when Euan MacKie noticed that alignments at Maes Howe reflected the traditional Celtic religious celebrations of Samhain, Imbolc, etc. that I realized that what had been identified as Celtic religion was really much earlier than, most likely, even the Celtic language. Thus, there was no specific religion identified in the literature that was being expressed in the La Tène period. But the blossoming of that art could mean nothing other than religious peak-experiences. The new religion was there to be seen, all along, but modern archaeologists of the extraverted thinking types had dismissed everything that the classical authors had written about it because it did not fit with their personal psychology and, in any case, they are absolutely incapable of discussing religion, save to condemn it. Euan MacKie had experienced this psychological type when one of his papers had failed the "peer-review" process, not because his observances were flawed in any way, but because his "peers" did not believe in archaeoastronomy. But, as I said, times are changing.

Transdisciplinarity has yet to be practiced in mainstream archaeology as the subject is, of course, dominated by extraverted thinking types (the very type you would expect to rise in academia). The reason being that it deliberately violates the classical logic rule of the excluded middle, and comes about that because of the very different nature of reality that is being proven by quantum physics (String Theory being already a move back towards Newtonian physics by reason of its "physical" connections that are quite different from the related Implicate Order theory of David Bohm). Also, those who were receiving their education during the time of the "New Archaeology" are now among the "old guard" who see anything postmodern as "anything goes". In other words, lacking the formal rules that are the currency of the extraverted thinking type.

Unfortunately, changes are only likely to happen through independent studies because the academic world is subject to the same phenomena as everyone else. Joseph Campbell goes even further by suggesting that the academic world can actually prevent psychological maturity through its peer-dependence:

Monday, 11 August 2014

The La Tène religion of the Celtic elite ― part 24: Ireland

A rare sight ― Ireland on a clear day
photo: NASA's Earth Observatory
Like the sky above it, a clear picture of pagan Celtic Ireland is elusive. The shortage of clear archaeological evidence in England, Wales and Scotland seems like plenty when compared with that of Ireland. Yet, Irish manuscripts contain more legends of the Celts than anywhere else. The warriors in these tales always fight from chariots, yet there is not a single example of any Irish-made chariots or chariot fittings. There is a wooden part of a chariot from Corlea Bog, where a wooden road appears to have been made for wheeled traffic, but it contains non-native maple studs and might come from the Rhineland, and there is also a British terret ring of simple form. The commonest La Tène objects are horse bits, and they are frequently found in pairs, so their use on a chariot team is, at least, possible.  One has to be constantly aware of the adage: "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" because there is no sign of any ordinary house of the period, either ― no post-holes or fireplaces. I suspect that houses were built igloo-style from peat blocks, the later form of stone huts used by the early Christian monks perhaps echoing that form. Another suggestion is that tents were used, and what appears to be wooden tent pegs were found at the Corlea Bog road.

In his introduction to La Tène in Ireland: Problems of Origin and Chronology, Marburg, 1984, Barry Raftery starts with:
"There can be little doubt that the archaeology of Iron Age Ireland is one of the most problematical fields of study in the whole of Irish prehistory. Because of the virtual absence of significant associations, the paucity of burials and clearly recognisable settlements and, indeed, the largely selective nature of the surviving remains, there are still immense areas of uncertainty confronting the archaeologist in almost every aspect of this extremely difficult period.
"The Iron Age in Ireland is illumined, however dimly, by a not inconsiderable wealth of written material. This written record is of undeniable value to the archaeologist but arguably its existence has also had detrimental effects on the development of objective archaeology. This is not only because the written sources have been misused but also because the complete and vivid picture of society in Iron Age Ireland apparently presented by the literature is at variance with, and obscures, the very real darkness which so often confronts the archaeologist in his study of the material remains of the period."
Iron Age objects in Ulster Museum
photo: Notafly
Like northern Britain and Wales, no Celtic coins were issued in Ireland. From this we can assume that no Irish troops served in the Mediterranean campaigns, and that the the Irish did not have very strong economic and social ties with those Celts who did. Yet there are signs of La Tène influence in Ireland from the Rhineland to England. Sometimes, these connections are not that obvious. Raftery (Pagan Celtic Ireland, did not mention that the material (ash with maple studs) used in a piece of fine woodworking from Corlea Bog (fig. 53), was paralleled in Waldgallscheid, Rhineland (Jacobsthal No. 26). Some errors have also been made: the Brigantes identity of the Lambay Island settlers near Dublin was based only on the presence of a beaded torc (which objects have no clear distribution focus). Looking at the brooches and other remains, I was able to state that the most likely tribe for these settlers was the Dobunni. For reasons that I cannot fathom. rather too much attention is given, by archaeologists, to the more spectacular pieces. There was quite a commotion about the finding of the Crosby Garrett Roman parade helmet, but really, high status objects such as this have little archaeological value in comparison with a local brooch, as such items often travelled far. It would make a good display piece, but that has nothing at all to do with archaeology.

As many examples of Irish La Tène art start later and last longer than those of other areas, and because of the evidence of the Lambay Island settlers, it would seem that most of the La Tène influence was sporadic and not particularly focused (save for being largely absent in the extreme south). It seems that the Lambay Island settlers arrived in about 75 AD from the Severn estuary. The brooch type most represented in the finds being a distinctly local Polden Hill variant. I don't think that I am going out on too much of a limb by suggesting that these settlers were seeking a way of life that was not commensurate with the Roman occupation of Britain. Perhaps they were looking for hire, as warriors, from local leaders. The fact of the Menapii tribe from the mouth of the Rhine appearing in Ireland suggests a larger contingent, but without much in the way of material evidence apart from the fact that the Irish La Tène gold bears platinum inclusions not found in British gold, but present in the Rhineland and in a coin of the Boii, might mean that a large segment of the tribe moved to Ireland as did large segments of the Aulerci tribes moved down from the Rhine to Armorica.

 A profession that likely suffered a great deal in Roman Britain along with those Celts who made weapons and chariots was poetry. Bards, who were all members of the Druid class were specialists in singing the praises of the heroic acts of their patrons, but the heroism of such British leaders as Boudicca did not provide much of a market opportunity for the bard, as local heroism against the Romans was not boasted by them for very long. I think it very likely that British and Continental bards also traveled to Ireland seeking patrons. They would have needed to familiarize themselves with the histories of their new patrons, but many colorful passages would be carried forward from verses composed about previous patrons and would have been the stock and trade of their profession. Who knows? ― Perhaps verses about the "hound of Cullan the smith" (Cú Chulainn) had some elements from verses about "the hound of Belinus" (Cunobeline).

Raftery finishes  La Tène in Ireland with an allusion to Diodorus (V.31):
'The Irish  La Tène material gives us tantalising glimpses into a Celtic, Iron Age society but, more often than not, the evidence can be said to "speak in riddles, for the most part hinting at things and leaving a great deal to be understood".

Friday, 8 August 2014

The La Tène religion of the Celtic elite ― part 23: Shapeshifting

Although a carefully designed formal composition,
seen obliquely, the shapes shift in the mind's eye.


Imagine the two diagonal bosses to be the eyes of a
bird-beaked reptile with a domed crest. its snarling
mouth seems to be grasping something. Now, look
at its left eye and call that a nose. Suddenly, a new
creature appears.

British bronze finial in the Plastic Style, late 3rd cent. BC,
found in Oxfordshire. (in coll.)


"We are told that the Gauls were valiant, quarrelsome, cruel, superstitious, and had the gift of pointed speech; their art also is full of contrasts. It is attractive and repellent; it is far from primitiveness and simplicity, is refined in thought and technique; elaborate and clever; full of paradoxes, restless, puzzlingly ambiguous; rational and irrational; dark and uncanny―far from the lovable humanity and the transparence of Greek art. Yet, it is a real style, the first great contribution by the barbarians to European arts, the first great chapter in the everlasting mutual stock-taking of Southern, Northern, and Eastern forces in the life of Europe." Paul Jacobsthal, Early Celtic Art1944, Epilogue



In speaking of naturalism, realism, and allusion, Martyn Jope (Early Celtic Art in the British Isles, 2000, p. 119), says:
"We have seen how much of the apparent imagery is allusive, conjured by reminders of analogous shapes. This may be particularly so when hints of natural forms are used to create focal points, articulations, or finial, in tectonics or ornament. Animal-head effects may, for instance, be conjured out of lyres, the foot- and top-scrolls, giving nostrils and eyes (pl. 69a, 175a, b); the breed may be made more specific by the containing outline and ancillary detail, as horse (pl.175a, b) or ox. When our vision becomes accustomed to animalizing such lyres, even the simplest relief modelling of a brooch (pl. 175d) may take on equine or bovine character. Other compositions will become similarly animated in the viewer's mind"

In another view of the finial, I decided to make the imaginary
creature a bug-eyed goldfish, but the accompanying design
also revealed is not from my imagination but wrapped
around the "Yin-Yang" boss is a traditional palmette
derivative with a distribution focus on Saarland.


On the same plane as that boss is the small palmette leaf
formed by a delineated flat area to the left of the cusp
(another common Celtic design element). The other leaves
are indicated only by the position of the viewer and are
formed on sloping sides of masses.
The importance of the shapes revealed in the view on the left cannot be overstated: not only does the addition of a revealed linear design of established design prove that the revealed image was deliberately placed, but that specific forms, at least in some cases, were also intended.

Oblique anamorphosis had been thought to have been an invention of the Renaissance, in paintings where details were to be seen from a specific point, and later "all done with mirrors". To produce an example of oblique anamorphosis in sculptural form is remarkable enough, but to create a two dimensional design from three dimensional masses also in the same piece has never been done since.

Even ignoring the anamorphosing, anyone seeing the work of this artist or one of his companions must have thought they were witnessing magic. All casting before this point had been fairly crude, only simple shapes were possible and decorative detail was not "in the round" but bas-relief. Such a small and detailed casting would seem impossible.

I have noticed that whenever people see a photograph of a masterpiece, they often imagine the object to be bigger than it really is. When a number of authorities in early Celtic art looked at the photos of the finial, one of them started calling it a "bed-knob" before he realized that it was only 23 mm. high. When proportions are just so they give a certain dignity and weight to the object. Not having any visible measure of size, an observer can add "mental mass" to the object when seeing it only as a photograph. Thinking about what he said, though, I could imagine it adorning some Art Nouveau bronze bed in a 1910 Paris apartment.

We can only speculate on from where this artist and his workshop originated. He has used the palmette in a way that starts around Weisskirchen Saarland in his time, but much later found its way to Armorica. The formal design is a triskele like on the armring from the River Tarn in France, but instead of being arranged on a curved surface, it is here draped over a fully three-dimensional form and this requires a turn of ninety degrees in each limb shortly after the centre. When his workshop ended, the knowledge of his casting technique was lost. This was obviously a tragedy to other British craftsmen and they immediately developed greater repoussé skills and even reversed his "three-dimensions to two trick" by depicting three dimensions linearly in chasing on flatter areas of a repoussé shield boss. This "missing link's" workshop changed the direction of British art.

The shapeshifting of the Plastic Style was not adopted by the Celts from Dionysos' battle with the Titans alone, but it echoed their own experiences of seeing many indigenous religions along their travels which shared underlying motifs, but which were not being understood as different metaphorical expressions of such motifs. The Druids, who were primarily philosophers and judges, insinuated themselves above all local priesthoods as being in closer contact with the otherworld. But they also controlled military matters as well. Their beliefs might already have included something very close to the Pythagorean transmigration of souls, before they even arrived in Italy, but seeing how the Greeks had organized such a philosophy into mystery cults must have been a great peak experience as we can see from this artistic explosion.

As the prototypical ivy scroll represented a second, winter, birth and this connected with the winter solstice traditions later transposed to Samhain, and to the Deep, the more primitive idea of ivy covering everything and sometimes even holding weak structures together had already started to gain more ground. In the Plastic Style, the forms of everything interweave like ivy. Everything is connected by metaphor and metaphors can also be visual. Metaphor is shapeshifting.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The La Tène religion of the Celtic elite ― part 22: Tracking religious changes over time

Hallstatt, Austria
photo: Pedroserafin
 
The Hallstatt period spans the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age. Unlike the  La Tène, there is considerable uniformity in the type of art that decorates objects. A very common and widespread type of object is the bronze bracelet with decoration at the terminals and sometimes around the ring. The decoration can include a series of lines, X's, diamond shapes and  chevrons. From finds in graves we know that these bracelets were often wore in mismatched pairs.

Franz Boas' Primitive Art focuses mainly on North American Indian art, but he could have been describing late Hallstatt decoration with:
"The pattern of artistic expression that emerges from a long, cumulative process determined by a multiplicity of causes fashions the form of the art work. We recognize the permanence of pattern in those cases in which a useful form that has lost its function persists as a decorative element; in the imitation in new materials of natural forms used at one time as utensils, and in the transfer of forms from one technique to another. The fixity of the pattern does not permit the artist to apply natural forms unmodified to decorative purposes. His imagination is limited by the pattern" (p. 354)
Differing from much-repeated applied decoration on humble objects, Boas stresses the difference, with regard to meaning, in other art forms:
 "The graphic and plastic arts owe much of their emotional value to the representative and symbolic values of form. This is no less true in literature, music and dance. narrative and poetry so far as they contain intelligible words, always have a meaning which may have deep significance because they touch upon those aspects of life that stir the emotions. Frequently there is an added meaning, when the words have a symbolic, ulterior significance related to the religious beliefs or philosophical ideas. In music and dance also symbolic significance is often attached to form." (p.356)
While there are many examples of primitive art around the world to which the above words could also apply,  La Tène art would seem to be an exception, not only in our current perception of  it, but also in the ways that the original artists dealt with meaning. We have no idea about the nature of early Celtic music; we are not even sure if they danced, and the Druids and mystery religions both forbad the use of literature. The spoken word was transmitted in verse, but again, we have no surviving La Tène poetry.

I see more than just habits in what Boas has to say, the urge to express is a universal human trait and when one avenue of expression is shut down, people have a tendency to seek new outlets for their expression. We might even wonder if dance and poetry was used even more to replace the loss of meaning in the visual arts when symbols no longer carried meaning and what was previously significant had deteriorated to mindless pattern-fill.

When Tacitus noticed the similarities in a pair of German gods to the Roman Castor and Pollux, it was a curiosity to him, so he mentioned it in his Germania. He did not seem to take it as any sort of revelation, and he certainly did not start a new religion from it. A common meme among archaeologists is that artistic motifs or styles were carried far by trade. That it is a meme is indicated by its concurrent lack of thought or explanation: the human being vanishes from the scenario and things appear to affect other things without any human intervention at all. It becomes especially unthinking when difficult techniques are needed to construct objects that are considered to be inspired by trade goods. Just because I buy a television, I do not have to get the urge to build more of them and the use of the television does not tell me anything of how to make one.
We also do not see any failed attempts to copy early Celtic art in, say, Britain. The first British productions of early Celtic art come fully formed, like the birth of Athena from Zeus's skull. This error was pointed out by Martyn Jope on the very first page of Early Celtic art in the British Isles:
"The initiating stimuli for this rise evidently came from Europe, yet at the crucial time, the fourth-third centuries B.C., we can point to practically no imported pieces that might have served as potential exemplars; the new ideas and skills must have come largely in the minds and hands of men with a considerable experience in distant ateliers."

I was very pleased to be able to prove Jope's hypothesis with my discovery, in the trade, of the only piece of the La Tène Plastic Style to have been made in Britain. At first, I thought that it was the only piece of the Plastic Style to have been found in Britain, and that was exciting enough  ― I had no example of that style in my collection because of its great rarity. When it arrived, though, and I was able to examine it more carefully, I realized that it contained distinctly British features like the trumpet. I also saw that the basic geometry of the triskele decoration had acquired further dimensionality by no longer being just wrapped over a curved form like the Plastic style arm rings and anklets, but traveled from a top elevation, ninety degrees to a side elevation, so that the entire design could not be seen from any single viewpoint. After receiving a lot of skepticism about the object being British, I had it tested by electron microprobe because I knew that, if it was British and of the time period of the Plastic Style, the trace metals would show a high cobalt to nickel ratio. That it did, in spades, being just over the highest cobalt to nickel ratio recorded so far (only if it would have had very low cobalt, could its British origin be questioned).

I will come back to the Plastic Style later, but for now we will briefly track La Tène styles and add religious commentary. La Tène starts with the Early Style which preserves more of its Greek or Etruscan origins. Religious references can be narrative like the decoration of the sword scabbard from Hallstatt where the wheel turners demonstrate the repeated cycles of life. The idea of cycles was not new to them and cosmic cycles were demonstrated at Newgrange nearly three thousand years before. What had changed, though, was the addition of human beings to the scene. There are two reasons for this: Jacobsthal noted that the human figure was mostly represented in Celtic areas that had a very close contact with Mediterranean cultures such as the Rhineland and the port of Massalia in the south of France. Also, the Celts' arrival in Italy had exposed them to Pythagorean and Dionysian concepts of the transmigration of souls and resurrection, and they could then accept a more active human role in cosmic cycles apart from having the human being act as metaphor.

Far earlier than Newgrange, the people likely had a similar concept about their identity as do many First Nations people where I live: they are not a people inside of an environment, but they are people who are part of that environment. You cannot remove the environment without destroying the people's identity. Thus, when they say to doubting archaeologists, "We have always been here", they are describing a concept as sophisticated as when Stephen Hawking talks about time and the big bang theory. If the archaeologist counters their statement with something about the Bering Strait, and if the archaeologist is being honoured, then the reply will be something along the lines of "White Man's thinking." If the archaeologist is not being honoured, then the First Nations person might just say nothing and walk away to do something useful.

It is almost certain that the geometric decorations at the entrance to Newgrange were fully understood by those who saw them, but by the Hallstatt period, these decorations had become little more than part of a "pattern book" for weavers, potters, carvers, painters, and smiths. If any meaning remained at all, it was probably taken to mean "good luck". It stands to reason that when you have a long period of time where there is not only no signs of artistic inspiration, but what art there is becomes increasingly simplified, abbreviated, and repeated without change, that any sort of peak experiences in that society will be an unlikely event.

Apart from the Celtic fighter having had the peak experience of "If I die heroically in battle, I will be promoted in my next life!", his more pragmatic commander might be thinking "Great! they will do anything I tell them, and everyone will be afraid to fight them." We can never know where, on this Mythos to Logos line of thinking, the Celts sat. All we can do is to project wherever we are along its line, to the earlier time. If we assume that we don't know, however, then future clues to the Celtic world-view might not be missed and we might at least approximate these things better. There is an indication of the dual nature of the Celtic world-view much later, where Caesar reports that many tribes had piles of war loot set up in their towns, and that no one could remove any of it under penalty of death. It was given as a religious taboo, but the Celts used gold to purchase troops, the more gold you had, the more powerful you became. Ancient societies fell easily when their local economy had only badly debased currency. While such a situation could be countered locally by price fixing etc., bad currency would not buy good soldiers. They fell because they could not hire auxiliaries and probably had depleted their own resources anyway. Such went the Etruscans. Had captured gold been allowed to "circulate", the inevitable end result would have been the emergence of a war lord who had a bigger army than anyone. They had brought an awful lot of gold back from the Mediterranean. The Druids did not want that situation to play out (they were a sort of democracy, if only among themselves). I should add, that there are those who disagree with my theory and say that the reason was purely religious or the piles were set up simply as a trophy. To the latter, I say that the Greeks and Roman both set up trophies for only a short period of time. To leave them up would have been like opening old wounds and not conducive to progress.

In its own way, but dated much later than the early style, the Gundestrup cauldron (my date: after 272 BC - circa 200 BC), too, has similar religious iconography to the Early Style. This is because of a secondary syncretism between the Celts, and this time, Thracian craftsmen who had their own nuanced approach to the Dionysian ideas already absorbed by the Celts. It might have introduced Dionysos as Zagreus, but I think that the Celts had absorbed Dionysos as shapeshifter in the first half of the third century BC. While this overlaps my date period for the Gundestrup cauldron by 22 years, that system is based on limits and I would imagine the cauldron to have been made in circa 210 BC (with a lower percentage of certainty).

The Early Style had little influence on what came next, it had been transitional and while a certain amount of Greek/Celtic syncretization had taken place, there appears to be no peak experiences associated with the Early Style. The style that followed was called "Waldalgesheim", but is now called "Vegetal". This is where the ivy is introduced as an aspect of Dionysos the twice-born.. This had a dramatic impact on Celtic art and innovation and variation flourished. This indicates multiple and ongoing peak experiences at least among the Druid class and this would include artists. The winter aspect of ivy would certainly have been a strong syncretizing connection for the Celts and this line of syncretization, for them, goes back as far as the Newgrange winter solstice. For the Greeks, the ivy was a common decorative element on Minoan buildings, before its meanings had been defined by Dionysianism.

Dionysos as shapeshifter, adopted by the Celts in northern Italy sometime in the first half of the third century BC, was a peak experience of even greater magnitude than the adoption of the ivy. It was the start of Celtic magic. Find out tomorrow...