Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Extending Asumptions

(Blended from a couple of posts to NORSEFOLK)

"...Note the Throndjem woman's bead necklace. She (a re-enactor) told me that the necklaces were rarely symmetrical. Each bead 'told its own story' as to where and when it was collected or bought or traded...."

(name deliberately removed to protect the inocent)

Not a remote chance that this statement can be any more than a single person's imagination. In some cases it may be possible to tell from location in an excavation the order of the beads, but in most cases these have so widely scattered as the body settles that the original order can only be guessed at. If your sources are museum presentations - often the order has been 'reconstructed' at the taste of the conservator.
As to why a specific bead has gone where - it is absolutely impossible to attribute order to some cultural activity.

Note that I'm not discussing the details of bead necklace construction, save as an example of a larger concept in interpreting objects. (Karen mentioned this, as she and Neil and Meghan and I have much hashed over the topic of beads and interpretations frequently).
There are a number of different ways a person could assemble the order of beads on to a string:
One most important variable would be the method of collecting the number. Purchased all at once - or collected over time (and perhaps space)?
Was the order static - or was it constantly being modified in terms of order and additions?
Is the combination in any way symmetrical? If so - what is the measure of balance? This is particularly important, because if you look at the use of semi-precious stones set on metal objects from the same time, you will see that 'balance' may be in terms of matching size / matching shape / and not as often matching colour / matching material.

Now there is absolutely no way that we can measure if bead order was determined by some sequence of applied memories in the mind of the owner. I suspect that this assertion was made on the basis of negative evidence - 'we see no other obvious order, so therefore the sequence is based on memories'. Could just as easily be totally random . Could be based on purchase order. Could be 'the strand broke and I was in too much of a rush to just get all the beads stuck on a strand again to bother'. Any of these others just as likely.

(Sandy, a researcher at the Frojel site in Gotland Sweden commented on some finds there.)

Sandy's description of the half blue / half silver strand illustrates an important point. (Going out on a pretty thin limb here) - It is most commonly seen that the order chosen by the Norse was much different than the order chosen by Victorian archaeologists - or that chosen by modern taste. I'm not attempting to get into the details of individual strands, as I have certainly NOT studied these in enough detail to present specific examples.

I comment on the underlaying concept - Take care applying modern opinions to historic details.

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