Friday, 19 September 2014

Purpose and Pattern: abstraction on Celtic coins. 3: the sun cross

Ambiani gold stater
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc
As the head of Apollo on the Philip II-derived design becomes more abstracted, the face starts to fade away while the wreath becomes more dominant as does the line that intersects the wreath at its mid-point. This line, which first appears on the large flan stater that I illustrated yesterday, is not developed from anything in the Philip II design but might originate in the earliest coins of the Ambiani which are copied from a coin of Taras which shows the head of Persephone (or Hera or Amphitrite) on the obverse. On this coin, the ends of her headdress behind her head appear to join with a line in the hair. The crescents at the back of the face also become more dominant.

British Atrebates stater (VA- 210-1)
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc

In the next stages, the line intersecting the wreath gains a bead at the back end and the design at the other end starts to become another crescent. The whole arrangement of these elements takes the form of a cross where the wreath, itself forms two opposing limbs.

Whaddon Chase stater
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc

On the Whaddon Chase stater of the Catuvellauni illustrated on the right, the cross becomes the main obverse type and on its limbs can be seen both the wreath design in one direction and the details of the cloak which first appeared on the Ambiani large flan staters.

Early Cunobeline stater
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc

On the earliest of the Cunobeline gold staters, the cross motif continues but the line that previously had a bead at one end and a crescent at the other is replaced with a tablet bearing the mint name of Camulodunum (Colchester). Below the horse on the reverse of the coin, the cross motif, which is actually the sun-cross, is better defined with its enclosing circle. This device dates as far back as the Neolithic.

Later Cunobeline stater
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc

On the later staters of Cunobeline, the wreath part of the cross motif is replaced with an ear of grain (thought to be barley) and the only part of the other two limbs of the cross is the mint name. A quarter stater has the mint and king's name combined: CAMCVN, which identifies place and ruler together.

Aulerci Cenomani coin

There is nothing about the Greek laurel leaf that finds a parallel in Celtic iconography. Instead, the laurel leaf element on the Philip II prototype is interpreted as an ear of grain from the start and represents the start and end of the growing season (spring and autumn). The other two limbs represent summer and winter. The summer limb has the bead at the end (sun symbol for summer solstice) and the winter end has the crescent moon which represents the darkest part of the year (winter solstice). On one continental coin of the Aulerci Eburovices, a boar is positioned above the crescent which emphasizes the beginning of the year (first the winter solstice, later Samhain).

Detail of Coligny calendar
photo: NantonosAedui
The Celtic Coligny Calendar reconciles solar and lunar time and I think that its ancestry can be traced as far back as Newgrange in Ireland which is a Neolithic monument. The use of cosmological imagery on Celtic coins is wrapped up in the belief of the transmigration of souls which echoes the cyclical nature of the heavens. Diodorus, quoting Hecataeus says:
"Opposite to the coast of Celtic Gaul there is an island in the ocean, not smaller than Sicily, lying to the north, which is inhabited by Hyperboreans… Apollo visits the island once in the course of nineteen years in which period the stars complete their revolutions"
The Metonic cycle of nineteen years requires an intercalary month to reconcile solar and lunar time.

The Celtic warrior believed that dying heroically in battle guaranteed him a better life the next time around. These matters were under the authority of the druid class and Sean B. Dunham is of the opinion that by the time of Caesar, at least, the kings were also Druids. This might indicate that, at an earlier time, the kings had difficulty with the existence of a higher power than themselves and that they gradually amalgamated the two functions. Later, the Romans banned Druidism entirely, just as they banned Christianity because these beliefs held to a power greater than that of the emperor. Later still, a separation of Church and State ensured that the conflict would not continue in many places.

The development of coinage in Gaul was not just an economical measure: The designs of the prototypes had to be maintained as they also served a function similar to modern war medals. The possessor of such coinage not only proved his warrior status, but gold coins were also used to purchase more troops. Over a period of time, rulers used the devices to establish or maintain their own authority over the population.

More on Monday.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Purpose and Pattern: abstraction on Celtic coins. 2: Gold and warfare

Ambiani large flan gold stater (also known as Gallo-Belgic A) circa 125-100 BC.

One of the earliest Celtic gold coins imported into Britain, it set the type for most
of the early British gold coinage.

Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc
"The second class is that of the knights. When their services are required in some war that has broken out ― and before Caesar's arrival in the country the Gallic states used to fight offensive or defensive wars almost every year ― these all take the field, surrounded by their servants and retainers, of whom each knight has a greater or smaller number according to his birth and fortune. The possession of such a following is the only criterion of position and power that they recognize." Caesar, The Gallic Wars,  6,15

Largely missing in accounts of the arrival of the first Celtic gold coinage into Britain is that Gaul was part of the Greek world and that the Celts not only used gold coins that are modeled after Greek coins, but the coins had the same purpose as that of the Greek gold coins ― to pay for troops for specific campaigns (see Melville-Jones, J.R.  Ancient Greek gold coinage up to the time of Philip of Macedon in Travaux de Numismatique Grecque Offerts à Georges Le Rider, Spink , London, 1999.)

Prior to the large flan type, the Ambiani were the first Belgic tribe to mint gold coins and those rare coins were copies of a gold coin of Taras in Italy minted around the time of Alexander the Molosian, who was uncle to both Alexander the Great and Pyrrhos, but the coins were possibly paid out to the Celts in the defence of Taras against the Romans by Pyrrhos. Taras (Taranto) was a Spartan colony in Italy founded in 706 BC. Celts under Dionysios I of Syracuse in Sicily first fought for the Spartans against Athens about two hundred years earlier.

The Celts could have made gold coins using their own styles without any difficulty but decided to model their coinage on the coins that were paid to them for their military services. Thus gold coins had a purpose different from their intrinsic value ― the designs symbolized the Celts prowess in battle. While the chariot design on the reverse of the Philip II prototype would have resonated with the Celtic consciousness being a vehicle much used by them in earlier times and still used in battle by the Britons, the first prototype gold coin copied by the Ambiani did not depict a chariot at all.

The way that the Celts abstracted the prototype design gives us information about how warfare was absorbed into their religious beliefs, but that subject will have to wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Purpose and Pattern: abstraction on Celtic coins. 1: introduction

Gold stater of Philip II of Macedon (Pella mint)
Coins such as this one and those that copied it long after the death of Philip
served as models for much of the Celts' own coins after their return to Gaul.
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc
When the western Celts first started to mint coinage, they copied the designs from Greek coins that had been paid to them for their military service in various Italian campaigns under such Greek leaders as Pyrrhos of Epeiros (319/318–272 BC). These campaigns were the last of a series that might have started even earlier than those of Dionysios I of Syracuse (c. 432 – 367 BC) who is known to have loaned some of his Celts to the Spartans.

Gaulish Imitation of Philip II stater
© Trustees of the British Museum
The coin to the left is fairly typical of the earlier Gaulish imitations. The die engraver would have been familiar with the Greek styles but without their philosophical background. His horses are especially Celtic ― being all hooves and knuckles. These imitations start with readable legends which eventually become simple pattern. His chariot driver is actually more realistically drawn than on the Philip II stater. Perhaps the driver meant more to the Celtic artist than it did to the Greek artist. The head of Apollo on the imitation can hardly be called "of the finest classical style", but it carries none of its affectations, either, and looks more like a real person than an Olympian god.

A more "barbaric" imitation
© Trustees of the British Museum
On the right is a style most often called "barbaric" or "crude". The native die engraver is copying a design in a style he had never been trained for or had to use. The head does not look that much different than a had drawn by a young child or even an adult who cannot draw from any time. Both of the imitations say most about the backgrounds of their creators than give any clues as to their exact date.

I imagine that most people who discover early Celtic art by way of their coinage are quite surprised by the skill and sophistication of its metalwork. Perhaps they would expect only "cruder" versions of Greek things. In the next episode I will explain why they did not simply make a coinage using the early Celtic art styles.

The title for this series is reversed from Sir Cyril Fox's Pattern and Purpose: A survey of early Celtic art in Britain, Cardiff, 1958. In his Foreword, he says:
"Early Celtic art is distinctive;technique and design in gold, bronze or iron are often masterly, but there is nothing of "Fine Art" about it; the incised patterns and the relief ornaments are on purposeful things―torcs and brooches and bracelets, weapons and drinking vessels, for example. It was not only a decorative art; useful things were well-shaped, with a sense of style, so a beautiful or well-balanced form often sufficed, satisfying the bronze-worker's critical sense, as it does ours. When the Council of the National Museum of Wales invited me to write a book on the subject, therefore, I had a title ready: "Pattern and Purpose".
In reversing the order of Fox's title, I want to show how form follows function in an evolutionary manner.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Franklin Expedition ship found

H.M.S. Terror thrown up by ice
Last week, the wreck one of the two ships of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition was found in the Arctic by a team led by Parks Canada underwater archaeologist Ryan Harris.

With climate change opening up potential shipping routes through the Arctic and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's interest in the north and Canadian sovereignty, it has become a political event.

Whenever I hear about the Franklin Expedition I remember working on the Glenbow Museum inventory and discovering a shoe that had been found on one of the expeditions sent looking for Franklin's ships. I had come across a number of memorable objects in that job: Sir Francis Drake's snuff box and inscribed walking cane, Captain James Cook's punch bowl from the HMS Victory, a cased Collier flintlock revolver, and a large 18 carat gold casket presented to F.M. Wolseley by the City of London, but that black leather shoe struck me less as an exhibit and more as a gruesome reminder of the harsh northern environment. What was what looked like a dress shoe doing in the Arctic anyway? I had heard horror stories from oilfield workers up there who had decided to economize on their first purchase of Arctic mukluks.

As I never watch TV news, I don't know if the discovery of the wreck has prompted the news media playing of Canadian music icon Stan Rogers' song The Northwest Passage. You would think so:

Monday, 15 September 2014

Didcot Mirror update

Didcot (formerly Oxfordshire) Mirror
photo stated as "free use" since 2009
(image rotated)
The Didcot Mirror will stay in Oxfordshire thanks to donations from a public appeal by Oxfordshire County Council’s Museums Service which included a generous donation from the antique dealer Wartski,

Before it goes on display at its new home at The Oxfordshire Museum at Woodstock, it will be displayed in Didcot at the Cornerstone Arts Centre and then at a touring exhibition about the history of metalworking in Oxfordshire.

Friday, 12 September 2014


Alte Pinakothek − Visitors watch paintings
photo: Mattes
"The Museum age, which reached its Augustan apogee with the post-World War II boom in art education, in special exhibitions, in collecting, in museum-building, is finally over. Museums, once permanent fixtures by which to negotiate our spiritual journeys, have suddenly revealed infirmities in their foundations that have threatened them with collapse.Like many institutions in the late sixties, they were abruptly thrust from their historical context into the vicissitudes of contemporary life, where the problems of the entire society―many of them irrelevant to art museums― were brought to bear on them. ... Museums have been forced to cope with with a variety of political problems for which their staffs are hardly qualified. Museum men also appear uncertain of their responsibilities to their own holdings. By and large administered by antiquated methods, their policies guided by trustees who have not demonstrated their capacity to understand contemporary issues, most museums have had their position defined for them."

The above passage is by Brian O'Doherty (ed) in the introduction to Museums in Crisis, New York, 1972. Apart from the term "Museum men", this could be a contemporary account instead of one more than forty years old.

Not only do the problems of 1972 show little sign of being resolved, but new problems have been imposed on museums already years behind in the cataloging of their collections by people who have little to no knowledge of the difficulties museums face in merely keeping their doors open.

Deaccession policies usually demand that any monies obtained be reserved for the purchase of other exhibits, but most new accessions do not encourage many new visitors; internationally important travelling museum exhibitions are unsuitable for smaller cities as the box-office receipts would not even cover the costs, let alone provide extra money for needed infrastructure improvements such as new galleries, restaurants and gift shop expansions.

With  museum collections of ancient art being threatened with repatriation for objects lacking much in the way of past collecting histories, even the collectors and their heirs who bequeathed most of the collections in the past are wondering whether the museum is the best home for such collections and the auction houses are getting unprecedented high prices for everything with a long and secure provenance. Lesser items are rarely purchased at all by museums, these objects rarely have a collecting history that can be passed on to the new owner because of privacy laws and the fact that many of the objects which are now sold in single lots used to be part of larger lots that were not even illustrated in earlier catalogs.
Ivory-tower academics who have no museum or even business experience are quick to criticize anyone who does not supply a collecting history even though their recommendations knowingly flaunt the law and they are also quick to solicit public support each time there is another deaccession. Archaeologists frequently side with repatriation demands on the behest of those countries who issue them excavation permits so it is no small wonder that these archaeologists are not even interested in whether the museum will survive at all.

Smaller museums are leaning more toward local histories and this gives them the opportunity to gain needed funds by selling off objects that lay outside of their collecting interests. Even though some funding bodies threaten to cut off support for the museum, the amount of money that can be gained from deaccession is often far greater than what would be gained otherwise so these threats are ignored.

After forty years, the problems have escalated but the solutions are just as elusive.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Calgary snowstorm ― aftermath

The sun is out and although it is currently colder than it was yesterday, warmer temperatures will start today. With all the branches that had broken off the larger trees, I saw no conifers among their numbers. The large old spruce trees in my backyard do not even have a few broken twigs below them.


Neither my neighbour's car nor the lilac bushes were
harmed by the snowstorm
When the first snowstorm usually arrives, the leaves of the large deciduous trees have already changed colour and have started to fall but as they were still mostly green this year, they resisted the weight of the snow until the weight was too much for the branches that supported them. The old spruces are used to heavy snow and they all seem to be unaffected and the lilac branches were still pliant enough to spring back as if nothing had happened. The heavy spring snowstorms have never caused so much damage as any early leaves are still too small to collect much snow.

Here's a news report and video about the storm and a nice collection of photos.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Heavy snowfall

It has been snowing for three days but last night's snowfall was the heaviest so far. As I left to walk the dog this morning, the first thing I saw was my next-door neighbour's car covered in collapsed lilac bushes (right).

Although I have been in Calgary since 1966, I do not remember any Fall snowfall as heavy as this one. One September, I had to harvest about seventy pounds of tomatoes during a blizzard but it was short lived and I don't recall any damage to trees. This one must have taken quite the toll on Calgary trees. I saw the branch in the foreground of the next photo fall just before I took the shot.

Every twenty minutes or so the power goes out and I have to restart my computer. After the first time, I stopped resetting my digital clock. It must be caused by tree branches hitting power lines. I have not seen any entire trees that have snapped, just branches, but some of them have been heavy enough to make me glad I was not walking under the tree at the time. I suspect Calgary body-shops are going to be busy for a while.

Here are a few more shots I took this morning (click to enlarge all photos):

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Big history/grand narrative

Early human history (book illustration)
artist: unknown
The Big History Project has been in the news lately. At first glance, this seems something new by including data from all disciplines to frame our development, and then extending the time line on each datum to show how we made various discoveries connected with that datum. In other words, creating a nested or multi-dimensional time line so that when we start at the Big Bang theory, threads of continuing development of the thought through history form other, specialized, time lines.

Yet for all of this, I think that the project is not so much an innovation, but the latest development in an old way of looking at things: Big History seems like a synonym for grand narrative and certainly, the word "narrative" is well-used in the news report. Of course, critics of postmodernism are quick to point out that the identification and criticism of grand narratives becomes another grand narrative in and of itself. Such philosophical navel-gazing acts a bit like a reductio ad absurdum, lessening the practical value of replacing grand narratives with little narratives (micronarratives).

Grand narratives give the impression of states to which we are evolving ― Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point which he saw as Logos. In other words, evolution is pulling us (an action which goes against everything we can observe) rather than pushing us as we see from adaptations, or the lack of them, to accidental events which can mean either survival or extinction. It was this unswerving move toward logos which greatly depopulated Easter Island and brought about the extinction of many civilizations as we learn from Jared Diamond's Collapse.

As I often say in this blog, I see Logos as one terminal of human existence and Mythos as the other. In recent centuries, most societies have been moving further toward Logos in this spectrum. At either end of the spectrum is extinction because these are hypothetical states of non-adaptability. The very centre of the spectrum would seem to be the place to be as this position is the resolution of all opposites which is a goal of eastern religions and modern depth-psychology. However, the centre point cannot be fully attained because the resolution of all opposites is also a point where time and energy cannot occur. In other words, there could be no universe at all.

Strange phenomena occur whenever we approach the centre point of the Mythos/Logos spectrum: In transdisciplinarity, this is the T state (section 3.2 of the linked essay). At this place we find alternate realities and perhaps even alternate universes. In mediation, it is the point where opposing parties realize that they had both been substituting other things for what both parties really wanted and that these substitutions could not support each other, but when the true goals are realized and the substitutions are abandoned in favor of one which does support both parties desires, then there is no longer any conflict. A successful mediation can seem almost magical: both parties leave with more gains than they had previously thought possible even if they had absolutely won the original conflict (through legal actions, i.e. more Logos).

In evolutionary terms, a conflict is a test of adaptability in a single instance and the relative numbers of this same test occurring in a population has a bearing on its chances of survival. Most of such tests are not life or death situations and will be resolved sometimes even before there is any awareness of conflict at all. It is only through many generations of the same decisions that the accumulated effect can be perceived as having either survival or non-survival potential. The actual process remains mostly hidden, so when it is first perceived it is at a potential T state. Its identification as a conflict depends on at least two opposing opinions: A and not A which are both realities. In classical logic, nothing can be both A and not A, and this is the law of the excluded middle. Modern physics, however, has shown that light can be both a wave and a particle, so light can be a wave and a non wave, and a particle and a non particle. From this duality comes the T state or included middle of transdisciplinarity which can resolve apparent opposites.

As conflicts become grander and the excluded middle is being maintained, and if a society is expressing more Logos than Mythos, then logos type solutions will start to be employed. These all take the form of energy and that energy is gradually increased until it becomes too great to be opposed. A small amount of energy is expressed with a law, and the ultimate amount of energy is expressed with a global nuclear holocaust. I look at Law as one of the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse ― a new law is a sign that an unresolved adaptation has reached a societal level because its T state has not yet been realized. In this situation, the included middle will allow for more Mythos to form a resolution. It is important to know that these processes are going on all the time below our level of perception. The T state is not so much a new invention as it is a new discovery ― something that has reached our consciousness and thus allows us to use it as a tool.

Here is one of the videos from the Big History Project. Pay particular attention to where he says "merchants needed courts to settle disputes":

We can almost imagine some lawless and anarchistic city where the merchants finally rise up and demand a legal system. This is an expression of our position at the Logos side of the scale and we are using this to create a past grand-narrative. Carts have been placed before horses: courts existed before money, tradesmen, and cities. You can see this in the early Irish laws where its evolution from agreements within small groups of agricultural people working toward group survival is very clear. It would not be an aspect of agriculturalism, either, the same would have happened with hunting societies and we might have to go as far as primate behavior to find its first expressions.

In early Irish law, penalties would not be merely determined by the nature of the crime, but also by the societal standings of the criminal and the victim. As these small agricultural societies consisted of a few families the family, itself, was more part of existence than we understand it to be today in our large cities. In early Irish law there was no need for police or prisons, an offender would pay a fine (often in livestock) as compensation to the victim. If this fine was not paid, then the criminal's family would then have to pay.

In today's society with its large populations, we are annoyed when a fine is cheerily paid by a very wealthy person when the same fine could ruin the average person. The city has demanded more logos than we are comfortable in giving it. So is the City a glorious Omega Point in our evolutionary development? Is it just another Horseman of the Apocalypse? It all depends on grand narratives and our ability to see more of the micro-narratives at the edge of our consciousness.

Monday, 8 September 2014

E. H. Carr and the bat wing

E. H. Carr, 1892-1982, British Historian
Photo: Unknown
History is different when you have been part of it. I had been thinking of the time, in the early seventies, when I was working at Glenbow Museum in Calgary. I thought it might be interesting to share some memories of the time just before the museum moved into its current building across from the Calgary Tower.  Before that move, there had been a small museum downtown; an art gallery and offices several blocks away, and in the next block to the latter was an unmarked old brick building called "the warehouse" which contained all of the museum departments with their storage and cataloging facilities together with restoration, conservation and office areas. What was neither on display nor in the warehouse was stored, after a fashion, in a bat-infested abandoned ice-house and several Quonset  huts just outside of Calgary near Bowness Park. I was part of a team hired under a "Local Initiatives Project" to inventory everything. Later, I was hired as a cataloger in the military department and my companions went, also as catalogers or restorers, to other departments. It was a pivotal time in the history of  Glenbow Museum. It was changing from a dispersed and eccentric institution to a world-class museum noted for its catalog-system. The people who had trained our team were very interesting people so I thought that the first thing to do in sharing their stories would be to augment my own memories with what Glenbow Museum had to say about its own history.

So, E. H. Carr was someone who now seems quite postmodern in some aspects and modern in others: he stressed the ultimate subjectivity of history but had a devout belief in cause and effect. He also had very specific ideas about the difference between facts about the past and facts of history (ff).

In reading Glenbow's facts of history, the only personal connection I could make was with Eric Harvie. Other than his family members, his was the only name in their history. The people who I was thinking about were not mentioned at all. We all knew that Eric Harvie was coming to visit that day because we had to hide all of the ashtrays. He had recently quit smoking. When he did show up at the warehouse it was lunchtime and I was eating my sandwich with the receptionist who was not on lunch at the time. He was an old and frail -looking man surrounded by the curator together with several larger men in three-piece-suits. After being introduced to the warehouse reception office, he was whisked off to the next stop. Most of the staff were out having lunch or were in the lunch room. I was having lunch in the company of the receptionist because she was a good sport about being teased. Had she not been such a good sport, I would have probably have been eating my lunch elsewhere and would have missed meeting Eric Harvie on his only visit to the warehouse while I worked there. We all liked teasing her because her reactions were always so dramatic. I once took an instructional hand grenade from the military department down to the reception desk. As I was talking, I "accidentally" pulled the pin and exclaimed "Oh no!" She leaped to her feet, screamed, and fled the office. But her reaction was nothing compared to the one over the bat wing.

It was before I was a cataloger and we were taking inventory of the "lesser" objects at the old ice house. Most of everything was piled high in the dark, cold interior, and covered with the bat droppings that were everywhere. There were mountains of kitchen chairs and old washing machines, horse collars smelling not of leather and saddle soap, but of long-dead horses. The corners of the building were plied deep with the bat droppings and the bats, themselves, were nesting behind cardboard pinned hing on the walls. I took a pole once to see if I could pry some of the cardboard loose to see all of the bats behind it. Some of tore and the bats flew everywhere. For the next two days, one would suddenly flutter up as you moved something. One morning, we were listening to the news on the car radio as we were heading to the ice house and there was an item about people catching rabies from bat droppings. When we got to work we found dead bats all over the place. After our driver went to the nearest pay phone to report this alarming sight, we found out that poison had just been put out to kill the bats because of the rabies scare. Later that day, I found a young bat who must have eaten only a small amount of poison as it was just sluggish. I put it in a large matchbox and placed it on the receptionist's desk when we got back to the warehouse. She cautiously started to slide open the matchbox and the bat, sensing freedom, extended one wing from the box. She never got to see the rest of the bat. After she left, I put the bat wing back and released the recovering bat that night.

Histories can be terribly selective: Eric Harvie was failing to add to historical fact because a visit was not deemed important enough to mention, and the likelihood of any history-causing interactions had been lessened by removing the ashtrays and having his visit come at a time when there were little staff about. What was going on at the time was a small part of the world changing, but those acts and the people who performed them are not the things of history. History is the photo-ops, but most of them are not used either.

I found a few photographs with pictures and names of the "supporting characters" in Glenbow Archives, such as this one, the names given in the search page. I came to know a number of that group like Jack Rea (although his last name was always pronounced as "Rae"). He is the second on the left, standing in front of the notice board. He worked long after retirement age as he was supporting either his daughter or granddaughter who had been bedridden since a flubbed  operation. He was born around the turn of the century and had been something of a pioneer himself: he had been the blacksmith at the town of Cochrane but then lived in Banff in a house with the front fence made of welded horse shoes. During the week, though, he stayed in a trailer at the ice house property. He told me that when he first arrived in Alberta the only thing that farmers had got to grow was wheat, but it was still mainly cattle ranching here. At Glenbow, he was the wainwright, among other things. I remember when several of us helped him put a wheel back on a wagon. Four of us were holding up (with great effort) one corner as he lifted the other side by himself and popped  the wheel back on. He was seventy-two at the time. I always think of him serenely puffing on his pipe as he spoke about the past. Nothing ever ruffled him.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Internet Archaeology

Internet Archaeology logo
The premier online archaeological journal has returned to its original open access policy. Internet Archaeology provides monographs and data papers under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

This move has been met with considerable enthusiasm and Doug's Archaeology blog has celebrated the event by posting a number of apocryphal good reviews about the occasion.

For me, Dungworth, D. (1997). Iron Age and Roman copper alloys from northern Britain. Internet Archaeology, (2). Council for British Archaeology. doi:10.11141/ia.2.2 is the monograph that captured  most of my interest, and I am looking forward to studying it in depth over the weekend. So much of early Celtic art lacks XRF and other methods of metallurgical analysis, and distribution patterns are very difficult to detect in much of the material as while ordinary brooches often stayed enough within their original manufacturing area to detect their origin, "high status" objects with considerable decoration often strayed far from their original workshops.

Having such analyses done professionally can be expensive but some labs allow their staff to do such at little or no cost to members of the public for educational and non-profit projects. Also, scholars at universities often have a harder time obtaining samples for their intended projects than they do obtaining the means to use them. I highly recommend that collectors and metal detectorists take advantage of both open access material and the availability of scientific testing to create more studies, For example, the effect of agricultural practices on archaeological remains is neglected more than, say, the effects of agriculture on modern underground copper piping. As so many people seem to have a hard time extrapolating, nuanced studies are clearly needed.

In the meantime, enjoy the Internet Archaeology monographs and data papers. I'll see you on Monday.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fauve Matisse

Fauve Matisse screenshot with even and gradual transparent objects and
an overlaying and selected line drawn with 50% bleed. Some of the "tools"
icons expand for more tools (click to enlarge)
Back when the Internet was young, when most people had a 14.4 dial-up modem, and having a web graphic heavier than 80k was a mortal sin, the Snappy Video Capture by Play Incorporated was a great way to get images onto your computer. Poor resolution web-cams existed, of course, and there were scanners for transferring old photos, but the high resolution digital cameras that anyone could afford did not exist yet and your options were limited. Everyone had a VCR, though, and camcorders were very popular. The Snappy became a hit: you could set up your camcorder to run to the Snappy plugged into your computer and instantly transfer a live picture or a still frame from one of your movies.

Most importantly, though, the Snappy came with two pieces of software: Gryphon Morph and Fauve Matisse. The latter had limited functionality in the free version so I bought the full version. One of the many things that I liked about Fauve Matisse is that its marqueing capabilities beat anything else ― they still do. The regular marquee tool only sets part of the line when you click the mouse. At that time, most marqueeing was freehand and that was accomplished very shakily (for me). You had to do it all at once and could not correct anything. I found that, for marqueeing a curved shape, I could use the curve shape painting tool which built its curves according to your mouse movement, using it to trace over the image I was copying. I could then marquee the resulting object (like a freely movable "layer"), delete the shape (which kept the marquee area over the original picture) and then "float" the selection.

While the software came with pre-set brushes, you could also design any brush you like with the Brush Shape and Brush Options windows.. I particularly found the "bleed" function very useful as it changed the colour of a line according to what was underneath as you drew it. The software also allowed gradients and varying transparency. You could also easily change the order of overlapping objects.

As time went on, things changed: Fauve Matisse became impossible to use with jpegs and showed bands of colour in the image, but if you pasted a modern jpeg into the program it was displayed as a bitmap and there were no problems at all. You just had to convert the bitmap to a jpeg in a different program.

Fauve Matisse was built for Windows 3.1 but it still worked for Windows 95, 98, and XP. It no longer worked for Windows 7 and while I might have been able to get it working after a fashion for the 32 bit version, my new 64 bit system was not being recommended for such old software. I struggled doing the same sorts of things (except for fully designing brushes) on my later graphics software but it felt like trying to thread a needle while wearing boxing gloves. Happily, a friend gave me a reconditioned machine with XP, so I now have two computers on my desk with a thumb drive for moving graphics back and forth from Fauve Matisse and my more recent graphics software.

Play Incorporated expanded into other things like the Trinity system which was a TV/Video studio in a box. Kiki Stockhammer became one of the Internet's first human icons. The company soon became a target and was bought out by Macromedia, itself being later bought out by Adobe. These companies mined some of Fauve Matisse's functions for their own products but nothing comparable has been made. You can, however, still buy the original Fauve Matisse from Adobe (they just do not advertise it). Keep it on an XP or earlier machine though. Sadly, Gryphon Morph stopped working with Windows 98 and I cannot get it to open files in XP. You can see a couple of my morphs here and here which my wife changed to a JavaScript "slide show". The first was shown at an exhibition of early Celtic art in France in the late 90's. FantaMorph seems a good substitution and it works on Windows 7 64 bit.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part thirteen ― conclusion

Carl Gustav Jung standing in front of Burghölzli clinic,
Zurich, in about 1909
The "observer" has been an important factor in theoretical physics since Einstein, and since the wave/particle duality has been described perhaps "participant" might even be a better term. Certainly, David Bohm must have thought so.

That the archaeologist, too, is a vital part of an archaeological site cannot be denied as archaeologist are prone to conduct their work within the framework of certain theories and those theories affect the final product of the archaeological report and any conclusions about the site. That archaeology is theory-laden is a common observation among archaeologists, themselves so different interpretations can be expected. Even beyond theory, the personality type of the archaeologist will also affect the work as it would affect all aspects of a person's life. The personality type determines how questions will be be solved and the order in which such a process will take place. An introvert will be better at seeing subjects that depend on introversion like religious and aesthetic matters, and the extravert will be better at the material aspects of a site that do not include types of thinking as an essential ingredient.

Different viewpoints are important in extracting knowledge from material evidence and "think-tanks" are often constructed using very different sorts of people including those who have no specialized knowledge of the subject and might deliver something very important along the "out of the mouths of babies" category. After all "cannot see the forest for the trees" is a common phrase applied to specialists.

When Lewis Binford said that ideas could not be excavated, only actions  ― he was wrong. Actions cannot be excavated either, only the effect of actions can be seen and the archaeologist contributes details of the causative actions through his knowledge. If that knowledge is adequate it might seem, as it did to Binford, that the action has been excavated rather than reconstructed by a mind. Similarly, the art-historian does not see the ideas behind a work of art, but reconstructs them in the same way.

All of the actions and ideas that have resulted in an archaeological site or single find were the products of individuals with different personalities, and being able to understand these differences are essential for coming to a better understanding of the resulting object.

Most importantly, psychic considerations are subject to scientific experimentation, but these will never take place until archaeologists see themselves as part of the work as well as the things that they excavate. This requires a certain measure of postmodern thinking.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part twelve ― active imagination

"A world of disorderly notions, picked out of his books,
crowded into his imagination"
Gustave Doré, Don Quixote
Active Imagination is (among other definitions) a Jungian therapeutic technique that can access the upper levels of the unconscious in a directed way. Experimentation should reveal if this could also be a useful tool in archaeological interpretation.

After noticing that one archaeologist's interpretation of a site seemed to unknowingly reference elements of lore, I wondered if active imagination could be utilized in archaeological interpretation to determine how much the personal and collective unconscious figures in such interpretation. Meaning resides only within minds, and the minds addressed in archaeology are supposed to be the minds that were involved in an archaeological site or object at the time it was built, used or abandoned.

However, without being aware of the nature of the problem, ideas might be attributed to the original people involved could be ideas coming from the archaeologist's own unconscious mind that are not directly relevant to what is being observed. These could include half forgotten content from an academic lecture or book, stories and legends heard in childhood, archetypes from the collective unconscious or something to do with the current life of the archaeologist that might be forgotten or repressed.

A number of people should be the subjects for such an experiment and their responses should be kept private until they are interpreted.  The first question should be something like "What is this ... telling you about itself?" and not "What do you think about..." as you want to avoid, as much as possible, a personal reaction to anything. If all of the responses are very similar, it will not necessarily be a correct interpretation as what is being looked at might stimulate archetypes in the observer that would not have been in the minds of the people who had contact with the original material in its time. If the responses are different from each other, then further analysis might eliminate the very subjective by discovering its source.

Bit by bit, the experiment can be refined to help eliminate confusions. At the very least, it will reveal the commonest sorts of misinterpretation. Some of the subjects could be classmates, others could be people from different backgrounds. You want to see how similar and different psychologies deal with the same material. This should also include people with very different personality types. Of course, the experiment will not be much good unless it is directed by a psychologist familiar with the technique for therapy, and who can interpret its results and adjust the experiment to help eliminate problems that might emerge in running such an experiment.

Jungian analysts explain the active imagination technique in the following video: