All of us conform. This may of course be to a fuller or lesser degree, but the truth of the matter is that we all conform; the clothes we wear, the colloquial expressions we use and the way we act in various situations. As a teenager I hit a rebellious stage. I made a conscious effort not to conform to how I thought society wanted me to be; I wore alternative clothes, gained piercings, shaved parts of my hair, and generally did everything my parents told me not to. Ironically through these actions I was conforming. My friends and I (who were also going through the same phase) dressed in similar ways, listened to the same punk music and yet all of us thought of ourselves as ‘individual and original.’ Each of us was creative and unique in our punky style and yet looked remarkably similar. Our material culture screamed conformity! When I think about the role of creativity, I often look back to this (rather embarrassing) chapter of my life. It demonstrates perfectly that individual creativity is influenced by our environment and our social interactions. Thus originality can only truly be understood within its context. This has ramifications for archaeology. Just as we cannot truly isolate the individual from the collective, we cannot isolate the artefact from its group. Without the group, meaning is lost. Therefore in order to understand creativity and the novel, we need to look at the wider context in which the object existed; nothing is made, said or done in isolation.
It’s been just over a week since I came back from Hungary where I spend three and a half weeks analysing Bronze Age ceramics for the site’s forthcoming publication. I’m still recovering from the pot induced coma (forgive the pun)!
The excavation focusses predominantly on the Middle Bronze Age settlements (1800 BC onwards) and the site is situated next to the Danube, in Szazhalombatta, 30 km south of Budapest. My job (since 2009) is to aid in the post-excavation analysis of the ceramic finds. The sheer amount of ceramic material that is unearthed every year is astonishing and the quality of the vessels is highly suggestive of an extremely skilled craft culture. The pottery produced on this site is arguably the apex of ceramic craft in this area during the Middle Bronze Age. Interestingly the ceramic quality declines in the Late Bronze Age (c.1350 BC), and vessels become less decoratively elaborate and more coarse.
The three weeks spent this summer working in the Matrica Museum, Szazhalombatta (where all the finds are stored) were used to analyse ceramic material from the top six stratigraphic layers of the excavation, belonging to the Late and Middle Bronze Age. It’s really refreshing to be back in the field handling new artefacts and I always feel a sense of appreciation that I am one of the lucky people who has the opportunity to analyse this material and gain an understanding of the site in a different way to the excavators. It’s also rather delicious working outside the museum in 35 degree heat…the things us archaeologists do eh….
Being familiar with material from Hungary (north of Croatia and Serbia) is extremely beneficial for my greater understanding of ceramic craft throughout central Europe. The parallels that I can see between this material and the vessels I am analysing for my PhD are very noticeable. It definitely gets me wondering whether our whole understanding of Bronze Age groups within this area of Europe is somewhat disjointed…..
Me working outside the Museum in Szazhalombatta
Welcome to my new blog. Over the next two years (scary that a year has gone already) I will be updating my thoughts, theories and findings into the strange and infinitely complex world of Bronze Age creativity. Stay tuned….