Friday, 13 September 2013

The power of words

During the first two weeks in Sweden I have managed to put together enough material in order to present a paper in the Frontiers in the Iron Age conference in Cambridge next week. I will undoubtedly return to the themes I will talk about when commenting on the conference in two weeks time. In any case, I have to prepare the material better before I publish anything, so this will be a longer research process for the future, but I have some interesting questions to discuss.

Alongside preparing this talk I went and listened other people giving talks. In Stockholm I heard in the researcher seminar an interesting talk about the classism in nation building in the 19th century Europe, delivered by Athena Leoussi, a sociologist from Reading. It was fascinating to hear that the English presented themselves as the successors of the ancient Greeks, the most racially advanced humans so far. This was because they considered themselves tall and blond Anglo-Saxons, belonging to a northern race similarly to the Scandinavians. The French on the other hand perceived the Greeks as splendidly dark and olive-skinned and saw themselves as the torchbearers of the Greeks of the southern France. Both ideologies had practical consequences with the emphasis on the beneficial effect of fresh air and sports. The English developed rugby whereas the French emphasized the importance of the Mediterranean sun and exercise. Then there were the Germans, but the talk contrasted the English and the French.

The cover (by J. Karydakis)

The other splendid event was the book publication at Uppsala. For a prehistorian, a book about zooarchaeology would not be anything unusual, but the scholars involved in classical studies have only recently realised on the basis of bone evidence that the reality of animal sacrifice and ritual customs and the related feasting is much more versatile and interesting than can only be understood by reading the texts. There is still a perception that the texts are paramount, but it is clear that the time is near when the archaeological material will be paramount when studying these themes in classical archaeology. Bones, behaviour and belief is a good start.

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