Monday, 2 March 2015

Fellowship

Society of Antiquaries of London. Burlington House
photo: Tony Hisgett
Early this morning, I received an email from Vincent Megaw saying that I have been elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Vincent had nominated me just over a year ago.

While I am both very thankful for the nomination and the votes, and proud of the result, I am finding the experience rather humbling. I started to think about the word fellowship. I could take this word in its focused meaning as recognition of one's peers, but a fellowship is really about what connects people. Sir John Evans was the president of the Society of Antiquaries (1885-1892), but he was also the father of British Celtic numismatics and lobbied heavily to have finders of coins and antiquities rewarded with the full value under the Treasure Trove laws of the time as it would better encourage better reporting of finds.

There is also one of those strange coincidences connected with the election. A very long time ago, my maternal grandfather and a great influence on my life, Louis A. Neale, had also been waiting for the results of an election at Burlington House. It was not for an FSA at the Society of Antiquaries, but an RA at the Royal Academy in the same building. He was an artist, and one of his paintings had been accepted at one of their exhibitions. Sadly, he was not awarded the R.A. but in that time the holders of that title were restricted to only forty living people.

With a fellowship, as with life, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Tomorrow, remembering Sheppard Frere (1916-2015).

Friday, 27 February 2015

Runcible — Tech's answer to the antique pocket watch

Inspiration for the Runcible
photo: Arne Nordmann (norro), Germany
Yesterday, a CNET article on the upcoming launch of Runcible, a new vision for the smartphone, captured my imagination. Based on the design of the pocket watch, it is the brain-child of Monohm, a Berkeley, California, company.

I have often said that the cell-phone (or mobile, if you prefer) is today's pocket watch. The pocket watch was rapidly becoming an object of the past. When I was fifteen years old, I worked at Pearl Cross Antiques in St Martin's Court, off Charing Cross Road in London. English gold pocket watches were a specialty (with clocks, jewellery and silver). Unlike Swiss or American pocket watches, the English pocket watch has a single backplate to the movement which guarantees a much longer life for the watch. The main point of the Swiss innovation of multiple backplates was to produce watches more cheaply.

What first caught my attention in the CNET article was the exotic wooden back to the smartphone. The first example illustrated was from a burl, and appears to have been taken from where a burl meets the roots. One word came to mind: craftsmanship. That is the word I most associate with those gold pocket watches at Pearl Cross. We used to have them restored to their original state by several London craftsmen. If the watch case had been engraved for a previous owner, that engraving was not polished off as is a practice of mediocre jewellers, but our craftsman used to smelt gold to the exact colour of the original and the he would flood the engraving with the gold and then polish the case down to its original thickness as checked by his micrometer; If the watch had a damaged dial, it was re-enamelled; If the watch needed new parts, they were original and purchased from a shop nearby which had been supplying new parts since the eighteenth century. The shop still retained its angled mirrors beneath the windows which directed daylight into the interior in those days before electric lights. When we sold a watch, it came with a lifetime guarantee for the new owner. Sadly, the shop premises lease ran out after I visited it again in 1999 and is now part of the upscale Sheekey's fish and seafood restaurant, which was a favorite of my boss, Dennis Strange.

Monohm has married retro with innovation. Imagine focusing Runcible's featured camera by revolving the whole smartphone! Don't you just hate lever zooms and automatic focuses on some digital cameras? I still like the manual focus ring of my old Nikon Fa (although, practically, I hardly ever use the camera anymore). With its web-based apps that can can turn your smartphone into a speedometer for your bike or a distance calculator to strap on your arm it has greater functionality than you might expect. Even its GPS system is an innovation. But what happens to that beautiful case you bought when version 2.0 of the smartphone comes out? No problem, the new "movement" can be purchased on its own and just popped into the older case.

A smartphone that will become an heirloom while still being current. This is old-style craftsmanship not planned obsolescence. It brought back fifty year-old memories of those beautiful old pocket watches in a prestigious West End London antique shop. It's going on my wish-list, and yes, you will be able to afford it as is planned to sell for less than the average smartphone.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Rick Witschonke (1945–2015)

I received the sad news from Mark Fox on Moneta-L yesterday (membership required),
that Rick Witschonke has passed away. Rick was an active member of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and a notable collector of Roman Republican coins.

In 2013, he collaborated with Ethan Gruber of the ANS and Kris Lockyear of the University College, London (UCL) to produce Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic Online (CHRR Online).

Mark says that there was to be a Festschrift for him this year...

My condolences go to his family and many friends. He will be greatly missed. More at:
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=100652.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The hidden monk revealed



The mummified remains of a thousand year old Buddhist monk is undergoing scientific examination. The first step was a CT scan carried out in the Netherlands and the results of a DNA study is forthcoming. The monk was interred inside a statue of Buddha found in Mongolia last month and is thought to be an example of sokushinbutsu, or self-mummification, best known from a number of such mummies in Japan.

Many believe that the incorruptibility of the flesh is a sign of enlightenment and I am reminded of the strange report of such in the remains of Paramahansa Yogananda.

A confusing statement in the video that the monk might have been a teacher of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov (1852-1927) seems to be from an error in translation. His similarly preserved remains can be seen in the linked Wikipedia article. As a rule, in Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet itself, the remains are destroyed through the practice of "sky burial". Although the practical reason for this is that burial or cremation would be a problem with frozen ground and a lack of firewood, it is also thought that the spirit could try to stay with the body and not move on.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Modern Celtic sculpture recovered

Broighter gold boat
photo: Ardfern
"A six-feet-high sculpture of a Celtic sea god stolen from Binevenagh Mountain has been recovered by soldiers on a training exercise." More here.

John Sutton's sculpture of Manannan Mac Lir (Mac Lir means "son of the sea") had been removed in an act of religious vandalism but the damage appears repairable.

It is often difficult to separate what might be called a "culture hero" from a deity and Mannan Mac Lir gave his name to the Isle of Mann. The Broighter gold boat was part of an important hoard of early Celtic art objects and some believe that it was an offering to Manannan Mac Lir, however, the boat served as an icon of the Menapii tribe at the mouth of the Rhine as they controlled the Rhineland sea trade. They also had a presence in Ireland and while the Rhine is often considered a source for the Irish gold which contains platinum inclusions, it is almost certain that if the gold source is actually Asia Minor, then the Rhine was part of the route by which it came to Ireland as the metal type was used neither in Britain nor Gaul. For more background material and illustrations on the hoard, the boat, and the Menapii see my earlier blog entry (Frome hoard).

Monday, 23 February 2015

Old Bailey records

Proceedings at the Old Bailey, 1809
Yesterday, I was Googling nineteenth century London bookbinders when I came across a witness statement by one at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court of England and Wales). Although the item from 1857 had very little to interest me, I could not resist exploring further. I remember walking by the Old Bailey many times when I was a kid and it would always bring back flashes of memories of crime novels, TV shows and movies.

Abandoning my thoughts about bookbinders, and being a numismatist I became curious about incidents of uttering counterfeit coin. There were quite a few for that year and a guilty verdict brought about months or years of "penal servitude". The sentences for actually forging coins got much longer sentences, but going back to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the risk was being sentenced to death for high treason. Curiously though, at that same time, many sentences of merely uttering false coin would be punished only with a fine. I found records of how money was forged and how it was detected (often by bending the coin in the teeth).

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, what we now call a mugging would often get the death penalty if a weapon was involved, but burglary could often mean transportation, at first to America, and then (after the American Revolution) to Australia. There were also other sentences we do not see today in England such as whipping or branding.

Apart from the sensational, I became quite interested in the language used in these records. I even found a coinage term that I had never heard before: "a seven shilling piece" and it took me a second or so to realize that we now commonly call that George III gold coin a third guinea. If I ever write a novel set in the early nineteenth century, I plan to have some character order a "half quarten of gin" at the local inn(1/8th pint).

If you are conducting historical research, or just want to gain more verisimilitude in your novel, don't neglect these records. If you are just curious, I'm sure you will find much to entertain. Visit http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

Friday, 20 February 2015

Safety in numbers

Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel
"the collector earl" (
portrait by Rubens)
The popular picture of the collector is of some very wealthy person sipping a brandy while gloating over their latest acquisition. After their death, their collections are sometimes displayed in museums bearing their name. Most collectors, however, are far from wealthy, and when they die, their collections are sold off and provide opportunities for a new generation of collectors. A small percentage of collectors become recognized authorities in their chosen interest and their resulting books become the standard texts on their subject.

There is no way to predict which young collector will rise to such eminence. One young man was given a coin collection by his father and it captured his imagination. The son of a cleric, he never finished university and went to work for a family members paper business. The family thought that he might not amount to much. He was later known as Sir John Evans, the father of British Celtic numismatists and one of the founders of modern archaeology. Another prominent archaeologist, the Egyptologist Sir William Flinders Petrie, had started by collecting ancient coins s a boy in London. It is said that he would now and again find a rare coin after scoring the London shops which he would sell to the British Museum.

When I was at school, there was no such things as computer games and social media. A computer was a large machine in big offices and was never used as a source of entertainment. Some of my friends collected coins or stamps. I remember that in one class, I was one of two kids who collected ancient coins. Whenever I have attended an event at the local coin club, I am always struck by the age of most of the members: most are middle age to elderly, but the fewer younger members are always encouraged.

Sometimes, when things get very busy at a friend's coin shop, I will help out for a few hours and the most rewarding days for me are when I manage to get a kid interested in ancient coins. Given that my competition is probably graphic-intensive computer games I take any such wins very seriously. obviously, I cannot say whether anyone whom I have encouraged to collect ancient coins will go on to be an authority, but I like to think that there is a small chance — like buying a lottery ticket that pays out millions.

Becoming an authority depends on discovery and there actually is a study on the probabilities of new ideas emerging within a university environment. The results are not encouraging. Aaron Lynch says:
"Practical implications may follow from the above model of population creativity for ideas. For example, proposals to make education highly uniform and enforced by nationwide testing may tend to limit creativity by reducing the variability of combinations of important ideas. Creativity in an organization or a society might alternatively be enhanced by encouraging the acquisition of highly unusual combinations of ideas and fields of learning. Cultural, educational, and experiential diversity might turn out to increase population creativity by increasing the occurrence rates for extremely rare combinations of ideas that could lead to the formation of new ideas. In particular, this might result in higher creative output for universities, research institutions, and other organizations that deliberately strive for a culturally diverse mix of people. Yet even a 1000-fold increase for an idea combination that exists at a prevalence of 10-9 only involves one person in a million, representing only a tiny dent in the prevalence for extremely common combinations of ideas that would form the mainstream of a society or a subculture. Factors such as that might even be investigated as sources of different creativity rates in different countries. Such practical implications also warrant separate papers in their own right. The focus here is on the role of quantitative processes in a population affecting population creativity, and thus the evolution of ideas."
So there is safety in numbers.We cannot predict who will become the next Sir John Evans or Sir William Flinders Petrie, so all who show any interest at all should be encouraged. There is only one quality which will will increase the chances of such success and that is a passion for the subject. Archaeobloggers who condemn collecting, or try to set up impossible standards for collectors never try to give kids, or anyone else for that matter, any passion for the subject. All they give are rules and warnings. All kids get that for everything. It never inspires.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Last man standing

Screen shot of our 2001 CCI online announcement
Yesterday, Bob Van Arsdell emailed me to say that the British Museum has finally pulled its version of the Celtic Coin Index (CCI) off the Internet. Although the records still exist within the Portable Antiquity Scheme, the British Museum Celtic Coin Index no longer has a separate identity. Their site advises that new finds of Celtic coins be handled by Finds Liaison Officers (FLO).

The Celtic Coin Index as a card file was started at Oxford in 1961 by Sheppard Frere and Derek Allen. More than just providing find spots of Celtic coins, the CCI also included coins from public and private collections and coins noted in the literature (mostly sales lists and auctions). The British Museum seems now only interested in new finds from the ground.

After reading Bob's email, I did a Google search for Celtic Coin Index, and sure enough, the British Museum page records had vanished and my original version's main design (William Astle of Lexicom changed it into a database driven site) now dominates the search results. Even the PAS Celtic Coin Index url does not even have a redirect to the Iron Age coins guide and delivers only a "404 notice" of the missing file.

Almost from the start, producing the first CCI online was a lot of work. My wife spent the last three years of her life building the site and the database that generated the pages while fighting terminal breast cancer. The Institute of Archaeology at Oxford went back on their agreement to fund our work from a grant and spent some of the money on their staff salary and the rest went into general coffers. We decided that the CCI online should exist, anyway even though we decided to include only the British issues and not the imports, and it became my property (according to the Oxford lawyers) because we had received no payment whatsoever and thus it was not "work for hire". I might even now arrange to update the records at some time.

As Oxford had left me with a debt of more than a thousand dollars for their last year's bandwidth charges, I thought that Lexicom, its hosting ISP, would take it down so I went to see Lexicom's president, Michael Rae to give him the bad news. His response was a most pleasant surprise: he said that he had always believed in Carrie and myself and the importance of the work. He would thus write off the debt, and would continue to host the CCI online on its dedicated server and our old personal site (now archived) at no cost to me at all. Before I left their office (in a daze!) he mentioned that he owned a condo on Regent's Canal in London and if I was visiting London anytime he was not there I would be welcome to borrow it. The day turned out to be far better than I imagined.

The unannounced limitation of Frere and Allen's original vision is a serious matter. While keeping a record of find spots is important, by including all coins regardless of whether there is a recorded find spot, it make the CCI a valuable research tool for typological, iconographic, metallurgical and epigraphical information. I had designed the site so that it could be easily browsed by Colin Haselgrove's regional system as well as by Bob Van Arsdell's tribal listings of coins. This was done to make identification of coins easier for those who only had a coin but little or no data.

Another very important feature of the complete CCI online was that the data could be searched to see how find spot data was handled by public collections, private collections and the trade. The PAS database apparently has no such function as it's main theme is to record find spots and if all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

I'll give you the source data for the CCI records of coins from 1961 to 2001:

Total number: 32,348

Public collections: 9,770
Private collections: 2,319
Literature: 20,259 (this is mainly coins published in the trade)

Of these sources, find spot data comes with 69% of public collection coins, 59.3% from private collections coins and 57.7% from the literature. The span thus is only 11.3 % and the average is 61.2%. Public collections contain a percentage of known site finds, and private collectors reporting coins to the CCI are more likely to have considered the find spot data more important than in all of the literature where, in the case of sales, some of the data comes with the coins but is not published in the catalogue (The Mossop sale, for example, lists find spots and/or weights but does not always associate each with a specific
coin in a lot of several, so we sometimes get a list of weights and a list of find spots but we don't clearly know which belong together from just the catalogue The coins, themselves, came with their tickets with all of the data). This, and the fact that a few would come from general catalogues where no specifics of each illustrated specimen are given (such as Seaby catalogues) would explain the small differences in the literature and private collection data.

We can see from this, that findspot data is mostly recorded or retained by dealers where it is known. This is just common sense, there is every reason to include such data and supply it with the coin, although with the animosity from the anti-collecting lobby, many dealers do not seem to be including as much of this data recently in their sales catalogues. Since the CCI was taken over by the PAS, they also report less to it as they probably realize that there is not anyone working there that is a specialist who can provide further information. This is just speculation on my part, but I have noticed a trend of fewer find spots in the literature over the last few years.

The importance of Celtic coins in the trade is revealed by the fact that the percentage of coins held in public collections is only just over 30% of the total. The differences in the numbers of reported find spots compared to those where this is not recorded is far less than might be imagined.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Twiddling my thumbs

The Connoisseurs, Eugène Fichel, 1871
I'm now approaching five months of waiting for my backlog of pensions. I started the process about ten months before that. Although my regular expenses are being met, I eat far fewer restaurants meals and I have a growing list of books I cannot afford to buy right now and, of course, I'm not adding anything to my collection of early Celtic art.

The last year or so has been exceptional for my collection. Early Celtic art is so rare that in the thirty years I have been collecting I could only hope to find one or two things in a good year. Of course, if you search for Celtic antiquities on Ebay you will get quite a number of hits. Most such objects are either not Celtic at all, or do not bear any Celtic decoration (which interests me far more than the form).

The star of my most recent collecting is the British plastic style finial (I attribute as a sword pommel). this is the only example of the pure plastic style to have been found in Britain and an electron microprobe analysis has proven that it was actually made in Britain and was not the import that the authorities in early Celtic art first believed it to be. It is such an unusual object that it was not correctly identified at first and received an export permit right away. This surprised me almost as much as the attribution.

Archaeologists in the know understand that a very small percentage of British early Celtic art is found with any archaeological context. Britain has none of the "princely graves" of the continent which has yielded many spectacular examples of early Celtic art, and most of what Britain yields are stray finds and coin hoards (although Celtic coin art is quite different from the art of other Celtic objects.

So it seems that, despite my current financial woes, I have not missed adding anything to my collection and it will be many more months of not buying anything before I find myself buying much less than I have accumulated over the last thirty years. Rest assured, though, that when I do buy the next item for my collection, it will appear here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Good presentation

Roman gold medallion showing Olympias
It is not often that I praise a newspaper for an archaeological piece, but the Daily Mail online has a media-rich article about the tomb at Amphipolis which includes a couple of virtual fly-throughs of the tomb and photographs of some of the finds. It is not perfect, though: the portrait of Alexander's mother Olympias is not contemporary but is on a 3rd century AD Roman gold medallion. Still, it is an exceptional presentation. Too often, archaeological news reports lack even photos of the finds.

This is a short post today as I have a chest-cold that is making me feel miserable and I'm going back to bed.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Big-Endians and Little-Endians

Jonathan Swift

". . . It began upon the following occasion. It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs before we eat them, was upon the larger end: but his present Majesty's grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the Emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs."
Swift's jibe against Protestant/Catholic animosity in Gulliver's Travels serves for any example of heated conflict over issues that others might find trivial. I think that the current conflicts between archaeologists and metal detectorists/collectors can be framed within this allusion. The egg, in this case, is the past, and the conflicts are over its treatment in the present.

Dick Stout's aptly named blog post "Reading Between the Lines..." contains a video which points to two rather illusory viewpoints: the first is that of some archaeologists about what drives metal detectorists, collectors and archaeologists, and the second is that of the detectorists who base their views of archaeology and archaeologists on what they hear in such conflict situations. If blame must be given, it must be heaped far higher on the archaeologist spokesmen of this viewpoint for the simple reason that it is archaeology's task to interpret past societies — a task far more difficult than interpreting present societies, so you would think that when an archaeologist starts to talk about collecting that person probably has least asked collectors a few questions about the activity.

There was confusion, on the video, between England and Wales' Portable Antiquity Scheme which is a voluntary reporting system for finds which organized what some people already did about reporting finds (usually to a museum or specialist) and the Treasure Act which replaced the old Treasure Trove laws and deals with what constitutes such "treasure"; public or private ownership, remunerations, etc.

An archaeologist's choice of religious terminology in saying that collecting is anathema to archaeology is telling, as is a statement where archaeological professional ethics are projected upon non-archaeologists. These are cult-clues. Many archaeologists know that a coin reference that they give in a report exists because of a collector's study.

Selling is equated with profit. This would seem very strange to a collector who frequently sells a poor example when a better one shows up. The sale might be to another collector, or a part trade to the dealer with the better example. Even the dealer is more frequently there for the lifestyle than the profit. An owner of a collectibles shop is a common media icon of the struggling small-businessman who won't give up because of the love for the subject. A metal detectorist said, defensively, that he has kept everything he found and never sells anything. I would be tempted to ask him if he also owns thirty-seven cats and tall piles of newspapers. Apparently, profit is a bad thing when applied to the archaeologically sacred.

The contrasts between archaeology as science and collecting and metal detecting as pleasure and profit are so ham-fisted that we can entertain only ignorance or condescension as an explanation for their use. A specialist collector might well know much more of the science concerning their collection than the average archaeologist who sees very little of such things. That is who you get to identify something for you. If you cannot find such a person, then contact a dealer who will have seen more than the average collector, though not as much as the specialist. The dealer's reputation and livelihood depends on such knowledge; the archaeologist might get refuted but won't lose any tenure over a mistake.

If you limit people's views of the past, and what is important or unimportant to that view, you limit the public's interest in the past. When the public does not care about something, it gets no funding. It does not matter which end of the egg you crack open, what is important is that the egg gets cracked open.

Friday, 13 February 2015

shirts and ties

After doing something about socks yesterday, I thought I would keep to the sartorial theme today and discuss shirts and ties.

When buying a shirt for my daughter's wedding, I decided to look for a dress shirt with fairly wide stripes. After checking out the usual department stores where I buy clothes I could not find anything with wide stripes, just very narrow stripes. So I went to a large tailor's shop and (at first) was overjoyed to find three different shirts with wide stripes. The only problem was that they were all about $250 each. Now, I have not bought a suit in decades but I think the last suit cost me about that much. I might have paid as much as $50 for a shirt in the past, but having to fork out $250 for a shirt was not part of my reality. I began to wonder if I had stumbled on to some unwritten dress code: only wealthy executives are allowed to wear wide stripes.

It was starting to remind me of ties. The last time I had a job that required the wearing of a tie must have been in the late seventies. I have not owned a tie for years. I don't even like them. I remember talking with my wife about the mythology of ties. I have heard men say that the tie is a phallic symbol. As a mythologist, I just don't buy that at all. A mythological symbol usually contains some clues to its meaning through its usage. I would not expect a phallic symbol to be routinely tied in a slip-knot. Ask anyone what is the commonest use of a slip knot, and they will probably say "in a noose". I remember that office bosses used to get very upset if any of their male employees was not wearing a tie. It seemed to be a real taboo. I mentioned this to my wife and she claimed that the female equivalent was high-heeled shoes. She believed that such things symbolically hobbled women as a symbol of subservience.

When men start to talk about phallic symbols, I start to think about compensatory behaviour. What my wife said about high heeled shoes made sense, and if the meaning of the tie was the same, then compensating, by way of claiming the opposite might be expected. And why would a boss be upset that an underling is not looking macho enough?

I think that Tacitus gives us a clue in the Germania. Speaking of several Germanic tribes including the Anglii, he says (40):
"There is nothing noteworthy about these tribes, individually, but they share a common worship of Nerthus, or Mother Earth. They believe that she takes part in human affairs, riding in a chariot among her people. On an island of the sea stands an inviolate grove, in which, veiled with a cloth, is a chariot that none but the priest may touch. ... After that, the chariot, the vestments, and (believe it if you will) the goddess herself. are cleansed in a secluded lake. This service is performed by slaves who are immediately drowned in the lake. Thus mystery begets terror and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is seen only by men doomed to die.

You will remember that bog-bodies are found with a noose tied around their neck and Nerthus is sometimes mentioned in the literature about them. Tell that to the next person who claims that their tie is a phallic symbol.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Odd socks

photo: SeppVei
It's time to buy socks again. Almost every day another of my socks gains a hole and gets thrown out but I never end up with odd socks. A few years ago I decided that I really only ever need black or white cotton socks. I have no need for Argyll, or bright colours and, like most men, I prefer not to wear socks that appear to have an identity crisis: toe socks who seem to wish they were gloves, or socks posing as stuffed animals. Anything cute or unusual in fact. I want people to say "Here comes John", not "Here comes John's socks".

So I began to buy socks in bulk. It is not only much cheaper but on laundry days I never have to ponder that mystery of what happens to socks that seem to vanish in the wash. One comedian speculated that socks vanish into a black hole only to reappear later from some white hole as clothes hangers. Nor do I have to waste any time in matching socks that come out of the dryer. I don't even have to bundle or fold them in pairs, they all get unceremoniously dumped in the sock drawer loose and I just pick two singles.

I also believe in recycling or reusing and I will always have a few holed socks that serve nicely whenever I polish my shoes. Life holds far more interesting mysteries than "Whatever happened to that other sock?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Beyond the "Fringe Archaeology" — part twenty: conclusion

James Gillray, L'Insurrection de l'Institut Amphibie – The Pursuit of Knowledge, tinted etching, 1799
Regardless of all instruction and care, the subject can still bite.
I did not have any sort of outline for this series and some mornings I sat down to write without even an idea for the subject matter of the episode. Somehow, though, I managed to voice most of my concerns regarding archaeological interpretation and presentation.

Modern physics says that the experimenter cannot avoid being part of the experiment, so while we might think that we are always looking outward at any archaeological evidence, the final product will contain influences from our own unconscious mind. We can lessen this effect by understanding the sort of influences that can colour our ideas. For this, we have to understand ourselves as much as the evidence before us.

Max Planck sums it up nicely:
"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."