Powerful artefacts in time and space | Wed Dec 18 09:30:00 | Room 822
Powerful artefacts, a category that often includes grave goods and monumental structures, take prime positions in archaeological research and literature. From popular films to museum displays, whether the Ark of the Covenant or the Sutton Hoo helmet, our views of artefacts influence both the primacy and direction of research, and interpretations for the public. Power in artefacts can be interpreted as having been economic, ritual or social in various ways. Through their component materials, their form, their places of origin and of deposition, and sometimes their curation in the case of demonstrably old objects, archaeologists build hierarchies of power relationships. Certain objects evoke a greater sense of importance than others. This session aims to be wide-ranging and to tease out these manifestations of power, and to challenge our interpretive frameworks. We invite papers from all periods that focus on artefacts and interpretations of power in the past. Power may relate to the individual artefact, to the person with whom it is associated, or to society as a whole; or more broadly as in social-religious and/or supernatural power. Papers may also focus on the extent of power in an artefact, and to what extent it is contagious or transferable.
9:30 | Liv Nilsson Stutz, Linnaeus University, Sweden
The Power of the Illicit. The Memory and Identity Captured and Maintained in the Illicit Objects in the Ravensbrück Prison Camp
This paper explores the power embodied in small items produced and used within the Ravensbrück prison camp. The point of departure are objects collected art historian Zygmund Lacocinski from former prisoners when they arrived with the International Red Cross buses to Sweden after WWII, supplemented by interviews with the prisoners about the production, use and significance of the objects within the camp.
9:50 | David Bell, Queen’s University; Caroline McGrath, Queen's University Belfast
Irish Bronze Age Cinerary Urns: A Reevaluation
Around 2500BC, settlers from continental Europe introduced the Beaker culture to Britain and Ireland. New burial traditions included crouched interment, often with rich assemblages of manufactured grave goods including gold ornaments, copper tools and weapons as well as distinctive ceramic vessels. Further advances in metalworking, particularly the development of more effective copper alloy implements, would herald the eponymous Bronze Age (c.2200BC). This early industrial revolution is generally believed to have produced more stratified and warlike societies.
10:10 | Rachel Cartwright, University of Minnesota
Brooching Power in the Viking Age
Brooches, while serving a functional purpose, are often used and interpreted as a means of messaging. Often the messages being sent are about identity, whether that be about status, group affiliation, or another form. The oval brooches prevalent in Viking Age female dress have long been interpreted in such a way, with their presence in a burial indicating a Norse identity and a probable high status. While oval brooches are one of the most common types found in Viking Age graves, the variation in quality and quantity within burials indicates that they held significant meaning. In particular the brooches with attachments, such as keys, can be interpreted as power of the wearer within their family. This paper will examine the archaeological and literary evidence regarding oval brooches and their use as a signifier of power within a socially stratified society. Not only will their meaning in the past be theorized about, but also their interpretations in the present, gleaned both from archaeological literature and museum contexts.
10:30 | Matthew G. Knight, National Museums Scotland
The Destruction of Power and the Power of Destruction: Decommissioning Powerful Artefacts in Bronze Age Britain
Powerful objects indicate the wealth and status of the prehistoric individuals and communities to whom they belonged and the social situations in which they circulated. We might infer this from various object characteristics, including form, materiality, craftmanship and presumed function, as well as the careful treatment of these objects during deposition. But what about when we encounter conventionally powerful objects that have been decommissioned prior to deposition? Does the removal of the functionality of an object remove its power? And more importantly what does this tell us about the people behind the destructive acts and their changing relationships with these objects over time? The paper will present conventionally ‘powerful’ Bronze Age artefacts from across Britain, including axes, swords, shields and gold objects, that have been manipulated and/or destroyed prior to deposition to explore these questions. It will be demonstrated that we can identify multiple occasions where the destruction of specific objects was intrinsically linked to social concepts of power.
10:50 | Tânia Casimiro, IHC-NOVA University of Lisbon; António Marques, Centro de Arqueologia de Lisboa
The Lisbon Devil: A Powerful Artefact in Portuguese Middle Ages
Archaeological excavations made in the Mouraria area discovered archaeological contexts dated between the late 12thand mid 15thcenturies. Several domestic environments reveal the presence of Muslim and Christian communities based on material culture and faunal remains. Among the many finds related to everyday household activities a ceramic mould was found. This object was used to cast metal figurines shaped as little devils. Its physical characteristics combining a human figure with animal legs, horns and a phallus clearly suggest this identification.
|11:10 | BREAK|
11:40 | Misha Enayat, University of Southampton
Hierarchies of Value? A Reassessment of Exotic and Indigenous Feasting Artefacts from Iron Age Britain
‘Exotic’ or ‘luxury’ items (typically imported or otherwise rare) are conventionally recognised for their important roles in feasting events: arenas where political and social power is negotiated. Within studies of Late Iron Age Britain, consideration of the roles of material culture implicated within feasting events extends to pottery and plant foods, but is largely limited to Roman and Belgic servingware, imported plants, and Roman amphorae and their contents.
12:00 | Ellen Finn, Trinity College Dublin
Making Manuports: Unmanufactured Artefacts in Archaeological Interpretation
Defined as ‘an artefact or natural object that is transported, but not necessarily modified, and deposited by humans’ (Kipfer 2000, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology), manuports offer us an opportunity to reconsider the power of manufacture in archaeological interpretations of the material record. Manuports are ‘made’ through human action, yet not through the processes of manufacture or physical modification we usually associate with production. Rather, they are changed through their conscious movement from one place to another, a process which in turn enacts a conceptual transition between (our) ontological categories of ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’.
12:20 | Pallavee Gokhale, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune
Attribute OR Artefact OR Attribute of Intangible Artefacts – A Case of Indus (Harappan) Script
Attributes describe artefacts. Physical attributes help us explain the inherent properties of the object whereas contextual properties contribute in explaining it’s acquired meaning. However, certain attributes acquire more significance than the artefact itself. The entire analysis then revolves around explaining the attribute with it’s range of values seen on artefacts. Even if the artefact types vary, the perceived value of the attribute is so high that the studies undermine underlying variations in artefact types, other inherent attributes, their spatio-temporal context, and their possible diverse cultural values in contemporary societies (overarching context). The attribute takes over becoming a virtual artefact itself and dominates the academic research in space and time.
12:40 | Natalia Moragas Segura, University of Barcelona; Manuel Jesús González, Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo (Mexico)
This is not Prehispanic!!!! The Persistence of Archaeological Objects and Power Discourses in the Mass-Media
Undoubtedly Mesoamerican archeology has greatly contributed to the creation of narratives for novels, adventure movies and more recently, science fiction series and videogames. Mesoamerican archeology has some particular elements that make it a source of inspiration, more or less fortunate, for the massmedia. In the beginning, a large part of the archaeological excavations was carried out by researchers from Europe and the USA. Consequently, a mysterious, exotic and strange imagery of these cultures are developed very soon. On the one hand, for digging in distant lands very different from the European countries and the United States and secondly by the existence of pyramids (which excite popular imagery) and archaeological objects of great symbolic significance.
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